WASHINGTON – Sixteen American integration professionals and public officials will travel to Germany for a nine-day, five-city visit, from September 23 to October 1, to learn about Germany's approach to refugee integration. The visit is part of the Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange (WCTE), a reciprocal exchange program bringing together integration practitioners from Germany and the United States to share ideas and best practices on welcoming and integrating refugees into their respective communities.
The U.S. delegation includes representatives from Atlanta and Clarkston, Georgia; Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo, Ohio; and St. Louis, Missouri. This September, the group will visit their German partner communities in the cities of Mannheim and Stuttgart, both located in the southwest German state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the city of Dresden and the rural villages of Altenberg and Pirna, located in former East Germany.
During the tour, the group will examine how local governments and organizations have responded to the more than one million displaced individuals who arrived in Germany over the past year. They will explore a myriad of topics including local approaches to housing; school and workforce integration; the accommodation of vulnerable populations; the role of interfaith organizations and existing immigrant organizations in connecting with refugees; and opportunities for collaboration between the private and public sector. Participants will also discuss the anti-immigrant sentiment that has emerged across communities in both countries, and work together to evaluate and identify effective responses.
The upcoming visit marks the second and final leg of this year's program. This past April, 24 officials representing the aforementioned German communities traveled to the United States to meet and learn from their U.S. counterparts. This 12-day visit showcased a wide-ranging look into how American cities approach integration through a series of site visits and meetings with local governments, resettlement agencies, interfaith groups, local schools and employers, among others.
The inaugural year of the Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange will culminate on September 29-30 as all 40 German and American participants convene in Berlin for a special two-day symposium hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and Cultural Vistas, which will feature U.S. Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson.
This professional exchange program is set to continue over a period of at least three years (2016–2018), incorporating new communities in both countries each year. For more information on how to nominate a community or apply for the 2017 program, please visit culturalvistas.org/wcte.