Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Demand and Deliver: Refugee Support Organisations in Austria

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Abstract:  This article analyses four emerging refugee support organisations in Austria, founded before the so-called refugee crisis in 2015. It argues that these organisations have managed to occupy a middle space between mainstream NGOs and social movements with structures of inclusive governance, a high degree of autonomy, personalised relationships with refugees, and radical critique combined with service delivery. Based on interviews with the founders of each organisation, we show that their previous NGO and social movement experience formed a springboard for the new initiatives. It not only allowed them to identify significant gaps in existing service provision, but also provided the space of confrontation with the asylum system inspiring a strong sense of outrage, which in turn developed into political critique. We argue that this critique combined with identifying the needs of asylum seekers and refugees has produced a new type of organisation, which both delivers services and articulates radical demands. Each organisation offers a space of encounter, which undoes the ‘organised disintegration’ of the asylum system.

Keywords:  asylum seekers; Austria; autonomy; civil society; funding; governance; NGOs; refugees; social movements



© Sara de Jong, Ilker Ataç. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.