news archives

Special Report

NEWS - Archive January and February 2005

Headlines 25 February, 2005

Headlines 11 February, 2005

Headlines 14 January, 2005

Headlines January, 2005

7/2/2005- During the month of January 2005, European Roma Information Office (ERIO) monitored 7 mainstream Romanian newspapers : Romania Libera, Adevarul, Libertatea, Ziua, Curierul National, Evenimentul Zilei, Ziarul de Iasi.The newspapers were selected according to the number of copies sold per day and their presence on the Internet. ERIO's analysis was based on the search of the electronic version of the newspapers for some keywords: "rom", "rrom"(meaning Roma) and "tigan", "piranda"(pejoratives for Roma). Not surprisingly, considering the strong anti-Gypsyism in Romania according to the most recent polls, the monitoring report discovers, that in its majority, the Romanian press reviewed, seemed to "forget" the pejorative connotation of the word "tigan" and "piranda" whenever the articles were about thefts, scandals or police involvement. The politically correct terminology "rom" or "rrom" is "rediscovered" and used only when the articles have as topic European projects with a focus on the improvement of the situation of Roma. Titles at the very limit of racist speech as from Ziua on 11th of January called "Bathing of the Gypsies" which are not only a striking repetition of the slogan used during the Roma Holocaust in Hungary but also with no relevance whatsoever with the content of the articles are examined in the ERIO's analysis.

"Pitch-Blackish People" and "Gyppos" together with the "masked officers"(special Romanian police forces) are the main characters in conflicts of cosmic proportions in Romania Libera and Evenimentul Zilei. Apocalyptic scenes as presented by Adevarul in its article "Police barriers-pulverized by Gypsy hoards looking for holly-water" are hardly journalism declared the organization. Only three out of 7 newspapers mentioned (very discreetly) the Roma as victims of the Holocaust during the commemorations in January despite the fact that in Romania Roma were the main victims of the nazis regime. In a sharp contrast on the same day most of the monitored papers presented under big titles stories focused on a criminal of Roma ethnicity. Romania Libera in its number from 6th of January published an article "Boboteaza- the Guarding Angel" in which a number of Christian traditions are presented. One of them says "don't give bread to Gypsies as it would transform the wheat in coal". The Romanian Orthodox church was a strong supporter of the fascist movement "Garda de Fier" and also of Maresal Antonescu –responsible for the death of over 20.000 Romanian Roma during the Second World War. Either the newspaper invented a Christian tradition, or the church, responsible also for over 500 years of slavery of Roma in Romania needs to review its traditions or proclaim a new kind of Christian practice which excludes Roma.Anti-Gypsyism continues to be rife and undoubtedly a current practice in the Romanian press especially in Romania Libera, Adevarul and Libertatea concluded the analysis of the organizations seated in Brussels.

11/2/2005- On the 6th of March 2005 it is an important event in Republic of Moldova - Parliamentary Elections. For the first time in Republic of Moldova there will be implemented a project regarding Roma people participation at Elections. The Union of Young Roma from Moldova "Tarna Rom" together with Roma Negotiation Group in Moldova is making the first steps in implementing the project "Choose and you will be chosen" with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Eurasia Foundation support. The project regards to grow Roma participation to elections, to make them aware of the electoral programs of the political parties in Moldova and to make Roma active in taking decisions and in participation at the public life of the country. Roma people are not involved in the process of taking political decisions, they are not involved even in the public and administrative sector. At the moment there is no information about how many Roma participate at elections and if Roma participate at elections. As a result of this project, there will appear a data base with Roma particiaption at the elections. Moreover, Tarna Rom is intending to promote Roma women participation at elections through this project and rising the rate of Roma leaders participation in the political life of Moldova.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information:
Tarna Rom
Tel. +373 22 208 966
Fax +373 22 208 965
©I CARE News

24/2/2005- "If the leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Party (PPCD), Iurie Rosca, does not stop denigrating actions against us, we will have to appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to eliminate PPCD from the election race for actions of blackmail and intimidation of election competitors", a joint declaration of four independent candidates says. The declaration of independent candidates Tudor Tataru, Silvia Kirilov, Alexandru Busmachiu and Stefan Matei was launched after Rosca's spokesman Alexandru Corduneanu described the candidates at a news conference as "docile tools in the hands of occult forces". The four candidates to diffuse a film, Opriti extremismul, (Stop the extremism), which exposes the right-wing extremist activity of the radical nationalist PPCD. "We, in our capacity of election competitors, as well of citizens, have the right to personal opinion, and the film fully fits the real political portrait of the political character, Iurie Rosca, as well as our election strategy. We further consider that this film is useful for correctly informing the society, and that all the good faith people must join their efforts against the extremist manifestations", the declaraion also says. The authors of the declaration are further ready to give up air time in order to diffuse the film, Opriti extremismul, broadcast on TV, and calls on the other competitors to follow their example.

2004 was characterized by active actions of representatives of Romany national minority in Belarus with the aim to improve the situation of the people in the cultural, educational field and employment. In August the Romany society filed to the Ministry of Education the request to establish a Romany school in Minsk, in September – the appeal to the Ministry of Culture concerning an exhibition, devoted to culture and history of the Romany, in October – to the Ministry of Work with the request to elaborate a program for liquidation of unemployment among representatives of this people. The first two appeals remain unanswered, the answer to the third was that the "emphasis of this problem has no sufficient grounds".

10/2/2005- A correspondent of "Right to Freedom" bulletin took an interview from the well-known defender of the rights of the Romany, lawyer Mikalay Kalinin:

Mikalay, what is the difference between the situation of the Romany in Belarus and in other countries of the Eastern Europe and CIS?
There's a huge difference. In Belarus the officials pretend that there's no such people (there are 70 000 of us) and that the Romany have no problems. In Belarus the authorities simply ignore these problems. Almost in all countries of Eastern Europe the organs of state power have the structural units for solution of Romany problems. At present the state program on the Romany in Zakarpattya region is working in the Ukraine. Even in Russia the state committee on rights of the Romany has worked since 2003.

May be, the officials don't know about these problems?
It is very difficult not to notice it. The Romany are discriminated all over Europe. This problem exists even in Germany, Norway and the UK. The Romany are persecuted. Their human rights are often violated. In addition, they are discriminated because of their nationality. The countries that border on Belarus openly confess it and try to do something. I have filed letters to the Committee of Religious and National Affairs, but received answers to none of them.

May be, the problem lies in the work of separate state organs?
No, I don't think so. I am sure that the authorities, ministries and departments have the complete information about the situation of the Romany in Belarus. The question is why they do nothing to improve the situation. At present there's no program for integration of national minorities, though Belarus has ratified all international conventions on protection of the rights of national minorities.

What are the relations of the Romany with the representatives of the title nation? Are there any threats?
Belarusians are very peaceful and tolerant. The Romany have lived side by side with them for many centuries and there haven't been any open conflicts. We respect Belarusians, their language and culture. At present the situation of Belarusian culture and language reminds of the situation of the Romany culture. Belarusians have difficulties with education in mother-tongue, whereas the Romany don't have such possibility at all.

What is your vision of the situation of the Romany?
The situation of the Romany in the Republic of Belarus doesn't differ from the situation in the Eastern Europe. In 1950-ie3s, during Stalin's rule the Romany were forcible settled in special blocks, real ghettos. Naturally, aborigines treated them as rivals in work. Belarusian Romany have the same problems as the Romany of all countries of the Eastern Europe: poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. According to some information, about 95-98% of the Romany in Belarus are unemployed, more than 90% haven't finished secondary schools. The problem of poverty is a daily issue in the regions.

Are there any international unions of the Romany and what is their role?
The International Union of the Romany unites all of them. It hasn't been active for several years already. Such organizations as the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the OSCE are the most active ones in solving the problems the Romany have. The Rom Livia Yaroka has been recently elected to the European Parliament. Now she actively defends Romany interests. Strangely enough, but British and Swedish liberal-democrats, social-democrats of the Eastern Europe and the ecological movements did much good to the Romany.

Are there Romany organizations in Belarus?
At present such organizations really exist, but aren't publicly or politically active, because they are controlled by the authorities and only a few of their members are highly educated. It is a great problem for the leaders of these organizations to simply formulate their public position on concrete issues. The leaders only declare themselves Romany barons despite of the fact that none of them really possess this title. Doubtlessly, it contributes to the negative attitude to the Romany. The Romany organizations only worsen the life of the Romany with their inaction. Their work on Holocaust Foundation also leaves much to be desires.

Is anything done for the improvement of the situation of the Romany?
Belarusian authorities do nothing at all. Romany public organizations don't show any initiative either. Some work is done by human rights organizations. In principle, there exists the informational vacuum with the approval of the local authorities.

Explain, please.
All initiatives, aimed at the investigation and solution of the Romany problems face with severe counteraction of the authorities. The absence of the statistic data about the illiteracy and unemployment of the Romany pretty well characterizes the general attitude of the authorities to the Romany.

How can one help it?
At present we provide qualified juridical aid to the Romany free of charge. We want from possessors of the power to abide by the laws and the Constitution that provides the equality of all citizens irrespective to their race, gender or nationality. We try to open the eyes of Belarusian and international public to the real situation of the Romany with the assistance of mass media. It is necessary to tell Belarusians the truth about the Romany. We have many complaints concerning violations of the working legislation. Often employers groundlessly fire or refuse to employ the Romany. This summer I was in one of Homel suburbs, where Romany live. Their children have no birth certificates. The families with many children don't receive financial support from the state and can't use medical services, because they have no registration.

Is there any way out of the present situation?
The Romany need the attitude of the state authorities. Their problems mustn't remain latent. Ignorance won't solve them – that's why it is necessary to lead a dialogue with the Romany. Political parties shouldn't also forget that one of the main principles of democratic society is the principle of tolerance to national minorities. Though the human rights activists of the country are in a very difficult situation, it'd be also great if they give more attention to work with the Romany. However, despite the pressurization of the authorities, we still must struggle for human rights.
©Spring 96

Roma and Human Rights NGOs Claim the Government has Deluded the Public about the Money Designed for Roma Inclusion

12/2/2005- Bulgarian government spends the EU-funds for Roma integration in an extremely inefficient manner. Furthermore, it deludes both the national and international public with assertions and promises for huge financial resources designed for implementation of the Framework Program for Roma Integration. There are many reasons to state that these mistakes are not accidental but constitute sustainable practice provoked by flaps and failures in the way Roma integration process is conducted by Bulgarian institutions. That is why an independent Roma monitoring on the implementation of the Framework Program for Roma Integration and the PHARE projects directed to Roma integration is necessary.

These were the main statements of the press conference organized by Center ‘Amalipe', Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and European Roma Information Office in Sofia on February 01, 2005 in the eve of the official start of the Decade of the Roma inclusion.

To explain their statements, the organizers announced that:

  • During the implementation of PHARE BG 0104.01 'Roma Population Integration' commodities designed for the education of Roma children had been "sold" from three to ten times higher than their real price. For instance, the actual cost of a set of six color pastels is 1,10 BGN, but they have been delivered to the final users at a price of 11,70 BGN. In other words the state has paid a price ten times higher than the actual price!
  • Further, a preliminary analysis of the Governmental Action Plan for implementation of the Framework Program for Roma integration (Decision 693/6.10. 2003) shows that the Government deluded the public opinion stating that 271 millions BGN would be spent for Roma integration during the period October 2003 December 2004. A closer look shows that this striking amount is composed by money designed for some social programs such as the National Program 'From Social Welfare to Employment' (217 000 000 BGN), the National Program 'Beautiful Bulgaria' (28 000 000 BGN) and so on. All these are programs designed for improvement the situation of all poor citizens but they have been generally declared as designed only for Roma. Most of the rest 26 million BGN were covered by different international donors but not from the state budget.

    One of the main reasons for this situation is the lack of public Roma control and participation in the whole process of planing, realization and reporting the Governmental plans targeting Roma. That is why Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance "Amalipe", Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and European Roma Information Office decided to join their efforts for establishing a real monitoring on the state policy related to Roma inclusion. The final aim is to promote the transformation of Roma into an active participant in the process of their inclusion. This program called Towards EU accession: Roma in South-Eastern Europe* is financially backed by CORDAID, Netherlands.

    On behalf of the team of the project

    Emil Cohen, PR coordinator

    The main aims of the project are: to exercise an objective monitoring and make an evaluation of what has been done about Roma integration in 2004 and the next years; to inform the broad public about the real dimensions of this process; to promote the inclusion of the Roma community as a real participant in its integration during the forthcoming years; to monitor the state of human rights situation of Roma in the area of the project.

    The project is being implemented by Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance "Amalipe" (Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and European Roma Information Office (Brussels) and financially supported by CORDAID, Netherlands.

    15/2/2005- Roma campaigners in Hungary have forced an Internet website to remove a game called "Gypsy Action" in which players were invited to ethnically cleanse the country of Gypsies, a campaigning body said on Tuesday. The game offered players a variety of firearms to use on the Gypsy population and if they managed to wipe out the entire population, the country turned white, the Roma Press Centre said. The game was removed from the website on Tuesday. Roma groups and non-governmental organisations put the number of Roma in Hungary at between 400,000 and 500,000, out of a total population of just over 10 million. Discrimination against Roma in Hungary, while not as bad as in some other east European countries, is still widespread in terms of access to education and healthcare. Earlier this month Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Slovakia agreed on a 10-year plan to improve the social and economic status of Europe's 7 to 9 million Gypsies.

    24/2/2005- The Hungarian Roma community has expressed outrage at a Hungarian language Internet computer game called Olah Action which calls on players to "wipe out" the Roma in Hungary. The site, which has now been taken off-line, advocated "moving forward from county to county to cleanse Hungary of the Gypsies", offering players various weapons. On one of the pages there was a phone booth with the inscription, "They do nothing. They steal, cheat, lie. They are a major plague for the world, especially for that little European country." Gábor Dobay, owner of Mobileum Kft, the company that hosts the website in question,, said that his company hosts nearly 60,000 uploaded homepages and in its policy disclaimer clearly states the terms and conditions of the site. He explained that the company regrets the scandal but added that legally there is no action the company can take. However, he admitted the site was temporarily put back online several days later to allow TV companies to film the game. "At an undisclosed given time we put the web page back on site for television stations RTL Klub and TV2 to take on-screen' pictures. However, as soon as this were done the site was immediately removed again." He said that a counter on the page, which he claims does not function properly, had registered about 1,200 hits during the 100 minutes the page was accessible to the media."Never before have we had any such extremist uploads and I don't know of any (Hungarian) site that did," said Dobay, who explained that Roma radio station Rádió Cchief editor József Ignácz, alerted him on February 14 about Olah Action, which had been uploaded on February 7. Ignácz explained that he was first informed about the site from operators working for "We were deeply disturbed and immediately asked for the page to be removed from the host site," said Ignácz. He added that there was no place for any such homepage on the internet."The site has a moderator who should be responsible for whatever is uploaded. We have never experienced hate-speech so openly on the internet," he said. News of the site spread fast and on February 16, Czech television (Ceska Televisia) raised questions concerning racism against Roma and other minorities in Hungary. "The internet is a wonderful tool for freedom of expression, but has gone too far and we only hope that this was merely a silly prank by some computer wizz teenagers," Ignácz concluded. The issue has been taken up by the National Bureau of Investigation (NNI).
    ©The Budapest Sun

    21/2/2005- Former Hungarian PM and current leader of the opposition, Viktor Orban, is unrepentant about advertising his patriotic feelings with pasting on his own car the map of the Greater Hungary [at its 1914 borders], Hungarian press reported. Orban was often criticized for his nationalist stance. A Hungarian televisions station followed Orban s car while he was driving through Miskolc town and took a close-up of the Greater Hungary map pasted on the trunk of his car. A wave of comments and emotions were triggered in Budapest, after the images were broadcast. The comments were amplified by the fact that the same images were then made available over the Internet. The political debate which ensued parted the politicians in Budapest in two camps: on the one hand the far-right, represented by Jobbik party, congratulated Orban, on the other hand the center-right severely criticized him. The right leaning "Nepszava" daily called the map as the symbol of revisionism, which adorns Orban's car. Orban was unrepentant: his spokesperson said on his behalf that "there is no shame in recognizing the past greatness of Hungary and be proud of the cultural values of that time which we inherited." The new scandal irrupted shortly after the one triggered by the broadcast, in Romania, of the Hungarian-made "Trianon" documentary. Two months before a referendum, which Orban s party supported, failed. It attempted to grant Hungarian citizenship to the over three million Hungarian ethnics living in the neighboring countries.

    21/2/2005- The Czech Republic faces serious problems with a rising number of Romany ghettos suffering from a high crime rate, drugs and bad hygiene, Romany coordinator from the Liberec Regional Office Jozef Holek told CTK today. Romany ghettos appear all over the country, in the Liberec region they are mainly in the Ceska Lipa area, Holek said after today's meeting of regional Romany coordinators in Liberec. Holek added that though coordinators usually learn where large groups of Romanies are heading for, they are helpless in preventing the establishment of ghettos. Neither municipalities nor regions nor the state administration are able to solve the problem with dozens of Romany ghettos. A high number of Romanies live mainly in simply equipped hostels, as well as in nonresidential premises. Some of them have no access to running drinking water and are threatened with epidemics. Holek pointed out that at some places with a high concentration of Romany population, cohabitation problems with other inhabitants have been reported. "In some towns and villages, Czech families living near Romanies fear even in broad daylight," Holek noted. A number of Romanies are moved out from city centres and end up in ghettos, since private owners of houses in lucrative localities try to move Romany tenants to houses on the outskirts or to completely remote places. Sometimes even Romany chiefs and town hall officials participate in these efforts, Holek added. "If, for instance, a Romany loses a job and has no money for a rent, a lawsuit follows immediately and he is thrown out from the flat. The family then ends up in a low-category flat for rent-dodgers or exactly in ghettos. Such strict measures are not applied to Czech tenants," Holek pointed out. He added that the interlinked mafias of clerks and private entrepreneurs are behind the practice aimed at ousting Romanies from attractive housing localities. Romany coordinators, along with municipal representatives, try to disperse Romanies from ghettos to more places where they could integrate with other social groups. Holek says that in his opinion the Romany situation in the Czech Republic is worse than stated in the latest report by the Government Council for Romany Affairs. "There are too optimistic data [in the report]," he added. He noted that though a number of university graduates among Romanies has risen in the past few years, the high illiteracy on the other hand has further steeply increased. Programmes to solve the critical situation are available, but neither Romanies themselves nor municipalities can always use them efficiently, Holek said. "The Government Council for Romany Affairs has not helped us a lot recently. We have for instance expected more from the preparation of the EU-financed projects which would contribute to an increase in education and employment level among Romanies," Holek concluded. A billboard campaign "Likviduj!" (Liquidate) on, which the People in Need humanitarian organisation launched in early-February, is to highlight the problems with poor ghettos in Czech towns.

    27/1/2005- Driven by crushing poverty, a lingering sense of humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and outrage over Chechen separatist terror attacks, Russia's skinheads are becoming increasingly organised, violent and numerous. A report claims Russia's youth is embracing the ideology their grandparents fought against so implacably, and that Russian skinheads, or britogolovy, now account for almost half the world's "skins". Adhering to a blend of neo-Nazi ideology and rabid Russian nationalism, Russian skinheads are among the most violent, and have staged a wave of savage attacks on non-Russians and children as young as 5 in the past year, leaving many of their bleeding victims to die slowly. Forty-four people were killed in racially motivated murders last year, more than double the previous year, human rights activists say. Many perpetrators were young, white skinheads shouting neo-Nazi or nationalist slogans. They rarely shoot their victims, preferring to stab them repeatedly or beat them to death with chains or knuckle-dusters. The odds are always stacked in their favour because they hunt in packs of at least three and pick vulnerable targets. Their ranks seem only to swell, from about a dozen in the early 1990s to up to 60,000 today. The report, How to quell the neo-Nazi setbacks in a country that defeated fascism, was produced by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and is among several that throw the spotlight on a dark underbelly of Russian society the authorities would have you believe barely exists. It comes at a time when Russia is celebrating its part in liberating the victims of the Nazi concentration camps.

    "Today in Russia there are 50,000 skinheads at the very minimum while in the rest of the world, including America, Europe and other countries, there are about 70,000," says Semyen Charny, the report's author. The real number could be much higher, he adds, because neo-Nazi groups actively try to keep their organisations secret. If nothing is done to combat the skinhead menace, experts warn that their numbers could swell to 100,000 within a few years. With names such as "Blood and Honour", "Moscow Hammer Skin", "United Brigades 88" (H is the eighth letter in the alphabet. HH stands for Heil Hitler!), and "Skin Legion", there are estimated to be up to 10,000 in Moscow and perhaps 5000 in St Petersburg. Their code is simple: they don't drink vodka (beer is the Aryan drink), they do not do drugs, they do not do petty crime (only murder and assault), they are supposed to have a good knowledge of Russian culture and to be able to hold their own in a 15-minute fight. Girls are welcome and are often used to spot targets without attracting attention. But what unites them above all is a hatred of foreigners, in particular of anyone with dark features hailing from the Caucusus region of southern Russia or from Asia or Africa. The views of Semyon Tokmakov, a convicted skinhead who brutally attacked a black US Marine in Moscow seven years ago and still espouses skinhead rhetoric, is typical. "Why have they [foreigners] all come here?" he asked. "They bring nothing but drugs and Aids. Every day they harass and steal our women." Neither do skinheads make any distinction between children and adults or the young and the old. In St Petersburg, a crucible of skinhead activity, a 9-year-old Tajik girl was murdered last year and her case was no exception. Hurshida Sultanova was stabbed to death in front of her father by a group of about 10 skins. She was knifed 11 times. When asked whether he felt sorry for the murdered Tajik girl, Tokmakov did not bat an eyelid. "When you kill cockroaches you don't feel sorry for them, do you?" In recent years, experts say, the skinheads' methods have become far more brutal. "They now use screw drivers and knives and increasingly their attacks end in murder," Sergey Belikov, a specialist in "skins", told the weekly Argumenty i fakty. "Earlier, there was an unspoken rule to leave children and the old alone. That has been abandoned. The first wave of skinheads [in the early 1990s] could be called simple hooligans. Today's are professional killers."

    Many "skins" look up to Alexander Sukharevsky, the leader of the far-right National People's Party. Party members favour the Nazi salute and wear black armbands featuring a Russian swastika-like cross. Sukharevsky preaches the politics of hate, believing that the white race is under attack from a tide of non-white foreigners. He has admitted that his movement thrives on Russia's post-Soviet social problems. "They [recruits] come themselves," he has said. "They are like small moths; they are so defenceless, these skinheads, and are very vulnerable. "Nearly all of them are from poor families; they are a product of society's disease. We are forced to raise them like fathers and mothers do because nobody has ever raised them or taught them anything. They are the future of our country." Sukharevsky is also deeply anti-semitic. He openly laments that Hitler did not succeed in "liberating Russia from the yoke of Jews". Experts say wannabe skinheads are soaked in a culture of neo-Nazi and revisionist literature and white power music. They favour greetings such as "Heil Hitler!" or "Hail Russia!" and their favourite battle cries include "Forward Russians!" and "Russia for the Russians!" They tend to hang about in each other's homes or in abandoned buildings and communal areas on the outskirts of Russia's big cities. Some crime analysts have claimed that they sometimes have links to, or are the same as, Russia's home-grown football hooligans, singling out Moscow's Spartak and TsKA teams as their favourites. This theory gained credence in 2002 when Japan ejected Russia from the World Cup, starting a riot in central Moscow with cars set alight, shops attacked and passers-by beaten. Many saw the hands of the skinheads behind what looked like a well-planned riot.

    Some say Russia's skinhead problem is a product of society's general malaise. Alla Gerber, head of the Holocaust Fund, has said she believes the problem is getting out of control. "Society is sick with xenophobia. Like a cancer it is spreading through the country." She says surveys show 28 per cent of adult Russians want to bring back special settlements for Jews and 48 per cent are in favour of curbing the rights of national minorities. Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, believes almost two-thirds of the population believe that "Russia is for the Russians and all misfortunes stem from foreigners". APRIL 20, Hitler's birthday, is always a time of increased tension in Russia since skinheads have promised to mark the occasion "by killing African or Asian people". The human rights group Sova said that last year, citizens from at least 24 different countries were attacked on different dates and that the method rarely varied. "As a rule, such crimes have common characteristics: the victims have a non-Slav appearance and will be attacked by a group of teenagers not usually numbering less than five. The victim will be kicked, beaten with baseball bats and, if the attackers are fewer than five, will usually be stabbed." The skinheads have become frighteningly well organised, targeting human rights activists, lawyers and academics who oppose them.

    Last June they murdered Nikolai Girenko, an anti-skinhead expert, in an attack apparently designed to punish him for his work in helping convict young neo-Nazis. Girenko acted as a special adviser to the public prosecutor in St Petersburg in high-profile race-hate cases. He was shot through his flat door with a sawn-off shotgun. He was best known for his work in the trial of three youths accused of the racist murder of an Azerbaijani man in 2002. He was subject to many death threats and the communal entrance hall to his building was daubed with fascist and racist graffiti including, inevitably, the swastika. A shadowy far-right group called "Russian Republic" claimed responsibility for the murder. The toll of skinhead victims is staggering. Last October, a 20-year-old Vietnamese student, Vu Anh Tuan, was stabbed to death in St Petersburg, prompting students to demonstrate against far-right violence. Last September, St Petersburg skinheads attacked Tajiks. Armed with knuckle-dusters and metal rods, 10 to 12 "skins" fell on a group of women and children described in the media as "Tajik Gypsies" at a railway station. Five-year-old Nilufar Sangbaeva died on the spot and a 6-year-old girl died later. One attacker said they wanted "to cleanse our land of gypsies". They were sentenced to up to 10 years in jail. This month, several high-profile Jews were attacked in Moscow, and a Jewish cemetery in St Petersburg was desecrated. Again this month, a man with Uzbek features was murdered in provincial Russia and a man from the Caucusus knifed to death in Moscow. Many skinheads say they resort to violence because they are bored. In Voronezh, a university town 480km south of Moscow which has an unusually high number of racist attacks, Amaro Antonio Limo, a 24-year-old medical student from Guinea Bissau, was stabbed to death last year. "We were bored so we decided to go down to Mir [Peace] St where there are many foreign hostels and kill a black," said one skinhead. "It didn't matter to us which country he came from." Russian authorities say the problem is grossly exaggerated and all countries have similar elements, but activists disagree. Russia's bovver-boy problem is, they say, a direct result of society's problems: high unemployment, low wages and grim prospects for many young people. "When there are such economic and other hardships there are usually two ways of dealing with it," Brod of Moscow's Human Rights Bureau says. "The first is to reflect, and the second is to look for an enemy and blame him for your problems. Unfortunately, Russia has chosen the second path."
    ©NZ Herald

    17/2/2005- A Moscow synagogue echoes to the sound of morning worship. Cocooned in black and white prayer shawls, the 300-strong congregation sways to the rhythm of Jewish prayer. In Soviet times, Jews caught coming to synagogue risked losing their jobs or being expelled from university, such was the level of state-sponsored anti-Semitism. Today, Russian Jews enjoy freedom of worship - but they are worried by what they see as a new wave of anti-Jewish sentiment emanating from the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. Last month, 19 members of the Duma threw their support behind a letter to the country's prosecutor general. Claiming that a centuries-old Hebrew text incites violence, the letter compared Judaism to Satanism and accused Jews of ritual murder. It also called for all Jewish organisations in Russia to be investigated and banned. "This is inciting anti-Semitism, it's against the law and these people should be banned from parliament," Russia's Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar told me. "The idea that even one member of parliament could sign a letter trying to expel the Jewish community completely from Russia, this is unheard of. Especially in recent years when, in general, we've felt that anti-Semitism from government officials has almost died out."

    Public support
    The Russian Jewish Congress says it is seeking legal advice and plans to take the MPs to court. But the parliamentarians are unrepentant. They've withdrawn the letter for now, but Communist MP Sergei Sobko says it will be re-drafted and re-submitted. "Do they really think that by taking us to court the whole country will suddenly stop being anti-Semitic?" Mr Sobko said. "When our voters find out that their members of parliament are being threatened like this, the situation will grow worse." Anti-Semitism has deep roots in Russia. Under the tsar, Jewish people were banned from living in huge swathes of the Russian empire. Anti-Semitism remained a government policy in the Soviet Union. More recently, Russia's Jewish community has been enjoying a renaissance - with new freedoms, new schools and new synagogues opening up across the country. President Vladimir Putin himself attended the opening of a Jewish community centre in Moscow four and a half years ago. But anti-Jewish feelings remain widespread. When one of the MPs who signed the letter appeared on TV and blamed all of Russia's problems on the Jews, more than half of the 100,000 viewers who called in agreed with him. Embarrassingly for Mr Putin, the letter appeared just days before his recent visit to Auschwitz, marking the 60th anniversary of the concentration camp's liberation. There, Mr Putin expressed his shame at anti-Semitism.

    But Tankred Golenpolsky, editor of Russia's Jewish Gazette, believes words aren't sufficient. "Mr President, standing in front of the burial places in Auschwitz you said you were ashamed. Are you as ashamed today so as to get those members of the parliament who signed that Nazi letter out of the parliament?" Eighty-four-year-old Petr Bograd says he finds the MPs' letter particularly insulting. A Jewish general in the Red Army, Mr Bograd fought against fascism in World War Two. "It makes my heart ache to hear anti-Semitic talk like this," he told me. "Russian Jews risked their lives fighting for Russia - it's disgusting that we're seen now as the enemies." Gen Bograd won more than 40 medals for his bravery. He's a war hero but today, he is made to feel more like a scapegoat for his country's problems.
    ©BBC News

    24/2/2005- The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia committed serious abuses, including the torture and killing of civilians, during its military offensives against separatists in Chechnya, Reuters reports. The Strasbourg-based court was ruling on Thursday on claims by six Chechens who blamed Moscow for the deaths of relatives during attacks and bombings by the Russian military in 1999 and 2000. The court ordered Moscow to pay a total of 135,710 euros in damages to the six claimants. The panel of judges, among them one Russian, were unanimous in condemning Russia for breaching the European Convention of Human Rights article on the right to life. The court also said Moscow breached the plaintiffs' right to a full hearing. It said in two cases, Moscow had also violated the ban on torture and inhumane or degrading treatment and, in the case of one person, breached a clause on the protection of property. Two of the six Chechens alleged they were tortured and family members were killed by the Russian military in Grozny, the Chechen regional capital, the news agency reported. The others complained of the shelling of civilians in late 1999 and early 2000, during a flare-up in the conflict between Russian forces and separatist rebels which has raged on and off since 1994. Russia can request the case be referred to the court's grand chamber for a final judgement within the next three months. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed and some 20,000 soldiers have died since Russia first sent in troops to crush separatist rebels in 1994. The six cases were the first of about 120 concerning the Chechen conflict submitted to the court.

    24/2/2005- Key members of the Russian cabinet have called for lifting restrictions on immigration in order to counter negative demographic trends. Economic Development Minister German Gref said that without more immigrants, Russia was unlikely to meet the target of doubling its GDP in 10 years. Another official said that Russia should compete for immigrants with the EU and former Soviet states. Russia's population has been steadily decreasing throughout the last decade. Mr Gref said that to counter this trend, Russia should change the legislation which allows its regions to establish yearly quotas on foreign workers. Many Russians are wary about immigration, particularly in regions close to the Caucasus, where immigration is often associated with increased crime rates. Racist attacks and heavy-handed police clampdowns on illegal immigrants are common. But Mr Gref said that from 2007, Russia would be entering the stage of a major reduction in the size of its workforce, which could only be compensated by a massive influx of foreign workers. According to Mr Gref, in 2006 the Russian workforce will decrease by 30,000, while the next year will see a fall of more than 10 times that, culminating in a drop of half a million in 2008. At the same time, Mr Gref said, the immigration quota system had led to a fall in the difference between the number of workers entering and leaving the country to just 30,000 - a figure that could not satisfy the country's growing demand for workers. The chief Russian statistician, Vladimir Sokolin, backed Mr Gref's assertions by saying that Russia was entering "the stage of tough competition for immigrants with European and former USSR countries". "We are the first country where economic growth is continuing despite a decreasing population. But this will not last for long," he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the target of doubling the country's GDP in 10 years. In a display of the growing dissent among the more liberal sections of Mr Putin's entourage, Mr Gref has repeatedly said that this cannot be achieved without a serious change in the country's economic policy.
    ©BBC News

    Detention highlights the authorities' growing suspicion towards some parts of the Muslim community in predominantly Christian North Ossetia.
    By Alan Tskhurbayev, reporter with YUFO.RU news agency in Vladikavkaz.

    17/2/2005- Concerns about anti-Muslim feeling in North Ossetia are increasing after police in Vladikavkav arrested a leading Islamic figure in Vladikavkaz and claimed that explosives and detonators had been found at his home. Yermak Tegayev, emir of the Ossetian Jamaat Islamic community and head of North Ossetia's Islamic Culture Centre, was detained on February 2. He was the unofficial leader of a group of Muslims opposed to the state's appointment of Ruslan Valgasov as the area's mufti or spiritual leader. The arrest of such a prominent Islamic figure has highlighted the authorities' growing suspicion towards some parts of the Muslim community in North Ossetia, the only republic in the North Caucasus with a majority Christian population. Observers say that anti-Muslim feeling has been on the rise in the area since several Chechen and Ingush extremists seized control of the No. 1 School in Beslan last September, leading to the deaths of more than 330 people, half of them children. The only known Ossetian hostage-taker at the school, Vladimir Khodov from the village of Elkhotovo, was also a Muslim. Tensions also increased last year after the authorities announced that Valgasov was to serve as mufti of the area's Muslims, who comprise around 20 per cent of the population. This decision was opposed by a group of young Muslims, who have declined to recognise his leadership. "Valgasov is dependent on the North Ossetian authorities and is a mouthpiece for their policy, but our only authority is the Koran," said one of the dissenters, who declined to be named. Before his arrest, Tegayev had emerged as the alternative leader of the Muslim community and was backed by Suleiman Mamiev, the imam of the prominent Sunni mosque in the centre of Vladikavkaz. Mamiev told IWPR that officials in North Ossetia are trying to suppress and intimidate alternative Muslim voices in the republic, and were using Valgasov to that end. He also claimed that police had planted the explosives allegedly found at Tegayev's house. "No one trusts the government after the Beslan act of terror, so now they are trying to switch public attention to Islamic militancy, and using Valgasov to achieve this," he claimed, adding that the official mufti had physically attacked him and his parents. "[Valgasov] kicked my mother– a devout woman who reads the Koran – twice. You cannot touch people like that even when a holy war is on," Mamiev told IWPR, lowering his sunglasses to reveal a black eye. "Obviously they were trying to bully us into some kind of retaliatory action, so that the whole Jamaat could be arrested for inciting unrest or religious extremism," he claimed. However, when asked about these allegations, Valgasov replied that "he can say what he wants", and called Mamiev a "provocateur".

    The town of Beslan was founded as a Muslim settlement some 200 years ago. A large number of its population is still Muslim, although in most cases, their practice of faith is strictly nominal. The effects of the extremist attack on School No. 1 are still reverberating throughout the area. The local mullah Vladimir Gavisov told IWPR that he has not experienced a sharp rise in anti-Muslim feeling since the school siege. "Sometimes they will confuse Islam and terrorism, but not very often," he said. Atsamaz Besolov, a young Muslim from Vladikavkaz, agreed. "The Muslim community has always experienced problems and pressure, but I wouldn't say things have become worse in the wake of the terrorist act," he said. However, others claim that attitudes are changing. A 25-year-old resident of Vladikavkaz, who asked not to be named, told IWPR that radical Islam was on the rise. "I first started going to mosque when I was 20," he said. "We all prayed and I found this exhilarating. But then something changed." He said that around a year into his study of Islam he began to feel pressure from other worshippers in the mosque. "They started telling me not to associate with those of my family and friends who were of a different persuasion. They called them ‘infidels' and pressured me. That's when I developed this fear of Islam," he said, adding that he has felt "even more scared" since the school siege. Community leaders told IWPR that several Muslims had been converted to Christianity since the Beslan siege ended. One man and his two children – all of whom had been held hostage – came to the local Russian Orthodox Church a few days after the tragedy, and asked to join. Mufti Valgasov agrees that the Beslan tragedy changed many things. "People are now wary and sometimes fiercely opposed to Islam, but we understand and we don't judge them too harshly," he said. "What a regular person knows about Islam comes from news reports of terror attacks." The mufti added that Beslan was just the latest in a serious of setbacks suffered by Islam in North Ossetia in recent years, beginning with the Ossetian-Ingush conflict of 1992, "Also, there is our proximity to Chechnya and many acts of terror, culminating in the most terrible blow to our religion, the school seizure in Beslan." Yury Sidakov, chairman of Ossetia's Commission on Human Rights and himself a Muslim told IWPR that the split in the Muslim community is "a serious crisis". "Marginalised youth [can fall] under the power of false ideas about Islam," he warned. "But whether they are Wahhabis [Islamic radicals] or not, they are our citizens and we have to work with them."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    A growing litany of complaints from Azerbaijanis employed by international companies in Baku.
    By Samira Ahmedbeili, freelance journalist in Baku.

    17/2/2005- The new Azerbaijani oil boom has brought a flood of foreign investment to Baku, but many local Azerbaijani employees are complaining they are working hard in poor conditions and reaping none of the rewards. Twenty-four international companies are now exploiting the huge wealth of the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea and forging ahead with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, BTC, oil pipeline, currently the largest construction project in the world, due for completion later this year. Most of the workforce in these companies consists of local Azerbaijanis. Eighty per cent of the 15,000 people employed by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company's so-called "Early Oil" project, which sends oil to the Georgian Black Sea coast, for example are locals. However, many of the employees say they are being exploited as cheap labour and denied elementary rights. "After we complained some of our problems were solved. But six or seven of us are still living in a two-bed room. Forty-five people use one toilet and one bathroom. They make us work like horses and pay us 100 times less than the foreigners," said a 43-year-old employee of the Consolidated Contractors International Corporation, CCIC, the main contractor in the construction of BTC, who preferred not to be named. Mirvari Gahramanly, chairman of the Committee of Oil Industry Workers´ Rights Protection, told IWPR that contracts signed by CCIC were not in keeping with Azerbaijani employment practices. Under the contracts, said Gahramanly, workers could be required to do any work asked of them - although the working week is formally fixed at 40 hours, the company has the right to ask workers to complete their work in non-working time. Sahib Suleimanov, CICC public affairs officer, refused to comment on these allegations, referring IWPR to British Petroleum, BP, the company that contracted out the work to CCIC.

    Tamam Bayatly, head of BP's press service in Baku, did not deny the points Gahramanly raised, but said the contracts had been drawn up in consultation with lawyers from the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR. She countered, "In the first place, if they did not like these conditions, they should not have signed the contract. Secondly, overtime is well paid. If our employees work 10 hours a day they receive twice as much as usual." Another complaint of Azerbaijani employees is that they are made to work on public and religious holidays and days of mourning. But Bayatly rejected these claims, "In BP and its contractors, our employees can decide for themselves whether to work on holidays or days of mourning. If someone wants to earn more money they come to work. If they don't, they don't." Akif Alizade, an independent lawyer, said that BP was technically in the right. "The employees signed these contracts voluntarily and they are obliged to honour the terms." "Maybe many of them did not even read what they signed," said economist Gubad Ibagogly. "And that's not surprising in a country where there is massive unemployment and minuscule salaries. Who will think twice, when they are being offered [several hundred] dollars a month?" Local CCIC workers receive salaries of between 200 and 1500 dollars a month, which are higher than the local average. However, there is a big discrepancy between what locals are paid and what foreigners receive for the same work. According to Gahramanly, BOS Shelf - another contractor working for BP on offshore construction projects - has a four-tier pay scale with locals placed at the bottom, irrespective of their skill-levels. Aliniyaz Mamiev, who formerly worked as a mechanic for BOS Shelf, told IWPR he was a victim of pay discrimination. He said he had been paid 328 dollars a month for his labour, while his colleague from the Philippines had received between 2500 and 3000 dollars for doing the same job. Speaking on BOS Shelf's behalf, BP's spokeswoman Bayatly said that salary levels had been discussed in detail with the Azerbaijani national oil company SOCAR. Defending the pay arrangements, she said, "If you raise the salaries of employees then the operational costs of the project go up. And as a result oil revenues go down. Remember that the salary which foreign companies pay to local workers is later deducted from general oil revenues." Economist Ibadogly believes the government has little interest in its citizens getting better salaries as this might cause social tensions. "If part of the population gets for example 3,000 dollars a month in a country where the minimum wage is 125,000 manats (around 25 dollars), then of course a lot of people will be unhappy," he said.

    Last year, a group of 205 workers at CCIC wrote a letter of complaint to the director of the corporation Ghazi Anouti alleging that they were suffering discrimination. They said they and the foreign workers ate in separate canteens and were fed poor-quality food; lived in crowded accommodation with few toilets and were poorly treated by foreign staff. The workers say some of their problems were addressed, but many persist. Aladdin Bakhshiev, a former CCIC employee, said that oil workers had begun to work towards forming a trade union, but the corporation sought to frustrate their efforts. "Active members were sent off to work in other places. And I was detained by the police for 10 hours on false charges. Even though I was innocent, I was sacked," he said. Allahyar Eyubov, who formerly served as interpreter to three Azerbaijani presidents before joining BOS Shelf in 2001, claimed he was also dismissed for trying to set up a union. "We had several preliminary conversations with workers and fixed a date for a founding meeting. But someone told the president of the company and I was fired straightaway under the pretext of not fulfilling my professional duties," he said. Eyubov said that 50 of his colleagues staged a brief protest strike and around 500 of them signed a letter protesting his sacking. His case is being considered by Azerbaijan's appeal court. David Woodward, president of BP Azerbaijan, said last month that his company would take action if one of its contractors was blocking the formation of a trade union, saying that this was the right of all its employees. Bayatly told the Baku Khaber newspaper that Bakhshiev's allegations were untrue. He had not been sacked, she said, simply his contract had not been renewed because his work had not been up to standard. She insisted that Eyubov had also been dismissed for professional reasons. But she said her company would respect any decision reached by the courts.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    The powers-that-be seem unconcerned that a majority of the Kyrgyz population will have very little representation in the next parliament.
    by Hamid Toursunof, TOL correspondent

    24/2/2005- They may make up a majority of the Kyrgyz population, but when they go to the polls on 27 February Kyrgyz women will know that they will almost invariably be voting for a man. Just 37 of the 419 candidates running for the national parliament are women, and voters in just 27 of the 75 constituencies will have the opportunity to back a woman. Just seven women had seats in the old 105-member parliament in a country where women make up 52 percent of the electorate. Women are barely visible in this campaign—and there is little audible debate about why they are absent. In some quarters, though, there is concern about the low participation of women and a debate about the reasons. Gulnara Ibraeva, the director of the Social Technologies Agency, an NGO that focuses on gender issues, says the "insignificant number of women" in these national elections is a fundamental problem. "If a half of the population is not involved in decision-making, it is hardly possible to talk about the development of democracy," she says. "Men cannot solve their problems without women's participation and vice versa." Ibraeva blames stereotypes. "Gender stereotypes in society are hampering the social, public, and political promotion of women," she says before going on to provide an example of one form of typecasting that these elections have already shown to be false. "It is commonly held that women from the southern regions of the country are historically more passive and obedient," she says, "but the pre-election campaign has shown that the northern provinces [excluding the northern capital of Bishkek] nominated only half as many women as the southern ones. "If you doubt one stereotype, can't you doubt others, too?" Ibraeva asked. A rhetorical question maybe, but few Kyrgyz would probably give the answer Ibraeva wants. "The majority in society does not take seriously the idea of women in the political life of the country," says Munojat Tashbaeva, a sociologist based in southern Kyrgyzstan. "Women are excluded from decision-making at various levels, including debates about and approval of budgets at local and national levels. Voters do not believe a woman can be a strong parliamentarian or a public and state figure."

    The link between power and pocketbook
    Many Kyrgyz women themselves might not go along with Ibraeva's challenge to stereotypes. "We are an eastern country, and the attitude to women is still conservative," says Khamrakhon Kamilova, a single mother of three. "Speaking frankly," she continues, "a large majority of women also still have conservative opinions." "Women are rather tolerant about discrimination against themselves. They accept polygamy, which is widespread in the country and illegal, but not condemned. ‘Second' wives are simply not registered, and in many cases relatives and friends are aware of ‘second' wives as well as ‘first' ones." Such passivity may also be rooted in economics. "The low participation of women in the current elections is due to the financial situation that women face," says Jyldyz Aknazarova, an economics professor from Osh State University. "This has resulted in political passivity." Poverty is high throughout Kyrgyzstan. In rural areas, over 47 percent of the population live below the poverty line, according to the Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee. The statistics in urban areas are not much better, at 39.6 percent. Figures from the same official suggest just 9 percent of the population are unemployed, a figure not treated seriously by observers. Unemployment and poverty rates are generally accepted to be much higher among women. Despite the level of poverty, the prevailing attitude in Kyrgyz society is that women should not work outside the home and should instead stay at home to take care of their families, says Tashbaeva. As a result, 53 percent of women are dependants, with no source of income other than the money they receive from their husbands or parents. (These are figures compiled by the Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee from 2000.)

    The wisdom of the white-beards
    This attitude is imposed not just be family members, but by the local community, chiefly in the form of the aksakal, a local court that reviews family and civil disputes. The name--aksakal means "a white-bearded old man"—shows who sits in the court. "My father-in-law makes me stay at home," says E. Ruzieva, a 29-year-old housewife from Osh and a graduate of Osh State University. "My husband's income is not enough to support our two children and his parents," she continues. "I could work in a school to make some money, but I cannot disobey my in-laws. The word of the aksakal is the word of law, and if I disobey, not only my husband and relatives would condemn me, but also the majority of the local community we live in." Such family, social, and legal pressures make it difficult for women to win equality at home, let alone in politics. The domestic inequality is aggravated by violence. According to figures reported by the news agency Kyrgyzinfo in June 2004, more than 9,000 women have sought protection against domestic violence at crisis centers in the few years since they were set up. Experts believe this is far lower than the real incidence of violence. Few women would report cases of violence to the police; in many cases, victims of domestic violence refuse to ask even their parents for protection or help. "Family matters should not be reported to the police," says Zamira N., a response typical in Kyrgyz society. Zamira, a young woman from the capital, Bishkek, had herself been brutally beaten by her husband. "My husband and I will solve our problems ourselves. I see no reasons for others to interfere." Violence is sometimes what actually creates marriages. Many young people who choose to marry observe the Kyrgyz tradition of bride-kidnapping in a formal way, considering it an old pre-wedding ceremony and national custom. The groom and the bride chose a place where she will be "stolen" by him and by his friends. But each year some women are genuinely kidnapped and forced into marriage against their will. An old Kyrgyz tradition, bride-kidnapping remains a very sensitive subject; neither kidnapped women nor their parents tend to report the crime to the police, and there has not been a single trial covered in the mass media. Kidnapping is rarely mentioned or debated. There are, therefore, no reliable statistics on the actual number of brides kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan. However, other pre-Soviet traditions are gaining in strength, prompting some, like Ibraeva of the Social Technologies Agency, to say that "stereotypes in Kyrgyzstan's policy have been developing in favor of men, not of women." One example is the aksakal itself. The first aksakal courts were formed in 1995, formalizing an old, informal tradition. There are now 972 such courts in ethnic-Kyrgyz villages around the country (Kyrgyzstan has many nationalities, including a large Uzbek population in the south). This ethnic judicial system received another official stamp of approval in early February, when President Askar Akaev took part in a national meeting of representatives of the aksakal courts. The president underlined that this unique judicial system still has a significant role to play alongside Kyrgyzstan's other, more standard and internationally recognized judiciary. "By adhering to national traditions, the courts of aksakal can on the ground assist local communities in consolidating society," Akaev told the assembled elders. For some women, this form of social consolidation is not so laudable. Ibraeva and Rozzeta Aitmatova--the leader of another NGO focusing on gender issues—highlighted in a seminar held under the auspices of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights in late 2004 that the aksakals are a source of pressure that women feel every day.

    The Scandinavia of central Asia?
    So those who want women to play a greater role in political life face a double challenge: economic constraints and social attitudes limit the chances of bottom-up change, while the president's promotion of traditional law (as well as other national and religious values) reduce the prospects of forcing change from the top down. Formally, though, there is progress. In March 2003 Kyrgyzstan became the first country in Central Asia to introduce legislation guaranteeing gender equality and recognizing discrimination against women, including violence. That was enough for Sulaiman Imanbaev, the head of the Central Electoral Committee (CEC), to assert at a press conference in November 2004 that women had started actively participating in political life. "In the election code, there is no problem for women to participate in elections, and there is full equality in the country," Imanbaev said. To achieve more than such a paper breakthrough, Ibraeva and many of her colleagues are advocating the introduction of quotas for women in parliament and in the state administration. Leaders of women's NGOs say that studies in Scandinavia show that when women account occupy at least 20 percent of seats in parliament, lawmakers make a more serious effort to develop bills to protect children's interests. And when the number of women is over 30 percent, laws and state programs that address women's interests are adopted. That vision for the future will find few female advocates in the next parliament. And social attitudes suggest that Kyrgyz women are still a long way from persuading male parliamentarians to take up their cause. Activists from an NGO called the For Promotion of Women Association say they are doubtful that the current election cycle will create the "basis for parity democracy." It seems certain that it will be quite a few parliamentary terms before a substantial number of women are in the corridors of power. In the meantime, activists believe Kyrgyzstan's majority population will face discrimination in the way a minority would.
    ©Transitions Online

    17/2/2005- Next week, the Danish parliament will reconvene and prime minister Rasmussen will announce the composition of Denmark's next coalition government. But whatever shape the new government takes, the results of the February general election has implications for refugees, not only in Denmark but across the EU. Since 2001, Denmark has been governed by a coalition government of the Liberal Party of Denmark (Venstre) and Conservative People's Party which, though officially excluding the xenophobic Danish People's Party (DFP), in fact relies on it for support. The election has left the DFP in a stronger position than ever before, and given the Lib/Con coalition a mandate for a further five years. The DFP, which increased its share of the vote from 12 to 13.3 per cent, will now put enormous pressure on the Lib/Con alliance to follow-through on its promise to punish those countries that refuse to accept failed asylum seekers with the loss of development aid. This could provide a model for other European governments to follow. On being returned to office, re-elected Liberal prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Tony Blair to use the Danish example as a model for the UK government's recently-announced five-year plan on immigration and asylum.

    Xenophobic party shapes government agenda
    Since 2001, the DFP has shaped the government's policies on asylum and immigration, to the extent that Liberal Party prime minister Rasmussen has been accused of stealing its clothes. And the DFP has not hesitated to point a gun at the coalition government if it veers from the DFP's anti-asylum agenda. In August 2004, it threatened to withdraw its support for the annual budget bill and for troops in Iraq unless there were a programme to speed up the repatriation of failed Iraqi asylum seekers. DFP leader Pia Kjaersgaard called refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants a financial burden, while Danish citizens and primarily the elderly were being targeted for cutbacks. In attacking Iraqis generally, Kjaersgaard said that it was 'unreasonable that Danish soldiers jeopardise their lives while Iraqi men smuggled into Denmark are refusing to go back'.

    Election fought on immigration issue
    During the run-up to the 2005 election, Rasmussen promised to continue the crackdown on asylum seekers which propelled him to power in 2001. He accused his main challenger, Social Democrat Mogens Lykketoft, of being soft on immigration in contrast to the government which had presided over a fall of around 80 per cent in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Denmark. Also, during the election, DFP leader Pia Kjaersgaard called for the end of the use of foreign languages in all communications between the state and its citizens and the scrapping of the right to permanent settlement for accepted refugees. Nationalised Danes, said Kjaersgaard, should be stripped of their citizenship if found guilty of a criminal offence. The elections have left the Lib-Con-DF axis with approximately 54 per cent of the vote and ninety-six seats in the 179 seat parliament (Folketing).The DFP outstripped the Conservatives, and now has 24 seats in parliament (up five) as compared to the Conservative's eighteen. The exact formation of a new coalition government is due to be announced any day now, but the Lib/Cons seem to have few other parties to turn to other than the DFP.

    Undermining human rights
    The DFP, which has only been an electoral force since 1998 will be well pleased with its gains. But whatever its long-term future, the DFP's real success has been its influence over centre-Right immigration policy as a whole. Other centre-Right European parties will seek to emulate the 'Danish model'. Already, the Belgian interior minister has announced that he will visit Denmark to study its immigration policy. Since 2001, Denmark's refugee policy has seriously undermined international conventions and this approach has now been given legitimacy. Over the last two years, Denmark has adopted one of the toughest criteria in Europe for qualification for refugee status. It does not accept the claim of any asylum seeker who does not fall strictly within the framework of the Geneva Convention, and the concept of 'humanitarian protection', outside the Convention, has subsequently been rendered null and void. The result has been a dramatic drop in the number of asylum seekers from 12,512 in 2001 to 3,222 in 2004. The number of asylum seekers whose claims were accepted has plummeted from 53 to 10 per cent in the same period.

    Linking aid and asylum
    Now, under enormous pressure from the DFP, the Liberals are examining ways of linking development aid to repatriation agreements for those failed asylum seekers who, at the moment, cannot be repatriated from Denmark to their home countries as conflicts are still ongoing, they lack travel documents, or for other reasons. A few months prior to the general election, there were several important developments in this area. First, in August 2004, the government increased the portfolio of immigration and integration minister, Bertel Haarder, to include foreign development aid - the first time such a link has been made in a ministerial portfolio in Europe. Haarder then announced another first. In future 'development assistance' would be made an 'active instrument of foreign policy'. This was reiterated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 'Security, Growth - Development: Priorities of the Danish Government for Danish Development Assistance 2005-2009' - a document awash with references to 'regions of origin measures'. These refer to a plan, favoured by some EU countries, to transfer the 'refugee burden' from the developed world to impoverished countries, mainly in the developing South which would be encouraged to host large refugee camps where refugees would be 'warehoused' until conflicts were over. The Danish ministry of foreign affairs suggests that development assistance should be targeted at 'region of origin measures' and implies that such measures could also provide an opportunity for 'refugees and internally displaced' people to return home.

    The DFP wants countries that refuse to take back asylum seekers 'punished' with a loss of development aid. Howard Mollett of the Global Security Development Network (an international network of NGOs monitoring trends in security and development policy) believes that such a move would be 'politically unacceptable within the donor community internationally and in Denmark'. The Lib/Con alliance, it seems is mindful of this. While it is attempting the more subtle approach of persuasion via financial incentives, the end result will be the same - aid will become an active tool of Danish refugee policy. The Danes also want to persuade the UNHCR to play ball. Denmark has been reducing development aid as a whole and cutting funds to the UNHCR to which Denmark had previously been the second biggest per capita contributor. The UNHCR while criticising Danish refugee policy want to keep its government on board. Under 'Convention Plus' - a series of 'global consultations' with the State signatories of the Geneva Convention (and other 'stakeholders') on how to update the 1951 Convention (and its 1967 Protocol) to 'address all the pressing issues pertaining to refugee protection in today's changing world' - the UNHCR is pursuing generic multilateral agreements to tackle three priority challenges, one of which is the 'more effective targeting of development assistance to support durable solutions for refugees, whether in countries of asylum or upon return home'. Denmark and Japan are the two countries which have been assigned a lead role in crafting the UNHCR's special agreement on development aid.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    19/2/2005- The Danish election on 8 February has turned the spotlight on the country's immigration policy. The most enthusiastic advocate of placing restrictions on immigration, the far-right Danish People's Party (DPP), increased its support from 12% to 13.3% of the vote, moving from 22 to 24 seats in the country's 179-member parliament, the Folketing. The party that most vocally criticised the last government's immigration restrictions, the Radical Liberals, more than doubled its support from 4% to 9.2% of the vote and has 17 seats in the new parliament, as opposed to eight in the outgoing one. These two parties are widely seen as the election's big winners. The Danish People's Party is a relative newcomer in Danish politics. Formed in 1996, it won 7.4% of the total vote in the March 1998 elections and took 13 seats. The 1998 elections were won by the Social Democrats and Radical Liberals, who formed a coalition government. The Danish People's Party first became a significant player after the Conservatives and Liberals triumphed in November 2001 and formed a coalition government reliant on DPP support for a parliamentary majority. The Liberal-Conservative government introduced what it described as Europe's strictest immigration laws in May 2002. The right to asylum on humanitarian grounds, which had previously seen up to 60% of applications approved, was scrapped, the acceptable grounds for being granted asylum were cut to the bare minimum required under the Geneva Convention for Refugees, and social benefits for refugees were cut by 30%-40% for their first seven years in the country.

    New provisions stipulated that Danish citizens could not bring a foreign spouse into the country unless both partners were aged 24 or over, passed a solvency test showing the Dane had not claimed social security for 12 months and had to lodge a bond of 53,000 kroner ($9,300). Most importantly for Danish citizens who are themselves immigrants or second-generation immigrants, the Danish citizen has to be judged to have stronger links with Denmark than any other country. The new laws had an almost immediate effect. Some 13,000 family reunification permits were granted in 2001, but this had fallen to fewer than 5,000 in 2003. One effect of the new laws is that Copenhagen-based Danes with foreign spouses have been moving to the southern Swedish citizen of Malmoe at a rate of about 60 couples a month, continuing to work in the Danish capital by commuting across the Oeresund Bridge, which has since been nicknamed "the love bridge". Sweden's Social-Democrat government has castigated the Danish government, accusing it of undermining Scandinavian solidarity, and the Danish laws have also been attacked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner. The leader of the Danish People's Party, Pia Kjaersgaard, responded to Swedish criticism by saying: "If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmoe into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honour killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Oeresund Bridge." Denmark's share of asylum applications in the three Scandinavian countries fell from 31% in 2000 to 9% in 2003, while Sweden's rose from 41% to 60% and Norway's from 28% to 31%. Immigrants and the descendants of immigrants account for about eight per cent of Denmark's population.
    ©BBC News

    22/2/2005- A new collective wage agreement for state employees aims at helping ethnic minorities find jobs. The state can give foreigners a one-year job contract for 80 percent of the normal pay. Ethnic discrimination in the workplace might actually help immigrants find employment in Denmark. A new wage agreement for state employees, signed on Tuesday, allows ethnic minorities in Denmark to take one-year jobs for 80 percent of the normal pay. Instead, they are to receive training and education 20 percent of their work hours. The goal is to provide immigrants with the work experience and training necessary to enter the labor market. It was not immediately clear whether the agreement applied to all professions in state service, as the final agreement had not been made public on Tuesday afternoon. Other results of the pay negotiations included more flexibility with employees with children and preparations for the reorganization of local authorities scheduled in the near future. Personnel whose job functions will change or disappear during the reshuffle will not have their wages reduced until April 2008. Average wages are to increase by 6.96 percent in the next three years, securing that pay rises more than inflation in the period. The agreement concurred with a deal struck between local authorities and their employees on Saturday.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    19/2/2005- Police are taking to the streets in Cheltenham to let people know racist behaviour will not be tolerated. Operation Reassure aims to put an end to alcohol-fuelled racist behaviour in and around the town centre. The number of racist incidents in the district have dropped steadily over the past four years, police figures show. Chief Supt Steve Ackland, said: "I will personally ensure that all racist incidents are thoroughly investigated and offenders are brought to justice." Officers will patrol on foot, in both plain clothes and uniform, in areas and near establishments that have previously been victims of racist incidents. "It's important that this is put into context," said Detective Inspector Steve Bean, who is in charge of the operation. "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, however, when that 'expression' takes the form of racist abuse and insulting behaviour, then the Police need to step in and take control." Since April 2004, Cheltenham Police has recorded 141 racist incidents, 117 of which are classed as racially aggravated crimes.
    ©BBC News

    KEN HAS A LOT TO BE SORRY FOR(uk, comment)
    From Covent Garden to Kew Gardens, and the British Museum to the Science Museum, there is much about our capital city to be proud of... except, perhaps, its Mayor
    By Nick Cohen

    20/2/2005- The useful label 'the pseudo-left' has been knocking around the internet political blogs since 11 September, and it is high time it was brought into the mainstream media. It's a shorthand description of the spectacle of left moving to the right, often to the far-right, and embracing obscurantists, theocrats and, in the case of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its Baathist 'insurgents', classic fascists. The pseudo-leftists are still on the left because they believe in leftish policies of tolerance and social justice at home. They are pseuds because their principles flip as soon as they leave Heathrow. All that the left has opposed since the Enlightenment become acceptable, as long as the obscurantists, theocrats and fascists are anti-Americans and as long as their victims aren't Western liberals. The real challenge to Ken Livingstone is not the demand that he should be made to apologise for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard but the repugnance many feel at the pseudo-left's betrayal of basic values. The calls for an apology are silly because, if London's Mayor lacks the grace to be sorry, forcing him to apologise would only compound the insult. Put it like this: if I drunkenly abuse you at a party but phone the next morning full of contrition, you'll probably forgive and forget; but if I call and grumble that my boss heard the whole thing and tells me my career will suffer if I don't say sorry, 'so, sorry', you probably won't.

    For months a rainbow coalition of gays, lesbians, feminists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, secularists and democrats who once supported Livingstone have been fighting a more important battle about his support for Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Livingstone can't say he wasn't warned about the Egyptian theologian. Just before he met him in July last year, the papers were filled with the most lurid reports of his views. Apparently he advocated the murder of homosexuals and Israeli civilians and beating-up women. If Livingstone had qualms, they didn't show. He sent the limousine anyway. When the two men met, the mayor who can't apologise for his own bad manners proved he was big enough to say sorry for the mistakes of others. 'On behalf of the people of London,' he intoned, 'I want to apologise to the sheikh for the outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria in some sections of the tabloid press which demonstrated an underlying ignorance of Islam.' Er, not in our name, mate, muttered at least some of the people of London who had checked out the reports of the hysterical and xenophobic press. They seemed to have substance. Gay, lesbian and feminist organisations wrote to Livingstone. The letters were ignored, so they turned to Peter Tatchell, who battled away, but didn't get far until January, when the Mayor responded to the complaints with a dossier produced with public funds. It is propaganda. Qaradawi is puffed-up as the 'leader of a great world religion'. He is a moderate and a progressive enemy of violence, Londoners were told, and 'one of the Muslim scholars who has done most to combat socially regressive interpretations of Islam on issues like women's rights and relations with other religions.' Alastair Campbell on his worst day has never issued a piece of flummery so easy to pull apart. Even his weapons of mass destruction dossiers could stand more scrutiny. All Tatchell and his comrades had to do was look at what Qaradawi said and contrast his words with the cosy picture Livingstone presented. Tatchell's reply was issued last week and you can read it in full at But here is a taste of the views London's socialist Mayor is embracing.

    In June 2003 Qaradawi pondered the question of how a Muslim who decided of his own free will to convert to another religion or become an atheist should be treated. Instead of saying it was none of his business what adults choose to believe, Qaradawi replied: 'He is no more than a traitor to his religion and his people and thus deserves killing.' Female genital mutilation was fine by him - 'whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world.' A little light wife-beating could also be excused - 'if the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her... If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to admonish her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas.' Livingstone claimed that Qaradawi was an enemy of terrorism. Yet when a genuinely moderate Egyptian cleric, Mohammad Sayed Tantawi, condemned the murders of Israeli children by suicide bombers, Qaradawi, was furious. 'Has fighting colonizers become a criminal and terrorist act for some sheikhs?' he roared. Gays had to die too, apparently. 'Muslim jurists hold different opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice,' Qaradawi said. 'Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.' What with the executions of free-thinkers and homosexuals, the battering of women and the blowing-up of children, Qaradawi's theology is a bloody business.

    There has always been something of the American city boss about Livingstone. He pays the necessary pieties to ethnic and sexual blocs and collects their votes. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that he's not just a grubby machine politician but is sincere when he declares that he is defending Qaradawi to the hilt because, 'I have a responsibility to support the rights of all of London's diverse communities and to maintain a dialogue with their political and religious leaders.' He doesn't seem to realise that this bland formulation is cover for a deeply reactionary manoeuvre which is being practised across the Western pseudo-left. First they define 'communities' by their religion. Then they assumed that misogynist and anti-democratic practitioners of that religion are the true leaders of their communities. The inevitable consequence is that liberals, socialists and feminists in the poor world are betrayed. They look to the Western homes of liberalism, socialism and feminism and are greeted with indifference or spite. Last year Iraqi, Jordanian and Tunisian writers organised a petition to the United Nations by 2,500 Arab intellectuals which condemned 'individuals in the Muslim world who pose as clerics and issue death sentences against those they disagree with. These individuals give Islam a bad name and foster hatred among civilizations.' Prominent in their list of the 'sheikhs of death' was one Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Just as the British anti-war movement chose to turn its back on the eight million Iraqis who defied the murderers and voted, Livingstone has chosen to ignore the Arab left and offer comfort to its enemies. You find this pattern time and again. The dominant voices in the rich world's left are consistently on the wrong side. You have to go back to the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 to find a similar accommodation with the dictatorial right. As inevitable as betrayal is award-winning hypocrisy. In the name of anti-racism, Livingstone perpetuates the stereotype of the Muslim as a death-obsessed, woman-hating, queer-bashing cheerleader for suicide bombers. In the name of multi-culturalism, he talks as if something in the water supply of the Islamic world, or maybe an obscure genetic mutation means that one billion people actually want to be ruled by priests. The joke of it all is that if the British government or a European or North American government were to recommend the execution of homosexuals or the enforcement of Christian belief by death sentences on apostates, Livingstone would be taking to the streets to protest. But when the same policies are proposed by brown-skinned leaders he shakes them warmly by the hand and invites them into city hall.
    ©The Guardian

    21/2/2005- The local government watchdog has confirmed today that it is investigating the conduct of the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, in the wake of his clash with a Jewish reporter. The Standards Board for England said it was looking at two alleged breaches of the local government code by the mayor after he likened an Evening Standard journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard. It also confirmed that it had received "four or five" formal complaints about the mayor following the incident two weeks ago. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have both called for formal inquiries into the incident. The Standards Board would not reveal which complaint was being investigated. But the Board of Deputies today said it had been contacted by the Standards Board to confirm that its allegation had been passed to the watchdog's ethical standards officer. The two areas of the investigation will cover an alleged failure by Mr Livingstone to "treat others with respect", and a claim that he brought "his office or authority into disrepute". Mr Livingstone has so far resisted numerous calls for him to apologise for the incident. Brian Coleman, the Conservative chairman of the London Assembly, suggested that the investigation could have been avoided if the mayor had said sorry last week. He said: "It is extremely disappointing that this matter has dominated London politics for such a long period. The mayor could have brought this to a close last Monday." The Board of Deputies welcomed the investigation, but it stressed that it was not accusing Mr Livingstone of anti-Semitism. "Contrary to media reports, we have not stated that this was a racist incident. This is about a lack of moral clarity, it is morally inaccurate to compare his treatment to the events of the holocaust."
    ©The Guardian

    21/2/2005- Five years after Britain lifted its ban on gays in the military, the Royal Navy has begun actively encouraging them to enlist and has pledged to make life easier when they do. The navy announced Monday that it had asked Stonewall, a group that lobbies for gay rights, to help it develop better strategies for recruiting and retaining gay men and lesbians. It said, too, that one strategy may be to advertise for recruits in gay magazines and newspapers. Commodore Paul Docherty, director of naval life management, said the service wanted to change the atmosphere so that gays would feel comfortable working there. "While some gays were confident to come out, others didn't feel that the environment was necessarily accepting of them," Commodore Docherty said in an interview. The partnership with Stonewall, Commodore Docherty said, will help "make more steps toward improving the culture and attitude within the service as a whole, so gays who are still in the closet feel that much more comfortable about coming out." Gays in Britain have benefited from a number of new laws, including one that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of workers' sexuality. Last year, Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Act, which gives marriage-style rights to British gays who have registered as couples. The entire military is subject to the legislation, and starting in the fall, gay couples in the military who have registered under the act will be allowed to apply for housing in quarters previously reserved for married couples. The new effort continues a pattern of changing official attitudes in the navy - once derided as running on rum, sodomy and the lash, in a phrase usually attributed to Winston Churchill. And while most European militaries have lifted bans on gays, none have been as active as the Royal Navy in encouraging their service. Until a European court ruled in 1999 that Britain's ban on gays in the military violated European human-rights laws, the navy, along with the rest of the country's military, followed a no-exceptions policy of dismissing service men and women who were found to be gay, often after long and intrusive investigations.

    The military had agonized for years over the issue, in the way the United States has, and always concluded that allowing gays and lesbians to serve would prove prohibitively disruptive and would ruin discipline and cohesion. But after the court ruling, it had no choice but to reverse its policy. Beginning in 2000, the military said gays would no longer be prohibited from serving. It also stopped monitoring its recruits' sex lives, saying that sexuality, as long as it did not intrude into the workplace, should not be an issue one way or another. Recently, gay men and women in the British services have lived and fought in Iraq alongside heterosexuals without problems, according to military officials. "I would say that before the European court ruling, it was difficult to see this policy happening or working," said Lt. Cmdr. Craig Jones, a gay naval officer who often speaks publicly, with the navy's approval, on gay rights issues. "People were quite hot under the collar about it; the admirals, generals and air marshals were really concerned," he added. "I'm quite sure that these folks look now and think, 'What was all that fuss about?' " Most European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Denmark, have lifted their bans on gays in the military. But Britain, and particularly the navy, has gone further, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "In a lot of cases what you have is a legal commitment to nondiscrimination, but a quiet continuation of previous cultural norms," Mr. Belkin said. "But here you have not only a reversal of policy and a formal commitment to nondiscrimination, but a proactive embracing of the idea that integration is good for the military and diversity is useful for recruiting from the fullest possible pool." In Britain, Stonewall currently advises about 90 employers, some of them big companies, about how better to recruit and treat gay and lesbian workers. It is this program that the navy has signed up for. "Increasingly, organizations are recognizing that having well-trained and highly committed staff who feel comfortable in the workplace is highly important," said Alan Wartle, a spokesman for Stonewall. "It's about having a range of policies and also about the more intangible element, the cultural change."

    Commodore Docherty said one likely step for the navy would be to begin advertising in gay publications, as part of a general recruitment effort. "We advertise in a lot of magazines," he said. "For instance, we advertise in cycling and swimming magazines - not because we're after cyclists and swimmers particularly, but because it's part of our target audience of 16-to-24-year-olds." Gays in the British military are subject to the same rules of sexual conduct as heterosexuals: no touching, no kissing, no flaunting of sexuality. Since 1991, women have been allowed to serve with men on ships, which operate under strict "no sex" rules, and sailors in such close quarters have relied on what one naval official said was "common sense and good manners." Despite the change in policy, relatively few gay men and lesbians in the military - whether because of fear of being intimidated, or because of personal choice - have come out. The services do not keep statistics on the number of gays, holding by the principle, Commander Jones said, that "sexuality is a private matter for the individual." He called the announcement by the navy on Monday "a huge step forward." "You get folks like me who choose to be out, and there are others who don't - it's up to them," he said. "We've come a very, very long way in five years, but we don't want to be complacent." Commodore Docherty said the navy was trying to send a clear message. "The fact that we are making this high-level commitment will hopefully show people that it's not just empty words when we talk about diversity and opportunity," he said, "but are actually taking action to do something about it."
    ©The New York Times

    22/2/2005- The number of asylum seekers arriving in Britain fell by 2% in the final quarter of 2004, according to government figures released today. Excluding dependants such as spouses and children, 8,465 people arrived in the UK claiming asylum compared with 8,605 in the previous quarter, provisional Home Office figures showed. The number of failed asylum seekers removed from the country declined by 6% to 2,895 - the fifth quarter in a row to show a fall. Year-on-year, the number of new asylum applicants was down 22% and 68% lower than the peak of October 2002. The immigration minister, Des Browne, said measures including the closure of the Sangatte camp near Calais and ending asylum appeals for nationals of countries on the Home Office's safe list had led a fall in asylum applications at twice the rate of the rest of Europe. He said the government was on track to reduce asylum costs by a third by the end of 2005 but would not become complacent. "We have started to return failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, have added India to the list of safe countries and our five year plan will further tackle abuse of the asylum system," he said. "In particular removals must be stepped up. We now remove around 50% of failed asylum seekers compared to 20% in 1996 - but we are determined to do more." Earlier this month the Home Office published a five year strategy on asylum and immigration that included plans to expand detention and the fast-tracking of asylum claims.
    ©The Guardian

    22/2/2005- The number of asylum seekers coming to the UK has continued to fall, according to the latest government figures. But what does it tell us about what's going on? Has the government taken control of asylum? Applications are still going down and the removals trend remains up. But a closer look at what is going on in the asylum system reveals that many challenges remain. And that's why, with the ballot box a matter of months away, asylum and immigration will remain a hugely contentious issue as the Conservatives insist the government has failed to get a grip. In terms of absolute numbers, the figures represent a massive fall since the record high of October 2002. The UK is now joint eighth on a European league table for arrivals - one new asylum seeker is arriving for every 1,000 of the population. What hasn't really changed is the type of country where people come from. The top five nationals seeking asylum in the UK - Iran, China, Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe - are all nations with well-documented human rights abuses and persecution. But nevertheless, ministers believe the system is now more efficient - and point to the speediness of initial decisions. Some 20,000 more people received their initial decisions in 2004 than arrived to put in new applications.

