NEWS - Archive for July 2000
July 2000 Headlines
Headlines July 11, 2000
SHRINKING RIGHT TO ASYLUM IN EUROPE, REPORT SAYS
Most refugees seeking asylum in Western Europe are forced to do so by clandestine means, often smuggled across borders by criminals, an independent report said Friday.
Commissioned by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the report accused European governments of requiring visas and deploying "airline liaison officers" to frustrate asylum-seekers from setting foot on European soil.
"The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: the End Game in European Asylum Policy?," by independent British expert John Morrison, called for protecting what it said was a fundamental right to asylum in Europe for migrants genuinely fleeing persecution.
The Geneva-based UNHCR itself has not yet taken a position on the report, issued less than three weeks after 58 Chinese illegal immigrants were found suffocated in the English ferry port of Dover.
"The problem is the right to asylum in Europe is no longer in effect being offered because there is no legal way of getting here," Morrison told a news conference in Geneva.
"And if you must use illegal means, that is becoming ever more dangerous and difficult to do. So refugees are being forced into the arms of these organized (crime) syndicates," he said.
TRAFFICKING IS BIG BUSINESS
The human trafficking and smuggling business has been estimated to be worth between $5-7 billion annually to gangster syndicates, with Eastern European and CIS states representing key transit areas, according to the report.
Publication of the report coincides with a heated EU debate on asylum and over a 1951 refugee convention recognizing the need for people fleeing persecution to resort to fake papers.
"If it is no longer possible as a refugee to gain access to an airplane with a forged passport, then your option might be being locked in the back of a lorry, as the Chinese were," Morrison said.
"Those options are often much more dangerous for the refugees and more expensive in terms of the traffickers or smugglers you might need to pay," he said.
"Hundreds (of people) have died since the late 80s trying to enter the EU. Some estimates place that as high as 2,000."
The European Union alone receives some 250,000 asylum claims each year, according to the 98-page report.
The UNHCR announced that 31,030 asylum applications were made on the continent in May, a 15 percent rise over the previous month.
Refugees from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mainly ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, accounted for 13 percent of latest applications, the largest group seeking asylum in Europe.
They are followed by people fleeing Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, China, Russia and Sri Lanka, the agency said.
SPAIN BREAKS UP RING HOLDING MOROCCAN IMMIGRANTS
Spanish police have broken up a gang smuggling Moroccans illegally into Spain and then holding them hostage in an effort to extort money from their families, officials said on Thursday.
Four suspected members of a gang specialising in trafficking of people were arrested in southern Spain this week and accused of holding eight Moroccan immigrants against their will and denying them food for several days. Three of the gang were Moroccans.
"They (the illegal immigrants) had spent a few days in an uninhabitable place and were found in a precarious state of health with signs of malnutrition," Jose Torres Hurtado, a government representative in the region, told state television.
Police, acting on a tipoff, raided an apartment in Almeria province on Monday, arresting three Moroccan men and a Spanish woman.
The eight immigrants rescued by police had paid about 185,000 pesetas ($1,000) each to be smuggled into Spain by boat only to find that the gang then demanded another 200,000 pesetas ($1,150) to complete the trip.
When they were unable to pay, they were held hostage while the ring sought payment from their families in Morocco, authorities said.
Spain is a major magnet for poor North African workers, many of whom work in huge fruit and vegetable farms in the south.
NAZI MEETING EMBARRASSES FINLAND
A meeting this week of Finnish and German World War Two veterans who fought in Nazi Germany's elite Waffen-SS has embarrassed Finnish officials and caused a stir in the country's Jewish community.
The military distanced itself on Wednesday from the meeting of about 40 Finnish and German veterans, their wives and associates in Helsinki on Monday, saying it had detailed an honour guard without knowing the German SS men would attend.
The army sent eight soldiers to guard four monuments that the SS veterans visited and laid with wreaths at Helsinki's Hietaniemi cemetery. But it only learned of the Germans' presence from a newspaper the next day, a spokesman said.
"We had not been told everything," Defence Forces spokesman Erkki Paukkunen told Reuters.
Minister of Defence Jan-Erik Enestam told the army to investigate and explain the incident.
The chairman of the Helsinki chapter of the Finnish SS veterans' organisation, Kari Ruutu, said the military did know of the Germans' presence. "They have certainly known," he said.
He said his organisation Veljesapu -- "Brotherly Aid" -- had no political aims, and he said it and the two German societies involved were respectable, officially registered "remembrance societies" and had nothing to do with neo-Nazism.
Finland's tiny Jewish community, numbering 1,500, objected to the honour guard and said there must be no signs of official support for SS veterans' groups.
"It is in the best interest of this country to stay out of anything smelling of the SS," the community's president, Gideon Bolotowsky, told Reuters.
FINLAND'S JEWS SPARED
The Finnish and German Waffen-SS men were brothers in arms in 1941-1943 during Hitler's bloody drive into the Ukraine and the Caucasus.
In 1941-1944 Finland fought alongside Germany against the Soviet Union, and it contributed 1,400 volunteers to the Waffen-SS's Wiking Division which included men from several Nordic and West European countries.
The Finnish SS troops were repatriated in 1943 after heavy losses in the south and then fought the Red Army on the Finnish front to 1944, when Finland severed its ties to Germany to sue for peace with Moscow and preserve its independence.
Over 300 of the Finnish SS men, now elderly, survive today.
Bolotowsky said he had nothing against the SS veterans holding their meetings, as long as Finland officially steers clear of them. "The roof and walls of a democracy should be high and wide enough to allow for that," he said.
