Austria: A former volunteer refugee counselor talks about her frustration with Syrian refugees

Barbara R. from Matzen looked after a refugee family from Syria in cooperation with an association on a voluntary basis for three years. Over time, her commitment turned into frustration.

“Maybe I had too high expectations. I hoped that success would come more quickly. Today I must say that these people are not becoming Europeans,” R. describes her impressions.The family with parents and nine children aged three to 19 years came from Syria via Lebanon to Austria. The youngest child was ill and was undergoing surgery in Vienna.

“They had already undergone an odyssey. Their house had been hit by a bomb,” remembers R.

In their new home, the children studied intensively three days a week – German and mathematics. A Syrian who had fled to Austria when he was seven years old served as an interpreter. The family’s willingness to integrate was only marginal.” They probably did not want to mingle with the local population,” reasoned R. and gave an example.

“We invited them to a concert by the music group Erdklang. After a few pieces of music, the family left as a family. Whether it was because of the music or the basic attitude, R. never found out.

The family also went shopping exclusively in Syrian stores, for which they went to Vienna especially. The father would have been organized to work as a driver for the charity Lebenshilfe. But he refused to do so, on the justification that he did not know German well enough.

Until 2019 the family lived in Gänserndorf, then they all moved to Vienna. The contact broke off except for a few SMS messages – in Arabic. R. learned that the two eldest sons are already married – to Syrian women, and they already have children.

She does not know if and what they work. “The small children had an excellent learning experience. With the adults everything was much more difficult,” R. concludes.

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