    Removals targets
    Today, with the number of actual cases dropping - as they are throughout many parts of the industrialised world - the government is staking its reputation on removals of failed applicants. Ministers say there will be more removals of failed applicants than new arrivals by the end of 2005. The figures (see the table below) show this will be very challenging to meet. The ratio of removals to arrivals is running at less than 50%. Ministers have sanctioned more use of detention facilities (making it easier to subsequently deport) and have opened new centres to ensure these targets are met. But it may take as little as one unpredicted world emergency to prompt an unexpected increase in asylum seekers. The unanswered question, however, is whether there has been a cost to this efficiency. Some 55,000 asylum seekers who were rejected in 2004 appealed. About 20% of cases are being won on appeal. Among some nationalities - notably the Eritreans, Somalis and Sudanese - about 40% win on appeal. This can be read two ways: it either means that the checks and balances are working well or there are too many poor decisions in the first place. Many of these cases take a long time to complete, creating additional uncertainty in the system and perpetuating its costs. At present some 60,000 asylum seekers are receiving some form of benefits because they have neither had a final rejection nor a final acceptance as genuine, although that figure is 20,000 down on 2003.

    Top asylum statistics 2004

  • Applications: 33,930
  • Accepted: 12%
  • Rejections: 88% (A fifth of rejections are overturned on appeal)
  • Removals: 12,430
  • Total asylum seekers on benefits: 61,625 Note: Asylum seekers are banned from working
    Source: Home Office

    New policies
    All of that said, a range of policy measures are now coming into force that Labour says will help its ministers meet those removal targets and further abuse. Most of these have been opposed by refugee groups, supported by academics, lawyers and other experts, who believe they contribute to a national image of asylum seekers as a threat to society. Ministers have this week signed an order which means failed asylum seekers who are resisting removal, but cannot be automatically deported, will work without pay on community projects. The courts may also soon see the first cases where families resisting removal will have their benefits removed, meaning the courts will have to decide whether or not to place their children in care. This was one of the most controversial elements of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act and is likely to face a fierce legal battle in the months to come. The restructuring of the appeals system, designed to reduce the opportunities to challenge a rejection, is also expected before the summer. Finally, the Home Office is expected to trial an extremely controversial plan to send under-18s back to their home countries, even if they have no family to go to. The experiment will start with teenagers who have arrived from Albania.
    ©BBC News

    24/2/2005- Prison officers at a youth jail failed to investigate many allegations of racism because they dismissed them as troublemaking by ethnic minority inmates, a public inquiry has heard. The former deputy governor of Feltham young offenders institution, Peter Windsor, said allegations of racism were regarded as nothing more than insults by prison staff. Mr Windsor admitted there was considerable naivety among staff at the jail, where 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was murdered by his racist cellmate, in their handling of race relations. Appearing yesterday at the inquiry into the Asian teenager's death, the former deputy governor said staff treated allegations of racism in the same way as prisoners shouting four-letter words out of their cell windows. There were "probably many" racial incidents that were treated "as just being insulting" and not investigated, he added. Mr Windsor said prisoners appeared to make accusations of racism against fellow inmates or staff to try to damage their reputation or undermine their authority. The inquiry continues.
    ©The Guardian

    25/2/2005- Convictions for reported rape cases have reached an all-time low because of a "culture of scepticism" among the police, according to Home Office research published last night. The study finds that despite long-running efforts by the government to boost the conviction rate, only 5.6% of reported cases end in the rapist being convicted in court. This represents a record low, with the conviction rate having fallen from 32% in 1977. While the last two decades have seen a continuing and unbroken increase in the reporting of rapes to the police by victims, it has not been matched by a similar rise in prosecutions or convictions. The official study, A Gap Or a Chasm?, by researchers at the London Metropolitan University child and women abuse unit, says that part of the reason is that police and prosecutors overestimate the scale of false allegations made by victims. This is feeding a "culture of scepticism", which in turn leads to poor communication and a loss of confidence between those who complain and the police. The research says the most recent data from the British Crime Survey suggests that as many as one in 20 adult women have suffered at least one incident of rape since they were 16 and there may be as many as 47,000 such attacks every year. Women are most likely to be raped by men they know and 50% involve repeated assaults by the same man. It is most likely to take place at home, with only 13% happening in a public place. The Home Office research shows that of 11,766 allegations of rape made in 2002, only 655 resulted in convictions, and that includes those that were overturned on appeal. In only 258 cases did the rapist plead guilty at trial. The 2002 conviction rate - which is lower for rape than any other violent crime - fell from 6% in 2001. "This year on year increase in attrition represents a justice gap that the government has pledged to address," says the study. The researchers tracked 3,500 rape cases through the courts and interviewed 228 rape victims. While they conclude there was some evidence of poor investigation and lack of understanding of the law, the main problem was the culture of scepticism among both the police and prosecutors. They say that rape is unique because in no other crimes were victims subject to such scrutiny in court or was the defendant so likely to claim the victim had consented to the attack. Between half and two-thirds of all cases are dropped before they come to court. The reseachers suggest that more women police officers and crown prosecutors could help create a "culture of belief, support and respect" as well as a growing network of sexual assault referral centres and rape crisis centres. The development of "courtroom advocacy that does justice to the complainant's account" would also help. The Home Office researchers also say that there needs to be an increased recognition of the significance of alcohol in rape and sexual assault, including further work on the extent to which men target unknown women who are drinking and the strategies they use to make contact.
    ©The Guardian

    25/02/2005- The Human Rights Commission has sent a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination outlining its concerns about the Government's approach to tackling racism. The Commission said the submission highlighted the Government's failure to acknowledge the extent of racism in Ireland and its failure to incorporate international human rights treaties into Irish law. The document also pointed to the need for action to address the inequality suffered by the Travelling community, the Government's refusal to recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group and the attitude adopted towards asylum-seekers. The Government, which ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination five years ago, is due to appear before the UN committee on March 2 and March 3 to hear an assessment of its efforts to eradicate racism since then. The Human Rights Commission said it would be sending a delegation to the meeting to ensure that the Government's failings in this area were not glossed over.
    ©Ireland On-Line

    21/2/2005– Four politicians from different political parties have cooperated on a plan to exclude extremists from power in Belgium. Francis Delperee, from the francophone Christian social party CDH, has drawn up a law which would require all Belgian politicians to commit to respecting the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, the Belga news agency reported on Monday. At the moment, Belgian politicians only swear allegiance to Belgium's Constitution and Belgian laws. The proposals were counter-signed by French speaking socialist Philippe Moureaux (PS), centre-right Mouvement Reformateur (MR) member Nathalie de T'Serclaes and green member Isabelle Durant (Ecolo). The proposed law would also ban individuals from standing for any kind of election if they had been convicted under Belgium's 1981 'Moreaux' law on racism and xenophobia - which the socialist parliamentarian steered through parliament during a stint as Belgian justice minister - or a 1995 law that bans denial of the Holocaust. It would also ban members or previous members of groups convicted of breaching these laws. If the proposal becomes law, it could eventually lead to the banning of the Vlaams Belang whose previous incarnation as Vlaams Blok was last year judged "racist" by Belgian courts. The proposals are fairly similar to those that World War Two veterans recently demanded.
    ©Expatica News

    21/2/2005- A new bill on immigration is to be submitted to Parliament within a few days, the government said yesterday as new figures showed that migrants living either legally or illegally in Greece now make up over a tenth of the population. "It is based on respect for immigrants, on their personality and on their ability to offer something to our country and to themselves," said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, commenting on the new immigration bill aimed at tackling the current bureacracy-ridden system. The minister, speaking at a conference in Thessaloniki organized by the Immigration Policy Institute (IPI), failed to give too many details about the impending measures apart from emphasizing the government's intent to abolish work permits and merge them with residence permits. Pavlopoulos said that the bill would also aim to make it clearer to migrants what opportunities and facilities, such as social security, are available to them when they arrive in the country. "Greece is now a country that receives migrants and it needs to adapt as quickly as possible to this fact — especially as there are common immigration policies within the European Union with which we need to get in line," said Pavlopoulos. Figures made public by the IPI yesterday showed that some 1.15 million migrants living in Greece made up 10.3 percent of the country's population — over four times higher than in 1991. Between July 2003 and October 2004 over 700,000 residence permits were issued, over two-thirds of which were for migrants looking to work in Greece. Almost a quarter of migrants living legally in the country are thought to be in the Athens area. Most are from Albania (63.2 percent), followed by Bulgarians (9.8 percent) and Romanians (4.3 percent).

    19/2/2005- In order to connect with the majority of their electorates, several EU governments appear to be playing the immigration card by unveiling more selective and stricter measures designed to hold back the rising tide of foreign workers flooding into the 25-nation bloc. Portugal has yet to unveil tighter procedures for controlling the number of illegal immigrants entering its territory, but Spain and Britain last week followed quickly in Germany's footsteps by outlining plans to curb the inflow of overseas workers from crossing their borders. However, the proposals came in for fierce criticism from immigrant watch organisations who branded them as being no more than "cosmetic dressing up" designed to lull indigenous populations into a false sense of security. Estimates put the number of illegal immigrants who worked in Italy at 700,000, including tens of thousands of cleaning ladies and construction workers. But under measures introduced in 2002 they were all granted legal status in a bid by the Italian government to stamp out people trafficking gangs. Last month the Spanish government in a-one-off initiative granted legal status to illegal immigrants who had been working in the country for a minimum of six months - the measure involved more than 500,000 workers. In keeping with Portuguese and Danish legislation, the Spanish government continues to fine bosses who employ illegal labour 60,000 euros per person. Under the new Spanish and British plans, which run very much along the same lines as those in Germany, it will be easier for some immigrants and harder for others to settle in their chosen land. In future, would-be immigrants will be considered under a points-based scheme that will consist of four tiers, ranging from highly skilled to low skilled and students. The plans will also seek to attract workers from abroad with badly needed skills. However, Germany's problem at present is that it has 7.3 million foreigners and 5.4 million of its total work-force unemployed, including highly skilled personnel. "Between 2010 and 2030, at current immigration rates, the decline of the working population in the 25-member EU will lead to a loss of 25 million workers," the European Commission said in a statement last Tuesday. This situation, according to the Commission, has prompted it to consider taking over the reins of immigration procedures for the entire bloc. Although immigration policy at present remains in the hands of its individual members, the Commission has been open in admitting that this problem of a lack of a skilled workforce spells disaster for the bloc's economy if left unchecked. In welcoming the Spanish and British initiatives, Brussels appears to be flexing its muscles to takeover EU immigration policies from individual states, as reported by The Portugal News in its January 22nd edition.
    ©The Portugal News

    19/2/2005- The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has recommended that Portugal, Spain and France scrap the limits they have imposed on the number of Polish immigrant workers allowed to cross their borders. Bertie Ahern said that opening Ireland's job market to workers from Poland, when it joined the European Union last year, has "worked out well" for both countries. "The decision was the right one to make. We have a large increase in Polish people who have settled in Ireland, where they are working hard, governed by our labour law as equals with Irish citizens," Ahern told reporters after holding talks in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka. "As Europeans, it's worked out really well," said Ahern, adding that he hoped the "good example and experience of Ireland would make other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and France, reconsider their decisions and suspend or perhaps forget altogether about the limits they have imposed". When the EU expanded by 10 members last May, most older EU member states opted to keep their job markets closed to workers from the new accession countries during a transition period of at least two years, extendable to five to seven years if deemed necessary. The only exceptions were Britain, Ireland and Sweden. According to sources in Ireland, some 40,000 citizens of the 10 new member states have settled in the country since May 2004, including 19,000 Poles. In addition to the labour market, the two heads of government discussed the EU Constitution, the EU budget, Ukraine – Poland's neighbour to the east, which has ambitions to join the 25-nation bloc – and the EU neighbourhood policy, Belka said. On Saturday evening, Ahern was awarded the title "Leader of Polish Business" at a gala dinner organised by a group of eminent Polish businessmen. The award was in "recognition of his efforts on the EU Constitutional Treaty last year and also to show Poland's recognition of Ireland's economic success story," Belka told the audience. "Ireland is the example of huge success and a source of inspiration to Poland. In a dozen years, perhaps Poland will be talked about as a European miracle," Belka added.
    ©The Portugal News

    22/2/2005- "The first time the Espanyol goalkeeper intervened you could hear monkey noises coming from behind the goal so I asked for the game to be stopped to ask the Malaga delegate to make an announcement on the loudspeakers." Referee Alfonso Perez Burrull became the first match official in Spain to halt a game because of racist abuse when he asked spectators to refrain from monkey chanting at a league match in Malaga. Perez Burrull told club officials to make an announcement on the public address system to ask fans to stop their abuse of Espanyol's Cameroon keeper Carlos Kameni. "The first time the Espanyol goalkeeper intervened you could hear monkey noises coming from behind the goal so I asked for the game to be stopped to ask the Malaga delegate to make an announcement on the loudspeakers," Burrull said in his match report has published today. "I asked them to repeat the announcement at halftime in order to remind spectators to refrain from racist behaviour." Perez Burrull has been one of the most active referees in reporting racist behaviour by fans and noted similar incidents in the Madrid derby between Atletico and Real and the league match between Albacete and Barcelona. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) usually only takes action when the incidents are mentioned in the match report, something that few referees do. Spain's sports minister Jaime Lissavetsky is scheduled to meet with the presidents of the RFEF, the Professional Football League (LFP) and the Players' Association (AFE) today to discuss the introduction of tougher measures to combat the problem of racism at football grounds.
    ©Basque news and Information Channel

    22/2/2005- Spain's Socialist government has signed an accord against racism in football. Jaime Lissavetzky, the Secretary of State for Sport, announced the signing of an agreement to combat racism and xenophobia in the sport. The moves follows months of controversy in Spanish football which started with racist comments made by the national coach Luis Arragones about France and Arsenal player Thierry Henry. Monkey chants towards black England players during what was supposed to be a friendly match with Spain in Madrid in November worsened the situation. The ugly chanting has been seen at grounds around Spain and the Spanish FA has been criticised for not clamping down on the racism and only issuing small fines on clubs, typically of EUR 600. Lissavetzky told journalists in Madrid: "Football should be a way of integrating, not a problem. "It should be a solution to the problems of racism and xenophobia which Spain is experiencing as a consequence of the arrival of immigrants." He did not want to spell out the measures which would be brought in to combat racism at this stage, but said these would be made clear shortly. But he did say those found guilty of racism would face harsh fines or sanctions. The minister said Spain wanted to encourage black or coloured people to become referees or third officials. Lissavetzky said the Sports Law may be reformed to help combat racism, but firstly a series of measures would be introduced which should be sufficient. The accord was signed by the Spanish Football Association, anti-racism pressure groups and other sporting bodies.
    ©Expatica News

    22/2/2005- A flare-up of racial tension has been sparked off in France after a black stand-up comic, Dieudonné, was reported to have said that the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Holocaust were "remembrance pornography". Amid wide reporting of the comment by the half-French, half-Cameroonian performer, vandals attacked prominent Muslim and Jewish sites. Swastikas were daubed both on the walls of the Grande Mosquée in Paris and a Second World War railway carriage that stands as a Jewish memorial at a deportation assembly point in the suburb of Drancy. Police did not suggest that Dieudonné had sparked the attacks but it became clear that his comment was in line with the position of a new internet petition calling for the crimes of colonialism to be recognised and suggesting that Zionists had inspired the French state ban on Muslim headscarves. Dieudonné's comment was made at a press conference in the Algerian capital, Algiers, last week and picked up by a website covering Middle Eastern affairs as "offensive to the memory of the Holocaust". Dieudonné held a press conference in Paris at the weekend in which he attempted to explain his views. "I criticised the hype of Holocaust commemoration," he told the press conference. However, he stopped far short of his comments in Algeria last week: "The Zionists have a kind of impunity. For them, if a child at school is called a dirty Jew, they are up in arms. To me, Zionism is the Aids of Judaism. For people like me, it is different. We feel the Zionist lobby has claimed a monopoly of suffering." Despite his attempts to calm spirits, Dieudonné met with widespread condemnation. The Socialist party's first secretary, François Hollande, and a former anti-racism campaigner, Harlem Désir, described the comedian as "the biggest anti-Semite in France'' and called for a boycott of his shows. Last year, Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala, 36, had several shows cancelled - including at the 2,000-seater Olympia venue in Paris after organisers said they could not guarantee the safety of the audience or the performer. At the time, he had attracted criticism for a television sketch in which, dressed in military fatigues and wearing a wide-brimmed hat associated with Orthodox Jews, he said: "I urge all of you [viewers] to convert like me [to Judaism]. Join the axis of Good, the American-Zionist axis." He ended his sketch with a Nazi salute and the cry "Isra-Heil". The sketch led to a court case and a 10,000 (£6,800) fine. Dieudonné was cleared on appeal. The performer claimed he was of mixed race and thus "knew no borders". In 2002, the comic considered running for President of France but another joke scuppered his chances of collecting the 500 signatures needed. At the time he said: "I prefer Osama Bin Laden's charisma to that of George W Bush."
    © Independent Digital

    22/2/2005— Praising a flood of donations that guarantees its immediate future, immigrant lobby and support group Foreign Partner Foundation has reassured the public that its website will soon come back online. Several weeks after informing users that its future was uncertain, the website is now assuring users that a new server will be installed in the next few days. The site will then come back online. The crisis started on 17 January when the website said it was being forced to find a new server because a large increase in hits meant it could no longer make use of its current host. Foundation chairman Dr Paul Streumer said the growth in visitors meant that other websites which co-used the server were encountering difficulties, forcing the host to ask the group to find another server. The foundation said it needed EUR 880 to buy a new server and called for donations. Just two weeks later, the amount of donations collected had exceeded requirements, amounting to EUR 1,111. A new server was ordered and the website issued a press release on 6 February thanking donors and users of its discussion forum for their words of encouragement. But the website suddenly went offline on Friday after the old host denied service. Streumer said the foundation was thus forced to accelerate the transfer of the website to its new server. Still offline on Tuesday, the website is opening up to a temporary page — instead of an initial failed link page — alerting users that the website is offline. The message on the page assures users that the transfer across to the new server will be completed in the coming days. There are 300 new users registering with the forum each month, leading to 100,000 page views per month. But the web server crisis prompted the foundation to admit last month that the "continued existence of is at this moment uncertain". The Dutch-language website gives Dutch nationals with a foreign partner information on the nation's political climate. It also provides assistance to "victims" of government anti-immigrant policy. It aims to represent the interests of Dutch nationals with a non-European Union partner, hoping to exert influence on the Dutch government and bring about change in its immigration policy. Foundation officials regularly meet with Dutch MPs. Among its demands are a parliamentary inquiry into the problems around the immigration service IND; a system of one immigration authority, one visa and a permit decision made in four weeks; and recognition of the right of children to family life. It is also demanding abolition of the minimum income level Dutch nationals must earn before being allowed to bring a foreign partner into the country, residence permits of EUR 28 for family immigrants, and the integration of foreign partners immediately upon arrival in the Netherlands.
    ©Expatica News

    The murder of a Turkish woman and the applauding of the crime by some students have left Berlin shaken and officials pushing for ethics class. But how deep does the concept of honor run among some immigrant communities?

    24/2/2005- On a cold afternoon this week, Hatin Sürücü gazed gravely from a large poster behind a bus stop lined with flowers, cards and candles. To the people who came to this bleak part of Berlin's Tempelhof district for Tuesday's solemn vigil -- called not by the city's Muslim community but a gay and lesbian organization -- the image of the young woman in a headscarf, a baby in her arms, was familiar from newspapers and television. A few notes at the memorial read, "Hope you get a better deal in your next life," and "Live a life on your own terms." "It's a scandal," said Ali K, 33. "All Muslims in Berlin should take to the streets to protest." Yasemin, 22, said, "It's horrific. All Hatin was doing was leading her life the way she wanted." But it was a choice she paid for with her life. On Feb. 7, 23-year-old Hatin Sürücü was gunned down at the aforementioned bus stop. She died on the spot. Shortly afterwards, three of her brothers -- who reportedly had long been threatening her -- were arrested. Investigators suspect it was a so-called "honor killing," given the fact that Sürücü's ultra-conservative Turkish-Kurdish family strongly disapproved of her modern and "un-Islamic" life. Sürücü grew up in Berlin and was married off at 16 to a cousin in Istanbul. After a few years, she returned to the German capital with her young son, moved into a home for single mothers, completed school and began to train as an electrician. She stopped wearing a headscarf and was said to be outgoing and vivacious.

    'She lived like a German'
    Though not the first of its kind, the brazen shooting has sent shockwaves through Berlin, home to a large foreign community and which for years has fretted over steady ghetto-building in districts dominated by Turkish and Arab immigrants. While the incident has reopened debate on the integration of immigrants and the compatibility of Islamic values with Western ones, it's the reaction of a small group of Turkish students to the murder that has rattled the German capital. Days after Hatin Sürücü was killed, some male students of Turkish origin at a high school near the scene of the crime reportedly downplayed the act. During a class discussion on the murder, one said, "She (Hatin Sürücü) only had herself to blame," while another remarked "She deserved what she got --the whore lived like a German." The school's director promptly dashed off a letter to parents and students, castigating the students and warning that the school didn't tolerate incitement against freedom.

    'Her lifestyle didn't fit'
    The comments have sparked outrage and left many asking if it was just a one-off or whether such thinking is in fact not entirely uncommon among sections of the Muslim community in the city. According to some, it isn't. "There isn't a single school with a high foreign population where teachers haven't faced this kind of thing, where individual students sometimes regard murder as a just sentence," said Heinz Wagner, head of school and education policy at the VBE teachers trade union and a school director himself. Referring to the controversial remarks on Sürücü's murder, he said, "The very fact that they decided to provoke with something like that tells you that they're getting their ideas from somewhere." At Berlin's Turkish-dominated neighborhood near Kottbusser Tor in the Kreuzberg district, 17-year-old Erkan, a high school student of Turkish origin, was divided about the issue. "I'm not saying you should murder, but Hatin's lifestyle just didn't fit the way traditional Muslims live," he said.

    No regret, but pride
    Experts insist that the problem is in no way a purely "Islamic phenomenon" and that the remarks of a few shouldn't be allowed to taint an entire community. But, statistics in Berlin show that murders ostensibly meant to uphold the honor of the family are high among Muslims. At the juvenile prison in the Berlin suburb Plötzensee, six of the current 529 inmates are serving time of six years and more for manslaughter in so-called "honor crimes." All come from the Muslim world. Aged between 18 and 22, one of them, an Afghan national, was 16 when he helped relatives kill a widowed aunt who had refused to marry her brother-in-law. Prison director Marius Fiedler said most of the murders are often carefully plotted in the family with the support of all, including women. "Usually the patriarch selects the youngest son to carry out the crime because he knows that judges in Germany don't usually give the maximum sentence of 10 years to a minor" for manslaughter, he said. Fiedler admitted that getting the inmates, who undergo psychological therapy, to reform or change their attitudes is difficult. "Many come from rural areas in Turkey or Lebanon and just don't know the concept of individualism," he said. "They don't feel any regret for what they did though some even kill their favorite sister. Instead, they're honored and feel like martyrs for having been chosen to carry out the crime."

    Ethics class the answer?
    The realization that murder and archaic concepts of honor might actually find favor with some teenagers in the city, have caused alarm among Berlin's politicians and some Muslim organizations. "It might be a minority, but even one person applauding the murder of Hatin Sürücü is absolutely unacceptable," said Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Association in Berlin and Brandenburg. His organization has initiated a discussion with teachers, politicians, parents and imams and is planning to work with Turkish newspapers and TV stations in Berlin to kick-start a debate on democratic values among the Turkish community. "We have to begin speaking about the role of women, about honor concepts, dignity, mutual respect and democratic values," Kolat said. In addition to city politicians' plans to introduce a mandatory ethics course in schools across Berlin, Kolat is pushing for an Islamic studies course. "The mainstream classroom has to be the place where one can get information about Islam, not in 'Islamic institutes' who have the theological upper hand in the city," he said. Some, however, are skeptical of such flash-in-the-pan plans. "Every time there's a controversial incident, politicians routinely come up with 'ethics class' as a panacea," said school director Wagner. "But the school can't be the only place for learning democratic values. You have to begin with the family."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    21/2/2005- Is Islam secure in Europe? One of the continent's leading Islamic thinkers says the future direction of Islam may depend on it being so. You may not have heard of him, but the Grand Mufti of Bosnia is the kind of person who gets to have tea with the Prince of Wales. On a whistle-stop speaking tour of London late last week, Dr Mustafa Ceric spent a morning debating the future of Islam and the West with Prince Charles. And it's Dr Ceric's track record of pushing the boundaries of what is publicly sayable among Muslims that leads to such interest in his views. The Grand Mufti is the leading Islamic legal authority among Muslims in the Balkans - some of his supporters have even dubbed him "Islam's Nelson Mandela". He represents that strand of the faith that clung on in Europe after the Turkish Ottoman empire rolled back from the frontiers of the West. And so, with a European and Islamic heritage ("I am proud that Islam defines my European patriotism", he says) he is well placed to see where things are going. He came to prominence during the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia by speaking out against those who used faith as a justification for violence. Today he has an international reputation as a man of peace and is involved in efforts to counter fears about Islam in the United States in the wake of 9/11. Appearing in London to talk to British Muslims about their own fears amid security-related tensions, he says that they themselves may hold the key to the faith's future in the world. And London may be the arena where this Islamic identity is being formed.

    So is Islam secure in Europe?
    "We have two extremes of approach. One says that Muslims are not secure and that Europe is an anti-Islamic environment. The other extreme says Europe is a haven for Islam and Muslims," he says. "I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle because we are all in a process of learning. "The West is learning about Muslims - trying to figure out what they are doing here in Europe and [asking questions such as] how should governments deal with this phenomenon." "Well, we've been here for a long time - but the presence now is different to what it has been through history." The difference, he argues, is that European-born Muslims are quietly embracing European notions of freedom and human rights. This can be seen no more clearly in the rise of young, professional - but religiously devout - Muslim women who challenge the idea that it's men who should have all the say. But thanks to today's political and media climate, argues Dr Ceric, Muslims in the West need "freedom from fear and freedom from poverty" - both of which are undermining their position in the West. "Europe is facing some kind of dilemma of fear [over Islam] and that Muslims themselves are seeking freedom from this fear. "No-one knows where this process will lead - but if we are rational people we must accept the challenge of what I call the 'third encounter' between the West and Islam."

    Moments of history
    Dr Ceric says there have been two major historical moments when Islam and Western civilisation have met and changed each other. During the first, Islam's early Baghdad philosophers preserved and developed the learning of the Greeks. During the second, these ideas and more were sent back to Europe via Islamic Spain, sowing some of the seeds for the Renaissance. But this third meeting is different because it has the potential to change the nature of Islam itself. If European-born Muslims look inside their faith for what are presented as Western notions of human rights and individual freedom, they will find them, he argues. The challenge will be to convince other Muslims that these ideas are universal - and then western Muslims can export them back to the heart of Islamic society. "They cannot do it at the moment, but if they are given this freedom [from fear and poverty], they will succeed. "It's difficult to admit but Muslims [in the Middle East] now need to learn from Muslims in the West. "The wise men of the Islamic East and the rational men of the West must meet - and then we will have moral men."

    London at the centre
    The problem he faces however is that there is enormous resistance of the West coming from the East. The UK and London, however, will play a vital role in negotiating this tension, says Dr Ceric. Its leading mosques are full most Fridays and many British-born or educated thinkers are urging their congregations to take the best of the West and put it to good use. "London is well-placed because of its history," says Dr Ceric. "And British Muslims are more emancipated than other European Muslims. "They know where they stand in this society - they have freedom to oppose the government, for instance, over the war in Iraq. London is a good place for us to discuss what this third encounter will mean." This encounter does not mean giving up an Islamic identity, he says. This future Western Muslim identity will represent neither assimilation nor isolation, but co-operation. He likens the process to that experienced by British Jews: at first outsiders, they later became part of the fabric of society but have defended their identity and world view. In turn, that world view influences decisions of the state and international relations. But Dr Ceric says the question is whether or not European governments are helping Muslims along this path. Paris got into bother over its ban on religious symbols in schools - and London continues to face community criticisms that the anti-terror laws criminalise Muslims. Throughout Europe's capitals there is an emotive debate over modern multicultural societies and whether they trap people into religiously closed communities and encourage division? Dr Ceric says governments must essentially buy the trust of Muslims by institutionalising their faith - giving it state sponsorship through schools, official bodies and so on. Resistance is a "tribal mentality" that allows others to present Muslims as alien outsiders. "Muslims don't like this idea, they think that governments would control them," he says. "But, my dear brothers, I say you are losing your sovereignty already if they [the police] are entering your homes and mosques. "I say let them in today because if not they will come in tomorrow and the consequences are a long-term bad image for Islam."
    ©BBC News

    24/2/2005- A discussion on whether to ban Nazi and other racist symbols at the EU level was shelved on Thursday (24 February) after member states failed to reach agreement. EU justice ministers meeting in Brussels decided to put a halt to the debate fearing that it would lead to a further delay of an EU law combating racism and xenophobia, which has been stuck in the legislative pipelines since 2003. The move to ban nazi symbols at the EU level - prompted by Prince Harry, a member of the UK Royal family, sporting a swastika at a fancy dress party last month - was opposed predominantly by the UK and Denmark. The UK argued, according to a council diplomat, that to ban such symbols was not to tackle the heart of the problem. Cyprus was among the member states fighting hardest to have a mention of certain symbols arguing that, without it, the legislation would be pointless. However, after a long discussion the ministers agreed that the ten new member states would now be given time for their national parliaments to look at the anti-racism proposal.

    Delay at the EU level
    The proposed law says that member states should make punishable "public incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin". It also calls for punishment of "public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes". The law was first proposed in 2002, well before the new member states joined, but was blocked by Italy. Diplomats say that Italy on Thursday again called for the points that it raised at the time to be considered. Rome's concerns are to do with issues of freedom of speech - but it also defended having racist symbols in the proposal. One diplomat said the approach meant they were arguing from both ends of the spectrum. Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU Presidency, is concerned that the legislation is about to be delayed at the EU level for much longer. It warned during the meeting that if it failed to reach agreement during its presidency then the UK, which holds the Presidency next, may also fail. Member states are set to tackle the issue at the expert level next week.

    By Tarek Fatah

    11/2/2005- Her voice quivered. Barely concealing her anger, Professor Amina Wadud's words bellowed across the hall, "I am a nigger and I can't do much about it." Wadud, who was speaking to a Toronto audience on Sunday, was responding to a questioner who asked her to address internalized racism within the Muslim community and if that had anything to do with the hostility she had faced from a section of the crowd. The 300 people, who had packed Toronto's Noor Cultural Centre to hear the internationally-known scholar of the Qur'an and the role of women in Islam, froze in stunned silence as they digested the impact of her words. Eyes piercing towards her hecklers, Wadud leaned forward and stared down a group of men at the back of the hall. "Usually I wear the hijab, and when I am wearing it, most Muslims do not consider me African–American; I pass off as a South Asian," she said. "But when they see me without a scarf, they can see my African locks and they know I am Black and suddenly their attitude changes. The fact is I am a nigger and you will just have to put up with my blackness." This time, part of the audience erupted in applause, cheering her every word. Others started walking out hurling insults, and two men were heard jeering her, "You are just another CIA agent."

    Amina Wadud, Professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, was speaking as part of a series sponsored by York University and the Noor Cultural Centre that has brought a number of academics to speak on the current state of Islam and the Muslim world. Wadud's reputation preceded her, resulting in standing room only in Toronto's most progressive mosque, the only place in Canada where men and women pray side-by-side in separate enclosures Midway through her speech titled "The Qur'an, Women and Interpretive Possibilities," Wadud waded into the minefield by addressing some difficult passages of the Qur'an. Breaking the ultimate taboo in the Muslim narrative, she stated that despite the fact the Qur'an explicitly asks for cutting off the hands of thieves, she did not agree with the Qur'an. She said she understood that this was a very difficult subject to talk about, but she would be dishonest to herself if she did not express her views. She maintained that as a Muslim with Allah close to her heart, in all honesty she could not continue with the hypocrisy of lying about how she felt about some verses of the Qur'an. The basis of her talk was "How to be God's agent (khalifa) on Earth; to be a moral agent of the Creator." In this context, she presented four ways of looking at Qu'ranic verses which Muslims find difficulty dealing with. She identified the four methods as: (1) The literal readings of the text, (2) The legalistic arguments that constrain how verses are applied, (3) Reinterpretation from alternative perspectives, and (4) Saying "No to the Qur'an" when one disagrees with it. Pursuing the last point, she declared that she could not intellectually or spiritually accept some things in the Qur'an, for example some of the hudud punishments like the cutting of hands or the permission to beat one's wife. She made it clear that she was denying neither the religion nor the revelation. "It is the Qur'an," she said, "that gives me the means to say no to the Qur'an." However, many in the audience were completely unprepared for her honesty.

    She had barely finished her talk when a long line of people lined up at the microphone to ask questions. One woman, who identified herself as a professor of Arabic Language at a Toronto University, took the mike and started lambasting Wadud, suggesting that she had come to her conclusion because she did not understand Arabic and that she had misread the Qur'an, saying, "You know only one verse of the Qur'an." Instead of a question, Wadud was subjected to a rant that was largely incomprehensible. The professor continued, accusing Wadud of supporting illicit sex, when Wadud had made no such reference. "That is the most idiotic nonsense I have ever heard," Wadud replied. When Amina Wadud referred to the 9/11 tragedy and the fact that some Muslims deemed it Islamic to crash planes into buildings and kill innocent people, a section of the crowd interrupted her. "What about Israel killing Palestinians," they yelled. One middle-aged heckler said, "She is a CIA agent." Other men and women lined up at the mike to accuse her of all sorts of things. Another man, angered by Wadud's 9/11 remark, came to the mike and lectured Her. "Let me remind you that no Muslim was involved in the 9/11 attack." Wadud did not dignify his remark with a response. One young man, with his oversized shirt hanging out, mimicking a rapper, took the mike out of its stand, twirled around, and started addressing the audience, with his back towards Wadud, accusing her of not knowing the Qur'an. Wadud responded to this outrageous display of rudeness by intervening and saying, "This young man is uncomfortable with what I have said and so instead of asking a question, he wishes to give a speech... why don't you come up on the stage and I will go and sit in the crowd." Then she stepped down from the podium and asked the young man to take her place, which he did. Holding the mike in his hand, he harangued her and said she did not know enough about Islam. One questioner apologized to Wadud for the rudeness of some members of the audience, suggesting very few Muslim men had ever seen or heard an African American woman in charge and in command. She responded that as a black woman, she knew what it is to have one's views rejected, she thundered to an applause that started with a few hesitant claps and then rolled across the hall.

    Every time she used "nigger" to describe herself, most of the lighter skinned members of the audience became visibly disturbed, squirming in their chairs, perhaps uncomfortable at how she was destroying their middle class comfort zone. When an Indian man told Wadud that he understood racism, she replied, "No you don't understand. You are not Black; you don't know what it is to be Black." Addressing Wadud, a woman with peroxide blonde hair and hip hugging jeans said, "Even though I am not a practicing Muslim, I believe you do not know proper Islam." "Your response is not new to me," Wadud replied. "When I wear a hijab, I don't look African and my words are measured with politeness; however, when my hijab is not covering my hair, I become Black and my words lose all value." The straw that broke the camel's back came when Wadud, answering a question, criticized Canada's proposed Shariah laws and expressed support for same-sex marriage. A deeply troubling aspect of the audience's reaction was that it was clearly divided along ethnic lines. Arabs largely behaved as one group heckling her, while South Asians bandied together in supporting her. The few white Muslims stuck quietly with each other. And in a telling indication of the profound divisions within the community, it appeared that Wadud may have been the only African in the room, although Africans account for about a quarter of Toronto's Muslim population. Ahmed Bayoumi, an Egyptian-Canadian Physician who sat through the entire lecture, reacting to the heckling said, "I find it fascinating that people would question Wadud's ability to speak Arabic because she has moved from an interpretative understanding of the Qur'an to a literalist one. The argument seems to be that if she can explain away troublesome verses by resorting to nuance or obscurantism, her Arabic must be fine, but if she accepts the meanings of the text at face value, well she must have lost her previous fluency."

    Describing Amina Wadud's lecture as "revolutionary and liberating," Bayoumi said, "I think Wadud is absolutely right. It's wonderful if you can live with legalistic or interpretive explanations. I cannot. It was liberating for me to hear somebody of Amina Wadud's stature say that she also cannot, not as an excuse for wanting to perform bad acts, but from a perspective of trying to be a true moral being and God's agent." The knee-jerk reaction to being reminded of our internalized racism is predictable: complete denial. Racism governs our behavior, yet we are oblivious to our own prejudices and tribalism. With noted exceptions, I saw this in action on Sunday. I heard repeatedly from Arabs in the audience that Amina Wadud does not understand Arabic. Instead of debating the merits of her argument, many invoked and sought refuge in their ethnic and linguistic superiority. Then there is the predictable reaction towards converts. If the converts are white, all of us, Arabs and South Asians, simply go complete gaga, but if we run into Black converts, we treat them at best in a condescending manner with barely concealed disrespect, as demonstrated Sunday night in Toronto. Abbas Syed, an Indo-Canadian who witnessed the entire episode summed it best. "When a white person converts to Islam, we try to make him the Imam of the mosque. But when a Black woman converts to Islam, we expect her to run the mosque day care for children during Jum'a prayers. Amina should have worn the Hijab; people would have mistaken her for a dark Pakistani."

    Tarek Fatah is host of the weekly TV show, "The Muslim Chronicle" that runs on CTS-TV in Canada and Bridges TV in the US. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America.
    ©Muslim WakeUp!

    23/2/2005- Earlier this month, MWU! published a report by Tarek Fatah, co-founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, on Professor Amina Wadud's lecture at Toronto's Noor Cultural Center. This is her response. – Ed.

    My dear Brother Tarek,

    Without boast or butter, I would say you are the single most outspoken transnational Muslim I have known in NA who is cut to the chase aware AND outspoken on the matter of racisms in the context of Muslims. Yes we have talked about it extensively and I am usually profuse with my agreement with your assessments AND have on more than one occasion expressed my admiration to you about the way you deal directly with it.

    African-American use the term "niggah" amongst ourselves without the derogatory implications of other, white or non-whites who use it privately (pretending they do not in public) or who have used it publicly to my face. Having lived through US segregation laws, lame attempts at desegregation, the civil rights movement AND participated in the Black power movement I expect but do not accept racism (between blacks, between non-whites, from pretend whites and most unconditionally not from whites (I live in one of the most racist areas of the US, even as I speak).

    However, I did NOT experience racism at Noor. My blatant and blunt response to your question on racism was INTENDED to cut like a knife.

    I am a niggah. Just in case people think I don't know of the internalized attitudes and politicized racial hierarchy in the Muslim community. As the follow up state ment about people "dealing with my Blackness" I meant to be frank enough to say I got no problem with my blackness, I am proud of the tenacity of my people, descendents of African slaves, hybrid American to survive institutional and subliminal racism. I consider my Blackness, my being a niggah as one of the features that have given me the strength and experience to face other isms. I am not in the closet about being black, but unfortunately, I am not dark enough to always be recognized as black when I wear hijab.

    On gender I am still a reluctant mujahidah. I must turn my racial dignity into its parallel gender self-dignity, but 30 years of working on it and the opposition is formidable AND I experience too much of my Islam through the pervasiveness of sexism and patriarchy dominant in traditional texts and in jurisprudence, where women may have at different time in history (depending on class) spoken up against certain abuses, never the less, were NOT the scriptors of the entire process of codification and jurisprudence. They were always 3rd party, spoken to, and spoken of but never agents of their own legal constructions in cooperation with the men (literally) who developed the systems, AND commented on the commentaries (sometimes with more and sometimes with less patriarchy).

    As for "no" to the Qur'an, let me summarize the work I have been doing to overcome some of the apologia of Qur'an and Woman. Yes the Qur'an, I believe and love is considered a form of Allah's self disclosure, but I do not believe God is locked into the 7th century Arabian context with its limitations based on coherency in that context,including Arabic (BTW my PhD is in Islam and Arabic, which I studied in the United States, since 1973, lived in Libya and studied in Egypt at the advanced level at American University in Cairo, attended a Philosophy course at al-Azhar and had a one on one tutor from Cairo University whose specialization was tafsir) to have a universal underpinning of TRUTH, justice and love.

    I accept every word as sent by revelation from Allah to the Holy Prophet whose own example embodied and demonstrated those underpinning universal (he never literally beat any of his wives, for example). When I say "no" it is not the integrity of the literal text, it is to the implementation of some practices which is a 14 centuries long debate. That is why the jurist "set conditions upon" things like "beating" and "cutting". I consider that an interpretive intervention. Other interpretive interventions, like Qur'an and woman encourage the polysemic nature of reading and understanding and offer egalitarian interpretations against patriarchal ones, with no ONE having the final word. that belongs only to Allah and Allahu A'lam. But now I wish to point more directly that anything other than literal reading is a demonstration of agency to Allah, working in concert with the text, as words and intent to sustain the underlying principles and values, such that today, the Qur'anic approval of Slavery, for example IS NOT IMPLEMENTED. I wish to state my acceptance of certain problematic moral practices but with out and out refusal to implement them. AND to stop lying to make other people feel comfortable, I say so, with out losing a single ounce of my love of the Qur'an and my devotion to Allah.

    Thank you for your time and trouble, I wish I had nothing else to do in my life but get into long tedious conversations that are circular with those people whose lives give them greater privileged of time. (NOT).

    Your sister AGAINST racism and other phobias in our community,

    Amina Wadud
    ma'a salaamah
    ©Muslim WakeUp!

    23/2/2005- Ethnic groups who have suffered racism throughout Canadian history will get $25 million from the federal government for awareness programs about how they were wronged. That cash - announced in the federal budget - will be spent over three years by community groups who want Canadians to remember some of the more shameful episodes in the country's history. The money will only go to groups, not to individuals, and will be limited to ethnic groups who were targets of racist policy by the federal government. Examples include the head tax on Chinese immigrants, the internment of Italians and Ukrainians during the world wars, and other policies against Jews, Germans and Sikhs. Japanese-Canadians interned during the Second World War were already compensated in the 1980s and will not have access to the new fund. More details will be known over the coming weeks as the federal government invites community groups to discuss how they would like to commemorate some of their more painful memories."We're making sure the stories are known," said one federal official. "We want to talk to communities to see how we can design a response they feel would be appropriate . . . "It is helping people say: 'We can move on.' " The government also announced it will spend $56 million over five years on another anti-racism plan called A Canada for All. That plan will be officially launched in a few weeks and will act as an umbrella program for existing multicultural initiatives.
    ©Montreal Gazette

    25/2/2005- Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel can be deported immediately as a danger to Canadian security, a Federal Court of Canada judge has ruled. In a searing 64-page ruling yesterday, Mr. Justice Pierre Blais labelled Mr. Zundel a racist hypocrite who has nurtured a pacifist image to conceal his support of right-wing extremism and his global propagation of anti-Semitic material. "Mr. Zundel seems to thrive in this troubled sea, surrounded by ambiguity and hypocrisy," the judge said. "Mr. Zundel's activities are not only a threat to Canada's national security, but also a threat to the international community of nations." No appeal is possible under the controversial national security certificate procedure, meaning Mr. Zundel could be on a plane to his native Germany at any time. Judge Blais said Mr. Zundel's Toronto home was "a revolving door" for every member of a global white supremacist movement. He said Mr. Zundel deftly exploited Canada as a "safe haven," and used his skills as a communicator and Internet pioneer to give new life to the white supremacy movement. Mr. Zundel, 65, has been living in solitary confinement in a Toronto jail since his arrest on May 1, 2003. In keeping with the security certificate process, much of the evidence at his hearing was heard in secret. Defence counsel Peter Lindsay said that he plans two last-ditch attempts to obtain a stay of the deportation order -- both based on the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has not yet decided whether to hear a pair of security-certificate-related cases. "Mr. Zundel expected this result," Mr. Lindsay said last night after visiting his client in jail. "He didn't think he was going to get a fair shake." "He could be gone tomorrow," said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "All I know is, it's going to be quick. Canadians can breathe easier now." Judge Blais needed only to decide whether the security certificate was "reasonable." He went much further, stating that the secret information erased any doubt of Mr. Zundel's status as a global power who has hobnobbed with a who's who of the racist right. He described Mr. Zundel as a man who, inspired by Hitler and latter-day Nazi sympathizers, set out to support the neo-Nazi movement in dozens of countries. "He also tried, by all means possible, to develop and maintain a global network of groups that have an interest in the same right-wing, extremist, neo-Nazi mindset," Judge Blais said. Mr. Zundel left his Toronto residence, known as the "Carlton Street bunker," several years ago, and moved to Tennessee to live with his new wife. However, he was seized and returned to Canada by U.S. authorities for violating an immigration requirement. Mr. Lindsay said last night that while representing the marginalized and unpopular is a lawyer's highest calling, it was a horribly disillusioning ordeal. "I will never, ever do another security certificate case," he said. "A lawyer can play no meaningful role in the face of secret evidence. The lawyer's only role is as a fig leaf, to make the process look acceptable." Mr. Lindsay said his attempts to secure a stay involve two Supreme Court leave applications:

  • A Federal Court of Appeal decision that Judge Blais was not biased and could hear the Zundel case.
  • An appeal of a constitutional challenge by suspected terrorist Adil Charkaoui to the constitutionality of the security certificate procedure.
    Judge Blais said that what he heard in secret linked Mr. Zundel to leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations movement and many others who often resort to violence. He said that if Mr. Zundel truly repudiated violence, he would have shunned these people. Judge Blais said that Mr. Zundel is an egotist who could not hide his pleasure at the enormous influence he exerted as a "guru of the right." "I remember how proud he was when he mentioned in cross-examination that his Zundelsite received hits from 400,000 people a month, and that after his arrest, the number grew to 1.2-million people accessing his website each month," Judge Blais said.
    ©Globe and Mail

    Joby Waldman of BBC radio station 1Xtra looks at the extraordinary life of Malcolm X and asks why his message has had such a lasting impact on generations of young people.

    21/2/2005- On 21 February 1965, Malcolm X was gunned down in broad daylight at a political rally at the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem, New York. Declared dead on arrival at hospital, the world had lost one of its most charismatic and powerful civil rights leaders. The very embodiment of black power, Malcolm X gave his life for his cause. A freedom fighter, he was determined to achieve his aims - "by any means necessary," as he put it. In the four decades since his death, Malcolm's legacy has been kept alive in many different ways. In 1983, legendary drummer Keith Le Blanc made history by producing a rap record with no rappers. The MC was Malcolm X. A decade later Malcolm hit the big screen with a feature film based on his autobiography. "Malcolm X stressed education, he didn't hold his tongue. He was blunt, he was honest - he called a spade a spade," says the film's director, Spike Lee. "He was just a fine human being, a man, as Ossie Davis said in his eulogy - he said Malcolm was a shining prince."

    Troubled childhood
    Born Malcolm Little in 1925, he was six years old when his father died a violent death, allegedly at the hands of white supremacists. Extreme hardship came next. When his mother, unable to cope, was committed to a mental asylum, Malcolm went into a foster home. In school Malcolm found himself at an extreme disadvantage because of the colour of his skin. It wasn't long before he discovered one vocation that was open to a young black man in 1940s America - hustling. Strangely enough, salvation came when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary. It was here that he discovered the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist group that presented an African American version of the Islamic faith. Malcolm's life up to this point had been in many ways typical of the problems facing black Americans in the 1940s. The Nation of Islam taught these problems could be traced to one simple source. "We have a comon enemy - we have this in common - a common discriminator, so once we realise we have this common enemy we unite on the basis of what we have in common and what we have foremost in common is that enemy - the white man," he said later.

    Prison education
    After this revelation, Malcolm made the most of his time inside. He memorised the dictionary, read the bible and began studying - everything from archeology to genetics. When he was released in 1952, he became a minister in the Nation of Islam. He gave up his surname, Little, and adopted the title X, as a protest against what had happened during the days of slavery. "What is your real name?" an interviewer asked him. "Malcolm, Malcolm X," he replied. "What was your father's real name?" the interviewer went on. Malcolm answered: "My father didn't know his real name. My father got his name from his grandfather and he got his name from his grandfather and he got it from the slave master." Malcolm X made it his mission to show his congregation how they could shake off the chains of slavery once and for all. But he wasn't the only minister fighting racial discrimination at this time. Martin Luther King was also working tirelessly to change the segregation laws, which were still in place in America until 1964. But, with his stated non-violent approach, Dr King simply wasn't moving fast enough for the Nation Of Islam. In fact, according to Malcolm, King was going backwards. "The white man pays Reverend Martin Luther King so that Martin Luther King can keep the negro defenceless," he argued. "That's what you mean by non-violent, be defenceless in the face of one of the cruellest beasts - the American white man."

    Ousted from the brotherhood
    With Malcolm as its public face, membership of the Nation of Islam rose rapidly during the 1950s. But while Malcolm was the spokesperson, the group's spiritual leader was the honourable Elijah Muhammad. Unfortunately, it turned out that Mr Muhammad was preaching one thing and practising another. In 1962 it emerged that he was facing paternity suits from two of his former secretaries and various teenage girls. Malcolm was horrified. Yet this wasn't the only tension between the two men. Elijah Muhammad had grown jealous of Malcolm's rising international profile and when he made unauthorised comments about the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Muhammad used this as an opportunity to suspend Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam. Ousted from the brotherhood he had committed 12 years of his life to, Malcolm was in turmoil. His response was to take the ultimate journey for a devout Muslim - to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    Spiritual discovery
    In the holy city Malcolm discovered a purer form of Islam - one almost unrecognisable from what he had been taught by the Nation of Islam. On his way back to the States, Malcolm shared his important new insight with his friend, author Maya Angelou. She remembers that meeting: "When he came to Ghana and said, 'I have found blue-eyed men that I am able to call brother, so my entire statement when I said all whites were devils is erroneous,' it takes an incredible amount of courage to say, say to everybody, 'Remember what I said yesterday? That's wrong!' "And that's what he was able to do - that was amazing." While his fresh, inclusive approach made Malcolm many new friends it also made him some very dangerous enemies - particularly within the Nation of Islam. He began to receive death threats from people he had previously called "brother" On Valentines Day 1965 his New Jersey home was fire-bombed and a week later, when he stood up in Harlem's Audobon Ballroom to appeal for unity within the black community, he was shot repeatedly and died soon after. Although a man connected with the Nation Of Islam was arrested for the killing, rumours of CIA involvement have persisted down the years.

    Confusing figure
    The tragedy of Malcolm's death is that it was only in the last year of his life that he was able to open his mind and his heart enough to embrace all people regardless of skin colour. Unfortunately the image that many - particularly in the media - were left with, was of Malcolm as a vengeful militant, a symbol of hatred. Looking back on his life, it's clear to see there were many Malcolms: Victim, player, prisoner, hater, anti-racist... As a result, Malcolm X is one of the most misunderstood leaders in history. Take the phrase "By Any Means Necessary". After his death the slogan began to appear next to a photograph of Malcolm standing by a window holding a machine gun. The photo was originally taken as a warning against those Nation of Islam members who had threatened Malcolm's life. But placed next to the slogan "By Any Means Necessary", it appeared to be a call to arms for the Black population. And still, 40 years on, people read Malcolm's teachings in a variety of different ways. "Malcolm wasn't trying to be non-violent - he was like, 'You hit me and I'm gonna hit you back.' ... "So from my understanding, as a teenager growing up, if someone slaps you, you slap them back and that's the reason Malcolm's words ring true," says MC Jonzi D. But MC Rakin of Mecca 2 Medina interprets the message very differently.

    Mission accomplished?
    "I think when he said 'by any means necessary' [he meant] you really have to get up and get moving. In the black community we tend to be laid back, and you need to be out there, you need to be pushing forward," MC Rakin says. "In the Koran, God says he doesn't change a people till they change themselves, you need to be doing things for yourself. And so that is the kind of stance I believe he meant when he said, 'By any means necessary'." We have come a long way since 1965. In the States and in the UK we have got things like black history month and equal opportunities in the workplace. There is no doubt that Malcolm, at least the final phase Malcolm, would approve of these developments. But it's important to remember the fullness of Malcolm's vision. He wasn't just fighting for a handful of policies - what he wanted was the overhaul of a system that was institutionally racist on every level - the question that remains today is - how far have we gone to achieve his vision?
    ©BBC News

    24/2/2005- Reparations may not be the law and it may not be equity, but it is common sense, said Tracy McCarthy in a lecture for Black History Month. Before society can engage in a discussion about what kind of reparations are necessary or a timeline for reparations, it must first discuss why reparations are a just redress to the wrongs of slavery. "Money alone is not the answer, because money alone was not the problem," McCarthy said. "Fair exchange ain't no robbery: The reparation issue - A question of law, equity or common sense?" was presented Feb. 21 in the UC Sunnen Lounge. McCarthy, an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, said the missing aspect of the reparation discussion was forensics, which she defines as applying any kind of science to the law. Although the reparations discussion focuses on what kind of redress is needed, McCarthy thinks that the answer won't come until there is a real discussion about the unintended consequences of slavery. "People have been asking for reparations over and over and over again," McCarthy said. "We can't even decide on reparations until we decide culpability." Another one of the main problems with the current discussion is that it fades in and out of public discourse. McCarthy said the population cannot focus on and address the problem of reparations, and it is therefore showing "all the symptoms of a hyperactive disorder." Audience members had ideas about why the reparations issue cannot seem to stay in the limelight long enough to be satisfactorily discussed. "The government is not interested in this because it would open up doors to everyone who has ever been wronged," said university President Richard Meyers, citing examples of wars started by the United States. "The government would go bankrupt." McCarthy agreed, citing examples of Native Americans, homosexuals, women and children. "The floodgates will open up," she said. "Is that reason enough for finding no culpability?"

    McCarthy said it is normal for people to worry about what kind of conveniences they would have to give up to implement a system of reparations. Terrell Sanders, a sophomore business management major, agreed. 'I think everyone agrees that there was a problem and that there are consequences today in African-American culture," he said. "But we cognitively jump to what we would have to give up to make reparations." To show the validity of the reparations argument, McCarthy used several analogies to show the unintended consequences of crime and how it can have an effect on future generations. For instance, a burglar breaks into a home, steals everything of economic value and burns down the house. The burglar then gives the stolen goods out as gifts to his grandchild. That grandchild then sells the goods and buys a farm with the money. Even though that grandchild is at no fault, she is still not entitled to the farm. The homeowner has a variety of costs, besides replacement costs, such as crisis counseling and missed time from work. Anything that was bought with his stolen goods is his. And if he has died, it is the property of his grandchildren. The burglar was not entitled to pass on stolen property. In another analogy, McCarthy brought up a scenario in which a mother is raped and killed. The murderer cannot make up for the lost life, but the child will have educational costs as well as psychological needs. These are the natural and logical consequences to crimes, McCarthy said. These analogies do not compare to the impact years of slavery had on the African-American race, McCarthy argued. 'Some people bound some other people with chains, and kept them restrained in blood, feces, mucus and menstrual blood," McCarthy said. Slavery was an institutionalized form of racism and torture, in which lawmakers decided that African-Americans were not people. "They have yet to redress the crimes against humanity," she said.
    ©Webster Journal

    22/2/2005- Iraqi women must have an active role in shaping the future of their country, a new report by Amnesty International said today. Iraqi authorities must take effective measures to protect women and to change discriminatory legislation that encourages violence against them. Women and girls in Iraq live in fear of violence. The current lack of security has forced many women out of public life and constitutes a major obstacle to the advancement of their rights. Since the 2003 war, armed groups have targeted and killed several female political leaders and women's rights activists. The report Iraq: Decades of suffering - Now women deserve better documents how women and girls in Iraq have been targeted directly, because they were women, and how they suffered disproportionately through decades of government repression and armed conflict. "Iraqi authorities must introduce concrete measures to protect women," said Abdel Salam Sidahmed, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. "They must send a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated by investigating all allegations of abuse against women and by bringing those responsible to justice, no matter what their affiliation." Three wars and more than a decade of economic sanctions have been particularly damaging to Iraqi women. Under the government of Saddam Hussain, they were subjected to gender-specific abuses, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, or else targeted as political activists, relatives of activists or members of certain ethnic or religious groups.

    The report demonstrates how gender discrimination in Iraqi laws contributes to the persistence of violence against women. Many women remain at risk of death or injury from male relatives if they are accused of behaviour held to have brought dishonour on the family. "Iraqi authorities must review discriminatory legislation against women and bring it into line with international human rights standards. Most importantly, they must ensure that the new constitution and all Iraqi legislation contain prohibitions to redress all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence against women," said Abdel Salam Sidahmed. A number of Iraqi women have been taken hostage by armed groups, some of them in connection with political demands. Women of non-Iraqi origin have also been held as hostages, often in an attempt to force a withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. They have been beaten and threatened with execution, and at least one of them, Margaret Hassan, has reportedly been killed. Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena was kidnapped by an armed group earlier this month. On 16 February 2005 a videotape was circulated showing her in distress appealing for the withdrawal of Italian troops in Iraq. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on armed groups to immediately end the violence against women, including harassment, death threats, violent attacks, kidnapping and killing.

    Amnesty International equally calls on the US-led multinational forces to improve safeguards for women in detention and investigate promptly all allegations of violence against women, including sexual attacks by their forces or other agents. Women's rights organizations in Iraq have repeatedly called for measures to be taken in order to stop violence and to end discrimination against women. In recent years, numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other bodies working for women's rights have been formed, including groups that focus on the protection of women from violence. Women's rights activists are often faced with threats and assaults from the families of the women they support. The report calls for women to be at the heart of the political decision-making process in Iraq, particularly when dealing with issues directly pertaining to women. It calls on for women to be represented at all levels to protect women's interests. Women in the next government and the elected National Assembly must take the lead in ensuring that Iraqi legislation and future amendments are in total harmony with international standards.
    ©Amnesty International

    24/2/2005- The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has opened its new session with an urgent call to address current manifestations of racism and xenophobia in order to prevent a recurrence of the terrible massacres that marked the last decade. "We must never forget such tragedies as that of Rwanda in 1994 and the horrifying drama and the massacre in Srebrenica one year later, both largely driven by racial and ethnic intolerance and hatred," the Chief of the Treaties and Commission Branch of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Maria-Francisca Ize-Charrin, said, referring to the genocide that killed up to 800,000 people in the central African country, and the slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia. Those events remind the international community in all their brutality that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were not vanishing phenomenon, and that vigilance was never exaggerated in such cases, she declared. The importance of addressing the current and most acute manifestations of racism and xenophobia by focusing on steps that could prevent situations of discrimination, including their escalation to some of the worst forms of human rights violations, could not be over-emphasized, she added. Preventive measures were one of the most useful tools in dealing with the dangers posed by racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Committee, beginning its session in Geneva yesterday, will consider country reports from several nations and may also decide to take early warning measures or initiate urgent action procedures with regard to situations in States parties.

    11/2/2005- A Swedish pastor who had been sentenced to 30 days in prison for inflammatory remarks about homosexuals has had his conviction overturned on appeal. The court said Aake Green was protected by free speech laws and that his sermon, in which he likened homosexuals with "cancer", was not a crime. The 63-year-old pastor made the remarks at a village church in 2003. His case has pitted advocates of free speech against those wanting fiery remarks about minorities criminalised. Observers say there were a number of homosexuals who opposed Mr Green's conviction at the appeal process. "I'll go on preaching as usual but I won't be dedicating so much time to this issue," the visibly relieved pastor told reporters after the verdict was announced.

    'Personal interpretation'
    Mr Green was convicted in June 2004 but allowed to remain free pending appeal. He was the first clergyman convicted under Swedish laws that make incitement to hatred against racial, religious or national groups illegal - legislation that was amended in 2003 to include homosexuals. But the appeals court on Friday ruled that Mr Green's remarks did not constitute incitement to hatred against homosexuals, but merely reflected his own personal interpretation of the Bible. "The minister's interpretation of Bible quotes is questionable as far as his choice of words is concerned, but its content hardly goes further than the Bible text that he referred to," the court said in a statement. "The purpose of making agitation against gays punishable is not to prevent arguments or discussions about homosexuality, not in churches or in other parts of society."

    The verdict was welcomed by members of the religious community. It "indicates that the justice system works," Ralph Toerner, a priest from the Swedish branch of the British-based Holy Catholic Church, told the Associated Press. "But at the same time, I think this should be a warning signal to preachers overall that they shouldn't use such coarse language when talking about something sensitive," he said. And the case had also been watched from abroad. Some Christian communities in the United States had criticised Mr Green's conviction, asking if priests should be consulting lawyers before delivering their sermons. The case has also highlighted the sometimes difficult balance many European countries are seeking to strike between discouraging hate speech and ensuring personal freedoms. Germany currently has the toughest hate speech laws among all European countries and bans public displays of the swastika. In Mr Green's case, the appeal court's verdict is unlikely to be the last word on the issue, as the prosecution also has the right to appeal, the Associated Press reports. As the pastor was going into appeal, so was the prosecution - seeking a six-month extension to the 30-day sentence.
    ©BBC News

    11/2/2005— Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen has said the debate about Muslims and extremism should be conducted "in a more balanced way" in the Netherlands to avoid further polarisation between the Muslim community and the rest of society. He said the debate's aggression — in part being driven by the emergence of a real right-wing in the Netherlands — posed the danger of alienating the majority of Muslims who had integrated and "done well" in the Netherlands. "There is a need for a depolarisation of the debate," he said. Cohen made his comments during the recording of a special addition of Amsterdam Forum, a current affairs discussion programme on the English-language service of Dutch world broadcaster Radio Netherlands. Clark opened the programme by recalling the turbulent events following the shocking murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh last year. The man arrested for the killing is a 26-year-old Amsterdam with Dutch and Moroccan nationality. Cohen, who has also received death threats, recalled that he had been the guest on the first edition of Amsterdam Forum, also in the IGB club, on 6 May 2002. "I was here in this chair, in this room, when I heard the news that Pim Fortuyn had been shot … the first political murder in 400 years in the Netherlands," he said. Fortuyn was a rising political star who won widespread support as the first prominent person in the Netherlands to openly criticise Islam and call for a halt to immigration. He was shot and killed by animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf, who later said he did it to "protect the weaker elements in society". Cohen said the current situation in the Netherlands could not be seen in isolation from several important elements, including the 11 September attacks in the US, unemployment and lack of opportunity among Muslim youths and the highlighting of crime committed by young Moroccans. The mayor said it also seemed clear that Van Gogh's murder might not have been purely the work of one person, because the suspect appeared to be part of a wider group. He said the number of extremists who were willing to use violence was very difficult to estimate, but was certainly only a very tiny minority. Asked by Expatica if the government was concentrating too much on security and not enough on integration, Cohen said the authorities had to take security measures to counter the threat "but that there had to be a balance". He said it was important that the majority of law-abiding Muslims, who had "done well" in the Netherlands, were not made to feel unwanted.
    ©Expatica News

    14/2/2005— Despite claims of breached confidentiality, Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk rejected on Monday parliamentary calls to postpone the deportation of processed Congolese asylum seekers. Opposition parties Labour PvdA, the Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks and the ChristenUnie had all asked for a deferment of the deportation in anticipation of a parliamentary debate. The parties have demanded answers over a recent report on current affairs programme Netwerk that claimed the immigration service IND had sent confidential documents about the asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report said asylum seekers could consequently face problems with Congolese authorities on their return, Radio Netherlands reported. But Verdonk has denied that the documents were given to Congolese authorities, claiming the never gain insight into statements given by asylum seekers. These statements often reveal the names of people who helped the asylum seekers and various other sensitive details. Verdonk said Congolese authorities are only supplied with information to determine the names and nationalities of the asylum seekers, newspaper De Telegraaf reported. She also presented to MPs a document detailing the agreement the Netherlands reached with Congo in 2002 over the return of rejected asylum seekers. The Dutch government is currently involved in negotiations to draw up a new agreement. Refugee organisation Inlia has demanded access to the document in court. Some MPs claim that it outlines an agreement in which Dutch authorities must hand over the statements of asylum seekers to Congolese diplomatic authorities in The Hague when a travel document application is lodged during the deportation of Congolese nationals. Verdonk has dismissed the claims. MPs are now demanding a debate on the issue next week. Current figures indicate that the Netherlands has deported 72 Congolese nationals to their land of origin since 2003.
    ©Expatica News

    State retracts decision to eliminate notation

    11/2/2005- The eastern state of Brandenburg has withdrawn its decision to remove a passage in a history lesson that refers to the killings of more than 1 million Armenians by the Turks in the early 20th century. The state's premier, Matthias Platzeck, made the announcement on Tuesday after he met with Armenian representatives in the state capital of Potsdam. Beginning next school year, the history lesson for the ninth and 10th grade will once again include a reference to the killings, but it will also contain other examples of genocide. Previously, the killings of the Armenians were listed as the only example. In explaining the latest decision, Platzeck said it would be wrong to list just one example of genocide. The view was shared by the state's education minister, Holger Rupprecht. In a newspaper last week, Rupprecht defended the decision. "The reference was removed because I and the premier consider it to be a mistake to list Armenia as the sole example of such a controversial subject." The issue is an extremely sensitive one between Armenians and Turks. Armenians say 1.5 million people were killed between 1915 and 1923 as part of the Ottoman Empire's campaign to push them from eastern Turkey. Turkey maintains the Armenians were killed as the empire fought civil unrest. As a result, the Social Democrat Platzeck faced pressure from both the Armenian and the Turkish representatives. The first change was announced in late January two weeks after Turkish General Counsel Aydin Durusay raised the issue. The decision set off a wave of criticism from parties in the state, including at least one member of the Social Democrats, who demanded that Platzeck reverse the decision. Sven Petke, the general secretary of the Christian Democrats in Brandenburg, said the removal of the passage had hurt the state's reputation. "It was not the reference to the genocide on the Armenians that communicated a wrong image. It was the unjustified removal," Petke said. Armenians joined the criticism as well. This protest resulted in Tuesday's meeting, which was attended by the Armenian Ambassador Karine Kazinian. Kazinian expressed her satisfaction with the change. "The key issue is that that genocide and everything associated with the things that happened then will be discussed clearly," she said. Platzeck denied previous reports that he had bowed to Turkish pressure and noted that discussions with the Education Ministry had been conducted months ago. Brandenburg is the first of Germany's 16 states to use a textbook that discusses the subject of genocide in the 20th century.
    ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    11/2/2005- The states of Saxony and Brandenburg recorded the largest number of cases of right-wing extremist violence in the east last year, federal officials said on Wednesday. A total of 550 cases were recorded in the five eastern states. A total of 144 occurred in Saxony and 136 in Brandenburg. In one case, a German soldier who has served in Kosovo and Afghanistan was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison on Tuesday for cutting a Kenyan asylum seeker on the neck with a broken bottle. The incident occurred early on July 18 in Brandenburg an der Havel.
    ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    13/2/2005- Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has warned Germany will not tolerate far-right attempts to rewrite history as it marks 60 years since the bombing of Dresden. Allied planes devastated the historic heart of the famed baroque city, killing tens of thousands, as ground forces closed in on the Nazi regime. The far right aims to upstage official events in the city on Sunday to portray Germany as a victim of World War II. Mr Schroeder pledged to counter "all attempts to re-interpret history". "This is our obligation to all the victims of the war and Nazi terror especially, and also the victims of Dresden," he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

    Candles and white roses
    Germany, he said, should mourn its own war dead, but not ignore "how much suffering the war started by Germany brought to others". Mr Schroeder said he hoped to "keep the far right out" of the commemorations, referring to the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). The day was due to start with a church mass. Later, a wreath-laying ceremony will be attended by the ambassadors of the four wartime Allied powers - the US, Russia (for the Soviet Union), the UK and France - and 10,000 candles will be lit to remember the victims in various towns and cities around the world. The NPD plans a counter-rally which could attract up to 7,000 supporters. Dresden citizens protesting at the NPD presence plan to wear white roses on Sunday. Other events on Sunday will also remember the dead from targets bombed by the Germans, such as Coventry, Leningrad and Warsaw, as well as cities hit by more recent conflicts, including New York, Grozny and Sarajevo.

    NPD members in the Saxony state parliament, which meets in Dresden, caused outrage in January when they boycotted a commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. They called the Dresden raids a "bombing holocaust" and party leader Udo Voigt has asked for the dead of Dresden to be given consideration equal to the dead of the Nazi death camps. Allied bombers took to the air on 13 February 1945 and rained bombs down on Dresden over two days. British planes made the initial two raids, followed by US aircraft. They were acting on a request from Moscow. The city stood as an important railway and communications centre for Nazi forces resisting the Soviet advance from the east. Officially, about 35,000 people died in the attacks. However, some historians suggest the number may have been greater, as German refugees from the east were arriving in the city and many of the dead were incinerated by the massive firestorm. Some of the public buildings in the city once known as the Florence of the North have been spectacularly restored since the war, but much of its ruined historical heart has been replaced by modern buildings.
    ©BBC News

    13/2/2005- Ceremonies to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Allied firebombing of Dresden could be disrupted today by the biggest neo-Nazi demonstration in Germany since the Second World War, police warned. As many as 7,000 far-right sympathisers, some from as far away as Sweden and Spain, as well as an Austrian contingent, are expected to take part in a midday "funeral march" to mark what the extreme right considers a war crime. Large numbers of police have been drafted in, and weeks of planning have gone into keeping the neo-Nazis apart from counter-demonstrators. Security was tight yesterday on the cold, wet streets of the eastern German city as officials checked individuals they suspected of being part of the plan to ambush the day of mourning. Police have banned the far-right demonstrators from marching in formation, carrying Nazi flags or wearing their unofficial uniform, parachute boots and bomber jackets. Among left-wingers seeking to counter them is "No Tears for Krauts", an anarchist group which plans 12 hours of "decentralised actions" to "attack the Nazis". Ordinary Dresdners are being urged to wear white roses, a traditional symbol of resistance to the Nazis, for their annual silent candlelit procession, but neo-Nazi websites were yesterday calling on the far right to wear roses as well, to confuse officials. "We mustn't let them steal our history," said Rosa Hartmann, a 71-year-old survivor of the firestorm that killed at least 35,000 people on the night of 13-14 February 1945. Some 80,000 are expected to attend today's ceremonies, which include clergy from Coventry Cathedral presenting a "cross of nails" to Dresden's newly reconstructed Frauenkirchen Cathedral, and a wreath-laying at the city's Heide cemetery, where the charred remains of Dresden's citizens were interred in mass graves. Academics still argue about how many were actually killed, but the far right claims there were as many as 400,000 deaths. The anti-Semitic National Party of Germany (NPD) has dubbed the raid "the bombing Holocaust" and calls Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the controversial head of Bomber Command, a "mass murderer". The NPD has been planning an ambush in Dresden since last autumn. Under the motto "1945 - we're not celebrating", it is using war anniversaries to launch itself as a parliamentary force. It is already represented in the Saxon parliament, and is setting its sights on entering the Schleswig-Holstein parliament in next Sunday's election. Dresden plays a key role in the NPD gameplan, because resentment against the raid is still tangible - a television crew loudly speaking English in a city cafe yesterday attracted hostile looks - and there is a sense that the tragedy has been brushed under the carpet by the political class. It is still politically incorrect openly to mourn Germany's war dead, let alone talk of British "war crimes". Although President Horst Koehler went to Auschwitz for the 60th anniversary of its liberation last month, he will not be in Dresden. After Dresden, the NPD is focusing on 8 May, the anniversary of the end of the War, when the party and its sympathisers plan to match through the centre of Berlin. But the NPD has other plans. "Fifty-four million Germans died after the end of the war in Allied or Soviet imprisonment, raped by Russians, or of untreated disease," said Holger Apfel, the 35-year-old publisher helping to steer the NPD's strategy. "There is nothing to celebrate." The government announced on Friday it would rush through a new ban on neo-Nazi rallies at Nazi-linked sites, but Bernd Ulrich, deputy editor of Die Zeit, opposed the plan, saying the point was to provide a political answer to the far right, not to muzzle them.
    © Independent Digital

    biggest far-right demonstration since Hitler

    14/2/2005- Thousands of neo-Nazis hijacked official ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden yesterday in the biggest demonstration by the German far right since the Second World War. More than 5,000 neo-Nazis overran the east German city with a mass protest against "Anglo-American bomb terror". The scale of the fascist turnout, although predicted, came as a major embarrassment to the city and the government of the Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. Both had hoped that the anniversary would be dominated by gestures of reconciliation. Instead, a crowd of neo-Nazis bused in from all over Germany gathered behind Dresden's rebuilt Semper Opera House to hold a "funeral rally and march". The British and the Americans were bitterly criticised for the raid in February 1945 which was described as a "bomb holocaust" and example of "Anglo-American terror". Holger Apfel, 33, leader of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which won seats in the Saxony state parliament in Dresden last October, appeared with other neo-Nazi leaders to denounce the British and Americans as "mass murderers and gangsters". "They have left a trail of blood that stretches from Dresden to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and possibly Iran," Mr Apfel told the crowd to enthusiastic applause and chants of "murderers". He added: "We must not allow Germany to become the accomplices of American gangster policy." Waving black banners and black balloons, with the slogan "bomb terror", the neo-Nazis also accused post-war Germany and the Allies of deliberately downplaying the number of deaths caused by the bombing which officially stands at 35,000. On numerous placards written in Nazi-style Gothic script, they claimed that the figure was 350,000. The far right also flouted German law by singing a folk version of the banned verse of the national anthem.

