Hannes Richter

Head of Austrian Integration Fund Visits Washington, D.C.

Hannes Richter
Dr. Janda
Dr. Janda

Left: Dr. Alexander Janda during his newsmaker presentation at the National Press Club (Photo: Richter). Right: CommuniKids preschoolers present a gift to Dr. Janda (Photo:Pablo Sanchis, CommuniKids)

The director of the Austrian Integration Fund, Dr. Alexander Janda, and the Fund’s Team Leader for Knowledge Management, Lisa Fellhofer, visited Washington, D.C. from September 13-16, 2011, to discuss the experiences and challenges of immigration, integration, and diversity, both in the United States and Austria.

The Austrian Integration Fund was founded in 1960 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. It is committed to the objective analysis of challenges related to integration and migration and fosters the linguistic, professional, and social integration of immigrants in Austria.

The Fund serves as an Austria-wide integration service provider and a center of expertise on integration. During his visit, Dr. Janda held meetings with representatives from the U.S. Department of State, the American Jewish Committee, the American Islamic Congress, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, as well as with several academic institutions and think-tanks.

Dr. Janda spoke with Georgetown University Professor Susan Martin, who directs the Institute for the Study of International Migration at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, followed by a luncheon with members of the American Jewish Committee’s Young Leaders. At the U.S. Department of State, Dr. Janda exchanged views with Thomas Hushek, Office Director for Population, Refugees, and Migration, and Ivan Weinstein, Foreign Affairs Officer for Policy and Global Issues, and Integration, as well as David Robinson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration. During the course of his visit to Washington,

Dr. Janda also visited CommuniKids Preschool (a Spanish and French immersion preschool in Tenleytown and Falls Church), and Oyster Adams Bilingual School to obtain information and exchange ideas on how dual language immersion programs are planned and implemented. On the final day of his visit, Dr. Janda delivered a newsmaker presentation at the National Press Club entitled “Integration, Islam, and Security: Challenges of Multiculturalism in Europe.”

The integration of Muslim immigrants is of particular significance to both Austria and the United States. In seeking an exchange of ideas, Dr. Janda discussed the situation of Muslims in Austria with Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State, and representatives from the American Muslim community, specifically Salam Al-Marayati, President of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, and Zainab al-Suwaii of the American Islamic Congress.

These discussions highlighted some differences between Austria and the United States as regards the two countries’ practical approaches to the issues surrounding integration. In the United States, often considered the poster child of integration, many of the resources that are available to new immigrants in their daily lives in America come from the private and non-profit sectors, while in Austria the government tends to play a greater role in the effort to help immigrants live successful lives in their adopted country.

The general view that the United States has been quite successful in the integration of diverse immigrant populations had caused Dr. Janda’s delegation to choose Washington, D.C. as their destination in order to gather facts and compare the two approaches. Dr. Janda’s visit will surely foster discussions in Austria about best practices for the integration of diverse immigrant populations on both sides of the Atlantic, and how the U.S. and Austria can learn from each other.