Reem Alkaisy

While the first stage of seeking asylum in the hosting country, in attendance of the permission to stay, could be a chance to prepare for a new existence in a new country, a new system and new home, most of those applying for asylum continue to struggle with the traumatic experiences that led to their flight or those experienced during their flight time. Although basic needs are covered in the asylum registration and accommodation facilities in Austria, such as food, clothes and medical care if needed, it is very rare to hear about support on a personal level or social activities with locals or other residents, as well as about public announcements on social or recreational programs, which might exist in the region. [1]

Despite the fact, that waiting time for the second interview or the legal decision is long, the daily activities are very limited, depending on the place where refugees stay and the surrounding area. Some stay at isolated asylum seeker accommodations with very few possibilities of finding public transportation to any city center and chances of social interaction with the local population are quite limited. In other accommodations, some efforts were made towards integration. Playing football and chess together, eating with other families and simply having contact with people, helped asylum seekers to learn the language and feel more welcome. Similarly, to acknowledge and to allow to put to use the capabilities and talents of the individual asylum seeker would highly improve the waiting time experienced during the asylum process. Unfortunately however, these potentials remain undocumented and possibilities of working within the original profession, or to commence a new career path are forcibly postponed to and beyond the point that the asylum process has been completed. Also, one rarely hears about any kind of psychological aid or local efforts to support those asylum seekers who experienced their first interview and are eager to learn more about the country’s system and traditions and to develop their knowledge of the local language, which is considered as one of the major social keys in any ­society.
Once legally accepted as a refugee, the waiting period is not over yet. Then, the waiting to enroll to the state-run German course starts. Although many NGOs offer free German courses and other advisory sections in each Austrian city, it is difficult to learn about them. Most refugees only find out about alternative German course venues by reference from similar, overcrowded institutions, or by word of mouth from fellow refugees. To date no platform exists, that would provide an overview of all services accessible to refugees.
When obtaining refugee status, the transition from being asylum seeker to a legally recognized refugee is characterized first by a feeling of security after the fear of having to return to their home countries is taken away, and then often turns into a feeling of stress for the refugee. Suddenly, many new tasks arise, such as registration for language classes, medical insurance, guaranteed minimum income for individuals and family, registration to the employment office and for residential support. All of these procedures take a long time to proceed and to be completed by each person even if they have full ability to invest their time as best as they can. Also the pressure to leave asylum seeker accommodations is a significant source of stress for refugees at this point. At the same time, there can be delays in receiving documents proving entitlement, which create barriers and frustration, when aiming to move on. Then, when occupied by finding an accommodation and all the necessary needs, as well as in best cases, taking part in a continuous language course, few chances remain to extensively search for programs that contribute to social integration and inclusion. Therefore many refugees stay within groups, with members who have similar backgrounds. Thus, in a situation where high numbers of asylum seekers come to a host country, social exclusion might occur, if there isn’t any plan concerning how to achieve social inclusion of all actors. [2]

Social Solidarity, Adaptation and Integration
In general, integration of foreigners into a new society can only be achieved through activities and efforts from both sides, individuals who are ready to integrate and the social programs/offers, which aim to reach an equal society. This can happen through a dynamic and continuous effort of all members involved in the dialogue to create and maintain a peaceful social relation, and so called “social integration.” [3]
Social integration refers to the principles that connect individual actors to each other in the community; also integration refers to the relationships between the parts of the community or the social order system. Despite the use of the word integration, there is no presumption that the relations described are harmonious. Terms of social inclusion and integration system can embrace both the regime and the conflict. [4] Justice and social equality consist of values and principles, that allow each individual or group in the community to obtain equal rights, not only legally, but in various areas of life, and all the people get a neutral share of the benefits, as well as equitable affords share of the society responsibilities. Locals' attitudes vary toward the application of the integration programs, between supporters and opponents. But there is another understanding of this process of social integration, where the plan consists of showing the locals the importance of living all together and the benefits that they share when adopting and advocating the concept of integration, which come from the efforts of all actors: immigrants, the receiving country and its population.
Integration cannot be successful in one certain aspect and fail on another. It cannot secure education for all while not securing work, neither work without securing mechanisms for social advancement, or without equality before the law. There are basic conditions interfering with each other that are closely linked, namely: education, work, equality before the law and political freedom. [5] Within the UNHCR definition integration is understood as “the end product of a dynamic and multifaceted two-way process with three interrelated dimensions: a legal, an economic and a social-cultural dimension.ˮ [6]
At the legal process, refugees are gradually granted more rights and accruals by the hosting State, including freedom of movement, access to education and the labor market, access to social assistance, including health facilities and the ability to travel with a valid travel document. Over time, this process should lead to obtain the right to have the citizenship within a certain time for the permanent residents. [7]
The economic process aims at refugees becoming more self independent and gradually less reliant on the government assistance by participating and working in the labor market of the hosting country. The ECRE ʻEuropean Council on Refugees and Exilesʼ highlights the fact, that many of the refugees are highly qualified, with professional backgrounds and successful life in their home countries, though they face problems and difficulties getting qualifications of their previous positions recognized. The ECRE suggests setting a recognition system, to promote equal and fair criteria for the recognition of the qualifications of a third country. In addition, they hold that refugees must be able to access a specially designed trainings and education in learning a profession or sector, and have opportunities for rehabilitation, in order to adapt their skills and experience of the labor market requirements in the host country. [8]
Social and cultural process is an interactive process involving both refugees and local community members of the receiving State, as well as institutions. Where refugees feel welcome by the locals, regardless of the differences among them, but they live in a society of cooperation and embrace the indigenous population of refugees.

