Migration background (what is it anyway?)

Migration background - a somewhat strange term that you would have probably already heard. Perhaps you also know that you have a migration background yourself. You are in very good company: Around every 5th person in Germany has a migration background.

If you google 'migration background', one of the first headlines that appears is: 'How criminal are young people with a migration background really?' The question shows that many people in Germany associate negative characteristics with this term – in addition to crime, these are often also unemployment, low education or the oppression of women. If the newspaper or TV refers to a family with a migration background, all viewers know: 'Oh, this family probably has lots of problems.'

The likelihood that many of the supposed 'real' Germans who think this way themselves have a migration background without knowing it is quite high. The term includes people with a wide range of different life stories. It was introduced because previous terms such as “foreigner” or 'migrant' (the word comes from the Latin term” migratio”, which roughly means migration, emigration or relocation) no longer gave the authorities a true idea of ​​the composition of the German population. They faced the problem that many people in Germany have a German passport (i.e. are not 'foreigners') and were also born in Germany (therefore are not 'migrants'), but their families have some sort of immigration background. The term 'with a migration background' is intended to describe those people whose heritage is influenced by migration, even if they themselves were born in Germany and are German citizens. 

This is why people with a migration background are not only those who have immigrated to Germany themselves, but also those where at least one parent either immigrated to Germany or is not a German citizen.

To make this clearer, let's imagine the following scene: Two friends are sitting next to each other in a class. Elif has black hair and brown eyes, Sophia has blonde hair and blue eyes. It is obvious which of the two most people would bet on if they heard that one of them had a migration background: Elif, because of her name, and because of her appearance. It could well be that Sophia is the one with a migration background - perhaps because her dad moved to Germany from Poland as a child, while in Elif's family only the grandparents moved from Turkey to Germany and both of her parents were born in Germany.

The migrant background actually says very little about a person. No matter what you look like, what your name is or where you or your family came from: You decide who you are. If you feel you are a German, that's good. If you feel you are a Turk, Nigerian, Brazilian or Serb, that's also great. And if you don't care about any of this and you feel like you are more an adventurer, painter, handball professional or Muslim, that's also good.

By the way, the answer to the question at the beginning of this section 'How criminal are young people with a migration background really?' comes as no surprise: On average, they are just as criminal or non-criminal as young people without a migration background.