Austrians condemn refugee centre arson at rally

Hundreds of people stood in solidarity with asylum seekers at a rally on Sunday in the Austrian village where a refugee centre was burnt down in an arson attack last week.

Austrians condemn refugee centre arson at rally
Elysa W./Facebook

The rally was organised in Altenfelden in Upper Austria in response to the attack on the unoccupied refugee centre that had been due to open just a few days later.

No one was hurt in the incident although 48 asylum seekers who were due to be housed there were left with nowhere to go.

Organisers said as many as 1,000 turned up to the demonstration at the weekend, although police said the number was closer to 350.

Sozialistische Jugend (SJ), the biggest politically left youth organization in the Austria, organised the rally and used the motto: “We counter your hate with solidarity.”

The mayor of Altenfelden Klaus Gattringer joined the demonstration. Alongside him were several other politicians taking part to promote tolerance.

“In these containers there is not only rubble, but they also contain a lot of benevolence, altruism and initiative,” Gattringer said during the event whilst pointing at what was left of the refugee centre.

Plans are already underway to rebuild the asylum centre with construction due to finish in August.

The original fire broke out in the early hours of June 1st and left only charred remains of the building. It took 200 firemen to put the fire out and caused about €300,000 worth of damage. The fire occurred only a short period before the asylum seekers were due to move in.

The attack on the asylum centre came as a surprise as Austria has so far been spared the string of arson attacks on refugee centres seen in neighbouring Germany, but many people are unhappy about the arrival last year of 90,000 asylum-seekers in Europe's biggest migrant influx in decades.

In May, a candidate from the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) came within a whisker of being elected to the largely ceremonial but coveted presidency, losing by just 31,026 votes to an ecologist independent.

Written by Helena Uhl