Immigrating to Germany

A group of young adults stand in a field.
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About one in five people in Germany has a so-called Migrationshintergrund (migration background), meaning they or their parents have come from another country. Many have their roots in Turkey, Poland or Italy, or come from the Russian Federation. Gastarbeiter (migrant/guest workers) and their descendents make up the largest group. Between 1955 and 1973, an economic boom led to the recruitment, mainly by West German companies and public authorities, of millions of foreign workers from countries like Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey.

Another large group are the so-called Aussiedler (resettlers) – people from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe with German roots. In the 1990s, lots of refugees from civil wars, particularly from the former Yugoslavia, immigrated to Germany.

Germany grants Asyl (asylum) under certain circumstances to people who have been persecuted for political, religious or ethnic reasons. Because of the war in Syria, the number of people who fled crises or war zones in 2015 and 2016 was especially high. In 2016, nearly 750,000 people applied for asylum in Germany. Many of those forced to flee came from Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.