I CARE - Newsarchive May 2000
news archives

Special Report

NEWS - Archive for May 2000

May 2000 Headlines

Headlines May 26, 2000

BELGIAN MINISTER TO EXPLAIN SANCTIONS IN AUSTRIA

FRANCE TO KEEP AUSTRIA SANCTIONS IN EU PRESIDENCY

BRITAIN ISSUING VISA BONDS IN MOROCCO AND PHILIPPINES

POLICE ARREST 157 MOROCCANS TRYING TO ENTER SPAIN ILLEGALLY

CZECH GOVERNMENT TRIES TO INFILTRATE THE INTERNATIONAL ROMANI

NEW GREEK ID CARDS WILL NOT DECLARE RELIGION

RUSSIANS CARPETED BY NATO OVER WAR CRIMINAL

POLICE RAID GYPSY SETTLEMENT(Greece)

MORE DISCRIMINATION CASES TO FOLLOW(Ireland)

NAZI SLAVE FUND NEEDS DONORS(Germany)

HOLOCAUST DEADLINE FOR AUSTRIANS AND DUTCH

Headlines May 23, 2000

FRENCH MINISTER SORRY FOR NAZI REMARKS

GREEN CARD RENEWAL WOES FOR TOO MANY MIGRANTS(Greece)

ATHLETE HATE MAIL CHARGE(UK)

SPANISH-FRENCH SUMMIT TO DISCUSS TERRORISM, IMMIGRATION AND EU

SITUATION 'COMPLEX' BUT 'MANAGEABLE'(Ireland)

WORK PLAN FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS(Germany)

YAHOO! GETS GAG ORDER(France)

GERMAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NAZI SLAVE LABOR FUND

300 KURDS RESCUED FROM SHIP(Italy)

Headlines May 19, 2000

RACIST ATTACK INQUIRY OFFICIERS PUNISHED(UK)

SIX ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DROWN(Spain)

GERMANS MUST PAY DAMAGES TO TURK FIREBOMB VICTIMS

FRENCH RIGHTIST LE PEN SQUARES OFF WITH RAP SINGER

PARIS PROSECUTOR CONDEMNS NAZI AUCTIONS ON YAHOO

WJC EYES BOYCOTTING AUSTRIA DUE HOLOCAUST CLAIMS

SIGN TREATIES, URGES ANNAN

AUSTRIA ON UKRAINE(Russia)

AUSTRIA PLANS TO COMPENSATE JEWS

Headlines May 16, 2000

IMMIGRANT'S BOAT SUNK(Spain)

DEPORTATION REPRIEVE FOR HUNGER STRIKER(UK)

ROMA SCHOOLGIRL ATTACKED IN BELGRADE

LIES AND CIVIL RESISTANCE IN THE STRAITS OF OTRANTO(Italy)

KURDISH REFUGEES RETURN TO TURKEY FROM IRAQ

ACT ON RACE CRIMES SAYS CRE CHIEF(UK)

BORDER GUARDS KILL NINE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS(Turkey)

PIANIST TO SUE IMMIGRATION POLICE(Germany)

Headlines May 11, 2000

UK ASYLUM CENTRES 'TO HOLD THOUSANDS'(UK)

SPAIN PLEDGES HELP TO MOROCCO ON MIGRANTS

ALGERIAN SUICIDE(Germany)

GOV'T ANNOUNCES NEW MEASURES(Ireland)

AFGHANS KILLED AT BORDER(Turkey)

FLOOD OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS EXPECTED DUE TO 31ST OF JULY RULE(Spain)

DEMONSTRATION FOR ROMA RIGHTS(UK)

Headlines May 9, 2000

TURK POLICE CAPTURE NEARLY 400 WOULD-BE MIGRANTS

NEW CENTRE OPENS DOOR TO MIGRANT WORKERS' RIGHTS(Greece)

NIGERIAN DIES IN DETENTION(Austria)

EUROPE, APPLICANTS FALL WHILE CONTINENT PANICS

EU MAY BE READY TO RELENT ON SANCTIONS OVER AUSTRIA

SVALBARD, A HAVEN FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS(Norway)

CATHOLIC BISHOPS ATTACK 'EMOTIVE' ASYLUM LANGUAGE(UK)

UN REFUGEE AGENCY TO MAKE CUTS

JEWISH NAZI AVENGERS CLEARED OF MURDER CHARGE(Germany)

Headlines May 4, 2000

BLACK PRISONERS SEEK £1M FOR 'BULLYING'(UK)

CHAUVINISM BACKFIRES IN GERMAN ELECTION RACE(Germany)

CATHOLIC SHRINE HAD NAZI GOLD HAUL(Portugal)

KOSOVO SERBS SPLIT OVER RETURNS(Yugoslavia)

POLISH AND ISRAELI PRESIDENTS TO LEAD AUSCHWITZ MARCH(Poland)

EURO COUNCIL WORRIED OVER INTOLERENCE TO MOSLEMS

SIRENS WAIL AS ISRAEL HONOURS HOLOCAUST DEAD

IRANIAN JEW'S CONFESSION IN DOUBT

Headlines May 2, 2000

IRISH PLANS TO HOUSE ASYLUM-SEEKERS

AUSTRIA COMPENSATION FOR NAZI VICTIMS

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER RENEWS THREAT TO BLOCK EU REFORM

HAIDER STEPS DOWN AS HEAD OF FREEDOM PARTY(Austria)

BRITAIN'S HAGUE SAYS ASYLUM NUMBERS OUT OF CONTROL

REJECTION WITHOUT REASONS(UK)

EIGHT PORTUGUESE POLICE ACCUSED OVER MAN'S DEATH

NEW NAZI ORGANIZATION IN ICELAND

BLACK CARE WORKER SET ON FIRE BY RACIST ATTACKERS(UK)

SERB CAMP COMMANDER DENIES 80 WAR CRIMES

LEFTISTS NEO-NAZI CLASH IN GERMANY






BELGIAN MINISTER TO EXPLAIN SANCTIONS IN AUSTRIA
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said on Tuesday he would visit Austria to explain why he supports Vienna's political isolation by its 14 European Union partners.
Michel said he saw no reason for the 14 to end a freeze on bilateral political contacts with Vienna which was imposed when the far-right Freedom Party entered government in February. He would not meet members of the government, Michel said.
He told a joint news conference after talks with two Austrian opposition leaders that one of them, liberal Christian Koeck, had invited him to visit Austria.
"I have accepted the invitation to explain the reasons for my political position since this problem began," said Michel, sitting between Koeck and Social Democrat Alfred Gusenbauer. He did not say when he would go to Austria. But he said he was not going in the name of the 14 who have isolated Vienna because of fears that the Freedom Party is not committed to human rights and democracy.
Michel, one of the fiercest critics of the Freedom Party, said his talks with the Koeck and Gusenbauer had been interesting and useful but they had not persuaded him to support an end to the measures taken by the 14.
He said the Freedom Party's policies had not changed since it joined the government in February and that Joerg Haider still had influence on the coalition despite his resignation as the party's leader.
"I continue to think that the Freedom Party is a party which has not changed its nature, its aim, or its programme and that it has a regrettable influence on the Austrian government," he said.
Prime Minister Antonio Guterres of Portugal, the current European Union president, said in Lisbon he was consulting other EU leaders about Austria's demand for a speedy end to its isolation by the 14.
But Guterres declined comment on a Danish press report that the 14 were preparing to lift the sanctions before a summit set for late June in the Portuguese city of porto.
© Reuters

FRANCE TO KEEP AUSTRIA SANCTIONS IN EU PRESIDENCY
France will maintain European Union sanctions against Austria over the far right's role in government during its EU presidency in the second half of this year, France's European affairs minister said on Wednesday.
Pierre Moscovici said the EU could not demand high human rights standards of the East European states lining up to join if it did not apply the same standards to its own members. Far-right politician Joerg Haider, whose Freedom Party sparked off the sanctions by entering the Austrian government in February, said earlier on Wednesday that Vienna could bring EU business to a standstill if the sanctions were not lifted.
He said the EU should act at its next summit in June because there was no chance of lifting the sanctions during the French presidency. Haider has denounced President Jacques Chirac as a "pocket-sized Napoleon" for leading the sanctions campaign.
Moscovici, speaking at a Paris conference on the Baltic states and the EU, said EU countries could not tolerate anti-Semitism, racism and national hatred. "It is this will to not tolerate the least divergence from this line that led the 14 member states to take a very firm common position -- which will be maintained -- about the situation in Austria," he said. the government of one of the member states includes a party whose support for these values could be suspected, to say the least?"
The 14 EU countries froze bilateral political contacts with Austria when the new government of the conservative People's Party and the Freedom Party was sworn in on February 4 because they question the far-right's commitment to democracy and human rights.
Haider, the dominant personality in the Freedom Party even though he has stepped down as its leader, said:
"If Austria is treated badly, then it will be very difficult to get unanimous decisions in key questions and if there is no unanimous decision, standstill in the EU is pre-programmed."
© Reuters

BRITAIN ISSUING VISA BONDS IN MOROCCO AND PHILIPPINES
Britain said on Tuesday it would launch a 3,000 pound ($4,400) bond scheme for some visa applications from Morocco and the Philippines.
Immigration Minister Barbara Roche said the pilot scheme would be introduced in Manila and Casablanca and would run for six months from October. Two months ago the Labour government, accused of stoking racism with tough new immigration measures, quietly dropped a similar bond scheme for visitors from India, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
Roche said the bond would be levied only on a minority of visitors when officials had reason to doubt their plans. "The scheme is intended to enable more people to visit the United Kingdom by providing an additional facility to prospective visitors in borderline cases where the intention to return is in doubt," Roche told parliament in a written answer.
"It will enable a British citizen or overseas national settled in the United Kingdom who is a family member to provide a financial bond...as an additional guarantee that the visitor will leave the United Kingdom at the end of their stay," she said. Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has been trying to stem a record number of asylum seekers coming to Britain.
Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw has been criticised by opposition Conservatives for going "soft" on immigration and has had to fend off accusations from pressure groups that his policies are racist. Refugee groups warn that Britain is turning into a fortress of xenophobia and say both Labour and the Conservatives are reneging on the country's long history as a friend to those fleeing persecution.
© Reuters

POLICE ARREST 157 MOROCCANS TRYING TO ENTER SPAIN ILLEGALLY
Spanish authorities have arrested 157 Moroccans as they tried to illegally enter southern Spain in crowded rickety boats.
Members of the Civil Guard in boats and land patrols intercepted the immigrants in several fishing boats and a Zodiac in various parts of the coast of the southern province of Cadiz. Amalia Garcia, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry in the province, said the pre-dawn arrests occurred dozens of miles apart and were not connected.
Garcia said police in Cadiz have detained 3,566 would-be illegal immigrants so far this year, sending most back to their countries of origins - mostly Morocco but also from sub-Saharan Africa.
Many others have been detained in other parts of Spain, particularly on the Canary Islands. The private Andalusian Human Rights Association said more than 200 people have drowned this year trying to reach Spanish territory in unstable boats. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said he will introduce new legislation to Parliament in July that could make it more difficult to enter the country illegally and ease restrictions on legal immigration.
© Ananova

CZECH GOVERNMENT TRIES TO INFILTRATE THE INTERNATIONAL ROMANI
The president of the IRU Wiktor Famulson raised heavy accusations yesterday against the politics of his general secretary Emil Scuka (IRU) and the Czech Republic. Famulson, in his position as president of the IRU, had invited the biggest Roma organizations to Malmö (Sweden) to inform them about worrying developments in his organization. The crisis meeting was attended by the Roma National Congress, the Romenas Riksfoerbund and over forty representatives of local and regional Roma organizations.
The Czech Republic is said to manipulate the IRU and other European Roma movements for a longer time now by pointed financing and misinformation, according to Famulson. This includes that Roma had systematically been brought into key positions of the IRU who had close contacts to parts of the Czech government. Financial support of the IRU had been connected with personneldecisions, so that already three members of presidency are Czechs, two of them had even worked for the state before. Among them is the organization's general secretary, Emil Scuka, who is known to have excellent contact to the Czech government. Scuka is supposed to have worked for the communistic CSSR as state attorney before the "Velvet revolution". Apart from that, the international work is said to be influenced by Czech money. Insiders of the OSCE reported that the position of the Roma representative in the OSCE is financed by the Czech government to secure the Czech influence.
As the president of the IRU reported, organizational details had been decided without him on a regular basis. Thus, a "world congress" of the Roma, which was short-termed planned for June 1st, 2000 in Prague (Czech Republic), had been decided about in close coordination between Scuka and the Czech government. Famulson had to face finished facts. One of the aims of the "world congress" had been the confirmation of the sole agency of the IRU. Financial aid came from the Czech state deposit again.
"This procedure has not been coordinated with me. Organizing a 'World congress' in two weeks is inserious and reminds more of an aimed revolt than of a serious attempt to unite Roma organizations from around the world. Apart from that, such a short summoning does not account to the articles of the IRU", said the president. Other Roma representatives at the meeting found clearer words: "This is a slight of hand from the mothed repertoire of the KGB."
Experts of the situation in the Czech Republic think that the motivation of these actions by the Czechs can be found in an attempt to hush up the Roma problem in the Republic. By exploiting the European Roma movement for Czech interests, unwanted voices concerning the Roma may be silenced. The IRU playing down the situation of the Roma in the Czech Republic would be the perfect "partner" to distract the EU from the violations of human rights in the Republic.
As conclusion of the meeting in Malmö, the participants adopted a declaration according to which a congress in the Czech Republic is ruled out. As Famulson explained, the Czech Republic is already out of question because a majority of Roma organizations would refuse to meet in a country that is known as one of the heaviest persecutors of Roma in Europe. "Apart from that, the security of the participants could not be granted there", added Famulson. "Enhancing the status of a country that allows a pig-farm on the ground of a former concentration camp, and in which discrimination and violence against Roma is an everyday experience, is out of the question! In the last few months alone, hundreds of Roma fled from the Czech Republic. With this congress, the Czech government wants to distract from the Anti-Gypsyism in the country. On the one hand, there doesn't seem to be any money to remove the pig-farm from the graves of our victims of the Czech fascism, while on the other hand there seem to be endless financial amounts available to take over the IRU", said the spokesman of the RNC, Rudko Kawczynski. As a result of the meeting in Malmö, Famulson and Kawczynski signed a declaration about future cooperation of IRU and RNC.
The unanimous opinion of all delegates: "In times of crisis, the civil rights movement of the Roma has to be protected from manipulation and exploitation by states!"
© RomNews

