Europeans extend hands and open homes to refugees

Europeans extend hands and open homes to refugees
3 min read
Blog: While national governments are struggling to find solutions to Europe's refugee crisis, ordinary citizens are welcoming new arrivals into their homes.
Demonstrators' placards read 'Asylum is a human right' [AFP]

In light of the ongoing refugee crisis and an influx of asylum seekers arriving at the shores of Europe, mass demonstrations took place late on Monday night in Vienna to welcome refugees into Austria.

The rally's slogan read Mensch sein in Österreich, or "Being human in Austria".

At least 20,000 demonstrators of all ages and backgrounds - many wearing white clothes to symbolise peace and acceptance - arrived at the Christian-Broda Square at 9:30pm.

     We cannot treat people like this, we are one of the richest countries in the world
- Austrian demonstrator


According to Austrian newspaper Der Standard, the atmosphere was peaceful, with families and children helping to create a positive and happy environment for new arrivals to the country.

The march stopped outside the Austrian parliament, and candles were lit to commemorate the 71 refugees who were found dead on Thursday in a truck abandoned beside a motorway.

Organiser Nadia Rida was happy with the turnout. "Look at how many we are, we can achieve a lot," she said.

Demonstrators held signs, proclaiming: "My nationality? Human!", "Refugees welcome!", "No human is illegal", and "I don't want Europe to be a mass grave".

People also walked the streets of Vienna, chanting: "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!"

"I want to support this movement that helps deal with the situation and the refugees in a humanitarian way - not to exclude them, but to welcome them," one demonstrator told Der Standard.

Another demonstrator who visited Traiskirchen, a government-run shelter for refugees, said the situation was "a disgrace":

"We cannot treat people like this, we are one of the richest countries in the world, we can afford it and we should afford it."

Iceland

Austrians aren't the only people demonstrating for the dignity and rights of refugees.

More than 10,000 Icelanders have offered to open their homes to Syrian asylum seekers, as part of a grassroots solidarity movement.

The initiative was started by the celebrated author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, after Reykjavik announced it would accept only 50 humanitarian refugees from Syria.

A Facebook group was created, encouraging fellow citizens to speak out in favour in those seeking asylum.

An Icelandic resident, Hekla Stefansdottir, posted: "I'm a single mother with a six-year-old son... We can take a child in need. I'm a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket."

After examining the posts on the Facebook page, Welfare Minister Eyglo Hardardottir told Icelandic public television RUV, that authorities would consider upping the number of refugees accepted under a humanitarian quota.