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Austrian Red Cross calls to uphold the humanity of migrants and refugees

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Austrian Red Cross President Gerald
Schöpfer in Vienna, June 2013.
© Nadja Meister / Austrian Red Cross 

In Austria, as in other countries in the EU, people in migration and asylum processes require responses which treat them with humanity and dignity. Over the years, the Austrian Red Cross has developed multiple approaches to support migrants and refugees. In the below speech on the occasion of the 260th Presidential Conference of the Austrian Red Cross in Vienna in November 2022, President Gerald Schöpfer calls for humane treatment, accommodation, and integration of migrants and refugees in Austria.

"The current political debate about the accommodation of asylum seekers is being carried out on the backs of people in need of help. Many of these people need international protection and have a right to asylum. Humane treatment is the order of the day for all people in Austria. Asylum and migration have always existed in our society. Inextricably linked to this is the cultural diversity to which Austria owes much. Of course, flight and migration always present us with challenges, but they also offer numerous opportunities for our country, and especially in times of crisis, it is crucial to keep our values in mind.”

Children at the "Lernhaus" in Vienna paint together, April 2022. © Markus Hechenberger / Austrian Red Cross

"Austria has committed itself under international law, enshrined in the Geneva Refugee Convention, to provide essential care and a fair asylum procedure to people in need of help and protection. The right to asylum is and remains a human right. Every person who applies for asylum in Austria has a right to have this application examined in a fair procedure of high quality. And even if not all people who come to us will be granted asylum, they must still be accommodated and cared for according to the applicable minimum standards. As a member of the European Union, Austria is obliged to do so. And as the Red Cross, we are always available to help the authorities in the states and the federal government here."

"Through its international network, the Red Cross has a great deal of experience in the area of asylum and migration, as well as the causes that force people to flee. These include, above all, conflicts, persecution, and disasters. In addition, the dramatic effects of climate change are also beginning to drive people from their home countries. It is essential from a humanitarian perspective that people affected by such circumstances are not simply abandoned. They deserve the humanity of receiving help and support. We as a host society will also benefit from this.”

As part of the Austrian Red Cross Xchange programme, integration ambassador Firdows from Somalia comes into the classroom to promote cultural exchange, Vienna, October 2019. © Thomas Holly Kellner / Austrian Red Cross

National Red Cross Societies in Europe are committed to supporting fair asylum and reception procedures of high quality. This requires that a sufficient number of well-trained officials and interpreters are available, and that legal requirements are met. Especially during the colder months, asylum seekers must be granted accommodation and care in accordance with the relevant standards set by the EU, including a safe shelter that can be heated adequately. When it comes to integration, a significant increase in funding is needed to ensure a successful integration into society which can generate long-term benefits for recipient communities as well.

Finally, at the European level, a solidarity-based, humanitarian, and fundamental rights-compliant approach to the common handling of asylum and migration is urgently needed and long overdue. The EU and its Member States ought to work constructively and collaboratively on the Common European Asylum System to make sure that every person in need has access to fair, transparent, accountable, and high-quality asylum procedures and reception facilities throughout the EU. Any attempt to modernise the Common European Asylum System, such as the EU Migration and Asylum Pact, should be performed in a spirit of solidarity and humanity.

This article is based on a speech given by Austrian Red Cross President Gerald Schöpfer in November 2022. The original was published in German and can be found here.

A thorough overview of migration-related projects operated by the Austrian Red Cross can be found here (in German).

The Austrian Red Cross also operates a Tracing Service which supports people who have been separated from their families by armed conflicts, wars, disasters, flight, displacement or migration. You can find more information about it here (in German).

For media inquiries, please contact Sara Garcia de Blas on: sara.garcia@redcross.eu or +32 2 235 06 96

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