NEW GREEK ID CARDS WILL NOT DECLARE RELIGION
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Wednesday his government would abolish the religion entry on state-issued identity cards, a move strongly opposed by the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.
"The religion entry violates citizen rights. Police authorities (which issue the IDs) will no longer include sensitive data on new identity cards," Simitis told parliament. "This issue does not concern religion. It concerns the citizen's right to keep to himself what he believes," he said.
About 97 percent of Greeks are Orthodox Christians and the rest are Roman Catholics, other Christian sects as well as Muslims, mostly in the northeast. The Greek Orthodox Church, which considers itself as the guardian of the country's traditions, has reacted angrily to any plans to abolish the religion entry. Church leaders believe the ID issue is a blow to the country's Orthodox soul and could lead to the formal separation of church and state as in the case of other European Union nations.
"We will not be part of those who want us to forget our traditions and our religion. We will fight this. It can turn to an all-out crusade," a senior church official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
The head of the church, Archbishop Christodoulos, recently asked for a referendum on the issue. He has called on Greeks not to lose their national identity in their effort to get closer to the EU and religious groups have mounted mass rallies in the past when they felt their faith was under attack.
Simitis said the decision not to include religion, profession and the name of one's spouse on new IDs was in line with a 1997 law on privacy and freedom from discrimination. Human and minority rights groups have welcomed the law and repeatedly have asked the government to enforce it.
© Reuters

RUSSIANS CARPETED BY NATO OVER WAR CRIMINAL
Russia apologised yesterday for its decision to hold talks with an indicted Yugoslav war criminal, after angry protests from Western politicians threatened to overshadow Nato's post-Kosovo rapprochement with Moscow. Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, said the five-day visit by the Yugoslav defence minister Dragoljub Ojdanic to Moscow earlier this month was the result of an internal mix-up and would not happen again.
"This was prompted by an internal technical hitch between agencies and ministries, and measures are being taken so that this shall not be repeated," the Russian minister told a news conference at the Nato foreign ministers' conference in Florence.
Earlier, the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright went into a meeting with Mr Ivanov, she said she would make it clear that is was "inappropriate for an indicted war criminal to be hosted in Moscow". One senior alliance diplomat said he was outraged about the invitation which, he said, "sends the wrong message to Kosovo".
The Nato foreign ministers' meeting was supposed to mark the normalisation of relations between the alliance and Russia after a 12-month cold war over the Kosovo bombing. Technically, Russia is required under UN Security Council resolutions to arrest war criminals who enter its territory, and Moscow's decision to ignore international protocol underlines the continuing gulf between the two sides over the Balkans.
But the alliance was careful to balance its criticism with more positive comments about Russia, partly because Moscow is seen in many European capitals as the key to achieving any change of regime in Belgrade.
With repeated attempts by President Slobodan Milosevic to destabilise the West's strategy for the Balkans, Europe is devoting much attention to wooing the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, hoping he will exert more constructive pressure on Serbia.
"Nato's relations with Russia are getting back on track," Lord Robertson, Nato's Secretary General, said in his opening speech. Mr Ivanov's presence in Florence was a signal "that Russia intends to cooperate with the alliance in looking for solutions in the face of security challenges facing Europe", he said. "Of course, we're not going to agree on everything and some of the talk is going to be tough, but we are talking." The agenda for the the two-day meeting also included detailed discussion on Europe's plans to construct its new military crisis intervention force of around 60,000 men. Concern over the EU plans is strongest among the among the six non-EU Nato allies, including Turkey, who are worried about their degree of influence over the venture.
have been offered extensive consultation, before and after decisions are made, but they were told non-EU members cannot be given a part in decision-making. One Nato diplomat said the EU defence force would need to rely, at least in the short term, on Nato assets which "can only be provided with the consensus of all the allies" including Turkey. "The whole enterprise could grind to a halt if we do not tie these institutions together," he added. The US, which has reservations over an autonomous European defence capability, is anxious to see more concrete signs that European countries are upgrading military spending to meet the new objectives.
Policy-makers are considering the potential for EU intervention in particularly African conflicts such as Sierra Leone, providing all 15 European member states agree.
© The Independent

POLICE RAID GYPSY SETTLEMENT(Greece)
A Gypsy woman holds out a rifle yesterday during a police sweep operation at a settlement in the town of Nea Kio in the Peloponnese. Ninety police officers raided four Gypsy camps yesterday following a decision taken by the municipal government to remove the Gypsies from the area, claiming they pose a health risk and were trespassing on private property.
Some 100 people were detained, of which 16 were arrested on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest. They are expected to appear before a public prosecutor today. Several weapons were confiscated. The Gypsy community of Nea Kio recently accused other local residents of banning them from using the pharmacy and supermarket, and their children have been prevented from attending school. Villagers allege the Gypsies set up their camps on private fields. Human rights groups condemned the raids.
© ATHENS NEWS

MORE DISCRIMINATION CASES TO FOLLOW(Ireland)
The Equality Authority has said there could be as many as56 cases of alleged discrimination against employees on grounds of gender, sexual orientation and disability. This follows the successful claim made by Dr Noreen Gleeson who was awarded £50,000 against the Mater and Rotunda hospitals. She donated the money to charity.
© Ireland Today

NAZI SLAVE FUND NEEDS DONORS(Germany)
About 2.3 million labour slaves may have survived Nazi concentration camps German industry is struggling to raise the DM5bn ($2.3bn) pledged as compensation for about one million Nazi slave labourers.
Businesses in Germany have only managed to raise DM3bn ($1.4bn) out of the total, which was agreed in a deal brokered by the German and American governments late last year.
Plans for US President Bill Clinton to sign the compensation agreement in Berlin next week are now in doubt after talks in Washington broke down over the key legal guarantees demanded by German companies to protect them from further US lawsuits. The Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation, as the fund is called, is intended to compensate surviving concentration camp prisoners and others from Central Europe who were forced to work for the Nazi war effort.
Although Germany has compensated the victims of war crimes, it has never provided for the estimated 12 million people put to work by Adolf Hitler's regime.
Contributors named
The German Government will match the DM5bn promised by industry, bringing the total to DM10bn ($4.63bn).
But the uncertainty over future legal action is hindering efforts to get firms to contribute. In a bid to encourage other contributors, fund organisers have published a list of 2,000 supporting companies, including German industrial giants Siemens, Volkswagen and Daimler Chrysler which benefited from slave and forced labourers during World War II.
Double-page newspaper adverts appealed to firms not on the list to acknowledge their moral responsibility and join the fund. The contributors are not necessarily firms who employed slave labour or were active in Germany at the time of the Nazi regime.
Ageing victims
The government has rejected an industry request that state-owned companies should contribute to the fund.
But there is a keen sense of time running, as the surviving victims are all now very old. The German Government hopes to begin payments by the end of the year, a gesture which it sees as a final settlement of the country's Second World War liabilities.
© BBC NEWS

HOLOCAUST DEADLINE FOR AUSTRIANS AND DUTCH
New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi on Thursday said his group of 900 public finance officers gave Austria and the Netherlands a 30-day deadline for responding on how they were handling claims their firms owe restitution to Holocaust survivors. The city comptroller, whose Holocaust monitoring committee in the past has threatened to use its clout with state and federal regulators to delay foreign companies' mergers with U.S. firms, declined to say what the group might do if the two countries fail to respond on time.
The World Jewish Congress, a Jewish restitution group, said that it planned to ask Hevesi's committee to give the Netherlands a 30-day deadline. And at midday, Hevesi said the group was likely to accept that proposal. But the decision to give Austria the same deadline came as a surprise. The country so far has focused its restitution efforts on forced laborers, who mostly were not Jewish, though it recently named an official to handle claims from Jews whose art works and other property were seized by the Nazis.
'We're going to ask for a response in 30 days ... (then) we will consider what our next steps are,' Hevesi told reporters. He was speaking after a day of briefings from Jewish groups, lawyers, U.S. government officials and French officials, on how Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands are handling charges their firms - and in some cases, the governments - profited from Nazi war crimes, such as slave labor and the looting of Jewish assets.
New York City's top financial officer said the group he leads singled out Austria and the Netherlands because they have the most outstanding issues. Germany is close to finalizing a $5 billion fund for Nazi-era slave laborers. But a last-minute snag over German demands for an ironclad guarantee that pending lawsuits brought by Holocaust survivors will be settled -- and no new claims filed - has made it unlikely that an accord will be ready in time for President Bill Clinton to sign when he goes to Berlin on June 1. 'The German side has reopened the issue of closure and it raises the question of good faith,' Hevesi said. 'Holocaust victims cannot wait any longer.' The average Holocaust survivor is 81 years old, and 10 percent to 15 percent of them die each year.
Swiss banks two years ago reached a $1.3 billion accord with Holocaust survivors whose final details are being thrashed out, and France in April released a report on the looting of Jewish assets during the Second World War. U.S. firms, some of which might have profited from the use of slave or forced labor at overseas factories even if they were seized by the Nazis, did not escape attention.
Hevesi's group, whose members control billions of dollars in pensions that invest in U.S. companies, will urge U.S. firms to contribute to a Holocaust fund the Chamber of Commerce is creating. Asked what steps the committee might take against U.S. companies, however, Hevesi said only: 'What we're going to do is communicate our disappointment, where it is warranted.'
Elan Steinberg, the WJC executive director, said Dutch banks and the Amsterdam bourse, which has said it has nothing to fear from the congress' threat, proposed a nearly $24 million settlement. But the Dutch community estimated the banks and the bourse owe around $225 million for helping the Nazis loot bank accounts and securities.
'It isn't even a gap, it's a chasm,' Steinberg said. Holocaust reparations are a thorny issue for Austria. The United States, Israel and the European Union all have shunned the country since February, when its coalition government let in the anti-immigrant Freedom Party. Though far-right leader Joerg Haider stepped down as head of the party, he made international headlines for past remarks that seemed to minimize Nazi war crimes. Haider is not a member of the government © Reuters

FRENCH MINISTER SORRY FOR NAZI REMARKS
French Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, has apologised for saying that Germany was not cured of its Nazi his remarks during a television interview on Sunday, replying to a question about a recent speech by Germany's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, in which he called for a more federal Europe.
On Monday, Mr Chevenment said he was deeply sorry for his comments which he said had been misunderstood. He added that he liked Germany a lot.
BAD TIMING
Mr Chevenement's comments have come at a highly sensitive time in Franco-German relations. Not only is France about to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union but there is a growing debate over how, what is known as the Franco-German motor of European development, is to be kick-started.
So far there has been no official reaction to Mr Chevenement's statement from either government. It is not the first time that the minister has made controversial comments and neither France, nor Germany is interested in provoking a wider diplomatic row.
© BBC NEWS

GREEN CARD RENEWAL WOES FOR TOO MANY MIGRANTS(Greece)
MANY of the migrants that managed to obtain Green Cards last year and achieve legal status - and some peace of mind against the thought of being deported if caught by police - now face obstacles in renewing their permits. Due to discrepancies between labour ministry directives, OAED requirements for permit renewals and social insurance foundation (ÉÊÁ) requirements, domestic workers are being told they have not made enough contributions to the plan.
This holds especially true for the vast majority of migrant women employed as domestic workers. Many, mainly Filipino women, have turned to the newly-opened Information Centre for Workers and the Unemployed (Ê„Ñ„Á) for assistance.
According to Marili Æalaora, a legal adviser at the centre jointly established by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Organisation for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED), the problem is they are not able to collect the 150 days' worth of social security stamps (ensima) required by ÉÊÁ annually after they received their Green Card and up to the day they submit their permit renewal application, mainly due to legislation passed by the labour ministry in September 1998 which reduced the amount employers had to contribute to ÉÊÁ for domestic workers by half the amount.
The labour ministry move was to make the hiring of migrants more "attractive" to employers, who were reluctant to insure their migrant domestic helpers. Employers today continue to pay half of the contributions, but the result is that migrant domestic helpers are only able to raise half the required amount. Labour Minister Tassos Yiannitsis was briefed about this matter last week.
According to Teresa Conte, a member of KASAPI (Union of Filipino Migrant Workers in Greece), too many Filipino domestic workers whose Green Cards have expired or will soon be expiring fear that they will not be able to renew them. "When a friend of mine went to renew her Green Card they [OAED] did not allow her to submit her application for renewal because she did not have enough ÉÊÁ social security stamps," she says. "The problem is that that we can not collect the amount of ensima that is required [because we only have half]."
Meanwhile, based on the latest tally carried out by the central OAED office, an estimated total of 12,300 applications for Green Card renewals have been submitted to OAED branch offices around the country. Some 70,000 migrants, however, are still waiting for their initial application for the Green Card to be reviewed by a special committee. Only 140,000 applications out of about 210,000 have been reviewed to date and about 130,000 migrants currently hold a Green Card.
The review of the Green Card applications by special committees set up around the country is a painstakingly slow process despite an announcement by the former labour minister Miltiadis Papaioannou last year that the aim was to have finished by March 2000. Managers of various OAED branches around Athens say that more committees must be set up around the country in order to speed up the process.
© ATHENS NEWS

