The potential for migration from the former Soviet Union only began to generate concern among the German public and, to some extent, in political spheres in the aftermath of alarming reports and assertions in the early 1990s suggesting that millions of emigrants from the former Soviet Union would shortly have to be accommodated in Germany. This speculation was fueled, first, by the relaxation of foreign travel and visa procedures in the former USSR and, second, by the deterioration of the economic and social systems of the FSU in combination with growing ethnic conflict. The ensuing debate over occurring and awaited migratory movements demonstrated the effect of appeals for freedom of movement on the policies of migrant-receiving countries. Ultimately, the discussion of migration policy was mainly an internal debate, set in the context of rapidly increasing numbers of asylum seekers and a growing climate of xenophobia.
Because Germany does not regard itself as an immigration country, it reacted defensively to the possibility of immigration from the FSU. This was carried out by legal measures (modification of the asylum law) and a strengthening of border security (which was supported by Poland and the Czech Republic). The economic aid given to the former Soviet Union was also certainly aimed at diminishing emigration pressure (albeit not explicitly so). In any case, financial support played an important role in the retreat of Soviet troops from reunited Germany.
Despite all this, it can generally be said that the German government's approach to the emigration potential of the FSU has always reflected the overall political climate between Germany and the former Soviet states. The question of emigration potential was an aspect of Germany's foreign policy toward the FSU-- perhaps even a barometer--but it never played a decisive role in policy determination.
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Publication information: Book title: Migrants, Refugees, and Foreign Policy:U.S. and German Policies toward Countries of Origin. Contributors: Rainer Münz - Editor. Publisher: Berghahn Books. Place of publication: Providence, RI. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 159.
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