The community's objection to Monday's meeting followed its blocking of efforts last year by the Finnish SS veterans to get government funds for a battlefield plaque to commemorate their comrades killed in the Ukraine. The memorial was never built.
Finland's Jews were spared the fate of the millions who perished in the Nazi concentration camps as the country's war-time ties with Germany never brought a Nazi regime to power and the country ignored German requests to intern them.
SLOVAK GYPSIES REJECTED IN TEST CASE(UK)
Britain's House of Lords ruled yesterday that a family of Slovakian gypsies who fled their homeland after being threatened by skinheads should not be granted political asylum, reports AP. The ruling by five judges could have implications for the hundreds of Slovakian gypsies, or Roma, who arrive in Britain every year, seeking permission to stay.
The judges, Britain's highest court of appeals, ruled that since the government of Slovakia respected the rule of law and backed it with a police force, the Horvath family could not claim they had a "well-founded fear of being persecuted." The judges said that to receive asylum the family would have had to show their government had failed to protect them from persecution.
Horvath arrived in Britain with his wife and child in 1997, claiming the violence against them had been ignored by the authorities. Amnesty International says the family's home in the village of Palin was subjected to repeated firebombings and was destroyed.
BBC News adds Nick Hardwick, director of the Refugee Council, said the facts in Horvath's case were not disputed by the courts. "The question is whether it is the right sort of persecution," he said, adding,"This case has implications for refugees all over the world."
There are about 5,000 Roma asylum seekers in Britain but Slovakia
© Refugees Daily
POPE DENOUNCES GAY PRIDE PARADE AS OFFENCE AGAINST CHRISTIAN VALUES(Italy)
Pope John Paul II has bitterly denounced the gay pride festival in Rome as an offense to Christians and said homosexual acts are "contrary to natural law."
The pontiff spoke from his balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square the day after tens of thousands of people took part in an international gay pride parade in Rome.
The parade capped a weeklong festival the Vatican had tried to get canceled.
John Paul expressed what he called "bitterness for the insult" of having the festival "during the grand Jubilee of the year 2000 and for the offense to Christian values in a city that is so dear to the heart of Catholics all over the world."
The Roman Catholic church is celebrating a Holy Year that has attracted millions of pilgrims to Rome. Sunday was the day dedicated to prison inmates and John Paul visited the capital oldest prison. He celebrated Mass for incarcerated murderers, thieves, rapists and drug dealers, offering them his personal blessing.
Later, speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff condemned the gay pride parade in the name of the "Homosexual acts are against nature's laws," he said.
"The church cannot silence the truth, because this...would not help discern what is good from what is evil," John Paul added.
At the same time, he said homosexuals should not be the victims of discrimination. Gays should be treated with "respect, compassion, delicacy" because homosexuality is a "disorder," he said.
The Vatican's staunch opposition to World Pride 2000 opened a Pandora's box of anti-gay feelings in Italy, much of it from the political right.
But it also put gay rights issues on Italy's public agenda for the first time, mobilizing the gay community and winning it support and sympathy both at home and abroad.
© The Independent
ROBINSON CRITICISES IRISH RECORD ON ASYLUM SEEKERS
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, has strongly criticised Ireland's record on racism and the treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees.
The former president accused the Republic of failing to provide a lead internationally on these issues and pointed out that the State's image abroad had been damaged by recent racist attacks and by attitudes towards refugees and asylum-seekers.
Mrs Robinson was speaking in Dublin on Saturday at a conference on reform of the UN, organised by UNICEF, the Irish UN Association and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.
The High Commissioner was repeatedly questioned and then heckled by anti-abortion activists in the audience who claimed that she and the UN system were "denying the human rights of the unborn". Rejecting the charge, Mrs Robinson said she supported the right to life of all, including the unborn. However, she referred to her experiences in Sierra Leone, where she met 13and 14-year-old girls who had been repeatedly raped during the conflict there. "Are you seriously saying they should be made have the child?" she asked.
She called on the Government to give asylum-seekers the right to work and pleaded for a more generous approach to immigration.
Ireland should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and there was a need for leadership to create a climate of understanding for a society with a significant non-Irish population.
While Ireland had a fine record in peacekeeping and development aid, its commitment to other areas could be summarised on a teacher's report card as "leaving room for improvement", she said. The existing positive view of Ireland was being damaged by incidents such as the recent racist attack on the Richardson family in Dublin.
Racist attacks were not isolated incidents, she reminded the audience. Recent surveys had shown that nine out of 10 African asylum-seekers had experienced racism and seven out of 10 had been refused a service for reasons of race.
Mrs Robinson said people should accept that the Republic's economic boom was bound to attract people. This was an inevitable consequence of economic success. The policy of the State towards refugees and asylum-seekers should be transparent. All those who came here should be treated fairly and with dignity.
"I think that the right to work for those waiting processing is essential - they should be regarded as part of the community, not as `spongers', and there is a need for a properly thought-out, strategic placement in communities that are able to accept refugees in a sustainable way."
The fight against racism and xenophobia was important because these forces were driving many of the world's conflicts and creating the daily abuses which rendered people's lives miserable.
She hoped Ireland would play a full part in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which is being organised by her office in South Africa next year.
© The Irish Times
AWARD WINNING JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF BEING NAZI EXECUTIONER(Germany)
An 82-year-old former SS officer has been charged with shooting seven Jewish concentration camp prisoners to death in 1945.
Julius Viel, a retired journalist arrested last October, is accused of killing the prisoners as they dug anti-tank trenches near the Czech town of Leitmeritz. They were inmates from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic.
