‘Minute of silence’ for Europe’s refugees tops Austrian iTunes chart

Refugees in the Traiskirchen camp. Vienna, August 2015. [Reuters]

A minute’s silence recorded by an Austrian artist to protest against the treatment of migrants in Europe and raise money for refugees in a centre near Vienna has topped the country’s iTunes chart, despite only being released on Friday.

Proceeds from Raoul Haspel’s track Schweigeminute (“Minute’s Silence”), which beat German DJ Robin Schulz to capture top spot through pre-orders alone earlier this week, will go towards aid for people in the asylum processing centre in Traiskirchen.

More than 2,000 refugees in Traiskirchen have been sleeping in the open for weeks, braving heat of around 40 degrees Celsius and rainstorms wrapped in blankets on the grass, and Amnesty International last week called their treatment “scandalous”.

Children who had fled alone from countries like Afghanistan and Syria have been offered no psychological care, women have had to use mixed showers, and a baby with a concussion was left next to a bus on a parking lot, the human rights group said.

>>Read: Austria set to force towns to take refugees

“We have a huge humanitarian problem… babies have been born outside in a city with some of the best healthcare in the world,” Haspel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.


The track was intended to give people a platform to express their discontent with Austrian and European policies on handling asylum seekers and refugees, Haspel said.

>>Read: Merkel and Hollande to press EU to move faster on asylum policy

“I chose silence because everybody has such a strong opinion on the situation, and the debate just gets louder and louder each time… arguments and protests are not being heard anymore, people are becoming fed up and not paying attention as before.”

Countries on Europe’s western and southern edges are struggling to cope with the numbers of migrants arriving by land and sea, and the European Union last month failed to agree on how to spread 40,000 asylum seekers among its members.

Thousands of people have fled through the Balkans to Austria – a country of 8.5 million people – pushing the number of asylum requests to 28,300 in the first six months of this year, more than the total for all of 2014.

Austrian towns that balk at taking in refugees could soon be forced to accept migrants under draft legislation agreed by the two ruling parties and the opposition Greens earlier this week.

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