Different challenges for refugees in Austria and Jordan

IKEA Austria reflect on their experience in Jordan and comparisons to the situation for refugees in Austria:

By Sonja Stochlinski:

In my opinion, the situation of refugees in Jordan is very different from those in Austria—especially the situation of refugees living in urban areas can hardly be compared.

Arriving in Austria, refugees don’t have to fear homelessness, hunger or poverty. They get accommodation, food, financial and medical support. They don’t have to pay for rent and electricity, like refugees in private accommodation in Jordan, and are allowed to work after their status is approved

Refugee accommodation in Austria

While visiting the refugees in urban areas in Jordan we saw that they have to cover many costs like deposits, rental payments, food, medications and money for school bus by themselves. The money these people have available on a monthly basis is far from sufficient to provide for all these things. Their life becomes a daily struggle for the most elementary basics of life.

I think that a very big challenge for refugees arriving in Austria is the culture shock they experience, because the linguistic and cultural differences couldn’t be greater between these countries. To somehow “fit in”, avoid hostile attitude of locals and overcome integration problems, the refugees in Austria must learn a new language, which is completely different from theirs (I can imagine how hard this can be) and also respect the beliefs and cultural differences of their asylum country. At least there are fewer differences in culture, language and religion for Syrian people who flee to Jordan.

But no matter where they are staying, all refugees have one thing in common. They had to fear for their lives and those of their loved ones. They were banished from their familiar environment, lost their possessions and maybe were separated from family and friends.

In conclusion, I can only express the hope that they can start a new peaceful life and get the help they need, whether they want to return to their home countries, to build them up again, or stay in their host countries.

By Dominique Lahdo:

Referring to their living conditions, their accommodation, the financial support, the medical care and the social integration, the situation of refugees in Jordan and Austria couldn’t be more different.

The first big difference are the living conditions. No one in Austria lives below the poverty line, is homeless or has to fear hunger. Every person who seeks for asylum in Austria immediately gets a place to stay, at a NGO centre or private apartment. Depending on their asylum-seeking status they get financial support, from which they do not have to pay the rent, water and electricity like in Jordan, but only their food and hygiene articles. Refugees in Austria have access to free medical care and medicines. When they live at a NGO centre, staff even accompany them to doctor’s appointments and support them with school or kindergarten registrations.

In Jordan, I had the feeling they have to cope with their daily problems alone. One positive aspect for the refugees who live in Jordan is that they don’t have to learn a foreign language and there are fewer cultural differences, which is a huge problem for those who come to Austria.

But at least in Austria, when they get an approved status from the government, they are allowed to work, which is impossible for those who are staying in Jordan. Here at least they have a future perspective; something to work and hope for.

I think being a refugee is difficult wherever they are living and both countries are doing their best to support and help in the best way they can.

By Johanna Stinglmayr:

In my estimation, the UN Refugee Agency in Jordan is doing a great job. Compared to Austria, they have to deal with a far greater number of refugees and under different circumstances.

It is hard to imagine a refugee camp to such an extent as Azraq or Zaatari in Austria. The refugee accommodations I know of are in existing municipalities or towns, with an existing infrastructure.

What I think is great is the fact that some of the refugees at the camps in Jordan get tasks to fulfill or the opportunity to operate a business. Beside to care for their family and about some administrative stuff there’s nothing to do for refugees in Austria.

Life for refugees living in urban areas in Jordan seems to be more precarious. Those people are reliant on illegal work or assistance of relatives and neighbours. There’s nothing like primary care for everyone who is in need. In my opinion, it is a big challenge for NGOs to help refugees living in cities.

Due to a similar mindset and culture of people in Jordan and Syria, I had the impression that the refugees feel more accepted in Jordan than they do in Europe. Many Austrians have some prejudices when it comes to Muslims. It is important that the politicians don’t care about what citizens might think, and about the next election, and start to take responsibility.

The situation in Europe is manageable, while the situation in Jordan is a real problem. But nevertheless, we deal with it like it doesn’t concern us. Most things still remain to be done!