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Headlines 14 October, 2005

Headlines 7 October, 2005


By Rafal Pankowski

14/10/2005- The recent murder of a Peruvian student in the Russian university city of Voronezh is yet another incidence of racist terror against “foreign-looking” individuals, frequently students from other continents who have come to Russia to study. In this edition of ICARE News we have collected a number of articles on the latest racist killing in Voronezh as well as several other recent cases of racist attacks on students in Russia. It has to be noted, that the latest tragedy became a widely discussed subject in the Russian media. One can hope this debate will help to prevent similar tragic cases in the future. Human rights and anti-racist groups in Voronezh and elsewhere are campaigning to curb racist and fascist violence. Not so long ago such calls were ignored, now they are finally heard in public. While there are still occasional absurd utterances about the “non-existence” of racism in Russia from officials, there is an increasing level of recognition of the problem of racism on the official level, including from the president of the Russian Federation. Viewers of Russian TV news in the last days have noted a massive amount of strong-worded statements acknowledging and condemning racist violence. In the words of Nikolai Butkevich writing in “The Moscow Times” (also in this edition of ICARE News, “Getting away with Hate”) “Russian officials have over the past few years begun to openly talk about the need to combat neo-Nazi extremist gangs, racism and anti-Semitism”. It comes late but it is important. Now the words need to be followed by deeds.
© I CARE News


By Andrew Osborn, Independent

13/10/2005- A southern Russian university town which is popular with British students has been described as a "crucible of race hatred" following what looks like yet another student's murder at the hands of foreigner-hating skinheads.

Eighteen-year-old Enrique Urtado, a Peruvian, was set upon last Sunday in the city of Voronezh by a group of 15 to 20 young men who beat him and his friends with metal poles and wooden stakes. Mr Urtado was stabbed twice and died on his way to hospital while two of his friends, also foreign students, were taken to hospital. The two survivors said at least three of the attackers were skinheads.

Researchers are warning that Voronezh has become one of the country's main skinhead recruiting grounds. Elements of the Russian media have called it "the Russian capital of race hatred", saying that Moscow and St Petersburg were vying for the title but that Voronezh has now won.

Mr Urtado and his friends are reported to have lain in pools of their own blood for at least an hour before they were given aid. His death has drawn strong condemnation from Russian politicians who say they are worried that a wave of skinhead violence against foreigners in general and students in Voronezh in particular is damaging the country's image.

Russia is estimated to be home to more than 50,000 skinheads, and anti-foreigner feeling is reported to be on the rise. Gabriel Kotchofa, president of the Foreign Students Association in Russia, said that Mr Urtado was the 13th foreign student to lose his life in a racially motivated attack in the past five years.

Human rights groups say that 44 people were murdered in racist attacks across Russia last year. Most of the serious attacks on students have taken place in Voronezh, a depressed city 300 miles south of Moscow that is famous for its aircraft factory, its high unemployment rate and the fact that it hosts some 1,200 foreign students.

Voronezh has long been a popular destination for Russian-language students from the UK on their year abroad, with the universities of
Edinburgh, Manchester and Bath all offering students the chance to study there.

In Soviet times, the city, which has a population of about 900,000, enjoyed a reputation as a quiet provincial backwater, the capital of the surrounding Black Earth region. But today it is more associated with violence against foreigners. The authorities have admitted that there have been 45 attacks on foreigners this year alone.

Mr Urtado's murder has prompted the Russian Ministry of Education to send a special representative to evaluate whether the city should still be recommended as a place to study for foreign students.  His murder has also been strongly condemned by the Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and a unit of detectives from Moscow has been dispatched to Voronezh to help with the investigation. The account of the murder emerged yesterday as the trial of two Voronezh youths charged with brutally beating two Chinese students in June began.

In another high-profile case, a 24-year-old from Guinea-Bissau, Amaro Antonio Limo, who was last year stabbed to death in Voronezh by a skinhead gang. Three young men were convicted of his murder and sentenced to up to 17 years in prison.

It is rare, however, for the Russian police to admit that such attacks are carried out "on racial grounds" and in Mr Urtado's case the local authorities have played down suggestions that the attackers were skinheads, preferring to call the incident "hooliganism".
© Rusnet


12/10/2005- The foreign students who were attacked in Voronezh last weekend want to continue studying in another
Russian city, Ramirez Yegorov, consul-general at the Peruvian embassy in Russia, said on Wednesday. The consul said he had met with the students and their condition is "satisfactory". However they told him it would be "hard for them to be in the city where their comrade had died". The Peruvian embassy will consider the possibility of transferring a Peruvian and a Spanish students to another Russian city.

The students were attacked by skinheads, Yegorov said. The students told him there were "young men" with shaved heads among the
assaulters. "It is necessary to find these bandits. Authorities must do everything for that," he quoted one of the attacked Peruvian
students as saying. The consul believes that the problem of racism in Russian society "unfortunately exists". He recalled that two years ago in Voronezh "a Peruvian student was attacked, but the case was closed". The diplomat said the body of the killed student, Angeles Hurtado Enrique, will be sent home within the next few days.

Earlier in the day, Voronezh region prosecutor Alexander Ponomarev said there are grounds to believe that the murder of the student from Peru will be solved. The regional Prosecutor's Office has begun a probe on charges of murder and hooliganism. The region's best law enforcers are investigating the crime. The prosecutor said the investigators "will pursue all leads, including murder out of national, racial hatred."  Ponomarev said several suspects have been detained in the case. "They are being interrogated, and after that the investigators will decide whether or not charges should be brought against them," he said. At the same time, Ponomarev declined to provide details of the detention "in the interests of the investigation".

A Peruvian student was killed as a result of the attack. A group of young men of up to 20 people attacked the 18-year-old student and his friends. The attackers beat the students with sticks and metal rods, killing Enrique, a student of the Academy of Architecture. His
compatriot Lavaro Hayala Alexander, 18, a student of the Medical Academy, received brain injuries. Spanish citizen Potino Rodriguez
Mario, 38, a trainee at the philological department of Voronezh State University was also injured. Another student, a Voronezh resident who was with the foreigners, was also hurt. Russian Deputy Interior Minister Andrei Novikov is personally overseeing the investigation of the crime.

Two foreign students have been killed and over 10 got various injuries as a result of attacks by young thugs in Voronezh over the last two years. A student from Guinea-Bissau Amaru Antonio Lima was killed in the city in 2004. The perpetrators were found and sentenced to long prison terms. Students from Angola, Rwanda, Guinea-Bissau and China were attacked in the city in early 2005.
A total of 45 crimes were committed against foreigners in Voronezh during nine months of 2005, Ponomarev said.


13/10/2005- The body of killed Peruvian student Angelis Hurtado Enrique will be sent from Voronezh to Peru on Thursday,
Consul General of the Peruvian Embassy to Russia Ramirez Egorov said on Wednesday. According to him, "it became possible after the Peruvian Embassy to Russia authorized a forensic expertise that is needed for the investigation on the causes of the young man's death." On the same day the farewell ceremony with the Peruvian student will be held at the Voronezh Architectural University that paid all expenses for the transportation of the body of the killed student.

Three foreign students were attacked in Voronezh on October 9. A big group of local hooligans beat them brutally with sticks and metal rods. Student of the Architectural University Angelis Hurtado Enrique, 18, died from injuries. Two his friends got serious injuries and are staying in hospital. During the conversation with the consul they said they want to leave Voronezh and move to another Russian city to continue their studies.

Two foreign students were killed and more than ten got various injuries in the attacks of local hooligans in Voronezh for the last two years. Students from Angola, Rwanda, Guinea Bissau and China were attacked in 2005 alone.


10/10/2005- Governor of Russia's Voronezh region Vladimir Kulakov said there is no political motivation behind the murder of the Peruvian student, because a Russian citizen was injured during the attack together with foreigners.  It is only by joint efforts of law-enforcement bodies, militia groups and units of student volunteers that the safety of foreign citizens can been ensured, Kulakov said. He said it is inadmissible that the Olympic sport and health center where the student was killed has no police posts. All police forces should join the manhunt for the attackers, the governor said in a statement. Kulakov expressed his condolences to the relatives and friends of the victim and the injured students.

