Germany Not An Immigrant Country?

This is the opinion of Hamburg State Interior Minister Udo Nagel, as interview for an article which appears in the English version of Der Spiegel today. The context for the quote is the implementation of a decision taken at a conference of German state interior ministers last November which determined that Afghanistan was now sufficiently stable for the 58,000 Afghan refugees currently living in Germany to start returning home. 10 months later, that decision is finally being acted upon and as Der Spiegel reports Hamburg is taking the lead. Hamburg is home to some 15,000 Afghan refugees — the largest such population in Germany — and the city state plans to deport 5,000 of them over the next two years.

Nagel, for his part, makes no apologies for the deportations. He insists that Germany has fulfilled its duty to Afghan refugees and is proud of his nation’s asylum policy. The bottom line, he insists, is that Afghanistan is now safe. He even paid a short visit to the country before the ban on repatriation was lifted in May this year. “When a crisis has passed, and emergency assistance is no longer required, then refugees should return, because their country needs them to help the reconstruction,” he says.

Nagel also notes that the twice weekly flight to Kabul from Frankfurt was booked solid with holidaymakers throughout August. His point is clear: Afghans who have been granted permanent residency in Germany are happy to return to their homeland. The others are just trying to exchange their refugee status for immigrant status. Then, puffing on his trademark pipe, he repeats a line cited often by German conservatives: “Germany is not a country of immigration


Looking at this in the context of the recent debate in Germany about Turkey and the EU, and in the context of Germany’s inability to avail itself of the recent wave of migration from the new EU accession countries, I cannot but feel – looking at the age pyramid of the German population – that a mistake of historic proportions is being made right before our eyes.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

3 thoughts on “Germany Not An Immigrant Country?

  1. If this is indeed a mistake, the numbers involved are peanuts. In any case this is a federal matter and the federal legislature has not changed the rules in that field although the matter was legislated on. Indeed a minister should execute the law. If you are saying that he doesn’t apply the law in the most advantageous manner be specific.

    Secondly, is being a citizen of a state with a formerly barbaric government really the criterion Germany should use to select immigrants?

  2. The mistake is in the trademark statement.

    I give the occasional public talk in Germany, and I am often asked how the American voting public can fall for the obvious lies told by GWB and company. I usually reply that I can answer that in two sentences. First I say, “Germany is not an immigrant country.” Then I say, “Your pensions are secure.” Lightbulbs tend to go on.

  3. A true immigrant country would have an immigrant selection program and would take measure to assimilate the immigrants. If you replace “Germany is not an immigrant country” by the much less nice “Germany does not want immigrants”, you are closer to the truth.

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