Germany as a Country of Immigration

In cooperation with the American Council on Germany, IES was pleased to welcome Cornelia Schu, Managing Director of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, to the Berkeley campus. Her lecture, which centered on Germany’s status as an immigration country, paid close attention to labor migration trends and the most recent refugee influx, starting with an overview to the demographic problem that Germany currently faces. As the population has grown older, the birth rate has dwindled to a mere 1.2 births per woman, which is not suitable to sustain the future labor market or social security. According to Schu, 30% of the working class will be of retirement age (65) by the year 2050, while a mere 50% will be of working age. Given such worrying statistics, Schu highlighted the importance of Germany’s marketing of itself as a desirable place of opportunity, starting with a reevaluation of the current problems that exist within its bureaucratic processes.

Under Angela Merkel, Germany has advertised itself as a country of immigration with open borders in order to attract qualified workers, but, following the recent refugee influx, this attitude has been met with resistance. Currently, 745,545 asylum applications await processing, and, between 2015-2016 alone, some one million refugees entered the country. While such numbers are overwhelming for Germany, Schu highlighted that they are relatively small in comparison with the millions of refugees that have been forcibly displaced to camps in the surrounding countries of Syria like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. As such, while the refugee crisis and the demographic problem Germany faces have fostered challenging and emotional debates, Schu stressed the importance of placing such debates in a broader context.

During the Q&A session that followed, discussed the flaws of the EU’s current migration policy with the 30 people in attendance. She pointed out that several member states are unwilling to accommodate to refugees breeching their borders, thus allowing and even stimulating many to continue to Germany, France, Sweden, and other northwestern European nations. Additionally, she explained that many refugees simply ignore the rules so as to avoid official recognition until they reach their country of interest, which is almost always a country with a high standard of living in Western Europe. After hearing this dilemma, one audience member asked if there should be a revamping of EU policies. In response, Schu expressed her view that the Dublin System is problematic due to the fact that it places the burden of housing entering refugees on border countries alone. To close the afternoon’s event, Schu addressed a question related to public opinion towards migration in Germany, noting that support for Germany’s welcoming policy with regard to refugees and immigrants in general has dwindled.