ATHLETE HATE MAIL CHARGE(UK)
The white former boyfriend of black British international triple jumper Ashia Hansen has been remanded in custody after appearing in court accused of sending her racist hate mail.
Chris Cotter, 28, a financial adviser, allegedly sent the letters in a bid to pervert the course of justice, after falsely claiming he had been the victim of a racist attack outside her house in Erdington, Birmingham.
Mr Cotter from Bromford, Birmingham, Surjit Singh Claire of Reedswood, Walsall, West Midlands, and Craig Wynn, of Kingstanding, Birmingham, are charged with perverting the course of justice.
They also face a charge of jointly sending racist material with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress and conspiracy to obtain financial gain by deception by selling stories to newspapers and others.
Mr Claire and Mr Wynn face separate charges of conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm on Mr Cotter between 18 March and 22 March. All three have been remanded in custody to reappear on 31 May after their bail applications were refused by magistrates.
Mr Cotter was arrested on Friday by West Midlands Police officers investigating the incident which saw him stabbed three times in the back and slashed across the forehead. Mr Cotter - a former long jumper - was attacked in March in what was thought to be a racially motivated assault as he parked his car near Olympic hopeful Ms Hansen's home in Erdington, Birmingham.
After the attack on Mr Cotter, 28-year-old Ms Hansen - one of Britain's brightest prospects for a medal at the Sydney Olympics - was sent racist hate mail and was forced into hiding. Three other high-profile black male British athletes also received racist "poison pen" style letters the following week.
© BBC NEWS

SPANISH-FRENCH SUMMIT TO DISCUSS TERRORISM, IMMIGRATION AND EU
Problems of terrorism and illegal immigration, bilateral relations and the forthcoming French presidency of the agenda at European Union (EU) top the Tuesday's Spanish-French summit. The summit, to be held in Santander, on the northern Spanish coast, will bring together Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and French President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
Also joining the talks will be the Spanish and French ministers of foreign affairs, the interior, defence, transport, science and technology and secretaries of state for European affairs.
The two sides will discuss closer police cooperation, in particular in neutralising the Basque separatist group ETA. Spanish Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja would like to see increased action by the French against ETA, including the dismantling of the group's leadership which he believes operates in France. Illegal immigration into Spain, in particular from the African continent, is described by the Spanish government as a major problem. Spain, which was once used as a transit point for illegal immigration but which has itself now become a destination, is calling for greater European-wide cooperation - in particular with France, Portugal and Italy -- to more effectively police the traffic. Chirac and Jospin will tell Aznar that France's priorities during its six-month presidency of the EU beginning July will include economic growth and employment, EU enlargement, and a more prominent role for the EU on the world scene, a French presidential spokeswoman said Monday.
One sticking point in bilateral relations which are otherwise described as good is Spain's desire for creating more transport routes across the common border with France which is its gateway to the rest of the European continent. Construction work on a road tunnel linking the two countries underneath the Somport pass in the western Pyrenees has been put on hold by the French government after pressure from environmentalist groups.
An update will be made on progress in construction work on the planned high-speed rail link between Madrid, Barcelona and the French town of Perpignan which was due to be in service for 2004 but which has suffered delays.
© The Tocqueville Connection

SITUATION 'COMPLEX' BUT 'MANAGEABLE'(Ireland)
Asylum is a complex and sensitive issue that deserves open discourse, but in recent weeks we have seen the discussion corrupted in Ireland, UNHCR representative Hope Hanlon said in the Irish Times on Saturday. The two fundamental questions are: Why is there an increase in asylum seekers and how do we deal with it?
The real reason for the upsurge is the mounting violation of human rights. It is no surprise to see that some of the largest sources for new applications in Ireland are Nigeria, Congo Republic and Kosovo.
Political support at all levels is required in the emerging European asylum landscape. If European states reject their obligations, a dangerous precedent is set for those poorer countries that are sheltering the majority of the world's refugees.
There is no perfect system. But any system must be fair to both the asylum-seekers and the host communities. The realistic and correct solution in Ireland is to spread asylum-seekers instead of concentrating them in Dublin. However, if dispersal is to be effective, suitable accommodation, access to good legal representation, language support and specialist health provision must be available.
Asylum issues are manageable. It is not helpful to invoke an atmosphere of crisis in setting refugee policy. Surely it is not too much to ask the people of Ireland to extend the same dispensation they themselves sought for centuries.
© Refugees Daily

WORK PLAN FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS(Germany)
Bavaria's conservative politicians threatened Saturday to block German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's plan to grant 20,000 work permits to foreign computer specialists if his government goes ahead with another proposal to lift the ban on work for asylum seekers, reports AP.
Erwin Huber, chief of staff for Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber, said Germany would become even more of a magnet for refugees if the ban on employment for asylum seekers were lifted. The ban was adopted under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative government to deter so-called economic refugees.
But Huber said in the BZ newspaper that 90% of asylum seekers in Germany still are not fleeing persecution at home but seeking better living conditions. He said Bavaria would move in the upper house of parliament, where conservative-led states have a majority, to block the government's plan to allow computer specialists in to ease a labour shortage in Germany's information technology industry if it went ahead with the plan for asylum seekers.
The president of Germany's umbrella association of employers, Dieter Hundt, welcomed the proposal to allow asylum seekers to work, saying it would help fill low-skilled jobs.
© Refugees Daily

YAHOO! GETS GAG ORDER(France)
French Court Tells Leading Net Portal to Block Nazi Auctions A French court told Internet portal Yahoo! today to "make it impossible" for Web surfers in France to gain access to sales of Nazi memorabilia that appear on one of the Web sites it hosts.
Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez told the firm that the auctions were "an offense to the collective memory of the country" and ordered it to report back on July 24 to explain measures it had taken to prevent the French from participating in the sales. It was the first time that a French court has issued such a gag order on a foreign Internet company. A Yahoo! auction site puts hundreds of Nazi or neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan objects up for auction each day, including films, swastikas, uniforms, daggers, photos and medals.
Illegal Under French Law Under French law, it is illegal to exhibit or sell objects with racist overtones. The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, known by its French acronyn LICRA, and the Union of French Jewish Students or UEJF took California-based Yahoo! to court in April in a bid to stop the English-language online sales from appearing in France. Lawyers representing Yahoo! told the court earlier this month that it was not technically possible for the company to scan the content of all the sites carried on its service. Judge Gomez ordered Yahoo! to pay $1,371 in costs to LICRA and UEJF.
© Reuters

GERMAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NAZI SLAVE LABOR FUND
The upper house of the German parliament approved a bill on Friday paving the way for compensation worth $4.6 billion for victims of the Nazis' slave labor regime.
U.S. and German officials hope to wrap up a deal by June 1, when President Clinton arrives in Berlin to sign an accord with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Yet even after the upper house's assent to the measure on Friday, both sides still have problems with the existing deal, which aims to compensate mostly survivors in eastern Europe or Jews now based in the United States.
German industry wants guarantees of immunity from future legal action in the United States, where lawyers have aggressively pursued German companies in the courts. But under U.S. law, anyone not taking part in the class action settlement could still launch a separate lawsuit. For its part, German industry is still far short of its five billion mark share of the compensation package. The other five billion is coming from the German government. The lower house of the German parliament has already sent the compensation bill through an initial reading but must now hold a final vote before it becomes law.
About 240,000 people, mainly Jews the Nazis tried to kill through their slave labor program, and around one millionM forced laborers, who suffered less severe hardships and were mostly Eastern European, stand to receive payments from the new German fund.
© Reuters

300 KURDS RESCUED FROM SHIP(Italy)
A ship carrying more than 300 Kurdish refugees ran aground off the coast of southern Italy on Saturday, television reports showed, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Rescue workers transferred the refugees onto small boats and took them ashore. The Kurds were housed in temporary accommodation in and around Locri. The Turkish captain and crew members were arrested. In the past week, two boats carrying 500 refugees landed at other points in Italy.
© Refugees Daily

RACIST ATTACK INQUIRY OFFICIERS PUNISHED(UK)
Five police officers from South Wales have been disciplined following a racist assault in Cardiff three years ago which resulted in the victims being arrested, along with their attackers.
The chief constable of South Wales Police has denied any officers were guilty of institutional racism But Tony Burden has admitted that the subsequent investigation into the incident fell short of the standard expected.
The racist attack by a number of white youths on two black students in Cardiff's City Road in August 1997 was captured on closed circuit television cameras. Marcus Walters and Francisco Borg had been set upon by the skinheads following a road rage incident off camera. In the ensuing confusion they were also arrested by police officers who turned up at the scene. Charges against the black students were later dropped and a white man was jailed for his part in the racist assault.
An investigation supervised by the Police Complaints Authority was then launched into the officers' conduct. But the Chief Constable has denied that any of his officers were racially motivated in their actions.
He confirmed that two inspectors, a sergeant and two constables have been disciplined as a result of the PCA inquiry. They refused to say whether any officer had been sacked or demoted as a result.
© BBC News

SIX ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DROWN(Spain)
Six North African immigrants died and another 23 were rescued when the inflatable vessel in which they were travelling sank in the Straits of Gibraltar early on Friday morning. The boat was approaching the Spanish coast between Tarifa and Algeciras at 5.40 a.m. when it overturned, and although some of the occupants managed to reach the shore, six people, including a 16 year old girl, drowned. This was the third and worst accident of its type in the area in the past fortnight.
The President of the immigrant assistance association Algeciras Acoge, Fernando García, afterwards blamed the Spanish and Moroccan governments and European immigration policy for the deaths. He urged people not to accept the fact that many North Africans lose their lives while attempting to reach the Spanish mainland, and said these incidents can’t be classed as accidents as these people are being used as political pawns.
The Guardia Civil off Almería detained another 23 immigrants early on Friday morning after radar showed a small boat travelling at moderate speed without lights at approximately half past six
©Town Crier

GERMANS MUST PAY DAMAGES TO TURK FIREBOMB VICTIMS
Four Germans already convicted of murder for the 1993 firebombing death of five Turks were ordered by a court on Tuesday to pay civil damages to the injured survivors of the attack. The Wuppertal state court said the assailants, who were convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to 15 years in jail, should pay Bekir Genc, who survived the fire with severe burns, 250,000 marks ($116,000) plus a monthly pension of 360 marks.
Two others injured in the attack, Gueldane Ince and Ahmet Ince, were awarded 10,000 marks and 8,000 marks respectively. Five Turkish women and girls were killed in the racist firebombing, which came at the height of a wave of far-right attacks on foreigners in Germany in May 1993. Bekir Genc, then 15, suffered life-threatening injuries.
The attack, in the Rhineland town of Solingen near Duesseldorf, provoked horror and outrage among Germany's large Turkish population numbering over two million. A Duesseldorf court convicted the four main assailants to 15 years in jail and handed down 10-year sentences to three younger accomplices. The court said it was clear the attack, which was condemned around the world, was racially motivated.
The defendants said they had no assets but the ruling will remain in force for 30 years, by which time they will be long out of jail.
© Reuters

FRENCH RIGHTIST LE PEN SQUARES OFF WITH RAP SINGER
French extreme-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen has been involved in a mid-air slanging match with a black rap singer, police said on Tuesday. Le Pen and singer Stomy Bugsy, who comes from Cape Verde and whose real name is Gilles Duarte, hurled insults at one another during a flight between Paris and Strasbourg on Monday.
On arrival the two men went to airport police and filed complaints against each other for public insults. Le Pen was travelling to the eastern city to attend the European Parliament, which later decided to allow him to continue sitting in its forum pending his appeal against a French state decree that stripped him of his seat there.
The brusque National Front president had been ruled ineligible to hold public office for one year because of a 1998 conviction for assaulting a woman politician during the 1997 general election campaign.
Le Pen, whose political career began as a street-brawling student leader in the Latin Quarter in the early 1950s, has since been involved in multiple public incidents.
He has been taken to court several times for racist jibes, on one occasion by the African-born head of a French anti-racist group. He was also fined after notorious comments minimising Nazi persecution of Jews.
© Reuters

PARIS PROSECUTOR CONDEMNS NAZI AUCTIONS ON YAHOO
A French state prosecutor demanded on Monday that a judge take action against Internet portal Yahoo! Inc for allowing the sale of Nazi memorabilia on one of the web sites it hosts. The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) brought the case against the California-based company in April in a bid to stop the English language on-line sales from appearing in France.
Prosecutor Pierre Dillange told a Paris court that it would be "opportune" to impose "constraints and an injunction" against Yahoo, but did not specify exactly measures he wanted applied.
Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez is expected to give his verdict on May 21. Web companies are closely watching the case, which could have big implications for Internet usage in France. Lawyers representing Yahoo said it was not technically possible for the company to scan the content of all the sites carried on its service and added that under U.S. law such auctions were permissible.
A Yahoo.com auction site puts hundreds of Nazi or neo-Nazi, or Ku Klux Klan objects up for auction each day, including films, swastikas, uniforms, daggers, photos and medals. Under French law, it is illegal to exhibit or sell objects with racist overtones. "Yahoo is an ally of revisionists and contributes to their propaganda," LICRA lawyer Stephane Lilti told the court. Yahoo came under fire in February from another anti-racism group, the Anti-Defamation League, which accused the web service provider of hosting dozens of sites that promoted messages from racist hate groups including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
© Reuters