    Hundreds of left-wing anti-Nazi protesters headed by an organisation called "No Tears for Krauts" attempted to shout down the neo-Nazis with whistles and catcalls. They were kept at bay by thousands of riot police equipped with water cannon who had been brought in from throughout south-east Germany. Earlier, neo-Nazis managed to overshadow a wreath-laying ceremony attended by Jewish community leaders and the British and American ambassadors at the city's Heidehof cemetery, where the ashes of thousands of Dresdeners killed during the raid lie buried. Groups of shaven-headed men in leather jackets and other apparently middle class neo-Nazi supporters formed up in silence and laid their own wreaths at the site. They bore white ribbons with slogans such as "Dresden not forgotten, not forgiven". One of the placards on show at the ceremony depicted a German woman fighting her way through the rubble of Dresden clinging on to two badly mutilated and bloodstained children. The neo-Nazi presence was particularly galling for the Dresden city government as the anniversary had been intended as a major gesture of reconciliation and as a sign that Germany had finally put the Second World War behind it. To mark the occasion, the city had opened its painstakingly restored Frauenkirche cathedral, whose ruins were once a symbol of the city's destruction. Its rebuilding has only just been completed, funded by donations from Britain and other countries. The people of Dresden had been urged by the city authorities to wear white roses in their buttonholes to demonstrate reconciliation. But many neo-Nazis chose to wear the emblems as well. Recent opinion polls show that up to 30 per cent of young Germans view the Dresden raid as comparable to the Holocaust.

    Churchmen in Dresden have blamed hostility to the Allies on East German Communist propaganda which for decades held that the raid was a needless act of "Anglo-American aggression" inflicted on innocent civilians. Ingolf Rossberg, Dresden's Mayor, said yesterday that it had been impossible to ban the neo-Nazi demonstrations. "So long as the NPD is an established political party with seats in a state parliament, we cannot ban it from holding marches," he said.Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian Prime Minister, accused Mr Schröder of creating a breeding ground for the far right by allowing unemployment, which stands at five million, to spiral to record levels.Chancellor Schröder appealed to Germans to reject neo-Nazi interpretations of the Dresden raid. "Showing historical responsibility means not weighing crimes against suffering," he said. "I always remember how much suffering Germany caused to others by a war that it started."Mr Schröder's government has announced plans to curb the activities of the far right, but none of the measures were in place to prevent yesterday's march. The Chancellor also declared that his government was redoubling its efforts to ban the NPD. Two years ago an initial attempt to outlaw the party through the country's constitutional court in Karlsrühe ended in failure. Judges ruled that secret service informers whose evidence was used against the party had acted as "agents provocateurs".
    © Independent Digital

    Womens' groups voice anger at plans to class domestic violence as a "misdemeanor" punishable with a fine.
    By Nidzara Ahmetasevic, journalist based in Sarajevo

    11/2/2005- Sejla - not her real name - remembers family life with her husband all too well. "He threatened to kill me," she said, twisting her hands nervously. "He would beat me, insult me, swear at me," she told IWPR at the Sarajevo safe house where she now lives with her four-month-old child. "I was under a kind of house arrest, and I couldn't go out without an escort. One day I couldn't take it anymore. I ran away early one morning and reported everything to the police, who introduced me to the people from the centre for social work. "People like my husband belong in prison. They must be prosecuted for what they have done." Cases like Sejla's are increasing at an alarming rate in Bosnia. But instead of punishing the perpetrators more severely, the authorities plan to make wife-beating a misdemeanor offence, on a par with a parking violation and punishable with only a fine. Critics say that the plans show that domestic abuse is still deemed "acceptable" in a country dominated by conservative nationalists. "Whether a violent act is treated as misdemeanor or a serious criminal offence shows clearly which set of values the government is trying to protect," said Fedra Idzakovic of Global Rights, an organisation campaigning for battered women. Domestic violence is a growing problem in Bosnia as the county struggles with the wartime legacies of high unemployment, post-traumatic stress and limited social services. However, there are only five safe houses for battered women in the country. As a result, the services offered by local support groups are in big demand. "We had 640 calls in the first six months of our telephone helpline, which indicates the extent of the problem," said Selma Begic, who works at the Sarajevo safe house now home to Selja. But the problem is not reflected in official statistics. According to police figures released in 2002, only 147 incidents of domestic violence were reported in the Federation. Activists believe that a recent nationwide survey conducted by the Local Democracy Foundation gives a more reliable indication of the extent of the problem.

    The survey of 4,000 women found that 65 per cent claimed to have suffered family violence and that three-quarters of these respondents had not reported the incidents. Campaigners say that this reticence is understandable, given the often-dismissive attitude of judges and policemen toward the crime. A recent report by Global Rights and other NGOs detailing how domestic violence is treated in Bosnia's courts found that judges tended to punish offenders with minor fines and that prison sentences were an exception. According to the Republika Srpska, RS, justice ministry, 51 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Banja Luka police in 2002 alone - but only two people were jailed as a result. Human rights groups believe that under-reporting of such abuse is part of a wider problem. Global Rights has noted that "behind Bosnia's civilised and modern façade, there is a deeply traditional and patriarchal society. Family violence forms an integral part of that reality but it is ignored and not discussed in public". Campaigners believe this attitude is deeply ingrained in local police forces. "Even though they are being educated about it, many police officers seem to believe that one has to slap a woman once in a while," said safe house counsellor Zehrija Zajkovic, adding that some Bosnian men seemed to think that a slap in the face was "nothing". Women's support groups warn that the draft law relegating domestic violence to a misdemeanor charge will do little to change such attitudes. "The state must effectively punish those responsible for domestic violence," said Idzakovic. "Nothing will change if you treat family violence as a misdemeanor." Global Rights is part of a coalition of more than a hundred NGOs now urging the government not to relegate the crime of domestic violence.

    "This hasn't been presented to the public, nor has there been an open debate about it," said Sehic. "We object to the definition and treatment of family violence as a mere misdemeanor." But government officials insist that the draft law reducing the seriousness of domestic abuse will not be altered. Justice ministry official Dzemal Mutapcic told IWPR, "Such a law allows us to distinguish between minor offences, such as slapping someone in the face, and the more serious ones." He said that other laws could be used to prosecute "more serious" offences. Campaigners acknowledge that provisions contained in other pieces of proposed legislation could be useful in reducing domestic violence. Under the Family bill currently before the Federation justice ministry, it will be possible to evict abusers from the marital home as well as deny them access to the family. But the question of punishment remains. NGOs argue that as long as the law states that family violence is a mere misdemeanor and punishable with a small fine, there is little hope of changing the ingrained attitudes of police, judges and the abusers themselves. Back at Sarajevo's only safe house, Selja lives in fear of her husband, who remains a free man. "When I came here I was shattered," she told IWPR. "Today I live in hope that soon I will be able to leave this place, find a job and start a new life. But I'm not thinking about a new relationship. I'm too afraid."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    11/2/2005- The Czech Republic will not join soon the countries in which homosexuals can conclude registered partnership since the Chamber of Deputies did not pass the law which would allow it. There have been several bills on registered partnership which were rejected by the lower house. Like in the past years, the vote was very tight and the bill was short of one vote to be passed. After the results were announced, the opponents started applauding in the room. Representatives of the Gay and Lesbian League said behind the scene that they would try again to have the law on registered partnership passed. Christian Democrat Jiri Karas told journalists that he considered Friday's decision as a victory of common sense. One of the drafters of the bill, Tana Fischerova (the Freedom Union-DEU) said she did not know whether she would repeatedly propose the bill in this election term. "Evidently there is no will for this in this Chamber of Deputies," she said. The proposals to embed in law homosexuals' partnerships have regularly divided individual parties, while only the Christian Democrats are against them in unison. Generally, the legislation tends to be more supported by the left. This was shown by today's vote. The bill was backed by 82 out of the 165 deputies present - most voting Social Democrats, Communists, the Freedom Union members and some deputies for the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The Christian Democrats were against. The opponents of the legislation argue with the fear of the weakening of the traditional family. Its proponents are not afraid of it. They said there is no reason for a part of citizens not having the same rights as the rest only because they have different sexual orientation. The laws on registered partnership of homosexuals are valid in a number of EU countries. The couples of the same sex can conclude registered partnership in Norway and Switzerland.
    ©Czech Happenings

    By Martin Mikule

    14/2/2005- The Czech parliament with a majority of just one vote has for no less than the third time rejected a bill enabling registered partnerships of same sex couples. Whereas most MPs from left-wing parties supported the law, all deputies from the Christian Democrats, a party that is close to the Catholic Church, voted against, and they were joined by most of the Civic Democrats, the largest right-of-centre opposition party. Christian Democrat MPs have in the past been vocal in their opposition not only to gay partnerships, but last week Jiri Karas, a deputy from the party, who in the past has described homosexuality as a sin, adopted a more conciliatory tone. "I'm glad the bill was rejected, but on the other hand we should be very understanding towards homosexuals. Our society should show this in real ways." But Czech gays and lesbians are angry and disappointed. I spoke to the spokeswoman of the Gay and Lesbian League Tereza Kodickova. She outlined what the bill had proposed.

    "This bill was trying to propose things that the chamber of deputies would approve, so it was very weak - it did not offer too much to the partners. We were trying to accomplish some first steps, and then later add some more to what has already been approved. So basically what it contained were inheritance rights, then the duty to support and maintain, and then the provision about the right to information about a partner when one is ill. And that was basically it - so it was not much."

    Why do you think this bill was turned down?
    "I think that it was because homophobia is still an accepted political attitude, unlike, for example, racism. I don't think any politician would dare to say that any minority is less than somebody else, and doesn't have the same rights, but it is still acceptable to say that homosexuals do not have these rights."

    Why is it? Do you think it reflects public opinion in the Czech Republic?
    "I don't think it does. It seems that the chamber of deputies is rather isolated in its opinions and views, that people concentrate more on what is happening inside, rather than on how they represent the public."

    When you talk to people in general, do they seem to be rather in favour of this kind of proposal or against it?
    "When I talk to people - and I, of course, don't talk to all people - some of them say 'I wouldn't support this, because it's too weak.' - That was the case of some of the deputies as well. Most of the public is already - I think - in favour. Although the data we have are not completely reliable, because the opinion polls never are."

    Do you see any chance that a similar bill could be enacted in foreseeable future?
    "We've been just discussing it now. We will probably try to propose a similar draft again in the near future. Primarily because the next chamber of deputies is probably going to be more conservative than this one. So this is probably our chance."
    ©Radio Prague

    15/2/2005- The Russian Supreme Court has refused to introduce amendments to the Family Code allowing same-sex marriages, the Echo of Moscow radio reported on Tuesday. The court's resolution reads that the court is not entitled to change laws. In January this year two Russian men have filed for a marriage certificate from a Moscow registration office. One of the men is an MP in the Russian internal republic of Bashkiria Eduard Murzin. Curiously, Murzin is heterosexual and his participation in the action was caused by an attempt to promote human rights for sexual minorities in Russia. He and his gay "partner", chief editor of a gay web-site Eduard Mishin, have spoken publicly about the union for days ahead of filing the application in an attempt to draw attention to the movement for gay rights in Russia. But the registration office has refused to issue a marriage certificate, because same-sex marriages are unlawful. Murzin believes the Family Code contravenes the Russian Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention and said he would appeal the Supreme Court's ruling in the International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

    15/2/2005- The Council of Europe should look after the observation of the rights of national minorities in all its member-states, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the talks with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis. According to him, at issue was the status of national minorities in Latvia and Estonia. "We reaffirmed the necessity to implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe's commission for human rights and OSCE commission for minorities," Mr. Lavrov said. In his works, the talks also focused on interaction between Russia and the Council of Europe and the situations in the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe's member-states "where the status of national minorities and observation of human rights arouse concern." Moreover, the sides discussed cooperation, in particular, in the context of Russia's presidency in the Council of Europe in May-November 2006 and preparations for the summit of this organization in mid-May in Warsaw, Sergei Lavrov reported. According to Mr. Lavrov, Russia "understands at what a responsible moment Terry Davis has headed the Council of Europe." "Today when the European processes need additional efforts by all countries Russia will support all your projects aimed to provide freedom and democracy in Europe," the Russian Foreign Minister emphasized. On his part, Mr. Davis thanked Mr. Lavrov for a cordial reception and noted that their talks were held two years after their meeting at the UN
    ©RIA Novosti

    Amnesty Denmark worried that Afghanis will be repatriated to an unsafe country

    13/2/2005- Amnesty International's Danish office is concerned that Afghani refugees in Denmark could be repatriated to a country that is unsafe. After the Immigration Service withdrew the visas of a group of Afghani refugees, their case is due to come under review by the Refugee Board, who could decide to return them to Afghanistan. Amnesty is concerned that the Afghanistan to which they would return is still an unsafe country and that the conditions that would permit Denmark to return them do not exist. "The people in question were given asylum in Denmark a few years ago because they had a genuine need for protection. Amnesty is afraid that sending them back to Afghanistan would not occur under the safe and stable conditions that the UN requires," announced Amnesty on Friday. The Immigration Service revoked the visas under a regulation that permits the alteration of an asylum seeker's status if the grounds for seeking asylum no longer exist. According to Amnesty, the situation in Afghanistan is still unsafe. "It's relatively safe in Kabul, but the further out you go, the more anarchic things get," said Amnesty Denmark spokesman Stig Nielsen. According to the UNHCR, repatriation of refugees can only occur if the refugees can be assured a safe existence in their home country. That safe existence includes a well-functioning government and an effective judicial system. Amnesty International representatives were in Afghanistan in the fall of 2004 to assess the situation in the country and concluded that there were still problems with the Afghani judicial system and that the power in the country still rested in the hands of clan leaders and warlords. Amnesty, therefore, has requested that Denmark put a halt the repatriation of Afghanis.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    14/2/2005- A spectacular breakthrough in the battle for equal pay for women is expected to cost the National Health Service tens of billions of pounds. A test case taken by the public service union Unison is to deliver payments to workers estimated to be worth between £35,000 and £250,000 each. After an eight-year legal battle, North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust will be forced to pay up to £300m in compensation to its female employees for 14 years of discrimination. The large sums involvedcall into question the ability of the trust to cope with the award, which is expected to be made throughout the health service. Under legislation on equal pay for work of equal value, a panel of experts has agreed that the work of a range of employees - from nurses to catering staff - should carry the same wages as specific jobs mostly held by men. That ruling is expected to go before an employment tribunal next Monday, which will calculate the exact compensation due. The NHS pointed out yesterday that payments had not yet been fixed, but a Unison spokeswoman said the trust had little room to manoeuvre. She said there was discussion over which point on a particular pay scale was appropriate for calculating compensation. The equal pay claims at the Cumbrian trust were lodged in August 1997 for 14 jobs using five male "comparators''. The women ranged from nurses to catering assistants, domestics, clerical officers, sewing machine assistants, porters and telephonists. They compared their pay with that of joiners, building labourers, wall-washers, craftsmen, supervisors and maintenance assistants.

    Under the law women can claim up to six years' back pay. Some of the claimants at the Cumbrian trust will receive up to 14 years of compensation including interest at between 50 and 60 per cent, the union says. Pay, hours of work, pensions, weekend working rates and sick pay were all included in the comparisons to determine that women were treated unfairly by the old system. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "It's been a long, hard struggle, but this is a fantastic result for the members involved. This demonstrates what we have always argued, that there has been historic widespread pay discrimination in the health service against women. It's dreadful, though, that it has taken so long to get justice for these hard-working women who hold the health service together.'' Mr Prentis said that a newly negotiated pay system, Agenda For Change, would remedy the discrimination. "This decision means that we will now press our claim for back pay for other health service staff who may have suffered from an unfair pay system.'' He said the union intended to negotiate back pay with NHS management rather than return to litigation. Christine Wharrier, a Unison convener who has worked at West Cumbria Hospital for 28 years as a healthcare assistant, said that it was a "great victory'' for women throughout the health service. "Discrimination runs deep in the NHS, especially for part-timers, who are mainly women workers. This win will be a boon for ancillary staff because they are on really low pay.'' Linda Weightman, a nurse at Cumberland Infirmary, said: "It's taken a long time, but it's been worth it. Over the years people have kept asking me, 'Do you think we will win?' and I kept saying how can we not win, because we are right?''
    © Independent Digital

    by Lester Holloway

    10/2/2005- Gary Neville needs to be educated about racism in football following remarks by the England player claiming racism was not a 'big problem.' Manchester United defender Neville appeared to go from right-back to right-wing with an attack on football's latest anti-racism initiative. Campaigner group Kick it Out accused Neville of 'complacency' and said he needed educating about the realities of racism in the game. The England player stunned football by claiming: "We don't have a big problem with racism in this country. You can think of probably one or two incidents in the last five or 10 years." Neville attacked sportswear giant Nike for endorsing the 'Stand Up Speak Out' anti-racism campaign, accusing the company of cashing in and gaining 'cheap' publicity.

    The anti-racist campaign was launched last month by Neville's Manchester United teammate Rio Ferdinand and Arsenal's Thierry Henry. Nike hit back at Neville today claiming there's was not a commercial campaign, and they were just making a stand against racism. It emerged today that Nike were approached by Henry to sponsor the 'Stand Up Speak Up' initiative. Last week Neville - the England player's unofficial shop steward -caused outrage by shunning specially-made anti-racism shirts at a Premier League match. Neville and teammates Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Roy Carroll were alone in refusing to wear Nike's 'Stand Up Speak Up' run-out shirts at the Manchester United-Arsenal clash. Despite Neville's claims that racism was not a problem, campaigners say the game is still plagued with racism. Leon Mann, of the Kick it Out campaign against racism in football, told Blink: "We have to fend off complacency here. Where things have got better over the years there still are a number of complaints that are reported into us.

    "Gary Neville might be only aware of two or three incidents in the past five to ten years, however we know that it is significantly more than that and people are continually racially abused. "I wouldn't be surprised if Rio [Ferdinand] pulled him aside and had a word about the fact that there's a lot more going on. "I know for a fact that Rio is someone who is particularly aware of cases in racism, and that's why he backed the Stand Up Speak Up campaign." Raymond Enisuoh, sports editor at Britain's leading black newspaper the New Nation, added: "What Neville said is wrong, the problem is still there. He's sweeping it under the carpet.

    "He's an influential voice with the players so he should be a lot more responsible with the comments he makes. He needs to be put straight on a few things, and I think Rio can do that for him." The English FA were handed a record £67,000 fine by the European governing body UEFA after racist chanting by England fans in a Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey. Up to three-quarters of the crowd at Sunderland's Stadium of Light in May 2003, sang racist chants included 'Die Muslim Die'. Last November fan Jason Perryman was fined and banned from football grounds for racially abusing Blackburn Rovers striker Dwight Yorke. Last month another fan, Stephen Marsh, was jailed for shouting a torrent of foul racist abuse at Portsmouth goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. Marsh's son, also called Stephen, will be sentenced later this month.

    In the same month Wolverhampton Wonderers midfielder Paul Ince accused Millwall fans of racially abusing teammate Seol Ki-Hyeon, and in March last year Millwall fans were accused of racist chanting in a game against Burnley. Last season Norwich City, often lauded as an example of a family, faced accusations of racist chanting in an FA Cup clash with Everton. And away fans visiting Bradford's club are often heard chanting a racist phrase against the city's Asian community. Last November Spain was heavily criticised over extensive racist chanting in friendlies against England's full and under-21 squads, and later fined £43,000 up UEFA - a punishment labelled as soft by CRE chairman Trevor Phillips. Responding to today's row caused by Neville's comments, Nike;s head of communications Simon Charlesworth said: "The campaign isn't about publicity. It's about racism, and the fact remains that there is racism in football. "We've spoken with all the relevant bodies such as Kick It Out, and we've had their approval. Even Gary Neville's team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, has come down to London to help with the campaign." Charlesworth conceded that Neville was "entitled to his opinion". "We can't stop him saying these things," he added. Nike have a £300million, 10-year sponsorship and merchandising deal with Manchester United.
    ©Black Information Link

    17/2/2005- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for five years for a racist attack that killed a disabled refugee in Swansea. Sentencing Lee Mordecai, the judge said Swansea did not have the same racial problems as other cities and the courts would not allow racism to flourish Mordecai had previously admitted the manslaughter of Iraqi Kurd Kalan Karim, 29, with a single blow to the head in a city centre attack last September. Mr Karim was in Iraq and had part of his left leg amputated. Mr Karim was given leave to stay in the UK for four years, and arrived in Swansea in 2003 having spent some time in the north East of England. His death sparked a large anti-racism protest in Swansea. Last month Swansea Crown Court heard Mordecai was drunk when he carried out the "cowardly, underhand, and racially motivated" attack near the Kingsway in the early hours of 5 September. Mr Karim later died in hospital Paul Thomas QC, prosecuting, said at around 0139 GMT, Mordecai and a group of friends approached Mr Karim and a friend at in the Kingsway area of the city, where they were talking to a group of women. Mordecai then became abusive, and said Mr Karim and his friend should "go back to their country". "He started swearing and making racist remarks. It was, the prosecution say, Lee Mordecai who made those remarkable," Mr Thomas said "One of the three girls remonstrated with him about these remarks. Kalam Karim took no part in these verbal exchanges. He did not get involved in any way, verbally or physically. "Lee Mordecai approached Kalam Karim and hit him with a blow from the side and rear. This blow landed to the area of what witnesses describe as his neck or throat area Mordecai initially denied murder but changed his plea when the lesser charge of manslaughter was put to him. The prosecution said this was only done after discussions with Mr Karim's family and police. Sentencing Mordecai on Thursday Mr Justice Roderick Evans said: "I accept fully that from the evidence you have placed before me that you are not an entrenched racist. "However, I have no doubt either that this incident was motivated by race. You picked on Mr Karim because he was of a different racial background from yours. "Swansea has a small ethnic minority community. "It would not be right to say that there is no racially motivated crime in Swansea, but Swansea does not have the major problem that some cities in England and Wales have, and Swansea should not allow itself to get into a position where that kind of problem exists and flourishes. "The courts will do whatever they can to ensure racially motivated crime will not be tolerated in Swansea and people who commit such crimes will be severely dealt with."
    ©BBC News

    15/2/2005- A new survey shows a broad degree of tolerance among Norwegians for the immigrants amongst them. But they think people coming to Norway from non-western cultures should adopt Norwegian ways quickly. The survey was conducted for the country's centennial commission (Hundreårsmarkeringen Norge 2005), to gauge public opinion 100 years after Norway broke out of an unhappy union with Sweden and became a sovereign nation of its own. Results indicate that a majority of Norwegians think ethnic and cultural diversity is fine, but they also think new immigrants must assimilate as soon as possible. A majority believes immigrants are helpful, friendly and work hard. "At the same time, a clear majority opposes immigration as a means of strengthening Norway's economic and cultural development," said Jan Erik Raanes of the centennial commission. "Most people want non-western immigrants to become Norwegian." Four-fifths of those questioned, meanwhile, said they would not want to give up their Norwegian citizenship if they moved to another country. At the same time, they expect those seeking Norwegian citizenship to give up their citizenship in their homeland. Nearly 75 percent of Norwegians questioned said they eat traditional Norwegian food three or four times a week. Those who live in Norway's larger cities with high income and levels of educations, however, eat the least Norwegian food.

    15/2/2005- On Saturday, 29th of January 2005, 10 young Italians set ablaze a camp where 5 Romanian Roma families including a 9 months old baby lived in. The event happened in via Aveta de la Ercolano 10 km away from Napoli. The perpetrators justified their action as "Saturday night fun". This incident and many similar ones are usually downplayed or ignored by Italian media and there is yet to be heard any official reaction of major Italian politicians about racist attacks against Roma. On 4th of February 2005, two Roma women were accused in Lecco for trying to steal a child. Both of them said they were begging with no intention whatsoever of kidnapping. In order to avoid being sentenced both of them accepted the suggestion of their lawyer and pleaded guilty and accordingly they were sentenced to 8 months and 10 days in jail. As expected the sentence was suspended. Their lawyer also acknowledged that the women told him they never tried to kidnap the child. Corriere della Sera ran an article quoting the young mother defending herself against the "kidnapers"and La Padania started a strong campaign against the "zingari" who are stealing the young Italians (Padanians). "Giu le mani dai nostri bambini" (Take your hands off our children) posters with a picture of a Roma have been spread all around Lombardia. Demonstrations against the "shameful" decision took place in Lecco. Pietro Zocconali the president of the National Association of Sociologists implied in a public statement following the incident that killing children is a practice. He claimed that Roma steal children and then sell them "sometimes in parts". Roberto Maroni minister of employment of the region has asked the judge who suspended the sentence to consider changing her job and had strong words against the Roma. The mayor of Lecco as well as other leading politicians including Senator Giuseppe Valditara were also fast to join in as Anti-Gypsyism continues to be an electoral bonanza for some of Italian politicians. On 10th of February at dawn around 5 am the Palermo police did a round up in a Roma "camp", justified as a "children census", leading to the arrest of several persons and the notification of a number of repatriation orders. Most of those living in the camp are refugees from Kosovo and Human Rights Activist in Palermo fear an illegal collective deportation that could fit the ongoing electoral campaign, which uses racist messages as selling points. Anti-Gypsyism is an aggressive, widespread and still acceptable form of racism in Europe. Without strong reactions from European Institutions and leading European Politicians condemning it the social cohesion and equal opportunities both fundamental principles of United Europe are running the risk to be viewed as hypocrisy by the over 8 million European Roma.

    17/2/2005- A leading Spanish referee has attacked the failure of the country's football authorities to deal with racist abuse and pledged his support to any black players who decide to walk off the pitch in protest. "Those people who should be facing up to this problem are not doing so and it is a big problem," the Primera Liga referee, Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, was quoted as saying in Spanish sports daily Marca. "Of course I notice it when I am on the pitch. You hear everything there. And I'll tell you one thing, the day a black player decides to walk off the pitch I'll go with him. No one is doing anything to find solutions to this problem." Racist abuse from fans has become an increasing problem in Spain, with black players regularly greeted with monkey chants and insults when they touch the ball. The Spanish Football Federation does not take action against the clubs involved unless incidents are mentioned in the referee's match report. The toughest punishment the Federation has imposed so far has been a fine of EUR 600 on Atletico Madrid and Albacete after visiting black players were abused by home fans. Albacete's fine was halved on appeal. Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o was abused in his side's league game at Real Zaragoza at the weekend, but the referee Fernando Carmona Mendez noted that the behaviour of the fans was "normal" in his report.
    ©Expatica News

    Controversial suggestions calling for removal of reference to religion on ID cards and compulsory religious classes get mixed reaction not only from government but also from the opposition

    17/2/2005- Turkish opposition parties were split yesterday over suggestions in a Council of Europe report that the government should remove reference to religion on identity cards and compulsory religious education in schools. The report, released on Tuesday by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), has drawn mixed reaction from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the government would look into the recommendations and suggested there could be steps to modify the Turkish legislation. Deputies from his party, on the other hand, protested the report, saying religious education was necessary in a country like Turkey, which has an overwhelmingly Muslim population and accused the authors of the report of acting on the basis of insufficient information about Turkey's realities. AKP deputies apparently found a supporter in the right-wing opposition True Path Party (DYP). "Such an imposition from the Council of Europe can never be accepted," DYP leader Mehmet Agar told the Turkish Daily News. According to Agar, Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution already regulates the issue of religious education in Turkey. The article says religious education shall be provided under state provision and that courses on religious culture were compulsory at primary schools. Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) also looked divided. An Ankara deputy from the pro-secularist party, Gülsün Toker Bilgehan, said religious education was necessary but emphasized the content of what was taught was what mattered. "There should be no misleading interpretation about such issues as women's rights and the headscarf," she told the TDN. The party's Izmir deputy Canan Aritman backed the ECRI suggestions, describing them a "very useful warning." "Religious education should not be compulsory," she said. "We should have an attitude that is more in line with respect for human rights and with the overall respect for humanitarian values." The debate reflects high sensitivities over the issue of religious freedoms in Turkish politics. Officials say religious freedoms have already been a matter of discussion in Turkey's process of accession into the European Union. Turkey has already taken steps to modify its legislation in an effort to bring its laws into line with norms of the EU as part of its process of accession into the current 25-nation bloc. In comments over the ECRI report, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül said any decision on whether to remove the reference to religion on identity cards and the status of religious education in schools was up to the government.
    ©Turkish Daily News

    15/2/2005- The Council of Europe's human rights monitoring body on Tuesday voiced concern about the sharp increase in anti-Semitism in France, urging the country to do more to battle the phenomenon. "Anti-Semitism has increased alarmingly in France, notably in the school environment," the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an independent body formed by the 46-nation Council, said in a report. The document, adopted in June but only released on Tuesday, signalled the "serious deterioration in the situation", notably since late 2000 "following the flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict". "A significant increase of anti-Semitic acts in France has since been noted, reaching a peak in 2002 and now decreasing once more, while still remaining at a very high level," the Strasbourg-based ECRI said. "Furthermore, the violence of such anti-Semitic acts seems to be on the rise," the report said, noting that according to French statistics, anti-Semitic acts accounted for 72 percent of all racist acts reported in 2003. ECRI recommended that "the French authorities continue to intensify their efforts aimed at combatting anti-Semitism," encouraging Paris to identify the reasons for the spike in violence. Last month, the French interior ministry reported that more than 1,500 racist acts had been committed in 2004, up more than 80 percent as compared with 2003. Nearly two-thirds of those acts were anti-Semitic in nature. French President Jacques Chirac has made the fight against anti-Semitism a priority for his center-right government, with Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin now the point man for the struggle. De Villepin has promised to reinforce security details around likely targets like synagogues and Jewish schools. On Monday, visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom praised France for its efforts to combat anti-Semitism, saying: "We are very encouraged by the French attitude, especially that of President Chirac." Saying Chirac was the first European leader to identify the problem, Shalom added: "We would like to believe that his determination will enable other European countries to fight against extremists from the (far) right wing." France is home to Europe's largest Jewish community, estimated at some 600,000 strong. Many of the anti-Semitic acts have been blamed on disaffected youths from France's estimated five million Muslims, although some have also been attributed to far-right extremists.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    11/2/2005- The EU is calling for more information-sharing on immigration issues between member states after Spain on Monday (7 February) started an amnesty affecting up to one million illegal immigrants. Spain's unilateral move - which is legal under the EU's treaties - caused anger in Germany and the Netherlands which fear that the immigrants will use the chance to live and work anywhere in the EU. On the back of this disquiet, the European Commission on Friday (11 February) announced that it is proposing, along with the EU Luxembourg Presidency, an 'early warning system' for immigration issues. "We are hopeful that the member states will at least be interested in discussing such a system", said a Commission spokesperson. He added that it was "important to see what we can learn from [Spain's move]". A joint letter by Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini and his Luxembourg counterpart Nicolas Schmit says that the issue will be discussed by EU justice ministers on 24 February. "On the basis of a proposal submitted as soon as possible by the Commission, the council could decide to put in place such a mutual information and early warning system for immigration issues", says the letter.

    The scale of the amnesty
    Spain is not the only country to have granted an amnesty to its illegal immigrants - Italy and Belgium have made similar moves in the past - but it is the largest in scale. The Commission denied that it found difficulty with Madrid's move. "This is simply not the case", said a spokesperson. He said that several member states want the issue "put on the table". This would mean beefing up the already-existing informal steering group of member state experts where forthcoming immigration measures are discussed. Added to this is the fact that the recent moves by the UK and the Netherlands to tighten immigration policy brought no comment from the Commission - however a move in the other direction, giving an amnesty, has provoked action.

    A legal immigration strategy
    The Commission has no rights in the area of legal immigration. However, a spokesperson said that member states should be able to decide how many legal immigrants they want "but if they decide to bring in immigrants, to regularise, then we are suggesting that this could be better done in a harmonised common way". He said the Brussels executive remained in favour of a "comprehensive legal immigration strategy". This is not the first time the idea of an early warning system has been brought up. The Commission proposed such a system last June in a paper that looks at both the positive and negative aspects of 'regularising' illegal immigrants. The paper noted that regularising immigrants - as Spain has done - could lead to more illegal immigrants trying to get to Europe. The Commission is to propose a strateg later this year if given the go ahead by member states.

    16/2/2005- People with reduced mobility are to be assisted free of charge in airports and on board aircraft. The new measures concerning people with disabilities should prevent their discrimination in air transport. "We are giving the right to every person with reduced mobility to be taken care of from his arrival in the airport until his disembarquement, by the airport authority and afterwards by the airline company", said EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot. The Commission's action was triggered by a recent ruling by a UK court against two low cost airlines for charging passengers for their wheelchair. The European Disability Forum, representing 50 million people with disabilities in Europe, argues that there have been numerous similar cases, and that this new legislation is essential. "Recently we were informed about the case of a woman with no arms, fully mobile and ambulant, who was obliged by a major French air company to disembark from an aircraft before take-off on the pretext that she was unable to do up her own seat belt", said the Forum's President Yannis Vardakastanis. Under the new rules, European airports will be responsible for providing free assistance for disabled passengers, while the airlines will contribute to paying for the expenses. However, the costs should not come to more than 5.9 million euro per year, according to the Commission. The individual member states will be responsible for laying down penalties and setting up independent bodies to deal with complaints. However, several air companies have asked to be free to opt out from this centralised system, as they are already providing their own services for people with disabilities.

    14/2/2005- Hundreds of Kurds flooded on to the streets in the northern city of Kirkuk yesterday firing weapons in the air and honking horns after the powerful Kurdish alliance came second in the Iraqi elections, winning 25 per cent of the vote nationwide. Kurdish leaders will enter negotiations with the Shia coalition, which took nearly half the votes but lacks the two-thirds majority necessary to appoint leaders and pass legislation. Despite the strong showing and groundswell of support for greater autonomy in the Kurdish north the message from the newly elected leaders was more conciliatory. "Iraq is a mosaic," said a Kurdistan Democratic Party spokesman, Faraj al-Haidary. "It is a combination of all parts - not as an alliance with one party." The two major Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, ran on the same ticket in the national elections and have agreed to put up the PUK leader Jalal Talabani as their candidate for president, a nomination that seems likely to win the support of the Shia bloc. "We will reach out to everyone, even the Sunnis who didn't vote, and remind the Shias not to do what happened in 1920, when some groups were forgotten about," Mr Haidary said, referring to the 1920 revolution, which, though led by Shias, marked the beginning of their disenfranchisement as British proxy rule came to rely on the Sunni minority. But there is the potential of the Kurds alienating disenfranchised Sunni rebels simply by assuming what many see as their rightful position. If Mr Talabani does become president, "it is difficult for the Sunnis to lose the presidency and the premiership at the same time", said Womidh Nadhmi, the former chairman of Baghdad University's political science department. "It is difficult to compensate them." Mr Nadhmi said Mr Talabani had acted intelligently so far in dealing with the insurgency, urging restraint before the US assault of Fallujah in November which levelled the city. Some groups have raised concerns about the possibility of Kurdish secession, but a local pollster, Saadun al-Dulaimie, said a poll he conducted in the Kurdish region found 65 per cent wanted the three Kurdish provinces to remain a part of Iraq and only 32 per cent wanted independence. Mr Dulaimie said that, if anything, it would be the Arabs that drove away the Kurds. "Eighty per cent of the Kurds said they preferred a democratic state," he said, citing a countrywide poll he conducted last year. "In the rest of Iraq, only 58 per cent of the people said they wanted democracy." Kurdish success sounded alarm bells in Turkey. Ankara fears Kurdish domination of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as it could potentially make a Kurdish state in northern Iraq viable. This could further inspire Turkey's own rebellious Kurds, who have been fighting government forces in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Turkey has long complained that Kurdish groups were illegally moving Kurds into Kirkuk in an effort to tip the city's population balance in their favour.
    © Independent Digital

    By Rafal Pankowski in Warszawa

    On 26 January a hundred or so protesters in Krakow used the opportunity of Russian President Putin's Polish visit to commemmorate the Auschwitz anniversary to express their disagreement with the Russian Army treatment of Chechen civilians and for the independence of Chechnya. The event gathered the usual type of young idealists, mostly connected with the anarchist movement. According to anarchist principles the organisers of the demonstration had failed to notify the action to the authorities as required by law. The police, feeling visibly under pressure to provide a smooth conduct of the quasi-summit of so many heads of state flying into the country for the commemorations, closed down the demo. It seems some of the policemen clearly overreacted in the process of dispersing the crowd of mostly peaceful demonstrators. Some of the anarchists subsequently called for the dismissal of the minister of the interrior, blaming him for police brutality. The demonstrators had a point: the conduct of the Russian army in Chechnya has been horrible and cruel. But many of them went a few steps further: they stressed the moral equivalence between the Nazi Holocaust symbolised by Auschwitz and the current armed conflict in the Caucasus. They are wrong, there is no easy parallel between those events. While the Chechen conflict deserves the world's attention it is – really - something quite different from the Holocaust. The pure evil of the Nazi death machine has no equivalent. The demonstrators loudly denied Putin the right to participate in the commemoration. They did it at the same moment when he delivered a memorable speech at a Holocaust forum in a Krakow theatre admitting and condemning antisemitism and racism in Russia. The idea to defend human rights of the Chechen is a noble one, but it is highly questionable if the time and place was indeed appropriate.
    ©I CARE News

    7/2/2005- Medieval Krakow is the spiritual home of Poland's Jewish revival. Today the city is home to only a tiny number of Jews, but it is rich in historical relics, including six synagogues and two Jewish cemeteries. It also hosts an increasingly popular Jewish culture festival every year. In the former Jewish quarter in Szeroka Street, there is a row of Jewish-style hotels and restaurants. Tourists come here to listen to the klezmer music and eat fine Jewish-style cuisine. Joachim Russek is a non-Jewish Pole who devotes much of his time to promoting Jewish culture in Krakow. He is the director of the nearby Judaica centre. "It has been for the last almost 20 years an unbelievable adventure," he says over a beer in the Klezmer Hois restaurant. "I rediscovered something I should have known about in secondary school. Half of my life I knew much more about American Indians than I did about Polish Jews."

    Culture classes
    Before World War II the restaurant was a mikvah, a Jewish bathing house. The square outside was full of the sounds and smells of Jewish market traders. But the war almost completely extinguished Poland's rich Jewish life. Ninety percent of the country's 3.5m Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Afterwards, the country's Jewish past became a taboo subject under an imposed communist regime which tried to legitimise itself through nationalist sentiments. Helping to break that taboo is Krakow's recently opened Galicia Jewish Museum, run by British photojournalist Chris Schwarz. At the moment, it is showing an exhibition of Chris's photos of local Jewish sites. But it aso promotes Jewish culture in other ways too, Chris says. "Everything from celebrating the main Jewish holidays and festivals: we do lectures, we do film shows. We also do classes, we've got Yiddish and Hebrew classes here as well." The class is taught by a Polish woman and the students are young Poles. I asked the students why they were learning Hebrew. "I'm very interested in Arabic culture and Jewish culture and that's why I'm studying Hebrew and Arabic," says one young woman. "I've been studying Arabic at the university for three months now and these languages are very similar and I like them very much. This melody, culture and history." Another student says: "I was in Israel for five years... I want to go back to Israel."

    Catholic guilt?
    In a forest beside the small town of Skarszewy, not far from Gdansk on Poland's Baltic coast, there is an abandoned Jewish graveyard. Dotted among the pine trees are dozens of gravestones. Many are broken, some are still lying among the leaves. Just over six months ago this place looked like a rubbish dump. Last summer, Tomasz Sierkierski, a 30-year-old computer programmer, got a group of teenagers from his old school to come and clean up the place. "This area is our history. It's not only Jewish or only Polish history in this area," he says. "I think we shouldn't forget about places like that. Before our project, nobody knew that such a place existed. But now we can find stones on the graves, we can find candles." With all this enthusiasm about reviving Poland's Jewish heritage, is it motivated at least in part by some element of guilt? After all, many of the Nazi death camps were located in Poland. Poles were witnesses to the Holocaust. Could there even be a Catholic wish for atonement behind it all? Konstanty Gebert is a Polish Jew who publishes a monthly magazine on Jewish affairs. "I don't think guilt plays a major role. The camps were located here because that's where the Jews were," he says. "Hitler couldn't care less what Poles thought one way or the other. I think that most of the non-Jewish Poles interested in things Jewish are doing it out of a sense of responsibility for what used to be a shared heritage and was denied or rejected during the communist period after World War II. "And although guilt might play a role, it is guilt about the silence, not about the acts. After all, the Poles were victims of the Nazis just as they were powerless spectators to the Nazi Shoah."

    Recently in central Warsaw they celebrated the Jewish festival of Hanukkah by lighting a three-metre tall menorah, a nine-branch Jewish candlestick. The ceremony is a visible symbol of the changes in Polish-Jewish relations in recent years, says Michael Schudrich, Poland's chief Rabbi. "Polish-Jewish relations were put in the freezer for 50 years," he says. "The fact that the preservation of Jewish culture is also in the hands of non-Jews here in Poland is a sign of the fact of how close the Nazis came to wiping out the Jewish people. We are grateful that we have our Polish non-Jewish friends who want to help us preserve our tradition and our culture and history here in Poland." Poland will probably never again be home to a large and prosperous Jewish community. Today, there are around 25,000 Jews and people of Jewish descent living here. But more and more non-Jewish Poles are interested in their country's rich Jewish past. And now they know about it, they are determined not to let it disappear, either.
    ©BBC News

    4/2/2005- The State Duma has strongly denounced the anti-Semitic appeal of MPS to the Prosecutor-General's Office, urging it to institute criminal proceedings against Jewish religious organisations in Russia. The Duma adopted a resolution about it on Friday. The appeal was forwarded to the Prosecutor-General's Office in January and was signed by 13 MPs from the Rodina faction and six MPs from the Communist faction. Later it was withdrawn by the MPs themselves. The Duma resolution stressed that "the obviously anti-Semitic character of the appeal to the Prosecutor-General's Office evokes strong indignation and should be denounced." In the opinion of the Duma, any actions kindling inter-ethnic or inter-confessional strife and intolerance should be immediately stopped. "Such appeals may have very dangerous consequences for Russia, which is a multinational state," the resolution said. The Duma believes the state bodies, public and religious organisations "should pay special attention to the consolidation of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional accord in this country." The discussion of the draft resolution was rather heated. Communist MPs suggested that the item should be removed from the agenda on the grounds that they had had no opportunity to see the text of the draft resolution. Despite some remarks, the resolution was adopted with 306 votes for and only 58 against.

    Four people were wounded in an apparent racial-hatred attack in the Moscow underground on Sunday night. What's unusual for such attacks is that the injured party have been described as the assailants rather than the intended victims. The incident occurred around 11 p.m. Moscow time, when a group of six Slavs attacked two men of Caucasian descent at Belorusskaya metro station. The Caucasians fought back, stabbing four of the attackers, RIA-Novosti reports. The fight was then stopped by the police who arrested all the participants. The four injured attackers received medical treatment and were hospitalized. The injured assailants were described as "skinheads". A criminal investigation has been launched into the attack. In Russia, there has been an increasing number of foreigners, and religious and ethnic minorities falling victim to hate-attacks, in many cases perpetrated by the so-called "skinheads". Semyon Charny, an expert with the International Bureau for Human Rights, has issued a report where he estimates that the number of skinheads in Russia is over 50,000. 44 people were killed in racially motivated murders in 2004, more than double the 2003 figure, human rights activists say. Many assailants were young, white skinhead types shouting neo-Nazi or nationalist slogans. The method of attack varies, but the most popular weapons of choice are knives, chains, iron rods, and knuckle-dusters, Charny said.
    ©Moscow News

    By RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov

    8/2/2005- Skinheads are part of Russia's youth subculture, as sociologists believe about 55,000 young people in the country see themselves as neo-Nazis. Crime reports after skinhead attacks are filled with references to foreigners. An Indian woman miscarried after being assaulted by skinheads on the central Moscow street of Arbat, while a nationalistic gang, Russkaya Tsel (Russian Goal), left William Jefferson, a black US embassy guard and former marine, in hospital. Something similar happened to Peter Taaffe, the general secretary of the British Socialist Party. Russian sociologists are positive that this is Nazism and not banal youth crime. The far-right press engages in the ideological brainwashing of Russia's young people. Magazines include the likes of "Pod Nol" (Shaved Head), "Beloye Soprotivleniye" (White Resistance), "Ya - Bely" (I Am White), "Stop" and the Streetfighter, a notorious international racist publication accurately translated into Russian. They promote xenophobia with elegant flexibility, disguising it as patriotism so that the law-enforcers do not shut them down. A number of right-wing radical political parties exploit the ranks of the neo-Nazi movement. The Russian National Union, the National Power Party, the Party of Freedom and other nationalist organizations see the army of skinheads as their reserves. The latter, in their turn, stand up for their independence, uniting into larger groups like St. Petersburg's Russky Kulak (Russian Fist) with about 400 fighters or Nizhni Novgorod's Sever (North) with over 300. Veterans of foreign neo-Nazi groups take persistent care of their Russian brothers. Instructors from the Ku Klux Klan and from banned organizations in Germany, such as Viking Youth and Steel Helmet, regularly come to Russia. According to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, Western tutors have managed to establish a channel to deliver neo-Nazi literature, audiotapes and outfits to Russia via ultra-right organizations in Latvia and Estonia. This powerful outburst of Russian skinhead activities has resulted in a gloomy paradox. In the run up to the 60th anniversary of Victory in World War II, Russia, which played a major part in securing this victory, has realized it has also caught the Nazi germ. Alongside a war veteran ornate with medals and orders, there is now a skinhead with a stripe on his jacket reading "WP" - "White Power".

    This contrast astonished President Putin so much that, in a speech at recent ceremony to mark the liberation of Auschwitz, he confessed he felt ashamed for this part of the new Russia's history. Yet in 1992 no one had such bitter feelings. Skinheads were then a rarity: there were about a dozen in Moscow, and five at most in St. Petersburg. But they have multiplied manifold over the last 13 years. So what has changed? In short, a great deal. It is generally referred to as the process of market reforms. The immediate transition from a centralized economy to a market system, albeit a wild one at the beginning, led to a serious economic slump and left millions unemployed. Parents, overwhelmed by the need to survive, neglected their children's upbringing. Family problems left 4 million children and teenagers on the streets - the number of homeless adolescents was just a third less than in the Soviet Union after the 1918-1921 civil war. Russian streets were filled with "children of reforms" - a bewildered, psychologically confused, uneducated young generation, receptive to any primitive call for violence. Gangs appeared everywhere, and teenagers were held together by one primitive idea - dislike for "foreigners", even if they were from the next building, particularly if these people were of different color. These sentiments were bolstered by the attempts of new liberal enlighteners to all but rehabilitate Nazism. The great victory of the Red Army in WW II was excluded from school textbooks, because this victory allegedly led to "the enslavement of East Europe by the Soviet Union" and "slowed down Russia's economic progress." If the Red Army had been defeated, Russians would have begun drinking wonderful Bavarian beer decades earlier, the theory's advocates told schoolchildren. Newsstands offered cheap editions of Hitler's Mein Kampf and Mussolini's Doctrines of Fascism, while it was impossible to find any anti-Nazi literature as it seemed too far to the left. Alexander Tarasov, a prominent sociologist specializing in youth problems and the Russian skinhead movement, points out, "As textbooks are one of the main sources of information for schoolchildren... some teenagers have concluded that 'Hitler is better than Stalin' and that 'Hitler was right'."

    So the skinhead phenomenon appeared, accumulated energy and grew to an alarming scale. To a large extent it was fed by anti-Caucasian sentiments caused by a decade of Chechen crime in Russian cities and the war in Chechnya. Meanwhile, the authorities became aware of the new and, it would seem, unthinkable threat for Russia. They understood that inter-ethnic hatred and the ideology of white supremacy could seriously hinder the creation of a civil society in Russia to protect human rights. They declared war on skinheads. In summer 2002, the State Duma adopted a law on counteracting extremism. The police and prosecutors received a tool to prosecute skinheads if they took to knives and metal rods. In 2004, 60 criminal cases were opened against all kinds of xenophobes, including skinheads, and at least ten fighters were convicted. The national police database includes 457 leaders and activists of skinhead groups that are under surveillance. The Press Ministry closed 12 racist newspapers; unfortunately, most of them immediately reappeared under new names. However, the guys in black with bars have reached the provinces as well. Sociologists predict a second skinhead wave. Human rights advocates are urging the authorities at all levels and all of society to repulse this threat. There is a hope that the forthcoming celebrations of the victory over Hitler will help vaccinate young Russians against the skinhead epidemic
    ©RIA Novosti

    10/2/2005- Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will not tolerate attempts to use human rights for political aims. But he told the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, that Moscow would listen to "objective criticism" of its human rights record. Mr Putin said Moscow had its own view on the observation of human rights in regions where Russia had its interests - a reference primarily to Chechnya. Russia has faced international criticism over its forces there. The president was speaking during Ms Arbour's first visit to Moscow as human rights commissioner. She expressed hope her visit would establish a good basis for co-operation. She said she approached human rights "from a legal rather than from a political point of view". Mr Putin told her: "Russia upholds, without fail, all fundamental human rights standards and all of its international obligations in this area. "I believe it is exceptionally important that we work together on standards and common approaches in this highly sensitive and very important area."
    ©BBC News

    Plans to introduce Bosnian language classes in schools have angered Serb nationalists and leave most locals puzzled.
    By Alma Rizvanovic and Jasmina Krusevljanin in Novi Pazar

    2/2/2005- At the Stevan Nemanja primary school in Novi Pazar, Ramiz, a Bosniak pupil in first grade, chatters away to his friends, Bosniaks and Serbs alike, oblivious of the fact that the language he and his fellows pupils use is becoming a hot political issue. Before the early 1990s, the language that almost everyone used in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia was called Serbo-Croat. But as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, the newly formed states insisted on their national identity, which meant renaming the language their people spoke. As a result, Serbs now say they speak Serbian, Croats say they speak Croatian and Bosniaks, or Muslims, use the Bosnian language. To an outsider they sound virtually the same, but they have shown they have the capacity to spark language wars in areas where ethnic groups overlap. Such is the case in the Sandzak region of south-west Serbia, where Bosniak politicians and cultural leaders have waged a successful campaign for children to be taught "Bosnian" in primary school. In Novi Pazar, Bosniaks are the majority group, making up 86 per cent of the population. Serbs come second, while other ethnic groups are smaller. The city of about 120,000 has been the spiritual and economic centre of the Sandzak region for centuries, where diverse cultures, religions and traditions all meet. But few locals take advantage of this diversity or highlight its richness. The decision of the Serbian education ministry, therefore, to permit primary school education in Bosnian, has caused an outcry, pitting parties and parents against each other.

    Serbia's education minister, Slobodan Vuksanovic, announced the start of Bosnian classes from February 2005. Under government requirements, Bosniaks will have to represent at least 15 per cent of the local community before they can demand provision of these classes in school. But far from settling the language issue, the decision of the Serbian government has only fueled the debate. The opposition nationalist Serbian Radical Party, SRS, has already demanded the minister quits over the announcement. Meanwhile, Professor Sefket Krcic, president of the Bosniak cultural association, Matica Bosnjaka, said he doubted the concession would last. "No one knows how long this government's decision will remain in force," he told IWPR. "This is particularly so when you recall that the Radical leaders have already demanded the minister's resignation." Even the Bosniak political parties in Sandzak are divided. Members of the List for Sandzak Coalition, led by Sulejman Ugljanin, which spearheaded the campaign, said they were delighted by the move. Esad Dzudzevic, a deputy from the coalition in the Serbian parliament, hailed it as a positive step for both the Bosniak community and the Serbian state. However, the Sandzak Democratic Party, SDP, the strongest Bosniak party in the region, criticised the manner in which the change was introduced and the proposed textbooks for primary schools. The substance of their complaints is that the textbook, the Bosnian language and the basics of Bosnian culture, is an unprofessional work that fails to draw on expert linguists in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and relies too much on local amateurs. "Official textbooks from Bosnia should have been used," said Elijaz Rebronja, the local SDP secretary and a literature teacher in Novi Pazar. "Most of the language programme should have been taken from these textbooks and only the rest from local writers. "The way it is, the textbook has been written by people who have published just a few poems. "This is just about putting up a smokescreen for ordinary people to score some political points." Rebronja said the List for Sandzak Coalition had "not taken into account the question of quality and had not thought about the children who are supposed to learn Bosnian from those textbooks".

    To complicate the issue, although SRS has condemned the plan for Bosnian classes in the Serbian parliament, the local branch of the Radicals in Novi Pazar is more conciliatory. "If Muslims or Bosniaks reach a consensus that their mother tongue should be Bosnian, we have no objections," Milan Veselinovic, head of the local SRS branch, told IWPR. "I don't want anyone to impose anything by force." The Radicals say the real aim of the campaign for Bosnian classes is to remind people that they differ from Serbs, when it might be more useful to remind them that they have lived together in the region for centuries. "The truth is that they are one people with two religions and that cannot be wiped out overnight," Veselinovic said. "We should work and live together." Most linguists agree that the language battle is, at heart, a largely political affair. They emphasise that this is a single language ­ Bosnian or Serbian - with the same semantic roots. But Zehnija Bulic, a writer and one of the first intellectuals to advocate the introduction of Bosnian into schools, told Novi Pazar's Radio 100 Plus that the new classes would benefit the whole community. Bulic said the optional course would "provide quality programmes, textbooks and teaching staff, so the language becomes a regular and essential subject at school for the Bosniak population". Teachers from both sides of the community are not so enthusiastic, however. Rahima Hajdinovic, a Bosniak teacher at Novi Pazar's Brotherhood primary school, says she was concerned about the prospect of teaching children something that she herself does not know very well. "It does not look like Bosnian to me," she said, after taking a look at the proposed textbook. "There are too many local words and expressions." She said she would observe the ministry's decision, as would her colleagues, but was not pleased with the textbook. Hajdinovic said Sandzak intellectuals should have been more involved in its creation. "Many of them are qualified to take part in such an enterprise," she added. Primary school second-grade teacher Budimirka Miljaljevic, a Serb, shares her colleague's doubts, though from a different standpoint. She said she would not know how to explain the new linguistic divisions to children, "We already have divisions on religious lines with Serb children on one side and Bosniak children on the other." "How can I explain to them now they are not the same?" she asked.

    Hivzo Golos, a Bosniak historian and an archive director, said many people would not accept the two languages were anything other than dialects of one another. "The question is how the whole idea will be implemented in the schools," he said. "For some, it is totally normal but for others it is unacceptable. To some, this Bosniak language will always be the 'ijekavski' dialect of Serbian." Golos said both views were true to an extent, "but politicians are always vocal in announcing their 'huge successes'. Logically, one ought not to try to score political points on issues like this". Local people who were interviewed by IWPR on the streets of Novi Pazar appeared equally in two minds about the language project. "Apparently, it is not important any more who is saying what, but which language he uses," one elderly man commented, obliquely. More positively, Mirza Hadzifejzovic, a university student, said he did not speak the Bosnian language himself but believed that his children would, one day. "It is important to know what your mother tongue is," he said. Significantly, most people asked about the issue, irrespective of their views or background, did not want their names mentioned. They all know one another and most did not wanted to annoy their neighbours. Bisera Spasovic, a coordinator at the Sandzak Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, a local NGO, said the attempt to separate Bosnian and Serbian speakers missed the point. "We all speak a Novi Pazar vernacular," she insisted. "We certainly do not need interpreters." Spasovic said that problems would occur in implementing Bosnian language tuition in such a multi-ethnic area. "It would be horrible holding classes exclusively for one ethnic group and it would give rise to nationalism," she continued. "The children should have been prepared first, as well as the teaching staff, but obviously someone's political ambitions took precedence over this." Other NGOs have been more welcoming of the move, describing it as a gesture that takes into account the existing ethnic diversity among local people. But they all said they hoped no one would place too much emphasis on these mutual differences. In the meantime, most citizens of Novi Pazar say they feel the current squabbles and insistence on differences will fizzle out in the end. They simply nod their approval for any solution to the problem, fed up with these sorts of issues. "Oh it's just ridiculous," Serif, a Bosniak bus driver said. "What kind of a language is this? The kids learn Serbo-Croat, not Bosnian." At the Stevan Nemanja primary school in Novi Pazar, Ramiz is equally uninterested in the question of whether to speak Bosnian, Serbo-Croat or Serbian. "Let me go, this is all so stupid, I want to play," he answers, sagging under the weight of his schoolbag.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    4/2/2005- As reported in an article by Nicholas Wood in The New York Times, books by various Serbian war crimes suspects have gained a following among Serbs. Radovan Karadzic, the chief organizer of crimes against humanity against Bosnians in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, has written four books since going into hiding in 1996. Among these books are a children's book and "The Miraculous Chronicle of the Night," a novel in which the main character is an engineer, like Karadzic, who lived in Sarajevo when the death of Tito took place in 1980. Milorad Ulemek, a former paramilitary soldier, most recently published "Iron Trench," in which he writes about war. Ulemek's book has surpassed records for sales of books in Serbia, having sold over 70,000 copies thus far. His publisher, Mihailo Vojnovic of M Books, notes that as Ulemek may be tried before the war crimes tribunal, his books may sell even more. Some experts are skeptical whether the book was actually written by Ulemek. These books appear to be having a major impact on Serbian culture, leading many to wonder about their validity and to address issues such as Serbia's role in the wars of the last decade, within Europe, and the treatment and capture of war crimes suspects. Natasha Kandic of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade protested, having encouraged international publishers to boycott the book fair at which Karadzic's most recent book was released.
    Source: Balkan Watch Newsletter

    The first local elections since Macedonia devolved power to local governments are a test for the country's fractured, and fractious, parties.
    By Biljana Stavrova and Robert Alagjozovski, TOL correspondents

    7/2/2005- When Macedonians go to the polls on 13 March to elect their local governments, it will be the first time they have done so since the introduction of new laws giving the municipalities considerably increased powers. Competition for such offices is already fierce. As the midnight deadline for the submission of candidate lists for mayors and city council members was approaching on 6 February, internal disputes prompted many parties to hold off on making decisions on candidacies until the last minute. Macedonia's new laws on decentralization were passed after a 2004 referendum against them failed and are among the reforms foreseen in the Ohrid framework agreement, which ended a short civil war between the country's majority and its ethnic Albanian minority in 2001. Mayors and city councils now make decisions on local development, education, health, finance, law enforcement, sports, and culture. Many members of parliament, managers of public enterprises, successful entrepreneurs, and a few local mavericks have declared ambitions to become city mayors. Even the most difficult question of domestic politics in 2004, the territorial organization of the town of Struga, has simply vanished as the various parties rushed to secure local offices. Last summer, an ethnic Macedonian interparty coalition led by Struga's mayor, Romeo Dereban, protested against the new decentralization law, which turned Struga into a predominantly ethnic Albanian municipality. But now, all the parties have decided to run in the elections, leaving Dereban on his own.

    The power of sharing
    The nine parties of the ruling "Together for Macedonia" coalition were the first to officially declare their cooperation during a conference on 6 February. "We offer a clear concept and a union of parties whose cooperation is deeper than [if it existed] only for the sake of elections," said the prime minister and leader of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), Vlado Buckovski. The current mayor of the capital, Skopje, and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Risto Penov, echoed Buckovski and told the conference, "Our candidates are experienced and can implement the decentralization." But with the exception of Penov, who received strong coalition support for his candidacy, the nomination process did not go smoothly. Many local representatives of the coalition's largest party, the SDSM, were unhappy about having to back candidates from less important coalition partners. For every major city seat there were several candidates fighting for the nomination. In Ohrid and Bitola, the candidates approved by the central party leadership got the nomination. But in Stip, the local leadership preferred Pande Sarev to the current mayor, Dimitar Efremov, who decided to run as an independent, thus splitting the SDSM vote.

    The battle for Skopje
    Victory in the city of Skopje is of great symbolic importance to both the government and the opposition. The ruling coalition nominated current mayor Penov for a third term in office. But despite some improvements in the city's infrastructure, many proposed capital investment projects--new bridges or a concert and sports hall--remain empty promises. The opposition rallied around independent candidate Trifun Kostovski, a successful businessman who has supported sports and culture projects. The rising political star secured the support of 19 political parties and nongovernmental organizations, including groups like the Reformed Communist Party and the Organization of Military Reservists. But the biggest opposition party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), hesitated over its support for Kostovski until the last moment before eventually signing a cooperation agreement on 5 February. Analysts believe that the hesitation by VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski is understandable, given Kostovski's uncertain allegiance. Kostovski had been elected to parliament in 2002 with the support of the ruling SDSM but turned his back on the government in protest against the decentralization law. Searching for a winning candidate, Gruevski even offered the Skopje candidacy to Vilma Trajkovska, the widow of President Boris Trajkovski, who was killed in a plane crash in Bosnia last year. Trajkovska declined the unexpected offer, made by phone while she was attending an annual prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. with U.S. President George W. Bush, saying that her family was her only concern at this moment. Gruevski admitted that the decision to back Kostovski was not unanimous and that his closest associates had objected. Analysts suggest that this may further weaken Gruevski's party, which--even though Gruevski personally ranks top in the polls--has already lost two-thirds of its parliamentary deputies, who either declared themselves independent or joined the newly formed VMRO-Narodna of ex-leader Ljubco Georgievski. Georgievski was in fact the first to support Kostovski by proposing on 4 February that any opposition candidate who passed the first round should gain the undivided support of all opposition forces in the second round.

    The Albanian stance
    But the upcoming election failed to prompt what would have been a major achievement: a pre-electoral coalition between ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties. The ethnic Albanian vote, though a minority, will have a decisive impact on the final count. The ruling (Albanian) Democratic Union of Integration (BDI) nominated its own candidate for the city of Skopje, following a decision by the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSh) to nominate a candidate of its own. The candidate of the governing coalition, Risto Penov, had hoped to be elected in the first round with the help of the BDI. The importance of Skopje for the Macedonian parties is matched for the ethnic Albanians by Tetovo, where they are the majority population. Victory in Tetovo will decide which of the main ethnic Albanian parties can claim to represent Macedonia's Albanians. The BDI nominated Hazbi Lika, one of the closest associates of its leader Ali Ahmeti, a former interior minister, while the PDSh will run with Vebi Bexheti, a professor at Southeast European University in Tetovo. The PDSh entered a coalition with the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD)--now a relatively minor party that used to be part of the government. Between 1995 and 2002, the PDSh and PPD were mortal enemies; they have now united to drive Ahmeti's BDI from power. The PPD lost its standing after 10 years in power when it started openly supporting the BDI in 2001. But the BDI refused to include the PPD in the government, pushing it toward its ex-rivals of the PDSh. It is believed that the PPD voters will decide who will win on the ethnic Albanian side.

    The European dimension
    A successful local election should strengthen Macedonia's position as it strives to enter the EU. Past elections were marred by irregularities and violence between local rivals. Radmila Sekerinska, deputy prime minister in charge of EU relations, warned that the EU will not tolerate either. Macedonia's anti-corruption commission called on political groups to obey the law on corruption and to refrain from spending public money in the campaign. In previous campaigns, all the resources of public enterprises were used. The interparty women's lobby also fought to have a legal requirement that 30 percent of candidates for local council seats had to be female, without success: As in past elections, only a few women are running for office.
    ©Transitions Online

    7/2/2005- An amendment to the asylum laws that comes into effect February 1 is designed to prevent abuse of the system and harmonize asylum law with EU legislation. An asylum seeker will be allowed to work in Slovakia if the Slovak authorities do not complete their investigation of the case within one year. Asylum seekers will carry an asylum seeker identification card. They will have to live in designated residential centres unless given specific permission to reside elsewhere, in which case they must declare where they will be living. The amendment allows the Migration Office to carry out medical examinations to determine the age of an asylum seeker. Asylum seekers will also be required to attend Slovak language courses to enable them to integrate into society more easily if they are allowed to stay in Slovakia. There will also be a 15-day period in which asylum seekers must be informed of their rights and obligations under the law. Immigration officials are required to put the asylum seeker in contact with Slovak NGOs that deal with asylum issues. Slovakia has recently been criticized by the UNHCR for accepting very small numbers of asylum seekers in proportion to the number of applications it receives.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    7/2/2005- In a ruling communicated this week, on 19 January 2005, the Regional Court in Banska Bystrica delivered a binding final decision, awarding for the first time in Slovak judicial history compensation for moral suffering to the next-of-kin of a victim of racially motivated crime. The case involves the 1995 killing by skinheads of a 17-year-old Romani youth named Mario Goral, in the town of Ziar nad Hronom. On 21 July 1995, Mr. Goral was chased through the streets of the town by a group of skinheads, stabbed with knives, beaten to a state of unconsciousness, doused in a flammable substance, and then set on fire. He suffered second and third degree burns over 63% of his body and died in hospital ten days later, on July 31. Although at least seventeen persons were initially charged by police in connection with the killing, only two persons were ultimately convicted. The ERRC has been involved in the case since the organisation was founded in 1996. This and similar crimes were at the center of advocacy efforts for justice in the matter of systemic racist violence against Roma in Slovakia, such as the ERRC's 1996 Country Report Time of the Skinheads: Denial and Exclusion of Roma in Slovakia. As part of efforts to seek due remedy for the family of Mario Goral, in 1998 the ERRC supported local counsel Dr. Bohumir Blaha in filing a civil action seeking financial compensation for mental anguish suffered by the victim and his mother. In September 1998, the ERRC filed an informal amicus curiae brief, as a supplement to the action of the mother's lawyer. The brief provided international and comparative legal authority with respect to the claim for non-pecuniary damages raised in the submission of Dr. Blaha. The ERRC argued that Mrs. Nadezda Borosova, Mario Goral's mother, was due two separate and independent sets of moral damage arising from the murder of her son. In January the Regional Court in Banska Bystrica agreed, and awarded Mrs. Borosova 300,000 Slovak Crowns (approximately 7,800 Euro) compensation. The ERRC welcomes the decision as crucial in efforts to check racially motivated violence in Slovakia and to bring justice to its many victims.

    The ERRC remains involved in a number of similar cases, including:

  • the 2000 killing by skinheads of Mrs. Anastazia Balazova
  • the July 2001 beating death by police officers of Mr Karol Sendrei

    A summary of ERRC concerns with respect to the human rights situation of Roma in Slovakia is available in English and Slovak
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    4/2/2005— Does a car have two or four wheels? Is it OK to sunbathe topless on the North Sea beaches along the Dutch coast? These are just two of the questions would-be immigrants may be asked as part of the new inburgeringsexamen, or integration exam, included in draft legislation that was unveiled by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk on Thursday. The exam is intended for immigrants, who will have to take it in their home country prior to coming to the Netherlands, to test their ability to speak Dutch and to gauge their understanding of Dutch culture. A video accompanies the exam material to give candidates insight into life in the Netherlands. It includes images of women sunbathing topless on the beach and of gay marriage — two examples of accepted behaviour in the Netherlands. The draft legislation provides for exemptions for certain groups of newcomers. These include citizens from other EU countries; the European Economic Area (EU states and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. These groups of newcomers are not required to sit the integration exam in their land of origin, according to the draft legislation. However, some may be required to undertake an integration course and exam when in the Netherlands. The draft legislation has to be approved by parliament before it is introduced. The integration pack — exam material and video — will cost EUR 45 and students will need 250 to 350 hours preparation before sitting the exam, Verdonk said. People sitting the exam will communicate with the examiner in the Netherlands by phone. The immigrant will have to pay for the price of the phone call. Verdonk says the exam will ensure that people who choose to settle in the Netherlands for an extended period of time will have prepared for life here before arrival. "As integration into Dutch society is a longterm process it is important that newcomers before arrival to the Netherlands have a command of the Dutch language at a basic level and developed an understanding of the society into which they are coming," Verdonk says. The obligation to undertake an integration course will mainly apply, Verdonk says, to people who come here to form a family by marrying a Dutch person, for example, or who want to be re-united with family members already in the Netherlands. The ministry estimates 14,000 people a year will apply to take the exam. And given that most family-reunification migrants come from Turkey, Morocco and Suriname, Verdonk says, the majority of applications will be dealt with in the capital cities Ankara, Rabat and Paramaribo.
    ©Expatica News

    5/2/2005- Would-be immigrants into the Netherlands are to face an exam testing their knowledge of everything from Dutch language and history to its laws on topless sunbathing before they can take up residence. A new inburgerings examen, or integration exam, has been unveiled as part of the crackdown against immigration after last year's murder of the controversial film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was an outspoken critic of Islam. That assassination, which shocked the Dutch nation, has stoked up a vigorous debate on how to assimilate the country's ethnic minorities. The exam plan, which still needs parliamentary approval, has been criticised as a knee-jerk reaction that will create one of the highest entry barriers to immigrants in the Western world. Initially the test will be required of foreigners applying for an immigration visa from outside the Netherlands but Rita Verdonk, the Dutch Immigration Minister, said she plans to extend examinations to people already living in the country. This means some 755,000 people already in Holland could eventually be required to prove their knowledge of Dutch history and language, or risk a fine and possibly the loss of residency rights. Those who want to come to the Netherlands will have to take the exam in their home country before being granted a visa, unless they come from countries exempted from the law, which include other EU states and the US. Ms Verdonk's ministry estimates that up to 350 hours of study will be needed to pass the test, which will be taken via telephone on a speech-controlled computer system. Those sitting the exam will pay a fee of about 350 (£240), and can prepare for it by studying an "integration pack", which will cost 45. A video accompanying it, designed to give an insight into life and social mores in the Netherlands, includes images of topless women sunbathing and of a gay marriage. Available in 13 languages, it describes the political institutions of the Netherlands and chronicles the country's history, highlighting important political and cultural figures from William of Orange to Anne Frank. The murders of Mr Van Gogh, in November last year, and that of the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn, in 2002, have rocked Dutch society and sparked a re-examination of its traditionally liberal and tolerant outlook. Mr Fortuyn, the populist anti-immigration MP, who was murdered by an animal rights campaigner, was recently voted the greatest-ever Dutchman. Mr Van Gogh, a descendant of the painter Vincent, was a controversial figure for his film Submission, which denounced the oppression of women under Islam. His final film, 06/05, released posthumously, was inspired by the killing of Mr Fortuyn. Ms Verdonk said: "As integration into Dutch society is a long-term process it is important newcomers, before arrival , have a command of the Dutch language at a basic level and have developed an understanding of the society into which they are coming." The government estimates that 14,000 people will apply to take the test each year.
    © Independent Digital

    10/2/2005— The radicalisation of young Muslims is partly caused by the negative way Islam is being talked about in the Netherlands, the head of the security service AIVD has claimed. Sybrand van Hulst made the suggestion during an interview with television current affairs programme Zembla on Wednesday night. Van Hulst's organisation is leading the investigation into the activities of extremists in the Netherlands and is deeply involved in the arrest and trial of 12 young Muslims said to be part of a terrorist network called the Hofstadgroep. But he did not specify who he was referring too as being partly responsible for driving some young Muslims towards radicalism. MPs Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders have led the criticism against aspects of Islam and the Muslim community in the Netherlands in recent years. Both have received death threats. Filmmaker Theo van Gogh, another vocal critic of Islam, was murdered in Amsterdam on 2 November last year. Mohammed B., 26, who was arrested for the murder, was said to be on the edge of the Hofstadgroep. Van Gogh had recently collaborated with Hirsi Ali to make the short film "Submission" which criticised violence against women in Islamic communities. Submission featured female actors who were wearing see-through veils. Their breasts were visible, something that caused a lot of offence among Muslims, many of whom who were already offended by the film's accusations. Van Hulst estimated that there are about 1,000 "radical Muslims" in the Netherlands. Of these, a few dozen are prepared to use violence. He said one way to help counter the radicalisation of young Muslims was to make them feel welcome in the Netherlands, in order that they would see themselves as being Dutch.

    Verdonk doesn't see anti-Muslim bias
    Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has said the government has not received any reports of anti-Muslim bias in the workplace. She was responding to a question during a debate in Parliament about new anti-terrorism legislation. The Labour Party (PvdA) asked what she was doing to combat the "us-and-them" attitude in the Netherlands. One example of this, given by the anti-racism agency LBR, was of bias against Muslims in the workplace. Verdonk said on Wednesday that such claims are often made, but no evidence is ever produced to substantiate the allegations.
    ©Expatica News

    7/2/2005- A bid to force a rethink of plans to make inciting religious hatred a crime has been seen off by the government. Comedian Rowan Atkinson supported the attempt to tighten the definition of racial and religious hatred. But the government defeated the Lib Dem amendment, backed by 25 Labour members, by 291 votes to 191. Critics fear the Serious and Organised Crime Bill could impact on performers making religious jokes. Ministers say it will not hamper freedom of speech. The vote followed a concession by the government which will change the proposed offence of causing "racial or religious hatred" to "hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds". Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said the change would help clarify the situation. She told MPs: "This is about protecting people, not about the ability to criticise, ridicule, lampoon and have fundamental disagreements about beliefs. "It is absolutely right in a modern democracy that people should have the ability to engage in that robust and vigorous debate and the position of the government is not that we seek to outlaw that at all."