The charges have been filed with the Baden-Wuerttemberg state court in Ravensburg. A trial date has not been set.
Viel has denied any involvement and insists that he was not in the region at the time.
Prosecutors say the charges are based in part on information from a Canadian university professor, Adalbert Lallier, who was a 17-year-old member of Viel's military unit at the time. Lallier originally provided the information to Nazi hunter Steven Rambam.
Maylaender said investigators have identified 900 potential witnesses in Germany and Austria and have taken statements from 300 of them.
Viel was arrested at his home in a village near Wangen, close to the Austrian border.
Prosecutors say Viel, a former Waffen-SS lieutenant, was an instructor at an officers school in Leitmeritz at the time of the killings in the spring of 1945.
Viel worked for newspapers in the south-western German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg for many years. He was awarded a federal medal for public service in 1983 for newspaper columns that encouraged hiking.
AUSTRIA SAYS SANCTIONS REFERENDUM MAY NOT HAPPEN
Austria said on Monday that a planned referendum on diplomatic sanctions imposed by its 14 European Union partners might never happen and urged the EU to deflect it by lifting the boycott.
"It"s not decided yet. We hope the sanctions will be lifted before a possible date for a referendum," Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters during a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Ferrero-Waldner said Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel"s visit to the European Commission on Wednesday would help clarify misunderstandings.
The chancellor"s visit will be the first since sanctions were imposed in February over the entry of the far right into government.
Schuessel and the former leader of the far-right Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, agreed to the referendum at a meeting last Tuesday.
Austria"s EU partners criticised the plan, saying it would stir up public opinion and make it more difficult to resolve the sanctions crisis.
Ferrero-Waldner said the referendum did not amount to provocation and Vienna did not intend to veto the EU"s ongoing reform and eastern expansion plans.
The EU partners, also seeking an end to the crisis, have asked the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to name three "wise men" to report on the human rights situation in Austria.
The initiative disappointed Austria as it did not contain a deadline for ending the sanctions.
CUBAN DOCTORS AWAIT ASYLUM(Sweden)
Two Cuban doctors who were jailed in Zimbabe after they
defected are resting in Sweden while awaiting political asylum, a UNHCR spokeswoman said
Leonel Cordova Rodriguez, 31, and Noris Pena Martinez, 25, who fled a Cuban medical
mission in Zimbabwe, arrived in Sweden early Saturday after the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees negotiated with Zimbabwean officials for their release from police custody.
Swedish immigration authorities issued the pair temporary visas and they are now resting at
an undisclosed location in the country.
``We're really happy that they are out of prison,'' UNHCR regional spokeswoman Anki
Eriksson said. ``I really cannot tell what is going to happen next. All I can say is that we
are trying to find a solution.''
From Sweden, they would be able to go anywhere, including the United States, which
reportedly offered them asylum shortly after Zimbabwe attempted to deport them.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Stockholm declined to comment on the case, citing
long-standing policy not to discuss issues that may eventually fall under the U.S. refugee
After the doctors sought refuge, both the Canadian and U.S. embassies referred them to
the U.N.'s refugee agency. But the Cubans disappeared June 2, the day of their hearing
before a Zimbabwean asylum committee.
The doctors accused Zimbabwean security officers of kidnapping them, and together with
Cuban diplomats, trying to force them on a Paris-bound flight with a connection to Havana.
Air France refused to let them board after the doctors slipped a note to a crew member
saying they were kidnap victims.
The doctors were returned to Zimbabwe and jailed, while the U.N. refugee agency
demanded their release under international law.
The Cubans were freed Wednesday and UNHCR kept them at a secret location until their
departure on Friday, officials said.
Cuba has denounced the defectors, saying they betrayed the medical mission to aid
Zimbabwe's health service, but denied any involvement in the kidnapping.
© Associated Press
NEO-NAZISM IN GERMANY ALIVE AND KICKING'
Weimar - Four weeks ago a flier was making the rounds in the East German town
of Gera (in the province of Thuringia) - the right-wing 'Gera Brotherhood' was
targetting youth education experts from the German Trades Unions' Association
(DGB). Two weeks later they indirectly called on their supporters to assault a
Then just three days ago, neo-Nazis carried out an attack on a Muslim house of
"It is high time something was done," said the chairman of the Gera DGB, Dietmar
Right-wing extremism in Germany is not limited to these three incidents, nor to just
one district. "I know what it's like when you drive home from a meeting late at night
escorted by cars full of skinheads," says Haertel. The trades unionist is by no
means an isolated example.
According to the Berlin political scientist Richard Stoess, from Gera in the east to
the Hamburg suburb of Elmshorn in the west (where other trades unionists have
likewise been the target of neo-Nazi harrassment), right-wing extremism in
Germany is "alive and kicking."
At a meeting of the Thuringia State Centre for
Political Education in the city of Weimar on Wednesday, Stoess warned against
the popluar misconception that right-wing groups' poor showing in both local and
national elections indicates the curse of right-wing extremists had been banished.
A poll conducted in autumn 1998 showed that 14 per cent of all adult Germans had
"extreme right-wing leanings" - 13 per cent in the old west and 17 per cent in
former East Germany.
Although "Wessis", a nickname for inhabitants of the former West Germany, were
obviously not "immune" to right-wing radicalism, said Stoess, there were indeed
discernible differences between the old and new states of the united Germany in
In the west, the radicals were organised into parties such as the DVU or the
Republicans, he explained, whereas in the east, rightwingers were less organised
but were more militant and inclined to violence.
