Germany says 'Wilkommen' to outsiders

The influx of foreign workers is not the burning issue it once was

The World Today Updated 4 March 2021 Published 1 August 2014 2 minute READ

Quentin Peel

Former Associate Fellow, Europe Programme

In little more than two decades, Germany has undergone an extraordinary transformation in attitudes towards immigration.

In the early 1990s, as the recently reunified nation was facing a surge in migrants from the wreckage of the former Soviet Union, and a wave of refugees from civil war in the Balkans, the consensus was that ‘Germany is not a country of immigration’.

Migrant workers who had flocked to join the German economic miracle in previous decades from Turkey, Greece, Italy and North Africa, were regarded as gastarbeiter – guest workers – who were expected to return home when their jobs were done.

In state elections in prosperous Baden-Württemberg in 1992, when the number of asylum seekers hit 430,000, the far-Right Republicans won almost 11 per cent of the vote with the slogan: ‘The boat is full’.

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