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Homeless asylum seekers on the rise

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Homeless asylum seekers on the rise
Entrance to Traiskirchen. Photo: APA
13:36 CEST+02:00
A Viennese organisation which assists refugees to find work and shelter has registered a dramatic rise in the number of homeless asylum seekers in recent weeks.

The Ute Bock Association, established by now 72-year-old former educator and refugee rights advocate, Ute Bock, attributes the increase to overcrowding at the Traiskirchen refugee camp in Lower Austria.

At the beginning of June, 1300 refugees were crammed into the Traiskirchen reception centre, which only has accommodation for 480. Each Austrian province is required to accept a designated number of refugees, however currently only Vienna is fulfilling its quota.

According to Anna Schoiswohl, a counselor at the Ute Bock Association, the situation in Vienna too is now critical.

Numbers of refugees registering for assistance in finding housing have doubled as people are turned away from Traiskirchen.

Many were left standing on the streets without food or health insurance.

"We are one of the first points of contact for people who are rejected from Traiskirchen," explained Schoiswohl in a press release. "Due to the large numbers, all our rooms and apartments are fully occupied at present. But we can provide homeless asylum seekers with a registered address, so they can have their mail delivered and the asylum procedure is not affected. That would have terrible consequences for those concerned."

The association is also calling for asylum seekers to gain access to education, counseling and in particular to the regular labor market, thereby enabling them to support themselves financially.

In Austria around 22,000 refugees are awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications, some for more than a decade.  At least one asylum seeker has been waiting 18 years.

Ute Bock, who has received many awards for her work with asylum seekers, is now back at work at her housing project in Vienna's Favoriten district, after suffering a stroke in the middle of December last year.

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