WJC EYES BOYCOTTING AUSTRIA DUE HOLOCAUST CLAIMS
The World Jewish Congress may boycott a selected group of Austrian companies because the country's coalition government has not done enough to resolve charges Holocaust survivors are owed billions of dollars in property claims, a source said on Monday.
A WJC source, who declined to be named, said the group also could try to deepen Austria's isolation by urging President Bill Clinton not to talk with Austria's leaders. Austria's ruling coalition has been shunned by the European Union, Israel and the United States since February, when it allowed in the far-right Freedom Party.
Austria's coalition rulers have made a top priority compensating forced labourers and slave labourers, whom the Nazis meant to work to death. A spokesman for Austria's U.S. embassy was not immediately available, but he previously has said his government would also try to find a quick solution to the property restitution issue.
Holocaust compensation is a difficult issue for Austria's government. The anti-immigrant Freedom Party's dominant personality is Joerg Haider. And though he has resigned as party leader, remarks he made earlier that seemed to minimise Nazi atrocities turned the government into a pariah.
Austria will face renewed pressure to settle charges its companies profited by helping the Nazis steal assets from Jews -- from art to thriving businesses -- on Tuesday and Wednesday, when Stuart Eizenstat, the deputy U.S. treasury secretary, meets with Austrian officials to negotiate Holocaust claims.
A 1953 U.S. report provided to Reuters by the WJC said Austria owed Holocaust victims what the equivalent of $10 billion. Last Friday, Eizenstat demanded that Austria begin settling property claims, as well as labour claims. The warning by the WJC source further raised the stakes for Eizenstat's meetings with Austria government officials. Any sanctions by the WJC would have to be approved by its executives who next meet on Thursday in Jerusalem. The WJC's leaders were expected to pay close attention to the outcome of Eizenstat's talks in Vienna.
Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, declined comment on the specifics of Thursday's Jerusalem meeting, saying only: "The issue of Austria and general restitution questions are a central part of the agenda."
Economic sanctions being considered by the WJC would start with a selective boycott of Austrian companies, the WJC source said. Political sanctions also were being considered. "At the political level, is the blocking of any future meetings between (Chancellor Wolfgang) Schuessel and Foreign Affairs Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner with the American president and the secretary of state," the source said. The WJC in the past has used boycotts with great effect. This was one of the main weapons it used to pummel Swiss banks into reaching a landmark $1.3 billion accord with Holocaust survivors who were blocked from withdrawing their money after the end of the Second World War.
An Austrian report showed that out of 210,000 Jews who lived in the country in 1934, about 110,000 were forced to emigrate, and some 65,000 were killed by the Nazis, who annexed Austria in 1938. After the Second World War, Austria handled more than 42,000 restitution cases, of which about one-fifth were recognised, one-third were settled by mutual agreement, and one-third were denied or withdrawn, according to Austria's report. The document did not account for the remaining cases.
© Reuters

SIGN TREATIES, URGES ANNAN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged world governments to take advantage of the upcoming Millennium Summit to commit themselves to 25 key international treaties, including refugee treaties, if they haven't done so already, reports AP.
Annan sent a letter yesterday to each head of state identifying 25 of the estimated 500 treaties around the world that most reflect the key goals of the United Nations.
They include conventions that cover human rights, refugees, terrorism, disarmament and the environment.
© Refugees Daily

AUSTRIA ON UKRAINE(Russia)
Austrian President Thomas Klestil offered support for Ukraine's efforts to better integrate into Europe during an official visit to the country that began Wednesday.
"Austria stands for enlarging the European Union and sees that in Ukraine's future," Klestil said. "We back the European orientation of Ukraine."
Klestil, accompanied by government officials and a delegation of Austrian businessmen, met Wednesday with Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma to discuss European security issues and bilateral relations, including economic ties.
© The Moscow Times

AUSTRIA PLANS TO COMPENSATE JEWS
Austria's chancellor pledged to start work on compensating Jews stripped of property under the Nazis, and on Thursday appointed an envoy to negotiate claims.
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel announced the plans on state radio a day after U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart E. Eizenstat urged Austria to set up a fund for Jews who were forced to hand over houses, businesses and other property as part of what the Nazis called ``aryanization.''
The chancellor had said previously that most aryanization claims had been covered under laws passed after World War II. But on Thursday, he announced the appointment of diplomat Ernst Sucharipa as a ``negotiating partner'' on outstanding claims. He also said that a commission of historians set up in 1998 to determine which Nazi-era crimes needed remedying would begin work on the aryanization issue. Sucharipa, who spent years in New York with Austria's U.N. delegation, was considered well qualified to deal with U.S. officials on restitution issues.
Schuessel said he hoped for ``very quick'' work, but said the historians examining the Nazis' aryanization campaign first had to put their ``facts on the table.'' In the mean time, he said, he would begin contacting ``victims, not their lawyers,'' the Austria Press Agency reported. Ariel Muzicant, head of Austria's Jewish community, welcomed Schuessel's comments as an ``important step in the right direction.'' Austrian officials have reacted coolly to a class-action suit filed in New York City Court, demanding that Austria compensate property stolen from Jews and other Holocaust victims. The officials said the $18 billion asked in damages was outrageously out of line. Eizenstat on Wednesday urged quick action in creating the fund for those stripped of property under the Nazis. He was in Vienna to co-chair an international conference with Austria on setting up a separate fund to compensate forced labor. On Wednesday, Austria announced the outlines of the separate fund - about $393.4 million - for people who were forced into labor under the Nazis. According to the agreement, the 150,000 or so surviving victims are each entitled to between $1,300 and $6,900. So-called ``slave-laborers'' - those forced to work in Nazi concentration camps - would be eligible for the highest payment, while others pressed into work on farms would receive the lowest.
Forced factory workers would be eligible for $2,295. Women who gave birth while in Austria for forced labor would receive $328, while children up to age 12 who accompanied parents could claim the same amount their parents are eligible for. The fund would be paid for by the Austrian government and companies that benefited from the forced labor.
Political leaders began acknowledging in the 1980s that Austria was not only a victim but also a perpetrator during the Nazi era. The discussion has increased in recent months, in part because of the prominence of the far-right Freedom Party in government.
The party gained a reputation for anti-foreigner sentiment under Joerg Haider, and Haider himself was condemned for statements praising the Nazi era. Earlier this year, the 14 other EU nations imposed sanctions on Austria to oppose the party's government role.
© Associated Press

IMMIGRANT'S BOAT SUNK(Spain)
An immigrant's boat sunk last Sunday off the coast of Tarifa in Cadiz. At least 3 people have died, 10 are missing and a further 11 survived after reaching the beaches of Tarifa.
The body of a man and of a woman were found on Sunday morning near the Zahara de los Atunes beach, while the 3rd body of a man was found in the afternoon at the Torre Plata beach.
Two other bodies were found on Sunday, but authorities suspect these come from another boat that sank earlier in the week.
© The Entertainer Online

DEPORTATION REPRIEVE FOR HUNGER STRIKER(UK)
The Home Office has held off deporting an Iranian asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for more than a month in Rochester prison, Kent, it was announced last night.
He was to be sent back to Germany on Monday, despite a protest by a charity supporting victims of torture that has called for his release. A court application for the man, who has not been named, to be released on bail was rejected yesterday after he was certified by hospital doctors as fit to travel.
But the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture said the man was showing signs of shellshock and severe depression, and that ministers should reconsider his case. The charity's director, Helen Bamber, said it would be inhumane for him to remain in detention or be deported. The man's lawyer, Kash Beh bahani, said yesterday that his client had told him he would rather die than be sent back to Germany, where he believed he would be deported to Iran.
The man has been on hunger strike for more than 39 days, and was transferred for a second time hospital. The immigration authorities said he should be sent back to Germany on "safe third country" grounds. He had fled from Iran via Germany, and that was where his asylum application should be decided.
His removal is believed to have been postponed after the German authorities requested more information about his medical condition. Doctors acting for the medical foundation believe he is in a highly disturbed state and unfit to travel.
A second Iranian is also in hospital after going on hunger strike more than 30 days ago at Rochester prison.
© Guardian Unlimited

ROMA SCHOOLGIRL ATTACKED IN BELGRADE
A thirteen-year-old Roma schoolgirl was attacked in Belgrade on 10 May by a group of youths made up of her fellow students at the Milan Rakic elementary school in the Bezanijska Kosa district and several skinheads.
The girl was on her way home from school when the group stopped her, knocked her down and set upon her with knives. They smeared the blood over her body, saying "your Gypsy blood will pour out of you" and, brandishing a syringe, threatened to inject her with a narcotic drug.
Doctors at the local hospital established 17 cuts on the girl's chest and legs, and said she was in shock and mentally traumatized. Roma parents in the neighborhood fear new incidents and are anxious about sending their children to school as the school authorities have failed to take steps to ensure equal treatment for Roma schoolchildren.
A few hours before the assault, the same group threatened to rape the girl and cut her "to pieces," and slapped around a Roma boy in the school yard. The girl complained to her maths teacher who, she recounted, said he was not interested, while the Roma boy reported the incident to the principal.
The attackers threatened and insulted Roma schoolchildren before the 10 May incidents. The children reported the threats to the principal, Miodrag Kuburovic, but neither he nor the school authorities took any steps to protect Roma children. The Humanitarian Law Center has in the past year investigated some 50 cases of racially motivated violence against Roma by skinheads and other individuals.
More often than not, the authorities failed to take appropriate measures to put an end to the discrimination and violence against Roma. The HLC has filed a criminal complaint against the attackers on behalf of the girl and will represent her parents in court.
© ROM NEWS

LIES AND CIVIL RESISTANCE IN THE STRAITS OF OTRANTO(Italy)
475 BATTLING MIGRANTS ARRIVED YESTERDAY

One wonderful example of civil resistance took place yesterday morning as the Panama ship "Venus Star" carrying 475 migrants approached the Italian Jonic shore in Calabria and was immediately surrounded by Navy ships, coast guards, helicopters, etc. The cops tried to get onboard, but the migrants resisted by throwing against them whatever they coud find. Then, the Navy tried to hook up the ship and trail it in the port of Crotone, but again they did not calculate the migrants' resistance and couldn't manage. After a real battle lasting the whole day, the ship finally stranded on the free beach of Botticello, near Catanzaro... and hundreds of migrants jumped in the sea seeking escape from sure deportation. Many made it, many didn't -- but it's anyway an indicator of a changing attitude, of a developing grassroot resistance among migrants.
AND MORE ARE COMING
Another ship loaded with migrants has been spotted 2 days ago near Greek home waters. The Greek Navy did not seize it -- they can't, as long as it stays in international waters. But the Italian Navy don't give a damn -- they regularly seize boats or chase "skafos" in international waters -- and they started already to search it, up to now without success. Also that ship will arrive in a few days.
LIES AND CIVIL RESISTANCE IN THE STRAITS OF OTRANTO
The lies concern the collision between an Albanian ship and an Italian coast guard unit which took place in the night between May 4 and 5, described on my mail of May 7.It could be up to 15 the deadly toll of the collision between an Italian coast guard ship and an Albanian "skafo" which took place in the night of May 4. New corpses (the Adriatic is a sea full of corpses! Endorse Ancona!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) are emerging every day: up to now, 4 have been found, and 8 migrants are surely missing; to that, you can add the clinical dead of the migrant took to the hospital of Lecce immediately after the collision, which is now kept alive only thanks to the machines.
The initial toll was estimated in 3 deads -- the ones dmitted by the coast guard. That was reported by all mainstream and even antagonistic media, in what many start to consider a real and VERY worrying brainwash operation aimed to conceal the truth as long as possible. Only the loud protest of the survivors and the Albanian parents of the victims -- and again, one would say that migrants start to know quite properly Italy and Schengen EU -- allowed the real balance to be known.
The police/ coast guard lied on everything: on the number of people onboard the "skafo", on the number of their ships involved in the operation, on the place of the collision, on the number of casualties and -- since they claim they found 2,5 kilos of weed floating in that area -- I expect this same evening to hear they lied also on that. But you never know in life -- it's what people likes to hear, so they'll manage to keep it.
According to the official version, only 2 people died immediately after the collision, cut by the ships' propellers. Another man was taken in coma to the hospital. The police strongly excluded that there could be any migrant missing, and spoke about an operation involving 2 of their ships which took place 4 kilometers in front of the town of S. Andrea, north of Otranto But the Albanian migrants and the relatives of the victims didn't buy it.
According to their version, the skafo was carrying 36 migrants and not 26. They were all young people between 15 and 23 years old, most of them coming from Albania. The migrants excluded that their skafo could have escaped 4 kilometers in the sea, and always spoke about a collision point much closer to the shore.
A judge believed them. Researches were started with the help o a robotized submarine, and they led to the recovery of 2 corpses and the spotting of other 2 in a place 1,5 km closer to the shore than the one indicated by the coast guard. So, the balance is now 7 deads and 6 wounded, but 8 migrants are still missing.
For what concerns the dynamics of the collision, I report again what was said by Alma Tushi, 20 years old, from Fier (Albania), one of the survivors:"We were about 500 meters from the shore, slowing down for the debarquement. All in a sudden, 5 Italian Coast Guard ships hidden in the dark lighted up their spotlights and speeded up toward us. The "skafisti" turned back and tried to regain the open sea. But few minutes later, the Italian ships managed to cut our way and surrounded us starting a crazy and very aggressive "merry-go-round" which raised very high waves. Any manoeuvre was very difficult at that point, so we collided with one Coast Guard ship."Any comment is worthless at this point.
It's a new, deliberate mass murder -- they hope to discourage the migrants flow with repression, murders and lies. Well, they are wrong -- as demonstrated by the unceasing flow of arrivals which included, few days ago, even a Kurdish lady 101 years old.Two words about Ancona.
In that Adriatic Italian city there will be, on May 19 - 20, the "Conference for safety and developement of the Adriatic sea and the Balkan area". This conference is called by the Italians and endorsed by EU, and will see the presence of all Adriatic nations (Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, etc) plus USA, Canada, Japan and Turkey. It's obviously an attempt to legitimize the armed presence of the Italians in the Adriatic and the NATO influence on the Balkans, and an occasion to promote mega-financial and economical projects like the "Adriatic trade corridor". Italian Social Centers and other grassroot realities, plus some NGOs, etc, will organize a counter-conference, a concert and a demonstration on May 18 - 20.
The concert and the demo have been authorized only yesterday, when it was clear that we would make them anyway. YOUR SUPPORT IS MOST WELCOME!
It's enough to send a few lines of endorsement to: pacognin@tin.it
Antagonist individuals and organizations have a strong role to play if they are united in front of global events. This is one of them. An endorsement to Ancona helps not only the Italian antagonist area: it hows the reach of global opposition. There must be no place on Earth where they can meet undisturbed!!!
Giuliano

