In this series of short articles we give examples of how EUROCITIES member cities across Europe are responding to the refugee crisis.
“It is my conviction that we must help people who fear for their lives and flee from war”, Michael Häupl, mayor of Vienna.
During the current refugee crisis, the city of Vienna has become a transit city for the majority of asylum seekers travelling the 170km from Budapest. The majority of these asylum seekers are making their way to Germany, which recently announced that Syrian asylum seekers would not be sent back to their home country.
Nevertheless, Vienna has decided to take matters into its own hands and has been preparing to deal with the sudden influx of refugees. In July 2015, the city administration set up the ‘Coordination centre for refugees in Vienna’. The centre is managed by the city administration and serves as a central information point. The centre maintains close contact with the Austrian train company, the police, several NGOs, such as Caritas and the Red Cross, and groups of volunteers.
In cooperation with the Vienna Social Fund, the city has also created a mobile app, available across all platforms, a website and a telephone hotline to keep the public informed about the situation as it happens. The website informs citizens about what services, partner NGOs, and agencies are doing and what they need. It also provides information about volunteering and ways to provide other assistance.
The live feed is refreshed several times a day meaning that information is up to date and easily accessible. The first piece of information was posted on 5 September, just as asylum seekers who had left Hungary by foot the previous day were starting to reach Vienna. It read: 'We hereby start communicating about the situation at the stations. All team leaders on site are enthusiastic about the help and support willingness [sic] of the Viennese. We will keep you informed in the future about this communication track and communicate what we really need locally. Thank you very much for your support!' - Peter Hacker, refugee coordinator, Vienna.
On 21 September, EUROCITIES, in partnership with The Centre, Edelman Brussels' forum for debate, will host the second in the series of Urban Dialogues debates, on ‘migration and asylum in Europe's cities’. Panelists include Thomas Fabian, deputy mayor of Leipzig and chair of EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum; Michele Levoy, director of PICUM; and Fabrizia Panzetti, member of the cabinet of Federica Mogherini, high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission. For more information on the debate please visit http://bit.ly/1HrQHzt
Follow the debate on Twitter via #citieswelcomerefugees