Austria had over 20,000 asylum applications in the first five months of 2015 alone - and officials expect the total to reach 80,000 this year.
Reception centres are packed, and some hostels for asylum seekers have been accused of inadequate care. The situation is pretty desperate. Many people feel powerless to help when they read the newspaper headlines, but here are four things you can do to help:
There are several charitable organisations in Austria dedicated to helping refugees. Volunteering at one of these is one of the best ways to make a difference, as you will have the chance to make personal contact with asylum seekers and help provide them with clothes, food and water. In return, you will get a new perspective, meet different kinds of people, and gain the eternal gratitude of those in need.
Instead of letting piles of junk accumulate in your spare room why not change a refugee’s life by providing them with long-term accommodation. Finding accommodation is always one of the main challenges for a refugee, and providing them with a safe, secure roof over their head which is not in a mass accommodation centre will make a huge difference.
To sign up, fill out the form at: https://freiwilligfuerwien.echonet.at/home/wohnraum/54.
Alternatively, if you live in a flat share, the organisation Flüchtlinge Willkommen (Refugees Welcome) will match you up with a suitable refugee house mate, and assist with paying the rent. More information here: http://www.fluechtlinge-willkommen.at/
Donate your unwanted possessions
There are numerous organisations which will donate your unwanted possessions to refugees who will really appreciate them. Alternatively, you can donate new hygiene products to charities such as Caritas, who will create packages for refugees. They are currently seeking items such as razors, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sun cream, face cream, bandages and nappies. The retail firm ‘dm’ is working with Diakonie and Caritas and has set up a new initiative across Austria to help provide refugees with these items. Customers can pay €5, €10 or €20 at the tills of any dm store and donate a ‘Welcome Package’ of the same value to refugees.
Donating €20 will buy a waterproof sleeping bag for a refugee. €21 will provide safe accommodation for the night. €50 will buy a mattress, and a further €45 will give a refugee a duvet and pillows. To donate to Caritas, follow this link: https://www.caritas-wien.at/spenden-helfen/aktuelle-spendenaufrufe/hilfe-fuer-fluechtlinge/.
The bank details of the organisation are listed under ‘3. Geldspenden’.
By Claire Caruth.