The attack on three foreign students and a young man from Voronezh was staged on Sunday night near the Olympic recreation center in the outskirts of the town. A group of some 20 young men, armed with sticks and iron rods, attacked two Peruvians, a Spaniard and a Russian. Angelis Hurtado Enrique, 18, from Peru, a student of the Academy of Architecture, died as a result of the injuries. Lavaro Hayalo Alexander, 18, also from Peru, a student of the Medical Academy, and Potino Rodriguez Mario, 30, a practical student of the philological department of the Voronezh University, were hospitalized with cranial injuries. A Russian student from Voronezh was also injured, but he refused to be taken to hospital after medical aid was given to him right on the spot.

It was not the first time foreign students were attacked in Voronezh because of racial intolerance. A student of the Medical Academy from Guinea-Bissau was killed there in 2004. The criminals * three young men * were sentenced to long prison terms. Printed materials of nationalistic character, which belonged to them, were found during the investigation.  Students from Angola, Rwanda, and China have been attacked in Voronezh this year.  Alexander Ponomaryov, Prosecutor of the Voronezh Region, took the case under his personal control. Speaking at a press conference after the incident, he said "such crimes must not remain unpunished." Ponomaryov said he had ordered the investigators to report to him daily on progress in the criminal probe. 


By Alexei Terekhov, Anastasia Berseneva and Novyie Izvestia

5/10/2005- On Sunday in Voronezh a citizen of Rwanda studying at a local institute was beaten and robbed. This is just another episode in a long chain of attacks on foreign students that happen in various Russian cities almost every day. Three months ago, Novyie Izvestia wrote that many young people having come from Africa and Asia to study are ready to leave Russia forever unless law enforcement here starts taking their security seriously. Since then, a large number of students, paying considerable money for their education, have left the country. However, it turned out that federal authorities consider the problem exaggerated in the minds of the public, and do not intend to take special measures to protect foreign students. “It only seems as though the number of attacks against foreign citizens has increased, but in reality there are fewer of them,” a high-placed source in the Interior Ministry told Novyie Izvestia on conditions of anonymity. “The problem is that practically every incident involving a foreign student gets wide public resonance, and that’s why it seems there are so many.”

A number of embassies, however, would find that arguable. “We continuously remind our students that they are under a constant threat,” said a representative of the Indian embassy. “Every April we send out a special letter to schools and colleges where we warn about neo-Nazi aggression. Even in India they know about attacks on students, the press writes about it all the time. And that is why citizens of our country refuse to go to Russia. But a lot of students, despite their fear, still travel to Russia. Higher education is valued in India, especially medical education....” A representative at the Guinea-Bisau embassy said that the diplomats are also informed about frequent attacks on students, as well as the students themselves. Still, they inform newly arrived students of the danger. “We warn them, give them advice on how to act, not to go out late at night, avoid conflicts,” a source at the embassy said. “But what can a young person do if he is attacked by a whole crowd?” The Federal Education Agency, which advises foreign students, is aware of the problem, but talk about the issue with care. “We have no instructions on providing security to foreign students, and it is not our duty to inform them of any danger,” said international education vice director Viktor Petrenko. “This is the job of law enforcement authorities and embassies. After all, we can’t tell students that they’re going to get killed here. We only send out lists of necessary documents, medical information, and the amount of money they need to take with them.”

Education officials admit that regular attacks against students can provoke massive departures. “Many are already picking up their documents and asking to be transfered. So far, only to other cities. A majority of these requests are coming from Voronezh and Rostov,” said Petrenko. “However, apart from attacks, students’ decisions are also influenced by other factors. For example, after the fire at the International Friendship University many picked up their documents and returned to their home countries. But the number of people who want to study in Russia is not decreasing, if not increasing. Every year, foreign students bring about $200 million into Russia. And we have to admit that if there’s a massive withdrawal, this number will decrease. But right now this is not happening.”
The State Duma also believes that so far the issue of providing security to foreign students has not reached the federal level.
“There is a security problem with foreign students in separate regions, in Moscow and Voronezh, for example,” said Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the parliamentary security committee. “But on a whole, there is no such problem in Russia. In Siberia, for example, guests are treated warmly, it’s calm there. So it’s not necessary to view students as a specific category needing special protection. All the problems should be resolved on a regional level.”

Although Voronezh has good grounds to be counted among the most dangerous cities for foreign students, while local racists and hooligans attack anyone from Africans to Chinese to French, Voronezh authorities have no realistic program for protecting them. Plans are very broad and are mostly words, while representatives in the mayor’s office and the police cannot name any measures to prevent attacks. No massive departure of students from Voronezh has yet been noticed. But two Chinese students who survived an attack by football hooligans said that they’re leaving for their vacation, and they don’t know if they’ll return to Voronezh or not.
“Attacks against students in Rostov happen constantly. Only the police doesn’t care,” said Alex, a black student from Congo. “Recently skinheads broke into a dormitory of a medical university. They blocked the front door and beat up anyone who didn’t hide. We didn’t call the police – we know from experience that it’s useless.” However, the rector of the Rostov Medical University, Viktor Chernyshov, rushed to assure Novyie Izvestia that law enforcement authorities guard the dormitory. In response to that, the student laughed: “A policeman appeared only after the June 4 incident,” he said. “Before that, there was no one but a woman porter.”
“We have documented complaints of racism from foreign students,” said a source at the local police precinct. “But you have to understand that we can’t put a policeman beneath every window.”

“When I was coming to Russia, I couldn’t imagine that just because my skin is black, I was someone’s enemy,” said Lamar Crawford, an African American from Pennsylvania who is studying Russian at the Volgograd State University. “I can’t say I’m afraid to study here. But it is scary to go out at night.” In Vladivostok, it’s usually Chinese and Japanese students that come under attack. In March of 2002, Japanese student Furakawa Takasi was found killed in his own apartment. Three days earlier, he had met three young people, who later killed him for his camera and lap top. After the incident, a part of the foreign students at the Far East State University picked up their things and went back home. The next year, the university experienced a shortage of students – many simply refused to come to Vladivostok. But one of the most dangerous places for foreign students is St. Petersburg. After the killing of Vietnamese student Wu An Tuan, his teacher, Natalia Rusakova, said that the attacks have been going on for years.

In early March, the foreign students sent an open letter to the St. Petersburg governor, the regional police chief, and the prosecutor, telling of yet another attack on three students from the Pavlov Medical University on February 22, on the same block where Wu An Tuan was killed. The students demanded that at least a police post be set up on the square, so that those under attack knew whom to turn to for help. But neither the police, nor prosecutors, nor university authorities have taken any measures.
© MosNews


11/10/2005- One foreign   student  has been killed and two others injured in what appears to be a racially motivated attack in central Russia. Authorities say that a group of around 15 youths attacked the three foreign  students  at a sports complex in the city of  Voronezh.  Earlier this year, a human rights group warned that racism was growing at an alarming rate in Russia. Prosecutors have yet to indicate a motive for the latest attack. One of the  students , a Peruvian national, was killed and the other two, from Spain, are in hospital with serious head injuries.

