Refugee Crisis

Refugees to march in thanks in Vienna

Refugees to march in thanks in Vienna
Refugees arriving at Westbahnhof station. File photo: Caritas
A group of refugees is planning a ‘peace march’ on Vienna’s Mariahilferstrasse on September 28th, as a way of showing appreciation for the welcome they have received in Austria.

The march is organised by a group on Facebook called #Danke Österreich which was set up by former Syrian refugees who have been granted asylum in Austria.

In German, Arabic, English and Kurdish, the group invites asylum seekers and people who have been granted refugee status to join them on Monday. “This gesture of love and humanitarian sympathy that you have shown us as migrants can only be met by us with love and gratitude to your country,” the text says.

The group also asks the message to be spread to refugees who have recently arrived in Austria and are living in emergency shelters. More than 1,000 people have already pledged to attend.

The group will meet at Christian-Broda-Platz, near Westbahnhof at 6pm and march down Mariahilferstrasse towards the Museumsquartier.

“We want to say with one voice, thank you,” one of the organisers, Youssef Alyamani, said. The 33-year-old fled Syria in 2008 and has been granted asylum seeker status in Austria. He now runs a construction company in Vienna.

“This will be an opportunity to show that we are peaceful and to bring refugees and Austrians closer together,” he added. Organisers have been clear that it is not a demonstration – which could have played into the hands of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), which attempts to portray refugees as a danger to society.

The organisers say they will be waving the Austrian flag during the march and singing the national anthem, as well as carrying peace flags. “We’re just people who want to live in peace, and not material for political campaigns,” Alyamani said.

However, both the FPÖ and the social democrats (SPÖ) will be using the refugee crisis to gain supporters ahead of the Vienna elections on October 11th.

“(FPÖ leader) Strache will be using this to stir up resentment and reinforce any negative feelings… (Vienna’s SPÖ mayor) Häupl will be trying to appeal to supporters of the Greens, the Neos and even the ÖVP… as well as Christians and Catholics,” political expert Thomas Hofer told the Kurier newspaper.