World News

Number of migrants in Germany hits record high

FILE PHOTO: Migrants are escorted by German police to a registration centre, after crossing the Austrian-German border in Wegscheid near Passau, Germany, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - More people with foreign citizenship live in Germany than ever before, the Federal Statistics Office said on Thursday, putting the 10.6 million record figure down to an influx of people seeking asylum and migrants from other European Union countries.

Of the 82 million people living in Germany, roughly one in every eight is a foreign national, the office said.

More than 1.6 million people seeking asylum, mainly from Middle Eastern and African countries, have entered Germany since 2014, weakening Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives who lost voters to a far-right party in an election last year.

But the Statistics Office said that the rise in the number of foreigners living in Germany was mainly because of an influx of people from other EU states, especially from eastern members that have joined the bloc since 2004.

The number of people from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia rose by 12.5 percent year on year, the office said.

This meant that almost half of the 10.6 million foreigners who lived in Germany last year stem from EU countries.

Citizens of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq make up 11.2 percent of the total number of foreigners.

An economic upswing in Germany may be one factor behind the record figure.

Europe’s largest economy is enjoying a record budget surplus and significant tax revenue. A consumer-led upswing is being fuelled by falling unemployment, inflation-beating pay rises and low borrowing costs.

Reporting by Charley-Kai John; Editing by Joseph Nasr and David Goodman