The salient increase in international population movement can be attributed to globalisation. In addition to globalization, a series of other factors has expedited the massive waves of unstoppable population movement that is being face by many nations in the twenty-first century. The development of communication, transportation, technologies and global networks have undoubtedly contributed to the increase in immigration,particularly to Europe (Rogers, Alisdair, and Tillie 2). The United Nations Population fund lists Germany as having the third largest immigrant population in the world in 2013 behind the Russian Federation and the United States (United Nations Department of economic and social affairs). The lax German immigration policies have enabled swamps of immigrants to legitimize their footprint in Germany as well as attain political asylum. In the aftermath of the Second World War many refugees from former German territories and Central Europe settled in Germany. Every tenth person in Germany happens to be a foreign national (DW,“Germany’s foreign population cleared 8 million in 2014”)
Germany has always been faced with immigrants. Nonetheless immigrants in Germany today, have become the visible and tangible face of German cities. The settling of immigrants in large urban areas has lead to a loci of human diversity where people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds strive for a shared future. Despite this fact, various cracks on the German immigration policies have started to surface as the country finds itself unable to adapt to the huge influx of immigrants. On the other hand, the lack of integration amongst existing immigrants has elevated issues pertaining to the decline of “multi-kulti” or multiculturalism. Both these issues when added up provides a predicament not only to the German immigration infrastructure but to the German economy as a whole. According to a study done by the Hamburg Institute of International Economics in 2015, Germany has the lowest birthrate in the world prompting fear to the country’s economic future (BBC, “Germany passes Japan to have world’s lowest birth rate”). German immigration policies are bound by a distinctive struggle between morality and necessity thus posing a serious dilemma.
Distinct Segments of The German Immigrant Population & Their Challenges
The German immigrant act of 2004 as well as various other EU immigration treaties and policies form the legal basis for the activities pertaining to immigration control. Germany stands as an economic beacon for Europe and the World due to its productive immigrant workforce. Immigrants in Germany can be segmented into three divisions.
1. First, there are immigrants who constitute the highly skilled workforce essential to the booming German automotive industry. By the end of the decade the Cologne Institute of Economics estimates that Germany will have a skilled workforce shortage of 1.4 million people (Alex Webb, “Losing One Million Scientists Germany Turns to Migrants” ). In order to prevent a shortage, efforts to attract high-skilled immigrants culminated the Blue Card initiative in 2012 which offers highly educated skilled workers of non EU states with a post graduate degree earning at least 46,400 euros the opportunity to work and stay in Germany.
The Blue Card initiative is a mirror image of the American Green Card. A highly skilled immigrant population is required to counterbalance the low German birth rate and the high elderly population. According to Pew research the proportion of people 65 and older in Germany is expected to be over 32.7 percent by 2050. “Immigrants are on average younger and the German population is on average older, so immigrants are welcome," says Dr.Ingrid Tucci, from the German Institute for Economic Research (Jenny Hill, “Germany struggles to adapt to immigrant influx”). Inability to fill the gap of the highly skilled workforce would be detrimental as it would lead to a fall in productivity as well as the inability to sustain the aging population. The high skilled immigrant population do indeed face their own challenges but as opposed to the other two segments of the immigrant population they are fairly prosperous in Germany.
2. Second, there are immigrants and asylum seekers of low skill from poor underdeveloped countries suffering the wrath of war and economic instability. There are several dimensions of refugee policies. From the ethical dimension there is a humanitarian side and from the legal dimension lies international treaties. Following the atrocities committed during World War 2, Germany made a solemn promise to never again abandon innocent civilians facing persecution. “Germany is proud about its Willkommenskultur (welcome culture), partly because of guilt about the Nazi era” ( Jenny Hill, “Germany split over policy on migrants”). Asylum seekers compose a huge proportion of the German immigrant population. UN conventions mandate that asylum seekers are the responsibility of the country they turn up. Nonetheless Germany has been welcoming in accepting asylum seekers that do not show up on their soil. Out of 626000 people that applied for asylum to the EU, 41000 were absorbed by Germany, more than double that accepted by France ( The Economist, “For Those in Peril”). There are three major routes utilized by asylum seekers. The western route, the route from North Africa particularly from Morocco to Spain. Then there is the central and Eastern route. The central route is used by immigrants from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria. On the other hand the Eastern Route from Turkey to Greece and then to Bulgaria is predominantly used by immigrants from Afghanistan and Somalia.
Asylum seekers are distributed throughout Germany through a quota system. North Rhine Westphalia has the largest quota at over 21% followed by Bavaria at 15% (German Federal Office For Migration and Refuge). This is to ensure that there is an equal distribution of asylum seekers across Germany to avoid a strain on the economy of federal states as well as to prevent overcrowding. The Asylum Seekers Benefit act manages the basic provision of food accommodation and all other necessities. The German immigration policies are morally rooted in providing a home for asylum seekers. The problem then arises when the system is unable to cater to the influx of asylum seekers. Facilities are running out due to overwhelming numbers of asylum seekers. Containers and tents are being put up to squeeze more people in. In addition to that provisions are running out and often fights breaks out amongst asylum seekers reports German news channel DW.
Over the past months ,more than 1200 refugees people drowned in the Mediterranean making their way to the shores of Europe in an attempt to avoid the deplorable conditions of their home country. The important issue highlighted by this unfortunate incident is that although asylum seekers are distributed equally within Germany,they are not being distributed equally within the European Union. Other nations in the EU ride on the generosity of Germany to cater to these asylum seekers.