    Final say
    Earlier, explaining why he backed Lib Dem MP Evan Harris' amendment, Mr Atkinson said: "I understand what the intentions of the government are here. "I know that they do not intend to militate against people like me or [author] Salman Rushdie or playwrights. "But the only safety valve that they have put in the legislation is the fact that the attorney general will have the final say. "A safety valve operated by a politician subject to the political agendas of the day is not to me a good enough safety valve," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday. Mr Atkinson described the legislation as being problematic because it was "all-encompassing". "The incitement of religious hatred doesn't even have to be intended, it is just if it offends any person. "It couldn't be more broad." He said that the measure had only been introduced in order to boost support for Labour in the run-up to a general election. "This is undoubtedly a politically motivated move on the government's part because they think it will give them some advantage among certain religious groups in the imminent general election," he said.
    ©BBC News

    7/2/2005- St Andrews has withdrawn its controversial invitation to the leader of the British National Party to speak at a debate. The university's debating society had invited Nick Griffin, the leader of a party which is widely thought to be racist, to speak on a motion that "This house believes that the multicultural experiment has failed". A barrage of protest was unleashed when the invitation was made public. The NUS has had a no-platform policy for fascists since the early 90s, meaning that it refuses to participate in discussions with them and encourages its members to do the same. NUS Scotland called on the debating society to withdraw its invitation, saying that the BNP's policies were "contrary to every single principle of the student movement". It also faxed other student unions asking them to put pressure on St Andrews to cancel the debate. "The far right must be given no chance to recruit on our doorsteps," said NUS Scotland President Melanie Ward. The Commission for Racial Equality and anti-racism campaigners Positive Action in Housing also joined in the criticism, with the latter accusing the BNP of holding similar views to the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazis. However, the debate's organiser, final-year student Peter Blair, defended the invitation. "We believe that the only way to get the truth of what the BNP are saying and to combat them is to do it in public in a debate," he said. "Most of the students will disagree with what Nick Griffin will say, but they still want to go to the debate." Mr Blair argued that ignoring the problem, and the BNP's recent electoral success in a number of council seats, would not make it go away and would be more dangerous than letting them speak in a debate. Despite this, though, the debate has been called off, much to the delight of anti-racism organisations. Mr Griffin condemned the decision. "This is again an example of the violent and intimidating type of leftism towards the patriotic people of the BNP," he said, apparently without a trace of irony. The words "violent and intimidating" could not, of course, be used to describe any of the BNP's members. With a general election getting closer the no-platform policy is likely to be tested before long again.
    ©The Rundown

    There's no need to fear immigration

    6/2/2005- There's an ugly auction under way between Britain's two principal political parties over who can be tougher on foreigners. Behind it stands an unacknowledged obeisance to racism. Naturally, everyone denies this. But if it walks and talks like a duck, it is a duck - and be sure that party strategists on both sides know this. Michael Howard opened the Tory bidding with a call for a quota on asylum seekers (which would involve abandoning both the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights). International treaties could not be allowed to stand in the way of appeasing 'legitimate concerns of the native British about their jobs, homes and way of life' being threatened by immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Tomorrow, New Labour will place its bid and announce its intention to abandon the current right of immigrants to apply for indefinite leave to remain after four years. Instead, they will have to prove they have the skills Britain needs and pass a basic English test. The message is clear. Immigrants are here on sufferance and should return home. The new Labour line will also speak of 'legitimate concerns' about immigration and asylum seeker abuses. But are these concerns so 'legitimate' that we must develop policy which is frankly racist and denies basic human rights to some sections of society? Labour, no less than Ukip and the British National Party, is contributing to a hysterical climate in which swing voters report that their greatest fear is of immigrants and asylum seekers. Yet the UN reports that low birth rates mean Europe needs 1.6 million migrants a year to 2050 simply to keep its working-age population stable. We are inflicting a great wound on ourselves. The British are more tolerant and less racist than many other states - a great source of economic, social and moral strength. Immigrants come to work because there is work - not to live on poverty-line benefits. They are here because we need them. If the economic demand fell away, so would the inward flow of immigrants. Far from being a burden on UK taxpayers, migrants make a net tax contribution - approximately £2.5 billion a year. Turning immigrants into second-class citizens will inflame racial tension; the proposed rules do not target white immigrants, from the US or the EU for example. Labour should be exposing those who call for tighter rules for what they are - racists. Leadership could change the climate of opinion, and lead us away from what we know are our worst instincts. Instead, in a state of funk, Labour's leaders try to outbid the Opposition. They should be ashamed.
    ©The Observer

    7/2/2005- Refugees will no longer get lifelong residency in the UK but be given a five-year grace period in case the situation in their homeland stabilises, under a radical overhaul of immigration and asylum policy announced today. The current system of student and work visas will be rolled into one regime, with a points system for skilled applicants and the gradual phasing out of low-skill permits, the home secretary, Charles Clarke, told MPs Unveiling the government's plans in one of the most highly charged policy areas in the country, Mr Clarke echoed the prime minister's contention that Britain's "hospitality is under threat". The government will set up an independent advisory body on labour market shortages, while low-skilled economic migration from outside the EU will be "phased out", Mr Clarke said, although he put no timetable on that process. The points system for skilled migrants will be introduced "sooner rather than later", Mr Clarke said. The new system, focusing on skilled workers, is meant to ensure that Britain accepts migrants only for jobs that cannot be filled by its domestic workforce. Skilled workers will now face a "Britishness test" of language skills, similar to the test people take when applying for British citizenship. Mr Clarke said new technology would record people entering and leaving the country, including fingerprinting of all visa applicants from 2008. Mr Clarke's Tory shadow, David Davis, called today's statement a "panic-stricken measure in the run up to the election".

    Tighter conditions
    Tighter conditions for permanent settlement will include English-language tests and general knowledge about the UK. Mr Clarke said such conditions had "to be tightened up very sharply and ... conditions of settlement should be brought much closer to citizenship". He said it was appropriate to offer successful asylum seekers temporary rights to live in the UK, citing Kosovo as a conflict-torn area that generated large numbers of refugees but later returned to normality. Mr Clarke said today's plans were unlikely to have much effect on the overall number of migrants coming to Britain. He said the number of migrants was "about right" in certain categories but the number of unfounded asylum applications was still too high. He admitted the government had failed to handle the return of failed asylum seekers properly. People who have settled in the UK will have to wait five years before they can sponsor further family members to come to Britain, in a bid to end "chain migration". Under the new points system, there will be four tiers of immigrants, divided by factors including their qualifications, work experience and income. Highly skilled migrants, including doctors, engineers, IT specialists and finance experts, fall into tier one. They will be the only group able to come to Britain without a job offer. Tier two comprises workers with NVQ level 3 or A-level equivalent qualifications, such as nurses, teachers and administrators. Tier three covers low-skilled workers, who will be granted entry to Britain to fill specific job vacancies for fixed periods. Tier four is made up of students and special groups such as sports people and employees of international companies based in the UK. Applicants under tiers three and four will only be allowed entry if their home country has a formal agreement with Britain to accept their return if they later abuse the system. Specific categories of migrants - such as those from certain countries - will also be required to hand the British government a financial bond, which they will forfeit if they fail to return home. Mr Clarke said: "We will introduce a simpler, clearer, more effective scheme for those wishing to come and work here, focusing on the highly skilled migrants that can help us build our economy."

    'Five years of uncertainty'
    The chief executive of the Refugee Council, Maeve Sherlock, said ending indefinite permission to remain would leave successful asylum seekers "in limbo". "We would be very concerned if someone who has been accepted as a refugee has to live through five years of uncertainty until the UK government confirms they can remain here permanently," she said. "It seems particularly unfair on refugees who may have lost their whole families or suffered torture or, at worst, ethnic cleansing." The CBI director general, Sir Digby Jones, said: "Well-managed migration, where new migrants' skills complement those of workers already here, is essential for the UK economy. Without the option of being able to recruit from abroad, sectors like construction, IT and hospitality would have severe problems. "If we're to have the workforce to pay the pensions of future generations, to satisfy today's skills shortages and to staff our public services, the UK needs skilled migrants who speak English and participate in the economy." The five-year plan announced by Mr Clarke - following last week's reform of incapacity benefit - is the last of the big set-piece government reforms expected before the general election, widely expected to be held on May 5. His outline plan, widely trailed in the weekend press and in a BBC interview with Tony Blair last night, was attacked before Mr Clarke even stood up, with the former union boss Sir Bill Morris calling it a "bidding war" between the main parties to see who could be nastiest to asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. The Tories last week announced their own immigration policies, based on the Australian model, of an annual quota for refugees and a points system for skilled economic migrants. Outside Westminster, the UK Independence party launched its own immigration campaign, with a poster demanding "We want our country back." Writing in the Times today, Mr Blair highlighted some of the features of the plan, stating: "We need to stop random chain migration - dependants upon dependants; to prevent or penalise sham marriages; to have the power to demand special requirements if applications from particular countries rise significantly; to get after the organised criminals who traffic in people."
    ©The Guardian

    9/2/2005- The UK government is planning to return asylum seeker children without parents to Albania. The trial scheme, which could start in weeks, may be extended to apply to children from other countries. Children's charities have reacted with alarm, saying the policy amounts to forcible removal and may not guarantee the safety of those affected. But the Home Office says it may be in the children's best interests if it reunites them with their communities.

    9,000 arrivals
    The pilot, included in the government's five-year immigration plan, aims to return unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Albania who have failed in their asylum claims. Since 2002, at least 9,000 under-18s have arrived in the UK to seek asylum without other family members. These children automatically become the responsibility of social services. Up to now, ministers have held back from final removal orders against unaccompanied children until after they are legally adults at 18. At least a dozen Albanian-born teenagers are thought to have been identified for return, according to sources, although there is no public confirmation of numbers. Those selected could either be returned to their families, should they be traced, or placed in the care of other Albanian authorities. Separate negotiations to establish a family tracing and returns scheme are believed to be underway with another country.

    Unaccompanied asylum seeking children
    3,445 under-17s assessed in 2003:

  • 4% granted asylum
  • 32% granted exceptional leave to remain
  • 40% granted humanitarian protection
  • 15% refused
    Source: Home Office

    'Forced removal'
    Under the 1989 Children Act, public bodies have a duty to act in the "best interest" of a child in their care. Laura Brownlees of Save the Children said there were grave concerns, not least because of the well-documented trafficking of children into crime and prostitution in Albania. "If children are going to be returned then there should be proper assessments and decisions on a case by case basis," she said. "We do not think there are structures in place [to receive returning children in Albania]. 'If these decisions are not in the best interests of the child, then that is a forced removal because the child will not have any choice in the final decision." In its five-year immigration plan, announced on Tuesday, the government said it was addressing "the difficult issue" of returning unaccompanied asylum seeking children. A spokesman for the Home Office said it was wholly wrong to suggest that the plan was to return children "and leave them to rot". "We are developing a returns programme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children whose asylum and humanitarian protection claims have been refused," said the spokesman. "We have been exploring how we can establish reception and longer-term care arrangements in countries of origin and believe that it's possible to return children in a way that is in their best interests and is safe and sustainable. "We do not believe that it is right, or in keeping with children's legislation, that children who can return should remain in the UK indefinitely separated from their families and communities." The spokesman stressed the UK would abide by its international human rights obligations. Only those children who could be provided with a carefully planned reintegration package would be returned, he said. But Andrew Hogg, spokesman for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said ministers had so far failed to reassure agencies. "From what is so far known, we strongly oppose the scheme because the welfare and best interests of the child will not properly be taken into account," said Mr Hogg. "In Albania particularly there is no statutory child care or protection structure. "The Medical Foundation has many serious concerns, including the assessment process for suitability for return, the degrading of best interests of the child principles and of child welfare, and the lack of safeguards in the chosen countries." A spokesman for the Albanian embassy in London said it was the first it had heard of a scheme, but did not rule out that there had been an agreement between the two countries.
    ©BBC News

    Leaders from all parties wonder why so many immigrants and their children repudiate calls for integration
    By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

    7/2/2005- Which leader will emerge as the most ruthless on immigration? As the election draws nearer, the competitors are turning up the heat, trying to appeal to millions of nervous nationalists around the country. This week, Robert Kilroy-Silk, aryan man, little Englander, launched his new party, Veritas, which promises to expurgate all foreign cultures from this idyllic island and to rid the place of migrants. Michael Howard, both afraid of, and transfixed by, this blondish wonder, produced his own malevolent policies against asylum- seekers and migrants. Today, New Labour, unnerved by both Veritas and the Tories and the rising tide of public paranoia, is announcing a punitive five-year programme that will further reduce the rights of asylum-seekers and economic migrants and punish them for daring to come to our doors. Then they wonder why so many immigrants and their children repudiate calls (from the same leaders) for integration. Why should they embrace a society that never accepts them as equals, which has for centuries played a duplicitous game, enticing workers from abroad and then treating them as the enemy within, whatever they do? It is these politicians who are responsible for the growing divisions in our society and the racisms they claim they abhor. No citizenship lessons or ceremonies can produce a coalesced Britain if the political leadership malignantly defines the country in terms of insiders and outsiders and always describes immigration as a threat and not a promise. To make matters worse, these parties can produce multi-coloured puppets who will agree that refugees and migrants from the Third World are a nuisance and must be stopped. There have never been more ministers and MPs of colour in our parliament. We have an unprecedented number of white migrants and the descendants of refugees in power, including Peter Hain and Patricia Hewitt, Michael Howard, Oliver Letwin. And this is when attitudes towards migrants have turned more poisonous than during the days of Powell.

    Much is at stake here - we could lose the best of Britishness in this swamp of xenophobia. Two opposing traditions have long existed in this country on immigration and national identity. One has been open and empathetic, genuinely concerned to welcome the oppressed, delighted to evolve, expand the culture, to fall in love with the "other". The second is exactly the opposite - mean and easily threatened by the outsider, ready to scapegoat anyone obviously different for any number of problems and evils. With very few exceptions, British politicians through the ages have pretended to applaud the first (bogus postures) while stimulating generic antipathy towards incomers, particularly those whose skins are naturally dark. More heinously, they claim that "good race relations" depend on this institutionalised hypocrisy. People with Kilroy-Silk tans have, and make, fewer problems, of course. Ask those many, many Australians, white South Africans and Zimbabweans, Italians, Americans, French and now Poles and Russians, if the country welcomes them, and most will effuse unreservedly. Then ask Filipino nurses, Indian IT workers and settled non-white Britons, and you will get more circumspection, less clear enthusiasm. We have never been allowed to put down roots and that's the truth of it. Ever since the 16th century, a noise is kept alive by political leaders, a noise of rejection which echoes constantly in our heads. How the leaders of this country waxed lyrical on Holocaust Memorial Day. But Jewish survivors, says the writer Anne Karpf, "have been sanctified and idealised after the event on occasion by the same publications and people that at the time demonised and sought to impugn their authenticity." Ugandan Asians, now lauded as frightfully good and productive entrepreneurs faced abominable treatment from local authorities and some politicians even though they had British passports. They were made to suffer and survive. So, too, were the Iraqis, who came here in the last five years, fleeing the very country that was thought so terrible we had to invade. "Genuine" asylum-seekers are ghosts in the nation's collective imagination. When they materialise into real creatures, we recoil from them. Especially if they are very obviously Third World. Economic migrants from these parts are regarded as even more of a menace.

    The Russian mafia is carrying on alarmingly in the streets of Britain, but they never seem to cause much panic. But some Kurdish felons are caught and our entire immigration and integration system comes in for feverish scrutiny. This is true in the rest of the EU too. When Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim fascist, all Muslims, then all migrants of colour, present and future, were blamed for the crime. But Pim Fortuyn was killed by a white animal rights activist. Did Holland then engage in a nervous national conversation about white extremism in Europe? On Saturday at the British Museum, a little Irish girl, Melissa, and I queued for the toilet, growing desperate by the minute as the line was long and the day cold. Four cleaners - all young African women who obviously took great pride in their hair and looks - were cleaning away, trying their best not to get ruffled as the punters got irate and, at times, offensive in their mutterings. As if they were to blame for the lack of adequate facilities at the museum on this crowded afternoon. A Welsh woman in front of us turned to me conspiratorially and said: "These people... who lets them in?" I retorted sharply that I was one of these people and that she should perhaps have the guts to ask the cleaners themselves who let them in and why they are here. Her response came back fast and furious, but directed to the people behind me now: "This is what happens when we end up a soft touch. What rudeness, we used to be such a polite country." Another day, another slight, so common and widespread that most of us immigrants hardly notice the pain of such small, stinging rebuffs. How did this woman get so prejudiced that she can demean blameless people so casually? A Welshwoman, too, with her own history of rule and intimidation by the English.

    These cleaners, African and Albanian traffic wardens, Asian and black staff serving the public at benefits offices and post offices, Arab small shopkeepers, they will all tell you how low-grade ethnic abuse is part of their interaction with this so-called "tolerant" country. I have to endure regular abuse now because I am seen as "successful" and, therefore, a thief who filched white aspirations and the jobs they could have had if I hadn't claimed them. W H Auden, in 1939, agreed to marry Erika Mann, a German refugee, so she could come here. In his poem Refugee Blues, he wrote: "Once we had a country and we thought it fair,/Look in an atlas and you'll find it there:/We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now. "In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,/Every spring it blossoms anew:/Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that. "Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said: 'If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread': He was talking of you and me my dear, he was talking of you and me."
    © Independent Digital

    Forty years ago this week, Malcolm X visited Britain, just a short while before his untimely death. IRR News looks back.
    By Arun Kundnani

    10/2/2005- February 1965, Malcolm had broken with his former idol Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and, having completed his tour of Africa and visit to Mecca, carried with him a spirit of global rebellion. It was in Britain that he gave the fullest outlines of his new internationalist vision, at talks given to the London School of Economics during his February 1965 visit and to the Oxford Union three months before. 'The same heart, the same pulse that beats in the Black man on the African continent today is beating in the heart of the Black man in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Many of them don't know it but it's true,' he said. He now saw the revolt of African-Americans as part of a 'global rebellion... of the exploited against the exploiter'.

    But it was Malcolm's visit to Smethwick, in the West Midlands, on 12 February 1965, that had the greatest impact on Britain. Smethwick was a town which had come to symbolise English racism. During the general election a few months earlier, the successful Tory candidate Peter Griffiths told voters: 'if you want a nig**r for a neighbour, vote Labour'. The slogan led to the defeat of Labour candidate Patrick Gordon Walker, who had been expected to win easily and become Foreign Secretary in the new administration. The message of the campaign - that Labour could lose votes unless it, too, played the race card - would echo through the coming decades, right down to this week's attempts by the government to out-tough Michael Howard on immigration policy. On Smethwick's Marshall Street, White residents had gained council support to bar Blacks from moving to the street. The Tory-run local council had agreed to buy any houses which came up for sale and sell them only to White families. It was Marshall Street that Malcolm X chose to visit with television cameras and reporters in tow. He told reporters: 'I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being badly treated. I have heard they are being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.' The statement threw Malcolm into the centre of the debate on British race relations and he was roundly condemned for his pronouncements. But to Black people, Malcolm's message was the need for self-organisation. And it was a message that immediately energised Black Britain, throwing up a myriad of new organisations, such as the Racial Action Adjustment Society (RAAS), which by May was lending its support to the first important strike of Black workers, at Courtauld's Red Scar Mill in Preston. It was the beginning of an era of Black British militancy which Malcolm had helped instigate.

    Malcolm was acutely aware of the dangers he faced during his visit to Britain. Jan Carew, a Caribbean radical who accompanied him during his time in London, noted Malcolm's permanent state of alertness, born of his fear of surveillance and assassination. There was, he wrote later, an undercurrent of sadness and loneliness to Malcolm's character but also a mind that was at its most open to new ideas. It was just a few days later, after his return from London, that Malcolm was shot at a public meeting in Harlem, New York.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    11/2/2005- British jews were subject to a record number of anti-Semitic attacks last year, including a huge increase in serious assaults. The increase has been blamed on "the Middle East factor", with a sharp rise in incidents rooted in hatred of Israel. Jewish communities in London and Manchester were subjected to more than 400 attacks, and throughout the UK levels of anti-Semitism rose to the highest level since records began 20 years ago. Jewish children on the way home from school and people returning from synagogue have been assaulted. In Southampton, a gang - whose leader collected far-right literature - assaulted a teenager so severely that his jaw was broken in three places, while a woman was beaten by her neighbours. Anti-Semitic abuse rose by 42 per cent in 2004 to 532 incidents, including 83 assaults, mostly on visibly Jewish people. For the first time in five years, assaults outnumbered incidents of damage to property, including the desecration of synagogues and graveyards.

    The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises the Jewish community on how to protect itself, said many of the attacks were "a reaction to events in the Middle East". "Some British-based supporters of the Palestinians chose to express their opposition to Israel by attacking British Jews," a report published by the CST yesterday said. "This overspill of international conflicts on to British shores is not always a short-term reaction to a specific event, however; sometimes it reflects a more general ideological hostility to Jews." The assassination by Israel of the Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March last year sparked the second highest number of attacks recorded in the UK. In the 48 hours following his killing, there were 54 anti-Semitic incidents, including a string of abusive phone calls to London synagogues. Of the 532 incidents recorded, 124 showed clear anti-Zionist motivation, while neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists are thought to have been involved in 84 attacks. There was also an alarming rise in "suspicious" surveillance of synagogues, community centres and Jewish schools, including videotaping and photography. "Terrorist groups often collect information about their targets before launching an attack, and preventing this kind of information-gathering is an integral part of the CST's work in protecting the community," the report said. Yesterday, parliamentarians expressed alarm at the sharp rise in abuse towards British Jews, some of which was targeted at MPs, communal leaders and other high-profile individuals. The names of victims were not released, as many of the incidents are being investigated by the police. The Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, described the increase in anti-Semitic attacks as being "totally unacceptable". He told MPs that there were regular meetings between the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Deputies, and close collaboration between the police and the Jewish community. "We have also strengthened the law against racism, including raising the maximum penalty for incitement to racial hatred," he added.

    Incidents recorded in 2004

  • 13 February A London travel agency specialising in tours to Israel had "dirty Jew cunts, up the PLO" daubed on the outside
  • 17 February A Jewish teenager's jaw was shattered in three places by a gang in Southampton and he was subjected to a tirade of anti-Semitic abuse
  • 1 March A Jewish man was stabbed in his home by an assailant who shouted "I'm going to kill you, you fucking yid"
  • 4 April Gang of youths attacked a 12-year-old Jewish boy wearing a kippah. Doctors spent an hour and a half stitching cuts to his face after the assault
  • April Letters were sent to several synagogues in London reading: "By almighty Allah you shall not escape Muslim justice with 1,000 assassins ready to strike in places that you gather"
  • 15 May Anti-Israel demonstrators at Liverpool University made anti-Semitic remarks to Jewish students, calling them "Nazis" and "bleeding Jews"
  • 25 May A Jewish man who was walking down a street in Manchester was attacked from behind and had CS gas sprayed in his face
  • 12 June Four youths smashed a bottle over the head of an Orthodox man as he walked home from the synagogue
  • 15 June A Jewish woman was violently attacked by three of her neighbours and severely beaten
  • 17 June An arson attack on a synagogue in north London caused extensive damage, including to prayer books rescued from the Nazis
  • 29 June A Jewish schoolboy on a bus in north London was attacked and repeatedly kicked by an Arab man who called him a Jew
  • 29 July The words "Hitler was right, Israelis bomb babies" were etched into the side of a London Underground train
  • 9 November The words "happy Kristallnacht, Combat 18" and "Jews Out" were painted on a doctor's surgery on the anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1938
  • 15 November A synagogue received a snuffbox containing excrement in the post
  • December An Orthodox Jew in Stamford Hill, north London, had his nose broken in an assault
    © Independent Digital

    11/2/2005- A new craze with a powerful message has won the overwhelming support of football fans. A black-and-white wristband launched by Thierry Henry to raise awareness of the fight against racism has sold its initial batch of 200,000 in barely a week. The Arsenal star came up with the bracelet idea and took it to his sponsor Nike, which is now trying to keep up with demand. A further 100,000 should be in stores today and Nike Town in Oxford Street has taken 15,000 of the consignment. Stores suggest people taking one of the bands make a donation of £1.50. A quarter of that goes towards manufacturing costs, with the rest going to fund anti-racism groups such as Let's Kick Racism out of Football. Nike urged people to wait for the bands. Some are already being sold on ebay for £10 or more. A Nike spokesman said: "If people are patient, the money will then get through to the fund and people won't be profiteering from this." Following concerns about unsavoury incidents such as Spanish supporters' chants at black England players last year, Henry joined stars from across Europe, including Ronaldinho, Rio Ferdinand and Ruud van Nistelrooy, to back the campaign. The campaign encourages fans to speak out against racist abuse in stadiums wherever it occurs.
    ©This is London

    7/2/2005- The Spanish government has launched a programme granting legal amnesty to up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants. Applicants who can prove they arrived before last August, have a job contract and no criminal record, have three months to sign up as taxpayers. The authorities say the move will draw immigrants out of the black economy. Spain has rejected criticism from the opposition and other European countries that the amnesty makes the country a gateway for illegal immigrants. Spanish officials are already preparing to deport a group of 227 suspected illegal migrants found on a boat drifting off the Canary Islands on Saturday. Within Spain, the amnesty has meant tens of thousands of people across the country have been queuing at embassies and local council offices to prepare their documents.

    Lost millions
    Now they have three months to submit their forms. Under the rules, an immigrant with a six-month work contract who is registered at the town hall and social security office is eligible for Spanish residency, the right to live and work legally in Spain. Socialist MP Rafael Estrella told the BBC: "We have a number of illegal immigrants in Spain who are not contributing to the system, to the social system, with their taxes and who have been working here on an irregular basis where they are exposed to the mafias (illegal gangs)." The scheme is expected to bring in millions of euros of tax revenue usually lost in the black market. It is estimated that more than one million people live and work in Spain illegally - thousands in two of Spain's most important industries: agriculture and construction. The BBC's Danny Wood in Madrid says that without any legal status, they form the most vulnerable layer of Spanish society. Immigrant groups say this legal amnesty lacks flexibility and is not the way to solve Spain's immigration problems.

    EU 'green card'
    The Spanish plan contrasts sharply with schemes brought in by other EU members. On Monday the UK government unveiled a new points system designed to tighten immigration controls and ensure migrants wanting to work in the UK have the right skills. The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says the two plans highlight the lack of co-ordination over immigration policy within the 25-nation European Union. Earlier this year, the European Commission argued that with a rapidly ageing population, Europe urgently needed more economic migrants in order to catch up with its global competitors. Among the solutions proposed was the introduction of a US-style "green card", giving an individual the right to work throughout the EU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to consult employers, trade unions, non-governmental organisations and countries where most migrants come from, in order to present an integrated policy plan for legal migration.
    ©BBC News

    updated 7 February 2005- From today a major overhaul of the law will make it easier for illegal immigrants to get legal status as Spain tries to tackle the burgeoning labour 'black economy'. Graham Keeley reports

    From today Spain's Socialist government embarks on a bold gamble with immigration, one of the biggest issues facing the country. In an effort to bring illegal immigrants into the state system, the government plans to make it easier for them to get residence permits. The idea behind this is to stop so-called 'clandestinos' (illegal immigrants) working in the black economy and to get them to pay taxes and social security. The exact size of the black in economy in Spain is not known though estimates put the number working outside the law at 800,000. It ranks as one of the main reasons immigrants chose to come to Spain; they can disappear more easily than if they were in Britain or France and find work relatively easily. At the same time, Spain has one of the lowest birth-rates in Europe and a growing population of pensioners. Commentators of varying political persuasions have said the country needs more immigrants to pay social security and taxes in order that the State can support the elderly. They also claim these people are essential to do the jobs many Spaniards regard as below them, despite an unemployment level of 10 percent. But knowing that welcoming more immigrants into the system might have serious social and political repercussions, prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has sought to strike a deal with business leaders and the unions to ensure these changes are accepted. Jesus Caldera, the minister for work and social affairs, has agreed a deal with the CEOE, the confederation of Spanish businesses and the two biggest unions, the UGT and the CC OO.

    The new Foreigners' Law
    From today (7 February), the Socialist government's reform of the existing Foreigners' Law comes in to action. It means Spain will grant residence permits to immigrants who can provide proof of their registration with a local council from before 8 August last year, proof they have no criminal record and a work contract of six months. The length of contract can vary depending on the industry, with three months for agricultural workers and for domestic workers weekly contracts of 30 hours. Employers have until 7 May to provide contracts to local authorities. Once they fulfil these conditions and are given conditional approval, immigrants are registered with the social security authorities and start paying contributions to the system. The government will also want to grant residence permits to those immigrants who blow the whistle on unscrupulous employers — bosses who hire immigrants without a work contract. Immigration Secretary Consuelo Rumi said the plans were about "easy the integration of foreigners" and also about fighting the black market in immigrant labour. "This does not mean we are going to give papers to all foreigners. Let that be very clear," she said. The government also intends to promote legal immigration by delivering three-month visas, designed to give immigrants time to find work in Spain before applying for residence. Residents of countries which feed most of the illegal migration towards Spain will be given priority for visas. Currently about 2.6 million foreigners live in Spain, which has a population of 43.2 million, including more than a million illegal immigrants, of whom one third are Ecuadoran, followed by Colombians, Romanians, Moroccans, Argentinians, Bulgarians and Ukrainians. According to a government study, of the 17.24 million jobs in Spain, 850,000 or 4.9 percent, are occupied by immigrants with 34 percent of positions created last year taken by immigrants. Zapatero had promised an "organised and legal immigration" when his government came into power last April.

    Praise and criticism
    But, understandably, the plan has provoked strong reactions from both supporters and critics. Almudena Fontecha, immigration spokeswoman for one of Spain's largest unions, the UGT, said: "Now there will exist a guarantee for those immigrants who have a contract and have enrolled in the social security system and who support the system." But the Spanish Commission of Refugee Aid (CEAR) said the conditions imposed by the government limit the chances of certain immigrants, in particular those from Africa or at countries war who have trouble getting a copy of the necessary documents or who simply don't have a passport. CEAR said the government only wanted to grant legal status to "people capable of working who can pay for social security, they aren't regularising children, the elderly and people without work". And Ana Pastor, the social affairs spokeswoman for the opposition conservative Popular Party, said: "This has not done anything but create more tension and will mean foreigners will be sacked." Critics believe nothing will change and the vast black economy will carry on unabated. Those who ask for contracts will simply be fired. Many immigrants have not even heard of the reforms. Mohammed, 20, a Bangladeshi, who speaks no Spanish, smiled when we informed him of the changes. "No work, no friends, no family," he said. "I want to be a waiter." But in contrast, Katia, a Peruvian in her 30s who worked as a dietician in her own country, said: "What I have seen since I came here is a lot of exploitation. I think these reforms will be a positive thing."

    Europe's front line
    Against this background, Spain has another battle against illegal immigration on its borders. Last weekend, coastguards picked up 228 Africans in one leaky boat off the coast of the Canary Islands. They had been living on sweets while they made the precarious crossing to Spanish territory. Madrid is to ask the European Union for increased funds, to strengthen border controls and facilitate the expulsion of illegal immigrants — arguing that Spain is at the frontline of what is a Europe-wide problem. "Twenty-three percent of clandestine immigrants who manage to enter Europe do so via Spanish territory," Rumi said. Spain faces a steady tide of people, mainly north and sub-Saharan Africans, trying to reach the European Union either by the Canary Islands or across the Strait of Gibraltar separating Morocco and Spain at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Non-governmental organisations estimate that at least one million people, out of Spain's 2.6 million-strong immigrant population, are in Spain illegally. Most are Moroccans and Latin Americans. Authorities in Morocco, one of the main departure points for immigrants bound for Spain, have already stepped up their cooperation with Spain in the fight against illegal immigration. At the same time, people-smuggling gangs have started to ferry boatloads of people from coastal west Africa towards the Canary Islands. Spain has recently discovered that even the most sophisticated police technology is unable to stem the tide of immigrants at its southern border. For some years, Spanish police have been using an electronic surveillance system known as SIVE, which includes watchtowers and mobile units with radars and infra-red thermal cameras. The system detects the small boats or 'pateras' as they are known, as soon as they leave the shores of Morocco. As a result of using the SIVE system, the number of people arriving by boat from Africa went down by 17 percent to 11,473 to the end of September, the Spanish daily El Pais claimed. But still relief organisations say they cannot cope with the daily arrivals.
    ©Expatica News

    You might call it an invasion. Given the climate of public paranoia, perhaps the word armada comes to mind. But do those words square with the evidence of one's eyes?

    7/2/2005- This was another huge weekend for Africans in the Canaries. More than 7,000 illegal immigrants from Africa clambered ashore these islands last year, mostly on Fuerteventura which is the closest of them to the African coast. That's 20 per day on average. Around Christmas, terrible tragedies were reported ­ a boat with 10 corpses aboard, all dead of cold and thirst, another with 13 dead among dozens who were barely alive. Then came a lull of more than two weeks. No arrivals at all, though the Atlantic from here to Laayoune, the nearest port in Western Sahara, was playfully mild under balmy, cobalt blue skies. It's the manoeuvres, suggested the man at the Red Cross. The Spanish and Portuguese navies were reported to be doing joint manoeuvres in the channel, trying out new radar with laser gear, trying to monitor the African coast as precisely as they would a harbour. Perhaps the new kit was working. Perhaps they'd fixed another hole. Nothing of the sort: the deluge began again last week. First on Thursday one of the little pateras, the migrants' boats, arrived in the far south of the island, at a place with fabulously broad, long, sandy beaches, lined with the apartments of Germans and Britons, called Morro del Jable. Thirty-two on board it was reported, though it beggars the imagination how: you would hesitate to row your family across a municipal pond in this vessel. The big one arrived on Saturday, this time in Tenerife and in a fashion that has only been tried four or five times since the big rush began five years ago: a rusty old fishing boat shorn of its lifting gear was arrested 150 yards off the port of Tenerife: a two-man white crew sped off in a launch, leaving 227 sub-Saharan Africans, nearly all young men, squashed into the boat. Some were reported to be hungry and suffering from hypothermia but the condition of most was good. Then two more yesterday, tiddlers like Thursday's, so similar they might have been hammered together by the same carpenter. Twelve or 14ft in length, bare, unvarnished wooden ribs clad in a hull of box wood, plastered in a greenish tar-like material to keep out at least some of the ocean. Twenty or 30 Africans in each, all of them young, all male, apparently from Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Nigeria. The last of the fleet is now tied up on the quayside under my hotel window in Puerto del Rosario, the main town of Fuerteventura. On the quay, the Red Cross inflated a pneumatic tent where the Africans are being checked by medics.

    Neither 'armada' nor 'invasion' describes it: if this is an invasion it's one of the weak, the desperate, those for whom home has become a place of terminal hopelessness. For the arrivals, it was the end of a harrowing adventure that cost each one all the money he possessed and probably the savings of his relatives as well. It could have ended in death or prison at any point. The Africans whose journeys end in the Canaries sneak across fiercely guarded borders, hide in the dunes of the Sahara, get passed from one gang of traffickers to another, ripped off by each group in turn. Somehow they avoid detection by police and soldiers. They survive hunger and thirst in the desert, their lives at the mercy of smugglers for whom they are no more than pieces of merchandise, their lives of even less account than those of the slaves who left those shores 200 years ago. At the coast, sometimes after an agony of waiting, they are packed into these pathetic little handmade boats ­ often constructed amid the dunes, dozens of miles from the coast, to avoid detection ­ until no more will fit in. They were allowed to bring nothing with them except the clothes they stood up in: any document proving their nationality could lead to their prompt deportation. And by the end of the hideous overland journey ­ which might have taken many months ­ they no longer had any possessions in any case.

    And all this sacrifice for what? To make landfall in a Europe which could not make its distaste for them and everything they represent more plain. The face mask and sanitary gloves of the Red Cross volunteers in Tenerife who bundled them in blankets to bring them back to life are merely sensible precautions against disease. But metaphorically, the masks and gloves will pursue them every mile of their European passage. Spain will quarantine them for 40 days, and then deport all those that it legally can. Those it cannot physically deport it will notionally expel: the only bit of paper the migrants take away from the detention centre is an expulsion order. As the Canaries are rapidly filling up, Spain now packs the Africans into a plane, flies them to Madrid and other big cities and sets them free. Or rather, washes its hands of them. They remain penniless, without documents giving them even the most fragile legitimacy, unable to work legally. 'The only work available to them,' says the head of the Red Cross in Fuerteventura, 'is crime and prostitution.' Spain is marginally moderating these harsh conditions today: if they have been in the country for six months and by some miracle have persuaded a legitimate employer to take them on, they can get documents to allow them to remain in the country legally. This drop of humanity ­ and economic common sense, for the immigrants will at last begin to pay tax and make social security contributions ­ has been greeted by howls of outrage from Spain's right-wing opposition, which has linked the new rules with the latest arrivals. It has dismayed Spain's EU partners, which complain that the illegal immigrants thus sanitised will be free to spread across Europe.

    How about Britain? No comment was forthcoming. But the Janus faces of British government policy towards Africa could not be more blindingly evident. On the one hand, Gordon Brown proposes a bold new policy designed to save Africa from ruination ­ though Africa specialists attack his proposal to funnel billions of aid into the continent as one that has failed Africa before. And, on the other hand, the new stricter entry conditions for asylum-seekers ­ Labour's latest ploy in the bidding war with the Tories over which can boast the most aggressive anti-immigration policy ­ show where the real urge lies. Keep well away! The Canaries, meanwhile, are full of fugitives of a different sort, and there is no stopping these ones. But the mass arrival of German and British refugees from the north European winter in Fuerteventura's flashy new airport is hardly news down here on the west African coast. It merits a brief, preening note in the Tenerife newspapers when newly published figures reveal that foreign tourists in the islands topped five million for the first time last year. The swarms of northern visitors have changed Fuerteventura beyond recognition in the past 20 years. The island's population has soared from 20,000 to 90,000 today. Entire volcanic cliffs looking out to sea have been carved into terraces of miniature suburban villas served by shopping centres with a multiplex cinema, a Spar supermarket, a Burger King and a bouncy castle for the kiddies. The newsagents are stacked with Suns and Daily Mails. The Travellers' Rest and the King's Arms await the homesick. You might be just about anywhere in Europe, with the minor difference that this is early February, the temperature is nudging 20 and there's not a cloud in the sky.

    The other continent, the dark one with its freight of troubles, is barely 100 km away. If you were to set off from the coast of Western Sahara in a small boat and sail all night, in the morning you would see the lighthouse of Fuerteventura. It's an Atlantic passage, and the Atlantic is everywhere a serious ocean; those big breakers can pick up and flip over a skiff and smash its remnants and drown its passengers within minutes, leaving no evidence behind. But if their timing is lucky, and the gangster who takes their money slaps enough hot tar on the flimsy boxwood of the little craft that he and his underlings have banged furtively together, then their life savings will not have gone to waste. They will have achieved, despite everything the wealthy of this world have tried to throw at them, a toehold in a different life. Mohamed is 18, he says, and wears a red sweatshirt given him by the Red Cross. He's a gangling black kid from Gambia, and for now he's alone in the world. You can see him on the benches by the fancy fountain outside the Red Cross offices at the top of Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura's biggest town, kicking his heels, waiting for something to happen. Last week he got out of the 40-day detention the Spanish government imposes, like a sort of quarantine, on the new arrivals in the Canaries. After 40 days, if they can't deport you (because you haven't told them where you come from, or because Spain has no extradition arrangements with that country), they let you go. Sometimes they take you to Madrid or Valencia and let you go. It's hard to find clear rhyme or reason in what they do. In Mohamed's case, they let him go here. The Red Cross put him up in one of the two houses they keep for the most vulnerable of the African arrivals. So he has a temporary roof. He's no longer in a sort of prison, he's in Europe. In Mohamed's case he also has parents and a brother who have already come this route and have fetched up in Barcelona. So he's in limbo, but he can see the possibility of the limbo coming to an end. He has no money and no documents and speaks not a word of Spanish. But his brother tells him he has a passport for him, and it will arrive by post. Then he's got to get himself to Barcelona. How is he going to do that, without two beans to rub together? A look of perfect blankness. But it will happen, somehow, sometime. He's got a direction in his life. He's going places.

    Africans fleeing the desperation and poverty of their failed states have been washing up on Europe's coastline, or dying in the attempt, for 10 years now. Thousands have staggered ashore on Lampedusa, south of Sicily, in Gibraltar and Malaga, or they have scrambled over the triple fence of razor wire atCeuta, a Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco, and every time the European authorities plug one hole, the Africans find another. The Canaries are the destination of choice now, because the Mediterranean has got too tough, the Moroccans have been cracking down as well, while Western Sahara has more than 1,000 miles of sandy shore and Fuerteventura is only a day's sail away. At Laayoune, they have other problems than the migrants on their minds. Western Sahara was once a Spanish colony but its annexation by Morocco is disputed by the Polisario Front, an independence movement. Hundreds of UN peacekeepers monitor the ceasefire line that divides Greater Morocco from east to west like an enormous scar. The Sahrawis, the nomads native to the region who have fought for their own homeland, have seen their political aspirations frustrated for so long that they too dream of fleeing to the happy lands in the north. The Sahrawis were the first to come to the Canaries, 10 years ago, making the trip in fishing boats. At first there were just a few every year. Then the authorities in the Canaries began arresting the fishermen and sentencing them to long jail terms and the original traffic died off. It was quickly replaced by the more systematic and ruthless mafias that run the trade today. They have sent their clients off in boats that were bound to sink, helmed by immigrants who had been given the scantiest idea of what to do, packed to the gunwales, in filthy weather, with neither food nor drink nor clothes to keep out the cold. And the customers keep on coming. Nothing will put them off.

    The desperation of the youngest, toughest, most ambitious Africans to flee the horror of their continent, no matter how desperate the passage, is the clearest possible index of the depth of trouble the continent is in. Stopping the trade in one place only forces it open in another. Neither granting amnesties nor refusing them makes an ounce of difference to people mired this deep in hopelessness. Now the British Government and the Tory opposition are struggling to show which can be more aggressively chauvinist ­ more agreeable to the readers of the Daily Mail ­ in their defence of Fortress Britain. But if either the Spanish or the British, or the Europeans at large, believe they can close down African immigration into Europe either by laws, by police action or by radars and laser, they are in dreamland. Every boatload of misery that spills on to the Canaries' pristine beaches drives further home the fact that Africa's misery is Europe's responsibility. We created these nation states, we set them free, we corrupted them during the Cold War with billions in aid which went straight into the pockets of dictators. We cut them adrift when they no longer served any geopolitical purpose. We crucified them with World Bank and IMF solutions which had no bearing on countries where the state had ceased to be anything but a means for dictators and their relatives to grow obscenely rich. Now, as an election looms, the Labour Party proposes to make it even harder for asylum seekers to enter the country. The problem of these people, they seem to say, could not be more remote from our concerns. The arrival of these four frail boatloads of black people in the Canaries ­ and the thousands who will arrive in the coming months, regardless of who wins the British election, regardless of what laws or amnesties are in place ­ prove that the exact opposite is true. Gordon Brown and other Western leaders have understood that Africa cannot be allowed to fester indefinitely. Africa's problems are our problems. But the billions in aid Mr Brown wants to throw at them is good money after bad. Much has already drained down that plughole. A Marshall Plan for Africa cannot possibly work if the human and physical infrastructure of almost every country on the continent has wasted away.

    Because Africa's deepest problems are Europe's dirty solutions. The billions spent protecting Europe's farmers, freeing them to dump their food in Africa, made it close to impossible for Africans to earn a living wage. Companies continue to exploit the continent's mineral wealth, giving next to nothing back. The City banks cheerfully laundered the billions plundered by the corrupt leaders on the continent, keeping the few rich villains in luxury and the rest in misery. Every new boatload arriving tells us that Africa must not be fobbed off again. Africa is a problem that must be treated with full seriousness. For perhaps the first time ever.
    © Independent Digital

    AD chairperson reveals irregular immigrant dies due to asthma complications - Police Commissioner replies he refused medication

    7/2/2005- Politicians, campaigners and local authorities have put their head together in a bid to lay out the groundwork to draw up a national policy document on illegal immigration. On Monday, figures from across the political divide, local authorities and campaigners discussed a policy document on immigration during the opening session of the National Conference on Irregular Immigration. Opening the conference Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg said that there was no easy solution to the problem. He said that there was no permanent solution to the regular influx of illegal immigrants. In the past two years, a lot of work has been done in this field, he explained. Parliament has enacted the refugees' law as now they also enjoy social benefits. Government opened two open centres and a third one is expected to be opened shortly in Marsa. Dr. Borg said that the new alternatives being proposed such as the immediate release of the migrants simply do not make sense. He added that our detention policy has been in place for the past 35 years and consequently cannot be changed overnight. The Home Affairs Minister augured that the conference would serve as the beginning of a process to create a national policy on the irregular migration. He ended that government has already published a policy paper which should serve as a yardstick to measure its work. On his part, the Labour Party's spokesman on home affairs Gavin Gulia said that the opposition feels that Malta should find a new way how to tackle this problem. "We should have one common policy. We should set up new structures to face a sudden wave of illegal immigrations which can put our resources under serious strain", he explained. Dr. Gulia said that a number of questions should not remain unanswered such as the conditions of detentions centres and the length of repatriation. He appealed that the media should be given full access to detention centres. The Labour spokesman said that a sentiment for the liberalisation of immigrants prevails among the media. Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Harry Vassallo did not mince his words in criticising the Hal Safi compound. He revealed that an Eritrean who fled his home country to finish up in Malta died in the detention centre due to asthma complications. However, during his intervention, Police Commissioner John Rizzo said that it was the irregular migrant who refused medication and he eventually died in hospital on Saturday.

    Dr. Vassallo said that the migrants at Hal Safi are being kept in a pigsty without basic facilities. "The Safi detention centre is a stain upon our national reputation", he exclaimed. The delegate of the Emigrant's Commission, Mgr Philip Calleja said that that the Maltese church was always at the forefront to protect the dignity and humanity of the human being. He said that between 1992 and 2002, the Emigrants Commission helped 2271 refugees to start a new life in Canada, Australia or United States. He argued that Malta is now facing a new phenomenon of mass immigration but the country is not ready for this new wave. "The problem could complicate itself in the open centres with new arrivals as they are fast approaching full capacity", he explained. He expressed himself against detention. "Asylum seekers are not criminals and should not be kept locked for a long-time". The Commissioner for Refugees Charles Buttigieg outlined the procedures involved with regards to the application for refugee status. Amongst the difficulties, Mr. Buttigieg mentioned the language barrier and the problem of identification. He said that from January 2002, the Commission handled over 2000 cases. The Jesuit Refugee Service director, Fr. Pierre Grech Marguerat said that the current government policy and practice falls far short of the human rights standards. He argued that detention should be resort to only for minimal period and in case, for not longer than two months. He said that the policy document makes no mention of asylum seekers living in the community. The AFM Brigadier Carmel Vassallo said that the Maltese territorial waters amount to 250,000 square kilometers which are disproportionate to our size. He said that in the past years, the Armed Forces of Malta saved over 1000 immigrants from almost certain death whilst in the past two years it help 3600 immigrants to be brought to our shores. Mr. Vassallo said that the tents at the Safi compound were recently replaced and the AFM is expected to set-up more permanent shelters. He concluded that 110 AFM soldiers are assigned to take care of these migrants in the compounds, offering them three daily meals. The last speaker to address the floor was Police Commissioner John Rizzo. He said that Malta saw the biggest influx of migrants in 2002 when 1,686 were brought ashore in 21 battered vessels. He revealed that these irregular migrants pay between USD 800 and USD 2000 for their journey.
    The conference will continue on Tuesday as the trade unions and social partners are expected to take the floor.

    Chief Justice Emeritus says time has most probably come to prohibit political parties that spread discrimination of race, colour or religion

    8/2/2005- The seminar regarding the national policy on illegal immigration on Tuesday entered its second and final day.
    Opening Tuesday's session, Minister Dolores Cristina distinguished between the preoccupation of some Maltese and racism. She said that she does not judge those that are preoccupied, however racism is different as it leads to violence, hatred and does not allow people to perceive clearly. "We don't have space for racism in Malta," she concluded.

    Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro said the government must put more pressure on international organisations to help in these difficulties. This is a human tragedy. We must not be selfish, passionate or insular but responsible and open minded. Refugees need employment opportunities, residence, education and access to health care.

    UHM's secretary general Gejtu Vella said asylum seekers should be treated in the best manner in detention centres, not in the spirit of charity but of solidarity. Man should be the focal point of these centres. Unfortunately, he said, there are still some employers who to make money quickly, employ refugees or asylum seekers under unacceptable working conditions.

    GWU's secretary general Tony Zarb also mentioned these inferior working conditions and that this is affecting Maltese workers. These persons are being abused by some employers who employ them for whole months, and then report them to the police on the last day, thus they are not paid for their work. Recently two refugees were beaten up when they asked for their wages.

    Mario Friggieri from the Foundation for Social Welfare Services stated that recently they organised a seminar to bring together all those involved in refugee work. They did stocktaking of what was being done. The way forward together -- was the motto. "We should be forward looking," he said.

    Dijonisju Mintoff -- Peace Laboratory said that Monday's workshop agenda was changed. It did not discuss centres, but minor immigrants. Centres were not mentioned at all. It resulted that minors do remain in detention until they are identified. Only theoretic improvements were made, he argued.

    Prof Henry Frendo -- Refugees Appeals Board said that generally those who are granted refugee status as recognised by the Geneva Convention, may be amongst the best citizens once they integrate in their host country. The Refugees Appeals Board so far has concluded over 70 per cent of its cases.

    Paul Portelli -- Red Cross stated that the current situation is unacceptable. Food provided is leaving negative affect on their health as they are used to eating different foods. Immigrants should be employed to prepare food for their mates. The current situation can lead to depression and suicide. These should be given some form of work and recreation. Bad conditions both for immigrants as well as for soldiers. At one point 300 immigrants had to share 6 toilets between them. These conditions might lead to racism and xenophobia and violent acts against the immigrants, he stated.

    AFM's Brigadier Carmel Vassallo contradicted him saying that no illegal immigrants were injured by soldiers before January 13, 2005. Last October 15 were injured in a fight between them.

    Dr Ruth Farrugia - Immigrants Commission stated that three months should be the longest period for detention. Repatriation process is not always easy, but persons without status should be given basic needs. Each immigrant should be the responsibility of a social worker as soon as they arrive in Malta. Identity Card should be issued as soon as detention is over refugees should be given the right to work under 18 years of age; medical screening should be done while in detention and refugees should be given residence permit.

    Stephen Calleja -- The Malta Independent Editor said the situation is alarming. The life of police and soldiers is not easy especially when some of the asylum seekers are not grateful. Media should have access to the centres as its presence can shed more light on how these immigrants are treated.

    Joe Farrugia - Malta Employers Association stated that Malta has always functioned as a globalised country. Malta is also familiar with the phenomenon of immigration. We cannot accept that persons are employed under these conditions. The greatest dignity for them is to feel that they are contributing to the country they are living in.

    Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicinosaid the state should limit as much as possible the detention period. Time has most probably come to define what a political party is and whether there should be circumstances where political parties that are based on spreading discrimination of race, colour or religion, should be prohibited.

    Jason Micallef -- Malta Labour Party stated that he understands the importance media plays in this sector. It should not alarm nor create antagonism. I believe that broadcasters should regulate themselves. He mentioned that intercultural learning should be introduced at schools. A national front against racism should be set up, he argued.

    Joe Saliba -- Nationalist Party said that social freedom and justice should be the basis for every policy. Immigrants must be given all the means to integrate in the society. Nobody has the right to threaten anybody's liberty. PN condemns any form of racism. Tolerance -- it would be preoccupying if the Maltese were just tolerant, he concluded.

    The discussions will continue this afternoon when the Prime Minister is expected to close the seminar.

    Most immigrants become taxpayers during their sixth year

    9/2/2005- Immigration still costs Finland more on average than it produces, if the issue is looked at purely from an economic perspective during the first ten years a person spends in the country. This finding comes from a new study commissioned by the Ministry of Labour that investigated the effects of immigration on Finland's public finances. Developments have been positive of late, as the employment situation of immigrants improved rapidly in the 1990s. The researchers followed the employment situation, income taxes, and income transfers of nearly 15,000 immigrants throughout the 1990s. The study revealed that finding work becomes easier the longer an immigrant has lived in Finland. When newly employed immigrants begin to pay taxes and receive less social security payments, the balance of immigration turns positive as time goes by. Landing a job is easier when an immigrant speaks Finnish, and especially if he or she has a Finnish degree. "If we leave immigration for humanitarian reasons out of the calculations, immigrants pay more direct taxes than they receive direct benefits already during their sixth year in the country", explained Research Director Aki Kangasharju from the Government Institute for Economic Research.

    When humanitarian immigration was included in the analysis, the effect immigration had on the public economy remained negative throughout the time period under study. The researchers calculated that the total costs of immigration may have been around 50 million euros over the course of ten years. Kangasharju does not feel that this figure is very large: it amounts to one tenth of Finland's annual development aid. Those who arrived in Finland for humanitarian reasons have found it more difficult to find employment, so they are more dependent on social security benefits. This group mainly includes refugees from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and the former Yugoslav republics. After the fourth year in Finland, the share of paid taxes began to increase clearly for all immigrants on average. If the analysed period covered more than ten years, the overall balance might be positive.

    "Based on these results, immigration benefits the Finnish society in the long run", commented Minister of Labour Tarja Filatov. Kangasharju observed that immigrants should not be inspected as one group, as the purpose of humanitarian immigration differs clearly from other immigration. Those immigrants who arrive from OECD nations pay more direct taxes during their first year in Finland than they receive benefits. Also, Estonians and Russians find work quickly. Minister Filatov pointed out that the recession was partly to blame for the high unemployment rate among immigrants in the 1990s. Nearly half of all immigrants were unemployed back in 1997 and 1998, but the current unemployment rate is 29 percent.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    9/2/2005- President Tarja Halonen has called for a thorough clarification of whether or not there is a need to set up a new state-run body to monitor and promote the implementation of human rights in Finland. The President was speaking on Tuesday at a seminar marking the 85th anniversary of the institution of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Halonen pointed out that even though international human rights agreements are part of the law that is implemented in Finnish courts, Finland would need more pro-active human rights work, including education, information, and training in the subject. She said that this would reduce the need to resort to courts in human rights matters. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has operated as an independent monitor of the implementation of the rule of law in Finland, and Halonen feels that a Finnish model of enforcing human rights could be built around the institution. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has emphasised the importance of setting up national human rights institutions, and Denmark and Norway, for example, have already named their human rights institutes as bodies intended by the UN. The idea has been to set up an independent office to monitor and promote the implementation of international human rights agreements in the countries in question. President Halonen feels that Finland still has much to do, especially with respect to the minority rights of immigrants, for instance.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down are increasingly turning to the Church for help.

    9/2/2005- The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches says more than 100 requests for help have been received since the government took away the entitlement to welfare benefits in April 2004. Its findings are based on a survey carried out among churches in 12 cantons late last year to assess the impact of the new ruling. Confirming a report in the mass-circulation Blick on Wednesday, the Federation's Markus Sahli said the situation was particularly bad in the cities with large numbers of immigrants, such as Geneva and Lausanne. Churches were mainly being asked for food and shelter, but also for money and legal assistance, he said. The Swiss Catholic Bishops' Conference said it had recorded an increase in requests for help from rejected asylum seekers in canton Basel.

    Tip of the iceberg
    Sahli said many cantons were unable to put a figure on the number of requests they had dealt with. But cantons Vaud, Neuchâtel, Lucerne and Graubunden had recorded a total of 120 requests for assistance since April. He described this figure as being "probably just the tip of the iceberg" and said many more requests for help could be expected over the winter months. The largest number of calls for assistance came from Africans and east Europeans. Sahli explained that because there were relatively few people from these countries in Switzerland, there was no community to provide help to those in need. The Catholic and Protestant churches agree that the lack of welfare provision to rejected asylum seekers is forcing many into crime and prostitution. Sahli questioned the decision to withhold welfare benefits, saying this infringed the basic human rights enshrined in the constitution. And he said he was concerned at the "tendency" to allow rejected asylum seekers to go underground. He added that the churches had an obligation to help those in need, even if that meant coming into conflict with the state authorities.

    10/2/2005- In a controversial statement Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber has announced his intention to constitutionally challenge the German government's proposed law on gay adoption. He said Germany must think about its children. Speaking at the Christian Socialist Union conference in the Bavarian town of Passau, party leader Stoiber, said he was concerned about the well-being of children being brought up by same-sex parents. "The Red-Green coalition wants to give same-sex partners the right to adopt children," Stoiber said. "We will call on the German constitutional court to establish whether that is in keeping with our constitution." He went on to dispute the ruling coalition's justification to legalise gay adoption on the grounds that almost a quarter of gay and lesbians in Germany wanted to have children. "We are not talking here about self-realization of gays or lesbians," he said.

    No equality
    Stoiber stressed that "the discrimination of homosexual couples has to be consigned to history," but the CSU is opposed to granting homosexual couples equality with heterosexual relationships. At the end of last year, the government approved amendments introduced by Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries to the partnership law of 2001 which first introduced "gay marriage" to Germany. If unthwarted by the Bavarian conservatives' plans to block the bill, it would allow homosexuals to adopt the biological child of their partner, if the other biological parent consents. If the amendments are passed by parliament, gay and lesbian "registered couples" will enjoy most of the same rights and responsibilities heterosexual spouses do, including pension rights and financial support responsibilities in the event of separation. The governing Social Democratic-Green coalition also wants to introduce gay engagements, which would allow one partner to refuse to testify against the other in court.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    February 2005- Suddenly a resurgent far-right is taking centre political stage in Germany just as the nation marks the end of the war and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Leon Mangasarian reports.

    Sixty years after the Third Reich's defeat, German leaders seem at a loss to counter a tightly organised rightist party which is exploiting the Holocaust in a brazen bid to expand its power. Germany's establishment politicians have been locked in furious debate since January when the extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) marred sombre commemoration of Auschwitz death camp's liberation by comparing the Holocaust to the 1945 Allied firebombing of Dresden. In a carefully planned affront, NPD members in eastern Saxony state's parliament walked out of a memorial service for victims of the Third Reich. For good measure, they also issued a statement equating Auschwitz with abortion. "Since the end of Auschwitz, 18 million unborn people have been murdered in Germany ... is Auschwitz really over?" says the NPD on its website Turning up the political heating in the debate about the extreme right and the NPD, Bavaria's conservative premier, Edmund Stoiber, accused Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led government for causing the "economic failure" that was fuelling extremist parties. In a weekend newspaper interview, Stoiber said that tackling high unemployment was the key to combating the far right. Much of Germany is aghast over the NPD, which won 9.2 per ent, or 190,000 votes, last September in economically depressed Saxony. An Infratest Agency poll shows 63 percent want the NPD banned. Germany's tough-minded interior minister, Otto Schily, is furious. His ministry outlawed the party in 2000 only to see Germany's highest court overturn the ban in 2003. The reason given by judges was that too many NPD members had been recruited by Schily's ministry as informants. The Constitutional Court justices alleged the informants were "steering" the NPD.

    Schily, who remembers seeing the 1938 "Kristallnacht" or night of broken glass as a six-year-old boy when Nazis launched the Holocaust, angrily rejects this. "A criminal does not become a state employee just because he gives the police information," says Schily. Leaders in Berlin are arguing over a possible new bid to ban the NPD - but many are warning this might spark even more support for rightists. "A second failure [of a ban] would be a disaster," admits Schily. Political extremism experts, such as Eckhard Jesse of the Technical University of Chemnitz, say banning has not worked in the past and that democratic parties must meet rightists head on with better arguments. "There is now an intellectual right-wing extremism in Germany," warns Jesse. The news weekly Der Spiegel agrees, saying, "Neo-Nazis have managed to establish themselves in the mainstream." Worrying as this may be, the rightists need to be kept in perspective: For years, polls have shown that the far-right has a maximum potential of 10 to 15 percent in Germany which is about on par with other European countries. Meanwhile, the NPD and their German People's Union (DVU) ally have been cleaning up their act to escape the skinhead and streetfighter image they had in the 1980s and early 90s. Suits, ties and courses in rhetoric are now the order of the day with private donors funding party thinktanks and rightist academics who serve as advisers. The NPD has temporarily frozen informal ties with Saxony's "SSS" skinhead group. The NPD's chief strategist and spin doctor is a slick lawyer who, ironically, is named Peter Marx. Under the ever-smiling Marx, the NPD has focused on east German anger over cuts to unemployment benefits as a way of broadening its appeal and seeks to be both a nationalist and a socialist party. "The goal is supporting native families ... German money for Germans!" says the website of Holger Apfel, the NPD leader in Saxony's state parliament. If a party ban is not on the cards, what is to be done? The established parties in Saxony appear clueless, according to Der Spiegel, and notes, "Up until now they have reacted helplessly." Jesse says Germany's Christian Democrats have made "a terrible mistake" by failing to provide a political home for conservative patriots and thus helped drive them to the far-right.

    Der Spiegel argues that the far-right has profited from a new willingness among Germans in books and films to examine their own suffering during the war including the firebombing of cities, mass rape by Soviet soldiers and the expulsion of 15 million ethnic Germans from eastern Europe in 1945. A letter to the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper by Juergen Schulz expresses this increasingly held view. Schulz begins by underlining his distaste over the NPD's refusal to honour Holocaust victims. But he adds: "When we remember the firebombing victims, isn't it time that we can say their death was murder and a war crime? Are not the established parties also partly guilty for the rise of the NPD and anti-Semitism in Germany, if they continue to treat this problem as a taboo and leave it to the far-right?" The confused and uncertain response of established parties seems even stranger given the militant stance of the NPD. NPD objectives are brutally clear to anybody who bothers to view the party's website or the latest edition of the German domestic security agency's annual report. The NPD's geopolitics are shown on a map of Germany from 1938 - including parts of the country lost after World War II to Poland and Russia - which is available as a silver coin to raise funds for the movement. The map has a sword across it with the words, "The Reich, our Mission". The weekly Stern magazine says the NPD sells T-shirts, sweatshirts and posters emblazoned with the number "88". The letter "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet and "HH" stands for "Heil Hitler" an expression which has been banned since the Federal Republic of Germany was created in 1949. The NPD treats Nazi leaders such as Rudolf Hess as heroes and takes aggressive, anti-foreign and anti-Semitic positions, says Germany's home security agency, the Verfassungsschutz. A commentary in the party newspaper, "Deutsche Stimme" (German Voice), provides just one example: "The Torah is the original document of Jewish hatred of (other) nations." Another NPD commentary warns that immigrants are threatening what it terms "the continent of the white nations with disintegration and decomposition". Following their propaganda success with the Holocaust in Saxony, NPD activists plan at least two more big demonstrations aimed at upstaging Germany's established parties. The NPD has called for a march through Dresden on 13 February to mark the 60th anniversary of the World War II firebombing of the city by British and US aircraft which left at least 25,000 dead. An even worse public relations disaster for Germany could be in store on 8 May - the 60th anniversary of the Third Reich's defeat - when NPD leaders plan to march past the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin. "Sixty years of Liberation Lies - End the Cult of Guilt," is the NPD's motto for the demonstration. The party is also gearing up for state elections and functionaries have high hopes of winning seats in Schleswig-Holstein on 20 February and in North Rhine-Westphalia on 22 May.
    ©Expatica News

    11/2/2005- On Sunday, Dresden commemorates the 60th anniversary of the bomb attacks that reduced the city to rubble. The far-right hopes to capitalize on the tragedy to spread its own message while others focus on reconciliation. No one denies that the near total destruction of this beautiful, Baroque city – once called the Florence on the Elbe – was a calamity. But a debate has now been ignited by the right wing about whether it should be primarily seen as a catastrophe Germany brought upon itself, or as the wanton, senseless killing of civilians by enemies of the German state. The massive bombing raids carried out from Feb. 13 to 14 by Anglo-American forces turned around 85 percent of a city once considered one of the world's most beautiful into a smoldering heap of ashes. Estimates of those killed range between 35,000 and 135,000, yet the attacks, carried out when German forces were already on the retreat and the nation destined for defeat, achieved little militarily. The high numbers of dead civilians and the seeming pointlessness of the destruction enable right-wing extremists in Germany to spread their xenophobic, revisionist message on the anniversary.

    Right-wing hijacking?
    Members of the far right are threatening to upstage the official commemoration on Sunday with demonstrations that could include up to 7,000 of their supporters. German media have said the neo-Nazi march, organized by the country's strongest extreme-right party, the National Democratic Party (NPD), could be the largest since the end of the war. It comes at a time when the nation as a whole is debating what to do about a recent upswing in the far-right's political fortunes and visibility. "One thing German politicians do not want are images to be broadcast around the world of neo-Nazis marching during commemorations of important war-time events," said Ulrich Battis, a professor of law at Berlin's Humboldt University who studies the country's far-right movement. Fears are high that banner-waving men with shaved heads taking over Dresden's old town on Sunday as television cameras roll. Officials worried about right-wingers stealing the spotlight have asked city residents to show their opposition to the far right and turn the occasion from a symbol of victimhood, to one of tyranny of Nazi rule and the destruction it brought on its own citizens. The city has asked people to wear a white rose in their lapel and to gather at Theater Square for a giant candlelit vigil on Sunday night. The main nave of the Frauenkirche, Dresden's central cathedral, which was destroyed in the bombings and whose painstaking reconstruction was just completed last year, will be open to visitors for the first time, eight months before its consecration. Officials hope it will serve as a symbol of reconciliation and forgiveness, and attract media attention away from the right-wingers. They have been at pains to emphasize the fact that the cross on the church's cupola was crafted by a silversmith from Coventry, England, the son of a British pilot who took part in the bombing of the city.

    Germany as victim
    While Dresden was a city firmly behind the Nazis during World War II and was run by a party member, Martin Mutschmann, renowned for his brutality, the far right plans to focus only on the German victims during the rally. Some are worried that their portrayal of Germany as victim will be an attractive message to many. "There are many more people today who subscribe to a very simple theory of victimhood and the NPD is able to connect with these people," said Friedemann Bringt, a project manager of the Culture Bureau of Saxony, a group which organizes initiatives to stop the rise of the far right. He said the "mourning marches" that right-wing extremists have held over the past five years on this anniversary have been increasingly well attended. "The number of older, 'normal' citizens taking part is growing," he said. "It's not just a march of neo-Nazis and skinheads anymore." According to Bukart Lutz, a sociology professor at the Center for Social Research at the Martin Luther University in Halle, the NPD has been successful in capitalizing on two narratives, both having to do with victimhood, coursing through eastern Germany now. One has to do with the bombing of a beautiful city with little strategic importance, and the images of charred corpses of women and children in piled in the streets. An NPD member of the state parliament last month called the attack a "bombing Holocaust," much to the horror of Jewish leaders and mainstream politicians. The other is more contemporary. Eastern Germany is the country's poorest region, with unemployment surpassing 20 percent in some places and the outlook bleak for improvement in the near future. Young people have been especially hard hit. With jobs in scarce supply, many have left for greener pastures in the west. Those who have remained, often alienated and with much hope, have proven fertile ground for those recruiting new adherents to the right-wing movement. Add to that painful welfare and labor market reforms that are being particularly felt in the east, by people of all ages, and the message of victimhood the NPD stresses starts to get through.

    Possible violence
    Officials are worried about possible violence on Sunday as opposing groups try to get their own interpretation and political points of view across. A loose coalition of left-wingers calling itself "No Tears for Krauts" has said it would "attack the Nazis and the revisionism of the bourgeois mob." Police say they expect some 1,000 anarchists to face around 5,000 far-right extremists, with up to 100,000 visitors to the official ceremonies in the middle. Although the topic of Dresden is a sensitive one, according to sociologist Lutz, for the right wing, it is not the unique symbol for their movement. For the extremists, he said Dresden is just a good occasion to continue sowing seeds on fertile ground. "It's not a problem that is specific to Dresden, rather a problem of East Germany," he said. "It could be something completely different tomorrow. But they are using this to take advantage of what I call as latent explosive potential that exists in the region. The country has to seriously address that, if it's not already too late."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    11/2/2005- The German government aims to rush through a law to prevent rightwing extremists rallying at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate when the country marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II on 8 May, Interior Minister Otto Schily said. It is expected the legislation would limit the right to hold demonstrations and make it easier for authorities to prevent neo-Nazis marching near concentration camps and other sensitive areas. Speaking in the northern city of Kiel, Schily said he aimed to get the law approved by the 8 May events when parliament will be commemorating the 60th anniversary of the war's end. It is thought the legislation will also extend a ban on demonstrations around the Bundestag towards the landmark Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust memorial. Brandenburg Gate has played a prominent and highly symbolic role in German history and was used by the Nazis as a symbol for fascist Germany. It is already feared rightwing extremist supporters of the National Democratic Party (NPD) will mar commemorations in Dresden on Sunday recalling the Allied bombing raids on the night of 13 February 1945. The city is bracing for clashes, with about 7,000 NPD supporters, expected to march in the city to honour victims of what it has called a "bombing holocaust", while a counter-demonstration is planned by leftist groups. The Saxony state parliament was embroiled in scandal last month when NPD speakers compared the British-led firebombing of Dresden to the Holocaust, and its deputies walked out of a memorial service for victims of Auschwitz. The NPD won 9.2 percent of the vote to gain entry into the Saxony parliament in the September 2004 state elections.
    ©Expatica News

    10/2/2005- The head of the Remmery firm in Ledegem has been sent a sixth death threat by nationalist extremists. The letter, sent by the Nieuw Vrij Vlaanderen to the Belgian press, threatens the "execution of Remmery as an example to other company bosses." Rik Remmery's 'offence' has been to allow a Muslim employee, Naima Amzil, to wear her headscarf at work. In December, the Belgian king openly voiced his support for Remmery, inviting him and Amzil to the palace to discuss the racist harassment they were experiencing. Although Amzil stopped wearing her veil in an attempt to calm the situation, Remmery has said he will not bow to the extremists and has been placed under police protection. Remmery said the king's support had encouraged him to stand firm. "If we receive more threats, we will take the same decision," he said in December. The company boss has also received support from the Flemish Union of Medium-Sized Businesses (UNIZO) which collected 25,000 signatures in a petition of solidarity.
    ©Expatica News

    10/2/2005– Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has come under fire for planning to visit Denmark to study its immigration policy. Dewael's visit is scheduled for Friday but the French-speaking socialists (PS), the greens and the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) say he should cancel the trip. They argue that Belgium should not even consider adopting immigration policies based on the Danish model, which has been influenced by nationalist and far right parties in the Scandinavian country. Denmark has one of the toughest stances on immigration in Europe, cutting development aid to countries which refuse to accept the return of illegal immigrants. The PS immediately released a statement when it heard of Dewael's intention to visit Denmark. It said it was "astonished" to learn Dewael, a right-leaning Liberal, intended to draw inspiration from a policy that was "extreme" and barely respected international conventions and human rights. "It's all the more worrying because the Danish government is a coalition of the Conservative right which draws support from the extreme right (the Danish People's Party, the sister party to Vlaams Belang)." Denis Grimberg, CDH group leader in the Brussels parliament, also attacked the visit. "The link between immigration and development policy is really dangerous," he said. "Belgium should first of all meet its commitments in terms of development aid before adding supplementary conditions." Ecolo federal secretary Isabelle Durant also criticised Dewael, calling on the PS to use its place in the ruling coalition to block the importation of the Danish model to Belgium. Dewael refused to comment on the criticisms beyond saying he would try to allay fears during his Danish visit.
    ©Expatica News

    10/2/2005- Prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány joined leaders from eastern and south-eastern Europe in Sofia on February 2 to launch a decade-long program to improve the conditions of the region's Roma population. Europe's 10-12 million Roma are the continent's largest ethnic minority, but also one of its most deprived. According to the World Bank, Roma communities from Czech Republic to Albania face unemployment rates as high as 90% and often live in slums without electricity or water. The leaders meeting in Sofia signed a commitment to pursue a "Decade of Roma Inclusion". Running until 2015, the program commits each country to pursuing improvements in various areas. The countries themselves will meet the costs, though international organizations, including the European Union and the World Bank, will also make contributions.

    Hungary's action plan sets out targets in the fields of education, employment, housing and health. A particular aim is to reduce the level of segregation in schools. Currently, many Roma children are subject to de facto segregation by being classed as mentally impaired. There will also be efforts to improve Roma access to training in order to cut unemployment, to boost life expectancy and to put an end to Roma ghettos with substandard housing stock. The World Bank and George Soros's Open Society Institute (OSI) are behind the project. The first fruit of the initiative, the Roma Education Foundation, was established in Budapest at the beginning of this year. Claude Cahn of the European Roma Rights Foundation in Budapest welcomed the initiative, saying that it would provide an opportunity for improved coordination within and between governments. Currently, he said, some government bodies, notably the Hungarian education ministry and the Macedonian government, were fully engaged, but other bodies were achieving less. The task, he said, would be to ensure full commitment in all areas of government to ensure that the action plans would actually be implemented. It was particularly crucial to desegregate education, he said. Bernard Rorke of OSI Budapest also dwelt on the importance of desegregation. His organization would continue to promote civic advocacy and assistance to local Roma NGOs on the ground.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    But, Roma leader says, proof is in results, not speeches

    10/2/2005- They frequently lack employment opportunities, adequate housing and the chance to get a decent education. But now Roma, or Gypsies, can call to account governments that say they are committed to improving the lot of Roma. Top leaders from several former Eastern bloc countries met in Sofia, Bulgaria, this month to kick off the Decade of Roma Inclusion, an initiative supported by the Soros Foundation and the World Bank. Representing the Czech Republic were Justice Minister Pavel Nemec and Human Rights Commissioner Svatopluk Karasek. George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire who heads the Soros Foundation, has long shown interest in social issues in the former Eastern bloc. He told conference delegates that the decade project is "the first time that governments are showing real political will to see that Roma are equal citizens in a growing Europe." The Decade of Roma Inclusion requires governments to set quantitative goals in the areas of education, employment, health and housing. Sources such as the Czech News Agency estimate Roma unemployment at 70 to 90 percent. Along with discrimination, many Roma children also face the disadvantage of being placed into schools for children with special needs, even though they have normal cognitive abilities. They rarely finish high school and few Roma have ever attended university here, according to Education Ministry statistics. Governments across the former Eastern bloc have been slow to address this education gap, say critics from international organizations and Roma groups. The decade project will depend on existing government funding as well as $43 million (989 million Kc) in pledges and $30 million given by Soros for the new Roma Education Fund. The Czech government is spending 111 million Kc on Roma integration programs this year, an increase of 18 million Kc over 2004.

