German version published in ak – analyse & kritik – zeitung für linke Debatte und Praxis / Nr. 578 / 21.12.2012
Fighting, until we are free from food packages and pocket money!
International – The ongoing protests of asylum-seekers in Austria are the biggest ones in the more recent past
By Clifford Agathor
I am a 32 years old male, a father, a Nigerian and have lived in the city of Vienna since I came into this country almost 9 years ago. I can’t imagine why the people think I shouldn’t have come here at all. “When Did You Come To Austria?” or “Why Did You Come Her, Why Not England or America?” These are the questions I am been asked almost on regular basis, even more than “How are you doing?” These questions in a whole portrays how unwelcoming some people can be. But I often give no answer except that I sometimes chose to reply with a simple counter question, which is “WHY NOT HERE?”
I have often asked myself the question “Who Bears the Burden Most?” The asylum seekers, refugees or the other immigrants with different kinds of legal status. We all have series of problems, starting from our home countries and then through the various routes of the journey we took to get here. The reasons behind our decision to come to Austria are of different magnitudes too. Now that we are here in a completely civilized society, where the rights of humans are supposedly respected and protected. A society of people who has also seen what suffering means, whose freedom is now exactly what the word really mean. If we can’t get the support we need to better our lives and give something back, what would it mean to have been born into this world?
There is love in sharing, they say. After 3,171 days of hard living in Austria, I felt it is time to talk about what is necessary that has not been shared yet. In spite of the unforeseen issues facing people who decided to take refuge in other countries, I do not know why the United Nations has been silent on millions of people who are now destitute in various countries all over the world. The United Nations has only been visible in war ravaged communities and in areas where natural catastrophe strikes. I may have been quiet for 8 years, 8 months, and 4 days probably because I thought that help was on the way. I thought back then that I was already favored the moment I found myself here within the country, I was positive things will begin to get better when I wake up the next morning. But the only thing that happened the next morning was a big Stroke of Reality.
I told myself it has been a dream. Since that moment onward, the struggle never seems to fade away at all. But today, I am awake, awoken from almost 9 years of slumber. I now see how much breath this fortress Europe (like a suction device) can rip off you. The situation is obviously not the same with everyone, and since I am not talking about the successful people in life, I’d so appreciate it if you hold back your questions and grudges for a while. It may have been that I was too lazy, too undetermined or probably not strong enough to confront my fears all along. But why do we have limits to what we can achieve? Why are we mainly objects of ridicule and subjected to precarious living conditions, discriminated against, segregated from the citizens by all mean necessary? I don’t know!
Life is hard: Life is much harder to live as a refugee in a system with high-tech mechanisms that propagates high level discrimination and inequality within the human race. Here’s what the system does, it brands us as Illegals (Illegal Migrants). We are treated as criminals in the refugee camps. They take our finger prints and keep it forever. They forbids us from going out of the country. In Austria, they even restrict us to a 5 kilometer radius as well as give us packet food and put us in a 10sq2 meter room with 4-5 other people amongst whom are also physically and mentally sick people. In Vienna, you will be given 5 € per day for your feeding and 40 € pocket money per month. You will also have a public roof over your head as well as general health insurance. When you really look at all these provisions with a narrow mind, the only thing you see is luxury. But when you look deep with an open mind, you will see how impossible it is in a monolingual society such as this to learn the language. We are expected to go to German language classes which is of course a good thing to do. But we need to buy our monthly tickets from the 40 € we get monthly. If your other needs deter you from buying your Wiener Linien ticket, you will be caught and the penalty comes in two different folds. You either get the ticket or at worst cases, you get arrested by the police for such minor violation.
Freedom, liberty, rights to literacy, rights to expression, rights to live, do we know what it is anymore? I am sure you do and we do too. The fact that we do is the same reason we have asked questions like why do you have to deport people to Mali when there is a civil war in the country? Why do you tag all Nigerians as drug dealers and why would a city Mayor from Carinthia pronounce that Chechens and Blacks are not wanted in his city and no one dears to question why? Why are Somalis and Ethiopians not given the rights to stay in Austria?
It is now time for us to ask more importantly for our rights in this country and the whole Europe. Over one hundred Somali men, women and children took to the streets between October 10th to 13th 2012 to demonstrate and camp in front of the Parliament for three days in the cold for the purpose of demanding for their rights to asylum, a lot of Austrians camped with them to emphasize real solidarity and so much so helped the Ethiopians to demand for the general rights of the whole refugees living in this country, right in front of their nose. The government till today did not respond in any way or manner. Doesn’t that mean how much disregard the politicians and respective authorities have on the foreigners and citizens in this country? Is this just practically what democracy is about? If a politician is wise enough to tell the entire country in a national television that asylum-seeking is to ask for protection within a period of time, he should have also mentioned that while here as a refugee in this beloved old Austria, the refugees are supposed to be treated with warmth instead of propagating continuous racism, repression, inequality and human rights violations.
How about a look into individual cases like a Sri Lanka man who came to join the demonstrating refugee camp at the Sigmund Freud Park in Vienna. Just to share his own plight with us. He has been in this country for fifteen long years and still has no decision reached yet on his asylum procedure. How long does he has to wait more? No one knows! What can we say about the Sudanese man who came to Austria over 10 years ago with his blood brother? He also has also till now received no positive decision from the Bundes Asyl Amt. What is funny about his case is that his brother has since long become legal as far as already in possession of the Austria nationality. I can’t understand why these people can fail to identify who is due to stay in the country for any reason what so ever. I have met a lot of people who has been in this country for years, who also speaks good German and has never had any problem with the police. This is the only country within the E.U. where Dublin II accord is most effective. The issue of undocumented labor is also at full scale in Austria. Asylum-seekers are used in Traiskirchen as translator for other refugees without being paid for the service. Does not it sound awkward? If a European does the translation, they get paid. If an asylum-seeker does it, it’s for free. There is always a limit to how much an asylum-seeker can receive monthly for whatever job or else there will be consequences from the Fund Soziales Wien without considering the service you did to earn such amount of money, even at 5 € per hour or sometimes less.
The camp in Sigmund Freud Park in the 9th district of Vienna simply signifies that, each time you ball up your fist, you intend to hit something or someone with it. It also did not happen by accident and nothing can change the fact that refugees protested from Traiskirchen to Vienna and camped for over ten days in Sigmund Freud Park. The reason why they are often give resident permit easily to persons with serious health issues is quite unclear to me. I am into this refugee movement with abundance of energy to put into it. We will never stop the struggle until we become free from package foods and pocket money, 40€ pocket money can’t guarantee a safe future for my little kids. With this words, i charge you all to do what’s right! Now or never.
Clifford Agathor is a political activist, boren in Nigeria and is living in Vienna since nine years.