Racism forces Erasmus student back to UK

A black British student doing an Erasmus year in Salzburg says he left after just three weeks after experiencing “more racism and discrimination than [in his] entire life in London”.

Racism forces Erasmus student back to UK
Migrants in Salzburg. Photo: Muslim Hands UK

Writing on his blog, the student whose name on his Facebook profile is Albert Amankona, said he was at the receiving end of four significant incidents which led to him cutting his study year abroad short and returning to London.

Some of the incidents involved a tenant living below him who complained to the landlord that a black man was living in the building, and then told Amankona that he had called the police, apparently believing that the student was living in Austria 'unregistered'.

Another incident involved a woman at a bus stop shouting at him to speak German while he was talking to a friend on the phone, while other passengers looked on.

“Whilst this was terrifying on its own in retrospect what was more chilling is that not one single person at the bus stop said or did anything as this was going on and there were about 15 people there, it was almost as if we were invisible,” he wrote on his blog. “It was at this point where I thought that maybe Salzburg was not the right place for me.”

He went on: “I never imagined that somewhere in ‘Western Europe’ contained people as overtly racist as some of the people I encountered during my short time in Salzburg nor did I expect to see a coffee shop called Afro coffee mocking almost every aspect of African culture, down to the cartoons on the wall reminiscent of “Golliwogs”.”

“I firmly believe that if everything else in my life was the same except I was white, my experiences in Salzburg would have been completely different and saying that upsets me deeply.”

He also framed his experiences in the context of Europe's migrant crisis, which has seen thousands of migrants and refugees travelling through Salzburg on their way to Germany.

According to some reports, as many as 8,000 migrants are coming across Austria's southern border with Slovenia every day, with around 2000 to 3000 travelling daily through the province of Salzburg over the northern border to Germany.

Around 63,000 have applied for asylum in Austria although most seek a life further north in Europe.

Although highlighting the support many migrants receive from Austrians, Amankona concluded that “if you look like you could be a refugee some will treat you as a second class citizen”.

Nearly 100 people have commented on his post, written earlier in October, with some agreeing with the student's assessment, a few apologising for his experience, while others arguing that Austria should not be judged as racist based on these few experiences.

“The world is complex and it is not as easy as drawing conclusions from these shameful and outrageous incidents on the Austrian people and Austria,” one commentator under the name of Tamara wrote.


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.