    Communist role
    Ivan Vesely, a well-known Roma advocate here, cast aspersions on Czech participation in the Soros project because he said the government did not consult Roma organizations on their participation in the preparation process for the Roma Decade Action Plan. "Roma people as a whole were mostly being forced into the role of observers during the preparatory process of their own decade," he wrote on the Web site of Dzeno, the Roma advocacy organization he heads. Vesely was, however, impressed by a Bulgarian education initiative discussed at the conference that has led to a large number of Roma attending high schools and universities. He also praised Nemec for being the only government representative at the conference to note that the Roma's plight is the result of policies under the communist regime.
    ©The Prague Post

    7/2/2005- The image of 227 Africans being held by coastguards in Tenerife is one that politicians throughout Europe would do well to study. This incident could be said to symbolise our collective failure to grasp what people will endure to escape the twin evils of poverty and oppression. In recent years, the nations of the European Union have been making it increasingly difficult for those seeking entry from abroad, particularly Africa, to get through. Spain and Italy, whose coastlines are relatively close to North Africa, have tightened their border controls substantially. The navies of these two countries turn back boatloads of African immigrants on a regular basis. But this has not stopped thousands of Africans braving the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. More than 7,000 made it to the Canary Islands from Morocco, one of the few routes that is still relatively open, in the past year. It is not known how many have died attempting these crossings, but given that many take to the sea in what are often little more than rusty tins, the number is likely to be in the hundreds. The governments of Europe are fighting a losing battle to shut out those who would seek refuge or a better life on our continent. Navy patrols and surveillance technology make it more difficult for those who would undertake this journey, but they are not acting as a deterrent. These people are so desperate, they are willing to run almost any risk to reach our shores. The idea of "Fortress Europe" is increasingly a myth. But it is a myth that European governments are finding very hard to give up. Our own Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, will today unveil a "five-year plan" for immigration and asylum. In it, he will propose a points-system for economic migrants and announce strict measures to prevent our asylum system from being "abused". The implication of this is unmistakable. The Home Secretary is admitting to the charge levelled by the anti-immigrant right that Britain is a "soft touch". He is attempting to argue that by imposing rigorous restrictions on entry we can determine, with precision, the numbers who come to our shores. We have heard the same arguments across the European Union, from Italy to the Netherlands. But one glance at the boatload of people washed up in Tenerife this weekend is enough to demonstrate how misguided this is.

    The idea that the vast majority of poor immigrants come to Britain, or any other European country, with the sole intention of living on tax-payer funded benefits is one of the most pernicious of our age. It is also plain wrong. People flee tyrannies because they are in fear of their lives, not because they are hoping for a subsidised council flat. They run away from oppressive poverty because they want to improve their lot, not to eke out an existence on food vouchers. The truth is that, when they are finally allowed to work, immigrants are an enormous boost to our economy. But politicians insist on pandering to the popular belief that they are all economic parasites. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have special cause to study the picture on our front page today. Both have repeatedly proclaimed their concern for the plight of the people of Africa. They have pledged to use Britain's leadership of the G8 this year to deal with the many ills that afflict that continent. But how can the Prime Minister and the Chancellor square their concern for the oppressed of Africa with the calumnies that the Home Secretary, by implication, will today heap on the heads of those among them who attempt to come to Britain? Mr Blair and Mr Brown are right to stress Europe's deep responsibility to Africa. But we must also accept that, such is the misery of life in many African nations, there will inevitably be an outflow of people looking for a better life in Europe. These are the wretched people who are washed up on the beaches of the Canary Islands every year. Instead of perpetuating the old myths, we should welcome those who demonstrate the courage to make it to Europe's shores.
    © Independent Digital

    4/2/2005- European women outnumber men in higher education, but face a 15% pay gap, according to a European Commission report. Social affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla is expected to outline plans for addressing setbacks in gender equality in a new EU Social agenda for 2006 ­ 2010, which is to be presented next week. Among the new initiatives, the EU is expected to propose a European Gender Institute - responsible for guarding the implementation of EU laws on equality between men and women. As suggested in the recent Joint Employment Report, there is still a 16% gap in the employment rate between men and women on average across the EU. This has reached over 25% in Greece, Italy and Malta. However, women's employment rate has increased faster over the past years, and their higher qualifications have lead to more women getting high-level jobs in the majority of EU member states. European women currently outnumber men in upper secondary education and graduate in larger numbers than men. Still, a salary gender gap is present across Europe ­ it is largest in the UK, Ireland and Austria, and smallest in Portugal and Italy, according to the report.

    7/2/2005- The Council of Europe is set to call on EU leaders to prevent a further overlap of human rights monitoring by adding a new agency to the long list of existing organisations. Plans to set up a European Agency on Fundamental Rights have caused concerns over duplication in the human rights and democracy fields, the Financial Times reports. Commenting on the proposed agency, Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe said that "with all the best will in the world, I can't understand what it is going to do". Instead, Mr Davis is planning to suggest to the European leaders that a merger between the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should be considered. He argues that the observers from the two bodies experienced some tensions on the ground when monitoring elections in Ukraine and Georgia, which should trigger questions of the long term need for both organisations. "There is a tremendous overlap between the EU, OSCE and the Council of Europe", he said and added that "sometimes it's good to work together, but sometimes it's a cop-out, because governments don't want to choose who does what", according to the FT. However, exactly how the merger between the Council of Europe and the OSCE should be worked out remains unanswered, as OSCE officials responded coldly to the idea and suggested that the two organisations have different objectives. The Council of Europe, set up in 1949, has the advantage of the oldest human rights monitoring body and includes all 46 European countries, except for Belarus. The Vienna-based OSCE was created as a predominantly security-related body in 1973 and covers 55 states, including the US, Canada and central Asian states. The budgets of the two organisations are around 180m.

    9/2/2005- The European Commission on Tuesday (8 February) said that an EU-wide ban on Nazi symbols would be 'unwise'. A justice spokesperson said it would be "unexplainable and unwise" to try and harmonise a ban at the EU level. "What we could at most envisage is a general reference to a prohibition of using materials ... which could lead to racism or xenophobia". He added that this would be the perfect time for the EU to leave member states to deal with the details at national level. Speaking about an EU law against racism and xenophobia to be discussed by justice ministers later this month, and which would refer to Nazi symbols, the spokesperson said that the "detailed implementation and the transposition of that general rule" would be left to the 25 member states". It would be up to them to decide "when and which symbols would lead to such criminal offences". His words represent a stepping back for the Commission. Last month justice commissioner Franco Frattini had spoken generally in favour of such a ban. However, EU officials say that an EU ban on either Nazi or Soviet symbols would be extremely difficult to put into place. It would be hard to legislate so that satirical articles or cartoons containing the symbols would not fall foul of the law. Mr Frattini also rebuffed calls by MEPs from central and Eastern Europe for an EU-wide ban on Soviet symbols. In a long letter to the two MEPs who had made the request, Mr Frattini instead called for a "wide-ranging European debate". His letter to Jozsef Szajer and Vytautas Landsbergis, from Hungary and Lithuania, said "ultimately together we all belong, whether in the west or in the east, to the same history and are free to judge our past, as a common past". Mr Frattini also pointed out that there has often been disagreement between historians about whether Soviet and Nazi era crimes could be compared. The two MEPs had said that if Nazi symbols are to be banned at EU level, then Soviet symbols ought to be as well. The whole discussion was sparked off by the UK's Prince Harry who attended a fancy dress party last month in a German soldier's uniform with a swastika.

    10/2/2005- Gary Neville's claims that Nike might look to gain commercial advantage from football's latest anti-racism campaign were today strenuously denied by the sportswear manufacturers. The England defender looked to have provoked a possible confrontation with Nike, who sponsor Manchester United's kit, by making his outspoken comments after last night's international friendly against Holland. Nike have been to the fore of the campaign to drum racism out of the world game since England's friendly against Spain last November, when the Bernabeu crowd aimed monkey chants at the likes of Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Neville welcomed the anti-racism initiatives taken by England and Holland last night at Villa Park but suggested the campaign might be "cheapened slightly by companies like Nike getting a lot of PR out of it for nothing". Yet Nike UK's corporate communications manager, Simon Charlesworth, today insisted there was no ulterior motive to their campaigning, despite Neville's claims. "The campaign isn't about publicity," he said. "It's about racism, and the fact remains that there is racism in football." "We've spoken with all the relevant bodies such as Kick It Out, and we've had their approval. Even Gary Neville's team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, has come down to London to help with the campaign." Charlesworth conceded that Neville was "entitled to his opinion". "We can't stop him saying these things," he added.

    Nike have a £300m ( 436.3m), 10-year sponsorship and merchandising deal with United. But that did not stop Neville speaking out about the firm who helped launch Thierry Henry's high-profile anti-racism campaign ‘Stand Up, Speak Up' along with United and England defender Ferdinand two weeks ago. Neville said: "We don't have a big problem with racism in this country. You can think of probably one or two incidents in the last five or 10 years. "We have to make sure that it [the campaign] is conducted in the right manner and not done just for PR like some of the sports companies seem to be doing at the moment. "The FA and the England team have always campaigned against racism very well. We have just got to be aware that it is not cheapened slightly by companies like Nike getting a lot of PR out of it for nothing." A Nike statement confirmed their commitment to the campaign fronted by Henry, who was at the centre of controversy last year when Spain coach Luis Aragones made racist remarks about the Frenchman during a training-ground conversation with his Highbury team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes. "Racism in football is an issue that players feel strongly about," said the Nike statement. "'Stand Up, Speak Up' has been initiated by Thierry Henry, with the support of Nike and players from many other countries. "Money raised by the distribution of the black and white wristbands will be distributed to organisations across Europe working against racism in football."
    ©Ireland On-Line

    9/2/2005- Europe needs more, not fewer, economic migrants despite public fears and high unemployment in core West European countries, EU Labour and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla says. In an interview with Reuters, the former Czech prime minister disputed suggestions that the new EU executive headed by Jose Manuel Barroso was dominated by economic liberals uninterested in preserving social rights or public services. "Over the next 20 years, there will be 20 million fewer workers in Europe, even including migrants," he said, pointing to an ageing population and falling birth rates. "Naturally, if you only look at the next two weeks, things look different. But in the EU we have to work on the long term and we definitely need immigration," said Spidla, who was to set out the Commission's new "Social Agenda" later on Wednesday. He acknowledged that advocating greater labour migration was politically difficult at a time when unemployment in Germany has topped five million, reaching the highest level since the 1930s, but said it would be wrong to blame immigrants for the problem. "Would the post-World War Two German economic miracle have been possible without 'guest workers'? Certainly not," he said. Germany's neighbour, Austria, with roughly the same proportion of immigrants, had fewer than 4.5 percent unemployed, about half the German level, he noted.

    Inefficient barriers
    Spidla said he expected some of the 15 old EU member states would not extend curbs on the free movement of workers from the 10 new countries which joined in 2004 when the first two-year period expires next year. "Based on my discussions, I expect some member states will not extend the transition period, but I can't name which ones." While accepting that labour market policy remained a purely national responsibility, the commissioner said barriers to free movement had an economic cost because they prevented the enlarged EU internal market from working efficiently. "If you don't achieve free movement of people as well as capital and goods, you don't get a proper allocation of labour, one of Europe's key resources -- qualified workers," he said. EU countries would only be able to maintain generous levels of social welfare if they were economically competitive. While he supported the Commission's proposal to liberalise the EU market for services, he said there were "well founded fears that cannot be swept aside" about preserving social services of public interest such as in healthcare. Spidla also advocated a more flexible retirement system to encourage more Europeans who were able to work later in life while providing pensions for those who needed to retire. He skirted around the debate in France about whether to abandon or loosen the 35-hour work week but said Europeans would have to get used to working longer in their lives. "The issues is not more hours in the week but more days in the life," he said.

    But says it would consider racially focused programs
    Lincoln Alexander among critics of segregated schools

    4/2/2005- Amid growing local controversy, the Ontario government says racially segregated schools aren't in the cards. But it says it's not ruling out ethnically focused programs that could help black students, and other groups, do better at school. The controversial topic of alternative schools for black students was raised Wednesday at a forum on black achievement in Toronto's public school system. But any decision on using racially focused programs to raise academic achievement rests with the province's new Literacy Secretariat, said a spokesperson for Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. The secretariat is led by Avis Glaze, a veteran Jamaican-born educator now in charge of a bid to raise standardized test scores in the province. But the ministry remains cautious on the topic of racially oriented education. "At this time there are few statistics to suggest academic achievement is based on race or ethnicity," spokesperson Amanda Alvaro said. Academics said yesterday it may be time to consider experimenting with alternative schools for black students. But the reaction of activists and other observers who waded into the debate ranged from caution to repugnance. Former lieutenant-governor Lincoln Alexander — who, among other distinctions, has an award for promoting racial harmony named after him — was scathing in his criticism. "If you don't have a black boss in the police department, does that mean you can't be a policeman? If you don't have a black person as head of the law society, does that mean that you can't get a law degree?" he said in an interview. "These university professors ought to get out of their classrooms and see what's going on." But a York University education expert says there is nothing outrageous about the idea of black-targeted schools. Professor Carl James, who has published numerous books and articles on black students, says the Toronto District School Board should be experimenting with a black-focused school in an existing facility, probably one that already has a majority of black students. James agrees with George Dei, a sociology professor from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, who sparked the debate this week. He drew loud applause at the town-hall meeting by suggesting alternative schools for black students were the only way to prevent them from being pushed out of the system. He was one of many at the meeting who believed Toronto schools discriminate against black students with zero-tolerance codes that are being implemented by teachers, few of whom come from the same racial or ethnic background as the children they teach.

    The idea of alternative schools for black students has emerged periodically over the last 20 years as educators struggle with ways to improve the academic achievement of some groups. For many, it raises the spectre of racial segregation in U.S. schools, but James, who was born in the Caribbean and is a former Regent Park youth worker, says it's not the same thing. "Do we consider Catholic schools as segregated? No, we think there have been some benefits to them," he said in an interview yesterday at York, where he is the university's affirmative action director. One of the problems with the idea is that nobody's ever really thought through what they might look like, James said. Such a school could have black students or a black-focused curriculum, or it could focus on students understanding themselves in terms of race. Not all activists favour the notion, however. If Canada is truly a diverse society, its schools should reflect that diversity, not fragment it with specialized schools, said Zanana Akande, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. "We live in an integrated society — at least we're supposed to — so what we should be doing is make sure schools serve the population that's out there," Akande said in an interview. "But what we do need to do is make sure we integrate black history into the curriculum. Right now, the way we teach World War II, you'd think blacks weren't there. You'd think First Nations weren't there. We have to stop teaching the history of omission we teach right now." Akande said it might be useful to run a temporary black-focused school as a research project to measure the influence of black instructors and black curriculum on student achievement, "but not as a general program, no." Akua Benjamin, a black activist who is director of social work at Ryerson University, also sat on the town-hall panel. "We fought streaming back in the 1960s, but it seems we're still fighting it today," she said. "The Toronto District School Board has 80 social workers now to deal with 550 schools — that's an outrage," she said. "We need more black teachers, more black principals and a plethora of black social workers."

    The former Toronto Board of Education stopped collecting race-based statistics with amalgamation in 1997. Since then, it has collected only "student success indicators," which correlate student performance with place of birth. These statistics only capture children born outside Canada. The student success indicators for 2001-02 showed that 54 per cent of students born in the English-speaking Caribbean had 14 credits or fewer at the end of Grade 10. (Students should have 16 credits at this point in their academic careers. Anything less than 14 is an indicator that these students could fail to complete high school within the next three years.) The success indicators also found that 45 per cent of students born in west Africa, Central or South America were at risk of not graduating on time, as were 39 per cent of east African students. Some 27 per cent of Canadian-born students were found to be at risk. Students born in South Asia, Eastern Europe and eastern Asia were less likely to be at risk of failing than those born here. Toronto Star readers, who posted comments on the newspaper's online forum, opposed the idea of alternate schools for black children by a lopsided majority. "How is that going to promote understanding and diversity in the broader community?" wrote Jonathan Leigh of Toronto. And not all black teens at Wednesday's town hall felt they were "at risk" of dropping out. "We're not all struggling; some of us do excellent at school. I was born here, I'm not struggling, and I found the Grade 10 literacy test was no big deal," said Mark Dennis, 17, a Grade 12 student at Oakwood Collegiate. Friend Dadrian Brown, also in Grade 12, said some black teens skip class and practise basketball in hopes of landing a sports scholarship, "but they don't seem to realize you also need marks to get a scholarship."
    ©The Toronto Star

    Some argue that black-focused schools represent a reversion to the days of segregation. But there is a meaningful difference between forced segregation and separation, says professor George Dei,George, chair of the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

    4/2/2005- Debates on the collection of race-based data by the Toronto District School Board reflect competing visions of education in Ontario. But to what extent will these statistics reinforce negative stereotypes, ignore or address low student performance, or simply blame individual educators?
    These debates raise the issue of how some students, notably racial minorities, are being denied full opportunities by the public school system. The problem of black youth disengagement from school is well documented. As a parent and academic I support the public school system, and I echo the sentiments of educators and community groups who for years have advocated alternative visions of schooling. Our school system has an important role to play in providing all youth with hope and opportunity. It is with this in mind that I want to revisit the issue of "black focused" schools.

    An informed debate must address two key interrelated questions:
    First, what is a "black-focused" school? Second, what would such a school look like? A black-focused school challenges the conventional educational environment and stresses the principles of responsibility, interdependence, respect for elders, transparency, and accountability. The school seeks to centre the learner in her or his own culture, history, personal location and spiritual identity. While these principles are not exclusive to such a school, they do provide a model for holistic, socially integrated schooling that all students may benefit from. It will strive for high academic excellence and meet provincial standards.

    The second question calls for imagining new forms of education. A black-focused school is organized around communal principles and non-hierarchical structures. In making the totality of black-lived experience relevant to all parts of the curriculum, the school would foster the social, physical, spiritual, and academic development of students. In breaking down the separation between the formal school and the wider community, incorporating the family/home and the workplace, the school offers new and creative ways of thinking about knowledge, and then engaging students to use this knowledge to make positive social changes. All of us, whether we have students in the school system or not, can benefit from these gains as students engage with education as an expression of shared community. In November, 1992, a multi-level government task force in Ontario, the African-Canadian Community Working Group, proposed creating one predominantly black junior high school in each of the six Metropolitan Toronto municipalities and a five-year pilot scheme to establish what were termed black-focused schools. The Royal Commission on Learning recommended that "school boards, academic authorities, faculties of education, and representatives of the black community collaborate to establish demonstration schools" in jurisdictions with large numbers of black students. The school would have predominantly black and racial minority teaching staff and be open to students from a range of social backgrounds: racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and "immigrant." Community groups such as the Organization of Parents of Black Children have long supported this idea of black-focused schools, acknowledging that racial solidarity alone will not ensure black youth success in schools.

    Why have these recommendations gone unheeded?
    The legitimate concerns arising from this proposal have centred on the notions of social segregation and equality of education. In North America, these have been treated as opposite sides of the same proverbial coin. Integration, however, has not guaranteed equitable educational outcomes for all youth. Quality education for all is possible only when equity issues are addressed. Some argue that black-focused schools represent a reversion to the days of segregation. But there is a meaningful difference between forced segregation and separation by choice. Segregationists in the first half of the 20th century sought to exclude blacks from meaningful participation in society. By contrast, black-focused schools aim to address an educational crisis and help minority youth succeed. Proponents of the idea are not talking about pulling every black youth away from mainstream schools.

    To see black-focused schools as segregated schools, we must ask:
    How different are these schools from all-girls' schools? Or boy-only literacy classes in the junior grades in response to standardized provincial test results indicating lower achievement levels in reading and writing among this group? Does the stigma of segregation only achieve political currency when applied to race? Opponents question how such schools will contend with backlash and social stigmatization, provision of funds, curriculum, pedagogy, and resources, diversity of staff, and benefits of a protective but unrealistic school environment from which these students must eventually move. Rather than weakening current efforts by mainstream schools to be inclusive of African-Canadian experiences, a black-focused school enhances them. Mainstream schools, however, must continue to strive to be inclusive. There is no reason why the existence of a black-focused school should lead to an either/or situation. Ontario's diverse communities and classrooms necessitate educational inclusion in terms of what is taught, how it is taught, by whom, and outreach to the larger society. The call for black-focused schools reflects the larger structural problems facing Ontario's public school system. The idea of such a school questions the fundamental objectives of public schools: what and how they are supposed to teach, who graduates from the system and with what accreditation and whose interests are reflected in official channels for teaching, learning, and administration of education. Black-focused schools are part of a larger dialogue about teaching and learning, equity and community. My view is that where there is established educational disadvantage — reflected in race-based statistics — we must never close the door to new, or even radical, educational options for youth. We have a collective duty to Ontario's disengaged youth. The consequences of silence and inaction are too great for all of us.
    ©The Toronto Star

    6/2/2005- Over the last year, millions of Internet users have gravitated to Orkut, a Web site created and run by Google that permits people, by invitation only, to join any of a long list of online communities. Communities have been created around a shared interest in photography, Miles Davis's music and travel to offbeat places. A small minority, however, advance a hatred for Jews, blacks or gays, including a "Death to the Jews" site and a site called "Death to Blacks." By now no one should be surprised that people use the Internet to spread repugnant views about race, religion or sexuality. But what is different about Orkut, online specialists say, is that the hate-filled dialogues are taking place inside a members-only social network site that - at least in theory - strictly forbids this kind of conduct in its user's agreement. The hatemongering is fast becoming an embarrassment for Google, the world's most popular search engine, particularly because the company has adopted "don't be evil" as its motto. The potential for tarnishing Google's gold-plated brand name also underscores the risks the company faces as it expands into new Internet businesses in which it has less experience. "Given the prestige and familiarity of Google, I think this is an important development, if not quite radically new," said Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of law at the University of Chicago and author of the book "," which concludes that the Internet inadvertently helps foster extreme viewpoints. For Google, the trouble on Orkut - which is still in beta, or test, form - could easily escalate. A prosecutor in Brazil, where the service is especially popular, has already initiated an investigation into some of the more virulent Orkut sites. For the moment, Google is not saying much about the issue. In response to a request for comment, a Google spokeswoman, Eileen Rodriguez, wrote in an e-mail message, "There are instances when members misuse the service, but it is a very small number compared to everyone who uses it. There is a certain amount of trust we have to place in our users." Google would not pinpoint the number of people signed up for Orkut, but characterized it as "millions."

    Orkut members are required to follow the company's "terms of service and community standards," Ms. Rodriguez wrote, which state that "an account cannot upload, transmit or contain material that is hateful or offensive based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation." When users "don't follow these terms and we are made aware of an issue, we take the necessary steps, which may include removing the content," she said. Google would not say if it had ever taken such action. Internet law and custom generally exempt Internet service providers from responsibility for the behavior of their users. But when it comes to social networking sites like Orkut that invite users to seek out potential business contacts, dates or like-minded souls through links with friends and friends of friends, the responsibilities of the Internet host are more ambiguous. "When these new tools are introduced to the social world, the social norms, like manners and etiquette, and basic questions of who's responsible for what, get all scrambled," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. "What we're seeing is the havoc that the Internet wreaked on plenty of business is now playing out in the social world." Despite the company's stated policies, Orkut users - who are allowed to participate only if invited by a current member - can join the 2,300 people who already belong to an "I Hate Queens, Faggots and Gays" group, created in August by a Brazilian Orkut member. When setting up the community, the group's founder described it as a forum for Portuguese-speaking people to "show your indignation and make jokes" about a "type of person" who "is gaining in society." Because access to the Orkut site requires membership, general Internet users cannot stumble accidentally onto these groups. Orkut members can also sign up to join a myriad of communities dedicated to despising people of color, including one in English that advocates the founder's position of death to all black people. The founder of that group, Kiarash Poursaleh, who described himself in his profile as an 18-year-old living in Tehran, also listed "Mein Kampf" by Hitler as a favorite book, named "shooting" as his favorite sport and described his humor as "friendly." All members create a personal profile and can add their own communities to the Orkut site. Mr. Poursaleh has joined dozens of other English-language Orkut communities, including the "Adolf Hitler SS Army Fan Club" and an "anti-Jewry" community, as well as a group for fans of the television show "Friends." Mr. Poursaleh, who did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview, is also a member of "Anti-Arab Iranians," a community with the motto, "We Hate Arabs!!! Kill Them All!"

    Other social networking sites have confronted similar issues of hatemongering, but the problem is more pronounced at Orkut because the service encourages people to create and participate in online communities of like-minded individuals. Community groups help to distinguish Orkut from its competitors, like Friendster, the first widely popular social networking site. Tribe Networks is another social networking site that encourages users to create communities of shared interest. "Mainly we're reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to these hate sites," said Mark J. Pincus, the chief executive of Tribe, based in San Francisco. "But we have a full-time staffer who looks for these kinds of things and deals with complaints when they come up." Plugging the word "hate" into the site's search engine delivered a listing of more than 200 "tribes," but they tended to be more humorous and offbeat. Users have created groups for those who hate "the n-word," online dating, dogs, ranch dressing or any of a random list of B-list celebrities (Ryan Seacrest, Brittany Murphy, Carrot Top). Though Orkut began life a year ago as a venue for Silicon Valley's digerati, now nearly two-thirds of registered users are from Brazil. Google said one explanation for this seemingly inexplicable phenomenon was that Brazilians are quick to adopt new technologies. In late January, Christiano Jorge Santos, a state prosecutor in São Paulo, began a criminal investigation of some of the hate communities hosted by Orkut. The impetus was the cyberassault of a 13-year-old black child who lives in São Paulo. Those behind a Portuguese language community called "Antiheroes" posted a copy of the child's picture at the site, without his knowledge, and then invited visitors to "unload all your fury on this poor, innocent little black kid. Click on him and get revenge." Such an action is clearly criminal under Brazilian law, Mr. Santos said. "That's racism, and in Brazil racism is a crime," he said. Under Brazilian law, it is a crime to practice, induce or incite discrimination or prejudice on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin. If convicted, offenders could serve two to five years in prison, in addition to paying a sizable fine. "The U.S. is pretty unusual providing the broad protection we do to hate speech," said Professor Sunstein. In "South America, Europe - Google could have problems with many other jurisdictions." Mr. Santos, the author of a book on hate crimes in Brazil, is targeting "all the communities that use racist and discriminatory terms on the site," according to documents he filed in court. Because Brazilian law does not include discrimination based on sexuality in its criminal code, those behind sites like "I Hate Transvestites" would not face criminal charges. Among the Orkut groups that Mr. Santos has focused on is a "Death to Blacks" site, written in Portuguese. That group's founder, Alex Pazzo, also created the "Death to the Jews" group, also written in Portuguese. (Mr. Pazzo did not respond to an e-mail message, sent through the Orkut system, seeking comment.)

    It is also unlikely that Google could be held criminally responsible in a Brazilian court, Mr. Santos said, since he would have to prove that the company was intentionally complicit in disseminating racist materials. Nevertheless, Google could be sued for damages in a Brazilian civil court, he said, because of a lack of precautionary measures against racist crimes. Other Portuguese-language Orkut groups include "I Hate Argentines," "I Hate Transvestites" and "I Hate the Universal Church," which refers to the evangelical church popular among Brazil's poor. The majority of the Orkut hate sites seem to be written in Portuguese, but many are written in English as well. For instance, an English-language "Anti-Jews" site, created in November, lists Schenectady, N.Y., as its home base. The community logo is a caricature of a man with a Star of David tattooed on his forehead. The site was created by Timothy Schultz, an Orkut member who says in his profile that he was born in Germany but now lives in the United States. He describes his mother as "Persian," but assures those reading his Orkut profile that both parents are "Aryan." The group's mission statement declares that it matters not whether members are Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, "the fact is we are all angry about what they have done and what they are doing to human beings all around the world." While the group has only 98 members, they come from a variety of places around the globe, like Iran, Korea and Marblehead, Mass. In one of the oddities of an online universe in which software, not a human brain, is behind a service, Orkut lists a "Jesus Christ" site ("for people who love Jesus") as a "related community" to "Anti-Jews." At the Anti-Jews site, when a woman going by the screen name Wasay 666 said that she was against the murder of Jews, several posters scoffed at her view. What concerns Professor Sunstein is that "if you get like-minded people together around a hatred of Jews, or blacks, or whatever, they end up being more hateful."
    ©The New York Times

    In the first of a four-part series entitled Islam's Furthest Frontier, the BBC's Roger Hardy examines how Malaysia is struggling to balance a new pre-eminence for Islam with the rights of non-Muslims.
    By Roger Hardy, BBC Islamic affairs analyst

    7/2/2005- How to create a 21st Century Muslim democracy in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society - that is the challenge faced by modern Malaysia. The country is known as one of South East Asia's most successful "tiger" economies. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is a dynamic, hi-tech city - its famous Petronas twin towers a symbol of its aspirations.

    Mahathir and modernisation
    In the 1980s and 90s, Malaysia's course was charted by its ambitious prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. He and his ruling Umno party pursued a modernisation programme based on two guiding principles. First, they gave Islam a new pre-eminence in public life. This meant stressing Muslim values and identity, building up Islamic institutions and forging new links with the wider Muslim world. Second, they continued the "affirmative action" policies, begun in the 1970s, which gave the ethnic Malays - who form some 60% of the population - a privileged position in government, education and the bureaucracy. But where do these twin goals leave the Chinese, Indians and others who form the non-Muslim minority? Can a society based on these two principles also be genuinely democratic?

    Umno under fire
    The policies of Mahathir and Umno have come under fire from two different quarters. For secular liberals like human-rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz, the "Islamisation" of Malaysian society and politics has gone too far, and is eroding the country's once-liberal traditions. The non-Muslims, he says bluntly, are second-class citizens. For the Islamic opposition party Pas, on the other hand, Islamisation has not gone nearly far enough. Ever since it broke away from Umno in the 1950s, PAS has argued that Malaysia should become an Islamic state governed by the Sharia (Islamic law). This has thrown Umno onto the defensive. "Umno and Pas are engaged in a holier-than-thou battle," says women's rights activist Zainah Anwar. The group she helped to found in the 1980s, Sisters in Islam, seeks to defend women's rights within the framework of Islam. She and her colleagues are not the only ones opposed to Pas' brand of conservative Islam. It also alarms the non-Muslim minorities, who fear that under a Pas-led government their rights would be jeopardised.

    The post-Mahathir era
    The country is now in transition. Since Mahathir stepped down in 2003, many Malaysians have been pinning their hopes on his quiet and cautious successor, Abdullah Badawi. They see the release from prison of Anwar Ibrahim - the country's best-known Muslim intellectual - as marking the turning of a page. Once seen as Mahathir's likely successor, Anwar Ibrahim was convicted of corruption and sodomy and only released last year, after six years in jail. Although banned from holding political office until 2008, he appears to be resuming his role as a leading opposition politician. So will Malaysia be able to shake off the corruption and authoritarianism which have tarnished the Umno project? And can it transform its disparate communities into a unified Malaysian nation where everyone is equal? These are the challenges of the post-Mahathir era.
    ©BBC News

    31/1/2005- "You are a bad Belgian and you have signed your own death warrant." That was the message to factory owner Rik Remmery when he opened his mail one morning just before Christmas. For ex-policeman Rik it was only the start of an angry and chilling tirade of threatening post. Further letters put a 250,000 euro ($326,000; £173,000) price on his head and a final package contained a bullet. By now the letters were coming to his family home as well as his factory. "December," another letter read "will be a nightmare." The death threats against Rik were caused by one simple fact - he employed a Muslim woman who wore a headscarf to work. Somebody, somewhere in the small town of Ledegem in West Flanders did not like that and was prepared to take extreme action unless Rik sacked Naima Amzil. But Rik stood firm. "She's worked here for eight years. I accepted her with a headscarf and I will not change my mind because of one sick person," he said.

    Removing the scarf
    Naima was horrified when she found out about the threats. She could not believe someone would react to her simple white headscarf in such a manner. Originally from Morocco, she had done everything possible to integrate into Belgian society - speaking French and Flemish and carrying a Belgian passport. Her work colleagues rallied around her. The Unizo union of independent employers organised an internet petition of support which eventually racked up more than 25,000 names. But as the letters kept coming, the pressure and fear grew. In the end, with the police at a dead end in their investigation, Naima decided to act. She removed her headscarf to work on the factory floor. Health and safety regulations meant she wore a hairnet at work anyway and that allowed her to stay true to her religious beliefs.

    Royal sympathy
    It was a traumatic action to undertake. She cried for hours that day. "It was very, very difficult. It was like a piece of me was taken away. The whole day I felt bad," said Naima. Belgium's King Albert was on holiday in France and saw a report about events in Ledegem on television. He contacted the factory and invited Rik and Naima - in headscarf - to the royal palace for a televised audience. For the king, it was important to send a message out that religious intolerance was unacceptable. Naima and Rik's story is symptomatic of the suspicion and extremism rearing its head against many of Europe's Muslims. In other parts of Belgium, political pressure is forcing local police to enforce rules that are hard to explain to the Muslim community.

    Police vigilance
    In Antwerp - a city with a 50,000-strong Muslim community - police can now reprimand, or even imprison, women found dressed in the burka (full body covering) on the streets of the city. The police stress that this is an old regulation - originally designed to stop people covering their faces completely in masks at carnival time. It is all about public safety. "When you're patrolling as a police officer, you should see the faces of people. Because if you can't see the faces, you don't know who it is, what they want to do," said commissioner Francois Vermeulen of Antwerp police. "If you put on a Mickey Mouse mask and you start walking around in Antwerp, you will be stopped by the police. It's that simple. It's not only women in a burka or a headscarf and a veil." But the police admit that the women they have stopped for this reason do not know about, or do not understand, the statute. Back in Ledegen the police are still at a loss. The threatening letters have stopped for the time being, but the unpleasant feeling of a home-grown extremism remains. "In a small town like this, everybody knows everybody. I think it must be a skinhead, a neo-Nazi, a neo-fascist, someone like that. I really don't know," said Rik. On the factory floor, Naima is hard at work packing prawns and other delicacies produced by the factory. She is still putting on a brave face. "When I arrived here in my headscarf Rik said it was no problem. I never thought there would come a time when I would take it off. Now I just hope there'll be a day when I can come back to work with my headscarf on again."
    ©BBC News

    31/1/2005– A senator from Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's party has embarrassed the premier by publicly wooing the extreme-right party Vlaams Belang. On Monday, public broadcaster RTBF reported that the Flemish Liberal (VLD) Hugo Coveliers had shared a platform with Belang leader Filip Dewinter during campaigning on Sunday. He said he was ready to consider twinning up with Belang in the run-up to the Antwerp municipal elections in 2006. He announced he was prepared to form a new right-wing Liberal party that would share power with Belang if it allowed them to secure a majority in 2006. The news is a significant step for Belang which has been trying to woo the other political parties by promising their leaders help to secure mayoral and council leader positions. Although the VLD leadership denies it, the far right party claims it is holding talks with eight branches of the Liberal party. The suggestion is embarrassing for Verhofstadt – an advocate of the view that no democratic party should do deals with Belang. Last week, Bart Somers, VLD president, also reiterated the party's position. It's likely now that Covelier, who was excluded from the party's management on 26 January, will be thrown out of the VLD.
    ©Expatica News

    31/1/2005– One of Belgium's vice prime ministers has claimed that a mainstream Flemish political party is starting to copy extremists in Flanders. Finance Minister Didier Reynders, appearing on the RTBF programme Mise au point on Sunday, said the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) were following the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (NV-A), as well as the extreme right-wing party Vlaams Belang. "What's happening in Flanders is a pollution by the separatists from NV-A, and beyond that from the Vlaams Belang," he argued. Vlaams Belang is the new face of Vlaams Blok, a party branded racist last year by the Belgian courts. In the past, Belgium's political parties kept a pact not to form coalitions with the Blok, but since the party is the most popular in Flanders, some mainstream politicians have started thinking about collaborating with it or incorporating its policies into their programmes. Reynders, the president of the francophone centre-right party Mouvement Reformateur (MR), criticised the decision of CD&V not to vote for the law to remove public funding from extremist parties. He also criticised it for refusing to join in the working group discussing the linguistic future of the Brussels suburb Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde. "If we want to live harmoniously, we have to solve conflicts," he said, adding that the working group was the test of whether francophone and Flemish Belgians still want to live together. Reynders said if it became clear that Belgium's linguistic communities did not want to live together, the francophones would need to think about how they want to be governed.
    ©Expatica News

    31/1/2005- France remains opposed to offshore holding camps for asylum seekers to Europe, including in North Africa, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published Monday. "The Mediterranean has always been a crossroads of migration and a human melting-pot (but) states have a duty to exercise control over the flows in the interest of everyone," he told the Tunisian daily Le Temps. Raffarin, who was winding up a two-day visit to the former French protectorate, said such control should produce a proper partnership between Mediterranean countries to the north and south. Paris is "opposed to the idea, raised by certain (European Union) partners, to set up transit centres outside the EU, notably in North Africa, to filter candidates for immigration," he said. "Such a solution, apart from the moral and ethical questions involved, because it is against our traditions, would have the disadvantage of concentrating flows of illegal immigration and assist criminal gangs making profits out of this traffic." Britain first floated the idea of creating camps in north Africa for people seeking asylum in Europe in June, and the proposal has been picked up by the German and Italian governments who are desperate for ways to deal with the rise in illegal immigration. But France, Portugal and Spain are also unhappy about the idea, as are organizations like Amnesty International, as some of the proposed venues such as Libya and Tunisia have shaky human rights records. The idea was discussed at a summit on illegal immigration and Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in Rome in October, when French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier voiced Paris's opposition, recalling the experience of the Sangatte centre on the Channel. The Red Cross refugee centre in Sangatte, near Calais in the north of France, served during its three years in existence as a temporary home to some 68,000 illegal migrants, mainly Afghans and Iraqi Kurds. It was shut down in November 2002 with great difficulty after migrants living there used it as a staging point for nightly attempts to reach Britain through the Channel tunnel.
    ©Expatica News

    3/2/2005- The French education ministry on Thursday suspended far-right lawmaker Bruno Gollnisch from his position as a university professor over controversial comments he made about Nazi gas chambers. Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese civilization and international law at the Jean-Moulin university in Lyon, said he would appeal his suspension to the Conseil d'Etat, the country's highest administrative court. The education ministry said Gollnisch, who is a top deputy to far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen within his National Front (FN) party, had been relieved of his duties "in the interest of the department". Gollnisch told a press conference in October: "I do not deny the existence of deadly gas chambers. But I'm not a specialist on this issue, and I think we have to let the historians debate it. And this debate should be free and open." The FN deputy said he did not contest the "hundreds of thousands, the millions of deaths" during the Holocaust, but added: "As to the way those people died, a debate should take place." University administrators suspended Gollnisch's classes in late October, but the Conseil d'Etat last month authorized him to return to the lecture hall. His classes resumed on Wednesday, but were marred by scuffles pitting FN sympathisers against student groups condemning FN policies. Le Pen sparked controversy last month when he described the Nazi occupation of France during World War II as "not especially inhumane". Paris prosecutors have launched a preliminary inquiry to determine whether Le Pen's remarks constitute "denial of crimes against humanity" or "apology for war crimes" -- both of which are criminal offenses.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    3/2/2005- French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday told lawmakers he would ask the center-right government to back a proposal to break up all neo-Nazi groups. "These movements must be dissolved, and I will propose this to the cabinet" in accordance with a January 1936 law that authorizes the disbanding of associations seen as a threat to public order and democracy, De Villepin said. The interior minister estimated that some 3,000 people belong to neo-Nazi groups across France. "We will see to it that these groups are not reconstructed under false names," De Villepin added, calling the movements "a threat and a danger, especially when we know their activities are more and more violent." The minister said neo-Nazi groups were responsible for 65 acts of violence in 2004, as compared with just 27 such acts in 2003. De Villepin, the government's point man on law and order, said he would crack down on the spread of neo-Nazi ideas via the Internet, and ask mayors and regional officials to help prevent public meetings of neo-Nazi groups. Alsace, in eastern France along the German border, is one of the country's neo-Nazi strongholds, where the extreme right-wing party Front National also does well. The groups operate there surreptitiously, organizing meetings under the guise of friendly soccer matches, for example, where the tone changes once the players retire to bars for some after-sport refreshment.

    Mayors scared
    Local authorities are almost powerless to stop the neo-Nazi gatherings. Renting out meeting rooms is a private affair that officials can't simply ban. Many mayors are too afraid of the consequences if they took aggressive measures against the sometimes large groups of neo-Nazis that meet in their small towns and villages. "'If we chase them away, there'll be a brawl and then it'll be difficult,' says the mayor who fears the neo-Nazis will terrorize his village," according to Mayor Gilbert Reutenauer in Hinsbourg, where around 800 of them held a gathering in October 2003. Some are skeptical that the interior minister's plans will make a difference at all since it's hard to identify the culprits in the first place. "They don't show pictures of Hitler, or anything that recalls the past," said Rene Monzat, an expert on the right-wing extremist scene. "The minister's push is welcome but it remains symbolic." Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations live in France. Both communities have been the victims of increasing violence in recent years. Earlier this month, a government investigation found that France's far-right groups were increasingly targeting Muslims rather than Jews.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    In 1971, a Guardian article on how UK schools were failing black boys sparked a furious row. Now the author has updated his work - from a prison cell in Grenada. Polly Curtis reports

    1/2/2005- Geoff Palmer arrived in London from Jamaica in 1955. It was a month before his 15th birthday and, by law, he had a few weeks of compulsory education left. His mother took him to the local school, where he was given a routine IQ test. "I'd just travelled 5,000 miles from Jamaica. The test asked me 'How does Big Ben indicate the time?'" he chuckles. "The questions meant nothing to me. Absolutely nothing." He was told he was "educationally subnormal" (ESN) and packaged off to a secondary modern, where students were trained to be road cleaners and not much else, he says. Palmer's saving grace was his cricketing prowess. He was spotted by the local grammar school head and awarded a place. Today he is Professor Geoff Palmer, OBE, of Heriot Watt University, one of only a handful of black chemistry professors in Britain. Children arriving in the UK throughout the 1960s and 1970s were presented with the same test. By the 1970s, pupils labelled ESN were being put into special schools. Unlike Palmer, very few would return to mainstream schools. Their parents, who had come to England expecting a better education for their children, grew angry. In 1970, Bernard Coard, a Grenadian academic and teacher living in the UK, came upon the first study of immigrant children in London ESN schools, conducted by the now defunct Inner London Education Authority. It revealed a shocking picture. In "normal" London schools, 17% of pupils were from ethnic minorities. In ESN schools, that figure was 34% - and four out of five were from the West Indies. But the figures didn't shock Coard. He had been working in London ESN schools and running youth groups for West Indian pupils. The schools were, he now says, a "convenient dumping ground" for black children. The following year Coard wrote and published a pamphlet entitled: How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System. He identified three factors that were causing black boys, in particular, to fail: "Low expectations on his part about his likely performance in a white-controlled system of education; low motivation to succeed academically because he feels the cards are stacked against him; and low teacher expectations, which affect the amount of effort expended on his behalf by the teacher and also affect his own image of himself and his abilities."

    The Guardian published a chapter from the pamphlet on its Comment pages, and a row over the education of black children, and the failures of the system, has raged ever since. Wally Brown, principal of Liverpool Community College, remembers its impact. "That book is a seminal piece. What it says is: if the person who is supposed to be teaching you has no confidence in you, how can you learn? Parents who were fresh from the Caribbean had expectations for their children that were at the opposite end of the spectrum from the teachers'." "He was the first person to raise this issue," says Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North. "Sadly, if the education authorities and schools had listened to him then, we wouldn't have the crisis we have now." Coard, now in his 60s, is still passionate about the debate. But he follows it remotely from a prison cell in Grenada. In the late 1970s, Coard returned to Grenada, became active in politics and formed the New Jewel Movement, a Marxist group, with his childhood friend Maurice Bishop. When Bishop became prime minister in 1979, Coard became his deputy and together they reformed the education, health and housing systems in what became known as the Grenadan revolution. But the pair fell out ideologically and, in 1983, there was a coup. Bishop was killed, allegedly by Coard's supporters acting on his orders. Coard took power briefly before Ronald Reagan's administration invaded the island and toppled his government.

    It was a Reagan-backed jury that sentenced Coard and 13 others to death. Another three were given lengthy sentences, and together they became known as the Grenadan 17. The death penalties were later commuted to life imprisonment. An Amnesty International report last year condemned the torture they had suffered and claimed that their trial had violated international law. The verdict of an appeal hearing for their release, heard in November last year, is imminent. But Coard's story doesn't end there. Through reading the Guardian Weekly, the Economist and education journals sent by supporters, Coard has kept up his interest in the British education system. Towards the end of last year, moved by reports of research commissioned by the mayor of London into the education of black boys that strongly echoed the arguments he had made 30 years earlier, he decided to update his 1971 work. Education Guardian has seen a copy of that article, which addresses the persistence of the problem. Its analysis is strikingly accurate. Over the course of the past month, Education Guardian has corresponded with Coard. His style of writing has not changed over 30 years: a balance between anger and reasoned argument. He describes how he has passed the past 20 years teaching fellow inmates. For the first seven years, while on death row, he would conduct lessons from his cell by writing homework assignments on scraps of paper and tying them to a weight that was passed from cell to cell. Now the education programme has funding, a computer and some textbooks - mostly written by him - and inmates have achieved degrees validated by the University of London and Oxford Brookes. But what he's really keen to talk about is what happened to the debate in Britain when he returned to Grenada. His view is that the problems became entrenched. "The lesson to be learned for today's problems in the school system is that they were hatched decades ago, in the previous two generations. When society fails one generation of children, it lays the foundations for similar, even worse, failures in the generations to follow."

    The figures back it up. Over the past 30 years, standards across schools have undoubtedly got better, but achievement among black children has remained comparatively low. In 2002, 30% of black Caribbean children got five A* to Cs at GCSE, compared with a national average of 51%. Black boys are more likely to be excluded than any other group. The mayor's report concluded that black schoolboys had been let down by local authorities' and teachers' prejudices for 50 years. Black boys still complained of racism and stereotyping, and their parents said teachers did not want to involve them. Coard describes a multitude of factors that combine to depress achievement among black boys. They include teacher expectations, their own self-esteem, and the problems of communication between home and school. There's a biased curriculum, poverty and differential access to the best schools. Thirty years ago, he was urging black parents to set up "supplementary schools" for their children, which they did; some still exist. Now he believes the playing field must be levelled. It's an unashamed argument for a comprehensive system. He writes: "What is needed is a system of quality education for all; and therefore, by definition, one that is not dependent on the parental income/wealth or social status and connections of schoolchildren, does not have schools providing vastly different standards of education and does not have a two-tiered, or multi-tiered system of education, providing differential education for the children of different classes, genders and ethnicities." Asked what the government should do to reverse the trend, Coard says: "Governments acting from above to solve or correct any systemic or structural or deep-rooted problem, even with the best of intentions and the political will to effect radical change, will fail if they fail to act in tandem with 'from below'."

    Coard's is an old-fashioned argument for equality. Fellow Grenadian Professor Gus John, a former director of education in the London Borough of Hackney and now visiting professor of education at the University of Strathclyde, says Coard's socialism is rooted in their origins: "The education that Bernard Coard and myself received in Grenada before coming to this country was in a culture where success was not pre-determined by socio-economic background. "We were quite used to children of poor parents going on to become lawyers and doctors, judges and prime ministers. The idea of high achievement of working-class and peasant children is something that was familiar to us." But, instead of rescuing the comprehensive system, as Coard argues it should, the government is diversifying, says John, by introducing specialist, foundation and academy schools. Meanwhile, a new fear is emerging: some believe Sir Mike Tomlinson's proposals to reform the 14-19 curriculum could worsen the stereotyping of children. The lecturers' union Natfhe has backed a TUC motion warning that the Tomlinson proposals for a new diploma, on which the government's response is expected in the next few weeks, risks further "educational segregation". The motion says: "By asking students to make choices about their future curriculum at age 14, we run the risk of placing students in stereotyped boxes according to what others think black students and white young men and women 'ought' to find interesting." Tomlinson is frank about this when questioned. "One can't deny the risk. Making choices at 14 is not new. But the risk is real and I see the effects in Hackney. There is a need to tackle it." Coard could arrive back in the UK as the row over Tomlinson rumbles on. It is very possible he will be released this year, perhaps even in the next few weeks. He wants to settle in Jamaica, with his family and wife, Phyllis, another member of the Grenadan 17, who has also spent much of the past 20 years in prison. He aims to return to England on a research trip. "You see, I have a plethora of hypotheses about the complex causes and possible ... solutions to the grave problems of the education of black children that I'd like to test in the real world," he writes.
    Expertise is sorely needed. And the timing might be perfect.
    ©The Guardian

    1/2/2005- The ban on prison officers being active members of the British National party and other far-right groups should be extended to the probation service if it is to retain the confidence of minority ethnic communities, according to the chief inspector of probation. In a report published today, entitled I'm not a Racist but ..., Andrew Bridges says that in most cases probation officers fail to challenge the attitudes and behaviour of convicted racists and sometimes explain away their racism as drunkenness or acting out of character. "In some assessments case managers argued that, although the offence had been proven to be racially aggravated, it was not in their opinion racially motivated ... It is a concern that it is so easy to minimise or dismiss racist offending," he reports. Mr Bridges says that it is an apparent anomaly that prison officers are banned from membership of the BNP but not those in the probation service. "Whilst there are risks in pursuing such a course of action, both in human rights terms and in the risk of creating publicity for far-right groups, we take the view that if the national probation service wishes to retain the confidence of all the communities it serves then a similar prohibition should apply to all probation staff." The chief inspector's report says that many of those convicted of racially motivated offences feel they have been unjustly prosecuted and labelled as racist. In too many cases the official assessments made of the offender rely too heavily on their account of the incident, and often the pre-sentence reports to the courts minimise the significance of racist incidents. "For example, a pre-sentence report included a statement: 'Mr X tells me that he is not racist and acted out of character ... he has a number of black friends.' These comments were not challenged or put in context," Mr Bridges' report says. "In some reports there were verbatim accounts of the offensive racist insults that had been used by perpetrators. Unfortunately, there was a lack of any analysis or statement of the unacceptability of the insult to give a sense of context to these accounts. As a result the reports inadvertently gave the impression of condoning the language ..." The Home Office said last night that it accepted 15 of the 16 recommendations in the report, including the need for a national strategy to tackle offenders' racist attitudes. But the BNP ban would be considered by the probation service's strategy board. "There is little evidence to suggest that there is a significant problem in the national probation service of membership of rightwing groups," said a Home Office spokesman.
    ©The Guardian

    3/2/2005- The National Union of Students today condemned plans to allow the leader of the British National Party to take part in a debate at St Andrews University. Nick Griffin has been invited by the students' debating society to take part in a discussion on the shortcomings of multiculturalism next week. Mr Griffin, whose party has been investigated by police over claims of inciting racial hatred, is due to discuss the motion that "This house believes that the multicultural experiment has failed". NUS Scotland, which has a no platform policy for racists, said the policies of the BNP were "contrary to every single principle of the student movement" and is calling on the debating society to withdraw the invitation. Its president, Melanie Ward, said: "The union debating society is being incredibly naïve if it believes that this visit will not give rise to increased attention from the BNP with regard to the students at St Andrews... The far right must be given no chance to recruit on our doorsteps." Mr Griffin today told the Scottish Press Association: "I am coming up because I was invited by the students at the university because they have a debate on an intelligent subject on which I have something to say. "The people against it are the usual bunch of people who cannot win the argument and refuse to stand on a platform. "I think it is regrettable that we have not got someone who is of a senior level to take the opposition, but I'm sure someone can oppose. "The students should come along and having heard the arguments vote according to their views. If they are not students they should keep their nose out." The BNP leader was invited to speak by the debating society's president, Peter Blair, 21, who is in his final year at the university. The motion was approved by the student association board.

    Defending his decision, Mr Blair said: "We believe that the only way to get the truth of what the BNP are saying and to combat them is to do it in public in a debate. "It is very dangerous to ignore them. They have had electoral success and people ignoring them won't help. If people want to challenge their ways, a debate is how to do it. Most of the students will disagree with what Nick Griffin will say, but they still want to go to the debate." A spokesman for the university, which was not involved in organising the debate or recruiting speakers, said: "The university's view is that this man's views may be arduous to a large amount of people, but it is not the university's place to say he does not have a right to state his views. "We are not in the business of censorship. This is not something the university has to give permission for." However, the move has been attacked by anti-racist groups, some of whom have refused to participate in the debate as opposition. Robina Qureshi, of anti-racism campaign group Positive Action in Housing, said: "We think it is an utter disgrace. It's a disgrace for them not to be aware of the revere that [the BNP] holds with other groups like the Klu Klux Klan and neo-nazis. "We would really urge the students association to think seriously about what they are doing. We are organising to contact other student unions to lobby St Andrews to halt this debate." A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland said: "The CRE does not legitimise the views of far right organisations by sharing a platform with them." The debate, which is open only to students, will be held on Wednesday.
    ©The Guardian

    3/2/2005- A key member of Robert Kilroy-Silk's new political party co-founded an organisation with a former chairman of the National Front, the Guardian has learned. Anthony Bennett, whose name appears in the Electoral Commission's database as the official leader of Mr Kilroy-Silk's party Veritas, was also fired from the UK Independence party last year after publishing a pamphlet describing the prophet Muhammad as a paedophile. The revelations, coming the day after the official launch of Veritas, will call into question Mr Kilroy-Silk's insistence that his party's anti-immigration stance has nothing to do with racism or Islamophobia. Yesterday Mr Bennett said he had not known that Ian Anderson was a former chairman of the National Front at the time that the two men helped to form the People's Campaign to Keep the Pound. "Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have joined it," he said. But Mr Bennett called Mr Anderson "an English patriot" and said they were both still members of a local land-preservation organisation in Epping in Essex that organises an annual May fair. "He's a well-respected committee member of that organisation ... I don't know that one could dignify that with the word 'link'," he said. Mr Bennet himself had "always stood for social justice," he said. The Electoral Commission's records, he added, were being updated to show Mr Kilroy-Silk as the official leader of Veritas. "Robert Kilroy-Silk's not going to be pleased about this," Mr Anderson said. He confirmed that he had been a chairman of the National Front but said he had now left politics. Mr Bennett has been working as a researcher for Mr Kilroy-Silk after being banned, last year, from holding any Ukip office for two years because of his writings on Islam. Mr Kilroy-Silk said at the time that Mr Bennett's remarks about Muhammad had been part of a "reasoned, academic exposition" aimed at explaining the reasons behind the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr Kilroy-Silk, 62, elected as a member of the European parliament under the Ukip banner, was sacked from his BBC talk show after writing a newspaper column disparaging Arabs as "limb-amputators". After failing in his bid to lead Ukip, he left the party last month, accusing its members of being "rightwing fascist nutters". He could not be reached for comment last night. Nigel Farage, Ukip's leader in the European parliament, said: "Tony Bennett is an energetic campaigner, with some extremely eccentric and individualistic views."
    ©The Guardian

    3/2/2005- England will wear shirts bearing an anti-racism message in next week's friendly against Holland. It will be the first time in 133 years of international football the front of the famous shirt will have carried anything other than the three lions badge and manufacturer's logo. The team will wear red shirts at Villa Park on Wednesday with a slogan on the front and the 'Kick It Out' badge on the sleeves. England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson said: "This is a unique opportunity for fans and players to join together to speak out against racism. "The players are always very proud to wear the England shirt but this time it will have even more meaning for them." The move by the Football Association follows an announcement by Holland that they are planning their own anti-racism message by wearing a black and white kit instead of their traditional orange Piara Powar, director of 'Kick It Out', told : "This is the latest in a series of initiatives the England team have been involved in and both they and the FA deserve credit. "As recent events have shown, racism has not gone away, we cannot afford to be complacent. There can be no more powerful statement than the England players' demonstration of their support during the game." England's black players have been the target of racist abuse in several of their last internationals, most-recently when Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were targeted during a friendly against Spain in Madrid in November. Rio Ferdinand joined Thierry Henry in launching an anti-racism campaign last week. The Arsenal player was also the subject of a racist jibe by Spain's manager Luis Aragones during a training-ground tirade at Henry's club-mate Jose Reyes. Fifa has given the FA special permission to wear the shirts and fans will be asked to hold up cards with an anti-racism message during the national anthems.
    ©The Guardian

    By Frances Webber, a leading immigration barrister and a member of the
    Campaign Against Racism and Fascism

    3/2/2005- In December, the Law Lords found that the government disciminated against Roma in immigration controls and against foreign nationals in anti-terrorist detentions. Together, the judgments reveal a mindset that has not changed since the creation of a 'Fortress Europe' in the 1980s. In two landmark legal judgments, the House of Lords, Britain's highest court, has accused the government of systematic race discrimination - in policies, practices and entrenched in laws. In the first case, the discrimination was directed against Roma, in the second, against foreigners who were suspected of support for international terrorism. In neither case has the government offered any apology for its actions.

    Immigration controls
    The first case was brought by six Roma and by the European Roma Rights Centre, to challenge the legality of what was described as a 'pre-entry clearance scheme' in the Czech Republic, which was designed to stop Roma asylum seekers from coming to Britain. Immigration officers went to Prague airport and questioned passengers before they boarded aircraft. If passengers said they intended to claim asylum on arrival, or if the immigration officers suspected that they would, they were told they could not go to the UK, and refused permission to board the aircraft. They targeted Roma, who were 'readily identifiable through their darker skin and hair', for more intensive and intrusive questioning, and refused almost 90 percent of Roma passengers, compared with 0.2 percent of non-Roma passengers: a ratio of around 400:1. The pre-clearance scheme, which began in July 2001, operated intermittently, without advance warning, for days or weeks at a time, and dramatically reduced the numbers of Roma seeking to travel by air to the UK. The government justified the scheme by reference to the fact that the vast majority of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic were Roma, a rationale accepted by the High Court and by a majority in the Court of Appeal. The House of Lords, however, in its judgment issued on 9 December, said that this was no justification at all. The fact that most Czech asylum seekers were Roma (because of their treatment as a 'disadvantaged racial minority' in the Czech Republic) did not mean that most Roma were asylum seekers, or that they should or could be discriminated against. The Law Lords held that the system operated by immigration officers at Prague was 'inherently and systematically discriminatory on racial grounds' against the Roma, contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976.

    The second case, in which the Law Lords gave judgment a week later, on 16 December, relates to the internment of foreign terrorist suspects, held in some cases since December 2001 in HMP Belmarsh and HMP Woodhill, under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA). The internment law required the government to issue a derogation from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to liberty), which it could only do in cases of a 'public emergency threatening the life of the nation'. The derogation, and the internment of the men in Belmarsh, have been the subject of a sustained campaign by groups including CAMPACC (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, which was shortlisted for a human rights award the week before the judgment) and other refugee and community groups. The existence of 'Britain's Guantánamo', the provisions consigning the men to the limbo of indefinite detention, which in some cases has driven them mad, has been slow to engage public attention, in part because of the small numbers involved and the fact that they are all foreign (the government admitted that such provisions were too Draconian to be applied to British citizens). But the undeniable parallels with unaccountable executive detention of foreign nationals by the US authorities in Guantánamo, continually dragged into public consciousness, finally succeeded in making an impact, so that by the time the men's case reached the Lords, it was deemed important enough to require an unprecedented panel of nine of the twelve Law Lords, compared with the usual quota of five (and the most liberal law Lord, Lord Steyn, had to disqualify himself after making a strong speech condemning the US treatment of internees in Guantánamo). The Lords were asked to decide, first, whether the government was entitled to claim that there was such a public emergency justifying the law; secondly, whether the internment law was proportionate to the threat of terrorism, and finally, whether it was discriminatory. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, to which the men had appealed, had upheld their claim of discrimination, but the Court of Appeal had overruled SIAC's judgment. Of the nine Lords, eight condemned the internment law. One, Lord Hoffmann, said there was no public emergency threatening the life of the nation: 'the real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.' The other seven were not prepared to disagree with the government's assessment of the threat to the UK, but held the law disproportionate to the threat, and racially discriminatory. The differential treatment of foreigners versus British suspects had been justified by the Attorney-General on the basis that the foreigners, unlike the British suspects, had no right to be in the country. This argument had held sway in the Court of Appeal. But, said the Lords, that was irrelevant to the threat of terrorism, which was as real in relation to the British terror suspects as it was in relation to the foreign ones. How, they asked, could a government, responding rationally to a terrorist threat, lock up all the foreign suspects but none of the British ones? In response to the Attorney-General's argument that the foreign suspects could leave, and so avoid internment, if they could find a safe country which would take them, they asked: How could a rational government, believing people to be involved in international terrorism, allow them to leave the country, leaving them free to plan and commit terrorist acts abroad? In any case, they said, most could not leave: the 'cell with three walls' described by the government was in fact a cul-de-sac, with no safe escape. Lord Scott graphically described the plight of the internees: 'Indefinite imprisonment in consequence of a denunciation, on grounds that are not disclosed and made by a person whose identity cannot be disclosed, is the stuff of nightmares, associated ... with the Soviet Union in the Stalinist era, and ... now associated with the United Kingdom.' The law was disproportionate precisely because it discriminated as between British and foreign suspects.

    Control orders
    The Lords pointed out that they could not order the release of the detainees, although they found the law under which they were detained incompatible with fundamental human rights and discriminatory. The government took no action to implement the judgment for over a month. Then, it began to discuss deporting the men (whose internment was predicated on the serious risk of torture or execution in their home countries), saying that perhaps assurances could be obtained from their home governments that they would not torture or execute them. When these overtures were dismissed with derision - by (among others) Sir Brian Barden, a retired diplomat who was a member of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission until his principled resignation in January 2004 - the government unveiled its plans for 'control orders', replicating for British and foreign suspects alike the conditions under which bail had been granted to one of the men in April 2004. These conditions have involved wearing an electronic tag at all times, remaining at home at all times; telephoning a security company five times a day at specified times; the installation of monitoring equipment at home; not allowing anyone to enter the home except for family, solicitor, medical attendants and other approved persons; no computer equipment, mobile phone or other electronic communications device or telephone link at home except for a dedicated link with the security company. Not surprisingly, the man, 'G', is said to be feeling isolated and claustrophobic in his one-bedroomed flat with his wife and child, under these conditions. Now that it is proposed to extend such conditions to British citizens suspected of links with international terrorism, everyone, including opposition leader Michael Howard, joins in the furore. In addition, this week the government published a draft order to extend the ACTSA provisions that allow for detentions of foreign nationals, in spite of the Law Lords' condemnation of these sections of the Act as discriminatory and incompatible with human rights. If approved by parliament, the draft order will allow the detentions to continue for a further nine months from 14 March. The mindset disclosed by the two judgments and the government's response to them is one which has not changed since Britain got together with other European states in the 1980s to build 'Fortress Europe'. It is a mindset in which foreigners - perceived as asylum seekers, criminals and terrorists - must be kept out. It is a mindset which is used to justify entrenched racial discrimination in immigration controls and the denial of the universality of fundamental human rights - of which liberty and security of person, rights to fair trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to know the evidence against you, are among the most important. And it is a mindset which, in tandem with the rabid anti-asylum seeker and anti-Muslim racism of the tabloids, creates a deadly climate of complacency towards abuse.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    3/2/2005- Equality chiefs are to call up previously unused powers to root out companies and services which repeatedly flout anti-discrimination laws. Firms with more than 50 employees could be subject to involuntary audits and entire sectors of industry and service provision could find themselves under the spotlight in formal inquiries. Both mechanisms are provided for in the legislation that gives the Equality Authority its powers but have not yet been put into action. However, the head of the Equality Authority has warned that bosses in the public and private sector are not getting the message about discrimination and the time has come to flex some muscle. Authority chief executive Niall Crowley said only a third of Irish employers were au fait with their responsibilities under the equality legislation and were genuine about creating a discrimination-free workplace. Another third were interested in equality but feared lawsuits and creating an additional workload if they introduced the issue into the workplace. "There is a fear that if equality is named as an issue, somebody will put it back to them as a problem. They fear that by naming it, they're stirring it," Mr Crowley said. "Then there is another layer that just is not interested and is actively involved in discrimination." Mr Crowley was speaking with the Irish Examiner as the Equality Authority reviewed its first five years. He called for far higher fines for breaches of equality legislation, arguing existing penalties were not severe enough to be dissuasive. He was disappointed with the pub trade's reaction to legislation guaranteeing equal access to members of the Traveller community. He also said it was disturbing how quickly racial discrimination had emerged as a problem once non-nationals became a regular feature of the workforce. Mr Crowley lamented the fact that 30 years of equal rights for women had failed to put them on an level footing with men in terms of their earning power and promotional prospects.
    ©Irish Examiner

    31/1/2005- To coincide with International Women's Day on March 8, women's rights advocates are preparing to launch a vast lobbying campaign aimed at persuading Parliament to pass an election bill designed to boost the proportion of women in Czech politics. But fear that political parties could lose public funding is the most likely reason the draft legislation, aimed at creating gender equality in elections, died before making it to the Cabinet late last year, supporters say. The draft stipulated that male and female candidates must be represented equally on party lists and their names arranged according to a "zipping" system, in which candidates are listed in a man-woman-man arrangement. The bill was jointly proposed by the Government Council for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women and a nonprofit group called Gender Studies. But even a seriously watered-down version of the bill failed to get as much as a read before the government. The primary reason for the bill's failure, according to its supporters, was likely a provision stating that parties respecting the parity principle would be entitled to 10 percent more in subsidies from the state budget, based on the percentage of votes received. Parties that failed to meet the 50 percent female candidate benchmark would have been entitled to 10 percent less funding. "I think money was the reason politicians weren't willing to discuss the proposal," said Alena Králíková, a legislative specialist at Gender Studies. Parties that get more than 3 percent of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies receive a state subsidy worth Kè 6 million ( 194,000). With every additional 0.1 percent, the party is entitled to draw another Kè 200,000 until 5 percent. Parties get a Kè 900,000 contribution for each senate seat and a regional representative is worth Kè 250,000.

    Disappearing act
    Králíková said she has tried several times to track down the proposal and find out why it was never given a reading, but has not received a clear answer. "The proposal was withdrawn from the government," said Jana Matìjùsová, a press officer at the Ministry of Interior, although she couldn't specify why the bill was finally blocked from going to the government. Government spokeswoman Vìra Dušková said she did not know when the draft would get to the government. "It depends on the political assignment," she said. "More discussion must take place on the coalition level before the bill gets to the government," she added. She too, however, could not give a tangible reason for the proposal's delay. "There hasn't been enough political discussion, I presume." Despite the bill's disappearing act, Králíková said the legislation had been weakened so much by the various ministries that it was unacceptable in its current form anyway. "The proposal was distorted in such a way that it completely [lost] the equality principle," she said.
    ©Czech Business Weekly

    1/2/2005- A document telling employers what to do in case of sexual harassment at the place of work will soon be published by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality. Commission executive director Sina Bugeja said the Sexual Harassment Code of Practice will explain what constitutes sexual harassment and inform employers what they should do to tackle it. The law lays down that employers have a degree of responsibility in ensuring that sexual harassment does not take place and to take action if it does. "It is imperative to have a sexual harassment policy at the workplace," said Ms Bugeja, adding that this would also help the victim know what to do. According to law, sexual harassment takes place when a person subjects another to an act of physical intimacy, requests sexual favours or subjects others to acts or conduct which have sexual connotations. It is unlawful to treat unfavourably a person who rejects any such advances. Ms Bugeja said that since the commission started operating a year ago a number of complaints related to sexual harassment had been received. She would not divulge the number due to confidentiality but said that all of them were by women. However, she was aware of a man having been sexually harassed. "The reality is that women are more prone to being sexually harassed but this does not mean that men are not affected," she said. She explained it was imperative to educate people and the commission would soon launch a national awareness campaign dealing with the issue. "We need to educate the public that sexual harassment is not acceptable," Ms Bugeja said. Education was important because Mediterranean culture meant that the Maltese allowed certain things to happen. The issue was also highly subjective - a comment could be interpreted as sexual harassment by one person while someone else might take it as a compliment, generally depending on the levels of education, she said. Apart from educating the victims or potential victims, it was also imperative to educate the perpetrators. Ms Bugeja said that in some cases there was no intention to offend another person and this had to be established when investigating the case. She said some claims of sexual harassment were exaggerated and it was imperative that the commission investigated cases thoroughly in order to spot such instances. Over the past year the commission had received about 52 complaints related to discrimination. It has been working to eliminate adverts that discriminate between the sexes and Ms Bugeja said the feedback from advertising agencies and the media had been very good. "A lot of change has already taken place but we cannot expect everything to change overnight," she said.
    ©Times of Malta

    1/2/2005- A publisher has agreed to amend a high school textbook that teachers said confused students into equating Norway's government under Nazi occupation and its post-war return to democracy. History teachers at Asker Upper Secondary School protested after finding that a textbook covering Norwegian history after 1850 made complex and controversial comparisons between occupied and post-war Norway. The text argued that "both put great weight on ideology and modern propaganda" and that their methods led to both forms of government being controversial. "The book erases the separation between democracy and dictatorship. This can be dangerous in a time where one knows that history repeats itself," said teacher Johanne Volden. The school ordered the textbooks 'nearly unseen' after being satisfied with the volumes on earlier time periods but soon found what they felt were fundamental errors. History teachers called the book a scandal, partly due to its coverage of the war and post-war Norway in a single chapter called "Solidarity, growth and indoctrination". "We expect a minimum of correct interpretation of historical events in a textbook. The author cannot take liberties at the cost of fundamental societal perceptions. The students are left with the impression that (post-war prime minister) Gerhardsen was just as bad as Quisling and Terboven," said history teacher Sissel Frogg. The teachers say the text has created chaos, leaving many students with the impression that Nazi occupation was a high point in Norwegian history. Grades have dropped and confidence in textbooks plummeted. The teachers at the school claimed that the author, May-Brith Ohman Nielsen, at best has little understanding of student background knowledge, and presents complex historical analysis before supplying basic information. "Such academic exercises should be left to forums other than textbooks," said teacher Inge Johnsen. Head of the publishers, Nina Refseth, quickly agreed to remove the "unfortunate" passage claiming democracy was controversial, but argued that the criticisms calling the book a scandal were exaggerated. Refseth argued that the text was mean to stimulate critical thought and to spark discussions about the similarities and differences in historical periods. Students argued that their workload was such that they didn't have time to dissect textbooks, and they expected their books to be accurate.

    3/2/2005- A Muslim group in the Netherlands has complained it was not consulted before the government backed university plans to start training imams. There has been fierce debate about the integration of Muslims in the Netherlands in the last few years. It intensified last November with the murder of the film-maker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Muslim extremist. The Free University in Amsterdam says its training is to promote integration of Muslims into Dutch society. But the Liaison Group, Muslims and Government object that it was not asked first for its own proposals for a training course. The group plans to hold a conference on the matter later this month. Most of the imams working in the Netherlands are recruited from Turkey and Morocco by mosques here to work temporarily. The government feels this sets a bad example for the Muslim community because the clerics are not integrated into Dutch society. The Free University's Master's degree in Islamic spiritual guidance starts this year with a 1.5m euro (£1.05m) government subsidy. It will cover Christianity and Dutch culture, as well as Islam.
    ©BBC News

    A comparative study on measuring the extent and impact of discrimination has been published by the European Commission. The study presents the systems for statistical data collection developed in the framework of anti-discrimination schemes in the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands. It examines the national contexts of the different systems before looking at the role of statistics and monitoring in the five anti-discrimination schemes. Finally, it compares the methods for producing statistics to measure discrimination based on ethnic and racial origin, religion, disability and sexual orientation. One objective was to examine how the new concept of indirect discrimination influences the measurement of discrimination. Its definition carries within it the requirement of some quantitative benchmark by which to make a comparison. The study supported the view that no measurement of discrimination can be properly made without the development of classifications for the collection of appropriate data.
    The study is available in English, French and German
    ©For Diversity, Against Discrimination

    2/2/2005- Leaders from central and eastern European countries are meeting to launch what is described as the first international effort to improve living conditions for the Roma - or Gypsies. The project, dubbed the "Decade of Roma Inclusion", aims to tackle a range of educational and social disadvantages faced by Roma communities. But how is that going to be achieved? In terms of social or economic well-being, Europe's estimated 10-12m Roma people fare very badly. A fresh survey prepared by the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, gives strong support for that conclusion. According to the survey, conducted in 10 countries - many of which are taking part in the new Roma Inclusion project - around three-quarters of Roma do not complete primary school education. In some of the countries surveyed, the share of Roma living below the poverty line was almost six times as high as that of the general population. Parallel to this background of deprivation, there are also many cases of open discrimination against gypsies. The Decade of Roma Inclusion, sponsored by the World Bank, the UNDP and other organisations, is designed to tackle these problems through cross-border co-operation.

