In Vienna refugees are among the staff at Magdas Hotel, a social business aiming to help migrants find work and promote their integration into Austrian society.
"Stay open-minded". This is the motto of Magdas Hotel in Vienna offering refugees the chance to work and integrate through a project that has a social and human as well as an economic value.
The 88-room facility is staffed by 20 refugees and 10 professionals of the hotel sector, representing 16 nationalities and more than 20 spoken languages. It was founded by the Vienna Caritas charity as a social business to give refugees professional opportunities. According to its website, the Magdas Hotel "gets by without financial assistance" and its staff "collectively speak 23 different languages"
Refugees often struggle to find work in Austria because of a lack of German language skills and the resentment of many employers. Refugees are also only allowed to accept work after receiving a positive response to an asylum application (which can often take months or years), which can make integration difficult. "We are convinced that those people who move here from foreign countries are able to strengthen the hotel business, because they bring with them many skills, talents, languages, and cultural backgrounds and thus allow for a special position in the hotel market," the Hotel says on its website.
The multicultural hotel is located in a former rest home run by Caritas. The conversion was financed through a crowdfunding campaign that raised 57,306 euros and a 1.5 million loan from the Catholic relief agency itself, and saw the participation of artists, architects and students. In addition to providing accommodation, the hotel runs various initiatives that are open to the public, including meetings, social dinners, film screenings and concerts.
Segun Prince, 45, from Benin, works in the hotel kitchen. "Back in Benin, I was a tailor," he told the UN Refugee Agency. "It was nice work but I like the kitchen as well. I meet guests from all over the world and ask them, 'How do you feel? Did you enjoy your food?'" Prince left his country in 2000 and made the sea journey to Europe from Libya. "There was no hope in Africa," he said. When work started on the hotel, "they called us to help and I carried beds and wardrobes. It was very exciting. I've learnt German and I still go to classes." He's hoping that one day, he will have the chance to be a chef or manager at a hotel.