Spate of violence
Voronezh  is a big college town: since Soviet days it has hosted hundreds of foreign  students  every year. But it seems to be acquiring a rather ugly image as a place of racial intolerance. Over the past six years, at least seven foreigners have been killed in what appear to be racially motivated attacks. A year ago, a group of skinheads  murdered  a  student  from Africa. They were caught and convicted. According to the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights, racism and xenophobia are on the increase in Russia. They say there have been three times as many fatal attacks in the first six months of this year, compared with the whole of last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the seriousness of the problem. In a televised question and answer session last month he apologised to foreigners who have been attacked, and promised to end racist activities in Russia.
© Rusnet


A special website "Rights of foreign students in Russia": has just been
opened in order to assist foreign students in Russian Federation and it will be maintained by Youth Human Rights Movement (with assistance of the Ombudsman Institute in RF and some other human rights organizations).  The web-site contains all necessary information to help foreign students in Russia (including hotlines with police officers).
© Rights of foreign students in Russia


12/10/2005- Allegedly responding to racist taunts, a foreign student in Volgograd (identified in one report as an African-American) shot a 22 year old local resident twice in the face, according to an October 6, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. After passing by three local residents, the student reportedly heard a racist epithet, and after confronting one of them, Dmitry Mitrokhin, shot him in the face twice with a gun that fires rubber bullets. Mr. Mitrokhin was taken to a hospital, where he is recovering. He claims to have not insulted the student, who was arrested and charged with “hooliganism.”
Commenting on the incident, Sova put it into the larger context of racist violence directed against dark-skinned migrants and students in Russia, and the sometimes inadequate response to this violence by police:
“We have earlier noted incidents of armed defense against racist violence, provoked most of all by the inaction of law enforcement agencies. That fact that in this incident, what sparked such an act of 'defense' was nothing more than an insult demonstrates the development of negative tendencies and confirms that most pessimistic predictions of experts.”
Background Information
© FSU Monitor


7/10/2005- Three suspects in the murder earlier this month of a Congolese student in St. Petersburg may be responsible for several other murders and assaults in the city's Kalinsky district, according to a September 26 report by the local news web site Several of the arrested men have previous convictions, some related to attacks on non-Russians. The attack on the Congolese student, which resulted in his death on September 13, sparked protests from the city's foreign student community, especially since city officials refused to characterize the killing as race-motivated. The head of the city police crime squad, Vladislav Piotrovsky, seemed to blame the victim in a statement to the press shortly afterwards. However, evidence has surfaced that points to a racist motivation for the crime. One suspect had a swastika on his cell phone and at the time of his arrest was wearing a racist T-shirt. Police later found out that the suspects tried to attack three other Africans a few days before the murder, but the intended victims managed to escape. Two other unsolved murders of non-Russians in the city are now being examined for a possible connection to the suspects.
The suspects were originally arrested in connection with a September 20 attack on a Jordanian, according to a September 26 article in the local newspaper “Vecherny Petersburg.” Police in that case as well pointed to motives other than racism, theorizing that the attack was an attempted robbery. The author of the article, however, pointed out that police have not said exactly what the suspects robbed and why they did not take some of the victim's jewelry if they intended to rob him.  With evidence mounting that their early public assertions were incorrect, local officials are wavering a bit. A spokesman for the City Prosecutor's Office told the press on September 26 that the murder of the Congolese student might have been a racist killing. On the other hand, he added, it may simply have been “a murder provoked by a hooliganistic mood” and claimed absence of evidence that the suspects belong to an extremist group.
© Bigotry Monitor


On September 29 the “For Diversity. Against Discrimination.” campaign organised a workshop in co-operation with the Hungarian Equality Authority and NEKI (organisation giving legal advice for victims of discrimination). In a full day training course, 24 NGO representatives, including members of the Hungarian National Working Group for the EU-campaign, were taught brand-new methods of examining the recruitment practices of Hungarian companies. To begin with, they learned what opportunities the new Hungarian anti-discrimination law offers in combating discrimination at the workplace. Secondly, they experienced different discriminatory situations themselves in a role-play and found out about the different forms of discrimination that take place, for example in job interviews. Hungarian anti-discrimination law now allows qualified testers to scrutinize companies undercover in cases where discriminatory recruitment practices are suspected. People who feel that they have been discriminated against when applying for a job can now turn to the Equality Authority or NGOs working in this field. They then send out testers to the suspected company in order to prove their case.


Threatened with Forced Eviction in Bohumin  (ERRC Press release)

5/10/2005- A number of parties concerned at  as-yet unchecked racial segregation in the field of housing in the Czech Republic yesterday spent the night in the flats of four families threatened with forcible expulsion from their homes in the northern Czech town of Bohumin.

The families concerned have been under threat of forced eviction since June, when municipal officials informed them that, following expiry on June 30 of their rental contracts to stay in a hostel for low-income and other poor families, they would have to move out, along with approximately 250 other inhabitants of the hostel. The majority of the persons affected are Romani. Until issued with eviction orders, they have been long-term legal tenants of the building. An appeal on behalf of the families by five non-governmental organizations including the ERRC, sent to Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek on June 30, remains as yet unanswered and without any apparent effect.

Under intense pressure and harassment by municipal officials, most of the families have now left the building, despite having been provided with no reasonable alternative housing. Some have emigrated from the Czech Republic, having abandoned hope of a life with dignity in the country. The failure to secure the basic well-being of the persons concerned calls into question the Czech Republic's compliance with a number of its international law obligations. However, four families, including the family of Mrs.
Renata Scukova, stayed on, and brought legal challenges against the evictions. Mrs. Scukova was moved to challenge the evictions after municipal officials urged her to separate from her husband Stefan so that she might move into a shelter for single mothers.

By way of retribution, the city of Bohumin has undertaken a number of arbitrary acts against the families, including engaging a private security company to guard the door of the hostel and to block anyone but persons living there ­ including close family members ­ from entering the building. For the services of this security company, the city of Bohumin has issued monthly bills to the families concerned. In July, this bill was 76,549 Czech crowns, or approximately 2580 Euro, to be divided among the families. Mrs. Scukova's family's share of this and other bills, only for the month of July, was 27,802 Czech crowns (approximately 940 Euro).

In addition, as a result of these measures, Mrs. Scukova, who previously was a fastidious rent- and utilities-payer, has now accrued approximately 110,000 Czech crowns of debt (approximately 3710 Euro). She and her family will not be eligible for social housing in the Czech Republic until this debt is repaid. She now must also endure the public humiliation of Bohumin municipal officials, who regularly call her a "non-payer" in the media, as part of efforts to garner public support for expelling her into homelessness. In so doing, local officials inflame anti-Romani sentiment, by encouraging existing widespread stereotypes of Roma abusing social benefits.

On September 15, a court in Karvina ruled against Mrs. Scukova's appeal against the eviction order, and gave her 15 days to move out. She will appeal the decision as soon as it is issued in writing. Along with 15 other persons, she remains in the hostel.

The threatened expulsion of these families from their housing is part of a dramatic expansion of efforts at racial segregation in the field of housing in the Czech Republic in recent years, a problem of which the Czech government is aware. The Czech government informed the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2002 that, "Although the Czech Republic has been systematically striving to prevent all forms of racial segregation, some municipalities have adopted, within their separate
competencies, certain measures whose consequences show some symptoms of segregation." Despite this fact, as of 2002, "No changes occurred in the housing legislation concerning protection against discrimination. Housing laws still lack non-discrimination provisions, even the declaratory ones.  Prohibition of discrimination is not stipulated even in the laws and regulations applying to the allocation, renting, privatization or sale of municipal apartments." This situation remains true today, and no government programme exists to reverse racial segregation in the field of housing.

As a result, a number of concerned parties have come to the assistance of Mrs. Scukova and the other Romani families threatened with eviction in Bohumin. In the night of October 4, persons including the Czech government's Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Svatopluk Karasek and members of his staff; Deputy Ombudsman Ms. Anna Sabatova; as well as members of the civil organisations Life Together, League of Human Rights and the European Roma Rights Centre, spent the night as guests of Mrs. Scukova and the other three families concerned, in flats in the hostel in Bohumin. The action was intended as a gesture of solidarity with these and
other victims of racial segregation in the Czech Republic. It also aimed to bring public attention to this emergency.

The action "Guests of Mrs. Scukova" was not without opposition. Acting on the orders of municipal officials of Bohumin, security guards refused to allow the guests to enter the building ­ including Mrs. Scukova's attorney, who requested to meet with her client in private. Despite an obvious breach of law, police refused to remove the seven security guards concerned in the evening hours of October 4. It was only after the intervention of the deputy director of police of the Northern Moravian region of the Czech
Republic that security guards finally allowed Mrs. Scukova's guests and members of her close family to enter the building, four-and-a-half hours after they had first arrived.

