Chicago and Sister City Hamburg Band Together to Support Refugees


Blog contributed by Rolf Achilles and Johann Christoph Lichtenfeld, Co-Chairs of the Hamburg Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International. Click here to view the original blog post on Medium. 

As we have seen over recent months, the refugee crisis in Europe has dominated headlines and led news reports around the world. Last year alone, well over one million refugees fled to Europe seeking safe haven and a new start to their lives. The pace of arrivals has only increased as 2016 has begun. These numbers are staggering — it is the largest human migration since the end of World War II.

Ongoing violence and conflict in their home countries have caused these refugees to come to Europe, with the majority coming from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq. While it may be easy to forget about the problems of the world in our busy lives, it is not difficult to understand the need for any human being to seek a safe home for their family. These people are in such difficult positions that they are willing to take dangerous measures. The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than one million of all migrants in 2015 — the vast majority — arrived by sea. More than four thousand of these migrants died in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

Nearly half of all asylum seekers fleeing to Europe in 2015 have been received by Germany. Germany has stepped up to take a leadership role in dealing with this global crisis. The country’s stance has allowed for hundreds of thousands in need to begin the path of transforming their interrupted lives, giving them a stable and safe harbor.

But the crisis has also strained Germany’s social services infrastructure and made it increasingly difficult to provide the services these refugees so desperately need.

Last year, approximately 21,500 refugees came to Chicago’s sister city of Hamburg. In just February 2016 alone, about 2,800 refugees were officially documented entering Hamburg. Hamburg currently has 39,000 beds for refugees, with the anticipated need for an additional 40,000 beds this year.

Since 1994, Chicago and Hamburg have shared a strong sister city relationship. Both cities’ strength comes from the wide diversity of their populations. The Hamburg Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International is raising funds to help the refugees in Hamburg by providing financial support to secure greatly needed resources.

Chicago Sister Cities International and its Hamburg Committee strongly believe in the mission of Sister Cities International, “to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.” We must not forget that we are all citizens of the global community. It is only through efforts like the fundraising campaign on which we endeavor that we can continue to work to make the world a safe place for all its people. By lending a helping hand and working together, we can make a difference in the lives of the refugees. We hope you will join us.

For more information on Chicago Sister Cities International, please visit

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