I’ve had a quick stop in Vienna (just four days) in order to visit some organizations here: I went to Traiskirchen to the main refugee camp in Austria, and met with some outreach workers who are involved with prostitutes and particularly victims of human trafficking. Although it was a short stop, I learned a lot (and obviously again I did not and could not take pictures at these places). The refugee children are for the most part taken care of, although the conditions in the camp are not excellent (reporters are not allowed inside) and there is a dangerous dynamic for women and children that stay there, because of the disproportionate number of young men in the camp’s population – young men who are not allowed to have jobs (until they are approved, if they are approved by the processing center), do not have money, and do not have things to keep their days full. Even as I was walking around Traiskirchen I felt slightly unsafe given the number of drinking, jeering men; there is a heavy and aggressive police presence.
I also visited some of the outreach volunteers for Herzwerk, which goes out three times a week on the streets of Vienna to meet with and provide support to prostitutes, particularly those who are victims of human trafficking. Prostitution is legal in Austria, and the brothels tend to have better conditions than women who work on the streets; the women who do work on the streets are often there as victims of trafficking, and they usually are afraid to break out of their position – or even tell the truth about their situations – because the pimps threaten both them and their families back in their native countries. It was horrible to hear the stories of the women who were brought here straight from the orphanages of Eastern Europe – they leave the orphanages between 16 and 18 years old, and no longer have support or care from the state, leaving them vulnerable to preying pimps and traffickers. These men often enter the lives of young girls first as lovers, convincing them they are beautiful and that they need to work as a prostitute just for a short time until they get some money – but once they start it is very hard for them to stop. A lot of the children I met in Africa and Eastern Europe/Central Asia are or will be vulnerable to this kind of situation.
I had one day to wander the city, which is where all the pictures are from. Vienna is beautiful and I had good company during my explorations, even if he did go a bit overboard with taking pictures of me when I wasn’t paying attention.