Commenting in the Czech weekly Respekt on his reasons for undertaking the action, Life Together Director Kumar Vishwanathan said, "I decided to support them. I was thinking constantly of Mrs. Ratzova, who was expelled from a hostel in Slany in exactly the same circumstances two years ago. She then wandered around the whole country, searching in vain for some kind of accommodation. After four months, when she was at the end of her strength, she gave up her children into state care. Completely ruined, she moved in
with her mother and her psychologically ill brother, who some time thereafter killed her. This woman lived a normal existence with her children, when there suddenly came a powerful assault on her life. She was kicked around like a balloon and then entirely abandoned. When I look at the situation in Bohumin now, I can't help but think of her."

Persons wishing to express concern at recent developments in Bohumin, as well as at housing segregation in the Czech Republic generally, are urged to address correspondence to:

Mr. Jiri Paroubek
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
Urad vlady CR
Nabrezi Edvarda Benese 4
118 01, Prague 1
Czech Republic
Fax: (420) 257 533 053
© European Roma Rights Center


From Jean Raymond, for Antifa-Net in Moscow
October 2005

Russian president Vladimir Putin has designated the nationalist-revolutionary National Bolshevik Party (NBP) as the number one enemy of his regime after a ban on the party was lifted by the Supreme Court on 16 August. The NBP, led by provocative writer Edouard Limonov, made a strategic and tactical shift a few months ago by seeking joint activities with the Communist Party and even with liberals. The last example of this evolution is its support for the local elections candidature of the imprisoned former financial oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In addition, NPB activists have multiplied the kind of direct actions that they began with their occupation of the health ministry offices in Moscow in August 2005.  The change of line provoked a sharp response from the Putin administration as early as last December when police raided the party’s Moscow HQ, followed by a legal offensive in which seven party activists were jailed for five years for the health ministry invasion.  Another thirty-nine will soon go on trial for their occupation of the presidential administration offices at the end of last year. The Putin-led offensive culminated with the now-overturned ban on the NBP. The Kremlin’s moves against the NBP have not, it seems, just been legal.

On 29 August, a gang of masked men, armed with baseball bats and gas guns attacked a group of young NBP activists attending a meeting with the youth from the right-wing bloc Rodina and from AKM (Red Youth Vanguard) at the Moscow offices of the Communist Party. Some of the attackers were wearing the T-shirts of Nashi, (“Ours”), a self-styled anti-fascist youth movement radio-controlled by the Kremlin. Several of the injured NBP members were taken to hospital. The 25 attackers, meanwhile, were arrested  – making their escape in a bus – and detained by police for a few hours before being released, according to the opposition daily newspaper Kommersant. The same paper accused fans – members of the “Gladiators” hooligan mob – of the football club Spartak of the attack. During the spring, a journalist from the magazine Gorod exposed the overlap between certain football supporters’ clubs in Moscow and the Nashi movement and predicted a campaign against the NBP whose boss, Limonov, is now promising violent retaliation.
© Searchlight


October 2005- The ban imposed on the nazi Blood&Honour (B&H) organisation by a Budapest court last December could now be lifted, on appeal, by the Hungarian High Court and Constitutional Court. B&H was dissolved because it was because it had violated Hungarian laws regulating clubs and associations. The nazis were also found to be in non-compliance with the Hungarian constitution and international legal agreements by openly professing fascist views and because “at their events, they do not respect those human rights which everyone deserves and because they make offensive declarations about others”. B&H’s leader Endre János Domokos is prepared for the ban to be upheld and has informed the media about his plan to establish a new outfit within three months. Disbanding that could take another three years. András Szabó, a retired member of the Constitutional Court told the liberal Budapest weekly Hetek: “In Hungary, if the fascist character of an organisation can be proved, then it must be dissolved according to the (1947) Paris peace agreements”. Szabó is convinced, that B & H has abused the right to form an association. For the Hungarian Constitutional Court, however, the right to hold opinions is regarded as greater than the right to human dignity. As a result, Szabó believes that cases like B&H case will continue to come before the courts until the Hungarian parliament introduces legislation to outlaw the expression of hatred.
© Searchlight


By Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow
October 2005

During the commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland in January this year, the website of the newspaper “Rus’ pravoslavnaya” (Orthodox Russia) published a petition signed by five hundred people (among them twenty State Duma deputies) appealing to the Prosecutor-General to launch a ban on all religious and ethnic Jewish organisations in Russia. The petition provoked disgust and criticism from Jewish and human rights groups. And president Vladimir Putin, speaking during the commemoration events at the Auschwitz death camp itself, publicly apologised to the world community and surviving ex-prisoners of the Nazi regime for the existence of antisemitism in Russia. Several days, later the “ban them all” petition was retracted but that was not the end of the story… In fact, on 21 March another petition – with the excruciatingly long-winded title “Appeal to the Prosecutor General of Russian Federation, Vladimir Ustinov, because of increasing use against Russian patriots of article 282 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation (‘Stimulation of national hatred towards Jews’)” – was lodged at the Prosecutor General’s Office. The text of this petition, it turned out, was more or less the same as the January petition.

One difference, however, is that in the new petition the juridical demands were much better formulated, spearheaded with a request to the Prosecutor General’s Office to launch a probe into the Shulhan Arukh – a code of Jewish halachic law compiled the 16th century – to ascertain whether it consitutes racist incitement and anti-Russian material.  The petition also urged the authorities to check the activities and structures of the two main Jewish umbrella groups in Russia, the Congress of Jewish Religious Organisations and Communities of Russia (KEROOR) and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), which have published the Shulhan Arukh and use it in Jewish religious schools. 
Over 5,000 people signed this appeal, among them two leading figures in the Russian Orthodox Church and several editors of various nationalist newspapers in Russia, some of whom have been previously prosecuted for xenophobia and antisemitism.  These include Igor Kolodezenko, Alexander Turik, Stanislav Terentjev and Boris Mironov.  As soon as the petition appeared, activists from the “For human rights” movement lodged their own demand with the Prosecutor General for punishment of the petition’s authors under the anti-racist Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code.  Incredibly, the authorities actually complied with the demands of the “5,000” racists by carrying out an examination of the Shulhan Arukh, even if, on 11 June, Moscow District Prosecutor Sergei Ulyanov subsequently rejected the demand to ban the holy Jewish book.  It was not the only thing that Ulyanov rejected, as he refused to open any investigation into those behind the petition.  With reference to Michael Nazarov, one of the petition’s initiators, the Prosecutor’s office claimed there was no criminal act involved because “there was no direct incitement of hatred and no offence against ethnic or religious group”. This decision rendered Putin’s apology at Auschwitz almost worthless.

It should be added that the Prosecutor’s decisions were based on enquiries made by the director of an institute for preschool education, a psychologist with no expertise in history or the study of religion and culture.  Though the psychologist looked at the expressions used by Nazarov in the petition, referring to “the morality of Jewish fascism” or claiming that the “aggression of Judaism is close to Satanism”, the Prosecutor concluded that the use of this florid antisemitic language was not enough reason to charge Nazarov for instigating national or racial hatred. At the same time, human rights activist Ruslan Linkov was told by the Prosecutor’s Office in St Petersburg that there was nothing offensive to Jews in Nazarov’s use of the word “Yid” and Nazarov himself boasted to journalists that the decisions of the Prosecutors in Moscow and St Petersburg were a victory for him. There is no doubt that the failure of the Prosecutors to look at what is staring them in the face will set off another wave of antisemitic propaganda in Russia.  Nazarov, getting more brazen by the minute, demanded on 22 June, that the Moscow district court should charge three rabbis, Alexander Shajevich, Zinoviy Kogan and Berl Lazar, the President of the Russian Jewish Congress, Boris Slutzker and the Director of the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights, Alexander Brod, for offending his dignity and defaming his professional reputation. 

