The men are due to be deported to Hungary and Italy, but Pastor Peter Mathei has said there are moral reasons why they should be allowed to stay in Austria.
The church is not allowed to grant asylum, so the police still have the power to come and remove the five men from the parish property, if they choose to do so.
Mathei said the five men have officially registered their new address, notifying the authorities that they are no longer living in the refugee hostel. He told the Kronen Zeitung newspaper that he hopes “they will be a little safer with us”.
The five men have been living in the village for four months. On June 22nd they will have been in Austria for six months and thus will be legally entitled to apply for asylum here.
“Hungary is not a safe country for asylum seekers,” Pastor Mathei said. He said media reports indicate that refugees in Hungary are imprisoned and mistreated.
Erich Schwarzmann, a spokesman for the local citizens group ‘We are asylum’ told the ORF that he was also strongly opposed to refugees being deported to Hungary. “They would rather go back to Syria, where they risk death, than be sent to Hungary, after all they have been through,” he said. ‘We are asylum’ has been supporting the refugees for months.
The five Syrians have been attending German classes and have been working on a community building site.
Two weeks ago police searched homes in the community of around 3,000, in search of one refugee who was due to be deported, but did not find him.
On Easter Monday a group of drunk men tried to enter the refugee hostel, and Pastor Mathei said the refugees no longer feel safe there. He said that he felt it was his duty to protect them, and that the diocese of Feldkirch had no objections.
“Bishop Elbs accepts and respects Pastor Mathei’s decision,” a spokeswoman for the diocese said.