KURDISH REFUGEES RETURN TO TURKEY FROM IRAQ
Some 8,000 Kurds fled Turkey between 1992 and 1994 after being forced out of their villages by the terrorist campaign
More than 100 Turkish Kurds returned to Turkey from refugee camps in Iraq on Saturday after fleeing the conflict between Turkish troops and Abdullah Ocalan's separatist terrorists in the early 1990s. Turkish officials said 134 Turkish citizens consisting of 30 families had entered Turkey with assistance from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
They had been staying at the Gergevro refugee camp in northern Iraq, an area controlled by Iraqi Kurdish groups. Some 8,000 Kurds fled Turkey between 1992 and 1994 after being forced out of their villages during the PKk separatist terrorist campaign. Most of them settled in the Atrush refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Stating that 1,799 Turkish citizens had been brought to Turkey so far, the authorities added that there were still 3,000 Turkish citizens remaining in Northern Iraq to be brought back to Turkey. The citizens who returned to Turkey were very excited and happy to see their relatives again after seven years, wire services reported.
© Turkish Daily News Online

ACT ON RACE CRIMES SAYS CRE CHIEF(UK)
The Stephen Lawrence case highlighted racial issues
The new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality is urging the police and the government to provide better protection to ethnic minorities after an alarming rise in race crime.
Reported racially-motivated crime has more than doubled in London since last year indicating a "massive" rise across the country, the Commission for Racial Equality has warned. There were 23,346 recorded racial incidents in the capital in 1999/2000 compared to 11,050 the previous year, according to Metropolitan Police figures.
This equates to 63 incidents every day said new CRE chairman Gurbux Singh. This year's national figures are not yet available for comparison with the 1998/99 data, but a CRE spokeswoman said she expected nationwide rates to mirror the London figures.
Speaking on Tuesday in his first week as CRE chairman, Mr Singh said: "My job is to make sure that the police never again place a lower priority on catching those who victimise other human beings just because of the colour of their skin.
"Ethnic minorities need better support and better protection from the police." He called on police to take racist incidents seriously, listen to local communities and utilise modern surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques against offenders. "We need to send a clear message to the racists that they will be caught and prosecuted," he said.
Calling for a "zero-tolerance policy" against racists, Mr Singh said lenient sentences "send out a message that it is all right to be a racist". Race crime top priority
"The proof of whether these policies were working will come in the shape of a greater diversity of people working in the public sector," he added. "More emphasis on tackling poor education, poor housing and poor social services that specifically affect ethnic minority communities and individuals."
On Tuesday Mr Singh will visit the London Borough of Newham, where the number of recorded racial incidents has trebled from 393 in 1998/99 to 1,338 in 1999/00. He will warn police chiefs, including the Met's Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair, that they must make fighting race crime their main priority.
© BBC News

BORDER GUARDS KILL NINE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS(Turkey)
Police have shot and killed nine Afghans trying to illegallycross into Turkey from Iran. Five others were wounded as the would-be-immigrants,part of a group of 153 Afghans, tried to cross into the townof Dogubeyazit.
Police opened fire after the Afghans ignored warnings tostop, the Anatolia news agency reports. Police detained the remaining Afghans, private newschannel NTV says.
Turkish officials and representatives of the UN HighCommissioner for Refugees were not available forcomment. Thousands of immigrants from Asia, the Middle East andAfrica illegally cross into Turkey each year.
© Ananova

PIANIST TO SUE IMMIGRATION POLICE(Germany)
A London-based classical pianist is to sue Germanimmigration police after he was beaten up at Munichairport and deported, hours before a concert.
Boris Berezowsky says he was treated like a dog afterborder police discovered his visa was not in order. The 31-year-old says his head was smashed against abrick wall after asking for an emergency visa so he couldplay a concert in the city.
"They just grabbed me from behind and smashed my headagainst a wall in their office. They ripped my jacket off andthreatened to put handcuffs on me. The German policewere simply out to humiliate me," says Berezowsky. Mr Berezowsky, who has performed with most of theworld's top orchestras, had been invited to give a solo performance at the prestigious Schwetzingen festival, nearMunich.
He also says he was refused permission to contact theBritish and Russian consulates in the city. German embassy staff in London have apologised for theincident and issued Mr Berezowsky with a new visa.
He is back in Germany and staying with friends before continuing a European recitals tour.
© Ananova

UK ASYLUM CENTRES 'TO HOLD THOUSANDS'(UK)
More than 2,000 new places will be available
A rise in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK has prompted the government to consider setting up two new detention centres, the BBC has learned.
Based at Manston, Kent, and Thurleigh, Bedfordshire - on the site of a former MoD wind tunnel - the centres would house an extra 2,000 extra asylum seekers, well over the current capacity of 900.
Extra capacity would also be created at existing facilities near Heathrow airport and at Lindholme prison near Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
The move is likely to be interpreted as a government submission to be seen to be tackling what has become a high profile issue. Downing Street has said it wants to increase the number of people who are removed or deported as a result of losing their claims.
Figures released recently show that while the government is processing a record number of asylum seekers, large numbers are still coming into the UK. Home Office statistics for March showed that 11,340 decisions were taken by immigration officers - four times the number being dealt with at the end of last year.
Case backlog
But while the backlog of cases fell to 93,365, the number of applications rose by 570 to 6,680 from the previous month.
Of the decisions made, 81% had their applications refused and 19% were either accepted as refugees or given "exceptional leave" to stay in the country. Home Secretary Jack Straw has revealed that the direct cost to the taxpayer of asylum seekers has risen by £170m over the past five years.
In 1995-96 some £420m was spent directly on supporting asylum figures. By 1999-2000 the figure rose to £590m. The Lord Chancellor's Department, including the Immigration Appellate Authority, saw its spending nearly double in the same period. It spent £8.4m on asylum-related matters in 1995-96, but by 1999-2000 that figure had risen to £16.1m.
© BBC News

SPAIN PLEDGES HELP TO MOROCCO ON MIGRANTS
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Monday pledged to help Morocco curb a rise in illegal immigrants to Europe, scores of whom drown each year while trying to cross the Girbaltar Strait.
Aznar, who arrived earlier on Monday on a two-day official visit, said Spain wanted to improve the role of a joint programme, dubbed PAIDAR, to develop Morocco's northern region that has long been ignored by Rabat.
"Immigration (to Europe) is rising...PAIDAR will play a key role in encouraging Moroccans to remain in their region through the development projects," Aznar told a joint news conference with Moroccan Prime Minister Abderrahmane El Youssoufi.
"Spain sees Morocco as a top priority partner," he added. Aznar's visit is his first foreign trip since re-elected two months ago, and the fourth since he became prime minister in 1996. A Spanish report, quoted by Moroccan media at the weekend said that 120 people have died in the first four months of 2000 while trying to cross the 13-km (eight mile) wide Gibraltar Strait, mostly in rickety wooden boats.
"Today, this small space of the Mediterranean is becoming a graveyard for our youth," wrote the French-language newspaper L'Opinion. Youssoufi said Morocco was not the only exporter of illegal immigrants to Europe. "Thousands of Africans transit here through neighbouring brotherly countries, and a large number of them manage to reach Spain," he said.
PAIDAR is one of many projects financed by European Union countries and the World Bank to develop Morocco's northern areas, where more than 70,000 hectares are planted with cannabis, most of which is smuggled to Europe.
Hassan Amrani, head of the Moroccan Agency for the Development of Northern Areas (ANDPN) said the government devoted around $900 million a year for the northern region. "These funds are not enough to eliminate illegal immigration and other marginal activities," Amrani told Reuters, referring to drug smuggling.
Other activities include smuggling goods from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to the local market, which Rabat says cost the government 24 billion dirhams ($2.22 billion) in losses.
Spain is Morocco's second trade partner after France.
© Reuters

ALGERIAN SUICIDE(Germany)
German Interior Minister Otto Schily was criticised yesterday by asylum-seeker supporters after an Algerian woman facing expulsion committed suicide at Frankfurt airport, reports AFP. The 40 year-old woman hanged herself on Saturday night in the airport's transit centre after her asylum request was rejected, said the organisation Pro Asyl.
The woman had been detained for seven months before the expulsion order was given, it said. Pro Asyl strongly criticised Schily for never tackling the problem of extended detention for asylum seekers before they are expelled from Germany. Officials did not comment.
© Refugees Daily

GOV'T ANNOUNCES NEW MEASURES(Ireland)
The Irish government yesterday announced new measures to deal with illegal immigration as it struggles to cope with the arrival of more than 1,000 asylum seekers a month, reports AFP.
Ministers approved a measure that allows police to detain deportees and to strengthen international liaison by stationing police officers in the capitals of Britain and France, which is the last port of call for most asylum seekers before they arrive in Ireland. Justice Minister John O'Donoghue said he was also examining moves to speed up the process of applying for asylum, followed it is hoped by a higher rate of deportations.
Ireland has until lately avoided an influx from Eastern Europe and Africa partly because of EU laws which require refugees to seek asylum in the first country of entry. With an estimated 15,000 more refugees expected this year and a backlog of some 12,000 unprocessed asylum applications, services to house them have been thrown into crisis. A new policy of dispersing asylum seekers from Dublin to small towns and villages around the country has proved very unpopular.
© Refugees Daily

AFGHANS KILLED AT BORDER(Turkey)
Nine Afghans were killed and six injured when Turkish border guards opened fire on a group of 153 refugees trying to enter Turkey from Iran late yesterday, the Anadolu news agency said, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
The report said the refugees had gathered on the Iranian side of the border, close to the Turkish town of Dogubeyazit. After warning the refugees to stop, the border guards opened fire on the group. Turkey is often used by Middle East refugees as a staging post to try and gain illegal entry into the European Union.
© Refugees Daily

FLOOD OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS EXPECTED DUE TO 31ST OF JULY RULE(Spain)
Seven Moroccan boat-owners have been detained in the Canary Island of Fuerteventura over the last few days, in connection with the wave of illegal immigrants who have tried to enter Spain via the island. The seven men were remanded in custody and are being held in Tahíche jail in Lanzarote.
This brings the number of people accused of transporting illegal immigrants to the Canary Islands last week to 24, and if found guilty they could face up to three years imprisonment. The immigrants have been taken to special centres while the documentation is prepared to repatriate them. Among those who make the hazardous journey are heavily pregnant women and children, and some boat owners charge up to 100,000 pesetas per person to make the crossing. Meanwhile, in Cádiz province, the Governmental Sub-delegate Miguel Osuna said last week that between 5,000 and 7,000 Moroccans are currently in Tetúan awaiting the opportunity to cross the Straits of Gibraltar and try to enter Spain illegally. He warned that recent changes in Spanish law which make it easier for certain immigrants to obtain residence permits have led many people in North Africa to mistakenly believe they will be able to stay in Spain if they arrive before the 31st of July. In fact, the new regulations only apply to people who arrived in Spain before 1st July 1999 and can prove It.
©Town Crier

DEMONSTRATION FOR ROMA RIGHTS(UK)
Standing up for Roma Rights Romany Gypsies, the most persecuted minority in Europe, are now being driven out of Britain. Roma asylum-seekers include survivors of death threats, burning, rape, eviction, segregation, and permanent injury from Neo-Nazi and police beatings. The Roma have a right to refuge in the UK.
Five thousand Czech Roma have fled to Britain since 1997 - survivors of death threats, burning, rape and eviction. Many carry permanent injuries from Neo-Nazi and police attacks. Every day Roma communities endure segregation and violent harassment. The British government knows these fact but hides them from the public, stoking up more hatred of the refugees who arrive here. During the May Day holiday weekend Roma refugees were attacked in Manchester, Middlesborough, Dover and Enfield.
The Czech Republic is based on racism. In 1991 a new Czech Citizenship Law deprived up to 200,000 Romany Gypsies of their votes, civil and welfare rights. Over 30 racist murders have gone unpunished. Towns are getting up subscriptions to build new ghetto walls. The Rough Guide warns black British tourists not to visit Prague. Video games and cassettes are on open sale, joking that 'The only good Gypsy is a dead Gypsy'. The Czech Republic has become a meeting place for Nazis from right across Europe.
This is not the first time. From 1939-45 Czechoslovakia had camps where Roma were rounded up by Czech police and beaten, murdered and raped by Czech guards. The survivors were sent to Auschwitz. By the end of World War II, only 600 Czech Gypsies were left alive. Most Czech Roma refugees in the UK are descended from Slovak families, but there are also Roma Holocaust survivors trying to live here: detained in British prisons, treated as bogus, and their families dispersed around the country to face further racist attacks.
A pig farm was built on the Czech Roma concentration camp at Lety. Every year there is a protest to mourn the dead and demand the pig farm be replaced by a proper memorial site.
May 13th Is Lety Memorial Day
Join us outside the Czech Embassy
Lety must become a place of remembrance -
The Roma Holocaust must not be forgotten.
Britain must stop helping the Czech Republic to join EU until segregation stops and racist murderers are punished.
Czech Roma asylum seekers face terror if they return.
Roma have a right to refuge in the UK..
Demonstration for Roma Rights
Saturday 13th May 4pm
Czech Embassy
Corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Palace Gardens
Nearest tube Notting Hill Gate
National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

