Protesters took to the streets yesterday, Wednesday, as Austria’s government began a new clampdown on refugees’ freedom of movement.
The first 500 troops were sent to the border, where they aim to seal off all but one of the points where refugees enter the country. And the government announced a cap on the number of people it will grant asylum this year.
Around 700 people attended the protest outside the Chancellory building in Vienna. It was called by the Platform for a Humane Asylum Policy.
Organiser David Albrich told Socialist Worker, “It was bigger than we expected. And people were absolutely clear that we have to smash this cap.”
Some 90,000 people sought asylum in Austria last year. But the cap is just 37,500 refugees this year, falling to 25,000 by 2019. Many more refugees passed through to reach Germany or Sweden. They are now to be turned away.
Politicians say this will deter them come from coming. But David said, “In the spring we are expecting more refugees to make their way to Europe because of the war in Syria. We need to welcome them.”
The cap was pushed by the ruling Tory OVP party, and initially resisted by its Labour-type coalition partner the SPO. OVP interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said it was time to break with the “culture of welcoming people”.
The SPO dropped its opposition in the run up to a migration summit held on Wednesday.
Austria’s new clampdown is part of a move across Europe to stop the flow of refugees. David said, “The Austrian government is following what Angela Merkel is doing in Germany. But there is already a big front against these moves.”
There is resistance across Europe too. Refugees and activists from across Britain and France are set to protest in Calais on Saturday, following clearances of swathes of the "jungle" shantytown.
Others are to march on the Greek-Turkish land border, where a European Union (EU) wall forces refugees to risk the deadly sea voyage.
And anti-racist demonstrations are planned in major cities across Europe on Saturday 19 March, as EU leaders finalise plans for a new border force.
David said, “Our next step is the protest on 19 March. It will be an important date to keep the movement going against all the governments who want to stop refugees getting to Europe.
Calais demonstration—Saturday 23 January, assemble 2pm in the jungle for march to town centre.
For more on the 19 March demonstrations go to standuptoracism.org.uk