    Third world conditions
    It is a step in the right direction, says Claude Cahn - programme director at the Budapest-based think tank, the European Roma Rights Centre. "The Decade is important insofar as it enshrines the idea that the situation of Roma is in many ways in Europe an emergency, and governments need to take it seriously," he said. So far eight countries have signed up the Decade of Roma Inclusion. The launch is being hosted by Bulgaria, and it's being joined by Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Slovakia. Together these countries account for over half of Europe's Roma population. That's one reason why they are taking the issue of Roma rights seriously. But Mr Cahn believes other countries should join them:
    "There has been pressure on central and eastern Europe to work on these measures. Whether or not these governments are taking as thorough-going an approach as they could be is open to question. "But certainly the governments which are not participating in the Decade are in many cases those governments that haven't yet gotten there [recognised the issue]. One could mean, Germany, one could mean Russia, one could mean France and the United Kingdom."

    Studies of central and south-eastern Europe's Roma populations have often characterised them as having attributes similar to those of the people of many developing countries. These include a high birth rate, a generally low life expectancy, low levels of education, mass unemployment and widespread poverty.

    'Holistic' issue
    Amidst all these problems, how should the Decade of Roma Inclusion set about tackling the key problems? Mr Cahn argues for a joined-up approach. "Many people see education as the key. Other people notice that unemployment is so high in a number of areas that really putting people back into work should be the first priority," he says. "I think the closer one gets to the actual issues, the closer one sees that the problems are really holistic". Europe's Roma also face a different challenge - discrimination. There are many reasons for this, not least the fact that so many gypsies live in poverty; the public perception that associates them with a high incidence of crime; and their separate ethnicity, often manifested in their darker skin colour. Mr Cahn believes it is not enough to focus on social and economic programmes that provide better opportunities for the Roma. "There really needs to be something done throughout Europe to tackle the very high level of anti-Romany sentiment. It's still socially acceptable to speak ill of or to discriminate against Gypsies. And that is the heart and soul of the Roma issue." The long timescale of the Decade of Roma Inclusion is itself proof that no one underestimates just how hard it will be to improve the living conditions of Europe's gypsies. But there is now a much greater recognition that a more effective effort needs to be made - and that effort needs to be co-ordinated across borders. On this issue EU enlargement may help provide some solutions - both through increased funding and higher standards from Brussels. But few would harbour illusions about the scale of the task. And given the shortcomings encountered in the wealthier EU countries by non-European immigrants, there is much work to be done on both sides of the old east-west divide.
    ©BBC News

    3/2/2005- A group of MEPs from central and eastern Europe has called for a mooted Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be broadened to cover symbols from other regimes. Led by centre-right Hungarian and Lithuanian MEPs József Szájer and Vytautas Landsbergis, the euro-parliamentarians on Thursday said there was a "a double standard in treating the extreme right and extreme left ideologies" in Europe. According to these MEPs, not enough attention is paid to the evils of the communist regime which incited social hatred. The focus is on the Nazi regime which incited racial hatred. While saying they are not necessarily in favour of banning symbols as it could infringe on freedom of speech, they want to make sure that if there is a ban it is not just for Nazi symbols. The red star and the hammer and sickle ought to be banned as well, they say. Mr Szájer said that in Europe there is "some kind of insensitivity towards left-wing regimes" referring to a recent EU decision to normalise relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba. Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam said "even today we lack an assessment of communist totalitarian past". Asked whether it is right to compare a Nazi symbol such as a swastika, used by a regime promoting racial hatred and anti-semitism, with the hammer and sickle of communism used by a regime promoting social hatred, the MEPs insisted there should be no distinction. However, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has rebuffed these calls. On Thursday his spokesperson said that Mr Frattini "want[s] to make a distinction between Nazi symbols ... and Soviet symbols". Mr Frattini wants to keep the discussion on the ban of symbols within the framework of a discussion on an EU law on racism and xenophobia - which has been languishing in council for several months. He believes this law, which has been blocked by Italy but is set now to be re-vitalised, would not provide an "appropriate context" for discussion on banning symbols such as the hammer and sickle. EU justice ministers will discuss this law at a meeting on 24 February. The whole debate was sparked off last month when the UK's Prince Harry caused a furore by going to a fancy dress party in a German soldier's uniform with a swastika on the armband.

    Move would help stem dropout rate. Proposal revived at heated forum

    3/2/2005- Ontario schools have failed black students by having too few teachers of colour, too few courses on black thought and a zero tolerance code that hits black students hardest, charges a leading Canadian researcher into race and schooling. And sociology professor George Dei drew an explosion of applause from a crowd of 500 last night when he called for black alternative schools to right some of these wrongs. Dei, who is chair of equity in education for the Ontario Institute for Studies In Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, was one of several panellists at a heated forum last night called "Making the Grade: Are We Failing Our Black Youth?" The town hall-style meeting at the St. Lawrence Centre on Front St. drew a standing-room-only crowd and left dozens more disappointed in the lobby, unable to enter because of fire regulations. "Are we failing black youth? Yes, yes, yes," said Dei, who has done extensive research on why black teens often feel disengaged in Toronto high schools. "The curriculum doesn't reflect their lives, there are too few black teachers and the zero tolerance policies stigmatize them. "The dropout rates don't tell the whole story: black students are being pushed out." Cheers broke out when Dei called for the creation of experimental black-focused schools that would have more black teachers, guidance counsellors, Africa-centric curriculum and more open discussion of race. "These schools would be very different from the segregated schools of the South, because those were designed to disconnect blacks," Dei said in an interview. "These schools would be created to address a problem and they would be open to students of any colour."

    Dei was reviving an idea first raised in 1991 when Ontario's Royal Commission on Learning urged school boards to set up alternative black-focused schools to address the lower graduation rates among black students. "Black students tell me they graduate from high school without ever being taught by a visible-minority teacher," said Dei. "Some speak of the low expectations teachers have of them. Some say the schools are just not welcoming." Speaker after speaker supported his case. Kyse Stoddard, 21, who graduated from Cedarbrae Collegiate two years ago, said he had attended three city high schools and had only one black vice-principal and one black teacher. "Those numbers really need to increase, because black kids need to see success around them and a black teacher is a role model you can relate to," said Stoddard, who now works with the Malvern Youth Community Employment Program. Panellist Jasmine Zine said she was a high school dropout because she felt so marginalized as a black student, but went on to enter university as a mature student and has worked with Dei as a researcher. "They say black students are `at risk' because they're seen as minorities, yet so-called minorities represent a majority now in Toronto. We should not be pushed out and displaced into the margins." Semhar Woldeyesus, 19, said guidance counsellors at her high school steered her away from university despite good marks, and she dropped out. It was only at the insistence of her father, a math teacher, that she finished her diploma at night school and she now is a first-year student at the University of Toronto. "Everyone knows a lot of guidance counsellors are biased against black students. They need better training." The Toronto District School Board only recently decided to start gathering statistics on student performance based on race for the first time since 1991, when the board of education for the old city of Toronto found black students dropped out at a higher rate than students of other racial backgrounds.
    The forum was sponsored by the St. Lawrence Centre Forum and CHIN Radio & TV.
    ©The Toronto Star

    New report shows employment, housing still problematic

    20/1/2005- Employment opportunities are no more numerous, housing is no better and living standards are getting worse for Roma, or Gypsies, according to the first major government study of Romany Czechs since 1997. Released Jan. 12, the study, produced by the department for human rights, cited two positive developments for Roma: Education among Roma is improving, although slowly, and reported cases of discrimination are gradually declining. But the overarching message of the report is that the condition of Romany Czechs, on the whole, is worsening despite millions of crowns of government spending and dozens of government projects. "Health care, electricity, gas and water are getting more expensive," said Ondrej Gina, head of the Roma Culture Union. "Which makes the situation for Roma harder." "People have no money for rent, and they are evicted without being provided with any substitute housing." The government estimates some 250,000 Roma live in the Czech Republic, or 2.5 percent of the population. About 70 percent of them are unemployed, the study says, and a majority live in ghettos on the edges of cities and towns. "Unemployment and bad housing are a syndrome of the times," Gina said. "I've seen settlements where not a single Roma has worked since [1989]. They are living on welfare checks. Many have gotten used to not working." Other Roma leaders criticize employers for refusing to hire Romany workers. The government report, however, says that the country has improved on protecting Roma against discrimination. Last year, the government spent 93 million Kc ($4 million) on Roma programs, mainly through the Justice, Health, and Interior ministries. The report criticized spending for being unsystematic as a whole -- inadequate in some cases, overlapping in others. However, one program that the government notes is working is one-year pre-kindergarten preparatory classes for Romany children that are aimed at reducing the numbers of Romany children who wind up in classrooms and schools for children with special needs, including disabled and mentally handicapped children. Sixty percent of the 51,000 adult Roma surveyed attended such classes, according to the report. Among Romany children who go to preparatory classes, 70 percent enter regular elementary school classes. There are 137 such courses across the country. The report says about 1,000 Roma study at high schools today, up from 30 in 1989.

    The report comes ahead of the World Bank's "Decade of Roma Inclusion" initiative, to be launched Feb. 2 in Sophia, Bulgaria. On Jan. 14, Slovakia announced 950 million Kc in spending this year on Roma programs. About 320,000 Roma live in Slovakia, about 6 percent of the population. The Czech government plans to spend 111 million Kc in 2005. "These are only the most obvious funds that help Roma," said Katerina Jacques of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. "More money is spent to help Roma, but by various agencies and to various places. Because it's not coordinated by one office, there's no way to get a grand total." Ivan Vesely, head of Dzeno, a Czech Romany advocacy organization, said a serious analysis of Roma problems and corresponding plan were lacking. He advocates toughening welfare restrictions to pressure Roma to look for jobs. "I would give enough to survive, maybe 7,000 [Czech crowns] a month, not 12,000," he said. The government report calls for programs to improve education, housing and employment opportunities for Roma to be directed by one agency.
    ©The Prague Post

    30/1/2005- Dozens of women who say that they were sterilised against their will are to sue Czech medical authorities, after a government report admitted "errors" in the paperwork by the hospitals involved. In a series of cases with disturbing overtones of the forced sterilisation programmes run by some of Eastern Europe's former Communist regimes, the women – from poor, little-educated or ethnic minority backgrounds – claim that they did not give proper consent for operations which have left them unable to have children. They include some who signed permission forms for the procedure to be carried out, but who claim that they were either misled, or persuaded to do so, while under medication or enduring the duress of childbirth or labour. From the 1950s until the fall of the Communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1989, the state encouraged – and in some cases coerced – Roma women who already had children to be sterilised as a means of controlling the growth of what were seen as "undesirable" elements of the population. There are about 300,000 Roma, or gypsies, in the Czech Republic, out of a total population of 10 million. They suffer widespread unemployment, poverty and violence and, according to the United Nations, a survey in the republic found that 79 per cent of Czechs would not accept them as neighbours. Under pressure from the European Union, the republic is now trying to improve the lives of the Roma minority. Meanwhile, lawyers for the women are launching legal action against the authorities but complain that the practice has been continued unofficially.

    Michaela Tomisova, a Czech lawyer, is bringing the first case on behalf of a 22-year-old woman, Helena Ferencikova, allegedly sterilised without proper permission in 2001. "I believe there could be hundreds more cases," she said. "Roma women are often too scared or ashamed to come forward. Many do not know about the legal process." For years Czech authorities dismissed persistent allegations that women were being forcibly sterilised, but last year the health minister, Milada Emmerova - faced with a threatened inquiry by the public ombudsman - bowed to pressure to appoint a commission to investigate. Its interim report found that in each of the first five cases, hospitals had failed to follow elementary legal procedures and had made "serious errors" in the paperwork. Under Czech law, a woman must give written consent for sterilisation, stating that she was properly informed and understood the procedure. A record must also be kept of a hospital board's decision on each sterilisation. "Everywhere there was something missing: either this, or that," said a member of the commission, speaking on condition of anonymity. Many of the women involved are from Roma families, where birth rates are higher than among the rest of the population, but others come from the country's poorest housing estates. The hospitals concerned deny any wrongdoing. Richard Spousta, the head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the City Hospital in Ostrava-Fifejdy, said: "We prepared medical documentation on four or five Roma patients who complained about forced sterilisation. One did not even stay in our hospital and in all the other cases there was a signature of the women giving consent to the procedure. "It is possible that the documentation has minor errors but it concerns only the formal part of the matter. The law was certainly not breached."

    Mrs Tomisova, who is preparing legal actions for 25 women, said: "Often the women did not understand what they were signing. This important procedure could not be reversed and there was a lack of communication between doctors and patients." Another Roma woman, Natasa Horvathova, 38, said she was five months pregnant when she had a miscarriage. "The hospital staff asked me how many children I had. When I said three, they said 'You've had so many children, and you want even more? We will sterilise you'." After giving her medication, a nurse asked her to sign a document that she thought was connected with her miscarriage, but later proved to be a consent form for the operation, which was carried out shortly afterwards. Helena Bandyova, 37, said she was told after giving birth to her fourth child: "Don't get up, you're going for sterilisation." She did not know what that meant, she said, but agreed to it on being told it was "like a small cut". Natasa Botosova, 39, said she was sterilised unwillingly after giving birth. "The doctors said they didn't stitch me well, so they gave me an injection and said they would have to stitch me again," she said. She signed a document which later proved to be consent to sterilisation. "When they tie your ovaries like they would with a pig, then your husband doesn't respect you any more because you can't have children," she said. "She was so afraid that the same thing could happen to her daughter, Jolana, 20, that she kept watch by her bedside for days after she gave birth. "I never left her alone until she was out of the hospital."
    ©Daily Telegraph

    DON'T BAN THE SWASTIKA(Hungary, Comment)
    By Adam Lebor

    27/1/2005- Much fuss in Britain lately about Prince Harry's choice of costume at a fancy dress party: the uniform of the Afrika Korps, the Nazis' desert troops, complete with swastika. EU officials are now demanding a continent-wide ban on the display of the Nazi symbol. This is Brussels' answer for any complicated question: if something is bothersome, or might demand some nuanced thinking, outlaw it. Actually, let's not. The practical effect of banning "symbols of tyranny" such as the swastika, and the communist hammer and sickle, can be seen here in Hungary. They become glamorous icons of rebellion whose display brings instant and copious media coverage. The ban also gives marginal figures on the extreme fringe of politics, such as Diana Bácsfi, leader of the Hungarian Future Group, the opportunity to become a political martyr. Bácsfi's every pronouncement, and every arrest, was reported in newspapers and on television as though she was actually politically significant. That said, it does seem incredible that nobody told His Royal Stupidness that: a) swastikas are neither cool nor funny; and b) there would be people with cameras at the party, and it was 110% guaranteed that he would end up on the front page of the newspapers. Harry's jape was especially badly timed, coming just a couple of weeks before the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, on 27 January. Hungary recently commemorated the liberation of the Budapest ghetto by the Red Army. That was a moving ceremony, made more so by the presence of both prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, and opposition leader Viktor Orbán, who shook hands at the Great Synagogue. Hopefully, there is at last a crossparty consensus emerging on the country's most sensitive historical question: the Holocaust and Hungary's collaboration with the Nazis. Prince Harry was not very sensitive. We should be grateful that the outfitters who hired his clothes, according to some reports, could not supply an SS uniform in his size. Although the sight of the third in line to the throne all in black, complete with silver lightning flashes, would have been an apt reminder of the strange love affair that the British upper classes, including much of the Royal family, had with Hitler. But how strange really, considering the "Windsors" are as British as Mercedes-Benz and Messerschmidt? The family's real name is Wettin, and Saxe-Coburg Gotha. It was Anglicized only in 1917 when Britain's King George finally noticed that his adopted country was at war with his ancestral homeland. George's successor, King Edward VIII, and his American mistress Wallis Simpson were open admirers of the Nazis. In 1937 they went to Germany to see their friend Adolf. The Duke of Windsor (as he then was) visited the SS Death's Head division and raised his arm in salute. Many historians believe that had Hitler invaded Britain, the Duke and Duchess would have been appointed regents under a nazi administration. As late as 1970 the Duke told an interviewer, "I never thought Hitler was such as bad chap." Germans are always complaining that Britain is still obsessed with the Second World War. But there would be no war to be obsessed with if they had not started it. It's true that the fascination with 1939-1945 runs deep in the British psyche. Every schoolboy learns how to mimic a German POW camp commander intoning:
    "For you Tommy, ze vaaar is over," in a thick Teutonic accent. But it is the Royal Family, I think, that is in need of some serious history lessons.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    29/1/2005- There have been violent clashes in northern Germany after around 7,000 demonstrators turned out to oppose a rally by a far-right party. Police used water-cannon against the protesters in the city of Kiel to keep them away from a few hundred supporters of the National Democratic Party (NPD). More than 40 people were arrested as protesters threw stones and bottles and set rubbish containers alight. The German government has likened the NPD to an embryonic Nazi party. It has tried and failed to have it banned. But the head of Germany's highest court said in an article in the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag that a ban was possible in the future. "The suspension of proceedings to ban [the party] then does not represent a pre-ordained decision on future efforts to ban [it]," Constitutional Court President Hans-Juergen Papier wrote.

    'Difficult' clashes
    The clashes broke out after a small group of violent protesters tried to break away from the mainly peaceful left-wing protest to attack a barricade of 2,000 police separating the two demonstrations. They lobbed stones, bottles and firecrackers, in what Kiel police spokesman Hans-Joachim Schmidt called "massive and difficult" clashes. Forty-two people were arrested, 38 of them leftists. Last week NPD members caused outrage by storming out of the regional parliament in the state of Saxony, during ceremonies to commemorate those killed at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. The party had its best showing in elections for six years in September, capturing nearly 10% of the vote in the state's elections. Elections in the region of Schleswig-Holstein, of which Kiel is the capital, are to be held on 20 February. No far-right parties are currently represented in its legislature.
    ©BBC News

    27/1/2005- Ireland's first national action plan to tackle racism will aid the country's transition into a modern, multi-ethnic society, the Government said today. The National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR) is the result of commitments made to the UN and national social partnership agreements. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Michael McDowell, said the plan provides strategic direction to combat racism and to promote the development of a more inclusive, intercultural society in Ireland. The Taoiseach agreed that the initiative was "a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to adapt policy to the changing circumstances of a more diverse Ireland". Its objectives are to provide protection, inclusion and recognition of ethnic groups so that they can fully participate in society. A Strategic Monitoring Group with an annual 1m budget will oversee the implementation of the plan. Mr McDowell added: "The plan is a further important step in fostering a community that is free from discrimination and in which the emerging diversity of Irish society is fully acknowledged and accommodated in public policy making."
    ©Ireland On-Line

    30/1/2005- Homophobic bullying in British schools is forcing thousands of gay pupils to leave early, prompting calls for the introduction of sexual orientation lessons to the curriculum. Stonewall, the gay equality charity, estimates that up to 60,000 schoolchildren are the victims of homophobic bullying. The charity, backed by London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone,is calling for the new lessons to be introduced in schools across Britain. It also wants schools to promote positive gay role models. As part of their Education for All campaign, Stonewall has drawn up a 10-point plan to encourage teachers to create an inclusive culture that does not assume all pupils are heterosexual. There are an estimated 450,000 gay and lesbian pupils in schools. But research done in 2001 by the University of York has shown that gay pupils with six GCSEs are more likely than heterosexual students to leave school at 16. One in four secondary school teachers report that they are aware of physical homophobic bullying, yet only 6 per cent of schools have policies that address the problem. Anti-bullying charities have received increasing numbers of reports of homophobic bullying. In one case, a child was burned during a chemistry lesson, and in another a lesbian was subjected to a rape attack. Michael's experience of homophobic bullying is shared by thousands of young people across the country. The 16-year-old from Hertfordshire is always careful when he goes out with his boyfriend in public not to draw attention to himself by being openly affectionate. "We do go out together but have been taught not to hold hands," says Michael, who has asked for his surname not to be published. He has good reason to be cautious after being targeted by homophobic bullies at and outside his school. So severe was the abuse that he ended up seeing a psychiatrist and taking anti-depressants. In his opinion, teachers at his school could have done more to intervene. "Although my head of year was understanding, she acted as if it were a normal everyday case of teasing in the playground. I gave her a list of names of people I knew to be causing a problem but when she spoke to them it got worse." Stonewall said that its aim is to ensure access to education is not limited by people's sexual orientation. Ben Summerskill, Stonewall's chief executive, said: "It's a question of valuing every pupil equally. Even today, almost every adult lesbian or gay man I talk to has appalling memories of their schooldays. It's time that headteachers took seriously their responsibilities to the 450,000 pupils in British schools who are growing up as lesbian or gay." Mr Livingstone said: "I've become increasingly concerned that too many lesbian, gay and bisexual schoolchildren are still often denied some of their life chances by casual and sometimes concerted bullying." Jonathan Charlesworth, from the pressure group Each, which offers advice to bullied gay children, appealed to advertisers to be more responsible with the images they use of gay people. He said: "Children's minds are not able to decode the images on TV in the way that adults can. So something that may appear like a bit of a laugh or tongue in cheek to adults can affect gay or lesbian children in the playground."
    © Independent Digital

    24/1/2005- Football pundit Ron Atkinson is at the centre of fresh allegations of racism after being accused of insulting Chinese women. He was speaking at a fundraising event at one of his former clubs, Sheffield Wednesday. In front of an audience of more than 250 people, Atkinson said: "The Chinese people have the best contraception in the world - but I can't understand why there's so many of them because their women are so ugly." After Thursday's comments emerged, Atkinson defended himself saying: "I cannot believe anyone has complained about anything I said. I went there to help them out and to raise money. I stayed for ages and did photographs. "I can't believe this - I just can't believe this. I've been ultra-careful about everything. It was an easy evening and everyone enjoyed themselves." The 65-year-old was forced to resign as football pundit last year after racially abusing Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly. A spokesman for football's anti-racism campaign Kick It Out said: "This stuff is poisonous really. Essentially he really doesn't understand what he is doing in making these comments. They are deeply offensive. "He seems to be consistently insulting about people because of their race. In this day and age you cannot make jokes about race."
    Kick it Out

    31/1/2005- Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, just 56 miles from El Aioun on the African coast, is now the EU's most important entry point for illegal immigrants, far outstripping the Straits of Gibraltar as the preferred clandestine route to Europe. Planes chartered by Spain's interior ministry leave the islands nearly every day carrying dozens of would-be immigrants who are left to fend for themselves in Murcia, Valencia and Madrid. The Interior Minister chartered 227 flights last year to transport 7,920 indocumentados from the Canaries to mainland Spain, dumping the impoverished, disoriented incomers from sub-Saharan Africa on the streets. The airlifts, costing 10,000 each (£7,000), were quietly introduced five years ago and have steadily increased, according to government sources quoted in El Mundo yesterday. The scheme is a desperate attempt to solve the immigration crisis, where the relentless inflow has brought the Canaries' resources to the point of collapse. In the great majority of cases, the unwanted guests cannot be expelled because they come from countries without a repatriation agreement with Spain, or they say they do - and without identity papers their claims cannot be disproved. When they wash up on the Canaries' beaches in overladen little vessels - as 90 per cent of the 8,516 indocumentados did last year - they are taken into holding centres for questioning. There they receive food and clothing from charities and recover from their hazardous and traumatic voyages. But since they have committed no crime in Spain, the law says they must be freed after 40 days. Often they are released early to make room for new arrivals. The town hall of Valencia, alarmed by massive numbers of newly arrived Africans, issued a report last week into what it calls "flights of shame", warning that many indocumentados carry contagious infections including tuberculosis and HIV. The report condemns the shuttle of people as "inhuman". "Neither the individual nor the town hall of their destination receive any information, so they are left totally without protection in various points of the city." They sleep in parks and beneath bridges, subsist on charity and risk "marginalisation, prostitution and labour exploitation", the report says. The wider problem is that Spain's annual influx of immigrants vastly exceeds expectations. The government reckons between 800,000 and a million indocumentados - most of them Latin Americans and Moroccans - arrived in Spain last year, while permits for immigrant workers were pegged at 30,000. They swell the pool of illegal immigrant labour - for which there is strong demand in construction, agriculture and services. Tacitly recognising the futility of stemming the tide, Madrid is trying to regularise the situation of long-term illegals by granting residence to those who have worked in Spain for three years. But Germany and The Netherlands criticise Spain for acting alone. "If some countries are regularising illegals, they cannot look just at their own situation because this decision could affect other countries," said Otto Schily, Germany's Interior Minister. The Dutch immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, said: "We must discuss the consequences of such measures for other EU countries."
    © Independent Digital

    31/1/2005- The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Slovakia pointed out the enormous difference between the number of asylum seekers in Slovakia and the number actually granted asylum status. Over 11,000 people apply for asylum per year in this country but a very low percentage of those are actually allowed to stay. Dealing with this discrepancy is the biggest challenge the asylum system in Slovakia faces. "In 2004, only 15 asylum seekers were granted the status of asylum seeker," said Pierfrancesco Maria Natta, head of the UNHCR Office in Slovakia. He added that "the great number of disappeared asylum seekers" leaving Slovak asylum camps and heading "westwards" is a major problem, the TASR news agency reported.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    31/1/2005- The leader of Italy's former neofascists, Gianfranco Fini, yesterday called on his followers to ditch racism and reject xenophobia in the interests of creating a broader movement that could "change Italy and enable the right to grow". Mr Fini's speech was a clear signal of an intention to turn his party, the National Alliance, into one that can credibly spearhead the Italian right after the withdrawal from politics of Italy's 69-year-old prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Last November Mr Fini won a new opportunity to gain international respectability for his movement when Mr Berlusconi appointed him foreign minister. In his most unequivocal declaration on the subject so far, Mr Fini told a congress to mark the 10th anniversary of the National Alliance's inception: "The right has nothing in common with xenophobia, nothing in common with racism or second-rate nationalism. The right is something else." Italy's foreign minister said that perhaps the biggest issue for the immediate future was "the relationship between civilisations: the relationship between our world and Islam". He also urged his supporters to back Turkey's entry into the EU, assuring them that "it does not represent an attack on our identity". Last year, Mr Fini astonished many of his supporters by committing the National Alliance to the cause of enfranchising immigrants. Yesterday, he said they had to "say no to being afraid of whoever is different to me". Mr Fini said it was the job of his followers to be the "hard core" of Italian conservatism. Controversially, he offered as an example of the values of the right the internationally criticised police handling of demonstrations at the G8 meeting in Genoa four years ago. "The change that took place with the [arrival of the Berlusconi government] was seen at the Genoa G8 when the anti-globalisation left tried to throw its weight around." Last week, a court in Genoa began hearing evidence against 47 police officers and others accused of brutality in connection with the demonstrations. Another 28 have already been sent for full trial. Mr Fini said he regretted that the courts "see fit to prosecute more police and Carabinieri than anti-globalisation demonstrators". Twenty-five protesters are also on trial. The National Alliance came into being as a successor to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party founded after the second world war to keep Mussolini's ideas alive. In January 1995, at a conference in the spa town of Fiuggi, Mr Fini persuaded the MSI - then the pariah of Italian politics - to dissolve itself into a very slightly broader movement which also took in a handful of previously independent rightwing intellectuals. The change of name and image - if not initially of ideology - set the movement on a path that has led to its becoming the second-biggest presence in Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition. Mr Fini told delegates that, with a general election due next year, "the moment has come to go on the attack". But, hinting at further changes of policy once the vote was out of the way, he said: "There will come a time for reflection after 2006."
    ©The Guardian

    28/1/2005- It's not often these days that Arsenal and Manchester United are heard singing from the same hymn-sheet, but Gunners' striker Thierry Henry and United defender Rio Ferdinand joined forces as the Frenchman launched his ‘Stand Up, Speak Up' campaign to counteract the racist tendency in European football. As part of the campaign, 'Stand Up Speak Out' black-and-white wristbands, available for a £1.50 charity donation, are being launched, together with a pan-European advertising campaign, and the players of both Arsenal and United will all wear the wristbands in next week's eagerly awaited Premiership clash at Highbury. If such unity sounds remarkable, so is the story of how Henry came to devise this initiative.

    He was motivated to do so by the racist slur against him uttered to Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes by Spain coach Luis Aragones. The Arsenal striker revealed that he would be prepared to meet Aragones, who was filmed using the racist term to describe Henry during a Spain training session last year. Henry said he could still not believe the Spain coach's comments, and warned that the "game was suffering" because of the enduring racism problem in some countries. "It makes me think of a proverb - you can always forgive but I will never forget," he declared. "I could meet him, I would have no problem with that. I can forgive but it will always be in my mind." Aragones has been investigated but not yet punished for his racist comments, having insisted he was merely trying to motivate Henry's Arsenal team-mate Jose Reyes. But Henry observed: "There is no possible reason to say something like that. "When I heard about what he had said, I was preparing for a game with France and I thought someone was telling me a bad joke. "But then I realised it was true. Surely there is some other way to motivate a player. "I have had many bosses in my career and they have never said anything like that to motivate me." That incident, together with racist abuse aimed at Henry in Athens during a Champions League game, and the lack of strong action against Spanish fans who taunted black England players in Madrid, persuaded him to make a stand. Together with Nike, he enlisted the help of leading players around Europe to launch the 'Stand Up Speak Up' campaign, together with the black and white interlocked wristbands. At this week's launch he was joined by Ferdinand in bridging the recent divide between their two clubs, and revealed just why he had been prompted to do something constructive about this issue.

    "I was asked what I wanted to be done and I said that I would like the authorities to step in a bit harder, but then I thought that I could bring everyone behind me in the fight against racism," he said. "We are suffering out there as human beings but the game is suffering as well. We are aware that this campaign cannot change everything but doing nothing will certainly not change anything. "Sometimes you don't understand quite how hard it is to keep cool out there on the pitch in the middle of this kind of thing. "We can't do anything on the pitch. If we say something back, we would either get a red card or a ban for I don't know how long." Henry praised the restraint of the England players who were subjected to racist abuse in Madrid, and also praised Wayne Rooney, who was substituted to prevent him being sent off. "People talk about players not behaving well on the pitch, but I give credit to the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand for staying on the pitch," said Henry. "I was amazed that the England team didn't lose it on the pitch as everyone has a temper. "When Wayne Rooney was going mad, I felt he wanted to show to his team-mates that he was in there with them. "When you see a team-mate in difficulty, you just want to help him. That's what they all did and I was amazed that they finished the game with 11 men." Henry says he has never suffered racist abuse in England, but he grew up in Paris experiencing the problem in his childhood. "We would go to play in a small village and hear some pretty bad stuff," he recalled. "I was young so it was difficult to accept. But the thing that made stronger was that I just wanted to play football with my friends." His upbringing made him determined not to stand silently by when his fame finally enabled his voice to be heard. Hence the ‘Stand Up Speak Up' campaign.

    28/1/2005- Uefa has rejected appeals by Real Madrid and Lazio against punishments for racist behaviour by their fans. The European governing body maintained Lazio must play their next European tie behind closed doors for racist abuse against FK Partizan. And it also imposed an additional fine of 32,300 euros (£22,327). Real's fine of 9,780 euros (£6,767) for racially abusing Bayer Leverkusen's black players during the game at the Bernabeu on 23 November still stands. The Spanish club found themselves in trouble after a section of their spectators made racist chants against Leverkusen's black players as well as making Nazi salutes. But their lesser punishment took into account that this was the first time such offences had occurred involving Real supporters. Lazio fans were found guilty of racist abuse as well as crowd disturbances - including missile throwing and flares being set off, clashes with police and a stabbing incident - during the game on 25 November. It is the third time that Lazio have been penalised for race-related offences. Lazio's Uefa Cup campaign is over, meaning the ban will carry over until they next qualify for Europe. Partizan were fined 5,200 euros after their fans threw flares during the 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.
    ©BBC News

    28/1/2005- EU president Luxembourg will push to add Nazi symbols to a proposed ban across the 25-nation bloc on hate crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia, the country's justice minister, Luc Frieden says. But Germany, which has already banned Nazi symbols such as the swastika, voiced doubts on Friday that the ban would have any effect, saying far-right extremists would find ways to get around it. Frieden said the EU owed it to millions of victims of Nazi death camps during World War Two to agree a ban on racism and xenophobia, under consideration since 2001. "We must conclude on this issue. The discussion has been going on for too long. We owe it also to the victims of Auschwitz and other concentration camps," Frieden told reporters at an informal meeting of EU justice and interior ministers. World leaders mourned victims of the Holocaust on Thursday, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the biggest Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. "The ceremonies that took place yesterday in Auschwitz, the symbol of Nazi atrocities, remind us that we must be very vigilant that such ideas, such ideologies, can no longer find grounds in Europe," he said. Ministers will debate proposals for tougher jail terms for hate crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia at a meeting in Brussels next month. When asked if Luxembourg as EU president would be willing to include Nazi symbols in the ban on racism, Frieden said: "The answer is yes." The draft EU rules, aimed at harmonising anti-racism laws, must be agreed unanimously. German lawmakers called for an EU-wide ban on Nazi symbols after Britain's Prince Harry caused an outrage by wearing a swastika armband and a Nazi costume at a fancy-dress party. But German Interior Minister Otto Schily said he doubted such steps would be effective, citing the German far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), as an example. The party, which provoked outrage last week by walking out of a minute's silence for Nazi victims, uses red, white and black colours in logos and slogans like Adolf Hitler' Nazi party did. "It shows they can evade such a ban by using symbols which are not Nazi symbols, but which are very similar," Schily said. The German government has tried, but not succeeded in banning the NPD.

    25/1/2005- The EU plans to set up a new fundamental rights agency by January 2007 to give an overview on human rights issues in Europe. The new agency is supposed to extend the agenda and powers of the existing EU anti-racism center, based in Vienna. Speaking at a public hearing on Tuesday (25 January) in Brussels, Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the agency "is a logical consequence of the growing importance of fundamental issues within the EU". However, Mr Frattini's unveiling of plans for the agency had as much to do with the fact that the issue was fast-tracked following controversial statements by the Italian Commissioner-appointee, Rocco Buttiglione last year. Mr Buttiglione's ideas about homosexuality and the role of women sparked protests among MEPs and forced Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso to promise to put human rights at the top of his Commission's agenda.

    Vague remit
    The scope of the new agency's tasks and its real powers are still not clear. "The agency, as far as we're concerned, is not something to monitor the member states, nor should it be a forum for setting standards", said Luxembourg Justice Minister Luc Frieden, whose country currently heads the EU. Still, the new body is expected to make recommendations on the human rights record in Europe on the basis of its own research. "It should be an independent office with freedom and essential resources to collect information and then to advise the EU institutions", Commissioner Frattini told journalists.

    How to be active, but not over-active
    Throughout the public consultation on the issue, several speakers pointed out that the agency should not duplicate tasks already performed by other human rights organisations. According to Amnesty International, the new body should fill the gap between principle and practice in the way the EU addresses human rights within its own borders. However, the organisation doubted its real impact and suggested that it is likely to have a marginal role, as member states will not allow it "to exercise any real oversight of the respect for human rights in their own countries". Commissioner Frattini admitted that he expected concerns from some national leaders about the expanding human rights agenda initiated at the European level. "But they should realize that it is not dangerous for them, it is in their own interest. After all, we have to realize that yes to Constitution has also been yes to the Charter of Fundamental rights. So we are not only morally, but also politically, obliged to back up its mandate". Following the Buttiglione affair last year, a team of Commissioners focusing solely on fundamental rights was also set up - their brief is to ensure that Commission initiatives take into account human rights issues.

    The EU's racism watchdog should exploit its growing visibility to take a firmer stand against anti-Gypsyism.
    By Karin Waringo, independent journalist and researcher. She is also a former adviser to the European Roma Information Office.

    26/1/2005- In May 2003, a 15-year-old youth was beaten to death by teenagers as he was playing with friends in Ellesmere Port, a small town on the western coast of England. Last July, a man was killed by police in a supermarket in Hungary. In Romania police officers are on trial in the shooting deaths of two men and injury to four others during a police operation in December 2002. What these incidents have in common is that the victims were Roma. The events were reported in the news. Otherwise they would probably have gone unnoticed and remained unknown to the broader public. Very often, though, similar incidents appear only in the alternative press, if at all. For each of these killings, there are numerous other cases where the victims were "only" beaten, set afire, or chased away. Unknown and unrecorded remain the large number of incidents where individuals were insulted, refused access to services or facilities, or otherwise discriminated against merely for being Roma.

    Stereotypes persist
    Our information services function well when Roma are implicated as possible culprits. If a Rom is apprehended in connection with an alleged criminal act, society tends to immediately link this with his or her ethnic origin. And the media tend to mention this ethnic origin in their reports. It is indeed a well-known centuries-old cliché that Roma steal. Roma are also "known" for their "irascible" character and "inclination to violence." Roma, the stereotype goes, have no scruples. If they do not steal other people's children, they sell their own. These are examples of a mentality that sees the Other as pariah, social outcast. A few years ago Daniel Cohn-Bendit, current Green member of the European Parliament and at that time head of the Multicultural Affairs office in the city of Frankfurt am Main, publicly stated that stealing was an integral part of Romani culture. In the early 1990s, pogroms against Roma in Central and Eastern Europe came to the attention of the West European public. People with an interest in human rights issues became familiar with names such as Hadareni in Romania or Zamoly in Hungary, where an angry mob expelled Romani residents. In Hadareni, three Roma were killed and 170 chased from their houses during mob attacks in September 1993. A wall in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem built to separate Roma from majority housing was internationally decried as an outrage, since it reminded people of other walls, the walls of the concentration camps. International human rights organizations regularly report cases of discrimination, including blatant human rights abuses against Roma in the postsocialist transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Each of the European Commission's progress reports has included information about the mistreatment of Roma and the clear requests to the respective governments to make further efforts in order to improve the situation. Most of these countries are today members of the European Union. The European Commission's task as human and minority rights monitor has thus ended, but the situation continues to be monitored by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, an independent Council of Europe expert body. ECRI's reports provide shocking witness of continuing widespread violence against Roma.

    Reports from the field
    The following quotes are taken from ECRI third-country reports on the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, and Hungary. The reports were adopted in December 2003 and released in June 2004.

  • In the Czech Republic, "Racially motivated attacks, mostly committed by skinheads, remain a problem of such scope that members of Roma communities as well as other visible minorities feel insecure and regulate their movements in order to try to minimize the possibilities of being attacked."
  • "ECRI considers racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic violence as one of the most dangerous expressions of racism and a priority area for action in Germany. There continue to be reports of attacks, some resulting in death, against members of minority groups, including asylum-seekers, members of Jewish communities, Roma, and Sinti."
  • In its report on Greece, ECRI expressed concern over "serious allegations of ill-treatment [by police officers] of members of minority groups, such as Roma and both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. The ill-treatment in question ranges from racist insults to physical violence and is inflicted either at the time of arrest or during custody."
  • The organization noted that in Hungary, "Racially motivated violence, including acts of police brutality, continues. While the situation of national and ethnic minorities other than the Roma minority has generally improved, there remain some lacunae in the legislative framework relating to national and ethnic minorities."

    The Hamburg-based Roma National Congress began collecting data on racist violence against Roma in the early 1990s. From 1990 to 1998, the organization recorded 4,500 attacks on Roma in Central and Eastern Europe and 5,800 in the countries of the European Union, resulting in 1,756 deaths. Similar data gathering is being undertaken by the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest and its local partner organizations. Despite the disturbing findings, this remains highly specialized work, largely unknown outside the restricted circles of Roma and human rights activists.

    The EUMC and the Roma
    In 1997, the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia was established to provide "objective, reliable and comparable information and data on racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and anti-Semitism at the European level." The center receives information and statistics from cooperating state institutions, civic groups, and think tanks in the EU member countries. Interest in Romani issues has, however, remained limited within the EUMC. Last summer a Romani advocacy organization, the European Roma Information Office, asked the EUMC's national subcontractors for data on incidents of racist violence against Roma. The e-mails generally went unanswered. In a few cases, ERIO was advised to contact local Romani organizations or human rights groups. Ten million to 12 million Roma live in the enlarged European Union, but racist violence against them continues to be seen as a marginal phenomenon by the Union's office that is meant to keep an eye on such violence. In his play Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square), Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard has one of his characters ask, "What kind of mistake is it to spit at someone you don't know just because you can see he's a Jew?" For Roma, there is no doubt that most of the mistreatment directed against them is rooted in centuries-old prejudices and hatred. It is an experience met from early childhood and repeated within the community, reproduced over generations. It is an experience that molds character. "If we try to defend ourselves when we are attacked, they will just come back with more," said a young Serbian Rom explaining why it was better to remain passive than to fight back. Anti-Semitism is tracked by agencies such as the EUMC and by national racism monitoring offices in several countries. Anti-Semitism has long been recognized as a deep flaw within European culture, but it is often overlooked that Roma suffered under burdens similar to those heaped upon the Jews. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Roma were banned from entry into the territories of the German states under pain of physical mutilation. In some parts of northern Europe, Roma were hunted and tracked down like wild animals. As late as 1835, there was a "Gypsy hunt" in the Danish province of Jutland. In Wallachia and Moldavia, Roma were kept as slaves until 1856 and could be killed with impunity. Under National Socialism, about half a million Roma were murdered because they posed a "threat" to Aryan blood.

    Anti-Gypsyism is learned behavior
    When people from the majority attack Roma, it is rarely because of a personal feud. Rather, they tend to repeat and reproduce centuries-old attitudes and behaviors that consign Roma to an inferior status. As with the majority-white population in the United States and the African-American minority, after centuries of discrimination during which the majority enjoyed enormous privileges--including the privilege to denigrate and sometimes kill others with impunity--certain mentalities were formed. A mother who was told to stay away from the "Gypsies" when she was a child is likely to repeat the same advice to her daughter. Violence against Roma is today being reported more adequately, but reports by ECRI and human rights monitors provide merely a random survey of this phenomenon. Moreover, such random reporting harbors the risk that this violence is then viewed as endemic, and public attention is thus lessened. In Western Europe we "know" that Eastern Europeans do not like Roma but tend not to think anything more about it--as long as those Roma do not try to come to the West and apply for asylum. The plight of the Roma who were targeted for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo has largely been ignored because Roma are not normally thought of in Western Europe as a specific category of victims.

    Fundamental rights, key challenges
    The European Union has committed itself to setting up a Fundamental Rights Agency to extend and broaden the scope of the EUMC. Public consultations on the shape and scope of the new agency began late last year, and another public airing of views took place in Brussels on 25 January. Many civil society and lobbying organizations, including ERIO, national governments, and individuals contributed to the debate. Opening the meeting, European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said launching the agency by the beginning of 2007 was a realistic goal. When it begins work, one of its urgent priorities should be to start a comprehensive program of reporting not only incidents of racist violence, including cases of abuse by law enforcement officers, but also anti-Gypsy discourse and hate speech in the media and politics. The agency should work closely with national bodies and human rights organizations, and most particularly with Roma rights groups. In times of increasing intolerance, national governments need to set up agencies to monitor racist violence. Violence against Roma should be tracked as a separate phenomenon, since racism against Roma differs from racism against any other group and tends generally to be downplayed or overlooked. The monitoring of anti-Gypsyism is essential, because only if reliable data are available can political action be taken to combat it. Unfortunately, concern expressed by Roma themselves does not carry the same weight or potential impact.
    ©Transitions Online

    Crown declines to call gay man's beating death a hate crime

    28/1/2005- Cries of protest erupted in B.C. Supreme Court yesterday, as a Crown prosecutor declined to characterize the nighttime beating death of Aaron Webster, a naked gay man in Stanley Park, as a hate crime or gay-bashing. Instead, Greg Weber told Madam Justice Mary Humphries at a sentencing hearing that a group of young men targeted Mr. Webster, 41, because he was naked. "He was different. . . . and that obviously caught their attention." He said no evidence suggested that Mr. Webster was killed because of his sexual orientation, despite the fact he was attacked and beaten to death in an area of Stanley Park frequented at night by gays looking for anonymous sex. "Come on," protested one spectator in the large, crowded courtroom. "Boo," shouted another. Moments later, a man in the courtroom urged everyone to stand in memory of Mr. Webster. As dozens did so, including members of Mr. Webster's family, one person said out loud, "It was a hate crime." Emotions have been running high in Vancouver's vibrant and increasingly vocal gay community as the high-profile case against Mr. Webster's killers draws to a close. Hundreds showed up at a rally last Sunday, demanding that Ryan Cran, convicted of manslaughter late last year in the death of Mr. Webster, be sentenced under Canada's hate-crime legislation. The rally featured the first public appearance of former MP Svend Robinson, who is gay, since he admitted stealing an expensive ring and resigned before last year's federal election. Mr. Robinson, who did not attend yesterday's court hearing, said he found it shameful that, throughout all proceedings, the Crown "has not once challenged the accused about the reality of this crime being a gay-bashing and a hate crime." Outside court, gay community spokesman Jim Deva, owner of the Little Sisters Book Store, denounced the Crown's position as "an absolute travesty. "It feels like the Crown is working with the defence. They haven't even mentioned that Second Beach [where Mr. Webster was killed] is a place where gays go," said Mr. Deva, adding that the Crown rejected his request to make a "community impact" statement to the court. He called on B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant for a quick review of the Crown's handling of the case. "They don't understand our community. We are being hunted, relentlessly hunted on our streets by young men in cars with clubs. This cannot be left to stand the way it is."

    In court, Mr. Weber, the prosecutor, distanced himself from findings a year ago by Judge Valmond Romilly, who sentenced an underage teenager to three years for his role in Mr. Webster's violent death, the maximum sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Judge Romilly called the killing a hate-crime reminiscent of Nazi youth attacks in pre-war Germany. The youth's admission that they had gone looking for "peeping toms" was enough to include it under the "sexual orientation" clause of hate-crime legislation, the judge said. But Mr. Weber disagreed. Responding to a question from Judge Humphries, he said: "[Judge Romilly] incorporated a new level of sexual orientation not contemplated by Parliament." Nonetheless, Mr. Weber asked for a sentence of six to nine years for Mr. Cran, 23. "It was a cowardly, brutal, unprovoked and senseless attack on a defenceless individual who was obviously vulnerable." Mr. Webster, 41, was killed in the early morning of Nov. 17, 2001. A group of young people wielding baseball bats and pool cues chased and beat the terrified man as he frantically tried to run for his car. Two of his assailants were sentenced in Youth Court to three years after pleading guilty to manslaughter. Mr. Cran was found guilty of manslaughter in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 18. A fourth man was acquitted. Mr. Cran's lawyer, Kris Pechet, urged a sentence of two to four years for his client, arguing there was no evidence he was even near Mr. Webster when the fatal blow was struck. Earlier, the court heard a series of tearful, emotional victim impact statements from Mr. Webster's mother and his two sisters. Joan Prokopetz, his mother, said she had been estranged from her son, and his death ended all chance for reconciliation. "It's not just grief I feel. It's a terrible feeling of guilt. At times, I think my heart has been ripped open." Pamela Miller, the victim's younger sister, gestured toward Mr. Cran and told how angry she was at him. "I'm angry for the lifetime of emotional and psychological pain [you] have sentenced me to. By killing Aaron, Mr. Cran has forcibly and forever become a hideous part of our family life. "You killed Aaron Webster, an innocent man you didn't even know," Ms. Miller said, choking back sobs. "I hate what you did to my brother. I hate the ignorance, selfishness and brutality that must have entered your mind."
    Judge Humphries said she would sentence Mr. Cran on Feb. 8.
    ©Globe and Mail

    17/1/2005- A small film from the United Kingdom, shot in a real south Asian neighbourhood of Bradford, certainly isn't the kind of effort that could overshadow everything else on offer at the ongoing Bangkok International Film Festival 2005. But Yasmin, directed by Kenneth Glenaan with a script thrown up the end of scriptwriting workshop and featuring a slew of local south Asian actors, is an engaging enough work to deserve a full analysis. It is not easy being Asian, Muslim and British in a small mill town plagued by poverty, unemployment and racism especially in the post-9/11 scenario. The eponymous Pakistani protagonist is a young woman who is westernized and independent but leads a largely traditional life owing to the fact that she lives with her stern, God-fearing television mechanic father. It is at the patriarch's behest that Yasmin marries Faisal, a man from back home, a simple-minded, Punjabi-speaking goat herder from back home. They share nothing in common - not even a bed. The marriage is a mere arrangement of convenience. Then 9/11 happens and the racism bubbling just beneath the surface boils over and hits the family hard. Faisal is hauled up by the law on the basis of unsubstantiated circumstantial evidence - his long phone calls to Karachi - for alleged links with the "Kashmir Liberation Front". Yasmin, who is all this while determined to divorce the man, decides stands up against the obvious miscarriage of justice that is about to happen. At this point, for the first and only time in the film, she describes Faisal as "my husband". Yasmin is determined to lead her own life but she is not willing to countenance the stigma that all Muslims seem to be compelled to live with for no fault of their own. Her faith, her identity, even her relationships are placed under severe stress as the gutsy, independent woman strives to keep her head high. A simple but sensitive film, Yasmin raises questions about the impact of larger world events on the lives of common people even as it narrates a universal tale of a woman fighting against prejudices from within and without. A young Muslim boy who helps the old patriarch with the daily ritualistic call to prayer has his share of sexual escapades with the White girls from around the locality. But when his community finds itself branded because of the activities of a handful he thinks nothing of heading off to Palestine to help the liberation movement there.

    In contrast, the tradition-bound patriarch upbraids local Muslims who seek to whip up hatred against those victimizing Muslims in different flashpoints in the world. "Go and spread your hatred somewhere else," he barks at one community leader. Yasmin, on her part, dresses like a traditional Pakistani girl at home but when she drives away from the confines of her stuffy neighbourhood on the way to work she sheds her cloak of modesty and slips into a pair of jeans and a tight-fitting top. The daily shedding of her customary Pakistani attire and donning of a western garb takes on the dimensions of an almost religious ritualistic act. Only, it does not have patriarchal sanction. These are after all lives torn apart by deep-seated contradictions, but the film does not recommend any woolly-headed solutions. Yasmin presents its case with great emotional energy but always stops short of sensationalism. The characters are drawn from real life, their response to highly provocative situations is always human and, certainly in the case of Yasmin (played by Indian-descent actor Archie Panjabi), the struggles are towards a betterment of their lives and minds. The immigrant experience is a constant concern for many an expatriate south Asian filmmaker. Yasmin isn't made by one. Director Kenneth Glenaan is White. Could that be the reason why Yasmin isn't quite as predictable as many other films of its genre? Yasmin is a compelling inside story narrated by an outsider but from the point of view of somebody who lives through it every hour of her life. The strategy rarely falters.
    ©Hindustan Times

    17/1/2005- Warders at the youth jail where an Asian teenager was murdered by his racist cellmate subjected another ethnic minority prisoner to a humiliating assault, a public inquiry has heard. Three white prison officers at Feltham young offender institution, west London, handcuffed the inmate to his cell bars, pulled down his trousers and smeared black boot polish on his buttocks. The staff were disciplined over the incident, which happened in 1998, and the victim is understood to have received £30,000 compensation from the Prison Service. But while all the officers received final written warnings, none lost their jobs and they were still working at Feltham two years later when 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was bludgeoned to death by his white racist cellmate. The case went to court, where the officers claimed their behaviour was just "horseplay", but the prosecution collapsed when a key witness failed to turn up. The unnamed victim was aged between 18 and 21 at the time of the assault, and thought to be a foreign national. The disciplinary tribunal which decided to let the three warders keep their jobs was presided over by the governor of another prison, which was not named. Details of the assault emerged last week during the evidence of former Feltham governor Nicholas Pascoe, who took charge of the youth jail after Mubarek's murder and is credited with turning the institution around. Mr Pascoe described the boot polish incident as "disgraceful", adding that the decision to let the warders off with warnings "sent out a poor message, that actually if you did this you would not be dismissed". He said he would have sacked them. The public inquiry is investigating claims of racism at Feltham and that prison authorities missed a series of opportunities to avert Mubarek's death. The inquiry continues.
    ©The Guardian

    BEHIND BEHTZI(uk, Comment)
    Colonial attitudes linger, finding their most xenophobic expression among liberal defenders of free speech
    By Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, director of the Sikh Human Rights Group

    17/1/2005- Freedoms are never absolute, least of all in multicultural, multiracial societies where responsibilities to co-exist must limit them. Most British people recognise this, which is why the career of the football commentator Ron Atkinson was ended when he made a racist remark. Britain's Asian communities are generally less fazed by colour prejudice, but are sensitive to offence of the sacred: culture and the sacred defines Asians. The Sikh community's reaction to Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Behzti illustrate this. In her statement - published on these pages last week - Bhatti, now self- declared "Sikh warrior", missed the point. It was not the substance or message of her play that invoked the wrath of so many Sikhs, but the deliberate, sensational and offensive use of sacred icons. Sikhs, like Christians, do not mind criticism of their religion or exposure of hypocrisy. A genuinely creative production can get the message to the right people without causing gratuitous offence. Even satire can work without being offensive. Indeed, Sikhism, like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, has pluralism at the very core of its belief system. But when a line is overstepped, conflicts begin. The sacred is variable in different communities. Hindus, renowned for tolerating any provocation, get into a rage if beef is taken into a temple. For them, the cow is the foundation of piety. For Muslims, Muhammad is the embodiment of Islam, and sacrilege is to portray him in any physical form or abusive context. Criticism of most other aspects of Islam will not offend - it is even encouraged. For the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, the text in complete form, is sacred. The Granth Sahib is the embodiment of the Sikh gurus and is treated as our living spiritual guide. The gurdwara is where the Guru is in residence and therefore has a different significance than a synagogue, a church or a mosque. The Sikhs zealously maintain the sanctity of the Guru Granth Sahib while being happy to engage with criticism of other aspects of our religion.

    Behzti's theme is sexual and financial abuse using Sikh characters. Most Sikhs could not care less about this. But by setting the play - unnecessarily - in a gurdwara, Bhatti disrespected the sanctity of the Guru. An offended Sikh can of course stay away from the play, but most Sikhs feel they have to maintain the gurdwara's sanctity. This may not make sense to non-Sikhs - just as chaos theory is beyond classic scientific logic, the sacred is beyond the discourse of human reason. These cultural reactions are not limited to Asians. To Christians, the body of Christ is part of the sacrament. Most Christians are deeply hurt when Christ is depicted in a degrading fashion, as he was most recently in Jerry Springer - The Opera. Nor are these cultural, "irrational" reactions limited to religious communities. When the Australian prime minister patted the Queen on the back in a friendly gesture, it threw the English establishment into a spin. The monarchy, an idiosyncratic institution in the rational, modern world, is treated as a sacred living icon of secular British culture. Neither is rationalism alien to eastern cultures. Science and mathematics thrived both in the great age of Hindu civilisation and Islamic ascendancy. Eastern cultures have long traditions of theatre, reform movements and of absorbing criticism. But when a creative work offends the sacred, it loses its message.

    The Sikh approach to free speech appears paradoxical. Sikhism emerged challenging both forced proselytisation by Islamic invaders and caste restrictions among Hindus. The Guru Granth Sahib, the text, uses rational discourse to deconstruct proscriptive, superstitious and suppressive ideologies. All the Sikh gurus used practical rational examples to attack superstition and blind ritual. Yet Sikhs will throw out a person who walks into a gurdwara hall with shoes and uncovered head. The sacred is different to the irrational. Sikhism believes that the rational is as speculative, variable and subjective as any other construction of belief. From that philosophical premise, the sacred cannot be dismissed. Jacques Derrida similarly analyses the subjectivity of rationalism. Further, Sikhism holds that language is limited. The Guru Granth Sahib uses several tools of communication including poetry, music and pragmatic symbolism. Again, a 20th-century western philosopher - Foucault - has also articulated the limits of language. The sacred may not make sense in the constructed paradigms of rationalism, but it sustains people through traumatic times, as well as giving strength to the successful. Offending the sacred wounds those whose hopes and culture are orientated around the subjective inscrutability of sacred icons. Fifty years after the end of colonialism, most British people are comfortable living with people of different colours. But many are still uncomfortable with different cultures. The legacy of colonialism lingers, now disguised as a defence of "free speech". Ironically, it finds its most xenophobic expression among liberals. Forty years ago, it was the British way to condemn racism but to defend remarks like Atkinson's in the name of free speech. No longer. Asian communities look forward to a day when cultural pluralism is likewise claimed as the British way of life.
    ©The Guardian

    18/1/2005- Wrexham needs a better way to deal with its migrant workers according to the town's local authority. A council report has revealed there could be up to 2,000 people working in the town from outside the UK. Many have come to work in Wrexham from countries including Portugal, Poland, India and the Philippines. The authority said it was alerted to the high number of migrant workers in the town following the Caia Park race riots in June 2003. The area was the focus of disturbances between some people on the estate and Iraqi Kurd refugees. As a result of the disturbances 51 people appeared in court, and jail sentences totalling more than 80 years were handed out. The council report discussed on Monday is not solely about refugees or asylum seekers. It does suggest that not enough is done to help migrant workers and their families settle in the area. Rachel Molyneux, head teacher at St Anne's Catholic Primary School in Caia Park, Wrexham said children from different countries make up 10 per cent of the school's population. "They arrive in school very often with an interpreter on one day and begin in school the next day and have to be assessed as best as we can to try and see what stage of learning they are at," she said. "One of the biggest problems is the language barrier because we have no history of their educational background."

    However, educational provision is not the only concern highlighted by the council. They also want better provision for housing, welfare and the ways migrant workers are recruited. "There is a community cohesion issue which is about the changing nature of the Wrexham population and that's an issue that we've been aware of for awhile following the Caia incident of 2003," said Malcolm Russell, head of strategic services at the council. "As a council we recognise our responsibilities," he added. Many of the town's migrant workers have been employed on the Wrexham Industrial Estate. Angelica from the Czech Republic lives with her three children and husband Joseph who she says works long shifts in a cheese processing plant. She said she knows some people who have arrived in Wrexham not knowing where to turn to for support. She has helped a Polish family with "legal problems because they have no house and help find a doctor," she said. However, Marjorie Dykins, secretary of the Wrexham Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Group said there are many problems that need to be dealt with. "They ask us about schools, health issues, jobs and they need attention," she said.
    ©BBC News

    21/1/2005- A London council faces being found guilty of institutional racism after an inquiry into claims of "ethnic cleansing". Southwark council is braced for a damning report by Lord Ouseley, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, into claims planning powers were used to drive black businesses out of Camberwell. The report, to be published later this year, is set to condemn the council as " destroying people's lives" and will say it failed to treat all inhabitants of the area equally. Lord Ouseley was asked to investigate after a planning row which led to closure of a popular club and black youth centre. He has already indicated his report will make uncomfortable reading for Southwark, though the council claimed today it would be cleared of racism. A spokeswoman said: "The report will almost certainly identify the council's race equality scheme as widely acknowledged as a model. "Despite this, there remain some real concerns about the outcomes for black and ethnic communities in Southwark, and these will be addressed." On the last day of his inquiry, Lord Ouseley said: "We have heard a lot of different experiences and they have a common theory of oppression-and destroying people's lives that will appear in my report. Hopefully the council will hold its hands up and say, 'We accept there's been discrimination'. "The council has a responsibility to provide public and personal services to its inhabitants. It needs to do this fairly, and clearly hasn't." Imperial Gardens club owners Raymond Stevenson had to close when, due to what the council said was a planning "mistake", expensive flats were built three metres away. Promoters who had previously hired it assumed the club's licence would not be renewed, and it shut through lack of bookings. "We felt black businesses like ours were being deliberately targeted so parts of Camberwell could be ethnically cleansed and gentrified," Mr Stevenson said. "It's all to do with a regeneration scheme, but this is compromising black businesses." As local MP, Solicitor General Harriet Harman told the Liberal Democrat-run council it must investigate claims. About 30 businesses are said to have been affected by council policy, including car dealers, internet cafés, beauty salons, hairdressers, chemists and restaurants. Lord Ouseley's inquiry also heard allegations of racism from witnesses including a school governors' chairperson and a resident who left the Lib-Dems in protest.
    ©This is London

    18/1/2005- Racist crime in England and Wales reached record levels last year, prompting fears of an outbreak of Islamophobia sparked by the war on terror. Figures published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today show prosecutions of racially aggravated offences have increased by 2,500 since race-hate laws were introduced in 1999. In the past two years, those prosecutions have jumped by more than 20 per cent. Today's report confirms fears raised by Muslim and Asian leaders that there is a link between the war on terror and a rise in racist incidents. Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned that a growth in race-hate crime and a sharp rise in the number of young Asian men being stopped by the police threatened to alienate Britain's Muslim communities. That picture is supported by prosecutions of religiously aggravated crime, which has more than doubled in the past year with Muslims identified as the victims in half of all cases. One of the 49 cases involved a passenger in a minicab who subjected the Muslim driver to racially and religiously abusive language. After pleading guilty to religiously aggravated common assault, he received four months imprisonment. Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, told The Independent last year that the typical race-hate element of a crime involved white youths calling Asians "mullahs, Bin Ladens or Taliban". The CPS said there was also evidence of inter-racial religious hatred crime. A 12-year-old Sikh boy was attacked by a 14-year-old Muslim boy who threw a lighted aerosol at him, setting his hair and turban alight. The attacker was convicted last year of religiously aggravated actual bodily harm. He was sentenced to a three-month action-plan order and made to pay the victim £200 in compensation and £100 costs. Between April 2003 and the end of March 2004, the CPS dealt with 4,728 racially aggravated cases and prosecuted 3,616 of them. The figures also suggest other cases are not being prosecuted because of difficulties getting witnesses to give evidence in court.

    Mr Macdonald said: "I am reassured the conviction rate for racially aggravated offences remains high but there is still work to be done. In this report, witness difficulties accounted for 26 per cent of dropped charges. We have high hopes that the witness care units, which are being rolled out to all 42 criminal justice areas in England and Wales, will provide more dedicated care to witnesses to help them attend court for all types of case." The CPS pledged to tackle race crimes more vigorously after a report by its independent inspectorate in May 2002 found prosecutors were wrongly reducing charges in more than one in four racist incidents. Charges of racially aggravated crimes were regularly downgraded to remove the race element, while in other cases prosecutors accepted defendants' guilty pleas to the crime minus the racial aggravation. The conviction rate for all those charged remains high at 86 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2002-2003. The breakdown of religiously aggravated offences mirrors racially aggravated offences. Public order was the predominant offence followed by assault, criminal damage and harassment. The majority of the charges were prosecuted in the magistrates' courts. In magistrates', crown and youth courts the overall conviction rate was 77 per cent on religiously aggravated charges and 86 per cent on all charges. Mr Macdonald told The Independent last year that the war on terror had sparked a growth in Islamophobia and had led to a more divided society. He warned: "Terrorism is creating divisions between our diverse societies. We have to be careful that we respect diverse cultures and we prosecute cases without discrimination. "What the figures are showing is that a large number of young Asian men have been stopped by the police." He added: "This is a period of heightened security around the issue of terrorism and that's a position that has to be managed. It would be dangerous for us to alienate whole communities."
    © Independent Digital

    18/1/2005- More than 1,500 racist and anti-Semitic acts were committed in France in 2004, an increase of more than 80 percent as compared with the previous year, the interior ministry said Tuesday. The 81.6 percent jump from 833 such acts in 2003 to 1,513 last year came despite repeated pledges from the centre-right government of French President Jacques Chirac to crack down on perpetrators of racist and anti-Semitic acts. According to the figures, which were revealed Monday by Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin to an interministerial committee on the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, 950 of the 1,513 acts were anti-Semitic in nature. More than four in 10 of the total incidents were committed in the Paris region, and about 20 percent of them were violent, the interior ministry said. About 200 of the anti-Semitic incidents were violent attacks, it added. A total of 307 people were arrested, including 182 for anti-Semitic offences, the ministry noted. De Villepin told reporters last week that the number of anti-Semitic acts was "far higher than average" and promised to reinforce security details around likely targets like synagogues and Jewish schools. The minister said the figures would be clarified with a subsequent report on the prosecution of cases flagged as racist or anti-Semitic. France is home to Europe's largest Jewish community, estimated at some 600,000 strong. Many of the anti-Semitic acts have been blamed on disaffected youths from France's estimated five million Muslims, although some have also been attributed to far-right extremists.
    ©Expatica News

    20/1/2005- A total of 48 students have been expelled in France since September for violating a new law that bans the wearing of religious insignia in state schools, Education Minister Francois Fillon said Thursday. Most of those barred from attending classes were Muslim girls who refused to take off their headscarves, but three Sikh boys were also ordered out of the classroom for wearing turbans, he said in the Paris suburb of Marne-la-Vallee. "This law in favour of secularity in schools, yesterday challenged by some, has been imposed firmly and calmly," the minister added, speaking at a forum celebrating the 100th anniversary of France's law separating church and state. France's controversial "secularity law" barring "conspicuous" religious insignia in state schools - aimed at reinforcing the separation of religion and state - came into effect at the start of the academic year in September. Although the law does not single out any specific faith - Jewish skullcaps, large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans are banned along with headscarves - many in the country's five-million-strong Muslim community believe the hijab worn by teenage girls is the main target. Fillon said that while some 1,500 students had "conspicuously" displayed their religious faith in state-run schools last year, only 639 had done so this year, following the adoption of the new law. More than 550 of those cases were resolved through dialogue, with girls agreeing to remove their headscarves or bandanas. Another 60 students enrolled at private schools or in home schooling programs, the minister explained. "The law does not turn anyone away, it calls for mutual respect," Fillon said.
    ©Expatica News

    18/1/2005- Two Russian men have made an attempt to register a gay marriage in Moscow. They did not expect to succeed, but sought legal grounds to challenge the Russian Family Code, which forbids gay marriages. Ed Mishin and Edvard Murzin say this provision of the Code contradicts the Russian constitution. Their application was accepted by the state registration agency, but they were told to come back in 10 days to get an official written rejection. Mr Murzin, an MP from the Bashkortostan autonomous region, claims he is not gay but defends gay rights. He told journalists he expected the written rejection to refer to the Family Code, which they could then challenge in the Russian Constitutional Court. "The Russian constitution does not say that people of the same sex cannot get married. It says in black-and-white that sex-, race- or religion-based discrimination is banned," said Mr Mishin, editor-in-chief of Kvir (Queer) magazine.

    Changing attitudes
    Some liberal politicians hailed the attempt, but were sceptical about the pair's chances. "Russia will not be among the first countries to allow same-sex marriages, but it will certainly do so at some point," MP Petr Shchelishch told Ekho Moskvy radio. "This attempt is unlikely to lead to a Constitutional Court decision, but it is good in terms of changing public attitudes." Male homosexuality was a criminal offence in Russia until 1993. Calls to reimpose the ban are often heard in the Russian parliament. In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church dismissed a priest who had registered a church marriage of two men in the Nizhny Novgorod region of central Russia. The Orthodox Church says same-sex relations are a mortal sin.
    ©BBC News

    18/1/2005- The EU has been urged to ban the swastika because of its Nazi associations with hate and racism. But the symbol was around long before Adolf Hitler. The swastika is a cross with its arms bent at right angles to either the right or left. In geometric terms, it is known as an irregular icosagon or 20-sided polygon. The word is derived from the Sanskrit "svastika" and means "good to be". In Indo-European culture it was a mark made on people or objects to give them good luck. It has been around for thousands of years, particularly as a Hindu symbol in the holy texts, to mean luck, Brahma or samsara (rebirth). It can be clockwise or anti-clockwise and the way it points in all four directions suggests stability. Sometimes it features a dot between each arm. Nowadays it is commonly seen in Indian artwork and current and ancient Hindu architecture, and in the ruins of the ancient city of Troy. It has also been used in Buddhism and Jainism, plus other Asian, European and Native American cultures. The British author Rudyard Kipling, who was strongly influenced by Indian culture, had a swastika on the dust jackets of all his books until the rise of Nazism made this inappropriate. It was also a symbol used by the scouts in Britain, although it was taken off Robert Baden-Powell's 1922 Medal of Merit after complaints in the 1930s. The Finnish Air Force also used it as its official symbol in World War II, and it still appears on medals, but it had no connection with the Nazi use. It is rarely seen on its own in Western architecture, but a design of interlocking swastikas is part of the design of the floor of the cathedral of Amiens, France.

    Nazi's hooked cross
    Swastika is also a small mining town in northern Ontario, Canada, about 580 kilometres north of Toronto. Attempts by the government of Ontario to change the town's name during World War II were rejected by residents. But it is its association with the National Socialist German Workers Party in the 1930s which is etched on the minds of Western society. Before Hitler, it was used in about 1870 by the Austrian Pan-German followers of Schoenerer, an Austrian anti-Semitic politician. Its Nazi use was linked to the belief in the Aryan cultural descent of the German people. They considered the early Aryans of India to be the prototypical white invaders and hijacked the sign as a symbol of the Aryan master race. The Nazi party formally adopted the swastika - what they called the Hakenkreuz, the hooked cross - in 1920. This was used on the party's flag (above), badge, and armband. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: "I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika."
    Note by I CARE News: The Nazi swastika is always hooked right, the others left.
    ©BBC News

    19/1/2005- Three members of the musical group N.S. Band will serve two-year sentences for propagating fascism, according to the daily SME. The Martin district court sentenced them to an unconditional prison sentence for propagating movements that oppress human rights and freedoms. During a house search, the police found photos of Adolf Hitler and Nazi signs belonging to the band. The band performed mostly at events organized by neo-Nazis. The members of the group were arrested in 2003 and have since been kept in pre-trial custody. An album of songs released by the band includes such titles as Ku-klux-klan and Parasites. Members of the neo-nazi movement are mostly people between the ages of 14 and 25, said human rights activist Ladislav Durkovic of People Against Racism.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    The row over racism in Spanish football shows no sign of abating: Graham Keeley saw at first hand why

    January 2005- It didn't take long to start. As the Andalusian derby, between rivals Malaga and Seville kicked off, every time the black players from Seville touched the ball, that familiar, sickening, cry went up. The 'monkey chants' were directed at the away players by a small section of the Malaga fans. At first I could not believe my ears. I was instantly transported back to the bad old days of English football, when abuse like this was commonplace. Did it escape these numbskulls that their own star player, Paulo Wanchope, who scored the winning goal in a rather dismal game, was himself black? Or perhaps these fans were afflicted with a strange form of colour-blindness that only saw the colour of opposing players, and not their own? I looked to see if the referee would ask the club officials to ask these fans to stop – as has happened at other grounds. But no action was taken and the chanting went on. I looked across at a black Malaga fan, his discomfort obvious every time the chanting started again. I wondered how many times he has had to endure this. By chance, the Spanish minister of development, Magdalena Alvarez, was at the game to promote the Socialist government's campaign for the EU constitutional referendum to be held next month. What must Senora Alvarez, who must have heard the chanting, be thinking as she tried to persuade Spaniards to enter into a spirit of internationalism? Before the game, all the flags of the EU were paraded on the ground as part of the campaign. How did this match with the ugly racism which was all too alive in the crowd? And while the match went on, advertising banners around the ground promoted Madrid's bid to stage the Olympics in 2012. What, I thought, might members of the International Olympic Committee make of this spectacle as Madrid tried to persuade them it could stage an international sporting event? Not much perhaps. After 45 minutes I had had enough and left.

    Earlier, I had traveled to the game with a group of British expats who live on the Costa del Sol and who have become die-hard Malaga fans. After the game I asked them what they made of the chanting. One fan said: "I wouldn't mind but Malaga have got a black player of their own." Another remarked: "It has happened before and we don't like it. But what can you do? This is Spain." One bar owner from Marbella, who had organised the coach trip, said: "They all love Paulo Wanchope. I don't think the Spanish are racist. It is the first time that I have heard this here. "I think after the England game, the press hyped it up. If you ignore it, it will go away." The reference was to the controversy over similar monkey chants made by Spanish fans at England's black players during a supposed friendly game in November. The affair led to the Spanish Football Association being forced to apologise. But it has not stopped the chanting. Only last week, at one of the highest profile games of the season, between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, more chants were directed at Real's black Brazilian defender, Roberto Carlos. Atletico were given a derisory EUR 600 fine because the Spanish FA ruled they had done all they could to stop the chanting, by making an announcement calling on fans to stop. The chanting went on. It has also happened in recent weeks at Barcelona, Albacete and Real Madrid. The row has prompted commentators to say the chanting is symbolic of the fact Spain is becoming a racist country partly because it is still trying to come to terms with large-scale immigration for the first time. Esteban Ibarra, of the Movement Against Intolerance, said: "We have a problem with racism. Either this is stemmed now, or something will happen." As a test of the Spanish attitude to the chanting at the Malaga game, I went through the Spanish press the day after the match. There was no mention of it in the left-leaning El Pais, the right-wing El Mundo or the regional Andalusian daily El Sur. All the reports concentrated on the football, with a brief mention that the Seville team bus was stoned by Malaga fans before the game. For a football fan, living in a country like Spain should provide endless opportunities to enjoy 'the beautiful game'. But this football fan will not be returning in a rush.
    ©Expatica News

    Danish bank bleed immigrant entrepreneurs for higher fees than other customers. It´s a "get lost" fee, accountants say.

