The man standing up to his government over the refugee crisis

Photograph by Oona Kallanmaa

Photograph by Oona Kallanmaa

  • By Oona Kallanmaa

Thomas Eitzenberger’s volunteer groups are trying to achieve what seems impossible, so let’s meet the man whose mission is to save the globe

Thomas Eitzenberger, 47, lives with his wife Gudrun in a small town near Graz in Austria. His persistence to help the refugees in Hungary has gotten a lot of attention and many volunteers have followed his example and joined the cause.

Dedicating half of his working week to his causes Eitzenberger has become known as a refugee advocate during the current crisis, with years of experience as an activist in Austria campaigning for the rights of refugees. Eitzenberger is now raising awareness across an array societal and cultural issues such as his largest project so far; the End Ecocide on Earth movement, aiming to establish European and international courts for environmental and health issues.

“In the end it’s about how we live together, and whatever helps you to get things sorted and to be more human towards others.”

The Austrian national elections in 2009 permanently changed Eitzenberger’s views on life. The rise in popularity of the far right parties and shocking advertisements against refugees and foreigners pressured him to act. “There were propaganda flyers on the streets everywhere telling us that the asylum seekers are criminals and that they are raping our wives.”

The 2009 elections led to Eitzenberger organising a 700 strong 14 day protest of light in Graz and Vienna.
“We walked with candles through the town telling the people that we don’t want that; we want human beings to be human beings wherever they are or whatever they are. Wherever they were born or where they came from, it’s not relevant. They are human beings and they have to be treated in a respectful manner.”

After the event, it was difficult for Eitzenberger to return to his everyday life. Therefore, he started attending demonstrations and organising different events in order to plant seeds of change. Eitzenberger’s events are mainly related to social issuses but the refugees’ painful cause has stayed close to his heart.

“The easiest way of solving the drowning in the Mediterranean Sea is to let refugees fly in. They are paying around 10 000 euro to get here. While this is not forbidden, the EU places responsibility on the airline companies who do not accept passengers without a visa.”

Eitzenberger does not limit his calls for humanity to the plights of the refugee, Eitzenberger is trying to create a Charter of Brussels to establish an international court from Environmental and Health issues, this cause is still open for signatures and will be handed over to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon during the COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015.

Edited by Selina Keitz
S.Keitz@theinternational.org.uk

Read the full background story here (expressed opinions are those of the author alone)