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More Than 240,000 East European Immigrants in 1988

January 3, 1989

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ A record 242,505 immigrants from Eastern Europe last year has swelled transit camps to overflowing and prompted officials in Bavaria to plan a Russian-language school.

The immigrants, from seven communist countries, more than doubled the number received by West Germany in 1987, and an even larger tide of refugees is expected this year, said Horst Waffenschmidt, the Interior Ministry official responsible for refugees.

The increase reflects a relaxation of emigration policy in Poland, the Soviet Union and East Germany, the three nations from which the majority of immigrants arrived last year.

Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reform efforts have eased restrictions on those seeking to leave the country, and the more tolerant view has been adopted to some degree by authorities in Warsaw and East Berlin.

The influx has strained West Germans’ hospitality and ability to integrate so many newcomers, many of whom speak little or no German and are already retirement age or have limited job skills.

Politicians and labor union officials concerned about West Germany’s 8 percent jobless rate have been increasingly critical of the government’s policy of accepting virtually all ethnic Germans seeking to emigrate to the West.

The East European refugees usually require government-financed housing, food, language training and other social services for months after their arrival.

Saarland state governor Oskar Lafontaine of the left-wing Social Democratic Party complained in October that the ethnic Germans were getting priority over people from Third World countries seeking political asylum.

″Ethnic Germans of the fourth and fifth generation are accepted here in preference to a colored person whose very existence is threatened,″ Lafontaine told reporters.

Some of the immigrants of German descent from Poland were forced to settle there after World War II, but most of those coming from the Soviet Union stem from German workers who settled there in the 18th century.

Waffenschmidt, an influential member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrat Party, said the Bonn government is committed to doing all it can ″to ease for these countrymen their new start in our land.″

He said $1.1 billion has been earmarked for aiding East European refugees in 1989.

Christian Democratic spokesman Johannes Gester on Tuesday urged the government to create a fourth reception camp for East-bloc immigrants to ease crowding at the three facilities currently registering arrivals and provide initial assistance for them.

Gester said officials expect at least as many East-bloc immigrants in 1989 as in last year.

Thousands of immigrants, or ″aussiedler,″ are camped in crowded barracks and tent cities throughout the federal republic. Local governments struggle with short funds and a tight housing market to provide suitable dwellings.

Gester also called for offering a one-year German language course for all young immigrants.

The Bavarian culture ministry announced Tuesday that a Russian-language school will open next fall in the city of Pfarrkirchen to help in assimilating refugee children from the Soviet Union.

The largest group of immigrants last year, 140,226, came from Poland, followed by 47,572 Soviets of German descent and 39,832 from East Germany.

Emigration to West Germany from Romania fell by about 1,000 last year to 12,902, according to the Interior Ministry figures. There were 959 resettlers from Czechoslovakia, 763 from Hungary and 223 from Yugoslavia, the government reported.

Meanwhile, the East German news agency ADN said authorities allowed more than 7 million East Germans to visit the West in 1988, another indication of eased emigration and travel restrictions.

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