In August, journalists revealed that, on 10 January, just four days before the first antisemitic petition, the Russian Constitutional Court received an appeal from one Vladimir Grjaznov urging that the Old Testament should be considered “a chauvinist and fascist document” and as “propaganda for the superiority of the Jewish nation”.  Grjaznov went on to call for the forcible closure of all synagogues in Russia.  This was not the first time he had lodged such an appeal.  He did so in 2003 but both the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Constitutional Court ignored him. The antisemitic card is without a doubt being played by major political forces in Russia as politicians chase after votes.  In the January petition, MPs from the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the right-wing bloc Rodina all put their names down and these parties have not disowned those MPs who signed the petition.  Indeed, Rodina in St Petersburg officially backed the January petition two months after its launch. The fact that 2005 began with a barbaric antisemitic petition has led to numerous acts of vandalism and aggression against Jews in Russia.  On 14 January, the same day as the petition first appeared, a group of youths attacked a Jewish family and two rabbis travelling with their children on the Moscow underground.   One of the rabbis was seriously injured. By the summer, violence really began to escalate and, in July, the People’s Patriotic Party of Russia held a meeting in Kursk, ironically the scene of the crushing defeat of Hitler’s Panzer armies in WW2, at which the main slogan was “Jews out!”  Also in July, nationalist extremists from the Slavic Union burned Jewish literature, arranged before being lit, in the form of a swastika.  Soon after, on 10 July, unknown arsonists torched a Jewish religious centre in Penza.

The violence has continued with more vandalism in August.  For example, anti-semites desecrated Jewish cemeteries in Tver and Smolensk, while another fifty gravestones at a cemetery in Dimitrovo-Cherkassakh were daubed with swastikas and a further eight smashed.  After this desecration took place, antisemitic leaflets were pasted up all over the cemetery to demonstrate that the attack was well planned by people who were not just mere hooligans.  In another appalling incident, ten Jewish gravestones were shattered in Smolensk on the day when local people commemorated victims from the Jewish ghetto set up by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
In spite of the constant and understandable emigration of many of its members, Russia still has one of the biggest Jewish communities in the world and around 30% of Jews in Russia regardthemselves religious Jews.  While some of their leaders have praised Putin and his government for encouraging religious tolerance, human rights groups do not agree and are arguing ever more strongly that the authorities are failing miserably in their duty to bring to justice and convict the perpetrators of antisemitic and racist violence in Russia. 
© Searchlight


12/10/2005- Campaigning in Poland’s presidential election turned dirty Tuesday as conservative Lech Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS) party attacked liberal front-runner Donald Tusk with charges that his grandfather fought in Hitler’s army. Tusk rejected the accusation outright, saying it "overstepped the bounds of decency." He was answering Kaczynski’s campaign chief Jacek Kurski, quoted by the weekly newspaper Angora as saying "serious sources in the Pomerania region (where Tusk hails from) say that Tusk’s grandfather volunteered for the Wehrmacht." WWII began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September, 1939. On Sunday, Kaczynski finished a close second to Tusk in the first round of the presidential election and the run-off is set for 23 October.

Claim denied
Tusk said both his grandfathers had fought in the Polish resistance during the war, and had spent part of the conflict in German concentration camps on Polish soil. "All those who raise a hand to smite the dead are not worthy of respect or power," Tusk said. Although his feelings had been badly hurt, he did not intend to return such "blows below the belt." But he did add that someone who "couldn’t control his own staff" should not be president of Poland. Kaczynski sought to distance himself from the accusations attributed by the weekly to his campaign manager. "I am not responsible for this type of campaigning, and I will pay the consequences of what was said," he told reporters. "I am going to apologise to Tusk," he said.

Close race
Tusk finished the first presidential round with slightly more than 36 percent of the vote, with Kaczynski nipping at his heels with 33 percent. A poll published Tuesday showed that Tusk, a free-market liberal, has built significantly on his lead over Kaczynski since the first round, and would reap 56 percent of the vote in the run-off, against 44 percent for his conservative rival. As Tusk and Kaczynski fight it out for the presidency, their parties are in talks to form a coalition to govern Poland. Kaczynski’s conservative, Roman Catholic PiS finished first in legislative elections held last month, with Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) just a few points behind.
© The European Jewish Press


1/10/2005- The Liberty Institute is alerting the international community on continued violations of religious freedoms in Georgia. According to the latest findings, increasingly more people are being attacked on religious grounds in Georgia. Authorities also continue to ignore or provoke violence occurring against religious minorities. For the past four months, the number of complaints from religious minorities has significantly grown, showing the inadequate attention given to this issue. The frequency of attacks on religious minorities temporarily decreased after March 2004, following the arrest of Basili Mkalavishvili, one of the leaders of the Orthodox extremist groups responsible for violent mob attacks. However, the number of aggressive attacks on religious grounds has increased by three times compared to last year’s figures, reported Georgia’s Public Defender. New Orthodox extremist organisations have also become active in Georgia. In July 2005, the Public Defender also stated law enforcers often do not respond according to the law when they receive reports on violent attacks against religious minorities. Recently, the house of the Pentacostal leader, Nikolai Kalutski became the target of aggressive attacks. A blockade, organised by the Society of the Perish of St. King David Agmashenebeli, mobilised up to 100 people to block the Pastor’s house in May 2005. The violence against religious minority communities is accompanied by the seizure of their preaching houses and churches, particularly against Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Six Catholic churches in Tbilisi and the regions Gori, Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe were placed under control of the Orthodox Patriarchy of Georgia, following the dissolution of the USSR. Catholics were forbidden to perform services in historically Catholic churches while, under the guise of so-called repair works, Orthodox priests destroyed the Catholic heritage within the occupied buildings. For instance, in the Akhaltsikhe village of Ivlita, one of the oldest Catholic churches in Georgia (XIIIcent.) was occupied by an Orthodox priest. As a result, the church’s Catholic icons and graves of French missionaries were destroyed. Intolerance to religious freedom is demonstrated by the state’s inability to resolve property issues for religious minorities. The Armenian Church recently demanded the restitution of its rights to Norasheni Church (Tbilisi). In Kvareli (East Georgia), Baptists are still deprived of the right to restore a church burnt in 2003. Jehovah’s Witnesses were also prohibited to repair their place of worship in Kutaisi. Liberty Institute urges the international community to condemn violations of religious freedom, and speak out against religious violence in Georgia
Forum 18

© Civil Society Watch


By Marcin Kornak
KRAKOW. On 29 September, during the second (revange) UEFA Cup qualification match between Wisla Krakow and Vitoria Guimaraes racist fans of the polish team hung a banner on a fence with the symbol of Celtic cross (a racist symbol of white power) with the picture of the hooligan on it and the sentence: "Fanatics of the White Star" (White Star is a nickname of Wisla Krakow). Same flag was hanging on Krakow's Wisla stadium during Champions League qualification game between Wisla and Panathinaikos - 9 August. On the match against Victoria the racist fans of Wisla displayed also a banner with a “Confederation” symbol used by the racist south during the XIX-century civil war in the United States.Nowadays the symbol is used, among other groups, by the Ku Klux Klan. The flag appeared a few times before, usually during home league matches of Wisla Krakow.
© NEVER AGAIN Association


23/9/2005- AC Sparta Praha must play their next UEFA Champions League home match behind partially closed doors as the result of the racist conduct of their fans during the Group B game against AFC Ajax in Prague on 14 September. The Czech club have also been fined €32,000 by UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Committee. The decision - which can be appealed against by midnight CET on Monday 26 September - will apply to Sparta's game against Arsenal FC on 18 October. Sectors H37 to H62, and D45 to D68, will be closed as the racist chanting was ascertained as coming from those areas.  The UEFA delegate for the Sparta-Ajax match reported that home spectators made monkey chants on three occasions when Ajax forward Ryan Babel was in possession of the ball. Sparta admitted that hard-core supporters were responsible for the chants, adding that the club had done their utmost to convince those fans to cease racist actions.  With respect to the organisation of games played behind partially closed doors, UEFA rules stipulate that no spectators are allowed to enter the closed sectors. The host club are not permitted to reduce the contingent of supporters or invited guests from the visiting side in an attempt to allocate more tickets to local fans. However, police, security personnel and people responsible for the stadium infrastructure are unaffected by the ruling.



