The Limits of the German Promised Land

MUNICH – Migrants seeking to escape poverty and war are flowing into Europe by the hundreds of thousands. They are still mostly being welcomed, but the capacity of the reception centers is fast reaching its limits. To staunch the flow of migrants over the Balkan route, Hungary has imposed controls on its borders – and was promptly followed by Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Germany is the migrants’ most favored destination. So far this year, half of all asylum applications in the European Union have been filed there, although the country accounts for only 16% of the EU’s population. By September, Germany had probably received some 400,000 applications or more, with the dramatic increase in migration flows since summer and before the reinstatement of border controls expected to push the number of asylum-seekers to 800,000 this year.

Moreover, regular immigration to Germany could again reach the 400,000 mark, as in 2014. The total would represent net immigration of 1.5% of the resident population – an extremely high proportion by historical and international standards.

The reason for the migrants’ strong preference for Germany is that the country, together with Sweden, has Europe’s most liberal asylum system and allocates particularly high levels of funding to accommodate the newcomers. Between €1,000 ($1,120) and €1,200 per person per month is being transferred to the municipalities to cover the costs of accommodating them. The value of the benefits that the immigrants receive in Germany is a multiple of the wages they can earn in their home countries (if they manage to find a job there at all).