The debate over refugees was stirred again on Wednesday in Germany with the release of twin reports that tied a possible rise in criminal activity to the new arrivals, and predicted a surge in their numbers as many used existing laws to bring in family members to Germany.
According to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the German Office for Migration estimates that up to an additional 500,000 family members of Syrian refugees will be legally bought into the country over the coming months. The newspaper said it obtained a copy of an estimate prepared based on 2015 figures by the government agency, which has struggled to cope with the influx.
The migration office, in a statement, declined to comment to Handelsblatt Global Edition or confirm the statistics reported by the newspaper.
Germany admitted an estimated 1.1 million refugees last year, most of them from the war-torn regions of Syria and Iraq, but also from northern Africa, Afghanistan and other crisis-ridden parts of the Middle East.
The rapid and sudden influx of refugees arriving through what is known as the Balkan route has roiled the political debate in Germany, and led to the rise of a right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which is polling at 12 percent to 15 percent nationally.
The size of a second wave of refugees’ family members has been actively debated in Germany, with some experts predicting that Germany’s generous asylum laws would permit each officially recognized refugee to bring in three to four additional family members, which would bulge the country’s refugee population to more than 4 million, or nearly 5 percent of the population.
But the migration office report cited by the Munich-based newspaper said the government agency expected each legal asylum seeker to bring on average only one family member, not three or four. Of the 1.1 million people admitted as refugees last year, only an estimated 40 percent will obtain legal asylum status and have the right to bring in additional family members.