    19/1/2005- Banks in Copenhagen´s Nørrebro district stand accused of discriminating against companies owned by immigrants by charging higher fees from them than any other clients. Some banks reject customers with immigrant backgrounds. In many cases banks insist that immigrant shopkeepers pay DKK 5,000 in annual service fees for a single non-credit business account. Most of the fees are charged by bank branches on Nørrebrogade, where many immigrants operate shops and businesses. "These aren´t bad customers with heavy debts," accountant Linda Schwey Petersen told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. "They need business accounts to keep track of debits and credits in their companies. It´s very strange that the banks in the area charge them these "get lost" fees. The only explanation I can see is that people with foreign names are not welcome in Nørrebro´s financial institutes." Petersen said she had many clients among the neighborhood´s immigrants, and that some of them had saved up to DKK 100,000 after she advised them to transfer their accounts from Nørrebro to bank branches in other neighborhoods, where immigrants were scarcer. Chairman of Nørrebro´s local trade council, Johnny Beyer, agreed with Petersen. "Many banks think clients with foreign-sounding names are bad customers," he said. "Since the banks reject them, immigrant businessmen are forced to use one another as a kind of a bank, where large amounts of money change hands. It has created a big gray market out of reach for tax authorities." Nordea´s information chief Jens Bekke admitted that not every business client got the same deal. However, this was not discrimination, he said. "In Nørrebro about a third of our business clients pay the DKK 5,000 annual fee," he said. "The ones who pay it are those who come in with a lot of small coins and bills. Serving each one of these customers takes 10-15 minutes every week, and we pay DKK 550 per hour."
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    21/1/2005- Rightwing extremist lawmakers refused on Friday to take part in ceremonies honouring the victims of Nazi horrors, demanding instead that the Allied destruction of Dresden be condemned. Members of the National Party of Germany (NPD) demonstrably remained seated as other members of the Saxony State Legislature rose and observed a minute of silence for the millions who died at the hands of the Nazis. Several NPD legislators stalked out of the chambers, slamming doors behind them. During subsequent debate, the NPD lawmakers accused other political parties of failing to "pay proper respect to the true victims" - the tens of thousands of Dresden residents who died in a British RAF carpet-bombing raid on the city on 13 February 1945. The NPD demanded a resolution condemning "Allied atrocities" committed against the German people. Legislature speaker Cornelius Weiss, a Social Democrat, rejected that proposal out of hand. "We must never forget the Dresden inferno," Weiss told the legislature. "But we must also not forget how things came to that juncture in the first place." The rightwing party, which swept into the legislature in an election in September in economically hard-hit eastern Germany, also announced plans for an anti-Allies protest march on 13 February, the 60th anniversary of the devastating bombing raids. Some 5,000 rightwing extremists from throughout Germany are expected to be on hand for the Dresden march.
    ©Expatica News

    21/1/2005- The number of people requesting asylum in Switzerland dropped by almost a third last year, reaching its lowest level for 17 years. The Federal Migration Office said on Friday that the decrease was particularly marked in Switzerland compared to its European neighbours. According to the office, the country recorded 32.3 per cent fewer requests for asylum in 2004 than in 2003. The fall in requests was greater in Switzerland than in the rest of Western Europe. Figures for the first nine months of 2004 show that the Swiss rate was 28 per cent, whereas the figure generally stood at 20 per cent in its European neighbours. "The lower numbers can be explained by fewer conflicts in Europe," said office spokesman Mario Tuor. He added that the implementation of tougher policies last year also helped drive down asylum statistics. These measures included cutting off financial aid to people whose requests were rejected, speeding up the processing of requests and more deportations. Officials said at the time that the move would deter bogus asylum seekers from coming to Switzerland and encourage rejected applicants to leave the country.

    But the office added that despite a calming of the conflict in the region, most asylum seekers still came from the Balkans, followed by the former Soviet Union states. Demands from western Africa have dropped off substantially. The number of people waiting for a decision from the authorities was just over 55,000 at the end of December, down nearly 15 per cent. More than 14,000 others were still waiting to leave Switzerland after being refused admission to the country. In all, asylum was granted to 1,555 people last year. While this was a lower number than in 2003, it represented a higher percentage of all requests made. Meanwhile, nearly 2,600 people returned to their home country of their own volition in 2004, while another 2,330 were deported. Officials believe there were more than 10,000 unregistered departures.
    ©NZZ Online

    17/1/2005- Several German lawmakers have called for a Europe-wide ban on Nazi insignia following widespread outrage after Britain's Prince Harry wore a swastika as part of a costume at a high-society gathering. Prince Harry, who went to a costume party dressed in an Afrika Korps uniform with a swastika armband, "really lacked taste," said Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic parliamentary group. Bosbach said it was possible European justice ministers at an upcoming meeting would discuss bringing in a European prohibition on displaying the swastika and other Nazi signs. These already are banned in Germany, which nonetheless has a worrying problem of xenophobic neo-Nazi activities, particularly in the former Communist east of the country. "All of Europe has suffered in the past because of the crimes of the Nazis, therefore it would be logical for Nazi symbols to be banned all over Europe," added Silvana Koch-Merin, who heads Germany's liberal Free Democrats in the European Parliament. She also called for the question of a ban to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of justice ministers. The Social Democrats deputy parliamentary leader, Michael Müller, agreed that study was needed to find out how a German-style anti-Nazi law could be transposed to the rest of Europe. Dieter Wiefelspütz, a Social Democratic party specialist on justice questions, said Nazi symbols were reminders of a "humiliating" and "deathly" concept of humanity.

    EU ban unlikely
    But expanding the ban on Nazi symbols across the EU is unlikely to happen, as many countries consider their display -- no matter how repugnant -- protected by democratic principles of free speech. Prince Harry attended the fancy dress ball with the theme of "Colonials and Natives" dressed as a German Afrika Corps officer, apparently unaware despite years of education at one of Britain's most expensive schools, that the world is about to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, is also due to host a reception for survivors of the Holocaust before representing the nation at the Holocaust Memorial Day National Event. The wayward price has offered a written apology saying his choice of costume had been unfortunate. However, the gaffe has outraged Jewish groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called the incident "a shameful act…displaying insensitivity" to both Holocaust victims and Allied soldiers "who gave their lives to defeat Nazism."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    16/1/2005- King Mohammed VI of Morocco has said the EU should do more to help his country tackle the problem of illegal migration to Europe from its shores. Speaking to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, the king said Spain was a good advocate of Morocco's cause in Europe. However, he said the EU as a whole had greater resources to help. King Mohammed said illegal migration was a danger for Morocco as well as Spain, as many heading for Europe from sub-Saharan Africa ended up in Morocco. "We have always asked Spain and the whole of the European Union to provide us with the means necessary to combat this plague. Right now we lack them," the king said. Spain and Morocco reintroduced joint sea patrols last year, but human rights groups estimate that more than 500 migrants died trying to reach Spain in 2004 - the highest number in 10 years, according to Reuters news agency. The king and queen of Spain are due to make a state visit to Morocco on Monday.
    ©BBC News

    Among the orange ribbons, rabbit ears and dyed hair of the Ukrainian students who have become the happy face of the Orange Revolution, a darker color has become more prominent: the green camouflage uniforms of a far-right nationalist group. "We are soldiers on an assignment," said one of them, Roman Dubynevych. "We are here to guard the revolution and to prevent Russia's interference." He commands a unit of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Self Defense Organization, which says it has provided much of the muscle behind the weeks of protests in support of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko - who preliminary results show won last Sunday's rerun of the presidential runoff. Although the protests have not been violent and Yushchenko promises to bring Western-style reforms to Ukraine, the presence of the group, known by its Ukrainian acronym UNA-UNSO, underlines concerns of Yushchenko's foes that his leadership will enflame nationalism and intense anti-Russian sentiment. As the number of orange-wearing protesters declined in recent weeks, UNA-UNSO's dark green uniforms and Iron Cross-like insignia got increasing notice. But group member Andriy Bondarenko said they were a key element right from the start, when the huge rallies - dominated by young people dancing and celebrating in the streets - were launched to protest a fraudulent Nov. 21 run-off vote in which Yushchenko's opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, was declared the winner. Members of the UNA-UNSO turned an abandoned sugar factory in Kiev into quarters from which they coordinated the weekslong blockade of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma's office and they provided men to serve in Yushchenko's personal security detail, Bondarenko said. Yanukovych has submitted his resignation as prime minister but hasn't conceded defeat in the Dec. 26 repeat of the runoff ordered by the Supreme Court. So UNA-UNSO members say they will stay in the sprawling tent camp that the opposition set up on Kiev's main street for as long as necessary, despite the cold weather and decline in food donations. The fiercely anti-Russian Ukrainian National Assembly was created in 1990, and its paramilitary wing UNA-UNSO in 1991 after the abortive putsch in Moscow. UNA-UNSO is reputed to have more than 1,000 members, and they brag about their exploits in the first Chechen war, where they say they fought alongside Chechen rebels, in the 1991-95 Balkan wars and in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, which has received strong support from Russia. The group maintains training camps in western Ukraine's Carpathian mountains.
    ©The Buffalo News

    6/1/2005- A landmark multi-ethnic school in Kosovo is struggling to maintain its mix of pupils after Serb families withdrew their children. The Al Maria school in Rahovec, built by the World Vision aid organisation, was the province's first post-war multi-ethnic school, embracing three communities - Albanian, Roma and Serbian. But violence elsewhere in Kosovo in March 2004 saw children from Rahovec's Serbian enclave withdrawn from the school. Ten months on, they are yet to return. "Relations now between Albanian and Serb are just as strained now as they were during the war in 1999," said Slavica Kolasinac, the first Serbian representative on Al Maria school's working party. "We've got to bring back this confidence between ethnic groups that we had built up," he told BBC World Service's Masterpiece programme.

    Teaching history
    The aim of the Al Maria school was to bring a divided community together through its children. Among the lessons taught at the school are civic education classes, in which children learn the history of all three ethnic groups in the area. But for many of the parents in the town, continuing mistrust since the ethnic violence of the late 1990s has turned to outright fear. They were shocked by the events of 17 March 2004 - a nationwide explosion of violence in which at least 19 people were killed and 3,000 Serbs displaced. Mr Kolasinac said that in 2001 there were 680 Serbs in the enclave - but now there are only 370, something he related directly to the March violence. Veska Maimorevic - whose husband disappeared during the late 1990s conflict - said she would never consider sending her daughter to a multi-ethnic school now. "I have so much pain, I can't even consider it," she said. "For me, because I have so much pain, I don't like that idea." Mile Krikovic, a Serb professor of mathematics, explained that the school's integration policy had briefly become successful. "We did start to have co-operation with the Albanian teachers," he said. "We had joint art classes and an exhibition of the children's paintings, which we were then able to sell. "But to be honest, after the events of 17 March, I'm afraid for the future of that school." And at the Al Maria school, there is mounting frustration at the Serb reluctance to attend. "They talk about security but their houses are just a few metres away - how much more security to you want?" asked English teacher Emrulan Spyu. "Nobody will touch them, I guarantee this. The door is open."

    Making friends
    Mr Kolasinac himself said he felt the reaction of Serb parents was wrong. "The people who are against integration are always blaming security - but I can say that in Rahovec, the events of 17 March show that security isn't the issue," he said. "After the drowning, groups of Albanians from all over the country went on the rampage, destroying everything Serbian. But those in the Serb enclave of Rahovec were untouched. "No one can quite explain what happened." However, among Rahovec's children, there are signs that the experiment is having some success. A Kosovo-wide "Kids For Peace" club - established by an Albanian girl who lost her family and home through ethnic cleansing - has established one of its 14 branches at the school. And this is attracting Serb children from the enclave, once again bringing them back into contact with Albanians - bridging the ethnic gulf. "I like to make friends with other kids - I don't care about what nationality or gender they are," said 13-year-old Serbian girl Militza. "At first I was afraid that someone would harass me or kidnap me, and I was really worried that we wouldn't be able to work together or co-operate. "But now I've met some Albanians, and made some nice friends."
    ©BBC News

    8/1/2005- An investigation has been launched into the killing of an ethnic Albanian youth by a Serbian guard patrolling the border with Macedonia. The 16-year-old boy was shot dead as he made an illegal crossing from Macedonia into the troubled Presevo valley. Around 200 people protested in the boy's home village of Miratovac on Friday, declaring the killing murder. Serbian Defence Minister Prvoslav Davinic has travelled to the region to appeal for calm and meet officials.

    The victim, named as Dashnim Hajrullahu, was returning home to Miratovac, which is around 500m from the border. Sami Ajdini, a relative of the boy, told AFP that he had gone to visit his mother in Macedonia and that this was not first time he had illegally crossed the border. Police said the youth had ignored repeated commands to stop. The inquiry is being conducted by Serbian magistrate Ivan Bulatovic. Mr Bulatovic said he had ordered an autopsy and that he expected to get the results and the findings of other experts within a week. "A soldier at a (border) guard post shot at this young man, but I cannot give details as the investigation is underway," he said. Defence Minister Mr Davinic arrived in the region and met local ethnic Albanian officials in a bid to diffuse tensions. Serbia and Montenegro has recently stepped up its military presence in the region bordering the UN-administered province of Kosovo. Presevo valley was the scene of fighting between Serb soldiers and ethnic Albanian guerrillas three years ago and remains tense today.
    ©BBC News

    7/1/2005- Female staff in Danish-German border retail chain Dandiscount have protested against obligatory badges, declaring them "Denmark´s Cheapest". The company has now made the badges optional. Dandiscount, a budget retail chain operating on the border between Germany and Denmark, has received harsh criticism for this month´s advertisement campaign, flaunting the catchphrase "Denmark´s Cheapest". Many of the chain´s female employees complain about being forced to wear large, yellow badges carrying the slogan. In Danish, as in many other languages, the word "cheap" can be interpreted as "promiscuous" Inger Marie Bach, a 21-year-old employee, resigned after being informed that she would have to wear the badge if she wanted to keep her job. "I was told that the badge was a part of the work outfit, and I wouldn´t accept that" Bach said. "I would not wear latex and stilettos either, if that was a part of the outfit. I think the badges humiliate the employees." Other employees told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that they felt forced to wear the badges, because they could not afford to lose their jobs. But they agreed the slogan encouraged sexual slurs from customers. One female Dandiscount employee said a customer had asked her if both her breasts were on sale, or just the one where she had pinned her badge. Another said a costumer had shouted that he hoped she was cheaper than the beer she was selling. Dandiscount´s chief of sales Niels Sterndorff said the company had subsequently decided to turn the badge into an optional accessory to the work outfit. "I´m sorry if the women have found the slogan offending, because that was not my intention," he said. "Our intention was a good sales campaign, and it has been going well."
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    7/1/2005- Leaders of the Jewish and Islamic faiths pledged to work for world peace at their first-ever world congress held in Brussels this week. Some 150 rabbis and imams represented different strands of Judaism and Islam, from all over the world, at the conference at the Palais d'Egmont in Brussels on Thursday. The leaders signed a joint declaration in which they pledged to "work to put an end to the spilling of blood and the attacks against innocent human beings which breach the right to life and the dignity given to every human by the All Powerful." They called on all Jewish and Muslim leaders to stress the importance of respecting other religions. They also appealed to world politicians to "work for fair and lasting solutions for peace throughout the planet". Although questions like the situation in the Middle East were not directly discussed, the conference participants established a joint committee to work towards the goals outlined at the congress. The group is to meet again at the end of the year either in Seville, Spain, or in Jordan or Jerusalem. The conference, which was supported by Belgium's King Albert II and the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, was a coup for Belgian diplomacy since it was the first time that so many Jewish and Muslim leaders from such high positions within their faiths have sat at the same table. However, Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, whose responsibilities include religion, took the shine off Belgium's coup when she failed to attend. The office of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt had announced she was to close the congress, but Onkelinx was reportedly out of the country, with her office denying any knowledge of the appointment. The government did not send a substitute — an embarrassment to Verhofstadt who wanted to be seen as having played a key part in the peace initiative.
    ©Expatica News

    10/1/2005- The Belgian journalists union has condemned threats made against a Belgian TV journalist by extreme right politician Daniel Feret. The leader of the French speaking National Front said he was "out to get" RTBF journalist Jean-Claude Defosse for filming his expose of the party's activities in a televised documentary. Feret has also filed a complaint about the documentary, claiming that Defosse used documents that had been stolen from his lawyers house in a burglary. The journalists union, AGJPB, reacted "with indignation" at Feret's threats, issuing a statement that it "once again revealed the fundamentally undemocratic character of the extreme right that explicitly threatened freedom of expression." The union promised to support Defosse in defending himself against the official complaint. His documentary will be screened on Monday.
    ©Expatica News

    10/1/2005- The Belgian senate is considering a request to cut funding to the far right Flemish party Vlaams Belang. Senators are debating whether the finances could be stopped under a law that blocks money flowing to racist parties. The issue has been put back on the agenda by a petition signed by 57,000 Belgian citizens, many of them from Flanders. The petition began on 21 November when the supreme court confirmed an earlier ruling by a Ghent tribunal that found the Vlaams Blok broke Belgium's anti-racism laws. The Blok reacted by almost immediately changing its name to Vlaams Belang. The signatures were delivered to the senate last Friday and a special committee will now discuss the law's application in this case. The law was passed in 1999. The rise of the Vlaams Belang's popularity across Flanders has at the same time prompted an outpouring of public protest against it. Opponents to the party have created a website denouncing the far right movement, which can be found at Vlaams Belang currently qualifies for party funding from the Flemish parliament and has previously fought off all attempts to block the money.
    ©Expatica News

    13/1/2005– The Belgian king has voiced his support for a Flemish businessman who is receiving death threats for letting one of his employees wear a Muslim headscarf. King Albert II invited Rik Remmery and his Muslim employee Naima Amzil to his palace on Wednesday to discuss the racist harassment they have been receiving since November. A group calling itself 'Nieuw Vrij Vlaanderen' has sent five letters to Remmery, who runs the company Remmery in Ledegem in Flanders. They demand he sacks Amzil, who wears a headscarf because of her religion, and say his life will be in danger if he does not. To try to calm the situation, Amzil has stopped wearing her veil to work, but the threats have continued and a bullet was enclosed in the last letter. Remmery has refused to give in to the extremists and has been placed under police protection. On Wednesday, the king praised him and Amzil for their courage. "He told us we had made the right decision not to respond to the demands of the threatening letters," Remmery told the press afterwards. "The king appreciates this resistance." Both Remmery and Amzil said the king had made them feel better about the situation. "We are now definitely not going to change our strategy," said Remmery. "If we receive more threats, we will take the same decision." Amzil added: "I receive a lot of support from my colleagues and that helps." Eliane Deproost, deputy manager of the Centre for Freedom of Opportunity and the Fight Against Racism, said the king's gesture was important given the seriousness of the situation. She said there was a risk cases like this could escalate to the point of terrorism. "One thing which is worrying is that the threats are continuing even though the young woman has decided to no longer wear the veil in her workplace," said Deproost. Remmery has also received support for his stance from the Flemish Union of Medium-Sized Businesses (UNIZO) which launched a petition of solidarity. In two weeks, 25,000 signatures were collected – an encouraging sign in a region where the extreme right-wing party Vlaams Belang (previously the Vlaams Blok) polls nearly a quarter of the vote.
    ©Expatica News

    Bishkek government struggling to stop thousands making risky trip to Britain for illegal work.
    By Gulnura Toralieva, IWPR correspondent in Bishkek

    7/1/2004- "I have two children both enrolled in university this year, and that requires a lot of money – so I had to go to England. In Russia and Kazakstan, you can't earn that much, and [immigration] controls are very strict there now. But no one checks up on you in England, the main thing is not to cause a fuss and be noticed by the police." Sabira Musurmankulova recently returned to Kyrgyzstan after nine months working illegally in Britain. According to recent reports in the Kyrgyz press, she was in good company, with some 10,000 other Kyrgyz citizens currently doing just the same. Their journey is made easier by a combination of disreputable travel agencies and a lack of mechanisms available to the Kyrgyz government to monitor the movement of economic migrants outside the former communist bloc. For many, like Musurmankulova, such trips serve as an opportunity to find relatively high-paid work and send money to family members back home. But those working illegally abroad are also vulnerable to exploitation, and if things go wrong they find themselves with little support. Many who wish to leave Kyrgyzstan to find work do so with the help of travel agencies who are experienced at dodging visa regulations. A common method of these agencies is to strike deals with people residing in Britain who are prepared to issue private invitations, pretending to be friends or relatives of the prospective visitor, in return for a fee.

    Musurmankulova told IWPR that prior to her own trip, she paid 2,000 US dollars to one such agency to organise a letter inviting her to Britain and a further 1,000 dollars for them to obtain the visa itself. "The price also included three nights in a hotel and someone from the firm to meet me in England," she added. Once there, friends in London helped her find a job. "For the first month, I worked as a cleaner at a hotel but I only received pennies. Then I found a job as a waitress, a salesperson in a shop, and finally at a factory where I packed cartons," she said. By the time she returned home, Musurmankulova had earned 6,000 dollars, 5,000 of which she spent on presents for her relatives. Another Kyrgyz citizen - who is still in Britain and asked to be identified only as Kurman - told IWPR that when he decided to travel to the country three years ago, he too did so with the help of a travel agency. In his case, the agency organised an invitation for him from a college in Britain where he would supposedly study when he arrived. But on arrival, rather than attending the college, Kurman found work. "My visa expired two years ago," he told IWPR. "Now I work at a factory and earn good money." Karina also managed to stay on in Britain, having arrived on a student visa. "I extend my visa every time by joining some English courses and paying for them," she told IWPR. "When I receive a document from them saying that I will continue my studies, it is quite easy for me to extend my visa." Having legally lengthened her stay in this way, she added, it was easy to dodge work regulations and save enough to send money home. "As a student I am officially allowed to work four hours a day, but no one checks up on me," she told IWPR. " I work day and night, then I send the money I earn to my parents who are not able to fully provide for their family. I have another three sisters in Kyrgyzstan who haven't finished school."

    Bulat Sarygulov, deputy director of the migration department at the Kyrgyz foreign ministry, told IWPR that the government tries to regulate firms that help send Kyrgyz citizens abroad to work. But he admitted they didn't have information about the number of migrants working in Britain or about their living conditions. Because of a lack of relevant agreements with countries outside the CIS, he said, there is no way of keeping track of those who leave the former communist bloc to work. Vasily Kravtsov, deputy head of the ministry's foreign labour migration department, confirmed this difficulty. While his department is currently trying to prevent illegal migration to Kazakstan and Russia, he said, financial problems and the vast distance involved means they are "simply unable" to keep track of people travelling to Britain. Many illegal migrants are hard to detect because they make the trip via Kazakstan, Russia and Uzbekistan, he added. One solution, he agreed, would be for the Kyrgyz government to organise deals providing rights for its citizens to work legally in other countries. Under the current system, however, other government departments appear to be even more in the dark. When IWPR spoke to Altynai Sulaimanova, head of the department for illegal emigration and human trafficking, part of the prime minister's office, she appeared unaware of the phenomenon of economic migration from Kyrgyzstan to Britain. "Only students go to Britain, in order to continue their study there," she said. "If they work there, that can be a good thing… students work all over the world. But I haven't heard about older people going to Britain to earn money, we don't have any information about that." In the meantime, thousands continue to face the risks associated with working illegally abroad – risks increased by the fact that the disreputable travel agencies they use often abandon their clients, leaving them to try and find work on their own. "Of course, we are not protected in any way," said Musurmankulova. "We are often not paid for our work or we are fired, and sometimes we have nowhere to live. But we don't have the right to complain, since we're there illegally…. we would be the first to be arrested… But what can we do? We have to feed our children!"
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    8/1/2004- Tory leader Michael Howard has accused a Labour minister of mounting a "low personal attack" by claiming that he was indifferent to the needs of British Muslims. Mr Howard said Energy Minister Mike O'Brien had stooped to "blatant scare tactics" in an article he wrote appealing to the Muslim community to vote Labour in the general election. But Mr O'Brien said today that he attacked Mr Howard as Conservative leader and not on a personal level. The row erupted when Mr O'Brien questioned Mr Howard's policies on issues involving Muslims in the Muslim Weekly newspaper. He wrote: "Ask yourself what will Michael Howard do for British Muslims? "Will his foreign policy aim to help Palestine? Will he promote legislation to protect you from religious hatred and discrimination? "Will he give you the choice of sending your children to a faith school? The last thing we want is to vote in anger and repent at leisure as Michael Howard, with a big smile on his face, walks through the door of Number 10." In a statement to the Daily Mail, Mr Howard replied: "It saddens me greatly that a Labour minister should stoop to such a low personal attack and deploy such blatant scare tactics as this. It won't wash. Muslims know – just like people of other faiths, and of none – that Labour have let them down." Mr O'Brien responded: "In an article in Muslim Weekly I attacked Michael Howard as leader of the Conservative Party and not personally. "As Minister for Race Equality from 1997 to 2001 I have a strong record in promoting good community relations as well as challenging the evils of racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism. "I am proud of taking the Race Relations Amendment act through the Commons." Mr O'Brien's article also angered Lib Dem backbencher Dr Evan Harris when he named him in a section attacking opponents of new laws on incitement to religious hatred. Mr Harris accused the minister of singling him out because is Jewish. "I am appalled by the way the Labour minister went out of his way to name specifically when misrepresenting the Lib Dem position on incitement to religious hatred – is it because I am the only Jewish Lib Dem MP," he told the Daily Mail. Mr O'Brien responded: "Evan Harris feigns outrage in his comments to the Daily Mail when he was only mentioned in passing in the article I wrote for his stated political opinion – and nothing else."
    ©The Scotsman

    10/1/2005- The government will this week order the NHS to introduce comprehensive ethnic monitoring of all mental health patients in England after evidence of persistent racial discrimination against black and minority ethnic groups. Rosie Winterton, the health minister, will publish a long-delayed response to an official inquiry into the death of David "Rocky" Bennett, a 38-year-old Jamaican-born Rastafarian who died in a psychiatric ward in Norwich in 1998. The inquiry, under Sir John Blofeld, a retired high court judge, found in February last year that Mr Bennett was killed by being held face down on the floor for 28 minutes by at least four mental health nurses. The judge blamed the Department of Health for the poor standard of treatment offered to patients from ethnic minorities and accused it of "institutional racism". He described the problem as a "festering abscess" and a "blot on the good name of the NHS". The government's response - originally promised for last May - will be given tomorrow by Ms Winterton. She is expected to order all primary care trusts in England to conduct an ethnic census of mental health patients and compare the results with the ethnic make-up of the local area. Each trust will be required to produce an action plan to tailor mental health services more closely to local demographic needs. Her initiative comes in response to evidence that young black men are six times more likely than their white contemporaries to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. When undergoing treatment, they are more likely to get anti-psychotic drugs and less likely to be given psychological therapies. Ms Winterton is expected to commit the government to reduce the disproportionate rates of compulsory detention of black and minority ethnic patients. She will call for action to prevent deaths while patients are being restrained, but will reject the Blofeld inquiry's recommendation for an absolute limit of three minutes on holding a patient face-down on the floor. Last year the government called for all NHS psychiatrists and mental health nurses to go through a national retraining programme to eradicate racist attitudes.
    ©The Guardian

    11/1/2005- A care worker who referred to an Asian colleague as "popadom" after forgetting her name has resigned in protest at being asked to attend an anti-racism course. Rebecca Miles was working in a centre for victims of racism and domestic violence when she was accused of making the racist remark, reports the London Evening Standard. She had been discussing the case of a Bangladeshi woman with her colleagues when she forgot the name of the interpreter. Miles then said: "It was Pamala, Popalam or Popadom - something like that." The former legal secretary was reportedly asked to attend a meeting at which she was told she could only remain in the job if she attended anti-racism lessons and wrote an essay on the Stephen Lawrence case. Despite admitting that her remark was silly, Miles then resigned in protest. She told the Standard: "I agree it was a flippant, silly remark, but I did not intend it to be racist and I am genuinely sorry if it caused real offence. "During the meeting I was reminded of the Macpherson report about the Stephen Lawrence case. I was appalled they could make a parallel with the handling of the investigation into the murder of a child." Victim Support said it was confident the case had been handled correctly. Its director, Paul Dowling, told the Standard: "Bearing in mind the work we do and the areas we focus on, including racial harassment, we have to have a stringent approach to these things. "We would be open to criticism if we had not challenged her behaviour," he said.
    ©Personnel Today

    13/1/2005- Calls are growing for Prince Harry to apologise in person for wearing a Nazi costume to a themed fancy dress party. Photos in Thursday's Sun newspaper show the Prince in a German desert uniform with swastika armband. The prince apologised via a statement, but ex royal press spokesman Dicky Arbiter and Tory leader Michael Howard both said that was not good enough. Clarence House said on Thursday Prince Harry had already publicly apologised and there were no plans to say more. Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the prince should visit the Auschwitz death camp. With the 60th anniversary of its liberation coming up later this month, Prince Harry should be urged to join a British delegation going there, which includes his uncle Prince Edward, it said. "This was a shameful act displaying insensitivity for the victims, not just for those soldiers of his own country who gave their lives to defeat Nazism, but to the victims of the Holocaust," said the centre's founder Rabbi Marvin Hier. Prince Harry should go to Auschwitz to see for himself "the results of the hated symbol he so foolishly and brazenly chose to wear," he added. Clarence House issued a statement on Wednesday night in response to a photograph published on the front page of the Sun under the headline "Harry the Nazi".

    'Wayward son'
    It read: "Prince Harry has apologised for any offence or embarrassment he has caused. He realises it was a poor choice of costume." The picture was taken at the weekend at a friend's birthday party in Wiltshire, which had the fancy dress theme "colonial and native". Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said the matter was best dealt with by the Palace. "Harry has recognised that there was an error," he said. But Michael Howard, who is Jewish, said Prince Harry should "tell us himself how contrite he now is". He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a lot of people would be "disappointed" and offended by the photograph. The Queen's former assistant press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, said if the incident had happened on his watch he would have thrown his hands up in "absolute horror" and thought "here we go again". He said if the prince wanted to be considered an adult he should apologise in person via TV and radio. "It's just not good enough to behave like that. We all know history, and at 20 there is no excuse," he said. He felt sorry for the Prince of Wales - once again let down by his "wayward son" who appeared to have learned little from his "good education", he said. The prince should do more than apologise, by publicly "distancing" himself from the Nazis, said Andy Pike from campaign group Unite Against Fascism.

    Accept apology
    "One would be very surprised if he were not aware of the significance of wearing the swastika and the amount of offence that would cause." A leader comment in Friday's Jewish Chronicle will say that for a royal to think it a "lark to dress up in the trappings of a genocidal dictatorship" was "mind-boggling". The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the costume was in "bad taste" but said members were "pleased" Prince Harry had apologised in a statement. "It was clearly in bad taste, especially in the run-up to holocaust memorial day on the 27th of this month, which the Royal Family will be taking a leading role in commemorating." Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, said the apology should be accepted, saying it indicated this was a "mistake by the prince". Former armed forces minister Doug Henderson MP said the picture showed the prince was "not suitable" for the prestigious royal military academy Sandhurst, which he is due to attend later this year.
    ©BBC News

    11/1/2005- Goverment policies have been blamed for fuelling discrimination against people with HIV. A study by the National Aids Trust and Sigma Research found gay men and African people living with HIV in the UK face widespread discrimination. It said negativity can come from employers, families and communities. But the report also called for a rethink on government policies on asylum and immigration, which it says exacerbate the difficulties. It also called for the Crown Prosecution Service to rethink its policy of prosecuting people for reckless HIV transmission. Criminalising people in this way "profoundly reinforces stigma and discrimination related to HIV", the report said, and left people uncertain about the legality of their actions.

    Home Office criticism
    The report criticised the Home Office policy of dispersing asylum seekers with HIV across the country for potentially denying people social support, and reducing their access to specialist care. And it branded a ban on allowing asylum seekers from seeking legal employment as "harmful" as it damaged people's ability to support themselves. The report recommended that the government take action to make it easier for all people living with HIV to work, including education for employers about HIV, flexible working and job sharing. The Department of Health is urged to rethink the current policy of charging asylum seekers, whose application has failed, for non-urgent hospital care. Journalists, too, are blamed for inaccurate and stigmatising coverage of HIV issues. Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: "This research highlights the continuing stigma associated with HIV and the discrimination faced by people living with the virus. "Action is urgently needed by the government, communities and HIV organisations to break down this stigma which has consequences for both individuals and for public health."

    Forced secrecy
    The report found fear of discrimination often prevented gay men disclosing their HIV status to family members. Similarly, fear of dismissal prevents many people disclosing HIV status to employers. It also found HIV is often a taboo in African communities living in the UK. As a result many African people with HIV fail to get access to adequate treatment and care. The study was based on interviews with 150 people living with HIV. Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, said she fully agreed with the report's conclusions - and said the experiences chimed closely with those who used the charity's services. "People tell us that HIV specific discrimination is frequently compounded by racism or homophobia or sometimes both, and sometimes the worst betrayal for someone newly diagnosed with HIV can come from the disadvantaged community they were already part of." A Home Office spokesperson defended current policy, and said 80% of asylum applications were decided within two months. Although asylum seekers were dispersed to try to avoid the South East taking a disproportionate share, people were only moved to areas where they could access proper medical support, and their social care needs were assessed by an outreach team.
    ©BBC News

    Landlords trying to halt Northern Ireland's black and Chinese communities moving into their houses face punishment under new anti-racism plans disclosed today.

    13/1/2005- Amid alarming reports of quotas on the number of immigrants being allowed to move into parts of Belfast, Housing Executive bosses are attempting a major crack down. Chief Executive Paddy McIntyre said: "We have been appalled by examples of private rented properties being advertised on the basis that people from different ethnic groups would not be suitable tenants. "Regardless of the motivation this cannot be right and it is imperative that we tackle these issues together." With loyalist paramilitaries believed to be warning estate agents against accepting Asians and Africans, moves to strengthen legislation are at the centre of new strategy proposals. Housing needs of migrant workers, tragically highlighted by the plight of a Ukrainian woman whose legs were amputated after she suffered frostbite sleeping rough, is also key to the proposals. The draft Race Relations Policy, focusing on minority groups and bidding to end rising levels of harassment and intimidation, has been put out for public consultation until March 31. The authorities want to weed out practices which led to one businessman who lets in south Belfast telling of threats if he rented to anyone from an ethnic background. Estate agent William Faulkner, whose premises have been petrol bombed, claimed last year landlords were also worried their investments could lose value.

    Racial incidents reported to police in Northern Ireland have also surged by 500% since 1999 (from 93 to 453 last year). Even though the Executive insists it wants existing legislation better implemented rather than new laws introduced, the 35-page document includes other ambitious plans to put black and minority ethnic issues at the core of policy development. It also aims to promote social inclusion, encourage community participation and address migrant workers` concerns. The blueprint builds on work involving the Traveller Community and the influx of migrant workers employed across the province. Research and negotiations with the Race Forum to establish policies reflecting their needs are planned. "Our priority is to ensure that people from ethnic minorities do not face barriers to getting good quality, affordable housing," Mr McIntyre added. The initiative was backed by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, the Chinese Welfare Association and migrant workers` representatives. Daniel Holder, manager of the Animate Project dealing with immigrants based in Counties Armagh and Tyrone, said big parts of the economy now depended on outside labour to sustain local industries. He stressed: "Not only are there acute issues to tackle in relation to racism and racist attacks on homes of migrant workers, there is also a need to plan future housing provision to changing patterns of need. "This initiative is a mechanism through which progress can be made." The Northern Ireland Minister responsible for Race Equality, John Spellar, said it was essential for public sector organisations to act. With a finalised government strategy on the issue expected soon, he added: "Delivering racial equality is critical to the delivery of good quality public services and the achievement of a better quality of life for all."

    Anti Racism Network spokesperson Steven Alexander welcomed the Housing Executive`s plan and urged other agencies to take heed. "As well as weeding out landlords and estate agents who discriminate against and rip off people from ethnic minorities and migrant workers, there is a need for more social housing for those who come here to live," he said. "The Chinese Welfare Association has already shown how this can be successfully done. "During the upcoming consultation, the Housing Executive must listen closely to people from minority ethnic communities to learn what their needs are, as they will be the ones dependent upon the new policy properly dealing with the issues." Alliance deputy leader Eileen Bell also welcomed the move. "Sadly, the situation regarding housing for migrant workers and ethnic minority communities has been brought into sharp focus this week after a Ukrainian woman had to have her frostbitten legs amputated because she had nowhere to live," the North Down Assembly member said. "As well as this, people from minority ethnic communities have been attacked in their own homes, and discriminated against when trying to obtain accommodation. "It is important that we deal with these issues now, and I welcome the Housing Executive taking on the initiative, and encourage them to listen closely to what the needs of minority ethnic communities and migrant workers actually are."

    7/1/2005- A major reform in the law governing how foreigners live in Spain will become law next month. The revised Foreigners' Law will come into action on 7 February. Under the changes, the Spanish government will offer legal status to immigrants who have contracts for six-months. Immigrants can arrange legal status in Spain from outside the country. They will also be allowed 'three months grace' while they apply for legal status once they are inside Spain. The revised Foreigners Law will include clauses which mean immigrants who work in the agriculture or building sectors will only need a contract of just three months to be able to apply for legal status. They could also have a series of short-term contracts which would also entitle them to apply for legal status. Immigrants will have three months in which to present their application to the authorities. Domestic workers will be able to apply to become legal workers if they can pay social security. They need to demonstrate that they work for up to 30 hours a week and can get a six-month contract from their employers. The Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero hopes the law change will combat the trade in human trafficking and allow the government to bring 'illegal immigrants' into the system. This will allow the state to capitalise on taxes and unpaid social security payments which illegal immigrants do not pay. But critics have said the system is not practical and many employers will be reluctant to provide contracts as it will cost them more. Another part of the new law will mean that for the first time Spain will examine applicants' criminal antecedents. This move follows a recent scandal in which an Ecuadoran arrested in connection with the murder of a university student in Lerida in Catalonia, north-eastern Spain, had been convicted of murdering six women in his own country. Legal sources in Ecuador said Gilbert Antonio Chamba Jaramillo, who had been jailed for the rape and murder of six women, told their Spanish counterparts he had no previous convictions. In fact, Chamba Jaramillo was the so-called "Monster of Machala" who served eight years in his own country after strangling six women. He was arrested in December for the murder of Maria Isabel Bascuñana, a Spanish student.
    ©Expatica News

    10/1/2005- The Spanish Football Federation is likely to investigate the racist chanting during Sunday's derby between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Real Madrid's Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos was particularly singled out by the crowd for the abuse. And referee Alfonso Perez Burrull has mentioned the abuse in his report. He said: "I asked the match delegate to ask the fans, via the public address system, to stop making monkey noises. But as a result they grew louder." Real eventually won the game 3-0 thanks to two goals from Ronaldo and another from Santiago Solari. England's Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were abused during a friendly against Spain at Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium in November. And Spain's national coach Luis Aragones is being investigated by the Spanish FA over racist comments he made about Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry.
    ©BBC News

    13/1/2005- A Spanish anti-racist group has described the decision to fine Atletico Madrid 600 euros following racist abuse during a league match as 'ridiculous'. The organisation also questioned the commitment of sports authorities to deal with the problem. 'The Sports Council is failing to honour its word and fight against racism,' Carlos Ferreira, the national coordinator of the United Against Racism in Football group, told sports daily AS on Thursday. 'A 600-euro fine for Atletico is ridiculous.' The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) fined Atletico after referee Alfonso Perez Burrull noted in his match report that Real Madrid fullback Roberto Carlos had been singled out for racist abuse in last weekend's league match at the Calderon. The RFEF handed out a minor punishment because they deemed that the club had done all it could to prevent the incidents by asking the fans to stop the abuse over the public address system. AS reported that one fan had been fined 6,000 euros by Spain's Anti-violence Commission for making xenophobic insults during the match. Last month Albacete were fined 600 euros when the same referee reported that Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o had been abused in a league match. The fine was halved on appeal but two of the fans who had been involved in the incidents were fined 6,000 euros and banned from stadiums for five months. Earlier this week Spanish authorities stated their determination to clamp down on the problem of racist abuse by supporters at football matches. 'After the worrying outbreaks of racism by a minority of fans during recent months, the Sports Council, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), the Football League and the Spanish Players Association want to reiterate their condemnation of this type of behaviour,' a statement on the RFEF website said. 'They also want to reaffirm their determination to take tough action against any evidence of racism or xenophobia in Spanish Football.'

    In the wake of the latest controversy over racist chants at the Madrid football derby, commentators claim Spanish society is attempting to come to terms with an immigrant population which has quadrupled in the past five years. Graham Keeley reports. [updated January 2005]

    This time the spectre of racism came back to haunt Spanish football at one of the highest-profile games of the year, the Madrid derby between Real and Atletico. Atletico fans picked out Real Madrid and Brazil full back Roberto Carlos as the target for the monkey chants. Atletico were given a token fine of EUR 600 by the Spanish Football Federation. The RFEF said the club had done all it could to stop the chanting. But despite referee Alfonso Perez Burrull's request for a message across the public-address system, the chanting got louder. It seems these ugly chants are not confined to Atletico. Barcelona, Albecete and Real Madrid have been fined for similar offences by their fans in recent months. Much was made of the controversy over the Spain vs England 'friendly' football match last year in which black English players were greeted with 'monkey chants' every time they touched the ball. SOS Racismo, a Spanish campaign group, warned the chants at the game were a symbol of the reaction of Spanish society to the fact it has now the fastest rising level of immigration in Europe. Campaigners fear more instances like those will follow as Spain struggles to come to terms with its rising immigrant population. "A few years ago it was bad to be a racist ... now there is more impunity," complained Begona Sáñchez, a spokeswoman for SOS Racismo. "This is not an isolated incident. It is a signal that, although the vast majority of Spaniards are not racists, this is something that is consolidating here." Campaigners welcomed the condemnation that eventually came from the Spanish authorities. But they warned it was time that Spaniards, who were mostly upset that anybody should think they might be racists, took the threat seriously. "We have a problem with racism," said Esteban Ibarra of the Movement Against Intolerance. "Either this is stemmed now, or something grave will happen." So who are the black or Asian immigrants who have chosen to make Spain their home? And what do they make of this debate? Kashif and Farisa Habib have been living in Barcelona for eight years. For them it is very much home and where they want to bring up their four-year-old daughter and baby son. Kashif, 33, has a well-paid job with a multi-national company, and 27-year-old Farisa has just left work to spend more time with their children. Both are Muslims whose families were from Pakistan but lived in Rochdale, near Manchester in the UK. The Habibs are typical of the kind of young professional family moving to Spain in increasing numbers.

    The numbers
    But although more and more people are arriving in Spain from other parts of Europe, the real picture of immigration is more complex. Many more foreigners earning a living here are from Latin America and Africa. The Spanish Foreign Ministry revealed the full scale of the numbers who are now settling in this country. The number of legal foreign residents soared to 3.3 million this year- four times the 1998 figure. Immigrants now represent 7.5 percent of the Spanish population of just over 42 million. In 2003, there were 323,010 new arrivals alone – a 24 percent rise on the year before. More than a third are people from the European Union. The British are by far the biggest contingent, with 105,479 permanent residents (6.4 percent of all foreigners). Next come the Germans with 67,963 (4.1 percent) settled in Spain. Other large communities are the Italians who make up 59,745 (3.6 percent), the French with 49,196 (3 percent) and the Portuguese, of whom there are 45,614 (2.8 percent). But the largest contingent of foreigners are the Ecuadorians, who make up 14.6 percent of the foreigners registered in Spain. Next come the Moroccans with 174,289 residents, or 10.6 percent and the Colombians with 107,459 people or 6.5 percent. Other large foreign communities come from Peru (57,593, or 3.5 percent), Argentina (43,347, 2.6 percent) the Dominican Republic (36,654, 2.2 percent), China (56,086, 3.4 percent), Cuba (27,323, 1.7 percent) Bulgaria (24,369, 1.5 percent) and Romania (54,688, 3.3 percent). Unsurprisingly, most immigrants move to the big cities to find work. The largest number of foreigners is in the capital, where 355,035 vie for jobs with the Spanish. Madrid's population of 'extranjeros' is predominantly from South America, though after that the number of Europeans appears to be rising. Barcelona, by contrast, has an African population which is also increasing, with 147,288 making up 16 percent of all foreigners. Its place as a port may have a historical role to play in attracting more people from abroad. After these two major cities, Murcia, Alicante, Valencia and Malaga have large immigrant populations.

    The illegals
    Illegal immigration from Morocco and Latin America is a controversial topic in Spain. Each week many thousands of Moroccans make forlorn journeys in tiny, dangerous boats called 'pateras' across the sea to the mainland or the Canary Islands. Many have died or been arrested by the Spanish police and subsequently sent back. Often they have spent all their savings paying the human traffickers who arrange the journeys in the vain hope they could find a new life in Spain. More than 92,679 were repatriated in 2003. For the 'clandestinos', or illegal immigrants, who make it, working in the 'black' economy can be desperately hard. A 25-year-old painter from Mozambique, who arrived in Spain two years ago, finds occasional work in Madrid, told of the difficulties. 'Miguel', who did not want to give his real name, said: "It is difficult to find work. "I have been for many jobs but when they know you have no official papers, they don't want to know. "When I did get work, the boss tried to cheat me out of money because he knew that I could not complain to the police." But he added: "I was lucky because I knew people here in Spain. If you know no-one it is very hard. I know of Africans living with up to 20 people in a room." Kashif Habib believes Spain is still adjusting to a rising immigrant population and its attendant problems. As an Asian, he has only experienced one instance of racism in eight years, but he believes some Spaniards will no doubt react against the tide of immigration. He said: "When I first arrived here, there were few immigrants from Asia, and now parts of Barcelona are like Pakistan. "I think Spain is today where Britain was in the early 1970s in terms of the numbers of immigrants living in the country and the feeling towards them. "In Britain there was a feeling of open racism whereas here it may be more or less open. But I think it is there. I believe there might be a backlash like this here in Spain." In June last year, illegal immigrants staged large-scale demonstration in Barcelona, in which hundreds stormed a cathedral and staged a sit-in brought the issue to head. It proved hugely unpopular and was condemned by unions and other groups who might be sympathetic to this issue. So perhaps the backlash has started?

    Campaigners have long been demanding a change in the regulations governing how immigrants can get legally registered. Already, Socialist prime minister Jose Lluis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised that from next month, those with six-month contracts will be able to apply for residence and work permits. The Socialists claim this will bring many 'illegals' into the system. In exchange for legal status, they will of course pay tax and social security payments, which the state has so far missed out on. The government believes this will benefit Spain, whose birth rate is still one of the lowest in Europe; more foreign taxpayers will finance the increasing cost of caring for the country's rising elderly population. But critics have said new system will be unworkable; the 'black economy' will continue unabated, with bosses being reluctant to offer contracts to illegal immigrants is they they think they can pay less to illegals. Despite potential penalties for not providing contracts, many believe most employers will continue to avoid offering contracts to illegal immigrants. And, even if immigrants are 'legal residents', will this make any difference to how they are perceived by mainstream Spanish society?
    ©Expatica News

    14/1/2005- The trial opened of Adolfo Scilingo, a former Argentine naval officer accused of torture and other rights abuses -- including dropping people alive into the ocean from helicopters -during the 1976-1983 dictatorship in his native country. The trial opened more than 90 minutes late, partly because Scilingo was ill, judicial sources said. Scilingo, 58, who has been on a hunger strike for several weeks, arrived in the courtroom helped by police officers. Scilingo is one of several alleged ex-torturers and killers wanted by foreign jurisdictions for the death and disappearance of their citizens, but is the first actually to appear before a foreign court. He came to Spain in 1997, amid pressure at home to bring alleged ex-military torturers and killers to justice, to take part in a television programme. He had earlier told Argentine investigative journalist Horacio Verbistky of how he helped jettison drugged so-called "subversives" into the sea alive. Scilingo then became caught up in Spanish investigating judge Balthasar Garzon's wider campaign to prosecute foreign officials - including notably Chilean ex-dictator Augosto Pinochet -- for the murder and abduction of Spanish citizens abroad. Interviewed by Garzon, the moustachioed, 58-year-old Scilingo repeated the story which he had recounted to Verbistky before later retracting his account. In 2001, as Garzon deepened his inquiries, Scilingo was remanded for trial on 30 counts of murder, 93 of causing injury, 255 of terrorism and 286 of torture. A month ago the accused went on hunger strike protesting his innocence and in recent days has refused to accept liquids, leading to his being taken to hospital on Wednesday following a fainting incident. On Tuesday, his wife Maria Marcela Valles described him as "very weak and virtually bed-bound," But a source at the Alcala-Meco jail where he is being held some 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Madrid quoted prison officials as saying "there has been no change in his state of health," contrary to Valles' assertions that he was not well enough to stand trial. In 2003, Argentina accepted that Spain could try Scilingo as there were no equivalent charges pending against him in Buenos Aires. In other cases, the Spanish government has bowed to Argentine jurisdiction.

    An estimated 30,000 Argentines disappeared during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Garzon is basing his case on a Spanish legal article which states that Spain is competent to judge "acts committed by Spaniards or foreigners outside national territory" in cases such as genocide or terrorist acts and other cases covered by international treaties. During the 'dirty war' of the 1970s and 1980s, when thousands of citizens were snatched off the streets on suspicion of being left-wingers or union sympathizers, Scilingo worked for a year at the naval mechanics school (ESMA) in Buenos Aires. The school was an infamous centre of torture, rape and murder. Human rights organisations say some 5,000 people held there vanished. The prosecution, which will call some 170 witnesses either in person or by video link from Argentina and Mexico, is calling for Scilingo to be handed a jail term of 6,626 years. The witnesses include several survivors of the bloody repression at the school. Following the dictatorship, dozens of ranking military officers were tried on abduction, torture and murder charges and some were imprisoned in 1985 before being pardoned in 1990 by the Peronist then-president Carlos Menem. A verdict is not expected before late March. In another case, Garzon is investigating another former Argentine military official Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, accused of crimes against humanity and extradited to Spain from Mexico in June 2003.
    ©Expatica News

    10/1/2005- Fans of Italy's Lazio football club yesterday threatened to stage mass protests if Paolo Di Canio, the team's striker, is disciplined for celebrating a win over Roma with a Fascist salute. National football federation officials opened an inquiry after Di Canio, 35, gave the straight-armed, flat-handed gesture, known since the rule of the Second World War dictator Benito Mussolini as a "Roman salute" at the end of Thursday evening's derby game in which Lazio beat Roma 3-1. The forward, who earned a reputation for his erratic temperament while playing for West Ham, denied there was political significance in the sinister greeting captured on photographs published around Italy. "I am a professional footballer and my celebrations had nothing to do with political behaviour of any kind," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. Lazio fans known as "Ultras" long have been notorious for their neo-Fascist tendencies and famous supporters include Daniela Fini, the wife of the Italian Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini, who heads the "post-Fascist" National Alliance party founded by former members of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a grouping led by former blackshirts from Mussolini's totalitarian regime. A spokesman for the most uncompromising Ultras, the so-called Irriducibili, Fabrizio Toffolo, claimed that left-wing players such as Cristiano Lucarelli, a Livorno striker, made clenched-fist salutes during matches with impunity. "If Di Canio is disciplined, there will be 30,000 of us demonstrating outside the football league offices," he told Il Messaggero. Encouraging Fascism is a crime under Italian law. A club statement also rallied behind the striker, saying the controversy showed that Roma supporters are bad losers. "The result on the field was well deserved and celebrations by players and fans were absolutely legitimate," a Lazio statement said. Di Canio has the word dux, the latin term from which Mussolini styled himself Duce (leader), tattooed on his arm. In an autobiography, he said he was fascinated by the dictator, whom he called "basically a very principled, ethical individual". Alessandra Mussolini, the dictator's granddaughter who recently left the National Alliance to start a new far-right party, said she approved of the salute. "How nice that Roman salute was, it delighted me so much. I shall write him a thank- you note." Among those to disagree, however, was Andrea Della Valle, president of first division club Fiorentina, who Lazio defeated yesterday. "Every city would like to have a player with talent like his, but Di Canio went too far; I would not have accepted such an attitude. He should be careful, there are youngsters who will follow his example."
    © Independent Digital

    7/1/2005- An anti-Semitic book review referring to rabbis "rolling in gold" has been posted on's German website in connection with a book on a World War II battle between the Soviet Red Army and Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht. "The review will be removed as quickly as possible from our website," a company spokeswoman said on Friday. The company banned anti-Semitic and racist content from book reviews, said Christine Hoeger, spokeswoman for Amazon's German division. The Amazon customer review - dated 29 October 2004 - says the 1945 Battle of Halbe near Berlin was "the last act of a 30 year civil war in which the Christians (the British Empire) and the godless Jews (plutocrats and Bolsheviks) allied to bomb the German speakers in the centre of Europe back into third class status." The reviewer, identified only as "kksspeer" from the German city of Celle, goes on to claim it is clear where this led following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. "(US President George W.) Bush and (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon are standing at the gates of Baghdad. The crusade began in 1914 and found a preliminary end at the Israeli-Palestinian wall. Some rabbis are rubbing their hands and rolling in gold." The book reviewed is titled "Der Kessel von Halbe 1945" and describes the last major battle between the Red Army and German forces, about 40 kilometers south of Berlin, in which at least 22,000 people were killed. Freedom of speech in Germany - in contrast to countries like the US - has certain constitutional and legal limits, especially with regard to the Holocaust and Jews. Denying that the Holocaust took place is illegal and incitement of anti-Semitism can be prosecuted under the German Criminal code.
    ©Expatica News

    8/1/2005- A German cardinal on Saturday said he regretted comparing abortion to the genocides carried out by Hitler and Stalin, which sparked a public outcry here, and claimed to have been misunderstood. "I regret that it has got to this pitch," the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, said, stressing that he would never have made such a comparison if he had thought it could have been open to misinterpretation. During a sermon in the city's cathedral on Thursday, the cardinal declared: "First there was Herod, who ordered the children of Bethlehem to be killed, then there was Hitler and Stalin among others, and today unborn children are being killed in their millions." On Friday, the co-president of the Greens party, which is in coalition with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats, demanded an apology from Meisner. "He must apologize to those he has offended," said Claudia Roth.

    Jewish leaders mull legal action
    The president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel (photo), said the cardinal had insulted the millions of victims of the Holocaust and that he was considering taking the matter to court. Spiegel told Friday's edition of the newspaper Saarbrücker Zeitung he "cannot in any way understand" how anyone could compare abortion and euthanasia to the crimes of the Nazis. The ecumenical movement Initiative Kirche was also dumbfounded. "Meisner has completely lost his authority as a bishop and has publicly done a great wrong to the Catholic Church and to dialogue between Jews and Christians," it said. Earlier the pastor of St Michaelis church in Hamburg, Christian Rüß caused outrage when he compared the children who were killed or left orphaned in the tsunami, with the victims of abortion in Germany. "People ask how God could allow this flood," Rüß said in his sermon for the flood victims, "but maybe the Catholic church is right when it says 'what are you complaining about?', 200,000 children are aborted each year in Germany.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    13/1/2005- More than sixty years after the death transports of Jewish children to the Auschwitz extermination camp, the Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railroad Corp.) refuses to allow commemoration of the murdered children in the former transit stations of the deportation trains. A decision sent from Berlin, to this effect was received by the French organization ,,Fils et Filles des Deportés Juifs de France"/FFDJF (Sons and Daughters of Deported Jews of France) in December. The organization had solicited the Deutsche Bahn AG (DB AG) for space for a photo exhibition about the fate of 11,000 children deported by train. They were sent by rail over the 52 hour journey leading from Drancy, (near Paris) via Saarbrucken, Homburg, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Frankfort, Fulda and Dresden directly to Auschwitz. The transfer logistics of the death transports were assumed by the Deutsche Reichsbahn, of which, today, the DB AG is the successor. As the DB AG explains in a written statement, in the possession of, the DB AG ,,lacks" both the necessary ,,personnel and the financial resources" to undertake the proposed exhibition. ,,The enterprise is sponsoring the Soccer World Championship 2006, with lots of money" and is using implausible excuses, Ms. Beate Klarsfeld, member of the FFDJF says in an interview with Last year, the exhibition was displayed in France in numerous train stations, along the route of the death transport with the schedule number ,,DA-901".1) At the inaugurations of the exhibition, there were emotional scenes when the visitors commemorated the victims - among them some 520 children of German emigrants in France - who, over the rails of the German Reichsbahn, were abducted to Auschwitz, where they were immediately killed. Altogether more than 80,000 French deportees perished in German extermination camps. The number of those deported to their deaths in Germany with the Reichsbahn runs into the hundreds of thousands.

    On its premises throughout the country, the French state-owned railway (SNCF) provided space for the exhibition, to allow visits by relatives, school classes and travelers. In his inauguration address at the Parisian Northern railway station (Gare du Nord), the chairman of the SNCF acknowledged the responsibility of the French state-owned railway for its participation in the deportation of Jewish children.2) He explained that even though employees of the French railway organized the transport to the German border, members of the German Reichsbahn took over from there.3) Under their control the death trains with thousands of children crossed Germany.

    Contrary to the SNCF, the DB AG refuses to document the complicity of its predecessor for the mass murder at the scenes of the crime and refers to a local railway museum in Nuremberg. A nation-wide touring exhibition on the premises of the DB AG is out of the question. In a letter of its ,,Communications" Department (dated December 17, 2004), the DB AG writes that the content of the exhibition of the French FFDJF would have to be altered. Already earlier the DB AG had turned down an offer of the ,,Christian-Jewish Working Group" in Hesse and would not tolerate the establishment of a memorial in the central station of the city of Hanau.4) The Deutsche Reichsbahn's central junction for the human transfer was the nearby city of Frankfort (platform South, arrival 07:24, departure 07:46). From there the death trains with the Jewish children travelled via Hanau to the East. Numerous death transports of German Jews were also carried out through the Frankfort station.

    Right of Commemoration
    ,,The French put their train stations at our disposal for the exhibitions three years ago. Now the DB AG is coming with completely different reactions: We don't have any money, we don't have the space ...," says Ms. Beate Klarsfeld in an interview with The marginalization of the exhibition is unacceptable and does not do justice to the importance of the mass murder of 11,000 children. Ms. Klarsfeld, who has been engaged in numerous activities of the FFDJF to punish Nazi culprits and commemorate the victims, is hoping for reactions in Germany, so that the exhibition can still take place. ,,Whoever wants to commemorate (in Germany) has the right to do it. Commemoration cannot be forbidden."

    After the DB AG's refusal became known - just a few weeks preceding the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp - the initial protest letters began arriving at the enterprise. For example, a teacher from southern Germany writes, that the reason given by the corporation, worth billions, that it lacks ,,the financial resources" for an exhibition ready to be used, is ,,more than flimsy".5) ,,It is a scandal that the DB AG (...) refuses such an exhibition in German train stations (...) on the grounds of implausible arguments" the letter of protest reads.

    1) Horaire prévu des trains de déportation à partir du 1er novembre 1943 (planned schedule of the deportation trains starting November 1, 1943)
    2) Gare du Nord, l'hommage aux enfants juifs déportés; Le Monde 17.07.2004
    3) Bulletin de liaison des FFDJF No. 87, Nov-Déc 2004
    4) Franzoesische Bahn laesst Gedenkorte zu; Frankfurter Rundschau 20.11.2003
    5) Letter dated December 17, 2004

    09/01/2005- Neo-Nazis wearing SS uniforms spent almost two years living out their fantasies in the Czech Republic, entertaining crowds with mock executions of ''Jewish Bolshevik agents'', "Communist partisans" and "traitors", it was revealed by German state prosecutors last week. The macabre activities of the group, which claimed to be a historical re-enactment club, surfaced after the arrest in November of its founder, Peter Schulz, a known neo-Nazi – and, embarrassingly, former German intelligence agent – who is separately facing charges for the hoarding of weapons and explosives. Police officers who raided the homes of five ''club'' members found a videotape showing Schulz, 31, dressed as a Nazi SS Hauptsturmführer (captain), barking orders at 200 uniformed ''troops''. He is seen pointing at a young German "soldier" whose hands are bound behind his back. ``This man is a coward who has deserted his comrades – shoot this pig!'' he says. The soldier is put up against a wall and "executed" by firing squad in front of a 200-strong audience of onlookers at a disused factory near the Czech town of Hradek in November 2002. The crowd apparently believed that they were being entertained by a bona fide amateur theatre club. Another order was to begin killing "Jewish Bolshevik agents" during staged executions. Club members also re-enacted episodes from Second World War battles such as Stalingrad. "They could not get away with such activities in Germany because wearing Nazi uniform here is banned," a German investigator told The Telegraph. ''They did it in the Czech Republic, where such activities are not proscribed. The Czech authorities had no powers to intervene."

    The police raid followed a tip-off from German and Czech intelligence. Officers confiscated MG42 German machine guns, pistols, a revolver and 2.5 kilogrammes of "black powder" and ammunition. Schulz was placed under investigatory arrest. A German intelligence report has established that the organisation had about 100 members, dominated by a hard core of 18 to 20 Right-wing extremists who posed as members of the notorious "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler SS regiment" – the Führer's personal bodyguards. The group is believed to have crossed into the Czech Republic at least six times to stage "executions" in the border towns of Svojanov, Vranov, Slatinka, Pardubice, Dukla and Hradek. Schulz has said repeatedly that the club is "only interested in historical representation" and has nothing to do with politics. German police records, however, show that he has long-standing links to the neo-Nazi movement. He became a member of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party in early 1992, aged just 19. He later became a deputy district leader of the far-Right German Republican Party and was also a member of the banned American National Socialist German Workers' Party, run by Gary Lauck, an American neo-Nazi. Czech townspeople were not the only people taken in by Schulz. Officials of the BVS, the German intelligence service, admitted last week that they had employed him as an agent in the mid-1990s to collect evidence against Lauck. In 1995 Schulz was struck off the intelligence service payroll after he was deemed "of unsuitable character to act as an informant".
    ©Daily Telegraph

    11/1/2005— The Dutch Protestant Church (PKN) has criticised the Muslim community in the Netherlands, alleging that the drive to integrate is primarily coming from the native Dutch and that there is a lack of leadership on the Muslim side. PKN general secretary, Bas Plaisier, also accused the Muslim community is too inwardly focused. "The Islamic community has too little outlook towards the broader society, and for the churches who wish to enter discussions," he said. And speaking on behalf of Plaisier in Amsterdam at a policy conference between the various religious faiths on Monday, a PKN official called for "a culture of passionate and involved discussion with people of other philosophies". The official emphasised further the importance of social roots in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities, newspaper De Telegraaf reported. But Plaisier also claimed it was difficult to enter into discussions with Muslim representatives because they are only interested in their small communities. Nevertheless, he recognised that Muslims in the Netherlands cannot simply and easily integrate into Dutch society. He said it was a process that would occur over several generations. Plaisier said he hoped his statement would stimulate further discussion between churches and mosques. But he refrained from suggesting who could come forward to represent the entire Muslim community. There are some 1 million Muslims in the Netherlands, ranging from Turkish to Moroccan to Somali immigrants. Many of these communities have separate lobby groups and separate representatives.

    The PKN secretary told public broadcaster Radio 1 on Monday morning that the Muslim community needed to put forward a leader with a mandate to represent the entire community. He said the lack of leadership made it difficult for native Dutch people to understand the Islamic standpoint. He admitted further though that the situation was similar to the Dutch protestant church, which lacked a pope or bishops to act as the entire faith's leader. Plaisier also said the lack of adequate discussions between native Dutch and the Islamic community was due in part to the fact native Dutch did not know of any Islamic leaders besides terror mastermind Osama bin Laden and ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The Netherlands has encountered strong social polarisation in recent years, highlighted by the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an alleged Islamic militant. A series of attacks against mosques and churches followed, prompting a call to order from Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The Dutch government is stepping up its push to integrate the immigrant community and is set to legislate later this year a grand plan to integrate 750,000 immigrants and lower educated Dutch. It is also pushing to restrict the possibilities for immigrants to hold dual citizenship.
    ©Expatica News

    13/1/2005— Preparations are underway to establish a new political party to represent Muslims in the Netherlands, it was reported on Thursday. A group of Muslims in Amsterdam plan to launch the Muslim Democratic Party (MDP) in May and contest local elections in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, according to their spokesman Mohammed Jabri. He told news agency ANP that the group was also looking at contesting the local election in a city in the province of North Brabant where a large number of Muslims live. Depending on how well the party grows, Jabri said it might contest the next general election. But he also said the party was having some difficulty in attracting people with the expertise to lead the party. The establishment of the MDP comes after the controversial Arab European League (AEL) was founded, originally in Antwerp, Belgium, by Dyab Abou Jahjah to fight what he said was discrimination against Muslims and Arabs. It now has a branch in the Netherlands and has forged a link with the MDP. But the MDP also wants to remain independent and is in discussions with well-known and less-well known Muslims to get the party off the ground in the big cities. Contact was also being sought with non-Muslims, Jabri said, "in order to get a balance within the party's management". The announcement of the new party comes days after former Immigration and Integration Minister Hilbrand Nawijn said Muslims should assimilate rather than integrate into Dutch society. He said that Muslim schools should be banned in the Netherlands, even though the Constitution enshrines the right to establish religious schools. His remarks were not met by a public outcry.

    Following the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam last November, there were a spate of tit-for-tat attacks against Muslim and Christian buildings. A Muslim school in Uden was burnt down and another Muslim school in Eindhoven was bombed. Figures released late last year showed that the majority of attacks after the murder were targeted against Muslims. Meanwhile, MDP spokesman Jabri is a writer and columnist for, a website for Muslims in the Netherlands. The website's homepage features a cartoon of a person dropping a Jewish Star of David into a wastepaper basket. A column on one page 'thanks' Muslim critics Ayaan Hirshi [sic] Ali, Van Gogh and Geert Wilders and people like them for helping in one go "to make young Muslims in the Netherlands more aware of their Islamic roots". Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death apparently because of his movie "Submission", which accused the Koran of sanctioning violence against women. MP Hirsi Ali, who collaborated on the film, and MP Wilders went into hiding after the murder following threats to their lives for criticising Islam. Wilders has returned to the public eye and Hirsi Ali is expected to attend Parliament again next week. The article on the website finishes by noting: "Since 9/11 [September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon] one million Americans have become Muslims. God's ways are truly unfathomable".
    ©Expatica News

    13/1/2005- French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has condemned the outcry over his controversial remarks on the Nazi occupation of France. Mr Le Pen, who reportedly said the occupation was "not especially inhumane", said it was "scandalous" he was not free to air his views. A criminal investigation has been ordered into the comments, which were made in the far-right paper Rivarol. Mr Le Pen denounced the "political control of thought" in France. He told RTL radio: "It is rather scandalous that, 60 years later, one cannot express oneself in a coherent and calm way on these subjects and freely pass judgment on the facts of the occupation." The controversial National Front leader, 76, also said he would file a complaint against the Le Monde newspaper, which he accused of "manipulating" his words in its account of the interview. Mr Le Pen is quoted as telling Rivarol: "In France at least, the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses - inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km (220,000 sq miles). "If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn't have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees."

    Anti-racism laws
    French Justice Minister Dominique Perben said he was appalled and had asked prosecutors to open a preliminary inquiry into the comments. Jewish groups also reacted angrily to the comments. Anti-racism laws in France make denying the Holocaust a crime, punishable by either fines or prison - although it remains unclear whether Mr Le Pen could be prosecuted under such legislation on the basis of these remarks. Mr Le Pen, who founded the National Front (FN) party in 1972, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on a number of occasions before. In 1987 he described the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history". More than 70,000 French Jews were deported during the Nazi occupation from 1940 until 1944, while thousands of civilians died at the hands of the German army in France.
    ©BBC News

    13/1/2005- The number of asylum seekers coming to Norway dropped by nearly half last year. It was the biggest reduction among all European countries. In 2003, just over 15,600 persons sought asylum in Norway. That number was down to less than 8,000 in 2004, reports newspaper Dagsavisen. The government minister responsible for immigration policies, Erna Solberg, said she's pleased with the decline. "We're beginning to reach a level that's more natural for Norway," she said. Solberg claims that Norway long had a "reputation" for being a country where it was easy for foreigners to obtain residence. She led a public information campaign, not least in countries including Bulgaria and other eastern European countries, that tried to drive home a message that was quite the opposite. Solberg has been the target of criticism for tightening Norway's asylum practices. Morten Tjessem of the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), said the reduction would only be positive if the need for asylum was really reduced. "There are many who still have a need to seek protection in Europe," Tjessem told Dagsavisen. He thinks it's simply become harder for them to prove their case.

    13/1/2005- The State Duma on Wednesday tentatively approved legislation that would allow authorities to deny a visa to foreigners who show disrespect toward Russia, are sick or use illegal drugs. Political analysts said the bill falls short of democratic norms and that President Vladimir Putin may reject it in an attempt to flash democratic credentials in the faces of critics worried about a rollback on free speech and human rights. Duma deputies passed the amendment to the law "On Exit From the Russian Federation and Entry Into the Russian Federation" in the first of three readings by a vote of 353 to 44 with six abstentions. The amendment says foreigners could be denied entry if they "commit actions of a clearly disrespectful nature toward the Russian Federation or the federal organs of the government of the Russian Federation." Denial of entry could also result from actions that disrespect "spiritual, cultural or public values," bring about "significant material harm," or are harming or have harmed "the international prestige of the Russian Federation." "Other disrespectful or unfriendly actions" could also result in a foreigner being barred from entering the country, the bill says. The bill does not spell out what specific behavior could lead to being denied entry, but states that such a judgment would be in the hands of the president, the Federation Council, the State Duma, the government or a court. Independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov has denounced the bill as a way to stifle critical voices. "This is completely consistent with Russia's current course," he said last month. "It is another tool to persecute critics and a viable opposition." Vladimir Pligin, the bill's author and chairman of the Duma's Constitution and State Affairs Committee, defended the legislation, telling Itogi news magazine in an interview published Tuesday that "attempts to portray us as some kind of closed country are absurd." "If we're talking about actions of a clearly disrespectful nature toward [Russia], I believe we have the right to take such an action," Pligin said. "Other countries have such norms on an unofficial basis, and the fact that we have it written into legislation is nothing new or inexplicable." While he did not specify what would qualify as "disrespectful" behavior, Pligin said foreigners would receive an explanation for visa denials at the respective Russian Embassy if the bill is passed into law. Repeated calls to Pligin's office went unanswered Wednesday.

    Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, said the Duma and Federation Council will easily pass the legislation and send it to Putin for his signature. Putin, however, may soften its language or scrap it all together in some democratic grandstanding, he said. "This gives the president a chance to play the role of the liberal," Pribylovsky said. "He's done this before. But, of course, it's just a show." In March, the Duma passed in a first reading a bill banning rallies in virtually all public places. The bill was widely condemned as an attack on constitutionally protected democratic freedoms, and while the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which controls the Duma, was reviled by critics at home and abroad as being indifferent to democracy, Putin capitalized on the opportunity to appear enlightened in contrast to parliament. "To whom is it necessary today to limit the rights and freedoms of citizens to demonstrate and march?" Putin told members of his government on April 13. "There shouldn't be any such unhealthy restrictions in this respect." Putin subsequently requested changes to the bill that would allow protests outside government buildings, lower the age requirement for organizers, and shorten the period of advance notice needed to be given for some events. The bill approved Wednesday also would permit authorities to deny entry to foreigners who are drug addicts or suffer from infectious diseases that endanger others. The bill also stipulates that foreigners who do not present proof that they are HIV-negative can be denied long-term visas. Aside from visa refusals, the legislation does contain changes to the current law that promise to be welcomed by foreigners. For example, one measure would allow foreigners to obtain business and other visas for up to five years if their countries offer the same visa to Russian citizens. Pribylovsky said that even if Putin signs the bill into law, its provisions may end up relatively meaningless. "It's vague enough to be interpreted any way you like, and it will only be relevant if the government actually decides to use it," he said. "In any case, it's there if they need it. Whether they use it or not will likely depend on the political climate."
    ©The Moscow Times

    12/1/2005- Croatia faces a new challenge to its record on refugee return in the European Court of Human Rights. EU leaders last month conditioned the start of accession talks with Croatia on the country's willingness to extradite war-crimes indictees. Negotiations could begin as early as March 2005 if Zagreb is judged to have made enough effort to locate, arrest and extradite Ante Gotovina, a fugitive general accused of ordering the killing of more than 100 ethnic Serbs and expelling 150,000 more in 1995. Around the same time, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights agreed to hear an appeal in the case of Blecic v. Croatia. The ruling went largely unnoticed, but it raises serious questions about another key accession criterion--Croatia's treatment of ethnic Serbian refugees. Although Croatia has been making efforts to encourage refugees to return--of an estimated 300,000 ethnic Serbs who fled Croatia between 1991 and 1995, around 120,000 have come back--the question of occupancy rights for those who lived in state-owned property has yet to be resolved. The Blecic case has a direct bearing on this issue.

