Vienna – The situation in Austria is bleak. Not least because of the presidential elections in which a far right nationalist candidate from FPOe won almost half of the votes. The far right has gained a lot of support in recent years. Racism is deeply rooted in this country but now, in this shift to authoritarianism which we are going through, it has really moved to a whole new level. Islamophobia and hatred of refugees is particularly strong, but we’ve also seen the militarization of borders, mass surveillance and the detention of asylum seekers. Racism has become a constant part of society: as a muslim woman it has become harder to find a job.
I’ve studied in the UK and have lived there for a year. I would definitely go back, if I had the necessary financial means, but after Brexit it would be harder to stay and work there due to the potential problem of visas/residency permit. Freedom of movement would be more restricted and the existence of a lot of migrant workers would be threatened. There is no debate about this at all in Austria. Not only because the Austrian right is very nationalist, but because the left is also not very internationally minded. This was not an issue in various activist, leftist groups in the UK when I was there.
I see the UK as one of the most diverse countries in Europe. But this is exactly what many on the vote ‘leave’ campaign would describe as a problem. In our next national elections it’s likely that FPOe becomes one of the strongest parties and could end the red-black coalition. If that happens and if we cannot manage to build up a united left in Austria before then, I’m sure the exit discussion will become far more prominent in Austria too.