German immigration increases at record speed
22.10.13 @ 18:42
Berlin - Over seven million foreigners were living in Germany at the end of 2012, corresponding to about eight percent of the overall population, the federal statistics office Destatis said Tuesday (22 October).
The increase in immigration compared to the previous year - 282,800 more people - is the highest in 20 years, the office said.
Eighty percent of these people came from countries like Poland, Romania, Greece, Spain and Italy, searching for a better life and a job that cannot be found back home.
Turkish people remain the largest group among non-German nationals, at 1.6 million, but their numbers decreased by over 30,000 over the past year, as fewer people came compared to how many received citizenship.
The largest increase in non-EU migrants was registered among refugees from Syria (23%), followed by people who came from India, China and Russia.
Meanwhile, civil rights activists warn that Germany's laws are still not in line with EU requirements against human trafficking, as the upper chamber (Bundesrat) earlier this year rejected a law which was deemed insufficient when it comes to the rights of victims.
Under the current law, victims of human trafficking, be they women forced into prostitution (a legal trade in Germany) or men who have to work extra hours on construction sites without being paid are not granted residence rights unless they testify in a criminal case against their employers.
According to official statistics of the federal police, over 600 cases were initiated in 2012 against traffickers.
But social workers who are in contact with the victims say the real numbers of human trafficking are much higher, but because of fear, they prefer not to get in touch with German police.
"This is why residence rights are so important, that they are not linked to cooperating in a criminal investigation. Victims have to be sure they can stay here, or else they will not testify because they are afraid of being sent back and further abused," says Naile Tanis from Kok, an NGO helping migrant women and victims of human trafficking.
A "rethink" of migration policies in Germany is needed, with less focus on crime and police activities and more on integration and working rights, says the Council for Migration, a think-tank based in Frankfurt am Oder.
Instead of letting the security-oriented ministry of interior deal with migration, the think-tank in an open letter proposes that the yet-to-be-formed German government to move these competences to the ministry of labour and social affairs, who is best entitled to deal with residence rights, working permits and asylum requests.
But with political horsetrading between the Social-Democrats and Chancellor Merkel's Christian-Democrats, as well as their sister-party in Bavaria (CSU) - renowned for its tough stance on immigration - such requests are unlikely to be realised.