Only 18 per cent of the German population lives in the east yet in 1998, half of all
assaults by rightwingers were committed in the former communist part of the
country. 43 per cent of all militant neo-Nazis live in the east.
Stoess cannot explain this geo-political divide and so far, attempts to analyse the
phenomenon have produced nothing but vague supposition. He noted that in
western Germany, in contrast to the east, there were very few examples of city
districts or squares which rightwingers would describe as "nationally liberated
In the east it was a very different scenario altogether. There, "liberated zones" were
very common, he said, as were communities which served to reinforce some
skinheads' beliefs that they were a force acting on behalf of the German people.
Stoess' research shows that a drastic change of political tack occured in the
mid-nineties. Until 1994, right-wing extremists in western Germany had achieved
better election results than their eastern German counterparts. Since 1998 this
trend has been reversed.
"There has been a transfer from west to east," says Stoess.
He believes that until 1995 the eastern Germans were on the whole very optimistic
but in the latter years of the decade some of them "broke away". Ten per cent of
eastern Germans could now be said to have rejected the system. "That is an
amazing statistic," he said.
Heinz-Gerd Jaschke, from the Berlin University for the Administration of Justice and
Management, took the opportunity of the Weimar meeting to warn against the
belief that right-wing parties and extremists could be brought under control by
"The politics of abolition is purely symbolic and cannot solve real problems," he
said, a reference to the banning of eleven groups in the aftermath of rioting and
assaults in Hoyerswerda in the early nineties.
© Frankfurter Rundschau
CUBANS AT AIRPORT AWAIT DECISIONS(Spain)
A total of 22 Cubans have been detained for up to a week at Madrid's
International Airport while Spanish authorities consider their requests
for political asylum, officials confirmed yesterday, reports EFE.
the Cubans arrived in Spain Sunday evening, eight others have been
waiting for an answer to their asylum requests and the remaining six
have already had their requests turned down and are appealing. The
officials said all of the Cubans arrived from Havana on the regularly
scheduled commercial flight to Moscow but took advantage of a
refuelling stopover in Madrid to request asylum.
family of four that had its request turned down flew on to Moscow
yesterday, they added.
© Refugees Daily
REFUGEE COMMISSIONER URGES MORE HIGH-TECH HELP(Netherlands)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday urged high-tech industries to put their talents and tools to work for the world's displaced people.
Sadako Ogata said her motives for speaking at the Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) Tech-Ed 2000 Europe conference in Amsterdam were to maintain high-tech interest in refugee registration and push the idea of an international technology corps to support emergency operations.
"We're here to keep the momentum going and maybe
explore further," Ogata told Reuters.
During the Kosovo crisis last year, Microsoft and other
computer hardware and software firms pulled together to
develop a portable system for registering some 350,000
refugees pouring across the borders of Albania and
"I'm here really to consolidate that cooperation and move
on to a wider area of cooperation especially focused on
registration," she said.
"We'd also like to have maybe something set up like a
technology corps -- a standby arrangement. In
emergencies the need for help is very important but we
cannot keep high-tech help in the office because of the
Other initiatives would include supplying equipment,
education in information technology, skills training and job
programs for refugees, and providing means for refugees
to tell their stories to raise awareness of their plight.
The Refugee Registration Kit used in Kosovo included a
laptop computer, digital camera and printers used to create
identity cards. It is now in use in Africa and India.
"Many refugees are denied identity cards. When you have
no ID, your dignity is lost. Bringing in registration
documents (in Kosovo) was an enormous step in allowing
people to recover their identity," she said.
Asked why it had taken so long for UNHCR to get to grips
with what is now very basic and widely available
technology, Ogata said:
"It may appear very simple, but we've never had a
concerted effort to get the technology from those who
"You may see this as a simple and logical combination of
existing technologies but you must understand that the
basic UNHCR refugee registration kit still in use around
the world consists of pencils and paper."
UNHCR cares for 22.3 million refugees and displaced
people in some 120 countries.
SWISS TO SPEED UP EXPULSIONS OF KOSOVO REFUGEES
Switzerland will more than double the rate of its deportations of Kosovo refugees after the end of the summer, the federal office for refugees said Tuesday.
It said Switzerland, which took in tens of thousands of Kosovans last year, plans to send 10,000 of them by the end of the year back to the province where Serbs and ethnic Albanians fought until a NATO-led bombing campaign forced Serb forces to withdraw in June 1999.
Some 18,500 Kosovans left Switzerland voluntarily last year under a Swiss government program that included cash handouts of up to 2,000 Swiss francs ($1,222) per adult and 1,000 Swiss francs per child, said the office's spokesman Dominique Boillat.
The deadline for the sponsored voluntary departures expired at the end of May and the number of forced returns would now increase, he said.
The increase in the pace of expulsions comes despite warnings from United Nations officials that the devastated Yugoslav province cannot cope with large numbers of returnees.
ZHU CALLS FOR COOPERATION ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING(Netherlands)
Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji Tuesday called for international cooperation to end the illegal trade in humans, two weeks after the bodies of 58 illegal Chinese immigrants were discovered in England.
"The Chinese government is firmly opposed to illegal immigration," Zhu told journalists after talks with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok. Zhu, on his first day in the Netherlands as part of a European tour, said he did not discuss the subject with Kok.
"We have laws to ban and prohibit such illegal immigration, but the international gangs ... are also shrewd and therefore we need international cooperation to root out the problem," he said.
On June 19, British customs officials at the port of Dover
found the bodies of 58 illegal Chinese immigrants who had
suffocated in the back of a Dutch lorry when their only air
vent had been shut. Two other immigrants on the ferry
journey from Belgium survived.
