Executive summary

AuthorMatthias Mahlmann
1. Introduction
Like many other countries, Germany enjoys a plural society. It h as autochthonous
minorities, the Danish and the Sorbs, neither of which are very significa nt in number. The
Friesians of German nationality and the Sinti and Roma of German nationality are also
officially r ecognised as minorities. However, the most significant ethnic minority groups
are immigrants, including the so-called guest workers (Gastar beiter) and their
descendants. Prior to the Nazi period, most immigration was by Polish people. Since 1945,
Turks, p eople from the former Yugoslavia, Italians and Greeks have formed the largest
groups of immigrants. In recent decades, specifically because of an increase in asylum
seekers and refugees, a heterogeneous ethnic community has formed in Germany. Due to
Germany’s efforts in the refugee crisis, the n umber of foreigners in Germany has risen by
1.9 million since 2015; as of 31 December 2018, there were about 10 915 455 foreigners
in Germany, out of a total population of around 83 million.1 In 2018, the number of people
who immigrated to Germany exceeded the number of those who emigrated by roughly
400 000 people.2 There are now about 745 645 people from Syria, 257 110 people from
Afghanistan and 247 800 people from Iraq living in Germany.3 The overall number of
refugees in Germany is about 1 781 750.4 Statistical data show that one in four pe ople in
Germany had an immigration background in 2018.5
The largest religious groups in Germany are the Catholic Church with about 23 million
members and the Protestant churches with about 21 million members.6 About 28 % of the
population belongs to the Catholic Church and 25 % to the Protestant churches, meaning
that about 53 % of the total population belongs to the two main Christian denominations.
In 2015, around 1.7 million German citizens identified as Muslims, which is approximately
2 % of the population. The total number of Muslims (with or without citizenship) is about
4.7 million, which is approximately 5.4 % of the population.7 About 96 000 people or
0.11 % of the population are Jewish.8
Germany’s past is of particular relevance for the principle of equal treatment and anti -
discrimination, especially as far as race and ethnic origin are concerned, but also in respect
of religion and belief, sexual orientation and disability. There is a high degree of awareness
today among a ll sectors o f society of the horro rs of the Nazi period and the multifaceted
crimes agai nst p eople of a particular religion, belief, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or
disability, among other cha racteristics. For many citizens of Germany, this past creates a
sense of responsibility for a strongly protected human rights culture. This sense of
responsibility manifests itself in ma ny a ctivities by civil society, in education and in the
actions of Germany’s political bodies.
1 See the relevant and most recent data available of the Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt,
Destatis) at: https://www.destatis.de/EN/Themes/Society-Environment/Population/Migration-
2 See www.destatis.de/EN/Press/2019/07/PE19_271_12411.html. The rise of the population of foreigners
between 2014 and 2016 was caused mainly by migrants from Syria (519 700), Afghanistan (178 100) and
Iraq (138 500).
3 See the relevant data of the Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt, Destatis) at:
4 See www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Bevoelkerung/Migration-
5 See https://www.destatis.de/EN/Press/2019/08/PE19_314_12511.html.
6 See www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-
7 See https://www.bmi.bund.de/DE/themen/heimat-integration/staat-und-religion/islam-in-
8 See https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-

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