7/10/2005-  “We shall do the utmost to make skinheads and fascist elements to disappear from the country's political map,” President Vladimir Putin said in a televised phone-in broadcast on Russia TV on September 27. “I can only bring my apologies for the incidents that have already taken place.” He was responding to an unidentified foreign student’s question, read aloud by correspondent Natalya Semenikhina from the call center. The student said that members of Nazi organizations often attack foreigners in Russia and he wondered how in such circumstances he and his colleagues could keep their trust, respect, and friendship toward Russians.
Putin said that both he and the Russian public are concerned about the issue. “Unfortunately, Russia is a part of the modern world, and we see the growing number of such manifestations in practically all countries of the world,” he added. “This is a common disease.” The only medicine that can counteract it, he said, is society’s rejection of such manifestations.
The nearly three-hour-long call-in program – his fourth since becoming head of state, according to “The Moscow Times” – covered a wide range of issues. Among the 60 questions, “carefully screened” wrote “The Moscow Times,” the one by the foreign student (and Putin’s response) received scant attention in the news media that gave other issues a great deal of attention. The human rights group Memorial said that in Vorkuta, security guards assaulted its local co-chair and her husband when they tried to join the televised audience.
© Bigotry Monitor


Russian politicians' love affair with youth movements continues to deepen with the emergence of new youth groups seemingly every other month. Parallel with this trend has been a growing -- but less visible -- cooperation with soccer fan clubs.

19/9/2005- At the formal level, a Moscow city government committee approved a decree last week providing an estimated $3.5 billion rubles ($123 million) in 2006 for the creation of an association of fans of various sports clubs, the Civil Transition patriotic youth movement, and a youth TV channel. At an informal level, the pro-Kremlin youth movements Walking Together and its successor Nashi have been linked with various soccer fan clubs, whose members they reportedly use for security and other purposes.

Why soccer? One reason is that soccer attracts a young following, while politics in Russia does not. Most sociological research has shown over the past 10 years that less than 1 percent of Russian youth participate in public movements, according to "Profil" of 20 December 2004. With their courtship of soccer fan clubs, Russian political authorities may be stepping where earlier counterparts feared to tread. In the early 1980s, Soviet law-enforcement officials were so alarmed by the growing zeal of Russian soccer fans and their adoration of British soccer hooligans that they started to crack down on any emotional displays by audiences during games. According to "Novye izvestiya" on 15 April, during matches, fans were banned not only from chanting or singing songs, but even applauding too fervently. Young people wearing the scarves of the clubs they favored were immediately under suspicion by the law-enforcement agencies. The disintegration of the Soviet Union helped dampen any remaining passion for soccer until the mid-1990s, when fan clubs experienced a rebirth.

One of the first Russian political leaders to see the political possibilities for an alliance with soccer fans was Vladimir Zhirinovskii, head of Liberal Democratic Party of the Russia (LDPR). Speaking on the basis of anonymity, a young Moscow-based soccer hooligan identified only as Vasilii told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 20 December 2004 that Zhirinovskii's team actively courted devotees of Dynamo Moscow. "They financed trips for out-of-town matches, published several fan books, paid for parties," Vasilii said. "LDPR figured that attracting Dynamo fans to their enterprise would raise their party's rating among youth." Vasilii said that LDPR never tried to use the fan club to provide security, although Walking Together did.

According to Vasilii, fans of CSKA (Central Sporting Club of the Army) participated for money in the riot that occurred in central Moscow in June 2002 following Russia's loss to Japan in the World Cup. The riot happened just before the first reading in the State Duma of the law on political extremism. "The media was full of talk about youth extremism. And suddenly before the second reading there was disorder on Manezh Square with attempt to break into the State Duma building," Vasilii said. "Who brings a sledgehammer to watch a soccer match?" -- Russian police officer

Of course, Vasilii, if he indeed exists, was speaking anonymously, but suspicions about the violence have been voiced from any variety of different people. Soon after the incident, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov called the event a "well-planned escapade" and Communist legislator Vasilii Shandybin said that he believed the riot was a "specially planned action, timed to coincide with the Duma's discussion of the law on political extremism. "Izvestiya" on 11 June 2002 reported comments by a police officer, who was on the scene during the rioting, in which he wondered where rioters procured the sledgehammers and gasoline that they used to vandalize cars and storefronts. "Who brings a sledgehammer to watch a soccer match?" the unnamed officer said.

And suspicions persist two years later. In a talk show on Ekho Moskvy on 19 May, soccer trainer and player Aleksandr Shmurnov said he felt the incident "was to some measure a planned political action." "If it had only been about soccer, then it would have continued for 15 minutes and then everything would have dispersed or run out of steam."  In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 September, Oleg Pilshchikov, director the Moscow city's Committee for Family and Youth Affairs, dismissed any possibility that Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's government wants to use soccer fans for any nefarious purpose. "There were suspicions that we are gathering soccer fanatics under our banner in order use them as fighters during the [upcoming] Moscow City Duma elections," he admitted. However, he explained that their goal is more innocent. "Our aim is to make every young Muscovite an active member of society," he said.

Meanwhile, officials from the Nashi youth movement and its predecessor, Walking Together, deny having any connection to soccer fans at all. Konstantin Lebedev, press secretary for Walking Together, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" in December 2004 that his organization "does not cooperate with any kind of fan grouping." However, Aleksei Mitrushin, leader of the CSKA fan group Gallant Steed, has been identified in a number of articles as the director of the northeast branch of Walking Together and as a Nashi coordinator ("Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 April, "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 14 March, and "Ekspert," on 5 September).

From its very beginning, stories about Nashi have been heavy with references to brawny soccer hooligans, and activists at competing organizations have been more than willing to name names. Sergei Shagrunov, head of the Motherland party's youth group ,and Vladimir Abel, a top official with the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), both identified Roman Verbitskii, the head of Spartak Moscow's Gladiator fan club, as the head of Nashi's regional-development department in articles in "Kommersant-Daily," "Moskovskii komsomolets," and "Vedomosti." "Ekspert" reported on 5 September that Verbitskii and another leader of the Gladiators, Vasilii Stepanov, aka Vasya the Killer, have attended meetings at the Kremlin with other Nashi members. However, Nashi press secretary Ivan Mostovich told "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August that he does not know any Roman Verbitskii.

Despite these denials, media stories alleging a connection between soccer hooligans and Nashi continue to proliferate. Verbitskii's name in particular has featured in recent stories about a 29 August incident in central Moscow. About 30-40 masked men armed with baseball bats and some wearing symbols of the Nashi youth organization attacked members of the NBP, Avant-Garde Red Youth, and youth organizations from the Motherland and Communist parties. Aleksandr Averin, an NBP activist who was a victim in the incident, said he saw Verbitskii among the attackers. NBP official Abel told "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August that this is not the first attack on the NBP in which Verbitskii has played a part. "Criminal charges involving a certain Roman Verbitskii have been filed in connection with three previous incidents," he said. The daily also cited an anonymous police source that Verbitskii was present at the attack.

So far, neither Verbitskii nor anyone else has been charged in this attack. Also, reports in and "Novaya gazeta" this week suggested that they are not likely to be. Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 68, Yabloko youth-branch head Ilya Yashin, citing an anonymous police source, reported that presidential-administration official Nikita Ivanov visited the police station where the group of men suspected of taking part in the attack were being held and arranged for them to be quickly released without following regular police procedures. According to Yashin, Ivanov, 31, is nominally the deputy head of the administration for interregional and cultural relations with foreign countries at the presidential administration, but his department is in fact primarily concerned with youth policy and preventing an Orange Revolution. So far, only has echoed Yashin's claims about Ivanov's activities that day, and Ivanov's office has declined to comment.

According to most detailed accounts of the Russian soccer fan clubs, the young men share certain prejudices, such as a hatred for persons from the Caucasus, but they lack any broader political agenda. Their role models are British soccer hooligans. Bill Buford, an American journalist who went undercover with fans of Manchester United's Red Devils, suggested that British hooligans seek an ecstatic, sex-like release from mass violence. Similarly, "Komsomolskaya pravda" wrote that Russian soccer fanatics "are directed not by political convictions but by the search for strong sensations." In their search for an adrenaline rush, they aren't likely to be easily controlled by anyone -- regardless of their bureaucratic rank within the Kremlin or without.