The Dublin Convention explicitly states that asylum seekers must first remain in the country they enter and that country is solely responsible for examining their asylum application; if asylum seekers choose to travel to other EU countries without a stamp of approval from authorities in their point of entry, they may face deportation. Withal, in an attempt to facilitate “burden sharing," entry point states across the Southern Periphery of Europe have called for the Suspension of the Dublin Convention.
A suspension of the Dublin Convention would be devastating for Germany. In 2014 over 1/3 of asylum seekers in Europe were absorbed by Germany. In any case the German immigration department is left with no choice but to accept these asylum seekers as they are also faced by a moral dilemma.
Nations in the Southern Periphery such as Greece and Italy neglect and abuse asylum seekers; a direct violation of Article 3 of the European convention on Human Rights. Regardless European policymakers are posed with complex challenges as they are still succumbing to sluggish economic growth and fractured national politics leaving them with little room to house immigrants. The debt crisis ensuing in Greece and austerity measures enacted upon them have resulted in the inability to provide adequate facilities for asylum seekers. Hence asylum seekers in Greek containment facilities lack clean water, proper ventilation as well as harassment and police mistreatment (Council on Foreign Relations). Racism and physical violence by Greek police officers on immigrants have been vehemently criticized. On the other hand following the Arab Spring, Syrian and Libyan wars, Italian Islands one of which is Lampedusa has seen its populations double, severely asphyxiating the Italian welfare system.
3. Rejected asylum seekers, refugees and illegal immigrants fall into the third segment of the immigrant population acknowledged as irregular migrants. Irregular immigrants move within migration systems established in the post war period and through guest workers schemes such as the Turks in Germany ( DW, “Turkish Guest Workers Transformed German Society”). However it should be noted that the irregularity in status of these people is not always a result of illegal border-crossing. The majority of these people often times enter the country legally but successively slip into irregularity as they lose their residence permit. These are the most impacted immigrant group and often times face exclusion and deprivation in German society.
Urban municipalities are particularly affected by irregular immigrants. Children of irregular immigrants do not go to school in an attempt to avoid being found out by the authorities, illnesses go untreated and an emergence of legal vacuums arises due to a lack of sanctions for deplorable working conditions. Responsible institutions such as hospitals are bound by the Hippocratic Oath, as such ethically they are obliged to provide treatment to the needy. Irregular immigrants have the ability to exercise their rights to medical care, even so if they exercise this rights they are compelled to live in existential fear of their lack in legal status being documented and reported to the foreigners registration office. On the other hand the inability of irregular migrant to cover the costs of their medical expenses when admitted often times leads to deportation as hospital administrators attempt to recover it by reporting to the authorities. Due to these constraints, irregular immigrants exclude themselves from the health-care system not only jeopardizing themselves but also the public space.
Social mobility for irregular immigrants is challenging. In essence all children have a basic right to education. There is huge potential to cultivate immigrants from a young age in an attempt to reduce the deficit of high-skilled workers. Education plays a crucial role in this process. The German education system is governed by the cultural sovereignty of the federal states and regulated by the individual states constitution (Bommes, Sciurtino 131). In essence this means that the opportunities to attend school is regulated differently within the walls of Germany. Compulsory schooling in federal states such as Bavaria, Bremen and North Rhine-Westphalia is directly regulated and apply to those without a legal residence status. On the contrary there is no legal requirement for nursery school predominantly in North Rhine-Westphalia where the greatest concentration of immigrants reside.
Other federal states face contradictions between state legislation which provides education to all children regardless of immigration status and federal government legislation which forces school staff to report foreigners without permit as per the Residence Act (Bommes, Sciurtino 131). Due to the legal complications involved numerous schools ultimately reject the children of these irregular immigrants due to their inability to deal with them. Hence the children of irregular immigrants are further marginalized by their inaccessibility towards an education. A lack of education hence leads to future unemployment amongst immigrants, this then strains the German welfare system even further.
German immigrant policies are visibly inoperative in bringing immigrants into the social and economic mainstream. A lack of accessibility towards health-care and education for a segment of the immigration population poses a huge threat to the German immigration structure. This threat is further intensified as a rise in irregular immigrants is expected in Germany as the Syrian civil war ensues leaving over 8 million people displaced and 4 million leaving it; the International Organization for Migration calls it “the biggest movement of people since world war two” (The Economist, “For Those in Peril”) as well as the worlds most dangerous border crossing. Providing the bare essentials do not suffice, by providing the bare essentials for immigrants there is a huge chance that immigrants will be disenfranchised.
Humanity can exist coherently only if we are all together helping each other. The current immigration debate which is ensuing not only in Germany but in other parts of the world is misconstrued with ideology and misconceptions causing the entire process in a heap of bureaucratic entanglement in most parts of the world. Immigrants in Germany will only be a threat if the system is unable to integrate them. It should be of grave concern that there will come a time when Germany will not be able to absorb the exorbitant payload of asylum seekers from around the world. In order to be active in accepting immigrants of the future it is imperative that German policies on immigration aim at sustainability and integration. It is undeniable that Germany has an important role to play as an economic powerhouse but by accepting too many immigrants and failing to integrate them into the mainstream German society, the cultural formation of the country is at risk. “ Immigrants are like cream, great in digestible quantities but we have to recognize that uncontrolled immigration can lead to social indigestion," Lord Baron Singh of England.