Thursday, December 23, 2004

Jewish immigrants in Germany

Germany is more popular with Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union than Israel:

Germany has a startling revelation: more Jews have immigrated here in the past three years than to Israel. Most are coming from the lower socio-economic rungs of the former Soviet Union, are collecting welfare and are getting lost in the margins. Berlin is now, for the first time in more than a decade, considering limits on the influx.

This year's statistical oddity: In 2004, more Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union immigrated to Germany than to Israel. Surprised? You shouldn't be. After all, the security situation in Israel is still precarious and the economy isn't exactly booming. Plus, it's the third year in a row that it's happened, and the numbers gap between the two is only growing.

But that may soon change. For over a decade, Germany has allowed unlimited Jewish immigration from ex-Soviet states -- the only non-German immigrant group allowed a free pass into the country. Now, however, the clause allowing the mass migration is under review -- and those Russian Jews wanting to come to Germany may soon find themselves on the outside looking in.

Here is how it started:

The mass immigration began in 1990 when East Germany began allowing Jews from the Soviet Union free entry. The law was one of few that newly reunified Germany adopted when West and East came together in October 1991. Since then, over 197,000 Jews from former Soviet Bloc countries have emigrated to Germany, giving it the third-largest population of Eastern European Jews after Israel -- over a million Soviet Jews have moved there since the beginning of the 90s -- and the US.

In 2002, however, Germany's annual immigration numbers surpassed Israel's for the first time. 19,200 Jews from the east moved to Germany that year, as opposed to 18,000 who headed for Israel. While numbers aren't yet official, nearly 10,000 ex-Soviet immigrants have arrived this year in Germany bringing the country's total Jewish population up to over 100,000 as compared with a 1990 population of just 30,000.

Unfortunately, these new immigrants are causing problems for Germany:

The vast majority of the Jews coming from the former Soviet Union have difficulty finding jobs and often live on social welfare. In Berlin, an estimated 80 percent of the Jewish community -- the majority of them new arrivals from the East -- receives state help, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

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