TURK POLICE CAPTURE NEARLY 400 WOULD-BE MIGRANTS
Turkish police detained nearly 400 would-be illegal migrants in an overnight swoop on an Istanbul sports complex where they were waiting to board a ship to western Europe, Anatolian news agency said on Thursday.
Every year Turkey captures thousands of illegal migrants from countries east of Turkey and from Africa, seeking to improve their lot in western Europe. But many still get through. Those captured are generally deported or released after a small fine.
The latest batch of hopefuls came from Afghanistan and the Kurdish-held enclave of northern Iraq, but some of them were Turkish citizens, the agency said. A flood of Turkish and Iraqi Kurd migrants to Italy two years ago led the Italian government to call on Turkey to improve its human rights record to discourage further attempts to escape the country.
© Reuters

NEW CENTRE OPENS DOOR TO MIGRANT WORKERS' RIGHTS(Greece)
Green Card renewal and employers' refusal to insure workers are the highest hurdles MIGRANT workers in Greece are faced with two main problems: the renewal of their Green Cards and an unwillingness on the part of their employers to insure them with the Social Insurance Fund (ÉÊÁ), according to the information centre for migrant and Greek workers in Athens. The three-month-old centre, which will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday, was opened by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Organisation for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED) and has been inundated by migrants struggling to find a detour around various work-related obstacles.
An increasing number of people, Greeks and migrants, are now beginning to turn to the centre for assistance. Representatives of migrant communities in Athens have compared this initiative to a lifejacket in rough seas as it is one of the only offices geared to informing them about their labour rights and obligations. According to the office's two legal aids, Marili Zalaora and Maria Antoniadou, most migrant workers are forced to settle for less pay and no social insurance because they are subject to violations of their labour rights to a greater degree than Greek workers.
'Many migrants who come to us want to file a complaint against their employers,' Zalaora told the Athens News. 'They ask us how they can do this and if they have a right to do this. One group that faces the most problems is domestic workers, of which about 100 percent are foreigners. The problem is that ÉÊÁ [Social Insurance Foundation] does not accept complaints from domestic workers who live in their employer's home because such cases are not easy to verify. This is a problem that has to be solved either through ÉÊÁ or the ministry of labour and social insurance.'
The free legal advice offered at the centre is aimed at examining instances where wage agreements are not being met and to ensure that migrant workers receive wages and benefits equal to those of Greek workers. Zalaora and Antoniadou inform workers on their labour rights and what they can do if they are faced with exploitation and other work-related transgressions, such as discrimination and sexual harassment.
Their main role is to facilitate the flow of practical information concerning workers' rights and to file official complaints with government agencies, such as the labour inspectorate, which can help them to demand better pay and work conditions. According to Antoniadou, complaints are usually settled in favour of the worker.
'When someone comes to us with a problem,' Antoniadou said, 'we try to find a solution by the next day. At the beginning we were not exactly sure how the office would work and what the workers would ask from us. There are people who come here and they tell us about their problems and we sit and listen. We are not psychologists, but we do listen to them. Our office is one that really tries to help the people who seek assistance.'
For more information about GSEE and OAED's information centre for migrant and Greek workers call 524-4011. The office is located at 1 Voulgari St, near Omonia Square.
© ATHENS NEWS

NIGERIAN DIES IN DETENTION(Austria)
A Nigerian refugee seeking asylum in Austria died in an Austrian detention centre, having allegedly been beaten by police during his arrest, according to a report in a magazine due out today, reports AFP. Richard Ibewke, 26, was found dead last Tuesday in his cell in a Vienna prison, says the weekly magazine Format.
According to relatives, Ibewke was in good health before his arrest on April 29 during a raid in a Vienna suburb. Other witnesses said that the refugee had been beaten by police during the raid. The police have refused to comment until an autopsy is completed. Last year asylum seeker Marcus Omofuma died after being tied to his seat and gagged while flown from Vienna to Sofia under police escort.
© Refugees Daily

EUROPE, APPLICANTS FALL WHILE CONTINENT PANICS
Asylum applications in countries across Europe dropped by 8% in the first three months of this year, although France and Denmark saw an increase in arrivals, UNHCR said Friday, reports AP. Some 96,050 people requested asylum in 24 European countries between January and March, said UNHCR.
For the last quarter of last year, the figure was 104,750. Yugoslavia again accounted for the largest single group of asylum seekers - 11,610 - but the number was down from late last year, when 15,450 Yugoslav citizens were registered.
Germany led the list of countries receiving applications, with 18,940 seeking asylum. Britain, with 18,870 recorded cases, was second. They were followed by the Netherlands and France, with 11,540 and 10,420 applications respectively.
Although most countries' caseload fell, applications in Denmark and France rose by 65% and 16% respectively, UNHCR said. In March, Britain for the first time received more asylum applications than Germany, spokesman Kris Janowski said.
Meanwhile The Economist says the European popular imagination, it seems, is gripped by panic about foreigners. How to create a more liberal immigration regime that can still be made politically palatable on a continent prone to xenophobia? Genuine refugees should be welcomed in the EU without reservation. Yet, many of those hoping to gain entry as political refugees are economic migrants. Even if EU countries were to harmonise their provision for refugees, existing patterns would probably change little.
© Refugees Daily

EU MAY BE READY TO RELENT ON SANCTIONS OVER AUSTRIA
European foreign ministers yesterday gave the first sign that Austria's isolation could soon be over during a meeting in which several countries, including Italy, argued for moves to bring political sanctions to a close.
Austria said that Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Greece indicated that they would like to end, or at least modify, the diplomatic freeze, and European Union heads of state and government are likely to discuss the issue ahead of a June summit in Portugal. As a first step towards an "exit strategy" from the diplomatic impasse, governments are expected to try to identify the tests which should be applied to Austria before ending the action of 14 member states which severed bilateral political contacts with Vienna. The sanctions were taken at the end of January in protest at the admission of Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party into the coalition government.
France and Belgium have pressed hardest for action against Vienna but there is growing disquiet in several countries, particularly Denmark, Finland and Italy - which is not only a neighbour of Austria but is aware that right-wingers could be included in the next Italian government.
At yesterday's informal meeting of European foreign ministers in the Azores Lamberto Dini, the Italian foreign minister, said he feared a backlash against the EU in Austria because of the sanctions.
Louis Michel, Belgium's foreign minister, insisted the sanctions should stay while the Freedom Party remains within the Austrian coalition. ButHubert Vedrine, the French foreign minister who missed Saturday's photo session because he had to take a phone call, asked for a second to be organised in order to avoid his absence being interpreted as a snub to Austria. France is aware that the issue could disrupt its tenure of the rotating EU presidencywhich it assumes at the end of June. There have been hints that Vienna might block agreement at the inter-governmental conference to amend the EU's treaty during the French presidency.
An Austrian proposal to send a team of EU observers to Vienna was rejected yesterday and signs of a softening came despite irritation from the Portuguese hosts. Portuguese officials were incensed by what they saw as Austrian attempts to hijack the weekend meeting over the issue.
Some countries "had a particular, specific view on this issue and were open to finding a solution," Jaime Gama, Portuguese foreign minister, said. "But anyone who came here thinking that something could happen was barking up the wrong tree."
© Independent

SVALBARD, A HAVEN FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS(Norway)
Because Norwegian immigration laws do not apply to Svalbard, the arctic islands has become a haven for asylum seekers who have had their application to stay in Norway turned down.
Several families from the former Yugoslavia have found work and dwellings on the islands, Aftenposten's Internet news service reports. However, the Norwegian sysselmann (governor), Morten Ruud, does not believe there will be a lot more refugees arriving at the islands. Norwegian wellfare laws, too, do not apply to Spitsbergen and people must have an income and a place to live to survive. Svalbard is not Norwegian territory. There is no passport control and residence permit is not required.
© THE NORWAY POST

CATHOLIC BISHOPS ATTACK 'EMOTIVE' ASYLUM LANGUAGE(UK)
Refugees in Britain: special report Politicians accused of stirring up social divisions The Catholic bishops of England and Wales came close to urging their parishioners not to vote for William Hague yesterday as they issued their strongest attack yet on politicians of all parties for stirring up social divisions over asylum seekers.
In a statement after a meeting in London, they accused politicians and some in the media of damaging community relations and giving rise to hostility and fear by attacks on refugees. The bishops were concerned that the debate on asylum in the UK "is being conducted in a way that is damaging to community relations. In some instances this has given rise to hostility, alarm and fear".
Although insisting their message was not political and that it applied to all politicians as well as national newspapers which have criticised asylum seekers, the bishops' spokesman pointedly singled out expressions used by senior Tories for condemnation. The Tory manifesto for yesterday's local government elections spoke of a flood of bogus asylum seekers, and Ann Widdecombe, shadow home secretary and a leading lay Catholic, has described Britain as becoming a soft touch for a massive influx.
The Conservative leadership has repeatedly refused to tone down its language despite condemnation from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Commission for Racial Equality. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue suggested that Catholics should consult their bibles and the teaching of the church before deciding whether to vote for candidates promulgating such messages.
The bishop, whose diocese covers west London and who was speaking on behalf of his colleagues, said: "What we are calling for is compassion, understanding, respect, justice and love and all of these are at the heart of the Christian faith. "It is regrettable that we cannot speak about asylum seekers without using emotive language. You hear again and again about scroungers, bogus, flood, aggressive beggars - awful statements.
"We are greatly concerned about this negative tone which is beginning to provoke hostility, alarm and fear in some communities. "I am saying to William Hague that he should talk about love, compassion and understanding. Asylum seekers can be scapegoated and I am looking to politicians for leadership at a time of difficulty when we need a great deal of sensitivity to the issues involved.
"This is not simply addressed to William Hague and Ann Widdecombe but also to the government and other politicians and the media." In the statement the bishops said: "[Our] concern stems from the Christian belief that we are bound to do what we can to welcome and help the stranger in need." It called on politicians to educate the public about the conditions from which many asylum-seekers had fled.
It sought a balanced approach from politicians and the media to ensure asylum seekers were treated with compassion and dignity. Although the statement came too late to affect voting in the elections, it may yet discomfort Mr Hague, who made a play for the Christian vote in the campaign, addressing a conference of Protestant evanglicals and calling for them to become more involved in politics.
© Guardian Newspapers

UN REFUGEE AGENCY TO MAKE CUTS
Many displaced by the Bosnian war have yet to go The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that some of its programmes around the world face the axe because of a cash-flow crisis. The UNHCR is facing a $150m shortfall in its annual budget because of delays in receiving pledges from donor countries.
It says that south-eastern Europe will bear the brunt of the cuts, but that Africa, which has traditionally been underfunded, will escape unscathed. The UN refugee agency's coffers are almost bare. They are at their lowest level for nearly a decade, due to delays in donor countries' contributions.
Faced with the expected $150m shortfall, its offices in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America have been told to make cuts. The axe will fall hardest on UN programmes in Bosnia-Hercegovina. A spokesman said many of its measures to build up trust between the ethnic communities would be hit.
This is likely to mean, for example, an end to UN-sponsored transport and business links between Serb, Muslim and Croatian towns. Europe accounts for one-third of the UN refugee agency's budget and attracts the most donations.
It is widely accepted that Europe can better afford the cuts than regions such as Africa, which is traditionally underfunded. The UN has long accused donors of double standards in earmarking money for particular high-profile refugee crises. With the funds drying up, the UN is now deciding where aid priorities should be.
© BBC News

JEWISH NAZI AVENGERS CLEARED OF MURDER CHARGE(Germany)
A German court said Monday two Jewish Holocaust survivors who in 1946 tried to poison thousands of Nazi officials in an Allied prison camp could no longer be prosecuted for attempted murder.
Unlike less serious crimes, attempted murder is not covered by a statute of limitations in Germany. But the court in Nuremberg, south Germany, said it made an exception "because of persecution experienced by the two involved and their family." The two accused, now living in Israel, confessed recently to putting arsenic in bread supplies to the Nuremberg-Langwasser camp in southern Germany, where some 12,000 Nazis were held.
Some 200 inmates were hospitalized after the attack but the quantity of poison used was not enough to kill anybody.
The court did not name the two accused. In earlier German media reports they have been identified as Leipke Distel and Joseph Harmatz, now both in their seventies. For decades the crime remained a mystery. Initial newspaper reports wrongly suggested up to 1,900 people were killed. Despite investigation by American and later German authorities, those responsible were never found.
The case was reopened last year after the two confessed to a journalist carrying out historical research that they carried out the attack as part of a Jewish group called "Rakam" (Revenge).
© Reuters

BLACK PRISONERS SEEK £1M FOR 'BULLYING'(UK)
Four black men sued the Home Office for £1m yesterday, alleging they were beaten by prisoners and bullied by officers while on remand in an "all-white" jail. The four, who were later cleared of all charges, say they were taunted and racially abused during their 10-week stay at Swansea prison, culminating in an attack by up to 30 prisoners in the jail's recreation area. Within hours of their arrival at the jail, they say, other prisoners were making "monkey impersonations" and calling them "niggers" and "wogs" - but prison staff did nothing.
The racial tension culminated in an outbreak of violence in which the four were set upon by 20 to 30 white prisoners and badly injured, their counsel, Harbinder Lally, told the High Court yesterday.
Marnon Thomas, Nigel Johnson, Hopeton Falconer and Patrick Campbell, all from Birmingham, are suing the Home Office for compensation, including "exemplary" and "aggravated" damages to reflect public abhorrence at what happened to them.
Mr Lally told Mr Justice Buckley the four had gone to Aberystwyth on 31 September 1994 to celebrate Mr Johnson's birthday, but ended up being arrested and remanded in custody. All the charges against them were dismissed by magistrates on 14 December 1994.
Although the prison had an anti-racism policy, it was not being observed, Mr Lally told the High Court hearing. The Home Office denies all the allegations. The hearing continues.
© Independent

