Speaking for Ourselves

Austria must step back from the brink

Austria must step back from the brink


 Migrant Voice - Austria must step back from the brink

Austria’s recent election results show that we all need to do more to win the argument for the benefits of refugee protection and a compassionate, common-sense approach to migration.

The Austrian People’s Party (OVP), and the smaller and further-right Freedom Party (FPO), have worked in coalition government before to oversee a drop of over half in the number of asylum applications. 

Both have pursued policies that shut out the world, with the FPO maintaining that "the protection of cultural identity and social peace in Austria requires a stop to immigration."

Both gained over a dozen seats each this election, putting OVP leader Sebastian Kurz in a likely position to govern either in a minority administration or in a coalition.

The slate of policies the two parties agree on include stopping refugee rescue missions in the Mediterranean, even though thousands of people are continuing to perish there every year.

They agree on preventing newcomers from accessing any form of state support, while the FPO proposes banning migrants from applying for jobs in entire sectors of the economy.

And just weeks ago, Austrian troops were deployed to the Italian border in a show of force aimed at deterring refugees from crossing borders inside the European Union.

There is a danger that other countries may follow suit, abandoning commitments to the shared values and common humanitarian work which is the only way we have of alleviating the plight of refugees - just as Austrian refugees were welcomed in other nations after fleeing the Nazis so many years ago.

The answers being proposed in Austria are similar to the answers being proposed by a rising tide of hostile politics across Europe – both from extreme-right parties and even more mainstream groupings. We cannot stand by and watch a domino effect happen.

Arguments for ever more vicious border controls are presented as answers to real, serious concerns about jobs and the economy, security, globalisation and the pace of change. But they are nothing of the sort – they duck the real debate and replace it with attempts to whip up fury and suspicion between communities in order to score political points.

Rather than talking about lowering standards for migrants who work, contribute and add to the fabric of social and cultural life in Europe, or turning our backs on those who desperately need help, we should be focussing on how we can raise standards for all.

The leading parties in Austria have an opportunity to move beyond their campaign rhetoric and work together to address common challenges, as do their counterparts in other countries.

The price of isolation is too high. And it this case, it risks the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.








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