"If civil society did not exist, the entire asylum system would be
broken down "(I 17, manager, Nov.15).
The refugee crisis has shown that civil society plays an important role in overcoming
immigration and integration challenges. In autumn and winter
In 2015, without civic engagement in Austria, it would be a humanitarian disaster.
have come to a disaster.
Civil society made particularly high contributions during this period, be it in the first
care, in the organization of refugee accommodation, in integration measures and in
the mobilization and coordination of voluntary help. In addition, civil society actors have
It also shaped public opinion and promoted the networking of volunteers.
It can be assumed that integration without further contributions from civil society and its
Organizations will not be possible in the future. In the present project was
Therefore, the following questions were investigated:
What has civil society in the autumn of 2015 to tackle the so-called refugee
crisis and how was this achieved?
How was the work of civil society perceived by Syrian refugees?
What can be done to tackle further challenges of immigration and
Integration to be learned?
All these problems or learning opportunities must be considered in the light of
crisis and the high performance of civil society.
A big challenge for the organizations was the lack of information and
changing conditions . The social polarization, legal
or non-compliance with laws by political instances and deficits of
welfare state tasks were burdensome. In part, civil society has
Tasks of the state taken over. Where work was done on behalf of the public sector,
There was often a lack of financial planning certainty and late payments for paid
Job. The situation of asylum seekers was due to the lack of political
burden or readiness additionally burdened.
The range of offered services was extremely wide, beside the first supply and
Acute aid includes the organization of housing, training or leisure activities,
Childcare, translation work, legal advice, assistance with authorities,
health care and much more.
The willingness to volunteer in the autumn of 2015 never
been on scale. Volunteers have worked in almost all areas of refugee work
involved. Many volunteers became self-organized and spontaneous, much of it though
helped in the context of existing NPOs or newly founded associations. For the civil society
Organizations, the cooperation of these many people was absolutely necessary in order to
offer a level of service. With much commitment and empathy was not only a high level of help
but also a political statement for humanity and tolerance.
puts. The management of the many helpers was under the given dynamic framework.
But also a challenge.
Such was a forward-looking demand planning due to external factors, such as the opening
the closure of borders or the provision of accommodation and transport facilities.
hardly possible. Overall, the NPOs have managed to be very flexible
Requirements to respond.
The mobilization and extraction of helpers has transcended all organizations
mostly good, fast and unbureaucratic works, including by means of intensive and effective
Use of social media. So the performances of the volunteers could despite a decline
the commitment to be maintained during the winter. Due to the
high and unpredictable needs were broad, unspecific measures for recovery
set by volunteers. This enabled enough helpers to be mobilized, many
but it also came to a temporary oversupply of volunteers.
In the acute phase, there were often limited opportunities for the selection of volunteers,
there were hardly any selection procedures possible and also the possibilities for orientation
and training of the helpers were limited and there was sometimes a mis-match
between activities and demands of the helpers. At the beginning of the acute phase in September
Often there was a lack of clear division of competences between the main and voluntary workers. on the other hand
This gave rise to great scope for the volunteers, who often organize themselves.
structures, and set themselves up in a mix of the experienced and the new.
and co-ordinated and supplemented in their work. Often these margins were also the
starting point for the creation of new initiatives.
The transfer of responsibility to the volunteers worked well, especially when
Defined clear goals and contact persons . Further important were home
formation, feedback channels and the involvement of volunteers in the design of the
ACTION. If this was not the case, there was overburdening, frustrations or even conflicts
with existing or newly introduced procedural and decision-making structures.
Another challenge was the high turnover rate among volunteers as well
in some cases among the full-time coordinators. This made it difficult to establish
structured communication channels and information sharing, leading to inefficiencies
in the organization of the organization and trouble for some volunteers. This was more established
NPOs. Basic initiatives that shaped their structures around current goals were sometimes very successful
rapidly build functional communication channels.
Volunteers as well as full-time employees were often confronted with enormous burdens .
Measures against overloading and supervision offers and other forms of
Support was therefore important for all employees. They were much appreciated and would have
can be offered earlier and stronger. In addition to the activity itself,
identification in (social) media of the organizations and in the teams for motivation.
There were big differences in the structure and culture of the organizations involved . Here is
observable a continuum along the difference between hierarchy / structure versus flexibility
openness . The rather hierarchically organized task forces were fast
Make decisions, cooperate quickly with similar organizations and they could
to use the structures prepared for disasters. Even established aid organizations
These organizations first had to build them up by learning by doing. New founded basic initiative
In turn, tives had the advantage of flexibility and openness to spontaneous decisions.
For some volunteers, these structures were motivating, others felt clearer
Structures more comfortable. In almost all organizations, however, was made of structural changes
reported that relief organizations were confronted with the need for more flexible areas.
Basic initiatives often made comparatively rapid development into stronger ones
Structures through. The organizations generally have challenges of very rapid
Size growth and the need for organizational flexibility are surprisingly well
whelmed. Overwork was dealt with, new staff hired and deployed quickly,
consciously temporarily suspended, but at the same time preserving necessary structures.
Almost all organizations report clear learning steps.
Cooperation within civil society basically worked well, as a rule
the better, the closer the partners were to each other. The cooperation between structural
It was sometimes harder for different actors to play different roles
Standards in terms of reliability, responsiveness, scope for individual
etc. For cooperation with the public sector, there were different statements, some
This was described as successful, but partly also criticized, especially the non-perception
of public-sector tasks. The establishment of the body of a
Refugee coordinator through the city of Vienna was very well received,
supported the bundling of the aid offer, especially through the central information point.
Although the work was perceived by many to be very satisfying, so too was it
extremely stressful . For one thing, many full-time staff and volunteers were too long in the "emergency
fall mode ", they were working on the limit. There were volunteers who quit for their job
or had given up their studies, engagement was at the rate of 15h or more per day
No rarity. Emotional stress was also noticed by almost everyone
but more of people who were not trained for this type of activity.
The interviewed Syrian refugees appreciate the comparatively good treatment in Austria.
rich, civil society services and social protection - if they are already in
their enjoyment come. At the same time all report significant problems, especially in relation
on long and uncertain procedures, the situation and supply situation in emergency quarters,
German courses, difficulties finding accommodation and finding work after receipt of asylum
Scheides. Some are also disappointed, as they had higher expectations of Austria, not
lastly due to false promises by tugs.
In general, the growth of civic engagement has been positive for the image of society
Civil society and NPOs, for the self-image and personal development of many
Participants, for contacts between natives and asylum seekers and of course for
the maintenance of the supply. Socio-politically it is still too critical loading
that quantitative and qualitative standards reflect the will and ability of private actors to
were left to the public. Responsible people thus have their own (temporary)
physical and material costs) closed the gap left by the state.
A professional and resource-backed universal service by the public
Hand and NPOs could provide security. Civil society would have scope for tasks
integration, including the establishment of a close-knit network of direct contacts between
the immigrants and the local population. Here too can play an important role
for larger NPOs, namely the support of local grassroots initiatives, the
To do integration work.
"At the moment (November 2015) I feel like the whole of Austria is civil
society. The state has withdrawn completely, exaggeratedly said "(I 17).