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Demonstration to remain in front of Votiv Kirche

Following lack of progress made by talks between representatives of the Church, the charity Caritas and refugee activists at the Votiv Kirche in Vienna, protesters are set to stay camped outside the building.

On Tuesday evening Caritas spokesman Klaus Schwertner said: "The church is a place of refuge."

Previously, however, pastor of the Votive Church Joseph Faruggia had described the demonstration as an "occupation" and not as a "search for a refuge".

He has encouraged the demonstrators to leave the church grounds. Farruggia said that the demonstrators were handed an ultimatum to leave the area by 6pm on Tuesday 18 December, but this passed without anything changing.

Instead of an evacuation, a group of 60-70 demonstrators with signs made their way into the church. They were later confronted by police who attempted to negotiate with them.

Caritas then intervened in attempt to de-escalate the situation. Spokesman Schwertner was confident that a solution could be found. According to activists, the talks were broken off at 3am on Wednesday after it had been agreed that representatives of the Church and Caritas would discuss what would happen next.

The refugee activists are demonstrating that politicians have not heard their demands and asylum seekers and sympathisers sought refuge at the Sigmund Freud park in front of the Votive Church where they have camped since the end of November.

The demands of the group include the offer of basic services to all asylum seekers regardless of their legal status, a choice of residence, as well as the recognition of asylum seekers' socio-economic motives in addition to their reasons for escape.

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