PARIS (AFP) - An oasis of prosperity in struggling Europe, Germany is now the favoured location for immigrants on the continent, who continue to skirt crisis-hit southern states, the OECD said in a report on Monday.
Germany has become the main destination for people freely moving between European Union nations and is also the world's largest recipient of new asylum seekers.
In its latest migration outlook report, the 34-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said countries needed to see migrants "as a resource rather than a problem" and invest in integration policies to harness their skills.
"There are many ways for migrants to contribute to economic growth," said the report.
In Germany, the OECD said immigration had contributed to employment growth, the lack of which is a key problem for many European nations.
"After the United States, Germany is now the OECD's second most important destination country, up from eighth position in 2009," said the report.
In 2013, the country welcomed over 400,000 immigrants, many of them from other EU nations.
Britain and France were third and fourth respectively.
The topic of immigration is hotly debated in both countries, where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the far-right Front National (FN) are flying high in the polls.
Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised tough curbs on welfare for EU migrants and warned European leaders that resistance could put Britain's EU membership in doubt.
The report said that migration flows to Italy and Spain had declined "rather markedly", reflecting the ongoing economic situation.
"These countries, which were second or third largest immigration countries in the OECD from 2007 to 2011, now hold seventh and eighth positions." While China remains the biggest contributor of migrants, according to latest figures from 2012, the origins of others tend to wax and wane.
Romania, Poland and India were the next biggest contributing nations.
The report noted that the economic crisis had hit immigrants "disproportionately hard" but that despite the downturn, most foreigners were still employed.
"Of the additional 15 million unemployed in the OECD since 2007, about one in five is foreign-born." The report urged member states to harness the skills of immigrants, who often struggle to land jobs because of language skills or different qualifications which are often undervalued.
"Today's migrants are better educated than their predecessors. The number of foreign-born who are highly-educated has grown by 70 percent over the past decade to exceed 31 million in the OECD area." said the report.
"The underutilisation of immigrants' skills is a waste of resources that OECD countries can scarcely afford." The OECD said that discrimination also made it tough for immigrants to get ahead, with studies showing candidates applying for an interview with an immigrant-sounding name "have to submit twice as many applications as people who have similar qualifications and experience but a name with a native ring to it."
For the first time, Syria has overtaken Afghanistan as the main origin country of asylum seekers, the report said.
The dragging war in that country pushed the number of asylum seekers in 2013 to 556,000, an increase of 20 percent from the previous year.
Turkey experienced a dramatic increase of asylum seekers mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.
"At the same time, the number of asylum seekers from the Russian Federation, Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia (and Kosovo) has increased considerably," said the OECD.
Russians were one of the top three nationalities seeking asylum in Germany.