Influx of Syrians pushes German naturalisations to record level

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany granted citizenship to a record number of people last year, due largely to a jump in the number of Syrians who qualified for a passport after fleeing their country around a decade ago, the Federal Statistics Office said on Tuesday.

Overall, some 200,100 foreigners were naturalised last year, a 19% rise from the previous year and the highest level since records started in 2000.

Around 38% of those people came from Syria, with Turkish and Iraqi citizens making up the next biggest group.

"The high number of naturalisations of Syrians is linked to the high influx of Syrian asylum seekers between 2014 and 2016 who are increasingly meeting naturalisation requirements, such as language skills and minimum residence time," said the Office.

In addition, spouses and minors can be naturalised without a minimum period of residence.

The newly naturalised Germans were on average 29.3 years old, compared to the average of 44.6 years old in the overall population. Many economists argue that the integration of younger migrants in the workforce will help tackle the time-bomb of an ageing population in Europe's biggest economy.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Matthias Williams)