The Dutch driver is facing 58 counts of manslaughter in a
British court and Dutch authorities are holding seven other
suspected members of an illegal human trafficking
Two Chinese appeared in a British court on June 24
charged with conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into
Zhu's visit to the Netherlands, which ends Wednesday, is
his second. He visited as mayor of Shanghai in 1991.
BORDER POLICE ARREST ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS(Greece)
Police on the Bulgarian-Greek border have arrested 33
foreigners trying to sneak into Greece, hiding at the back of
a Romanian truck.
The arrests have been made at the Kulata border
crossing, 175 kilometres (110 miles) south of Sofia.
Seventeen of the detainees were Romanians, fourteen
were Afghans and one was an Iraqi. Police could not
confirm the nationality of one of the detainees.
Illegal migration from Third World and former Soviet bloc
countries across the Balkans has increased since border
regulations were eased after the Cold War ended in 1989.
Bulgaria has toughened measures to stem
people-smuggling in a step to match entry regulations of
the European Union, which it wants to join.
'LOWER RISKS OF IMMIGRANT SMUGGLING ATTRACTS CRIMINALS'(UK)
Crime gangs are switching to smuggling illegal
immigrants because of the lower risks involved, a
police conference has been told.
And new penalties are unlikely to stem the flow
immediately, the Association of Chief Police Officers
Conference in Torquay, Devon, heard.
There were dozens of organised crime groups in the
UK focusing almost solely on this type of people
trafficking, said the director of the National Criminal
Intelligence Service, John Abbott.
Globally, one million illegal immigrants are transported
each year in criminal operations worth up to 20 billion
US dollars, according to United Nations figures.
The number of smuggled illegal immigrants detected
entering the UK has risen from 61 in 1991 to 16,000
last year, Mr Abbott said. "Our analysis suggests
increased involvement in this type of activity because it
is low risk," said Mr Abbott.
There were now more risks for those involved in the
crime, with penalties including imprisonment for up to
10 years, and fines for lorry drivers involved in carrying
illegal immigrants. Mr Abbott said he was not knocking
what the Government had done, but added: "I will be
surprised if it has a significant effect in the short term."
As the UK gangs had international links, the problem
needed to be tackled "on several fronts" to produce an
international solution, he said.
The National Crime Squad had recently been giving
greater priority to organisations trafficking in human
beings, said the NCS's director general, Roy Penrose.
They were taking part in a UK multi-agency initiative,
working with western European partners and Europol
against those "who seek to profit from this miserable
trade", he said.
PROFESSORS FILE LAWSUIT AGAINST ID CARD RULING(Greece)
THE LEGAL system may ultimately decide the church-state ID
controversy after three Athens University theology professors
yesterday filed a legal petition with the Council of State requesting that
it annul the decision of the independent Personal Data Protection
Authority to strike religious affiliation from state-issued identity cards.
The move came on the eve of today's parliamentary roll-call vote on a
bill tabled by New Democracy that would allow the optional recording of
religious affiliation on IDs. The annulment petition - which names Prime
Minister Costas Simitis, Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos and
data protection authority head Constantine Dafermos - claims that the
authority's decision is unconstitutional, based on article 3, which
established Eastern Orthodoxy as the prevailing religion and article 13,
which provides for freedom of religious conscience.
In stating government policy in response to a parliamentary question on
May 23, Simitis had said that those who object could appeal to the
Council of State.
The suit was filed jointly by the dean of the Athens University theology
faculty, the Reverend George Metallinos, and professors Christos
Voulgaris and Constantine Scouteris.
© ATHENS NEWS
EX-POLICEMAN CONVICTED FOR RACISM ON THE INTERNET(Belgium) Last week former policeman Wim Elbers was convicted for spreading racist material on the Internet.
Elbers is a militant of the far-right Flemish Block and was already convicted previously after the Centre against Racism lodged a complaint against him.
He appealed against the decision, but the judgement was upheld last week in the Brussels Court of Appeal. The former member of the Brussels Police Department now has to pay a fine of 100.000 Belgian Francs (approximately 2,400 Euros). He was also given a suspended sentence of six months of imprisonment.
This is the first time that somebody in Belgium has been convicted for spreading racist messages on the Internet. This was made possible by an adaptation of the constitution.
It has now become easier to prosecute authors of racist publications because the law considers it a minor offence, while press offences were previously a matter for the Assize Court.
RACIST NAILBOMBER COPELAND FULL OF HATRED(UK)
Surrounded by Nazi regalia in his
bedroom, David Copeland made the
nailbombs that killed three people,
wounded 139 and sowed terror in
London last year.
A baby boy with a nail lodged in his
skull, a young bride dead along with her
unborn child, amputated limbs and horrific injuries from
flying glass are the legacies of his campaign.
Copeland, a small figure with a cowlick at the back of his
head, was behind the series of attacks aimed at the
British capital's homosexuals, blacks and Asians with
weapons designed to wreak maximum damage and fear.
A jury convicted the 24-year-old engineer of three
murders on Friday before the judge sentenced him to life
"I believe in what I believed in and I took that belief to
the extreme," Copeland said during police questioning. "If
no one remembers who you were, then you never
existed. My aim was political. It was to cause a racial
war in this country."
His crude devices were packed with nails up to six inches
(15 cm) long and placed in the largely black area of
Brixton on a busy Saturday, the Bangladeshi community
of Brick Lane on what Copeland thought was market day
and a pub in central London's Soho on a Friday evening.
His heroes were Hitler and Saddam.
