UPDATE: Almost 120,000 refugees have arrived in Austria from Ukraine

Austria has received tens of thousands of people from Ukraine so far, but the vast majority have decided to continue their journeys to other countries in Europe

Almost 120,000 refugees have arrived from Ukraine in Austria since the Russian invasion. Photo: Emmy Midgley.
Many refugees from Ukraine are arriving in Vienna. Photo: Emma Midgley.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Austria has received some 117,000 refugees fleeing the war, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior confirmed on Monday afternoon

Only around a quarter of the arrivals, though, currently want to stay in Austria.

But, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the proportion is likely to increase in the country.

The UN has already warned that the subsequent waves of refugees will be people who do not have any contact points in Western Europe. So far, most of the Ukrainians have travelled from Austria further to Spain, Italy, or Germany, where there are larger Ukrainian communities.

READ MORE: How Vienna is helping thousands of Ukrainian refugees arriving by train

As the war rages on, those arriving might want to stay at their first place of arrival, as they have no other ties to other countries. However, they also tend to be more vulnerable people: those without passports or money, the UN had said.

Formal registry

It has been difficult to measure how many people have stayed in Austria and even how many have arrived.

This is because Ukrainian citizens don’t need to register for short-term stays in Austria. Besides, many have stayed with private households, friends, or even short-term rentals.

Starting this Monday, 14, refugees wishing to stay in Austria will be formally registered. They will receive an identity card and basic care.  

READ MORE: How Austria and Austrians are helping Ukrainian refugees

The country has set out 34 fixed registration offices where refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine can go for assistance and documentation.

Useful vocabulary

Flüchtlinge – refugees

Weiterreise – onward journey

Registrierungsstellen – registration offices

Notquartiere – emergency quarters

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REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?