Oslo police will examine a security firm's control routines after a well-known neo-Nazi took part in the safety measures surrounding a royal appearance.

7/10/2005- Anti-racism magazine Monitor uncovered the scandal, which took place during Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit's appearance at a TV appeal to aid women victims of violence in underdeveloped nations, newspaper Dagsavisen reports.

Erling Alexander Kristoffersen, a high-profile extremist with a prior conviction for violence and a former leader of the neo-Nazi Boot Boys, managed to get a security job with the firm Prosec.

Kristoffersen, who stood watch outside the venue, the Jakob Cultural Church, currently fronts the web site for the group Nasjonal Motstand (National Resistance), which has an agenda of replacing the current government with a 'national alternative' and sending foreigners home.

Managing director Kenneth Isaksen at Prosec said that their hiring routines had let them down.

"We don't hire people with a criminal record in a security service. This person had only worked for us for eight hours, which was probably the reason why we had not managed to check his record with police. Originally he was not intended for security service and was fired immediately when we learned that he had a conviction and served prison time," Isaksen said.

Isaksen said that Kristoffersen had not had any direct responsibility for the royal couple's safety, but was supposed to prevent drug addicts and alcoholics from entering the church, and to watch a NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) van parked in the area.

Kristoffersen's lawyer Vidar Lind Iversen confirmed that his client had only worked a few shifts for the security company, and that he was still active in extremist circles.
© ©Aftenpost


10/10/2005— Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk is to investigate the possibility of banning the wearing of the burka in specific situations. A total ban on the Muslim garment that covers the entire body is not possible, the minister believes. Verdonk has ordered her officials to study whether the burka could be banned at certain times and in specific locations on security grounds. She outlined her ideas to parliament on Monday. She was responding to right-wing independent MP Geert Wilders, who called for a ban on the wearing of burkas in public. He argued that the burka is not "woman friendly" and it prevented quick identification of the  
wearer. The burka - associated with Afghanistan and other strict Muslim societies - covers the woman from head to toe and even conceals her eyes.
© Expatica News


Morocco has sent the first of several planes full of illegal West African migrants to Senegal.

10/10/2005- The migrants accuse Morocco's security forces of ill-treating them. The flight with 140 migrants arrived from Oujda, near the Algerian border. Hundreds of migrants were dumped there after trying to enter or being expelled from Spanish enclaves in North Africa. Amid growing international concern, humanitarian groups have criticised Spain for expelling the migrants. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is visiting Morocco to discuss the crisis as it reviews its deportations policy. A government official in the Melilla enclave said no more deportations were planned at the moment. The aid agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres, said on Friday it had found more than 500 migrants abandoned by Moroccan police in the Sahara desert without food or water, some of whom had been illegally expelled by Spanish police.

Big dilemma

Twenty-eight-year-old Aboubakar Diallo from Mali said he was ready to go home after failing to make it into Melilla. "It's tough here... it's hell on earth, lack of water, no food and live ammunition to face. We get treated like animals," told AFP news agency. The migrants who remain in one of the enclaves, Melilla, say their treatment at the hands of the Moroccan security forces was appalling, the BBC's Chris Morris in Melilla says. They have appealed to Spain not to deport anyone else back across the border. Spain and Morocco have taken a tougher line against the migrants in the last few days, after thousands of people tried to storm the high razor wire fences which surround Melilla and Ceuta. Hundreds of migrants made it across, but at least 11 were killed. That prompted Spain to deport some of the new arrivals back to Morocco, a move denounced by humanitarian groups. They say hundreds of other migrants caught on the Moroccan side of the border have been taken further south and dumped in the remote desert region near the airport at Oujda. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged the two governments to treat the migrant groups humanely. The European Union and UN are sending teams to Morocco amid growing concern about how the authorities are treating immigrants. The issue presents a big dilemma for Spain, but it could also become a political problem for the Socialist government, our correspondent says. A new opinion poll says illegal immigration now tops the list of issues which concern Spanish voters the most.
© BBC News


Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is to visit Morocco for talks on how to handle migrants seeking to enter Spain's North African enclaves.

10/10/2005- The Spanish government is reviewing its policy on deporting illegal migrants from Melilla and Ceuta back to Morocco amid mounting international concern. A government official in the Melilla enclave said no more deportations were planned at the moment. Humanitarian groups have criticised Spain for sending people back. Another plane full of illegal migrants from sub Saharan African left Melilla on Sunday, but it was bound for the Spanish mainland.

Big dilemma

The migrants who remain in Melilla say their treatment at the hands of the Moroccan security forces was appalling, the BBC's Chris Morris in Melilla says.  They have appealed to Spain not to deport anyone else back across the border.  Spain and Morocco have taken a tougher line against the migrants in the last few days, after thousands of people tried to storm the high razor wire fences which surround Melilla and Ceuta.  Hundreds of migrants made it across, but at least 11 were killed. That prompted Spain to deport some of the new arrivals back to Morocco, a move denounced by humanitarian groups. They say hundreds of other migrants caught on the Moroccan side of the border have been taken further south and dumped in a remote desert region.  UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged the two governments to treat the migrant groups humanely.  The EU and UN are sending teams to Morocco amid growing concern about how the authorities are treating immigrants.  The issue presents a big dilemma for Spain, but it could also become a political problem for the Socialist government, our correspondent says.  A new opinion poll says illegal immigration now tops the list of issues which concern voters the most.
© BBC News


10/10/2005- Portugal has been warned it faces an ever-increasing problem with illegal African immigrants crossing over its borders. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last week that illegal immigration is "a problem that will not go away" and that Lisbon should consider carefully improving its defences against the rising tide of African immigrants entering the country. This latest warning comes in the wake of the deaths of five people during a night of clashes on the Spanish-Moroccan border last Tuesday. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero met his Moroccan counterpart Driss Jettou in Seville this week for talks on the problem following the unrest on Morocco's border with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast. Five people died before dawn when hundreds of would-be immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempted to storm the bor der fence around the enclave, just across the Strait of Gibraltar that divides Africa from mainland Europe. The European Commission joined with the IOM in calling for Portugal and Spain to bolster cooperation to avert similar incidents occurring. However, Portugal and Spain's troubles are by no means unique among their fellow member states that border the Mediterranean. All face a daily challenge trying to contain illegal immigration. According to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 10,500 illegal immigrants from Libya and Tunisia landed in the first half of 2005 on Italy's southern island of Lampedusa. Only last month 235 stowaways were smuggled into Malta leading to the country's government appeal for humanitarian aid from Brussels. "Two hundred and thirty five stowaways landing in Malta is the equivalent of 23,500 arriving in Sicily", Malta's Interior Minister Tonio Borg told Reuters. Greece is really beginning to feel the pinch over illegal immigration from Africa and Asia. In the first half of this year 23,490 illegal immigrants have been rounded up and placed in detention camps. From 2000 to 2004, nearly 400,000 asylum seekers and 5,000 suspected traffickers have been detained after landing on the dozens of Greek islands scattered across the eastern Mediterranean. According to the Greek customs authorities, the majority have been smuggled in via Turkey ­itself an aspiring EU member state. But while Brussels is recommending its member states to toughen up their border controls, the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights are accusing Greece, Italy and Spain of not doing enough to protect the interests of illegal immigrants by refusing them the opportunity of seeking asylum.
© The Portugal News


