The Second World War led to great suffering and caused many people to flee their home countries. In order to address these migration movements, the International Committee for European Migration (ICEM) was established in 1951 in Brussels.
In 1952 Austrian joined the organization as one of its first member states.
Historically, the IOM Vienna office was responsible for supporting onward migration, assisting refugees to start anew in a new country or helping refugees to reintegrate in their country of origin. Other topics such as labour migration, as was started in Austria in 1961 through the Raab-Olah Agreement, or related and new topics such as integration, unaccompanied minors and migration research emerged later.
1956-1957 Refugees from Hungary: Following the occurrences of 4 November 1956 in Budapest, approximately 180,000 Hungarian citizens fled to Austria. Thanks to Austria's fast response to the crisis, the refugees found accommodation and provisions upon their arrival. Within the same month, seven countries offered to accept about 80,000 Hungarians; the majority of the Hungarians chose to emigrate to the USA or Canada. The offer was increased and ICEM (at the time located in Salzburg and Vienna) was entrusted with organizing the resettlement of approximately 138,000 migrants. 18,000 remained in Austria, another 17,000 emigrated without outside assistance, and about 8,000 returned to Hungary.
Picture: A Hungarian girl waits with her familly's luggage after just having crossed into Austria in 1956. © IOM 1956
1968-1969 Refugees from Czechoslovakia: As a result of the events in Prague in 1968, 162,000 Czechoslovakian refugees came to Austria to await the changes taking place in their country. Approximately 129,000 Czechoslovakians chose to return and by the end of the amnesty in October 1969, about 54,000 people from Czechoslovakia were still in Western Europe. Most people transited through Austria without seeking asylum and settled in countries willing to accept them, such as Germany and Switzerland. Around 16,000 refugees used the opportunity offered to them by ICEM to move to further destinations overseas.
Picture: Czechoslovakians prepare to depart to Australia from Austria in 1968. © IOM 1968
1967-1985 Asian Refugees: Following the ejection of all Asian people from Uganda in 1972, the ICEM Office in Vienna evacuated approximately 1,500 Asians from Uganda to Austria. 50 families remained in Austria, while those with British passports fled to Great Britain. Stateless refugees were assisted by ICEM to emigrate to Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and other countries.
Picture: Two Asian men from Uganda are resettled to Switzerland in 1972. © IOM 1972
Furthermore, in the 1980s the Viennese office of ICEM in cooperation with IOM and the UNHCR regional offices in Hong Kong and Thailand supported the reception of migrants from South-East Asia to Austria in the framework of an international responsibilities sharing programme. Austria agreed to accept 200 families and by 1976 195 refugees from Indochina had resettled to Austria. As the situation continued to worsen, Austria accepted 1943 until 1983. The refugees' integration into Austrian society was supported by local parishes; over 1580 refugees were able to integrate in this way.
Picture: A young Vietnamese refugee in 1980 in Great Britain. © IOM 1980
1981-1982 Refugees from Poland: When martial law was imposed in Poland in December 1981, many Poles decided to leave the country. The Austrian Government assumed that, similar to the case of Czechoslovakia, the refugees would wait until the situation stabilized and then return to Poland. However, most of the Polish citizens were willing to emigrate and many followed their families overseas. IOM Vienna organized the travel of numerous Polish refugees to Western countries.
Picture: A Polish boy who participated in the Polish Resettlement Programme in 1984. © IOM 1984
In the 1980s, the ICEM was re-named to the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM) and in 1989 to the International Organization for Migration.
1992-1999 Refugees from the Balkans: Following the outbreak of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 1992, approximately 700,000 people fled the country within a very short time. In an unprecedented action, the Austrian Government provided start-up aid and supported the refugees to learn German, access the labour market and obtain accommodation as well as through granting the special status of "Bosnian War Refugee". Between 1993 and 2001, IOM Vienna assisted approximately 4,400 in their departure and transit. In addition, during the Kosovo about 5,000 Kosovars were evacuated to Austria; the voluntary return of about 4,500 of these people was organized until 2000.
Picture: Kosovar refugees return home in 1999 with IOM assistance. © IOM 1999
In the year 2000, IOM Vienna signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior on assisted voluntary return from Austria, which is also the basis for current projects on voluntary return.