The word "migration" refers to forms of geographical mobility where a person makes their home in a different geographic location. Official statistics distinguish here between two forms, that is, internal migration and international migration. The field that is presented here comprises international migration or external migration, which is contingent on migration over a national border.
Germany has developed since the mid-20th Century to become one of the most important immigration regions in Europe. Immigration to Germany increased considerably as long ago as in the 1950s and 60s. A first wave of immigration was triggered by the deliberate recruitment of labour migrants from Southern Europe. The second wave, in the 1970s and 80s, primarily consisted of the immigration of family members of the workers who had previously been recruited. These former guest workers and their families remain to the present day the largest group of people with a migration background living in Germany. Reunification and the political transformation which took place in Eastern Europe led to a third wave of immigration, particularly among ethnic German resettlers, as well as refugees and asylum-seekers. Since then, migration between Germany and other countries has tended to be characterised by the temporary migration of specific groups of migrants such as contracted employees, seasonal workers or highly qualified foreigners. Since 2010, a new considerable rise of immigration numbers has emerged. Until 2014, this migration stream comprised immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Whereas immigration from Eastern European countries has been mainly due to the first-time freedom of movement for workers from those countries to Germany, immigration from Southern Europe has been caused by the economic crisis. The years 2015 and 2016 were additionally characterized by high numbers of international refugees. While the number of refugees migrating to Germany had decreased since the mid-1990s, with 2007 marking the lowest point with only 19,000 first-time asylum applications, the number rose to 4442,000 asylum applications in 2015 and 722,000 in 2016. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were the most numerous applicants' countries of origin in the past two years.
Germany has recorded a migration surplus in the past two decades, from 1991 to 2015, totalling slightly more than 7 million persons. This makes migration between Germany and other countries a central factor influencing the demographic development of the population.