Integration in Austria
In 2009, the Austrian government conducted a National Action Plan (NAP) on integration, which focuses on foreigners, immigrants and people with immigrant background, who settled permanently in Austria. Therefore, the target group is the refugees and those who have been granted subsidiary protection. One of the goals of the plan is to build a cooperation between the different actors, as well as to improve and develop the methodology of integration in large measures. Moreover, good knowledge of the German language is considered a factor of successful integration, as it enables individuals to access work, basic education and higher education as well as to communicate with the public institutions, featuring an integrated society. The seven policy areas of the NAP are language and education, work and employment, rule of law and values, health and social issues, intercultural dialogue, sports and recreation, housing and the regional dimension of integration. [9]
The NAP identified 25 specific integration indicators in order to make it possible to evaluate the different integration process dimensions within Austria and monitor this process in the long term (Austria Statistics, 2012) and covers 24 objectively measurable indicators and index one personal position of the recipient population on the issue of integration. In Austria, the speech of integration and development policy is focused on the first and second immigrant's generation. Asylum-seekers are excluded from the official integration policies, since integration is deemed useless, until a final positive decision in the asylum procedure or after the granting of temporary protection procedures.

Refugism Mapping
After an informed online research and after visiting advisory centers of many institutions for asylum seekers and refugees in Vienna, I was able to locate a variety of programs designed for or interesting to refugees and asylum seekers, which include various offered services such as medical care, basic needs, shelters, free German courses, legal advisory centers, social activities and integration programs. While apparently a great variety of programs accessible to asylum seekers and refugees exist in Vienna, the single institutions are not linked to each other on any common platform, nor is information on each program available at one institution. To date, access to the internet is needed for a refugee to get to know about most of the programs, and if long internet research is not an option, the refugee needs to rely on his personal network for information.
The aim of the map elaborated is therefore to show the variety and quantity of the existing programs provided by governmental and non- governmental organizations for all the incoming asylum seekers and refugees in Vienna and to help find those programs by providing information in the format of a single city map. The map intentionally reminds of a tourist map, questioning why such guides through the city should be only available to the tourist as well as questioning the strong divide created between people new to the city, both – for quite different reasons – having time to stroll through the city. The one since he is on holiday, the other since he is not allowed to work. And although there is no guide for a certain way through any city for having more social life or integration, the medium became a map, that locates all free offers of German courses and other educational courses, advisory and information services and integration programs, and lists addresses, names and types of institutions and initiatives in order to facilitate the use as a guide.




[1] Karen Jacobsen, Local Integration: The Forgotten Solution, Migration Policy Institute, (01.10.2003), URL: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/local-integration-forgotten-solution, accessed on 11.07.2015.

[2] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Analysing and Measuring Social Inclusion in a Global Context, (New York: United Nations publication, 2010), URL: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/publications/measuring-social-inclusion.pdf, accessed on 30.07.2015.

[3] UN News Center, Peace Dialogue, (last updated 07.05.2007), URL: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/sib/inclusive_society/summary.html, accessed on 20.07.2015.

[4] John Scott, Gordon Marshall, A Dictionary of Sociology, system integration and social integration, (Oxford University Press, 2009), par.2.

[5] Mark Rubin, Sue E. Watt, Marcella Ramelli, Immigrants' social integration as a function of approach-avoidance orientation and problem-solving style, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, (July 2012), Volume 36: 498–505.

[6] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Refugee Integration in Europe, (Bureau for Europe, 2013), URL: http://www.unhcr.org/52403d389.pdf, accessed on 22.07.2015.

[7] James C.Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law, (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

[8] European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Towards the Integration of Refugees in Europe, (July 2005), URL: http://www.ecre.org/component/downloads/downloads/125.html, accessed on 28.07.2015.

[9] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Facilitators and Barriers: Refugee Integration in Austria, EU funded study on factors influencing refugee integration, (October 2013), http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5278dc644.pdf, accessed on 27.07.2015.



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