BERLIN (Reuters) - Immigration to Germany jumped by 15 percent in the first half of this year from the same period the year before, due mainly to an influx of people from EU states including crisis-hit Greece and Spain, where unemployment levels are soaring.
Although the largest number of immigrants to Europe's biggest economy came from neighbouring Poland, the statistics office said arrivals from Greece increased by 78 percent and were up 53 percent from both Spain and Portugal.
"The strong rise in immigration from EU countries particularly affected by the financial and debt crisis was noticeable in the first half of the year," the office said.
Germany's economic strength and relatively robust labour market have lured an increasing number of workers from southern Europe in the last year or so, despite practical obstacles such as language.
However, the numbers are still fairly small. A total of 15,838 people came to Germany from Greece in the first six months of the year and 11,129 came from Spain, compared with 89,000 people from Poland.
Germany may become a slightly less attractive destination as an economic slowdown looms. Data released on Thursday showed the economy grew by just 0.2 percent in the third quarter and many economists expect a contraction in the fourth quarter. Unemployment is also on the rise.
Overall, 501,000 moved to Germany in the first half of the year, 66,000 more than in the same period in the previous year, while 318,000 left. That resulted in a net inflow of 182,000, a rise of 35 percent, the statistics office said.