"I think perfectly British people have the right to ethnically
cleanse," Copeland told police. He said he used
nailbombs because they were "lethal bombs."
"They'd smash windows, stick into people and maim
people," he said. "And kill people."
Copeland, who said he took his inspiration from the 1996
bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, rejoiced in the pain.
Under police questioning, Copeland said he venerated
Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein and revealed he was
ultra right-wing, racist and homophobic. But he insisted
he was different from others who embraced similar
Copeland told psychiatrists he grew up believing he was a
"short nobody" after his parents sent him for growth
treatment at the age of 13.
His parents also derided him for being homosexual, which
he was not, and sang the "Flintstones" soundtrack with
emphasis on the line "a gay old time," Copeland told
He also said he had fantasies in which he was an SS
officer who raped and then killed whoever he wanted.
With his crossbow, knives, explosives and information
from the Internet, Copeland dreamed about creating an
Aryan state. He told police he would have kept on
bombing until he was caught.
When Copeland heard police had released a photo of
him, he quickened the pace, checking into hotels under
different names before detonating his most devastating
bomb in a Soho pub frequented by homosexuals.
Closed circuit television pictures collated by police as
part of "Operation Marathon" showed Copeland walking
down busy London streets casually toting bags of
explosives, even stopping to peek into one near a busy
Other pictures show him walking away bagless, his job
GREECE FINDS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN WATERMELON TRUCK
Greek police said on Sunday they had arrested about 30 illegal immigrants trying to sneak through the country in a water melon truck.
The immigrants, mostly from India and Pakistan, where packed in a hidden compartment of the truck which was parked in the yard of a refrigerator truck company near Athens.
Police, who said they acted on a tip off, were searching for the company owner and the driver. They believe that the truck was heading to the western port of Patras and the immigrants destination was Denmark.
Immigrants from Asia and Africa often cross illegally into Greece on their way to other European countries.
ASIAN IMMIGRANTS USE BOSNIA TO REACH W. EUROPE
Hundreds of Asian immigrants, mostly
Iranians and Turks, have used Bosnia in
the past several months as a transit point
to illegally cross into western Europe, a
U.N. spokesman said on Thursday.
"We have Chinese, Sri Lankans,
Bangladeshi but primarily Iranians and
Turks, some of them Kurds," spokesman Douglas
Police prevented immigrants from crossing the Bosnian
border in about a dozen of cases last month, and "these
cases have involved several hundred foreign citizens,"
Coffman told a news conference.
But the U.N. mission here estimated that the number of
people attempting to illegally enter western Europe via
Bosnia might be considerably higher, he said.
The death of 58 illegal immigrants, believed to be Chinese,
in a lorry smuggling them into Britain has put the spotlight
on European immigration policy. They suffocated in an
airtight Dutch-registered truck whose cooling system was
In Bosnia, most of immigrants enter trough Sarajevo's
airport. In June, 1,298 Iranians had arrived with return
plane tickets but only 116 did actually go back, Coffman
"Similarly, 1,255 Turkish citizens have entered but only
513 have departed," he said, quoting figures from the
Balkan country's recently-launched state border service.
"They see Bosnia as the soft underbelly of Europe and are
trying to take advantage of Bosnia's visa regime," he told
Reuters. Iranians and Turks do not need visas to enter
"Obviously, many of these individuals do have legitimate
reasons for coming to Bosnia-Herzegovina but certainly a
problem exists with those who are simply coming here to
gather illegal access to western Europe," he said.
Coffman said the problem became noticeable last
November when two dozen Sri Linkans arrived at the
airport in the southern town of Mostar, but authorities
soon lost track of them.
Newspapers in Sarajevo reported this week that
immigrants are smuggled through four main routes. Three
of them lead through Bosnia's river and land border with
Croatia and further through Slovenia and into western
The fourth also goes through Croatia, but the immigrants
are first taken to its Adriatic port of Split and then aboard
ships to Italy.
"The police have often encountered these people when
they were trying to leave Bosnia to cross the Sava or
another border crossing to Croatia," Coffman said,
adding that the immigrants often exposed themselves to
Last month seven Iranians drowned in the Sava river,
which forms Bosnia's northern border with Croatia, after
a boat carrying 35 people capsized.
AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT TO BE ASSESSED ON RIGHTS
The row between Austria and its 14 European Union partners over the
far-right's role in government is likely to be resolved by a panel of three
wise men, EU officials said yesterday, reports Reuters.
The EU and
Austria have been seeking a face-saving way out of a standoff created
on January 31, when the 14 imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria
for bringing Joerg Haider's far-right party into government.
The 14 would ask Luzius Wildhaber, President of the European Court of
Human Rights, to choose three personalities to assess Vienna's
"commitment to common European values, in particular concerning the
rights of minorities, refugees and immigrants." The wise men would
also be commissioned to examine "the evolution of" Haider's Freedom
© Refugees Daily
SCHOOLS GET £1.5M TO TEACH ASYLUM SEEKERS' CHILDREN(UK)
Schools are to get extra funding of £1.5m to help
asylum seeker children with English language lessons.
Around 3,000 children of families claiming refugee
status will benefit from the £1.5 million set aside for the
purpose, Education and Employment Secretary David
"I want to make sure the money goes principally to
schools so that the children concerned can get
maximum benefit from it," Mr Blunkett added.
Local education authorities will be invited to claim it
next week and must pass on 85% of the cash directly to
Asylum seekers are now being dispersed to "cluster
areas" in the English regions, where the Government
believes there are big enough communities and
sufficient support services already in existence.
