Cablegate: Transforming Rostock: From Xenophobic Riots to Integration

R 101142Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: For an Eastern German city that was in the
global headlines sixteen years ago for a neo-Nazi attack on
asylum-seekers, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern's (M-V) largest city
Rostock has made extraordinary strides in its integration
efforts. The city has taken an organized approach, clearly
designating competencies among federal, state, and community
programming in order to avoid competition or duplication.
Despite budget strains, Rostock city officials have placed a
priority on integration efforts and continue to provide the
necessary funding. In addition, the city has a remarkably
dedicated group of people working on this issue. The state
plans to use Rostock's experience in integration as a role model
in implementing similar practices throughout M-V. This cable
provides a snap-shot of RostQ as an integration success-story.

Rostock 1992 - Ground Zero for Xenophobia
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) Rostock is located on the Baltic in former Eastern
Germany and has a long tradition as a port city reaching back to
the Hanseatic League. Until recently, the city was probably
best known for the August 1992 xenophobic riots in
Rostock-Lichtenhagen. At the time, several hundred right-wing
extremists, accompanied by more than 3,000 applauding
bystanders, attacked a building filled with approximately 120
asylum-seekers, sending media shock waves throughout the world.
(Note: At the time Rostock served as M-V's central processing
office for asylum-seekers. Approximately 1,000 asylum-seekers
arrived per month. Just prior to the attacks roughly 400
asylum-seekers were evacuated. However, 120 Vietnamese and
journalists remained in the building. End Note.) The city's
approach towards integration challenges has changed
significantly since then, and has become a model for other
German communities. Today, Rostock's immigrant population is
still rather small. In 2007, 11,540 immigrants (7,540
foreigners, 4,000 ethnic German immigrants) lived in this city
of approximately 200,000. The city's integration efforts are
targeted at "migrants," defined as all foreigners and
naturalized persons who permanently live in Germany. Efforts
include working with ethnic German immigrants from the successor
states of the former Soviet Union ("Spdtaussiedler").

Rostock's 2008 Recipe for Success in Integration
--------------------------------------------- -----------

3. (U) Dr. Ahmed Maher Fakhouri, Chairman of the NGO Migra and
the Islamic Federation in Rostock and a 2007 IVLP participant,
highlighted recently to the Consulate why Rostock has succeeded
in transforming itself from an immigrant-hostile to an
immigrant-friendly community. He singled out four main reasons
for Rostock's success. First, he pointed to the dedication and
efficacy of Rostock's Integration Commissioner Dr. Wolfgang
Richter. Richter's position was established in 1991 and he
oversees the municipal network of government entities and NGOs
providing integration-relevant services. Second, Fakhouri noted
that Rostock is the only city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which
has a Foreigner Advisory Committee. The committee has existed
since 1992 and was established as a result of the riots. It is
a semi-communal institution comprised of eight registered
associations that work in the integration field. The committee
elects its representatives and conducts meetings on a regular
basis and basically serves as the official representative of
immigrants in the city. Rostock provides budgetary support to
the committee by covering personnel costs for a part-time
position. The third factor that has contributed to Rostock's
success, Fakhouri explained, is that recent immigrants are not
placed in a "ghetto" within Rostock but are integrated
throughout the city into its various neighborhoods.

4. (U) Finally, Fakhouri stressed that the federal, state and
communal counseling centers have complemented one another in
their work. Representatives from these centers meet quarterly
to exchange ideas and coordinate on the most efficient
approaches to integration. As one of the differentiating
factors of Rostock's integration efforts, Fakhouri pointed out
that there is a dense network of NGOs which, rather than
attempting to provide the full range of services and duplicating
work, are very specialized. For example, Fakhouri's NGO, Migra,
is dedicated solely to language and professional qualification
in Rostock. However, Migra also works on a federal project on
how to optimize counseling migrants and was recently tasked to
devise an integration course. The integration NGO Dien Hong,
which focuses on Vietnamese immigrants, was also founded in 1992
as a result of the riots. There are three Integration
Specialist Service Migration (IFDM) Centers throughout M-V which
were created in 2002 and solely specialize in providing
professional development for immigrants. These centers emanated
from Dien Hong and are mainly financed by the M-V Social
Ministry. The Rostock IFDM was the pilot for this program,
underscoring the city's lead role in integration.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The positive light in which Fakhouri
presented Rostock's integration efforts sharply contrasts witQ
the 1992 xenophobic riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, which were
the most extreme in Germany's post-war history. The city has
learned from that dramatic event and has since implemented best
practices that are being duplicated state-wide. The city's
success lies in its cooperative operating style and effective
communication, which exists, not only among federal, state, and
local integration actors, but also between NGOs and government.
Fakhouri complimented officials on their open-mindedness and
willingness to cooperate. According to Fakhouri, "The city is
bankrupt but continues to fund positions for migrant work. This
is noteworthy." Rostock's dedication to integration is not
commonplace in the state of M-V, as demonstrated by (state
capital) Schwerin, which has cut positions for financial
reasons. END COMMENT.

6. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.


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