A growing number of people all over the world are leaving their homeland to live and work in another place. According to estimates by the UN there are some 200 million migrants today worldwide, i.e. people who no longer live in their original homeland. This is nearly 3% of the world population. The poor of this world flee from hunger, death, displacement and destruction of the environment. Thousand lose their lives during the flight. Many people are looking for work, a livelihood and accommodation for themselves and for the upkeep of their families in Europe.

For a long time politicians believed that they could control the migration movements on the level of the national states. Gradually there is a growing awareness that millions of people who leave their homeland for a short or a long time trigger massive changes in the immigration countries as well as in the emigration countries. In October 1999 the European Council agreed in Tampere about the main goals of a common asylum policy. Nearly every country in Europe is both an immigration and emigration country. Migration continues to be a central social challenge, especially in the 21st century.


Most of the EU member states show a positive migration balance, i.e. more people immigrate than emigrate. Whilst the limit of one million was never exceeded in the EU during the time before 2001, the migration balance for the period  2001 to 2005 was  1.15 and 2.3 million. In relation to the total population of the EU-27 this corresponded to an immigration percentage of 0.34%. The number of asylum seekers in the EU has gone down considerably during the last years. During the climax year 1992 670 000 applications for asylum were filed in the then 15 EU states. In 2006 there were just  around 192 800 applications for asylum in the 23 EU states. Moreover more than half of the applications for asylum, namely 57.8 %, were rejected in 2006. [1]

[1]           Cf. European Commission / Eurostat (Ed.), Europe in Figures. Eurostat Yearbook 2008, Luxembourg 2008, p. 65