CHAUVINISM BACKFIRES IN GERMAN ELECTION RACE(Germany)
A bid by Germany's scandal-ravaged conservative opposition to tap anti-immigrant sentiment in a major regional election campaign has backfired.
Even his own activists have spurned the race card played by Juergen Ruettgers, the Christian Democrat leader in North Rhine-Westphalia and polls predict a defeat that may dampen temptations to drive the CDU to the nationalist right in efforts to recover support lost in the slush fund affair surrounding ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
"This has been a complete tactical blunder," said Manfred Guellner of the Forsa institute, whose latest opinion poll found the CDU trailing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats by 10 points before the May 14 vote in Germany's biggest state.
The local CDU has missed out on a party revival nationwide following last month's election of a new leader, Angela Merkel. And that, Guellner said, may give pause for thought to any in the CDU tempted by the anti-foreigner, Eurosceptic tone that has proved a success for Joerg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party. Schroeder has warned of a "Haiderisation" of the German right as conservatives flounder in search of a way to win back votes.
In the prosperous streets of Muenster, a deeply conservative bastion in the region, loyal CDU voters and even party activists confessed that the CDU attacks on Schroeder's "Green Card" plan to ease immigration for scarce computer experts left them baffled. "We find it frankly rather embarrassing. We haven't been pushing that campaign locally," said 17-year-old Ingo Schachtel as he handed out CDU campaign fliers to Saturday morning shoppers. It's dreadful," said pensioner Helga Fuchtenbusch. "I've voted CDU all my life. I don't know what they're playing at."
"HAIDER ON THE RHINE"
"Gut reactions are always good for conflict," said Dieter Roth of the Electoral Research Group. "But generally it is the mainstream parties that lose out because when people appeal to latent xenophobia it's usually far-right groups that benefit."
Nonetheless, there are signs that vocal nationalism,targeting the key issues of immigration and the European Union, may play a growing role in German politics and that the politically correct consensus of Kohl's war-scarred, post-Nazi generation may fade. Ruettgers shot to national prominence with a petition against Schroeder's scheme to attract 20,000 computer experts from India and elsewhere.
He argued that Germany should instead train its own specialists. His catchy slogan, "Kinder statt Inder" (Children not Indians), was condemned as racist by civil rights groups. Opponents dubbed him the "Haider on the Rhine." A European racism watchdog questioned whether he had learned the lessons of the Holocaust.
The campaign was modelled on one by the CDU in Hesse, where a populist attack on Schroeder's easing of rules on acquiring citizenship had powered the conservatives to a surprise victory in the state just months after Kohl's 1998 election defeat.
When the right-wing Hesse CDU chief became embroiled in the party funding scandal, many on the right of the party looked to Ruettgers, a staunch Kohl loyalist, as a successor to Wolfgang Schaeuble, who quit as national chairman over the affair. But those hopes were dashed as Merkel, a fresh face from the once Communist east, rallied grass roots support with a promise to clean up the mess left by the disgraced former chancellor.
BATTLE FOR CONSERVATIVE SOUL
A defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia, which with 17 million people is the biggest regional authority in Europe, would be a blow for the new leader. But if Ruettgers loses despite the SPD's own corruption scandal in a state it has run for 34 years it could bolster her efforts to anchor the CDU in the centre.
Seen as socially rather liberal, Merkel has kept a cautious distance from Ruettgers' anti-foreigner edge -- wisely it seems. "Ruettgers tried something and it didn't work because frankly I don't think there is much racism in Germany," said Anne Broden, who runs a project aimed at integrating immigrants in the North Rhine-Westphalia state capital, Duesseldorf. Flagrant neo-Nazi violence, she noted, has been concentrated in the small, disoriented and economically distressed east, where few of Germany's seven million immigrants actually live.
Yet nationalistic themes of immigration and European Union may remain important issues for the 2002 general election.
Conservatives are searching for a new, post-Kohl voice to differentiate themselves from Schroeder's "New Centre" SPD, which has hijacked many of their economic policies. And within the centre-right movement a struggle is brewing between Merkel and the arch-conservative Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber for the right to challenge for the post of chancellor in two years' time. Stoiber may be the closest mainstream German politics gets to a Euroscepticand has raised hackles in the centre by his rapid denunciation of EU sanctions on Austria.
XENOPHOBES AND EUROSCEPTICS?
Ruettgers' troubles are not conclusive evidence that chauvinism is not a vote-winner in Germany, where nearly one resident in 10 is foreign, including 2.5 million Turks. Forsa's Guellner notes that one problem in focusing on the Green Card scheme was that many voters saw it as a marginal, mainly economic issue on which, if anything, they felt Schroeder was showing commendable initiative to modernise German business.
Opinion surveys show latent hostility to immigrants runs at around a steady 20 percent, similar to other EU countries. Ask immigrants and one hears similar stories of unspoken exclusion.
"The Germans haven't learned from their past," said one successful Indian entrepreneur, who has lived in Muenster for 25 years and taken German citizenship. "They're often friendly. But if you want to rent a house or get a good job, there's a wall."
Attitudes to Europe are also less positive than today's cross-party consensus suggests. The collapse of the old Christian Democrat order in Germany has opened a debate that could challenge the status quo. Kohl could never have attacked Europe, even in opposition. North Rhine-Westphalia may suggest nationalism is no quick fix for the party. But it has put it on the agenda.
© Reuters

CATHOLIC SHRINE HAD NAZI GOLD HAUL(Portugal)
Fatima housed Nazi gold just like this gold barThe Roman Catholic shrine of Fatima in Portugal has confirmed that it held bars of German Nazi gold until the mid-1980s. Its disclosure comes 10 days before Pope John Paul is due to visit Fatima, one of Catholicism's most revered sites.
Officials said the sanctuary asked a Portuguese bank in 1970 to melt some of its gold, and when it received the equivalent in bars, it discovered Nazi insignia on some of them. The bars were sold between 1982 and 1986 to finance building work at Fatima, which attracts pilgrims from around the world.
Traded with Nazis
Portugal traded with Nazi Germany but last year a commission cleared the period's right-wing leadership, led by Antonio Salazar, of any wrongdoing. During his visit, the Pope is due to beatify two of three shepherd children whom Catholics believe witnessed several apparitions by the Virgin Mary.
His visit on 13 May comes on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition. A statement signed by Fatima's rector, Luciano Guerra, confirmed a report in weekly magazine Visao in March that the sanctuary had held Nazi gold, but it did not say how much. Visao said 1976 bank statements showed that Fatima held four bars of Nazi gold, weighing a total 50 kilos.
It added that the accounts of the sanctuary, around 70 miles north of Lisbon, had at various times held up to 258kg kilos of gold bars made from melting down the offerings of pilgrims and worshippers.
Portugal was neutral during the World War II, legally allowing it to trade with both the Allies and the Axis powers.
Lucrative trade
It received gold in payment for trade with Germany. Portugal stopped taking gold in 1944 after being warned by Britain and the United States that some of it could be "tainted" because Germany had raided the central banks of countries overrun in the early years of the 1939-45 conflict. Mr Guerra said Fatima had done nothing of which it need be ashamed, although he added that were the bars still in its possession it would do its utmost to discover their exact origin.
"We would ask ourselves how we could contribute to the making good of any injustice," he added, while ensuring that the sanctuary did not suffer financial loss. "But if, as is likely, we did not discover anything, we could have tried to preserve some bars as a memorial of that horrible period in the history of mankind," he said.
© BBC News

KOSOVO SERBS SPLIT OVER RETURNS(Yugoslavia)
A split has emerged in Kosovo's Serbian leadership over the control of refugees returning to the province, reports BBC News. The divisions surfaced after the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Dr Bernard Kouchner, announced the creation of a new group aimed at encouraging Serb refugees to come home. It is estimated over 200,000 Serbs have fled the province since the arrival of K-For troops last summer.
The Joint Committee for Returns, is made up of officials from the UN, K-For and the moderate Serb leader and head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije. An agreement on the return of refugees was signed by all three groups in the Serb Orthodox Monastery at Gracanica, South of Pristina yesterday.
The group says one of its first aims will be to create a pilot project for the return of refugees. However the development is opposed by the head of the Serb leadership in Mitrovica, Oliver Ivanovic. He is organising a separate conference later this week with the same goal of returning refugees, and has the backing of the Yugoslav government. He has criticised the Serbian Orthodox church for co-operating with the UN.
The formation of the committee by the UN is the clearest sign yet of the international community's support for the project. However some UN diplomats have warned it is too soon for Serbs to return in large numbers. UNMIK adds the committee, which will include UNHCR, will encourage the return of Serbs and ensure conditions exist for their safety and livelihood.
© Refugees Daily

POLISH AND ISRAELI PRESIDENTS TO LEAD AUSCHWITZ MARCH(Poland)
The presidents of Israel and Poland were to lead Jews and Poles in an annual march at the former Auschwitz death camp on Tuesday in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands murdered there.
Israel's Ezer Weizman and Poland's Aleksander Kwasniewski were to lead some 6,000 Jews from all over the world and 500 Poles in the March of the Living from the gates of the Auschwitz camp in southern Poland to a railway ramp at its sister camp Birkenau, three km (two miles) away.
The railway ramp is where most of the death complex's 1.5 million victims, the vast majority of them Jews, arrived from throughout Europe before they were murdered. The march was to end at the monument to all of them camps' victims, where a rabbi was to say Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, and both presidents were to deliver speeches.
The march has been held since 1988 on the annual Israeli Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day in tribute to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
© Reuters

EURO COUNCIL WORRIED OVER INTOLERENCE TO MOSLEMS
The Council of Europe said on Tuesday it was concerned over signs that intolerance towards minority Moslems was increasing in Europe. In its 1999 annual report, the council's Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said it regretted Islam was "sometimes portrayed inaccurately on the basis of stereotypes," adding that the effect was to make Islam seem a threat. ECRI said it saw persistent racial and ethnic discrimination in areas of employment, housing, education and justice, and also an increase in complaints concerning "racist attitudes and behaviour on the part of the police."
The European body recommended to its 41 member states to fight job discrimination against Moslems and pay particular attention to the plight of Moslem women. It also said states had to guarantee Moslems religious freedom remove legal hurdles which could prevent the building of a sufficient number of mosques.
© Reuters

SIRENS WAIL AS ISRAEL HONOURS HOLOCAUST DEAD
The wail of sirens brought Israel to a standstill for two minutes on Tuesday in tribute to the six million Jews killed by the Nazi death machine more than half a century ago.
Motorists stopped their cars and got out when the sirens sounded at 10 a.m.while pedestrians froze to commemorate the annual Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced a suspension of peace talks with the Palestinians at the Red Sea resort of Eilat for the day although negotiators did meet informally.
"We share the same feelings with the victims of the Holocaust and we hope that their suffering would help both of us end our (Palestinian) suffering," chief Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters in Eilat. Israeli television stations broadcast programmes recalling the slaughter of Jews in Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" during World War Two, before the establishment in 1948 of a Jewish state in British-ruled Palestine.
Schools held ceremonies and places of entertainment closed. At the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Barak and other cabinet ministers took part in the annual "Every Person has a Name" ceremony during which participants read out the names of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
His voice cracking, the Israeli-born Barak, 58, honoured the memory of his maternal grandparents who died at the Nazis' Treblinka death camp in Poland. "To the memory of my grandfatherand grandmother, the parents of my mother, Shmuel and Rashka Godin, who were taken from the ghetto in Warsaw...to Treblinka where they perished...," Barak began.
ISRAELI PRESIDENT JOINS WARSAW MARCH
President Ezer Weizman flew to Poland to take part in an annual "March of the Living" at the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where German invaders murdered up to 1.5 million people, the vast majority of them Jews from across Europe.
Weizman, who was being joined by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said at a Jerusalem ceremony on Monday night: "Germany specifically and the Western world in general cannot be content with self-examination of yesterday. "They must deal also with the threats of the present and the attempts to deny the Holocaust or to dwarf its dimensions."
Underscoring the problem, a new Tel Aviv University study on anti-Semitism concluded that U.S. white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups in Europe were increasingly using the Internet to swap racist material and hold on-line meetings. Despite the passing of the years, the memory of the Holocaust haunts not only Israeli survivors but also some of their children, according to Israel's AMCHA organisation, which offers them psychological and social help. Psychologist Danny Brom said his work with the children showed some "are very preoccupied with the Holocaust, they have images coming up, waves of emotion, and at the same time they also try very hard not to be reminded of the Holocaust."
Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said in a news release that 230,000 people living in the Jewish state today had lived from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and other countries directly influenced by Nazi rule.
The survey said the number of survivors was declining, with as many as 20,000 dying since the end of 1997.Israel has said it must be vigilant to ensure the world never forgets the lessons of the Holocaust.
Many Israelis were moved in March when Pope John Paul, on the first papal pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 36 years, made an emotional visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide
© Reuters

IRANIAN JEW'S CONFESSION IN DOUBT
An Israeli official accused Iran on Tuesday of extracting a false confession to espionage from the prime suspect in its spy ring trial of 13 Jews, HA'ARETZ reported. "We deny the accusation. . .we knew that if they wanted to continue this trial they would present a confession. We are not surprised," he said.
The official said Iranian anti-Semitism motivated the arrest and imprisonment last year of the 13 Jews for allegedly passing information to Israel. If convicted, the defendants face long prison terms or the death penalty. "We are not idiots. We checked this out everywhere the moment it came out. There is not a bit of truth to it. There is no Mossad connection, no espionage. These people were imprisoned just because they are Jews," the official added.
Iran's judiciary said on Monday that suspect Hamid "Danny'' Tefileen had confessed to passing classified information to the Mossad. Iranian state television broadcast an interview with Tefileen in which he said he had been trained in Israel.

