German immigration hit a two-decade high of 1.23 million people in 2013, two-thirds of which from EU states, government data released on Wednesday showed.German flag

The rise from 1.08 million in 2012 helps Germany to offset a decline in the birthrate, which expert warn could lead to a demographic crisis.

“Germany is the most attractive nation for immigrants in the European Union,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

The report comes against the backdrop of a new debate about immigration fueled by weekly anti-immigration and anti-Islam rallies.

This has resulted in calls from across the political spectrum to consider introducing new immigration laws aimed at attracting highly qualified migrants to help fill shortages in the labour market.

But de Maiziere ruled out any changes to Germany’s immigration rules. “We have an immigration law and we do not need a new one,” he said.

The largest number of immigrants entering Germany in 2013 was from Poland, Romania and Italy, which are all EU member states who citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the bloc.

De Maiziere said while about 60 per cent of refugees arriving in Germany were Muslim, the number of Muslims among EU immigrants declined.

He paid tribute to the diversity of German society that had emerged since the fall of the Berlin Wall more than 25 years ago and the arrival in the early 1990’s of refugees from war-torn parts of Europe, notably the Balkans.

“Naturally, as a country we are more diverse in terms of culture and religion than was the case in West Germany and in (communist) East Germany,” de Maiziere said.

“Diversity is a reality in the country and it has increased,” he said.

The migration report’s release coincided with the publication of data from the statistics office (Destatis) showing the German population rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2014 thanks to the number of immigrants shifting to Europe’s biggest economy.

The nation’s population stood at 81.1 million at the end of 2014 – up from 80.8 million at the start of the year, Destatis said in a preliminary estimate.

A key factor driving migrants to seek a new life in Germany has also been the solid economy.

This contrasts with other parts of Europe, notably southern states such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, which have faced tough economic times and high unemployment as a result of tough austerity policies and fiscal reforms.

At 7.4 per cent, Germany has Europe’s lowest youth unemployment rate thanks in part to changing demographics, according to the latest data for November published by the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat.

The jobless rate for those under 25 stood at a staggering 44 per cent in Italy and 54 per cent in Spain – two nations that have been at the centre of the euro debt crisis.


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