… anti-migration and anti-refugee regimes
Austrians, as Günter Bischof and Dirk Rupnow (2017, 13) wrote, “have long ignored the fact that the country has been changing enormously after World War II as a result of a continuous influx of migrants. The turning point in post-war Austrian history came in the 1960s, with the beginning of organized recruitment of foreign labourers from Turkey and Yugoslavia,” while also emphasizing the complex history of the multiethnic Habsburg Empire and its internal migration. In 2015, Austria saw a massive increase in asylum applications (90,000 by the end of the year), which exceeds the numbers of accepted immigrants at the time of the Balkan wars in the 1990s (14). The “refugee crisis” has produced a populist political backlash, which reflects the current xenophobic and populist anti-immigration political sentiment of the West (15). In such a context, scholars, artists, and activists are responding with different and fragmented approaches and strategies to create spaces and opportunities for Austria’s various migrant communities.
In Austria we focus on community work in the fields of migration and refugee politics. Our local cooperation partner will be maiz – Autonomous Centre of and for Migrant Women in Linz, which is an example of an independent association aiming to improve the living and working situation of migrants in Austria and to promote their political and cultural participation as well as to change the existing unjust social conditions. Maiz acts for legal and social improvements for all migrants, due to their existence in the Western European territory, unworthy living and working conditions and the lack of perspectives and spaces that could enable self-organized action (maiz, n.d.). The centre actively intervenes in the discussions about migration and (anti) racism, and works as an advisory and educational service as well as in political cultural work, public actions and scientific research projects. Its main aim is to “create collective spaces for an exchange, with the aim of promoting the interests of migrant women and conveying external demands” (maiz, n.d.; our trans.).