Influx from the Southeast: German Cities Complain of High Immigration

Sinti and Roma camped in a Berlin park in 2011. Zoom
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Sinti and Roma camped in a Berlin park in 2011.

Immigration to Germany from southeastern Europe has dramatically increased in recent years and the country's municipalities are struggling to absorb the influx. Now, German cities are taking a close look at the problem and may ask for help from Berlin or even the European Union.

German cities are concerned about the increased numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians migrating to Germany in recent years. "The social balance and social peace is extremely endangered," reads an internal paper produced by the German Association of Cities, which SPIEGEL has seen.

The document notes that many immigrants from southeastern Europe move into parts of German cities that suffer from high unemployment. In particular, Berlin, Dortmund, Duisburg, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich and Offenbach are said to have experienced difficulties with absorbing the large number of newcomers. In some cities, immigration from Romania and Bulgaria has increased six-fold since 2006.

Of particular concern is that many of those coming from southeastern Europe come from financially instable backgrounds, the paper notes, and are not well educated, making it virtually impossible for them to find jobs once in Germany. The influx of Roma, the document says, presents an especially difficult challenge given that they often end up living in desolate conditions once they arrive.

The German Association of Cities is currently in the process of analyzing the problem, with several working groups examining discrete aspects of the issue and exchanging ideas for possible solutions. The group is also looking at what kind of assistance that it might request from the European Union or from the German federal government in Berlin. According to the Association paper, German municipalities face "significant costs as a result of this poverty migration."

'Expect Support'

"We expect serious support from the federal government," Detlef Scheele, responsible for the social portfolio for the city-state of Hamburg, told SPIEGEL. He has also called for a working group representing German states to meet this week to examine the problem.

Concerns about increased immigration from Romania and Bulgaria are by no means limited to Germany. The German Association of Cities notes that several other cities in Europe are likewise struggling to absorb the newcomers.

Indeed, Britain generated numerous headlines last week when it was reported that the country was working on ways to convince potential immigrants not to come, including launching a reverse PR campaign portraying Britain in a negative light. The Guardian even asked its readers to submit their own posters of what those adverts might look like.

The reactions from southeastern Europe were not long in coming. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov noted acidly that "the British become Europeans when it has to do with the movement of capital and financial services. But when it has to do with EU-wide policies, they are an island."

Romania, meanwhile, took a more humorous approach. The Gandul news website launched a campaign to try and attract Britons to Romania. "Half of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister," read one mock advertisement in reference to Kate Middleton and her sister Pipa. The tagline on the poster reads: "We may not like Britain, but you will love Romania. Why don't you come over?"

cgh/SPIEGEL

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1. Immigration from the South East
Trojan Horace 02/05/2013
It's bit like complaining you're being stung after putting your hands in the proverbial honey pot. Germany headed up the charge to sweep as many nations as possible into the loving arms of the EU but is far from alone in the demographic consequences. Polish is now the second language in the UK with their census showing 500,000 new arrivals from Poland for just one of many examples. In the circumstances I don't think the other member nations are going to be queuing up to show their sympathies. That said, for what it's worth, I think immigration, despite the stresses and strains is can generate at times, usually proves in the end to be a good thing for an economy and in any event, making complaint about "immigrants" leads inexorably to the charge of racism, something Germany is normally extremely sensitive about and prefers to avoid. A case of as you make your bed so you must lie on it?
2. Is it so complicated?
IT_man 01/12/2014
Anyone who wants to work honestly should be allowed to do so in any country in EU, if is qualified well enough for the position nationality shouldn't matter. On the other hand no social assistance should be provided at all if you are not working and you are outside your own country. Problem solved :) I'm Bulgarian by the way.
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Graphic: Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria


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