Wednesday, 28. January 2015
19. 02. 13. - 13:00
By Vicko Marelić in Vienna
The Votivkirche refugees announced an end to their hungerstrike this morning after a well-attended demonstration on Saturday and an ‘encouraging’ letter from President Fischer.
Hundreds of people had marched through Vienna on Saturday in support for the plight of the refugees freezing in the Votivkirche.
The refugees had sought shelter in the church near the university, having marched from the insalubrious Traiskirchen detention centre in November last year.
The demonstration was the culmination of a protest that has sought to highlight the plight of some sixty three people whose weekend protest brought about a personal letter from the federal president Heinz Fischer.
The sixty-three men include forty-eight Pakistanis, seven Afghans and eight North Africans. Their numerous demands centre primarily on better conditions for refugees but also include access to the work market, the right of asylum for economic refugees and the right to appeal against negative asylum decisions.
All the refugees come from regions where war, political instability and economic blight is persistent. Most are from the unstable borderland region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Khan Shajahan, from the refugee protest camp Vienna sees the latest developments as a positive sign, noting that: ‘We are glad that the Austrian president has addressed us with a personal letter. We see it as a sign that our concerns are being heard and will hopefully be taken seriously’. He praised those who have aided their cause, saying that: ‘The solidarity of civil society as well as encouragement from our friends and supporters has strengthened our resolve’.
Few people would associate Vienna with the new ‘wretched of the earth’. Its carefully cultivated reputation as the ‘Isle of the blessed’ compares favourably with the more gangrenous elements of the Parisian banlieus and London inner cities.
Yet ‘Festung Europa’ , a prizewinning book by the Austrian journalist Corrina Milbourne reminds us that Austria is not immune. The book investigates the entry routes, jobs and situation of the refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers in Europe.
One of her chapters focuses on exposing the shocking conditions of the refugees kept at Traisenkirche detention centre where the Votivkirche refugees were originally accommodated. She shows how refugees in Austria end up in a legal no-man’s land, locked in a black hole of often Kafkaesque proportions.
Saturdays demonstration started at the Westbahnhof. A small stage was set up from where the refugees were able to talk about their case. A man from Africa stated: ‘I have been here for nine years and still have no papers. I do not demand voting rights but I would like human rights.’
The up and coming, socially engaged rapper Kid Plex demonstrated his solidarity with the refugees by performing a moving song about the rights of humanity. Various civil rights groups spoke in their defence, appealing to people’s conscience with: ‘It is an accident of birth where you are born’.
The demonstration marched into the first district towards the Hofburg. Turning left into the Herrengasse, they stopped in front of the Ministry of home affairs. Speeches were held here by the refugees and their representatives from activists that have sprung up to represent them. Numerous activists who were also acting as translators to the refugees noted that: ‘No human being is illegal’.
For her part, the Austrian foreign minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner pointed out that: ‘Clearly, for men who are persecuted in their own country there will always be room in Austria. But leave to remain for everybody is not possible - that is an unrealistic demand.’
Indeed, even the Austrian foreign minister Michael Spindelleger recently declared on a trip to the region that ‘Afghanistan is still not a secure country’. With the longest war in US history still raging and showing little sight of abating, trying to return the people back to a place where they face clear and present danger makes little sense from a political as well as a moral perspective.
Yet during an economic crisis, fewer people will sympathise with the demands for asylum being granted on economic reasons. However, the same arguments were used in turning back the Jewish refugees abroad the MS St Louis, fleeing the Nazi regime in the 1930s. The result of this inhumane indifference at a time of economic crisis resulted hundreds of them perishing in concentration camps.
First Images Of Eurovision Stage
These are the first images of the design for the Eurovision Song Contest stage unveiled in the Austrian capital Vienna which is the home of last year's winner Conchita Wurst.
Russian Mafia Boss Nabbed At Vienna Railway Station
A Russian mobster wanted for a string of brutal murders was arrested in the gentile Austrian capital Vienna when commandos swooped as he went to buy a train ticket.
Teen Girls Arrested After Offering Themselves To IS Fighters
Austrian officials who recently cracked down on terrorism by arresting several people believed to be recruiting and fundraising for ISIS have revealed two more teenage girls tried to leave the country to marry terrorist fighters.
Ebola's deadly reach impacts Vienna student
Austria has yet to record its first case of Ebola, but the feared virus has already had a severe impact on the lives of Africans living in Vienna.
Grigorij Sokolov Works His Magic At Vienna Konzerthaus
Whilst the world-famous Wizard of Oz played at the Volksoper, there was another Wizard in the Konzerthaus giving his 16th performance in Vienna!
Penelope Cruz To Play The Ice Cream Killer
The memoirs of the woman dubbed the Ice Cream Killer after she shot dead two ex-lovers before hacking the bodies up with a chainsaw and telling neighbours the noise was a new ice cream machine are due to be turned into a blockbuster with Penelope Cruz playing the lead role.
Kid Left In Coma After Beaten By Teacher For Talking
This is the shocking image of a little Chinese girl before and after she was punished by her teacher - for talking in class.
Freezing Rain Causes Chaos In Central Europe
Freezing weather has arrived in Europe with a vengeance with a layer of ice blanketing parts of Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic and causing traffic chaos.
Holey Smoke As Car Disappears Down Sinkhole
Motorist Wei Hsiao found himself in a hole lot of trouble in China when a giant sinkhole opened up on the road beneath him, swallowing his entire car.
Shock Moment Police Helicopter Explodes On Street
This is the moment a police helicopter exploded into a spinning ball of flame in Chile when a fire truck clipped one of its rotors.
The most popular stories –
last 7 days
|Russian Mafia Boss Nabbed At Vienna Railway Station|
|First Images Of Eurovision Stage|
|Vigilantes Filmed Beating Woman For Talking To Man|
|Lorry Carrying Fireworks Explodes After Driver Lights Up Fag|
|Chinese Smoker Plunges Eight Floors And Survives Unharmed|
Why suffer in silence. Let off steam by letting our readers share your troubles. File your complaints about anything and everything here.
Our ombudsman David Rogers will try and help solve some of the problems from lazy civil servants through to incompetent companies – and at the very least the worst transgressors will end up in our weekly special report.