Researchers: migrants are indispensable

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Without people with foreign citizenship, it would no longer be possible to do business in certain sectors, emphasized sociologist Jörg Flecker from the University of Vienna at an online press conference organized by the Science Network Discourse. In the cleaning and care of buildings, in the hotel and catering industry, and the provision of temporary workers, for example, more than half of the dependent employees are not Austrian citizens, while in the food industry, construction, and care, a third are still Austrian citizens.

“If a third of the workforce is missing, nothing can be done in reality,” Flecker outlined the consequences of the plan, which, according to research platform Correctiv, was outlined at the far-right meeting with, among others, the former head of the far-right Identitarian movement in Austria, Martin Sellner, in Potsdam at the end of 2023 and from which, according to Flecker, the FPÖ has never really distanced itself.

Immigrants contribute to prosperity
In Vienna, where a particularly large number of people with a migrant background live compared to the rest of Austria, Flecker believes it would not be possible to provide for the population without these people. In accommodation and catering, for example, three-quarters of the workforce have a migrant background; in construction and other services – including building cleaning – the figure is two-thirds, and in education and teaching, as well as health and social services, it is four out of ten workers.

“Immigrants have been a business for the Austrian social security system so far,” said Philipp Ther, Professor of the History of East Central Europe at the University of Vienna. Of course, language courses or qualification measures, especially after the 2015/16 migration wave, would also cost something. Historically, however, the balance is clearly positive. “Immigrants have always contributed to the prosperity of host societies if they are treated in a reasonably constructive manner and not declared undesirable.”

Researchers warn against the concept of “remigration”
Flecker also pleaded for more emphasis to be placed on the positive role that migrants have played in Austria through their work. A concept of radical “remigration”, in which people with foreign citizenship or roots abroad would be expelled from the country, would be “an attack on the entire population”.

Forced repatriation of people with a migration background would be tantamount to ethnic cleansing, Ther emphasized, and historically – for example, in the former Yugoslavia – this has always led to an escalation of violence, which has also always been directed against other groups such as other minorities, intellectuals, and media representatives. According to Ther, this would also mean the end of the rule of law and the transformation of liberal democracy into an ethnocracy, along with a loss of prosperity and impoverishment.

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