Monday 26 September 2016

'Irish want to help... the government must up their game' - Irish pub owner in Vienna sparks massive aid effort for migrant crisis

Graham Clifford

Published 03/09/2015 | 18:14

Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Migrants walk to board a train to Munich at the railway station in Vienna, Austria, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Barbed wire is seen as migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

As the numbers of destitute migrants, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, continue to arrive into Vienna locals are doing what they can to help.

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Amongst them is David O’Connor from Naas, who owns the popular O’Connor Old Oak pub in the city. This week he set up ‘Expat and Austrian aid for Refugees’ to gather goods, food and toiletries for the thousands of people now kept in the Traiskirchen refugee camp – some 40 kilometres outside Vienna.

He told Independent.ie: “We just felt we had to do something to help. A few of the lads went out to the refugee camp and said the conditions were very tough and there was obvious over-crowding. My girlfriend Alex and I, along with John Milner from Bantry, decided to put out an appeal to the expat community.”

And within days David, who’s been in Vienna for four years, says he’s been inundated with aid.

Migrants walk to board a train to Munich at the railway station in Vienna, Austria, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Migrants walk to board a train to Munich at the railway station in Vienna, Austria, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

“Everyone has been so generous. Not an hour goes by that someone isn’t arriving into the pub with a bag of clothes or toys for the children. Then we sort out the contents into groups,” explains David.

The group has asked for donations of bedding, hygiene products, shoes, pants, t-shirts, tents, backpacks, mattresses and food stuffs such as flatbread, biscuits and fruit.

Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Read more: Migrants lay on train tracks in Hungary as they seek passage to the west

Also they have sought items for babies and toddlers such as nappies and pacifiers and items to help the refugees communicate such as German/English-Farsi dictionaries.

Barbed wire is seen as migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Barbed wire is seen as migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

“Our intention is to deliver what we’ve gathered every Saturday and the way we’re going we’ll easily fill two transit vans full of aid each weekend. The word is spreading and every day we are seeing more support from the expat community for which we’re very grateful. It’s an unprecedented migration crisis and people need to help, not just governments,” said David.

The sizeable Irish community in the city has already rolled up their sleeves to assist the charitable group.

Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Migrants enter Macedonia near Gevgelija after crossing the border with Greece, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Now David O’Connor hopes the Irish government does what it can to help as many migrants as possible.

He said: “These people are fleeing war and conflict, it isn’t a question of if we should help but how we should.

Read more: 'A young boy... washed up on beach like driftwood' - Taoiseach describes migrant crisis as 'human catastrophe'

"Countries such as Ireland need to step up to the plate now and show leadership. Of course we must accept more refugees as do most other countries across Europe.

"The Irish people want to help and so the government must up their game.”

Last week the bodies of 71 refugees were found inside a lorry dumped by the side of the road in Austria. Fifty-nine men, eight women and four children, the youngest a one-year-old girl - suffocated after being abandoned in a truck on a motorway near Vienna.

For more information on the charity visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Vienna.EAAR/

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