21,500 Displaced Persons: Vienna Confronted with Major Integration Challenge

People ♦ Published: May 24, 2022; 15:57 ♦ (Vindobona)

With the increasing number of people seeking protection from Ukraine, the number of challenges that the country of Austria has to cope with is also increasing. Vienna, as a place of reception for a total of 21,500 people, faces numerous issues in the future, which require immediate and efficient measures to facilitate the education, integration and housing of Ukrainians in Vienna.

The panel discussion addressed the challenges facing Vienna. / Picture: © Magistrat der Stadt Wien / PID / Christian Fürthner

The flight movements from Ukraine, triggered by the unjustified attack of the Russian Federation on Ukraine, are currently challenging the whole of Europe. Austria is also offering temporary safety to many thousands of people seeking protection.

Of all the provinces in Austria, Vienna is the one that has to cope with the greatest challenges. With 21,500 displaced Ukrainians, the country's only major city hosts a large share of the refugees in Austria and more are expected.

During a panel discussion on Monday, the Vienna Integration Council presented its second statement, "War in Ukraine - Challenges for the City of Vienna's Integration Policy." In the course of this presentation, Vienna's deputy mayor explained the problems Vienna is facing and highlighted, among other things, "We expect that around 7,000 children and young people from Ukraine will need a school or kindergarten place in the fall." This is because it is mainly women and children who are seeking refuge in Austria, which has a major impact on the labor market and especially on the education system.

However, due to the dynamics in the development of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, it is difficult to predict how the movement of refugees to Austria and specifically to Vienna will develop in the coming months, he said.

It is possible that there will be further arrivals and a permanent stay of displaced persons, but also a return of a large part of those people who have found refuge in the city in recent weeks, according to the Vienna Integration Council.

"It is important that the city of Vienna prepares for both variants. Integration measures must not be delayed on the grounds that they do not make sense if the people return. We know from experience with asylum procedures lasting years how much a long waiting situation makes later integration into the labor market and society more difficult," says Judith Kohlenberger, migration expert and chairwoman of the Vienna Integration Council.

In addition, the socioeconomic backgrounds of refugees must be taken more into account in integration offers. In view of this, measures taken should simultaneously pursue three goals:

Expanding capacity and improving the quality of care in the initial reception of new arrivals, planning for the transition from temporary protection to permanent settlement and integration, providing assistance for the option of return to Ukraine or onward migration to other host countries.

Immediate measures needed include housing, labor market and financial support services, care for people with increased care needs, and women's policy and psychosocial support measures.

Vienna's education system in particular needs additional investment, as the majority of displaced persons are women with children. The desire for care and educational participation of children and young people as well as active participation in the labor market of women is very great.

It is already apparent that more than one third of the displaced persons will remain in Vienna. Since the beginning of the war, the City of Vienna has been providing humanitarian aid, comprehensive basic services as well as extensive educational and integration measures.

However, the bottleneck of this flight movement is the educational infrastructure: the majority of the educational provision is made by the city of Vienna and the provincial schools, only a fraction of the students find a place in a federal school. According to Wiederkehr, this is also due to the federal requirements for German language classes.

Currently, almost 3,000 Ukrainian students are being taught in Vienna. Many of them are in temporary "New in Vienna Classes". The City of Vienna had also immediately committed itself to the rapid integration of refugees into the labor market, for example by employing Ukrainians as teachers as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, Vienna urgently needs more pedagogical staff.

Vienna City Government - Magistrat der Stadt Wien