    Leaving voluntarily…
    Krstina Blecic, a Croatian citizen of Montenegrin background, lived in a state-owned apartment in the coastal town of Zadar for 40 years. Blecic's tenure gave her many legal rights, including, from 1991, the option to buy her home. In July 1991, Blecic went to Italy to spend the summer with her daughter. Shortly afterward, the armed conflict escalated around Zadar, preventing her from returning. Her apartment was occupied by an ethnic Croatian family, and, in February 1992, the Zadar municipality terminated Blecic's tenancy, stating that her absence from the flat for six months invalidated her claim on it. A protracted legal battle followed in Croatian courts until the Supreme Court ruled that the war was insufficient reason for Blecic not to occupy her flat, stating, "In the period of aggression against Croatia, living conditions were the same for all citizens of Zadar." When the Constitutional Court dismissed Blecic's appeal in 1999, she turned to the European court in Strasbourg. Blecic alleged that Croatia had violated her right to peaceful enjoyment of her home and possessions, while Croatia argued that, since Blecic had left her home voluntarily and had not initiated eviction proceedings against the occupying family, no such violation had occurred. Croatia also contended that the termination was a legitimate measure to satisfy the housing needs of other citizens. The OSCE mission to Croatia and the OSCE mission to Bosnia submitted an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief. According to the OSCE, the Blecic case could be viewed only in the context of mass terminations of tenancies, of which there were 23,700 during the war. Most of these proceedings were instituted against ethnic Serbs. The most damning assertion in the brief was that Croats and ethnic Serbs were treated differently in the post-conflict period. The region of eastern Slavonia, a territory held by rebel Serbs during the war and under UN administration between 1996 and January 1998, experienced the mass displacement primarily of ethnic Croats. When the Croats returned, local courts recognized the legal interest of those who had held occupancy rights and evicted the current occupants, many of whom were Serbs displaced from other parts of Croatia. The ethnic Serbs and Montenegrins have not found it so easy to reclaim their homes. The Strasbourg court decided in favor of Croatia in July 2004, finding no violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Commenting on the decision, Peter Semneby, head of the OSCE mission to Croatia, said, "The implication of the [human rights court's] decision is that under certain conditions the Convention permits nations to require civilians to move from a zone of safety into an active conflict zone to vindicate their human rights."

    …Or experiencing discrimination?
    The decision also angered human rights groups who had previously condemned Croatia. The International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, and the Norwegian Refugee Council had all called on Croatia to resolve the problem of occupancy rights. "Lost tenancy rights continue to prevent Serb refugees from returning to Croatia, yet the [court] affirmed the discriminatory policy that terminated those rights," said Holly Carter, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, in a press release. The International Committee for Human Rights is representing Blecic in her appeal, which is now awaiting a hearing date. The ICHR is an organization of former OSCE human rights lawyers and practitioners, including many who worked on the six-year-long property restitution program in Bosnia that resulted in the return of more than 200,000 properties, including 100,000 state-owned apartments, to their prewar owners. "The Blecic judgment was expected to be an authoritative statement on occupancy rights under the Convention," ICHR Executive Director Massimo Moratti said. "Yet the [Strasbourg court] failed to give adequate consideration to the conditions surrounding the Balkans conflict. In particular, the chamber relied too heavily on local court judgments without considering the systematic discrimination by Croatia against ethnic minorities. This is the basis of our appeal." The importance of the case was underlined in the aftermath of the initial judgment, which the Croatian authorities regarded as a vindication of their policy. In August, Croatian Justice Minister Vesna Skare-Ozbolt said, "There can no longer be any pressure exerted on Croatia regarding tenancy rights." According to Moratti, Croatia's lackluster effort to resolve this issue, legitimized by the ECHR's decision, has created tension in Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia. Ethnic Serbs who fled Croatia for Republika Srpska have been forced to give back the apartments they were occupying to allow for the return of the Croatian or Bosniak prewar occupants, yet they cannot reclaim their own homes in Croatia. The refugees feel that a double standard is being applied.

    An honest effort?
    However, Croatia has implemented a scheme to help the return of those refugees who lost their occupancy rights. "The government has adopted a new program to provide adequate housing for holders of occupancy rights. The new program establishes the possibility of a protected lease or purchase of a new apartment under very favorable conditions," Stefica Staznik of the Croatian department for cooperation with the Strasbourg court said. But observers question whether the Croatian scheme provides fair compensation and is fast enough. "The provision of housing has not progressed as OSCE Croatia would have hoped: no housing has been provided as yet. Funds initially earmarked in the 2004 state budget for implementation have been reallocated for other purposes," says Peter Semneby of the OSCE. The Blecic appeal is particularly significant because it is likely to be the last occupancy-rights case to come before the court. The European Court of Human Rights can consider cases only after all avenues of domestic appeal have been exhausted, and applications to the court must be made within six months of a final decision in the domestic courts. Most of the terminations happened before 1996 and so, for the vast majority of refugees, the window of opportunity for bringing cases before the Strasbourg court has closed. Consequently, many observers feel strongly that the Grand Chamber must consider the Blecic appeal. According to Semneby, the lack of an appropriate solution for refugees such as Blecic is "one of the key obstacles to return." The European Commission seems to agree, as the issue was specifically mentioned in the avis regarding Croatia's application for membership. Kathleen O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said, "The Commission is fully aware of the case and has taken note of the judgment of the [court]. We will be following the evolution of the situation carefully. The Commission has emphasized that refugee return has to be speeded up." The next assessment of refugee return in Croatia will come in the fall, when the EC will adopt the regular report on Croatia's progress toward accession. Talks may well have begun by then, but any decision by the Grand Chamber will undoubtedly shape Croatia's path to full EU membership.
    ©Transitions Online

    13/1/2005- While Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány may have come up with a five-point plan to help ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries, minority leaders were dismayed to not have been consulted. The issue of easing the access of ethnic Hungarians to a Hungarian passport remains on the agenda even after the official results of the invalid referendum of dual citizenship were finally announced. According to the PM's proposal, a "national visa" is to be introduced by March 31. The new visa would allow for multiple entries to Hungary and would extend the length of permitted stay over 90 days. However it would not entitle its bearer to take a job. The objective of such a visa is to allow for the cultivation of culture, language and national identity. The premier also proposed the simplification of immigration procedures by cutting back the three-year long procedure to just 12 months. Gyurcsány emphasized that the Hungarian Government will continue to support the drive for autonomy in foreign ethnic Hungarian territories. "Hungary can offer reciprocity in this affair as in all affairs in this field. We can say to our colleagues in Yugoslavia, Vojvodina, Romania and Ukraine that we provide the same rights to ethnic minorities living in Hungary," Gyurcsány told Hungarian daily Népszabadság. The premier intends to move along with the Homeland Program announced at the end of last year in the wake of the referendum. The plan, with a Ft1bn ($4m) budget, was designed to assist the economy in the ethnic Hungarian territories. The fifth point of Gyurcsány's plan involves a passport valid for the EU for ethnic Hungarians. However, EU official Pietro Petrucci warned that Hungary can only issue EU-conforming visas once it has joined the so-called Schengen area in 2007. "The practice of the Budapest cabinet deciding in our matters above our heads must be done away with," said Béla Bugár, chairman of the Party of Hungarian Coalition in Slovakia after a meeting of ethnic Hungarian leaders in Subotica, Serbia (see report below). Bugár said he did not consider Gyurcsány's proposal real. "I am not dealing with promises. If the proposal was really meant to be realized, then ethnic Hungarians would have been consulted before announcing it," he said. At the Subotica meeting of ethnic Hungarians participants emphasized that they expect a dual citizenship program that will help ethnic Hungarians in their homeland and not in the territory of Hungary. According to Csaba Takács, the managing director of the Hungarian Democratic Association in Romania, Budapest has still not resigned from its will to improve its demographic index by moving ethnic Hungarians back to its territory. He added that it is time the Hungarian political parties reached a consensus on the issue of dual citizenship.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    13/1/2005- A board member of Metro International and the head of its US operations both resigned from their posts on Thursday as the Swedish free newspaper group struggles to contain a furore over racist comments that could overshadow a US newspaper deal. Hans-Holger Albrecht, a Metro board member since 2002 and chief executive of Sweden's MTG, the broadcasting group, was forced out after it emerged that he had opened a speech in Stockholm in 2003 with the phrase "Ladies, gentlemen and niggers". Steve Nylund, president of Metro's operations in the US, also left his post, although he remains with the company. Mr Nylund used a racist term at a separate dinner of managers in Rome in 2003 when he was directly translating a joke being relayed to him over a mobile telephone. The moves come at a sensitive time for the newspaper group which has just entered a joint venture with the New York Times and will sell the US publisher 49 per cent of Metro's Boston edition. The rival Boston Herald this week asked the justice department to block the NYT's planned deal with Metro Boston, arguing that the purchase violated antitrust laws and could lead to a monopoly. The paper has been featuring the racism allegations on its front pages after they resurfaced on a media-affairs website. Metro also publishes in New York and Philadelphia and has a total of 42 editions in 63 cities in 17 countries and in 16 languages. Mr Albrecht said: "In light of recent allegations against Metro and in the company's best interest, I have decided to submit my resignation from the board of directors. "I accept responsibility for my unfortunate comment and the unintended consequences." Mr Albrecht, a German, says he was making a joke about Germans' poor public speaking skills by quoting remarks attributed to former West German President Heinrich Lübke during a state visit to Liberia in 1962. Vigo Carlund, Metro's chairman, said MTG was a major shareholder in Metro with a stake of about 27 per cent. He said Mr Albrecht's comments had been ironic, but were inappropriate. The incident involving Mr Nylund had been investigated at the time and he had been reprimanded, Mr Carlund said. Mr Carlund also strongly denied that there was a culture of racism at Metro, saying the company had "zero tolerance for any forms of discrimination". A sub-committee of the board had now been established to supervise the implementation of policies on diversity and corporate social responsibility, he said.
    ©The Financial Times

    What everybody knows about anti-Semitism in Western and Eastern Europe has just changed.

    Milos Zeman, the Czech prime minister, visited Israel some time ago. In the course of an interview with Ha'aretz, Zeman compared Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler and condemned Palestinian terrorism in strong terms. True, Zeman was later chided by leading personalities in Western Europe (some of whom even hinted that this could make it difficult for the Czech republic to join the European Union) but many European leaders admitted in private conversations that they did not think very differently from Zeman, says a Foreign Ministry official who is well versed in the subject. "Conspicuous among them were Eastern European leaders," he notes. Zeman's remarks are indicative of an interesting political phenomenon. The formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe, traditionally champions of Arab enmity toward Israel, today express a much more balanced attitude toward Israel - sometimes even taking a pronounced pro-Israel stance - than do the Western European countries. Ministry officials cite, for example, the fact that at the UN conference on human rights in Geneva, it was the Western European countries that supported the strong condemnation of Israel while the Eastern European nations tended to abstain, and the Czech Republic actually voted against the resolution. "At the Durban conference the East European countries were also conspicuous in their opposition to the Muslim countries' strongly anti-Israel resolutions," the ministry official says. Thanks to this balanced view - good historic links with the Arab countries coupled with good ties with Israel today - some of the Eastern European countries, including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, are now volunteering to serve as host countries for any future Middle East peace negotiations. This would also help them to upgrade their political status as countries which have an added value, at least in this respect, over the European Union countries. Moreover, with regard to anti-Semitic incidents, the situation today is also much better in Eastern Europe - formerly a bastion of anti-Semitism - than in the Western Europe.

    Avraham Berkowitz, director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Former Soviet Union, says that "an increase has indeed been felt over the past few weeks in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, such as attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, but this is a `seasonal' increase felt every year in the past few years between Hitler's birthday on April 20 and May 9, the victory over Germany in World War Two. The situation is much calmer during the rest of the year." Berkowitz says that it is important to note that, although there are perhaps 18 million Muslims in Russia, there has so far not been one anti-Semitic attack by them on Jews. "All the incidents were caused by Russian hooligans - a departure from the picture we see in Western Europe. What is no less important is that official anti-Semitism, previously a painful evil, has disappeared there completely." He notes that relations with the Russian president and government are excellent and that there is greater understanding on their part of Israel's position toward terror in view of Russia's experience with the Chechans. Lawrence Weinbaum, a researcher at the World Jewish Congress whose specialty is Poland, says that that country - where only several thousand Jews remain today but where previously anti-Semitism was rampant - now has a much more balanced, even favorable, view of Israel. "The Middle East correspondent of the leading weekly, WPROST, is very pro-Israel. The main daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, has maybe published critical articles about Israel, some of them written by its Jewish editor, but on the whole it shows understanding for Israel's position." Dan Ofri, editor of the Israeli Hungarian-language newspaper, Uykelet, says the situation in Hungary is more complex. Except for some of the countries of the Former Soviet Union, Hungary is the only East European country with a sizable Jewish population today, some 70,000. He says that "the community enjoys complete religious freedom but there are definitely serious incidents of anti-Semitism there. The extreme right-wing party, MIEP, is openly anti-Semitic." But MIEP failed to get into the parliament in last month's general elections in Hungary, unlike the right in France, for example.

    Rafi Vago of Tel Aviv University's Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, says that it would be incorrect to consign anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe to the hands of historians alone. He notes that there continue to be attacks on Jewish sites, painting of swastikas, and reprints of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion all over Eastern Europe. In Romania, he says, the second largest party is blatantly anti-Semitic. The anti-Semitism in these countries is associated with nationalist circles which came to the fore after the fall of Communism, he says. "They attribute the evils of Communism to the Jews who, they say, created and led the communist movement." He notes that, paradoxically, these nationalists are now teaming up with the former Communists in their fight against globalization, which they tie to Jewish capitalism. Another form of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe can be found in the virulent opposition of governments there to putting on trial local Nazi collaborators, says Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Institute. He says the institute's recent report on Nazi war criminals met with strong anti-Semitic reactions in Eastern Europe. Vago agrees, however, that the "new anti-Semitism" - in the form of attacks by Muslims on Jews and virulent attacks on Israel - hardly exists in that part of the world. What has led to this new European paradox in which the eastern part of the continent, the classic seat of anti-Semitism, is now more favorably disposed toward Jews and Israel than Western Europe? There are several reasons for this, according to those interviewed. Firstly, in Eastern Europe, with the exception of Russia and the former Asian republics of the USSR, there are hardly any concentrations of Muslims. The communities that do exist are not Arab, are afraid of Islamic fundamentalism, and are interested in opening up to the West. "Under the Communist regimes, awareness of the Holocaust was repressed and the Nazis were described as enemies of Communism," says Dina Porat, head of the Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Only in the last decade ... has a public debate been held in these countries on the issue of extermination of the Jews and their role in collaborating with this. These countries therefore have not yet freed themselves of guilt feelings toward the Jews."

    The attitude of Eastern European countries toward Israel is also related to general political processes that they are undergoing. Their relatively favorable attitude toward Israel can also be explained as part of their reaction toward the communist regimes that had such close ties with the Third World and the Arab countries. Vago says that the rhetoric in vogue in the Arab world today, about the struggle of repressed people, is a reminder of the communist regimes' rhetoric. Also in Israel's favor is the desire on the part of Eastern European countries for acceptance in the West, particularly the United States. "Most of the Eastern European countries are currently trying to be accepted into NATO or the EU," says the Foreign Ministry official. "They know they are under constant surveillance, particularly from the U.S., over their anti-Semitic pasts. Whenever there is an anti-Semitic incident, it is reported by the U.S. ambassador in that country." He says the Eastern European countries are particularly impressed by the economic development of the U.S. and believe the Jews have some bearing on this. "They feel the road to Washington goes by the Jews and Israel." It is hard to know whether this "honeymoon" with Eastern Europe will continue after most of the countries in that bloc enter the EU.

    FOOTBALL'S APARTHEID(Europe, opinion)
    Soccer has become the faultline for European racist prejudices
    By Martin Jacques

    8/1/2005- One expects the great issues of Europe to be played out in Brussels, or perhaps Strasbourg, or the national capitals, possibly even on the streets, but certainly not in the football stadiums. Yet, that is what is happening on race. You would barely know it. Football is not accorded that kind of significance in national life: it's just a game. Political commentators do not fulminate about it, editors think in terms of the back pages and politicians largely ignore it. But that is not a reflection of the true reality, just their myopia, and the blinkered way in which we tend to perceive politics. The most striking incident - when racism in football became headline news - was in November at Madrid's Bernabeu stadium when tens of thousands of Spanish supporters made monkey noises at England's black players. This followed an extraordinary outburst by the Spanish manager, Luis Aragones, who had referred to Thierry Henry, one of the most sublime talents in the game, as "that black shit". The under-21 match between the two countries the night before had also been scarred by racist chanting. These were only the most recent incidents, the ones that finally and belatedly captured the headlines. Mass racist chanting against black players has been a feature of international games in Slovakia, Macedonia and many other countries. Henry was the object of racist chanting in an Arsenal game in Greece. Porto fans engaged in monkey chanting against Chelsea's black players. England fans engaged in mass racist abuse during the Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey. Countless other examples go unreported.

    It is not surprising that football has become the public crucible of European racism. The traditional arenas of politics are the preserve, for the most part, of polite society, of the great and the good, Westminster being a classic example. Apart from the far right and the xenophobes - Italy's Umberto Bossi is a case in point - overt racism is rarely heard in the corridors of traditional politics (covert racism, on the other hand, is widespread and endemic). In fact, there are hardly any mass activities in which people are able, and feel free, to vent their prejudices in public - to behave in a crowd as they might in a bar. Football is unique in Europe: the mass male pastime bar none. The scenes at the Bernabeu and elsewhere may be disgusting and disturbing, but they are saying something important about the European psyche. In racial terms, football brings Europe face to face with the worst outrages of its own history. No continent has suffered more at the hands of Europe than Africa - first through the slave trade and then a colonial subjugation whose effects remain profoundly baleful to this day. In a league table of European racial prejudice, those of African descent will most surely be at the bottom, the darker the more lowly, as Shaun Wright-Phillips - the darkest and most abused English player - was reminded at the Bernabeu.

    Yet footballers of African descent have increasingly come to dominate the sport over the last few decades, beginning with Brazil's 1958 World Cup-winning side. Herein lies the magic of football as a sport. Since anyone can play it, however destitute they are, football offers - more than any other cultural activity - a level playing field, and therefore a huge opportunity for the world's poor. Football was once almost exclusively white, even in Brazil: now it is primarily a game played by those of colour. And so football has become the fault-line for Europe's prejudices, the public stage where Europe's hubristic past meets its modern-day nemesis - as expressed in great artists like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry. The events in the Bernabeu marked a new moment in the struggle over racism in football. This was Europe's most famous stadium, the home of the world's most famous club. Never before have such scenes been witnessed by so many people across the continent nor been so widely commented upon. The refusal of the Spanish authorities to acknowledge that anything untoward had happened was a poignant reminder of the depth of ignorance that pervades our continent when it comes to racism: for most, racism is still seen as both "natural" and "acceptable". Last month, though, the Spanish football federation finally buckled and announced that Aragones' outburst against Henry would be subject to disciplinary action, though still no date has been fixed. Meanwhile, he has described Reyes, Arsenal's Spanish international, as "a Gypsy": the man is a rich tapestry of racial prejudice. The English response to Bernabeu was unprecedented. Previously, broadcasters and journalists have largely colluded in racism by failing to comment or report upon it. This time John Motson, the BBC match commentator, was moved to express outrage: the first time I can recall someone in his position doing so. And it was clear from the response from many in the game that there is a new intolerance towards overt racist behaviour. The extent of this shift in England, though, should not be exaggerated. The structures of English football remain deeply and shockingly racist.

    A quarter of the players in the Premiership may be black or mixed-race, yet not a single manager. Football is a multiracial game, but only on the pitch. In the boardroom (just one non-white), among management staff (2% non-white), administrative staff (4%), coaching staff (6%), and in the stands, Premiership football is much whiter than the population at large (ethnic minorities comprise 9%). There is only one, albeit entirely predictable, exception: a fifth of the "other staff" - catering, turnstiles, cleaning, et al - are non-white. Even worse, every single member of the FA board, comprising 14 people, is white and, likewise, every single one of its 92-member council. This is a game that has seen a racial revolution on the pitch, and yet off it football remains the redoubt of the white man. There is a not so subtle racial stereotyping involved in all this. Black people can perform, can play, but they can't administer or run things: this is the gift of the white man. This mindset is replicated in virtually every walk of life, from the House of Commons to universities, from the City to the Metropolitan police. How many white people have ever been managed by, or been accountable to, a person of colour at work? One doesn't need to resort to an expensive statistical report - or a readers' survey - to know the answer: hardly any. What makes the situation in football so outrageous is that it has become such a black sport on the pitch, thereby making the off-pitch situation even more anomalous. It is one thing to watch and admire the skills of Patrick Vieira or Rio Ferdinand; it is another thing altogether to be answerable to them, to take orders from them, to get the proverbial bollocking. That demands an altogether different kind of respect and recognition, and a quite different relationship. White people the world over are used to giving orders to those of colour, not receiving them.

    The brutal fact is that, since the Premiership was established in 1992, there have only been two managers of colour: Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana. What chance a Marcel Desailly (captain of the French World Cup-winning-side and also the object of Ron Atkinson's racist outburst) or a Sol Campbell doing the same? Precious little, one would guess. Nor is this problem of authority confined simply to the clubs or the FA. Take the television studio. The commentators and pundits are overwhelmingly white. You watch black players on the pitch and then listen to white experts giving us the benefit of their views. It is a form of apartheid: black on the pitch, white in the studio. There is Andy Gray and Richard Keys on Sky, John Motson, Mark Lawrenson, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker on the BBC. ITV is little better. The TV studio is a white man's club. Just occasionally we are treated to a face of colour, a Chris Kamara or Garth Crooks or Ian Wright - or John Barnes on Channel Five. And the same goes for newspaper sports desks. It is difficult to find a black or brown face among the serried ranks of white men. Do not be deceived by appearances - football remains profoundly and inexcusably white, a reflection of the prejudices that define our society.
    ©The Guardian

    10/1/2005- The practice of shopping around different member states for visas or using false passports to enter the EU is to become much more difficult under plans adopted by the European Commission at the end of last month. The plans foresee a new system where member states share information about who has applied for a visa to enter the EU. Presenting the proposal on Friday (7 January), a commission official said it was to "make sure that problematic people do not enter our territory". At the moment, someone can apply for a visa at a French consulate and if rejected can go on and apply at another EU consulate. However, under the new plans, which are not due to be fully in place until at least 2007, anyone applying for a visa will have their fingerprints and a digitalised facial image taken. This information will then automatically be sent to all national visa databases as well as a central visa database - these systems can then check whether an applicant has applied before. Once the person has a visa, their fingerprints and facial image will be also be checked at the EU border to verify that the person and the details still match. Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said the two main goals of the system are to contribute "to the internal security of the member states and the fight against illegal immigration".

    Smart card?
    But although the European Commission is strongly pushing for this centralised visa system; not all member states are convinced. Some still support having a 'smart card' which would carry all the biometric information. This would stop long queues at all external borders - sea, land and air - as people get their biometric information checked. However, smart cards, which would have a chip, could cause "interference" with chips already contained on passports. Member state experts are to discuss the issue again next week.

    Civil liberties
    Sensitive to charges of breaching civil liberties, Commission officials say that it is not possible to have a system based on names only. People with common names would never be found in the system. "You probably have 1000s of John Smiths who have been issued a visa", said the Commission official adding that this would make it impossible for the system to find the right person. In 2001, there were 12 million visa requests - this is expected to rise to around 20 million by 2007. Citizens from 134 countries require visas to enter the European Union. Both member states and the European Parliament have to approve the plans before they can go ahead.

    12/1/2005- The EU is considering US-style green cards to regulate economic immigrants and combat Europe's ageing population, it announced on Tuesday (11 January). In a bid to promote a broad debate about "the most appropriate" common rules for admitting economic migrants in the EU, the European Commission has published a discussion paper. By the end of this year, the Commission is supposed to put forward a policy plan to deal with the issue. "We want to address the actors involved before we put forward our own proposal", EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told journalists. He pointed out that only by this "bottom-up" approach could Brussels encourage a positive attitude towards economic migrants, rather than strengthening their image as a threat to European citizens. "I believe that Europe needs to identify clear conditions and rules for legal economic migration in order to fight illegal immigration", said Mr Frattini.

    Who runs the immigration business?
    The issue is highly sensitive amongst the social partners - trades unions and business organisations - but even more so among member states. Some, like Germany, insist on their exclusive right to decide the number of their immigrants. "The paper does not open up unrestricted access for economic migrants whatsoever", Mr Frattini said adding that the idea is rather to set up some minimal procedural rules, which will be more transparent than procedures to date. However, the Commission argues that the EU also needs a common strategy if it wants to achieve its Lisbon aim of becoming the most dynamic economy in the world by 2010 and to solve the problems caused by an ageing population. "Immigration in itself is probably not the solution to demographic change", Social affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla noted. But, he warned that if the immigration levels remain the same, the EU will face a shortfall of 20 million workers, between 2010 and 2030.

    14/1/2005- The EU and its member states are scaling back human rights protection in both migration policy and anti-terrorism legislation, a leading human rights organisation has concluded. European governments and institutions are not rising to the challenges brought to post-communist countries by enlargement, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on 13 January. "The exclusive focus on combating illegal immigration in Europe reflects a disturbing and prevailing attitude that migrants have no rights. Consequently, regional and national policies and practices have focused on keeping migrants and asylum seekers out of Europe", says the report. According to the US-based organization, European actors also "missed the opportunity to distinguish European practice from the abusive actions of other countries by employing counter-terrorism strategies that also violate fundamental rights, including the prohibitions against torture and indefinite detention".

    Anti-terrorism measures
    The report criticizes the UK's anti-terrorism act which provided for the indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects. In Spain, suspects are held in isolation, unable to communicate with anyone. "European governments also contributed to the erosion of the ban on torture by relying on so-called "diplomatic assurances" to return terrorist suspects and foreigners labelled national security threats to countries where they were at risk of torture or ill-treatment", HRW suggested - mainly pointing to cases in Sweden, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and others.

    Immigration and refugees
    While the EU's recent refugee-related legislation receives praise, the current trends in immigration and asylum policies face strong criticism by the organisation. Its report noted with dissatisfaction that the idea of "off-shore processing asylum seekers" is still not dead – despite international protests. "It became apparent in 2004 that in the face of opposition to the earlier UK proposals, the EU had decided to take a more gradual approach aimed at the development of off-shore centers". The HRW also pointed to Italy's case of expelling several hundred persons to Libya without properly assessing their asylum claims, and to extreme restrictions in the asylum procedures in the Netherlands. The new EU member states, who joined in May 2004, are reported to have "woefully under-developed and under-resourced asylum systems and immigration procedures".

    8/1/2005- The arrest of former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen in one of the most horrific crimes of the civil rights era was for some a satisfying culmination of a long-delayed hunt for justice. But others here would rather forget the crime, along with the stain of violent racism it left on the town. Killen, 79, and his wife, Betty Jo, have lived in the same house for 40 years and are familiar figures in the small, rural Mississippi town that became infamous with the 1964 slayings dramatized in the 1988 movie ``Mississippi Burning.'' James Chaney, a 21-year-old black Mississippian, and two white New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, were ambushed by Klansmen, beaten and shot. Killen, who was arrested Thursday, is the first to face state murder charges in their deaths. Long a focus of suspicion, Killen made a livelihood from farming, operating a sawmill and preaching to a small congregation at Smyrna Baptist Church. He's old now - a tall, thin man with a balding head. He is being held in isolation at the Neshoba County Jail and pleaded innocent Friday to three counts of murder.

    County NAACP President Leroy Clemons said the arrest brings relief to a community haunted by the ghosts of the slain young men, and helps heal long open wounds. ``There's been a feeling of futility over the years about nothing being done,'' said Stanley Dearman, the retired editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat. ``The case is just as current now as it was the night the murders were committed, legally and morally.'' Wilford Barrett, whose barber shop sits across the street from the county courthouse, thinks the 41-year-old slaying of three civil rights workers should stay where it is: in the past. ``It's been so long ago,'' he said. ``I wouldn't mess with it.'' At Barrett's Barbershop, Kenneth Wells snorts when asked if he believes the preacher is a killer. ``He's a preacher. He wouldn't have done nothing like that. Everybody knows Edgar Ray Killen,'' said Wells, a 64-year-old lifelong resident of Philadelphia. According to FBI files and court transcripts, Killen not only participated in the crime, but did most, if not all, of the planning. It was Schwerner the Klansmen were after, said Howard Ball, the author of ``Murder in Mississippi: United States v. Price and the Struggle for Civil Rights'' and a professor of political science at the University of Vermont. The three were participating in Freedom Summer 1964 - an effort by hundreds of colleges students from the North to help educate and register blacks to vote in the South. Ball said Schwerner was targeted because he was a paid worker for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). ``The other two were killed simply because they were with Schwerner,'' Ball said.

    On the day of the crime, the workers were arrested and accused of speeding while driving to investigate the ruins of a black church that had been firebombed. Then they were released. Authorities said Killen organized the ambush while the men were being held by police. Carlton Wallace Miller, at the time a Meridian police officer, testified in the federal trial in 1967 that the local Klan chapter wanted to beat Schwerner but were told by Killen ``to leave him alone'' and that ``another unit was going to take care of him, that his elimination had been approved.'' Miller testified that Killen told the group that the approval to kill Schwerner came from then-Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers. Nineteen men, including Killen, were indicted in the case. Seven were convicted of federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights. None served more than six years. Killen's case ended in a hung jury. ``He never has apologized. He has continued to claim, against the mountain of evidence showing the reality, that he had nothing to do with this,'' Ball said.

    State Attorney General Jim Hood and District Attorney Mark Duncan said prosecutors will not discuss evidence in the case or what role authorities believe Killen had. The evidence includes the 1967 trial transcripts, 40,000 federal and state documents from the investigation and possibly new witnesses. ``If you create too much pretrial publicity, then you poison the potential jury pool,'' Hood said this week. Prosecutors hope to follow the trend of convictions in reopened civil rights cases - among them, Bowers, who was convicted in 1998 in the 1966 firebombing death of civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer. Prosecutors have also recently won convictions in the assassination of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers and the deadly bombing of a Birmingham church in 1963. Gloria Browne-Marshall, a Manhattan attorney specializing in civil rights cases, said she finds troubling the idea that bad memories should stop civil rights cases from being reopened. ``The fact that this is a crime that deals with a social issue, and a political issue as well, makes us lean toward wanting some closure,'' she said.
    ©The Guardian

    Border agency rules T-shirts express opinion, not hate.

    9/1/2005- The federal government has decided that a T-shirt bearing racial slurs directed at virtually every major ethnic group does not violate Canada's hate propaganda laws and can be legally imported. The T-shirt is printed with the message: "I (expletive) HATE: Spics, Dotheads, Honkeys, Japs, Wops, Kikes, Wetbacks, Gooks, Chinks, Camel Jockeys, and the French ... BUT I NIGGERS!" Canada Border Services Agency intercepted the shirt when it was shipped across the border to an unnamed Canadian customer. But the agency's prohibited imports unit decided that the printed slogan is not hate propaganda because it merely expresses an opinion and does not incite hatred. "The way it's written, although it may be offensive, it is considered a personal opinion," says agency spokesman Michel Proulx. If the phrase had ended, "And you should, too," it would have been considered a promotion of hate and blocked from import, he said. But Mr. Proulx added that he couldn't imagine anyone in Canada wearing the garment. "I don't think you'd walk a block in Toronto and come out alive," he said. The head of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation said she is disappointed by the agency's narrow interpretation of the law. "These terms are clearly derogatory terms and are hateful," said Dr. Karen Mock. While she concedes that applying the hate law can be complex, she says the message clearly exposes identifiable minority groups to contempt. "It's sad that they took such a legalistic view." The shirt is the product of a controversial Las Vegas-based Internet company called The company has been the subject of legal action over products targeting child stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and late actor Christopher Reeve. It received cease-and-desist orders against shirts with the phrase "I (expletive) the Olsen Twins before they were famous" and another that read "I bought Christopher Reeve's wheelchair on eBay." The company insists its products are meant to be humorous. "We're not a hate site. I always think that no reasonable person could think that these are meant to be taken seriously," says director of operations Gary Cohen. "We are looking for people to have a strong reaction to these things that nobody wants to talk about and make them think about what their own views are." He said the Canadian government's decision shows that it understood the intent of the message on the shirt. Other shirts in the company's inventory make light of rape, pedophilia, abortion, school shootings and Adolph Hitler. The company recently created shirt with the picture of a cresting waves and the slogan "I surfed the Tsunami 2004" written in Asian-styled characters. Mr. Cohen would not say who ordered the shirt that triggered the Canada Border Services Agency review. He said the company sends "a good amount" of shirts to Canadians.
    ©The Ottawa Citizen

    11/1/2005- The Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society and Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman welcomed news of the arrest and charging yesterday of Glenn Bahr, founder of the now-defunct hate group Western Canada For Us (WCFU). CAERS and Warman had previously held a press conference and presentation on 9 September 2004 in Winnipeg to announce that formal complaints had been lodged by Warman with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against WCFU and its former leaders Glenn Bahr and Peter Kouba. Created by Bahr and Kouba in January of 2004, WCFU was centred in Edmonton and Calgary but rapidly expanded to include representatives in Winnipeg, Red Deer, and Vancouver. During its brief but active heyday, the group operated a website ( that featured extensive hate material including offering downloadable electronic books such as The Turner Diaries, a work that advocates the genocide of Jews and blacks, and inspired Oklahoma-city bomber Timothy McVeigh. The group also held a number of demonstrations in Edmonton in support of imprisoned Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. In addition to the material contained on the WCFU website, the human rights complaint filed against Bahr also identified Internet postings where he refers to Aboriginals as "vermin" and states that he wants to get a swastika tattoo because "dead or alive Hitler is my fuhrer". Even more troubling are Bahr's assertions that gays and lesbians, as well as the mentally disabled should be killed. Bahr posted, "I believe no matter how or why you are a homosexual your life should be terminated… They should be terminated along with retards and any other degenerates that nature would do away with in the wild." Bahr, formerly of Red Deer and Edmonton, returned to his family home in Langley, BC after the Edmonton Police Hate Crimes Unit raided the Edmonton residence he was staying in on 7 May 2004. Police seized the computers involved in running the web site and Bahr's extensive collection of neo-Nazi paraphernalia. Although the group dissolved, many of its members including Bahr continued with their activities. As a result of the police investigation, it is understood that Bahr was arrested yesterday in Langley and transported back to Edmonton to face one charge under s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code that prohibits the willful promotion of hate. CAERS Executive-Director Alan Dutton said the collapse of the group "shows what can be accomplished when human rights groups and the community work together to send the message that hate groups aren't welcome in Canada." For his part Warman described the efforts of the Edmonton Police Hate Crimes Unit as "solid, professional policing from start to finish. They identified the problem, they did their homework, and when the time came they acted on it."
    The human rights complaint against Glenn Bahr and WCFU
    Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society

    Writing about Africa without mentioning the role of tribalism and witchcraft is like writing about British fox-hunting without mentioning class.
    By Michela Wrong

    13/1/2005- As I read the Kenyan newspapers in Nairobi the other day, two items grabbed my attention. The first was a story about the losing candidate in a recent coastal by-election. The candidate was challenging his rival's victory in court, accusing him - among other things - of staging a macabre ceremony in which three cows had had their eyelids sewn together before being drowned in the sea. The other story was about the contest for the chairmanship of the country's Kanu party. It pondered whether it was desirable for both the president and the leader of the opposition to come from Central Province - a coy way of asking whether both positions should be filled by people from Kenya's large Kikuyu tribe. Both items triggered a familiar thought: what a terrible disservice we foreign correspondents do those trying to understand Africa. Our reports may vary in subtlety and seriousness, but one thing remains pretty constant: the continent we describe bears very little relation to the continent as it is viewed by Africans themselves. Those two Kenyan stories, while full of meaning for African readers, will never reach a foreign audience. They contain the two tacit no-nos of western reporting on the continent, the two ingredients white reporters avoid whenever possible, for fear of being accused of racism. Unfortunately, they are two elements that hold the key to how Africans - even modern, urban, churchgoing Africans - see the world around them: witchcraft and tribalism. For Kenyans, the notion that a candidate should stage a ritual sacrifice to secure an electoral win seems no more bizarre than the notion that he should bribe constituents. The supernatural is part of the fabric of daily life, particularly in the rural areas. An MP once lost his seat because he was spotted taking part in an oathing ceremony; a minister is accused of using witchcraft to stop voters choosing his rival. Magic has played a quiet role in every African election I have covered, with the victory generally regarded as going to the man with the most potent witch doctors on his team. Similarly, political debate in Kenya, as in every other African country I have lived in, loses 95 per cent of its content if you remove the issue of which tribe, or coalition of tribes, gets a chance to "eat" at the state table. While western reporters know this, and most will talk over a beer about how the Luo have been boxed out of power in Kenya or how the Luba will never make the presidency in Congo, they barely breathe a word of it professionally.

    I nearly fell off my chair at a talk that I once attended in Edinburgh, where a Portuguese writer who had traversed Angola told the audience that tribe had never come up in his encounters with amputees and ex-soldiers. God knows what they talked about. In my experience, the two issues guaranteed to trigger a knowledgeable and lively debate with a total stranger in Africa are the merits of Manchester United and the tribal make-up of the current government. This wincing delicacy is rooted in the colonial past, when our forebears shaped their policies on crude tribal lines and sneered at Africans for their primitive beliefs. The generation of university-educated Africans that came to power at independence rightly castigated the western media for stereotyping. That correction has now gone too far in the opposite direction. It seems bizarre that a western culture which talks about feng shui and karma, embraces homoeopathy and hypnotism, revels in the cultural distinctions between Liverpudlian and Brummie and knows the difference between Serb and Croat should prove so squeamish about recognising such factors in Africa. The result of this western hypersensitivity is bland, strangely unilluminating coverage, the equivalent of a reporter setting out to explain the furore over fox-hunting in Britain to his readers without allowing himself to whisper the word "class"; or writing about Afghanistan under the Taliban without once referring to Islam. Edit out the supernatural and you are limited to describing the dull, flat surface of human behaviour, while leaving its motives and driving passions unexplored. Remove the tribal content, and events come stripped of their context and meaning. I remember hearing, when there was a bloody settling of scores in Nairobi's biggest slum three years ago, a despatch by a BBC reporter so determined not to mention the hatred between Luo tenants and Nubian landlords at its root that he was reduced to explaining the violence in the childishly simple - and misleading - terms of "rich elites" versus "poor masses" Given this self-censorship, which amounts to a form of inverted racism, no wonder most western readers can't understand the continent and soon decide they couldn't care less. With the very best of intentions, the professionals entrusted with communication have removed the pointers to understanding.
    ©the New Statesman

    3/1/2005- Xenophobia has expanded alarmingly across Spain in the last eight years, according to a study. The report shows the number of people expressing adverse feelings toward immigrants grew eight percent between 1996 and 2004. Based on a series of interviews by a team led by María Ángeles Cea, a sociologist at Madrid's Complutense University, the study found that 32 percent of the Spanish population have an unfavourable view of immigrants and that this percentage has grown in line with the increase in Spain's immigrant population over recent years. The study points to xenophobia being most widespread among less-educated and older members of the population, as well as people who describe themselves as conservatives and practicing Catholics. In addition to the traditional arguments - such as fears of unemployment and lower salaries because of foreign workers - a large number of people in the study also attributed crime and social problems to the immigrant community. Xenophobic feelings were most intense in areas of dense and fast-growing immigration populations.
    ©Expatica News

    Sixteen years after they began arriving, there are still 240,000 registered refugees in Armenia. Why are they not accepting Armenian passports?
    By Ruzan Hakobyan, political scientist and freelance journalist based in Yerevan who specializes in political and cultural issues.

    3/1/2005- It could be viewed as a success. According to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, 21 percent of refugees in Armenia have gained Armenian citizenship since 1995. That, says the UNHCR, is one of the highest rates of voluntary naturalization anywhere in the world in recent decades. The total number of naturalizations–65,000–also indicates how huge a refugee problem Armenia faced just as the Soviet Union was collapsing and, with it, the Armenian economy. From 1988 to 1994, 360,000 ethnic Armenians flooded into Armenia first to avoid pogroms in Baku, Azerbaijan, and then, in a process mirrored in Azerbaijan, to flee fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region assigned to Azerbaijan by the Soviet authorities. Another 60,000 moved from regions bordering Azerbaijan that were heavily shelled during the war. The strain on a country of 3 million people was huge. The country was still trying to come to terms with an earthquake in 1988 that killed 25,000 people and displaced 60,000. That time became known as the "dark years": the earthquake devastated the country's energy system and that, plus the strain of the Soviet Union's collapse and a blockade in Azerbaijan, left the country chronically short of electricity and other basics. But how much of a success is it that 240,000 refugees remain and have not been naturalized? The Armenian authorities have little reason not to give the refugees passports. The refugees were ethnic kin, those from Nagorno-Karabakh came as the result of a war that partly reflected a desire for closer ties with Armenia, and most of the refugees, who came predominantly from cities in Karabakh and Azerbaijan, had skills to offer. And, while absorbing such a huge number might be a massive challenge, the pressure has been eased by the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Armenians over the past decade.

    The refugees themselves have compelling reasons to get Armenian passports. Since 2000, they have not been able to use their old Soviet passports to travel outside Armenia. Moreover, citizenship could open the way to better housing. Over the past 16 years, the hostels and community centers in which most refugees were placed have fallen into serious, sometimes disastrous disrepair. Almost a third of the refugees still remain in community centers and other refugee accommodations. The Armenian government and international organizations have been building new housing. The UNHCR, for example, has built 3,200 homes for refugees throughout Armenia, while the Norwegian Refugee Council is building 100 to 250 houses a year. But they would have more freedom if they were to become naturalized Armenians. They could then take over ownership of their temporary accommodation from the state for free (provided they have lived there for three or more years). Silva Ohanyan and her family are among those who have acquired citizenship. Ever since a pogrom of Armenians in the Azeri city of Sumgait in 1988, the family has relied heavily on humanitarian aid and subsidies, but they have managed to buy a small two-room apartment. For them, Armenia is now home. A fast-growing number of refugees feel the same. Since the law allowing refugees to buy their homes was passed in 2000, the number of naturalizations has soared. In 1999, fewer than 8,000 refugees had Armenian passports. In 2000, that figure doubled. It is now eight times higher than it was in 1999. Why, then, have other refugees refused to apply for citizenship? Does the 21 percent naturalization rate mean that 79 percent do not see their future in Armenia?

    Stranded in limbo
    For some, particularly the old, it makes no difference whether they have an Armenian passport or not. They lack the money either to travel or to buy their own flats. In a refugee hostel in Yerevan dormitories, Asya and Robert Mkhitarov, from Baku, live off a combined monthly pension of about $30. After paying electricity, water, and telephone bills, they are left with only $15 to last the month. They, too, rely on handouts. "I was brought up to be proud of my Armenian heritage," Asya says. "And even if I had only a roof over my head, I would never think of leaving Armenia. This is my country." She now has a passport to prove it. Anna Grigorova, 70, also has a passport. She arrived in Armenia after pogroms in Baku. Today, together with 25 other families, she lives in a former boardinghouse. A retired economist and widow, she receives an $8 monthly pension from the Armenian government, forcing her to rely on handouts from the state and small sums that her niece sends from Russia. There is no water in the hostel. She has to fetch it from neighboring buildings. Her room is dark and filthy, with bare walls and just a few household items. "I had such a beautiful house, quality furniture. Now look at me. Everything is gone," she said with a sad smile. For other elderly refugees from Azerbaijan living, like Grigorova, on or below the breadline, the extremely remote hope of compensation from Azerbaijan is more important than an Armenian passport and taking over ownership (and maintenance and problems) of run-down rooms in boarding lodges. If they became Armenian citizens, they would have to give up all claims to compensation. For young men, as well, an Armenian passport would bring with it the prospect of conscription. Others fear losing the humanitarian assistance that refugees are entitled to, which is significantly more generous than the welfare benefits that naturalized Armenians can claim.

    Naturalization makes most sense for those of working age. But while some refugees have settled very well in Armenia, many others still find it difficult to feel at home in Armenia and to build a new life. When refugees began to enter Armenia, the local population was sympathetic and did its best to ease their situation. As their own economic plight worsened and the locals found themselves in the same conditions as refugees, their ability to help considerably decreased. Nonetheless, there remains a strong sense of solidarity with the refugees. About 100 groups work to help the refugees to settle, find work, create a cultural life, and deal with welfare issues. Even so, the refugees remain outsiders, in part because of language. In Karabakh, Armenians used a distinct dialect of Armenian. In Azerbaijan, Armenians mainly used Russian, even at home. Asya Mkhitarova, a Russian teacher, has taught herself excellent Armenian. But for others, language or dialect remains a major barrier. "When some locals realize that I am not a local Armenian, their attitude toward me immediately changes, I can feel that," says Aram Asaturov with a hint of bitterness. "I am an Armenian of Karabakhi origin," the 65-year-old continues. "I am an Armenian even if I was born in Azerbaijan and do not speak very good Armenian." The Armenian government has never produced a clear and coordinated policy to deal with the language problems of refugees. So language courses for refugees "never became commonly available and were not applied consistently," says political scientist Alina Topchyan. Where local government has tried to arrange courses, the drop-out rate has been high: frequently, there are too few teachers, the range of knowledge in one classroom is too wide, and the lessons themselves too unrelated to daily difficulties. "When I pronounce Armenian words with an accent I feel embarrassed. So very often, I prefer to speak Russian rather than Armenian," said Yulia Khachatryan, who now lives in Echmiatsin. Partly for that reason, most refugees live in separate communities isolated from the wider population. Nostalgia for the better life they had back in Baku and other cities is a factor for many, leaving them reluctant to adapt to Armenian culture, speak Armenian, and, most importantly, admit that Armenia is now their home. But without the language, they have found it tough to find work. Some organizations, like Mission Armenia--which has provided about 10,000 refugees with health assistance, social services, legal counseling, and psychological support--has arranged business, computer, marketing, and language courses to make refugees competitive on the labor market. But in a country where the official unemployment rate is 20 percent and the unofficial rate, according to the UN Development Program, could be three times as high, they must be very competitive. The refugees' problems of adaptation are not just because they have been transplanted to another country and a different language environment. Most refugees from Azerbaijan came from urban areas. In Armenia, most of them were forced to settle in rural areas and take up farming, a task for which they lack the skills and knowledge.

    The road to Stepanakert
    For all refugees, wherever they came from, there is a way out of such limbo—and it leads to Nagorno-Karabakh. The government of Nagorno-Karabakh has offered them large sums of money to return or settle: $300 per person and $600 to buy cattle and get ready for the farming season, as well as 3,500 square meters of land, electricity subsidies, free water, and exemption from military service for two years. But relatively few have taken the offer. According to the Karabakh Department for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, about 25,000 refugees have settled in Karabakh. The Armenian government's Department for Migration and Refugees (DMR), which is working closely with the self-declared independent Karabakh republic, says $350 million more in subsidies could enable it to resettle another 50,000 families in as little as three years. The Karabakh government sets aside some $600,000 a year to build houses for settlers in Karabakh. But cash and incentives may not be enough. Though the Karabakhi economy is reviving, it remains weaker than Armenia's. Making a decent living is tough in Armenia and tougher still in Karabakh. Some villages have no water or electricity, and the schools are some distance away. And though the soil is arable and rich, many farmers cannot afford the equipment to cultivate it. And for those who are not farmers, there is relatively little work. That makes a move to Karabakh unappealing, particularly to the urbanite Armenians from Azerbaijan, a larger group than the number of Karabakh refugees. Tim Straight of the Norwegian Refugee Council reports some refugees are unhappy with the houses built for them in Armenia. "That happens mostly with Bakuians. They are nostalgic about the conditions they lived in, and naturally a cottage in the Armenian countryside loses in comparison with an apartment in a capital city." A cottage in the countryside of Nagorno-Karabakh has even less appeal. Moreover, as DMR refugee department director Ara Haroutunyan points out, they are already having a hard time adapting to Armenia. A second resettlement could further aggravate their psychological dislocation. And there is another major psychological obstacle: the lack of a peace settlement creates an uncertainty that may be too great for refugees to accept.

    The road to Moscow
    In any case, there is another road that the refugees can take. Like many native Armenians, they prefer to take roads that lead abroad, mainly to Russia, a country where they speak the language and, in many cases, have relatives. According to DMR data, many of the 240,000 refugees registered in Armenia may not actually be living in Armenia. Most will have moved to Russia before 2000, when Soviet-era passports became invalid. That should be no surprise. The Armenians have always had a sizable diaspora. An estimated 60 percent of the total 8 million Armenians worldwide live outside the country, with 1 million each in the United States and Russia. The exodus from Armenia has been particularly heavy since the country gained its independence in 1991. So the naturalization rate--low in absolute terms, albeit high in relative terms--is distorted by a huge movement of refugees to Russia. Larisa Alaverdyan, the state ombudsman for refugee affairs, put it simply: "Unless favorable conditions are set for working, the compensation issues are resolved, [and] reconstruction and development projects are funded, one can say with certainty that passports will be acquired only by those who are going to leave the country for making their living elsewhere." But that is not entirely the case. Aram Asaturov, the 65-year-old Karabakhi, says he has decided to apply for citizenship and would have done so earlier if it weren't so difficult to live in Armenia. Now that he owns a room in a dormitory and is certain of a roof over his head, he feels more confident. The others, too reluctant or too lacking in confidence to become citizens, will remain stuck in Armenia, waiting to see what happens next and hoping for the best. The question, "Where do your see yourself in 10 years?" generates a telling response from most refugees--vague answers or simply deeply puzzled looks.
    ©Transitions Online

    The marginalisation of second and third generation children of immigrant, mostly Muslim, North African families is one of France's most pressing social problems. Within this community caught between two worlds, a movement of young women is leading a revolt against a sub-culture of violence and submission. Hugh Schofield reports.

    4/1/2005- A year after it launched a campaign to denounce violence against women in France's high-immigration, high-rise city suburbs, called banlieues, the group ‘Ni Putes Ni Soumises' has become a nationwide force - but still finds itself held at arm's length by the mainstream feminist movement. The organisation - whose name means "Neither Whores Nor Slaves" - was born out of the appalling tragedy that befell a 19-year-old girl, Sohane Benziane, who was set on fire and killed by a boy she knew in a run-down apartment estate in the Paris outskirts in October 2002. Led by 38 year-old activist Fadéla Amara, "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" conducted a much-publicised series of demonstrations around France in early 2003, culminating this year in a Women's Day march through Paris after which a petition signed by 15,000 people was handed to President Jacques Chirac. The movement directs its anger at the violence and stigmatisation suffered by young women of North African origin who it says are increasingly the victims of a culture of abuse justified in the name of Islamic tradition in the neglected French banlieues. "When I was growing up it was perfectly normal for girls to wear short skirts, or tight jeans, or low tops. No man would have dared make a remark." "Today - and for the last ten years - femininity is seen by boys as a provocation, as something to be condemned," Amara said in a recent book.

    The group's message is a frightening one: that social breakdown in the country's high-immigration neighbourhoods has led to a generation of young Arab men crippled by self-loathing and alienation, who take out their frustrations in aggression against their increasingly assertive female counterparts. The most symbolic illustration of the phenomenon is the practice of "tournantes" - the gang-rape of young women handed over by their boyfriends for group enjoyment - though of more general significance is the day-to-day abuse and humiliation encountered among the tenements, the group says. What has exacerbated tensions has been the debate over the Islamic headscarf in schools, which will be banned from September under a highly-contentious law that has just passed through the French parliament. "Ni Putes Ni Soumises", which sees resurgent Islamic traditionalism as the major threat to young women, has come out unequivocally in favour of the law and believes the focus of feminist pressure should be "the defence of secularism, the Republic and the fight against fundamentalism." But mainstream feminists grouped in the left-wing National Collective for the Rights of Women disagree. While naturally supporting "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" in its general aims, the Collective argues that the priority should be to attack the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, which they say has presided over a policy of "social regression" - notably in women's employment rights. From the start "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" put France's feminist movement in a quandary, because it explicitly accused mainstream activists of abandoning the "banlieues" in their pursuit of elusive political goals. It also made clear it made no distinction between left and right in apportioning blame for the crisis.
    ©Expatica News

    4/1/2005- A French secondary school student has been expelled after making anti-Semitic remarks on a trip to the extermination camp at Auschwitz, school authorities said Tuesday. The unnamed boy, who attended a lycee in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, said "They did well to burn them" a propos of the Nazi holocaust, the school head Michele Amiel said. Five other pupils received lesser punishments for "inappropriate behaviour." "By laughing, making anti-Semitic remarks, taking photographs of each other making obscene gestures, mocking a site which is heavy with the history of anti-Jewish inhumanity, the pupils have profaned this symbolic place of memory," said the National Office for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism.
    ©Expatica News

    By Rafal Pankowski for I CARE from Chisinau, Moldova

    5/1/2005- An extremely racist article published in April 2004 had caused a wide discussion in the Moldovan media and was even officially condemned by the Council of Europe. It resulted in considerable embarrassment for the then government of neighboring Romania and the Moldovan Writers' Union that co-sponsored the publication "Literatura si Arta". The author of the controversial editorial subsequently lost his membership in the Social Liberal Party. Yet in December 2005 Dabija was reinstalled as deputy leader of the supposedly mainstream SLP.

    The article in the journal Literatura si Arta ("Literature and Art") claimed that the children of ethnically mixed couples "are in the best case mediocre individuals and as a rule they are disabled, criminals and losers" with a natural tendency towards "psychiatric disorders, crime and prostitution". Dabija went on to attack several respected public figures accusing them of ethnically impure family backgrounds. He later defended his position in interviews and internet chats. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers described the article as "an example of xenophobia, racism and hatred against those who speak another language". The representative of the then Romanian government to the Council of Europe admitted that Bucharest had financed "Literatura si Arta", but not with the goal of promoting racist ideas. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers recommended that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance take an attitude towards this act of xenophobia and hatred against other ethnic groups, a matter which is "inadmissible in a modern and democratic Europe". The goal of this decision was "to draw the attention of Moldovan society and the international community to the inadmissibility of such actions". The Moldovan representative to Strasbourg Alexei Tulbure expressed his regret at the inappropriate use of Romanian money in Moldova.

    Dabija's journal already for several years had been known as a platform for anti-minority views, including anti-Semitism and historical revisionism, in the Moldovan media. Despite the condemnation of Dabija's racist views across the Moldovan political spectrum, the Social Liberal Party reinstalled him as its "deputy chairman for political issues" at the recent party congress held on 28 December 2004. "This improbable decision is significant as a sign of the campaign before the parliamentary elections [in March 2005] in which the ethnic question is often used by the right-wing in Moldova" – said Natalia Sineaeva, a representative of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Moldova (HCA).
    ©I CARE News

    Germany is deeply divided on Turkey joining the European Union, with the question already turning into an issue for the next election set down for 2006. Leon Mangasarian reports.

    31/12/2004- Germany is badly split on whether Turkey should join the European Union and the issue appears set to fuel controversy in the run-up to country's 2006 general election. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder backs Turkish EU membership and has evolved into one of Ankara's biggest supporters in the 25-nation bloc. "A democratic Turkey committed to European values would be clear proof that there is no contradiction between Islamic faith and an enlightened, modern society," said Schroeder last month. The Social Democratic (SPD) chancellor underlines that making Turkey an EU member will bolster European security and aid the war on terrorism. Schroeder also points to economic advantages of a more prosperous Turkey, with its population of almost 70 million being a huge market for German exports. What Schroeder avoids saying - but remains a clear part of his calculation - is the growing clout of naturalised Turks as German voters.

    There are about 2.5 million ethnic Turks living in Germany which has a total population of 82 million. Of these up to 700,000 have so far become German nationals, many of them under a liberalised citizenship law passed by the Schroeder government. With government support for Turkish EU membership and easier citizenship rights, Schroeder is clearly bidding to make his SPD the party of choice for Turkish-Germans. The contrast between the chancellor and leaders of the opposition Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) on Turkish EU membership could not be greater. Angela Merkel, the CDU leader who will likely challenge Schroeder in 2006, is already turning up the heat over Turkey's EU bid, which she flatly rejects. Merkel demands that Ankara be limited to a status below full membership which she dubs "a privileged partnership". At a CDU party congress this month, Merkel linked her rejection of Turkey in the EU to what she termed the failure of efforts to build a multi-cultural society with Turks already living in Germany. Chancellor Schroeder, she alleged, ignores this problem and is "living a lie" with his support for Turkish EU membership. Turkey may be geopolitically important, but the problem is that it can never be integrated into the EU, she says. Merkel does not say this is because Turkey is mainly Muslim but the implication is clear. Edmund Stoiber, the arch-conservative Bavarian premier who heads the CSU Bavarian wing of the CDU, is even more outspoken. "An out-of-Europe nation like Turkey with its other history and other cultural traditions will not fit into Europe," said Stoiber. Underscoring the CDU's 'Christian' prefix, Merkel insists that Germany is based on Judeo-Christian values and that these values must apply to everybody living in the country. She calls for an end to tolerance for Islamists "preaching hate tirades" and says laws should be loosened to allow their expulsion.

    Such views appear to be gaining strength in Germany, especially since the brutal killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by an Islamist extremist. An ongoing survey of German views toward Muslims and 'foreigners' - who in Germany are generally taken to be Turks comprising the country's biggest, most visible minority - shows a growing intolerance. Almost 60 percent say there are too many foreigners in Germany, according to a poll of 3,000 people by the University of Bielefeld's Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence. In 2002 the number of Germans saying there were too many foreigners was 55 percent, according to the poll. Some 70 percent of those surveyed say Islamic culture "does not fit into the west" - up from 66 percent in 2003 - and one out of every three agrees with the statement: "Due to the many Muslims living here I sometimes feel like a foreigner in my own country." Expressing alarm over the study, German parliamentary president Wolfgang Thierse warned the country's democratic system now had to prove its strength. The academic in charge of the survey was blunter: "A hatred of mankind is becoming normal," warned Wilhelm Heitmeyer, as quoted by Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper.
    ©Expatica News

    4/1/2005- Channel 4 is looking to challenge conventional ways of looking at Islam with the broadcast of a factual documentary and film later this week. Both provide contrasting views to the challenges faced by Muslims in modern Britain. In Are Muslims Hated?, writer and anti-racist campaigner Kenan Malik sets out to challenge the perception that Islamophobia is rife in Britain. He examines the evidence and takes on Muslim writers and community leaders who claim the Muslim community lives in fear of physical attack and police harassment. "Everyone from anti-racist activists to government ministers wants to convince us that Britain is in the grip of Islamophobia." But is this the reality or is hatred and abuse of Muslims being exaggerated to suit politicians' ends and to silence critics of Islam, he asks. Malik, who grew up in the 80s - an era of real racist violence - shows how today there is very little statistical evidence to support the claims that Muslims are subject to either more physical assaults or to being targeted by the police. Home Office statistics also show that the number of serious physical assaults on Muslims is relatively small. Even the Islamic Human Rights Commission admits that most of the 344 attacks in the year following 9/11 were in fact relatively minor incidents like pushing people over or spitting at them. Mailk also challenges the perception that Muslims are being disproportionately targeted by the police under the stop and search laws. Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Great Britain speaks of "the very real concern" in the Muslim community, especially in the light of ant-terrorism laws. In the programme Mr Sacranie states that between 95-98% of people stopped and searched by the police under the anti-terror laws are Muslim. But this perception is at odds with the facts. Home Office figures show that Asians comprise just 15% of those stopped and searched under the anti-terror laws. You are still five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are Asian. Kenan Malik's documentary contrasts with the film Yasmin which recently premiered at the London Film Festival. Set in a Northern mill town, against a backdrop of poverty, high unemployment and racism, the film deals with universal themes such as guilt, transgression and the search for identity. Having rebelled against her Pakistani culture as a teenager, Yasmin agrees to marry a cousin 'from home' to please her widowed father. The omens are not good when the goat herder from a Pakistani village meets the sparky, Westernised Yasmin. But her confidence begins to evaporate after 9/11, when Yasmin becomes increasingly ostracised at work. After a total crisis of identity, the internment of Yasmin's husband triggers a new determination and a sense of purpose. Yasmin fights vigorously for his release from a holding centre - and through her campaign is forced to re-evaluate her faith, her culture, and her relationships. The drama examines what it means to be Asian, Muslim and British in the 21st century, told from the viewpoint of a strong and Westernised woman working in Britain while living in her own traditional culture.
    ©Asians in Media Magazine

    4/1/2005- The British Army secretly restricted the number of recruits from ethnic minorities for 20 years, newly released official documents show. From 1957 Army medical officers were instructed to note all new recruits with "Asiatic or Negroid features". The data were used to limit the number of "non-white" troops in the Army. The secret system was uncovered after about 50,000 government files were made public on the first working day of the Freedom of Information Act. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says the report "does not reflect the current situation" within the armed forces. Many of the government papers had been kept hidden from the public for decades under the 30-year rule. But under the Act, implemented on 1 January, the public gains the right to see documents held by more than 100,000 bodies. The army's recruiting system was even kept secret from government ministers and official race monitors, the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show. It appears from the documents, released to the National Archives, that the information was used to limit the number of ethnic minority troops, designated "D factor" personnel. Medical officers were given considerable latitude in deciding who was classified as "D factor" or non-white. It could even include people of Mediterranean appearance or a "swarthy Frenchman", according to the documents. The system was outlined in a confidential briefing paper, written for the Adjutant General of the Army in 1972. "Officially, we state that we do not keep statistics of coloured soldiers," it says.

    "In fact, we do have a record, resulting from the description put on the attestation paper by the medical officer, of the features of the recruit. "At Manning and Record offices, a broad division is drawn between north European and all others, and punch cards for the latter are punched in such a way they can be identified if required." It added: "The determination of the characteristics is at the discretion of various medical officers, and could include Chinamen, Maltese or even swarthy Frenchmen." The system was supposed to help the Army ensure its quota restrictions on non-Europeans was adhered to. In February 1974, Denis Brennan in the Adjutant General's office said the way the Army recorded colour was "complex". He said: "We do not feel it would be appropriate to mention it to ministers." The Army chose to lie when asked for a breakdown of serving coloured officers by the Institute of Race Relations in 1972. The Army had agonised over what to do for nine months. The Institute was told by the Army it did not keep such data. In fact, the Army's "D factor" data showed how few non-white personnel there were.

    There was only one non-white soldier in the Royal Military Police and one in the Intelligence Corps. Defence Secretary Denis Healey had referred to "the unsatisfactory situation with regard to strengths of coloured men in certain Army regiments" in 1968. By the mid 1970s, officials noted "the matter seems to have died".

    When challenged, the Army would always highlight the numbers of non-white soldiers in its sports teams. There were reports of fighting between black and white soldiers in the Queen's Division in 1975. However, government ministers were assured: "There are members of the coloured community in every branch of the services." An MoD spokesman said the Army now took ethnic minority recruitment very seriously. "We strive to employ the best recruits irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds," he said. The Army fully complied with equal opportunities legislation and had an "excellent relationship" with the Commission for Racial Equality, the spokesman added.
    ©BBC News

    4/1/2005- Dozens of Tamils lined up outside the east Toronto office of Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis yesterday, hoping to expedite immigration applications for loved ones affected by last week's tsunamis. But most of them left disappointed, after they learned that the speeded-up immigration process announced last week by the federal government does not apply to many of their relatives. More than half of the 40 people who lined up outside the Scarborough constituency office yesterday morning, on a day when it was supposed to be closed, were told that members of their extended family would not be given special consideration, said Anton Kanagusentheri, a special assistant to Mr. Karygiannis. "There's a misleading story going around right now," Mr. Kanagusentheri said. "The government of Canada did not announce any new categories [for sponsoring family members]. "What they have announced is that is that under the existing categories if you want to sponsor somebody or if you have already sponsored somebody, then it will be expedited on a case-by-case basis." The existing categories allow those with status in Canada to sponsor the immigration application of a spouse or child. Unmarried siblings under 22 years old and nephews, nieces and cousins who are under 18 and have been orphaned will also be considered on a case-by-case basis. "That's the biggest confusion," Mr. Kanagusentheri said. "People immediately think, I can sponsor my uncle's family. Somebody died in the family, I should be able to get [the rest of the family]. That's not the case. "One man, his uncle and aunt died and they had three children who he wanted to sponsor. Well, they're over age, they're over 18. Or, a family whose uncle died, they want to get their aunt and two cousins."

    Yesterday was supposed to be a day off for Mr. Kanagusentheri. Instead, by day's end he had been inundated with more than 200 phone calls and nearly 100 in-person visits from Tamils trying to sponsor family members under the new immigration regulations. They came to Mr. Karygiannis's office because he has been an outspoken advocate of the plan. Mr. Kanagusentheri said he expects this morning will be even busier, with crowds of several hundred people expected at the Scarborough constituency office. "It's going to go through the roof," he said. In most cases, speeding up the process will not bring instant results. The current timeline for getting a parent out of Sri Lanka is four years. If that process were expedited, Mr. Kanagusentheri said, it could be done in 18 to 24 months. Mr. Kanagusentheri said several people asked how they can prove that their families were affected by the tsunamis. He doesn't know the answer. "There are people, we're sure, who are going to abuse the system to get in here," he said. Many Tamils in Toronto are still anxiously awaiting news of their relatives. Athavan Guna-Nathan, a volunteer with the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, said people are relying on word of mouth. "Phone lines to the [Tamil-controlled] north and east aren't available. People call Colombo and from there they try to send messages through people travelling to the north. That's the only method of communication right now," he said, adding that the process takes several days. "We found out about my wife's [relatives], two of them passed away, and that was four days after this thing happened." Pria Paramosothy, a 19-year-old student from Markham, Ont., said her family is still waiting to hear from more than a dozen relatives missing in Sri Lanka. The body of her 13-year-old cousin was found last week, and nine other relatives were washed away. "At least one of the family is planning to go [to Sri Lanka] soon if we don't hear anything," she said.
    ©Globe and Mail

    By Austin Kaluba

    4/1/2005- Long before many white folks' have contact with black people they usually have stereotypes and myths about the so called dark race. The recent racial slurs in the sports world carried in the international Press attests to the fact that much needs to be done to clear the misconceptions many whites folks have about blacks. Camerounian-born soccer star Samuel Eto Fils who plays for Barcelona has fallen victim of racial slurs from some fans who taunted him making monkey sounds whenever he got possession of the ball. During the same period, a Spanish coach shocked the world by calling soccer legend Thiery Henry "a piece of black s**t." The action caused an uproar in the soccer fraternity prompting the man to apologise. The trend goes on in many other disciplines of sports including incidences that happen in everyday social life. It is therefore important to delve deeper into analysing the genesis of the causes of this intolerance against the negro race and how the problem can be solved. To understand what has shaped the opinion of most whites when dealing with blacks today, one realises that the major problem has to do with what has been written about blacks in books, journals, newspapers and other forms of media.

    Racism against blacks in short has largely to do with myths and stereotypes created by literary works many years ago by historians-And in present time perpetrated by journalists. Early historians writing about blacks concentrated on highlighting the physical features and skin colour of their cousins perpetuating negative stereotypes that have in a greatr way contributed to the present sandpapery black-white relations. Even with hoardes of old literature books being out of print, these stereotypes have remained and have been entrenched in the minds of many Europeans and are sometimes accepted as being true even by blacks themselves. Black inferiority complexes can be traced to the Christianity era when outstanding scholars and writers described Africans as 'strange and primitive.' As early as the sixth century B.C, the stereotype against Africans as having 'tightly curled' or 'wooly hair; broad flattened noses; thick lips, often puffy and averted were established. Later, writers like Snowden perpetuated the myth of Africans being dirty by such racistic expressions like "To wash an Ethiopian white." implying blackness represented dirt which one could not wash white (clean). Even the father of history, Herodotus contributed to stereotypes of blacks by frequently referring to Africans as "barbarians." He went further to describe Libyans by stating that "their speech resembles the shrieking of a bat rather than the language of men."

    The third-centuary geographer Solinus wrote a book entitled Collection of Wonderful Things which was very popular in the Middle ages. In the book, Solinus described a people who were monstrous and lived with wild beasts. Though he never mentioned these 'monstrous' people, many Europeans knew he was talking about Africans. Though the Bible does not apply any racial label to Noah's curse, several writers concluded that Ham was a black man who was cursed to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water. A collection of Jewish oral traditions in the Babylonian Talmud from the second to the sixth century A.D holds that the descendants fo Ham were cursed by being black. Like Solinus' writings, description of blacks as being monstrous, the myth of Ham being black was widely believed during the Middle age. The writing were explicit:
    "It must be Canaan, your first born, whom they enslave....Canaan's children shall be born ugly and black !......Your grandchildren's hair shall be twisted into kinks.....(their lips) shall swell." Men of this race are called Negroes; their forefather Canaan commanded them to love theft and fornication, to be banded together in hatred of their masters and never to tell the truth.
    The translation of a Hebrew manuscript of Benjamin Ben, a 12th-century merchant and traveller from Spanish Navarre backed the Ham's curse myth in his writing. He stated that:
    There is a people... who, like animals, eat of the herbs that grow on the banks of the Nile, and in the fields. They go about naked and have not the intelligence of ordinary men. They cohabit with their sisters and anyone they find....These sons of Ham are black slaves.
    The image of Africans being inferior and savage was later entrenched by Christian missionaries who stated that an African was better off a slave in a Christian society than free in " African savagery."

    In 1725 James Houston wrote a widely-read book Some New and Accurate Observations of the Coast of Guinea in which he described Africans thus:
    "They (Africans) exactly resemble their Fellow Creatures and Natives, the Monkeys."
    Houston's contemporary writer Thomas Phillips' slave journal highlighted a myth that has stood the test of time and is perpetuated in the movie industry' depiction of blacks. Phillips stated that Africans were " generally extremely sensual,... so intemperate, that they drank brandy as if it were water; deceitful in their dealings with Europeans. Looking at Phillip's description of blacks, is it surprising that Hollywood continues depicting blacks with an insatiable appetite for sex and violence in films like Mandingo and Black Manuelle. Another prominent slaver and writer John Barbot who wrote A Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea in 1732 stated that the slave's conditions in his own country were harsher that it was kindness to ship him to the West Indies. Even in fiction, writers were busy perpetuating myths and stereotypes that were later to be the basis of racism against blacks.The impact of those myths have been hard to erase. Respected writers like William Shakespeare in plays like Othello seem to have been influenced by earlier writers in considering a black man as an inferior being. In Othello, Brabantio expresses disgust that his daughter might incur disrespect by seeking the " sooty bosom of such a thing as thou," referring to Othello, a black man. In another play Titus Andronicus by the same writer, the black slave in the play is referred to as "a thick-lipped barbarous Moor," who Tamora is condemned for loving. One of Zambia's prominent academicians Professor Mubanga Kashoki has righty stated that the classification of Africans political units as " tribes" was racistic. Speaking at a Media in Ethnicity workshop at Mindolo Ecumenical Centre in Kitwe, Professor Kashoki said the word 'tribe' from the Latin word tribus has negative connotations like savage, simple, primitive and backward.

    How do we expect racism to end when whites refer to themselves as nationals while classifying Africans as tribes. The word 'tribe' like other derogatory terms ' negro', 'hamitic' and 'native' should be dropped for more appropriate terms. The concept of blacks being inferior and primitive reached its peak at the dawn of the 20th century when writers like Rudyard Kipling wrote The White Man's Burden justifying white domination of blacks. The historians set the foundation of myths and stereotypes which the biased Western media is helping to build by putting more bricks to the structure. A number of journalists in the Western media have chosen to write only negative things about black Africa. Good news to them includes stories on wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, corruption, coups, famine and other unpalatable stories to imply to the world that Africans cannot govern themselves. The Ethiopian famine of the early 80s is a classic example of the extent the Western media would go to in romanticising tragedy in Africa. It was not surprising that the wide coverage of the famine even touched the hearts junkies like Bob Geldof to react by organising the We Are The World concert. The negative stories on Africa and the black world have only helped in worsening Westerner's understanding of Africans and the continent of Africa usually leading to racism. Some well-meaning whites even ask visiting Africans to Europe why Africa is always fraught with conflicts. When one answers that there is a positive side to the continent, many find it hard to believe. To many, the whole continent is always at war, struck by famine, impoverished with almost all its citizens infected with the virus that causes AIDS. One annoying factor that is visible in stories on Africa by the know-it-all Western journalists is the generalisation of problems that affect the continent. Many Western politicians and journalists fail to understand Africa's enormous size and diversity which means that the continent's problems have multiple causes.

    To talk of Africa like many Westerners do as if it was one country with one culture, religion and same problems is the manifestation of the highest levels of ignorance. The British Broadcasing Corporation BBC's coverage of Africa leaves much to be desired. Their programme Focus of Africa would be more appropriate if they changed the name to Fouls or Flaws on Africa because of its scandal-phillic nature. The early historians depiction of black world and the Western media's negative coverage have only succeded in achieving one thing: Painting blacks as inferior and backward beings which is the major recipe for racism. It is not surprising that the UK-based New African magazine has adopted a deliberate editorial policy to counter the image the Western media has already painted in order to portray a more positive black world that would enable ordinary whites to understand the black race. Every problem has a cause. When the Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver said you are either part of the solution or problem, he was right. The major fight against racism lies more in countering the myths and stereotypes on blacks than in fighting the ill without tackling the root causes.
    ©The Times of Zambia

    Suggestions and comments please to