As large numbers of migrants and refugees travel
to Germany in the hope of a new life, BBC News
looks at how the country deals with such arrivals
and its modern experience of migration.
What happens to asylum seekers on arrival?
The exhausted-looking people getting off trains in
Munich and other German cities are being offered
assistance then taken to initial reception centres.
Will they all stay in Munich?
No. The “Koenigsteiner Key” is used to distribute
asylum seekers across Germany’s 16 federal
states, calculated according to their tax revenue
and their population.
For example, North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s
most populous state, should take 21% of all
asylum seekers, while Thuringia, the focus of
several attacks on asylum accommodation, is set
to receive under 3%.
What’s the process for claiming asylum in
An application for asylum is made at the reception
centre on arrival, where personal details,
fingerprints and photographs (for those over 14)
are taken. A temporary permission to stay is
Subsequently the asylum seeker will be invited to
an interview to decide his or her case.
The current average time from application to
decision is 5.3 months, according to the German
If granted refugee status, a residence permit for
three years will be granted. After this time a
permanent residence permit can be applied for.
More details are available from the Federal Ministry
for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
Who gets rejected?
Germany designates all EU states plus Ghana,
Senegal, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-
Herzegovina as “safe countries of origin” – which
means that asylum claims from nationals of these
countries are likely to be rejected.
On 7 September the government announced that
Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro would be added
to this list.
Manfred Schmidt, President of BAMF, told Der
Spiegel in August that 40% of all asylum seekers in
Germany came from the Balkans, and their claims
were likely to be unsuccessful.
What support are asylum seekers offered?
Asylum seekers stay at reception centres for up to
six weeks, and a maximum of three months.
After that they are offered either communal
accommodation, or housed individually, depending
on the policy of the federal state.
Asylum seekers who are unable to support
themselves financially “receive what they need for
their day-to-day life”, the German government
Support varies from state to state, but generally
includes non-cash benefits covering food and
accommodation costs, plus limited spending
Are asylum seekers allowed to work?
All asylum seekers are banned from working for
After this period, they may, with the permission of
the immigration authorities and the Federal
Employment Agency, take on work, subject to
various restrictions .
Those given a residence permit have unrestricted
access to the labour market after four years.
What is modern Germany’s experience of
In the immediate aftermath of Germany’s defeat in
World War Two, large numbers of ethnic Germans
found themselves on the move.
Millions were displaced from areas of present-day
Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic as
Germany’s boundaries were re-drawn. The
Potsdam conference in July 1945 also ordered that
ethnic Germans be “transferred” from areas of
Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary where some
communities had been settled for centuries. Ethnic
Germans also left homes in Romania and the
former Yugoslavia in the post-War period.
In total around 13 million ethnic Germans had to
find a new home in West or East Germany.
In addition, almost 4.5m ethnic German resettlers
from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
have arrived since 1950.
What about the ‘guest workers’ and non-German
The booming economy of post-war West Germany
required more workers, and from 1955 the Federal
Republic signed “guest worker” agreements with
Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain and –
most significantly – Turkey.
Around 14 million guest workers and their families
have come to Germany since 1955.
People of Turkish descent make up Germany’s
largest ethnic minority.
Initially the German government and the workers
themselves planned for their stay to be temporary,
and little effort was made to integrate them into
wider German society.
Communist East Germany also took on temporary
workers from “fraternal socialist countries”,
including North Vietnam, Cuba and Mozambique,
but, with the exception of the Vietnamese, most
returned after German reunification.
In 1991 the newly reunified country enacted laws
enabling Jews from the former Soviet Union to
move to Germany – more than 200,000 Jewish
people and their families immigrated in this way.
Around 350,000 people fleeing the Bosnian conflict
were given temporary refuge in Germany in the
1990s, but most have since left .
How many migrants live in Germany today?
Government figures from 2014 show that 10.9
million of Germany’s population of 81.1 million are
In total, 20.3% of Germany’s population have “a
migration background”, the term German
officialdom uses to describe immigrants or their
But Germany’s population is shrinking, due to its
low birth rate, and it could be argued, as our
colleague Robert Peston writes , that it needs
migrants to keep its economy going.