Four ways to help refugees in Austria

The European Union is struggling to cope with a huge influx of refugees, many risking their lives to flee violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to help refugees arriving in Austria, here's how.

Four ways to help refugees in Austria
Refugees have been sleeping in the grounds of the Traiskirchen reception centre. Photo: ORF

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.

To sign up go to: or contact organisations such as Caritas, Diakonie, Volkshilfe and Don Bosco Flüchtlingswerk.

Provide accommodation

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:

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:

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.

Donate money

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:

The bank details of the organisation are listed under ‘3. Geldspenden’.

By Claire Caruth.


MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Austria's recent Migration & Integration report paints a detailed picture of who are the immigrants in the country, where they come from, the languages they speak at home and more.

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background”, which, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria, means that they have parents who both were born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth.

Though migration is a controversial topic for some, Statistik Austria made it clear that if not for it, the country would simply stop growing.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Not every person with a migration background is considered a foreigner, though. Many of them have parents who were born abroad but naturalised Austrians before having children, or they themselves became Austrian citizens later on.

This is why despite 25.4 percent of the population having a “migration background”, the number of people with foreign nationalities is slightly lower at 17.7 percent.

So, who are these people? 

German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people). But much had changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

They are helping Austria get younger

In Austria, most people without a migration background (36.2 percent) are between 40 to 64 years old. The share is also quite large among those with 65 or more years, reaching 21.8 percent.

When it comes to people with a migration background, most are between 40 to 64 years old (34.4 percent), followed closely by the 20 to 39-year-olds (33.5 percent), and then the children and adolescents until 19 years of age (22 percent). Only 10.2 percent of the people with a migration background are older than 65.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Regarding nationalities, Austrians have an average age of 44.8, followed by Germans, who average 41.1. The youngest populations are the Afghani living in Austria (24.9 years old on average) and the Syrians (26.3).

Immigration helps keep the Austrian population younger. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

Language and education

People with a migration background living in Austria have a different educational profile than the population without a migration background, according to the Statistik Austria data.

They are more often represented in the lowest and highest educational segments and less often in the middle-skilled segment than the population without a migration background.

However, the educational level of immigrants is improving over time, on the one hand, due to increasing internal migration, also of higher educated people within the EU. On the other hand, as a result of the selective immigration policy toward third-country nationals by the Red-White-Red Card, the institution said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

In 2021, 19.4 percent of the Austrian population had higher education, such as a university degree, and 10.9 percent had only mandatory primary schooling. Regarding foreigners, 29 percent had university-level education and 25.1 percent had completed only their primary school years.

When it comes to children and the language they speak, German was the first language of about 72 percent of the four and 5-year-old children in elementary educational institutions in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

With just under six percent each, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BKS) were the most common non-German first languages. Around two percent each spoke Romanian, Arabic or Albanian, followed by Hungarian (one percent).

Less than one percent each for Persian, Polish, Slovakian, English, Russian and Kurdish, respectively, as the first languages. Languages other than those mentioned were spoken by slightly more than five percent.

And who is naturalising Austrian?

Not all foreigners become Austrian, even if they have been in the country for decades. One of the reasons is that the process is expensive, but also because it requires applicants to give up their previous citizenship – something many are unwilling to do.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

According to the report, in 2021, most foreign citizens who naturalised Austrian were from Turkey originally (1,100), followed by Bosnia (921), Serbia (782), Afghanistan (545), and Syria (543).

More than one-third of the people naturalising Austrian last year were already born in Austria, and most of the naturalisations were of young people between 20 and 40 years old.