Refugees and asylum-seekers in Austria help to feed the poor

  • On a chilly morning on an industrial estate in Vienna, Ali and Rozh are picking through boxes of donated vegetables. The two asylum-seekers, both from Iraq, are not homeless or hungry themselves. They are volunteering at a food bank that fights waste and distributes leftover food to the poor.
  • While Ali and his friend, Rozh Ali, 39, a former marketing manager from Baghdad, wait for their asylum applications to be processed, they volunteer at Wiener Tafel (‘Vienna Table’), Austria’s oldest food bank. Here, a small group of staff and 400 volunteers collect food that would otherwise be thrown away and deliver it to nearly 20,000 people in shelters and homes run by 120 different charities.
  • “We are happy to use our time for good,” says Ali Majid Abdul Razzaq Al Khalid, 32, a qualified vet from Diyala in eastern Iraq. “There are poor refugees but also poor Austrians who live on the street. This was a shock to us when we came here – to see poor people in Europe, in a supposedly rich land.”
  • The charities, which care for the homeless, single mothers and drug addicts, as well as some asylum-seekers, always want plenty of potatoes but are also grateful for luxuries like chocolate.

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