They are London, Leicester, Newcastle,
Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Gateshead, Manchester,
Liverpool, Nelson, Hastings and St Leonard's,
Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and
RACISTS HIJACK SCOTTISH CULTURE
US racists are using the Scottish flag, tartan, kilts and
even bagpipes in their rallies.
Supporters of independence movements for the
southern states say they have been inspired by the
revival of the Scottish Parliament.
Now Scots living in the USA say their image is being
damaged by the trend according to Scotland's Daily
US scholar Edward Sebesta has made the claims in
an article in Edinburgh University's Unit for the Study of
Government in Scotland.
He says: "The Scottish Parliament must find a way to
discourage this type of thing. After all you would not
allow people to create a Nazi tartan."
SIDOT BOWS OUT INSISTING : 'I AM NOT RACIST'
Anne-Gaelle Sidot, the French player alleged to be part
of a racist campaign against American rival Alexandra
Stevenson and her mother Samantha, bowed out of
Wimbledon insisting that her accusers were guilty of
talking through their hats.
Sidot, 20, who went out after an exciting three-set
third-round match against Thailand's Tammy
Tanasugarn having beaten Russian pin-up Anna
Kournikova in the second, admitted she had pulled
Samantha Stevenson's straw hat down over her ears
following a practice-court row.
It happened at Birmingham's Edgbaston Priory Club
more than a year ago and Sidot claimed she had only
done it because she had been verbally insulted by the
woman who is popularly known among other players on
the Women's Tour as "the mother from hell".
Sidot is amazed that the incident has been brought up
only now by Stevenson, who revealed it after her own
second-round defeat by Austrian Paula Wartusch on
Sidot said: "I just tried to forget it when I played today.
She says these things but you don't have to believe
what she says and I'm not upset about it because I
know I'm not a racist.
"I don't understand her because, I mean, I never had
any problems with players or coaches before. Really,
this is the first time with me but not with everybody else.
Maybe she just doesn't feel good in this world, but that's
her problem, not mine."
The Stevensons made a shoal of headlines last year at
Wimbledon when Alexandra, 19, became the first
women qualifier to reach a semi-final. There seemed to
be a new controversy raised in news conferences after
every match she played.
First, her mother spoke about her worries for her
daughter over the "lesbian tendency" in women's
tennis. Then there was the debate, raised by a
journalist from the United States, over the identity of
Alexandra's father, said to be a top former black
American basketball star.
Just as this year, the race-card was also played by the
Alexandra's latest diatribe told how she is often treated
like a second-class citizen in major stores when she
goes shopping and she also claimed that another
French player Amelie Cocheteux racially abused her
during a match. Meanwhile Mrs Stevenson alleged her
daughter was stalked by Sidot at the French
Championships a month ago.
Mrs Stevenson said she also feared Alexandra would
suffer "A Tonya Harding incident" - a reference to the
American ice skater who conspired to have her main
rival Nancy Kerrigan attacked with an iron bar before
the 1994 Winter Olympics.
But the Women's Tour Association have so far
received no documented complaints despite
requesting them from the Stevensons after the French
And it is clear that many players on the tour believe the
pair are just have a grand plan to install Alexandra as a
controversial celebrity in the public perception. After all,
they point out, the teenager's stated ambition is to
attend the Yale School of Drama and become an
actress after her tennis career is over.
There will not be many of them sad to see the back of
her at Wimbledon, but Sidot's exit provoked mixed
feelings. She produced another gutsy display against
Tanasugarn but was not quite good enough to prevent
the American-born Thai girl reaching the fourth round
for the third consecutive year.
Tanasugarn, who has already reached two finals on
grass in Britain this summer - losing both to British
number one Louise Latimer at Surbiton and American
Lisa Raymond at Birmingham - raced through the first
set 6-1 in just 23 minutes but Sidot levelled matters with
a 6-4 success only to be edged out by the same score
in a 48-minute decider.
NEO-FASCISTS RAIN ON GAY PARADE
Hours before the opening ceremonies of a week-long celebration of gay pride in Rome, hundreds of Italian neo-fascists marched through the city shouting anti-gay slogans.
The World Pride Week, which organisers expect to be attended by about 300,000 gay men and women from around the world, has sparked controversy and protest from several quarters.
The celebrations have been heavily criticised by the Vatican and other church groups.
Officials at the Vatican have described the pride week as inopportune and a provocation, partly because it co-incides with the Roman Catholic Church's own Jubilee 2000 celebrations.
Jack-booted supporters of the far-right group Forza Nuova marched in formation giving the Nazi salute and wielding banners saying "Stop the gay pride".
Escorted by large numbers of police in riot gear, the anti-gay protesters chanted slogans such as "Europe, family and tradition: this is the revolution".
The demonstration ended without incident.
Gilbert Baker, the American gay activist helping to organise World Pride Week, said that such demonstrations were not a surprise.
"I expect there will be some confrontation. I'm hoping that people won't get hurt. Gay people are committed to non-violence and civil disobedience is important, but we are committed to non-violence so we'll see what happens."
One of Italy's better known younger film stars, Maria Gracia Cucinotta, cut a rainbow coloured ribbon on Saturday night to mark the beginning of World Pride Week.
"Most of my friends are gay and I wanted to show that I love all of them and that I'm proud to be here with them at this wonderful occasion," Ms Cucinotta said.
The opening ceremony was broadcast live on television.
The high point of World Pride Week is to be a march through Rome next Saturday.
© BBC NEWS
O'DONNEL CALLS FOR MEDIA SENSITIVITY(Ireland)
Citizens and non-citizens alike can expect the protection of the Constitution, according to the Minister of State for Foreign
Affairs, Ms Liz O'Donnell.
