Vienna, Austria – They were once asylum seekers but are now responsible for the comfort of the guests checking into their hotel in Vienna.
Welcome to Magdas Hotel, where most of the staff members are refugees. This is a one of a kind hotel, run by the non-governmental organisation Caritas with only 28 employees, 20 of whom are refugees.
“This building which is now a hotel was once an old people’s home,” Martin Gantner from Caritas told Al Jazeera. It was renovated and charitable donations were used to procure furniture, he said.
“Through crowdfunding, we collected 70,000 euros [$76,000] for the hotel last year,” Gantner said. The organisation uses all the profit from the hotel to pay salaries and buy supplies.
“It is just awful and pointless that refugees remain jobless for years because they legally cannot work, even though some of them are so talented,” Gantner said.
“One of our employees, who is a refugee, speaks seven different languages. Guests like being spoken to in their mother language,” Gantner added.
“I am just so thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to be able to earn money. For asylum seekers, it is not easy to get the permit to work. It took a long time and this has also given me new friends and family,” said Eshan, a 24-year-old refugee from Afghanistan.
As Europe struggles with the daily influx of asylum seekers, the people escaping their conflict-torn countries arrive to live in dismal conditions in Europe. Without work permits, they live for years without employment or a source of income.
“We want these kind of initiatives all across Europe. This also makes a supporting statement, that shows that refugees should be allowed to work,” said Alexander Bodmann, president of Caritas.
One part of the hotel is reserved for refugees who are underaged. They are taken care of by the social workers who collaborate with Caritas.