10 European Countries with High Immigration

EU Immigration
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The last decade has seen massive immigration to Europe from the Middle East. Europe is currently witnessing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. There are several debates in the European Parliament about the security threat posed due to immigration, the right to seek asylum, the economic impact of mass immigration, and the assimilation of the immigrants into the new environment. This article talks about the 10 European countries with the highest percentage of immigrants per 1000 population.

There are two metrics to rank the number of immigrants by country. One is the absolute number of immigrants per country and the second is the number of immigrants per 1000 population.

Note: If I had chosen the absolute number of immigrants per country, Spain and Italy would have featured in this list.

Note: Immigrants include both EU and Non-EU immigrants.

1. Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a small European country sandwiched between Germany, France and Belgium. It has the highest per capita income in Europe and popular for its banking and finance industry.

Nearly 48% of the residents in Luxembourg are foreign born nationals. That means, 1 in 2 people living in Luxembourg is a foreigner.

Luxemburg has the most number of non-EU immigrants per capita.14% of the total residents in Luxembourg are from a non-EU country.

2. Switzerland

Switzerland Alps

In 2018, the population of Switzerland was 8,544,500, out of 2,148,300 foreign nationals were permanent residents of Switzerland. Thus, one in every 4 residents in the country is a foreigner.

The most common countries of origin of the foreigners were Italy (14.9% ), Germany (14.3% or 306,200), Portugal (12.3% or 263,300) and France (6.3% or 134,800). Only 28% of the foreigners were outside the EU/EEA region. That means nearly 7% of the population in Switzerland is non-EU/non-EEA immigrants.

Although 1 in 4 people in Switzerland is a foreigner, the number of immigrants from non-EU/non-EEA is proportionately less than Malta.

The bar graph shown below shows the nationality ofof foreign residents in Switzerland.

3. Cyprus

4. Malta

Malta Global Residence Permit for Immigration
Malta Global Residency Permit

Most people wouldn’t have even heard of Malta. It’s a tiny island south of Italy in the Mediterranean sea. In 2019, it had a total population of 475,701. 98,918 or 21.0% of the population are non-Maltese non-EU nationals. That’s like 1 in 5 people in Malta is an immigrant.

12% of the Maltese residents are from a non-EU country. That means, 1 in 8 Maltese resident in a non-EU resident.

The staggering number of non-EU residents/foreigners can be attributed to the growing number of asylum seekers from the Middle East and the Malta Global Residency Programme.

The refugee crisis in Malta has recently gained global attention as different NGOs have submitted evidence of brutality towards asylum seekers by Maltese authorities. Several asylum seekers detained in Malta have told their horror stories of being beaten, severely injured, and then detained in isolated rooms for hours.

In a recent move, Malta introduced a new policy that denied asylum seekers from safe countries the right to work, forcing them to go back to their own country. 28 Human Rights organizations have described this move as ‘inhumane and discriminatory’.

In 2016, the Maltese Government introduced a new residency program called the ‘Global Residence Program’. This offers special tax status to third-country nationals (except for EEA and Swiss nationals) in Malta. To apply for this program you need to satisfy certain criteria such as buying or renting a property in Malta or Gozo and paying a minimum annual tax liability on foreign income received in Malta. In 2018, the Global Residence Program saw 440 applications. It is increasingly becoming popular with interest spikes from Russian, Canadian and Chinese citizens.

5. Austria

6. Sweden

7. Germany

Germany has the most immigrants in Europe. 18% of the residents in Germany are foreign born nationals. That means, 14.7 million people in Germany are foreign born immigrants. Turkish, Polish and Russians are the three major immigrant groups in Germany.

7.7% of the residents in Germany are born in other EU member states.

10.3% of the people in Germany are born in a non-EU country.

The statistics I talked before applies to current residents who are not born in Germany. In Germany, a person is considered to have a ”migration background” (Migrationshintergrund) if they, or at least one of their parents, were born without German citizenship. If such a definition is followed, 26% of the German population has a migration background.

4.6 million people or 22% of the German residents has a migration background tracing back to Asia (including Turkey). 13% of the German population is of Turkish origin or has Turkish migration background. Approximately 20% of the foreigners (or 4 million) living in Germany have ‘migration background’ in the Middle East and Africa.