"Just because refugees and asylum-seekers are not citizens the
superior courts have held since the late 1980s that they can
expect the full protection of the fundamental rights which the
Constitution gives to citizens," she said.
"If disgraced politicians and people convicted of the most
heinous crimes can expect and enjoy the full protection of our
Constitution, I would be most anxious to see that refugees and
asylumseekers equally enjoy those rights."
Ms O'Donnell was speaking to reporters after she addressed a
conference on human rights at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham,
Dublin, at the weekend.
In a strongly-worded speech she appealed to the media for
"sensitivity" in covering refugee issues and said politicians had a
key role to play and "must give a lead to reject racism".
Welcoming the introduction of an antiracism protocol for election
candidates, she said independents should also have to sign it.
The Minister was opening the third annual Department of
Foreign Affairs/Non-Governmental Organisation Forum on
Human Rights. She told delegates at the conference that "if
disgraced politicians, criminals and paedophiles can enjoy the full
protection and clout of the Irish courts it is right and fitting that
one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups under Irish
skies - refugees and asylum-seekers - can likewise have
constitutional protection in respect of the fundamental rights of
equality of treatment and access to the courts".
noted that the President, Mrs McAleese, had referred the Illegal
Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill to court to test the constitutionality
of two of its sections, but said later it would be "unnecessarily
controversial" to suggest she welcomed the decision. She denied
there was "incoherence" in this Government between the
Minister for Justice pushing through the anti-trafficking units and
her concerns for the human rights implications of the legislation.
The Minister recalled that Mr O'Donoghue had told her his
advice was that the legislation was constitutional and there was
a presumption of constitutionality from Oireachtas legislation.
However, she added that there was a further constitutional
safeguard in referring Bills to the Supreme Court.
She whole-heartedly supported an anti-racism protocol for
political parties and candidates at elections so they did not "incite
hatred or prejudice" by playing on people's fears on these issues.
She said the Progressive Democrats had already signed the
anti-racism protocol in which political parties had committed
themselves not to allow their councillors or their candidates in
general and local elections to "play to that particular lobby of
xenophobia and racism".
It is a voluntary code of commitment which she believed
independents should also have to sign. The protocol was drawn
up by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and
Interculturalism which advises the Government.
Appealing to journalists for sensitivity in coverage of the issue,
she said "sensational headlines, misleading statistics, unsourced
claims and demonising of the refugee community can, and have,
contributed negatively to public opinion and fuelled misinformed
intolerance of asylum-seekers and refugees. I appeal to the
media to tread carefully when covering refugee matters". Ms
O'Donnell added that the numbers seeking asylum had reached
unprecedented levels "but that does not justify simplistic,
knee-jerk analysis which presents their arrival as relentlessly
problematical, disruptive and divisive". She was referring in
particular to broadcasts where "people can phone in and express
quite outrageous views", which should not be allowed to go
The PD Minister also described as "clearly inaccurate"
accusations in the Dáil by the Labour leader that the Taoiseach
and the Government had given "a 19th century solution to a 21st
century problem" in dealing with asylum-seekers and
When Mr Quinn was in office "they did absolutely nothing apart
from introducing the Refugee Act. But there was a huge
backlog of asylum applications, something like 3,000 or 4,000
when we came into office. So it is this Government that has put
in place a fair and efficient system. We were slow in starting
because we had a huge backlog, but we had to put in place both
the legislation and the facilities".
© The Irish Times
ANTIRACIST CAMP AT THE POLISH-GERMAN BORDER
From the 29th of July until the 6th of August the anti-racist border camp will be held once again in Brandenburg. The main goal of the initiative is to inform and raise public awareness about the situation of Polish migrants in Germany.
The difference in income and economic level of growth between Germany and Poland is bigger than between Mexico and the USA. So many Poles choose to cross the border in order to find a way out of poverty. Some try to work in Germany. Yet there are only a few possibilities to do this legally.
Especially in building, construction and in the cleaning business there are a couple of jobs for migrants, as they work for less money than most Germans would do.
The legal procedure is to get a contract of services, a seasonal employment, an employment for commuters in border areas or an employment permit with a vocational training component.
If people do not get a contract, the only possibility is to enter the country with a tourist visa and work as moonlighters. That makes them illegal and they are paid very badly for the risk they take. For women it often seems that prostitution is the only way to earn a little money.
The marriage market with women from Poland is very lucrative as they are white and look very typically German. The neighbours cannot see at once that the new wife was purchased. Most of the people deported from Germany are of Polish nationality.
An institution that does counselling work and provides assistance to Poles in Germany is the Polish Social Council in Berlin. Repatriates of German origin, former political refugees, contractual or seasonal workers and tourists call in each day because they have problems with the restrictive German foreigner's laws.
The Council has also published a social guide for Poles in Berlin and struggles against the long tradition of anti-Polish attitudes in Germany. The Polish Social Council is co-organiser of the anti racist border camp.
The camp will take place in Forst in the Brandenburg district. The small village is located on the banks of the river Neisse, which is the almost invincible border between Germany and Poland in at least one direction. Especially in the district of Brandenburg, where many have lost their jobs in the brown coal industry, there is a lot of day-to-day racism against the Polish neighbours.
The camp aims to support local and regional anti-racist groups and increase the tolerance for each other in the area. On the other hand it wants to take a clear stance against the State's policy on the issue of migration from Poland and disturb the divisiveness of the border for a while.
Contact to the border camp: FFM@snafu.de
Polish Social Council: Tel +49 30 615 17 17, firstname.lastname@example.org