Astrid Reindl is a lawyer who works at Caritas Vienna’s migrant centre in Austria.

Credits: Walter Luttenberger/ Caritas

Astrid Reindl is a lawyer who works at Caritas Vienna’s migrant centre in Austria. 

It’s 10am on Monday morning. I’ve already been at my desk at Caritas Vienna’s migrant centre for two hours. I’ve been preparing for the week ahead by taking appointments and looking at my database to prepare files on clients who I’ll be seeing.

My first visitor is Mr K, a 29-year-old man from Serbia. He’s come to the migrant centre to help solve his financial problems and issues at home. He talks nervously about his private problems and his uncertain residence status.

Mr K is unable to work at the moment because of health issues. The money he gets from an insurance policy doesn’t cover all his monthly costs and this leaves him very anxious about his responsibilities and his family’s future.

I listen to him and give him a space to talk about his fears. Once he’s done, we discuss possible options to help him. I give him 200 euros to keep him going as he leaves.

I’ve seen a lot of migrants in the course of my work here over the past six years. So many stories, so many hands of fate being dealt. I like being able to support my clients so they can cope with difficult situations. My legal training helps us work out the best judicial solutions possible, but Austrian law is being changed constantly, which makes it much more difficult for migrants.

There are 18 of us working in the migrant centre. Some are legal and social advisors, others help in the clearing office and others deal with housing. We take part in about 10,000 consultations a year, working in German, English, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, Spanish and French.

The problems I have to deal with vary. Just now someone rang me wanting advice about what to do after he was refused residency. Another person rang asking for help looking for a new apartment. It’s important that I don’t give clients a false impression of what’s possible, but I have to balance this with an assessment of their situation in a clear and optimistic way.

Mrs S is my next client. She has tears in her eyes as she tells me that her greatest wish is to have her son with her in Austria. I look through her documents and I promise to help her hand in a new request. I’m not that hopeful it will work. It’s just a shame that the law can’t see the desperation and understand the desires of the people it makes such crucial decisions about.

The demand for advice by migrants is rising because more and more of them are threatened by poverty. People come to us because they are in very precarious situations and work in jobs where income is low and security is rare.

I see myself as a kind of coach who helps them work out solutions to their problems. The hope is that this kind of support will help the migrants look ahead with more optimism and less fear.