How big is the Turkish Population in Germany?

1 in 8 German residents is either Turkish-born or has a Turkish parent. Most of the Turks are based in the Western parts of Germany, in states of North-Rhine Westphalia, Bremen, and Hamburg.

Why are there so many Turks in Germany?

In the 1950s and 1960s, West Germany was going through its economic miracle otherwise called Wirtschaftswunder. The flourishing German economy experienced labor shortages. In October 1961, an agreement was signed between West Germany and Turkey to hire cheap manpower/labor from Turkey and address this labor shortage.

When the thousands of Turkish workers moved to Germany, the German government thought that
most would be men, who would work there for a few years, send money back home, and then return
to Turkey with cash and new skills. Because the government believed their stay would be temporary,
no attempt was made to integrate them into German society. Many lived in dormitories provided by
their employers, where they remained among themselves. They were not encouraged to learn the
German language beyond the bare minimum required to carry out their jobs.

Many Turks stayed in Germany permanently. Later in 1974, family reunification rights were introduced. This allowed Turkish workers to bring their families to Germany.

8. Ireland

Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland

Ireland is not a part of the Schengen and it’s far away from the mainland of Europe. Despite not being a Schengen country, Ireland is one of the European countries with the highest percentage of immigrants.

As per the Eurostat data published in 2019 and the European Migration Network data published in 2019, 18 out of every 1000 people in Ireland are non-EU immigrants.

However, the Eurostat data doesn’t give the details of the absolute number. Therefore, I decided to explore the latest CSO Ireland data published in 2021 to find out more about the absolute number.

Ireland is one of the European countries with highest percentage of immigrants
Non-EU immigrants/residents are on rise in Ireland as per the CSO Data

As per the CSO Ireland data, 3.6% of the population in Ireland or 36 of every 1000 residents of Ireland are non-EU immigrants.

In the last two decades, Ireland has also seen massive immigration from the EU 15-27 countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

The growing population has been a blessing in disguise for Ireland. Ireland has time and again emerged as the fastest-growing European country economically with a GDP growth rate above 4%. In fact, Ireland is the only EU country that recorded positive GDP growth of 5.9% in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the major reasons for the rapid increase in net immigration to Ireland is the success of the Third Level Graduate Scheme.

The Third Level Graduate Scheme program in Ireland allows non-EU students pursuing a Master’s degree to stay back for 2 years and work in a job in the country.

In the recent CSO data, it has been found that nearly 60% of the non-EU immigrants have a university degree (at least a Bachelor’s degree education).

Read: 20 Major MedTech Companies in Ireland

Further, Ireland is a major hub for IT and biotech companies. Due to its low corporate tax of 12.5%, several American MNCs of the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, etc. are based in Ireland. The increase in demand for a skilled workforce and favorable lenient visa policy have led to the retention of non-EU foreign students in Ireland, leading to an increase in net immigration.

9. Belgium

Antwerp railway station Belgium
Antwerp railway station, Belgium

10. Estonia

Which country has the most migrants per capita?

Luxemburg has the most number of non-EU immigrants per capita. Nearly 48% of the residents in Luxembourg are foreign born nationals. 14% of the total residents in Luxembourg are from a non-EU country.

The figure below shows the European countries with highest percentage of immigrants. It also shows the percentage of EU and non-EU immigrants.

european countries with highest percentage of immigrants
European countries with highest percentage of immigrants in decreasing order (Source: European Migration Network)

Which country has the most immigrants in Europe 2022?

Germany has the most immigrants in Europe. 18% of the residents in Germany are foreign-born nationals. That means 14.7 million people in Germany are foreign-born immigrants. Turkish, Polish, and Russians are the three major immigrant groups in Germany.

Migration data as per the European Migration Network

About Post Author


I started this blog for my love of writing and disseminating my views on things that excited me. I don't have a clear direction with this blog. However, you can find content mostly related to higher education, career development, MedTech, finance, and budget travel hacks. Background: After graduating in Mechanical Engineering from IIT (BHU) Varanasi, India, I pursued a dual degree Master's program in Europe (MS in Biomedical Engineering at RWTH Aachen, Germany and MS in Bioengineering at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland). I am currently working as a 'Manufacturing Engineer' in a MedTech company in Ireland.
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