Germany sees biggest increase in foreigners in 20 years

BERLIN (REUTERS) - The number of foreigners living in Germany rose by 4.1 per cent last year, the biggest increase since 1993, driven by an influx of residents from EU members Poland and Hungary, the Statistics Office said on Tuesday.

Net immigration to Europe's biggest economy coupled with a higher number of births than deaths last year contributed to the increase, said the Office.

The data also showed that the number of Turks who are registered as living in Germany fell by 2 per cent last year.

While Turks still comprise the biggest group of foreigners in Germany - about three times as many as Italians and Poles, who come next - many have moved back to Turkey or taken German citizenship in the last few years, said the Office.

By contrast, citizens from the former communist eastern European states of Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are coming to Germany in ever bigger numbers. The number of Poles alone rose by 13.6 per cent last year.

Other big increases came from countries hit by the euro crisis. The number of Greeks rose by 5.1 per cent and Spaniards by 9.1 per cent.

Worried about a shortage of skilled workers and the effect of its ageing population on the social security system in future decades, Germany is starting to make it easier for some foreigners to live here.