IRISH PLANS TO HOUSE ASYLUM-SEEKERS
Irish plans to house asylum-seekers blocked by stand-off at village hotel A pretty Irish village with a population of 420 has been thrown into turmoil by the Irish government's plans to house 38 asylum seekers in a disused hotel on its main street. The response of the villagers in Clogheen, County Tipperary, has been swift, angry and, to some, racist. An arson attack on the hotel delayed the expected arrival of the refugees last week, and villagers have since mounted a 24-hour picket on the premises.
The residents maintain that the proposed influx, which would increase the population by almost 10 per cent, would destroy the social fabric of the village. Dick Keating, a local farmer and the villagers' spokesman, said the hotel blockade will continue until Dublin abandons its plan.
"We're just ordinary people trying to look after our community," he said. "It's not that we object to these people. It's the sheer number of them. We haven't the infrastructure. It's as simple as that."
The stand-off is being monitored closely by more than 20 other villages and towns involved in similar plans to integrate asylum seekers into a rural setting.
Ireland is one of the last countries in Europe to adapt to multi-culturalism and human rights agencies have accused the government of implementing "hasty and ill thought out policies." Despite a labour shortage precipitated by the republic's booming economy, asylum seekers are unable to work and live off an allowance of Ir£15 per week. In Clogheen, it is proposed that the refugees will crowd into an 11-bedroom hotel for up to two years. "It's clearly not satisfactory for us or for the people who have to come here," said Mr Keating.
Most asylum seekers in Ireland come from Africa and eastern Europe. The Home Affairs department is now dealing with up to 1,000 refugees a month applying for asylum, up from just 39 in all of 1992.
Mindful that many Irish people endured discrimination abroad in the past, the government is sensitive to charges of indifference towards the refugees. However concerns have been raised over the huge backlog of applications and a wave of racially motivated attacks in the capital.
© Independent

AUSTRIA COMPENSATION FOR NAZI VICTIMS
A government official in Austria has said her country is likely to pay compensation of around four-hundred million dollars to victims of Nazi forced labour.
The government's negotiator on the issue , Maria Schaumayer, told Austrian radio that the payments would have to be made quickly because of the advanced age of the victims. She said the legal basis for compensation could be established in order for the first payments to be made by the end of the year. The offer falls far short of the eighteen-billion dollars demanded in a lawsuit filed against the Austrian state by the New York lawyer Ed Fagan earlier this month -- a sum dismissed by Austria as absurd.
© BBC News

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER RENEWS THREAT TO BLOCK EU REFORM
Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser has renewed a threat to block reform of the European Union during France's forthcoming presidency, as the row over Vienna's far-right coalition rumbled on. Grasser, a member of Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party said progress was "seriously threatened" by the continuing ostracism of the Austrian coalition government.
He was speaking to the French daily Le Figaro in an interview published Saturday. Grasser made similar comments earlier this week, as Vienna's tone hardened in response to its diplomatic isolation. France assumes the presidency of the EU in the second half of this year. France and Belgium have been among the harshest critics of the inclusion of the Freedom Party in the Austria's coalition government, which led Austria's 14 EU partners to freeze relations with Vienna.
Meanwhile Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, in Vienna to attend this weekend's opposition Social Democrats conference, ruled out lifting sanctions. "We have said that we do not want to work with this television.
"It is about what they have said and what they have done," he added. Sweden will succeed France to the EU presidency in January 2001. In Germany however, the secretary general of the Free Democrats (FDP), Guido Westerwelle, called on the EU to lift its "senseless" political sanctions "Mr Haider's invective should not lead to a whole country being held responsible," Westerwelle said. Earlier Friday, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel refused to rule out moves towards holding a referendum on EU sanctions against the country, an idea mooted by Haider.
Haider said his petition would ask people whether they were opposed to the EU sanctions. He said last week that Austria could consider pulling out of the EU.
© The Tocqueville Connection

HAIDER STEPS DOWN AS HEAD OF FREEDOM PARTY(Austria)
Joerg Haider, the controversial leader of Austria's far­right Freedom Party has officially stepped down after 14 years as party head and several months of international and domestic protest against his party's inclusion in government.
Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess­Passer has been named as Haider's replacement. Haider announced he was stepping down in February, but the official change of office takes place today at the party's congress being held in Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia, where Haider serves as governor.
Haider, 50, gained notoriety for his controversial statements praising the "orderly" full employment policies of Adolf Hitler, and calling Waffen SS veterans "men of honour." He has repeatedly apologised for such remarks. But his apologies have done little to ease diplomatic sanctions by the rest of the European Union against Austria after the Freedom Party joined a governing coalition with the conservative Austrian People's Party in February. He hopes stepping down as party head will change that. Speaking to local Radio Carinthia, Haider said Monday he is "not at all sad" about stepping down. He praised the Freedom Party for its success in growing from a virtually unknown political entity to Austria's second most powerful party in 14 years.
"The whole time was a success story, unlike any other party in Europe," he said. "There are many politicians ­ even chancellors ­ who have left office without leaving any trace behind" but with him, this wasn't the case. In Vienna, about 80,000 people packed the vast square in front of the City Hall for an anti­government demonstration led by the Socialist Party as part of their annual May Day celebration.
Carrying anti­government banners and calling for an Austria that is "Open. Democratic. Socialist" the protesters gathered briefly for speeches by Socialist leaders, before disbanding peacefully.
AP

BRITAIN'S HAGUE SAYS ASYLUM NUMBERS OUT OF CONTROL
British Conservative opposition leader William Hague said on Sunday that the number of asylum seekers coming to Britain was running out of control.
Hague denied he was being racist and said it was not inflammatory to use words such as "swamped" or "flooded" when over 100,000 people from other countries were waiting to have their British asylum applications processed.
"There is no question when we have more than 100,000 asylum-seekers in the queue for processing their applications, that we have a flow that is out of control," he said on ITV's David Dimbleby programme.
It was not making racism respectable to draw attention to the problem, he said. "I reject that totally. The majority of people who are asylum-seekers are white. We are not talking about a racist issue here at all."
Hague earlier this month made a keynote speech calling for asylum applicants to be placed under lock and key while their applications are processed as speedily as possible.
Some of his critics charge he has seized on the issue to try and make political points ahead of local government elections coming up this Thursday. More than 3,300 local council seats are up for grabs.
SURGE IN APPLICANTS
Britain has seen a surge in asylum applications to more than 70,000 a year, partly due to displacement after the Kosovo conflict last year. Rising numbers of beggars on London's streets -- most of them from eastern and central Europe -- have drawn the wrath of some British tabloids which say the country is being swamped by money-grabbing migrants.
The Labour government has introduced tough new measures to scatter immigrants across the country, pay refugees a living allowance in vouchers rather than cash, and fine truck drivers for carrying stowaways onto Britain.
Britain's third party, the Liberal Democrats, has accused both the Conservatives and Labour of being equally obnoxious in their language on asylum seekers. But Hague said he would not apologise for the language he has used, including referring to some asylum seekers as "bogus."
He said this was the term "any honest person" would use to describe people who travel through several countries and then upon arriving in Britain decide they are political refugees.
"If they are bogus we should call them bogus...We know there are many who everyone knows are bogus asylum seekers," he said.
© Reuters

REJECTION WITHOUT REASONS(UK)
Lawyers working with asylum seekers have attacked the British government over the way applications are being turned down, reports BBC News. They say rejections are being given in a standard circular letter without any explanation for the refusal.
But Home Office minister Barbara Roche has insisted that there has been no change in policy. Immigration lawyer David Enright said asylum seekers used to receive "comprehensive" letters setting out why their application had been refused, but were now receiving much shorter letters.
He said: "We must be given every opportunity to represent our clients, to seek out evidence to rebut assertions made. We must be given the reasons - basic natural justice insists." Enright said the letters could be a factor in the higher numbers of cases now being dealt with.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said he was "very troubled... that short-cuts may now be being taken by the home office." He said: "There is a very clear procedure; every individual application has to be processed and considered separately."
© Refugees Daily

EIGHT PORTUGUESE POLICE ACCUSED OVER MAN'S DEATH
Eight Portuguese policemen have been formally accused of involvement in the death of a drug addict in Oporto, police sources said on Thursday.
They said the eight, who have not been suspended from duty, had been notified that they could face charges over the death of Paulo Silva, 32, who died of a ruptured spleen after a police raid on a poor suburb in the northern city in January.
Silva died on the same night as a Portuguese gypsy, Alvaro Rosa, was allegedly beaten to death by two policemen while being held in custody in an Oporto jail.
The two policemen are under arrest pending further investigations into the death of Rosa, who also died of a ruptured spleen. The arrest of the two officers triggered a storm of protest from police in Oporto and other cities, with a series of demonstrations staged against the move.
Police initially said Rosa died of a heart attack. The case forced the resignation of the city's police chief. Portugal's police have regularly been criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.
© Reuters

NEW NAZI ORGANIZATION IN ICELAND
A new nazi organization has been formed in Iceland. Immigrants and other minority groups have been asking out loud for justice and less discrimination in the latest mounths.
The government's harsh aim to keep immigrants as few and right little as possible has proved to be true and now a nazi organization is out to fight against immigrants rights. The Human Rights Organization of Immigrants in Iceland and Their Families is less than a year old. It is a small organization that is speaking out to demand rights for immigrants.
Now the nazis obviously think it's time to strike back with the new nazi organization. Iceland is very isolated and the very small number of immigrants/refugees/foreigners (far smallest number in w-europe I believe even if counted ratiovise) is shaken by this. The Human Rights Organization is trying to establish some European moral and even active support and is hoping to send a representative to ,,UNITED" / UN - Strassbourg youth conference at the end of may - The very first representative ever from Iceland on immigrant issues.
The nazi's need to be fought back but immigrants are very concerned about this terror. Iceland has a very nationalistic history and is a place where nationalism may easily thrive.
Mannréttindasamtök innflytjenda á Íslandi og fjölsk. þeirra (Human Rights Organization of Immigrants in Iceland and Their Families)

BLACK CARE WORKER SET ON FIRE BY RACIST ATTACKERS(UK)
Three white men attacked a 24-year-old black care worker, set him ablaze and left him for dead, police said yesterday.
The incident, described by detectives as "sickening", is being regarded as racially motivated. The victim was subjected to racial abuse and then sprayed in the face with a chemical that was set alight. The attack came at 1am yesterday as the black man walked on Bristol Road South in Northfield, Birmingham. Detective Chief Inspector Neil James of West Midlands Police described the incident as "vicious andunprovoked".
He added: "There appears to be no motive for the attack apart from the fact it was racially motivated. It would appear he was walking home after visiting a friend when he was attacked by three men. One of them sprayed a substance in his face and set it alight.
"[The attack] was aggravated by the fact that the victim was abused verbally before being set alight. The victim suffered burns to his face and right arm. He is in hospital under sedation. Unfortunately, we have not been able to interview the victim due to the nature of his injuries." Tests are being carried out to establish the liquid used in the assault. The victim, who is in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, remains in intensive care but is expected to survive. Descriptions of the assailants are vague, but one is described as having a skinhead haircut.
Last night, police sealed off a stretch of the Bristol Road South as detectives searched for clues. A worker at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital close to the attack said he believed the victim had just dropped off his girlfriend at the hospital's nursing accommodation when he was attacked. He said: "Everyone is stunned by the severity of the attack. It is an appalling thing to happen."
The victim has asked not to be identified.
© Independent

SERB CAMP COMMANDER DENIES 80 WAR CRIMES
Dragan Nikolic, the first suspect to be indicted by the UN tribunal for former Yugoslavia, pleaded not guilty yesterday to 80 counts of war crimes including murder and rape during his role as camp commander at the Susica camp in north-east Bosnia.
The Bosnian Serb, who turned 43 this week in detention near the court in The Hague, was making his first appearance at the tribunal to enter a plea after his arrest by Nato-led peace-keepers a week ago. The indictment against Niko-lic, issued in 1994, is a litany of violence allegedly inflicted by him and his subordinates.
Witnesses testified at 1995 hearings that Nikolic had introduced himself to prisoners as "God" and told them he held their lives in his hands as camp commander from late May 1992 until late September 1992.
The charges of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention represent the highest number of counts in any public indictment issued by the court so far.
© Independent

LEFTISTS NEO-NAZI CLASH IN GERMANY
- Leftists briefly clashed with hundreds of neo-Nazis in May Day violence in Berlin on Monday and later fought pitched battles with police. About 50 people were injured in separate clashes in the port city of Hamburg. In Berlin's Kreuzberg district on Monday night, hundreds of leftist and anarchist demonstrators fought police armed with water cannon, clubs, tear gas and riot shields in what has become a May Day tradition. The demonstrators set off small fires and threw rocks. Police said many officers had been injured -- as in past years -- but did not have a tally. Many protesters were arrested.
Although about 10,000 leftists and anarchists initially gathered in Kreuzberg, only a hardened band of several hundred remained as fighting continued late on Monday night. Some protesters set up street blockades.
Earlier in the day, police in the east Berlin district of Hellersdorf quickly intervened when the neo-Nazis charged into the anti-fascists and briefly began fighting. They detained about 140 people from both sides but reported no serious injuries.
"Nazis go home, Nazis go home," anti-fascists chanted at 750 neo-Nazis, many of them skinheads.
"We're not looking for a fight. We are outnumbered by these fascists. But we want to make our protests at them being allowed to rally on May Day," said an anti-fascist demonstrator who gave his name as Oskar.

contact: news@icare.to
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to