Guess Who’s Been Here for Dinner?

More than 7.3 million people living in Germany are citizens of another country. Along with roughly 115,000 other Americans, I’m part of an insignificant minority, outnumbered by Greeks (355,000), Serbs & Montenegrins (570,000), Poles (480,000) and Italians (601,000). All of us, of course, are outnumbered by Turks (1.88 million). Spare a thought, though, for the 10,000 Aussies and Kiwis, of whom there are far fewer than stateless persons or people of uncertain citizenship (70,000).

The numbers are all from a report released yesterday by the Federal Statistical Office and discussed in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine (p. 9).

All told, people who only hold a foreign citizenship make up 8.9 percent of Germany’s population, a share that has held steady since 1998. Average tenure in the country is 16 years. On average, Slovenes have stayed longest, with 26 years. (The Slovenes up and downstairs from my apartment have got that beat by a good bit.) Spaniards come next at 25, which is only fair given Mallorca, followed by Croats and Austrians (23), Italians and Greeks (22) and Turks (19).

The main reason the share of foreigners has held steady, according to the Statistical Office, is that people who are eligible are taking German citizenship, under a law that went into force in 2000. There are still plenty of problems associated with migration, immigration and integration, but these numbers are basically good signs.

And the next time a conservative German politician says something about the country not being a destination for immigration, please, laugh out loud. It’s the only appropriate response.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Germany by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

3 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Been Here for Dinner?

  1. Doug,

    >The main reason the share of foreigners has >held steady, according to the Statistical >Office, is that people who are eligible are >taking German citizenship, under a law that >went into force in 2000.

    I understand that a lot more people than actually decide to become German are eligible under the new citizenship legislation because of the limited double nationality support.

  2. Tobias,

    if true, I suspect that would affect mostly Germany’s Turks, as (i) they are by far the biggest group of resident foreigners and (ii) there are significant disabilities under Turkish law for Turks who give up their citizenship (e.g., I believe that they forfeit the right to inherit real property in Turkey).

    Still, a good many Turks do acquire German citizenship (thus perhaps helping keep the numbers of foreigners steady). I refer to Turks born in Germany (to parents legally resident here for the requisite number of years), who now acquire German citizenship at birth. They also acquire Turkish citzenship through their parents, of course. Because the German and Turkish (or for that matter any other) citzenships are both acquired by birth, there’s no question of renouncing one as a condition for acquiring the other.

    As you know, German law at present isn’t very happy about these dual nationals and requires them to renounce the one or the other when they come of age (or, should they fail to renounce one citizenship, lose the German automatically). I expect interesting court cases as the first wave of these Germans/Turks reaches sufficient age; there is a strong (but not dispositive) argument that the portion of the law providing for loss of German citizenship if the other citizenship isn’t revoked is unconstitutional.

  3. T & T,

    Coming of age apparently happens later in Germany, as you can (at present) hold both nationalities until you are 23. Anecdotally, I’m told that people who give up their Turkish passports simply report them lost on the next trip to the old country and get new ones. This is not completely kosher under German law, but I can’t see a lot of law enforcement resources being devoted to ferreting out who has two passports and who doesn’t.

    I don’t doubt that a lot of people who are eligible for German citizenship under the new laws don’t take it up. I might be eligible in a couple of years myself, but I can’t imagine trading citizenships.

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