The Federal Law on Refugees and Exiles (BVFG) regulates the intake and integration of millions of ethnic German refugees and exiles who, after the Second World War, immigrated to the FRG from Eastern European territories that had previously belonged to the German Reich or contained German major populations.
After the end of the Second World War, approximately four million ethnic Germans lived in the states of Eastern Europe. From the passage of the BVFG until the fall of the Iron Curtain, it was particularly the so-called Aussiedler (emigrants), above all from Poland and Romania, who travelled to the FRG and acquired German citizenship. Between 1989 and 2006, a further three million people made use of the BVFG, migrating primarily from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, the international body of successor states of the former Soviet Union) into West Germany. Overall, between 1950 and 2007 a total of four-and-a-half million Aussiedler immigrated to the FRG.
The coming into force of the BVFG brought about, alongside the Guest-worker recruitment agreements, the largest wave of immigration in the post-war period. With subsequent amendments, this law remains to the present the basis for the intake, distribution, and integration of (late) Aussiedler and their family members.
The law established for the first time a system by which Aussiedler could be settled and provided with German citizenship and receive state welfare. According to the BVFG from its passage until 1992, Aussiedler counted as so-called “(homeland) expellees” and members of the group of “Volksdeutschen” (national Germans), as it was assumed that their ancestors had left present-day Germany in the middle of the eighteenth century and settled in the Russian-speaking regions along the Volga river, establishing a continuous presence there until the Second World War. During and after the Second World War, they had been subject to expulsion, forced resettlement, and repression owing to their German identity.