9/10/2005- Each year, Dyana Mason kicks off the summer with two road trips: one to Washington's black gay pride celebration in May and a second to its predominantly white June counterpart, Capital Pride. Mason, director of an advocacy group called Equality Virginia, is not alone. Through the fall, similar celebrations will unfold across the nation, underscoring a racial rift some say splinters gay America when a united front is needed most. National gay and lesbian groups are responding with marketing campaigns and old-fashioned schmoozing to win over minority gays, many of whom argue white activists want their votes on gay marriage and other national issues, but rarely include poverty, racism and other minority concerns on their agendas. "We have this rainbow of unity - 'We're all in it together,'" said Earl Fowlkes, president of the International Federation of Black Prides. "Truth be told, it's not that way." His group represents more than 23 annual black pride celebrations drawing thousands of black gays to New York, Chicago, Atlanta and other cities. Such culture-specific celebrations are on the rise as the face of gay America shifts from the white male stereotype. Roughly 4 million gay or lesbian adults live in the United States, according to the Gay and Lesbian Atlas, compiled by the Urban Institute. Among them are large groups of Hispanics and blacks; in Los Angeles, for example, the group found Hispanics lead 32 percent of all same-sex households. In the South, black gays head more than a quarter of gay households in South Carolina and Mississippi. The numbers say minorities are just as prevalent as whites. So why, then, do their faces number so few at national gay rights events? In 2000, the Human Rights Campaign set out to answer that question, surveying leaders in several communities of color across the country. "Their perceptions of us were rich, white male elitist organization with low investment in issues facing the multicultural community," recalled Donna Payne, senior diversity organizer with the HRC, the nation's largest gay rights advocacy organization. In addition to creating Payne's position, leaders began to showcase work by black, gay filmmakers in their Washington store, establish a gospel social and an outreach program to mentor gay youth at historically black colleges. Perhaps most importantly, top brass at the Human Rights Campaign began frequenting black pride parades and parties. "Overall, we understand that we have to be able to have room under the umbrella for everyone," Payne said. Despite the changes, frustrations linger. For one, Latinos shrink from organizations that think translating documents into Spanish is enough, said Noemi Perez, a Virginia activist who has worked with gays.

"You can't just transplant an individual who is Latino," she said. "That is a big piece of the puzzle as to why it's hard for these organizations to bring the communities to the table." Hispanics and blacks say they feel distanced from a national gay rights agenda focused on same-sex marriage. Fowlkes and Perez named "existence issues" such as poverty, discrimination and job stability as primary for minority gays - not wedding bells. "If I don't have the money I need to have food in my refrigerator or to get on a bus to get to work, the whole issue of the right to marry, that's secondary," Perez said. "The lives of the folks on 'Will and Grace' are not necessarily reflective of the lives of gay Latinos." But for some minority gays - and heterosexuals - distance from the white mainstream stems from a notion that race trumps all. It's an age-old idea that leaves many viewing themselves as black or Hispanic first and gay second. "We (have) formed our own institution - that being the prides, our social organizations, our social clubs," Fowlkes said. "All the things our parents and grandparents did to react to racism in their day." With anti-gay measures gaining ground nationwide, the argument for uniting across racial lines is strong. Gay marriage bans were approved in all 11 states that held referendums last fall, including Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. In Richmond, Mason's staff is taking baby steps to diversify. The flagship Virginia gay rights group hosted an awards dinner in April with Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Still, Mason lists a concern of many white gay leaders: In areas where minority gay communities are not well-organized, reaching across racial lines is nearly impossible. "We don't have a Richmond black gay pride, for example," she said. "We don't have that type of opportunity for us to really find who these folks are."
© Associated Press


6/10/2005- The re-elected General Workers' Union president, Salvu Sammut, yesterday dedicated nearly half his speech at the congress to a fierce attack on illegal immigrants, claiming they were "taking jobs from Maltese workers". Mr Sammut said Malta may be forced to take measures which were not necessarily "just and humane" to solve the illegal immigration crisis. Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Harry Vassallo walked out of the congress as a sign of protest, later condemning Mr Sammut's comments as inflammatory and unacceptable coming from the president of the country's largest trade union. "First we had Maltese prostitutes, then we had Russian prostitutes and now we have immigrant prostitutes (prostituti klandestini) who earn double the minimum weekly wage of a Maltese worker," Mr Sammut said. "We cannot forget the dangers of undetected diseases which may spread among the population." Mr Sammut said one should not forget the frustration felt by the Maltese who see an illegal immigrant being given precedence at hospital. "It is understandable when an elderly person, a Gozitan or a person with a disability is given precedence over a Maltese person in a government department. But that an illegal immigrant is given precedence is not acceptable. This is fuelling fear and racist sentiment among people," Mr Sammut said. "The illegal immigration problem is becoming more acute and alarming and will suffocate us very soon."

Mr Sammut said the circumstances which Malta found itself in were not allowing its people to live up to their reputation as a generous nation. "The first illegal immigrant who landed in Malta was St Paul. At least he gave us a Christian culture and left after three months. But what good are modern illegal immigrants doing us? They need food, clothing, education and social services and they want to give birth to their races among us," Mr Sammut said. Reacting to the comments made by Mr Sammut, the AD chairman said a series of popular misconceptions about illegal immigration were being inflated by the extreme right-wing "lunatic" fringe. "It was impossible to remain and appear to approve in the slightest manner any report that may be made of a speech inflaming racial tension in the country. "In this situation everybody with a responsibility for leadership should strive to present the facts as they are and to address the challenges in a rational manner," Dr Vassallo said. It was therefore unacceptable that the president of the country's largest trade union addressing 700 delegates should claim that immigrants were taking Maltese workers' jobs, exposing the Maltese to undetected diseases and jumping the queue at hospital, Dr Vassallo said.

The authorities had for years transmitted the message that immigrants were dangerous criminals by escorting them to hospital in handcuffs. "These people would greatly prefer not to be treated like criminals whenever they are in need of medical attention and exposed to the irritation and hatred of the Maltese," Dr Vassallo said. A self-respecting union should have addressed the exploitation and near slavery to which many migrant workers are exposed. "No self-respecting trade unionist could possibly inflame workers against other workers who are evidently at a greater disadvantage than themselves and who are facing the same illegal exploitation," Dr Vassallo said. "It is utterly intolerable that the president of the GWU on such an occasion should hint ominously that the solution to the immigration crisis would be 'neither just nor humane'," Dr Vassallo said.
© Times of Malta


The Danish People's Party's candidate for the Copenhagen mayor post faces a police investigation and scrutiny from her superiors after publishing derogatory comments about Muslims on her website.

Derogatory comments about Muslims have brought Louise Frevert, the Danish People's Party's Copenhagen candidate for mayor, under the close scrutiny of party leadership and police alike. Last week, Frevert was reported to the police for posting derogatory comments on Muslims on her website. A number of articles stated that young Muslim men, even if they were born in Denmark and spoke Danish, harboured fundamental attitudes that were incompatible with Danish society. 'Whatever happens, they feel it's their right to rape Danish girls and stamp out Danish citizens,' the article stated. 'Our laws forbid us to kill our enemies in public, so our only remedy is to fill our prisons with these criminals.' The article on Frevert's website went on to recommend that Muslim criminals be sent to prisons in Russia. In another article, Muslims were compared with cancer cells, which could only be treated with chemotherapy or surgically removed. The comments prompted Social Democratic city council candidate Lars Rasmussen to report Frevert to the police for violating the country's anti‑racism law. 'Her comments sound like something she heard from the Nazi Party,' Rasmussen said. The Danish People's Party's leadership did not seem to like the connotation. 'This is not the party's policy, and it never will be,' DF vice chairman Peter Skaarup said. Frevert seemed to have gotten the message. 'I can understand that these articles have caused a stir. It was not my intention, and I apologise,' she said in a press release on DF's website. 'I will make sure that the comments will be removed from the website.'  Shortly after removing the articles, however, Frevert recanted and declared that she had not written them herself. Instead, her website's editor had written and posted them in her name. However, similar passages were also found in a book written by Frevert, published in the run‑up to parliamentary elections last February. Conflicting explanations offered by Frevert about who authored the statements led the Danish People's Party vice‑chairman to call for an investigation. 'We will now go through the material to take a look at it. We will also speak with Louise Frevert about who has written what,' said Skaarup. Skaarup expected the analysis to take a few days: 'It's quite a bit of material. I don't think there is anything dramatic in it, but it is clear that we have to study it.' Skaarup would not offer a comment on whether Frevert would be excluded from the party.
© The Copenhagen Post

ERRC Urges Prime Minister to Issue Prompt Correction and to Lead in Ensuring that Victims Receive Justice

4/10/2005‑ Acting in response to the publication by the Slovak General Prosecutor’s office of extremely misleading information concerning the coercive sterilisation of women – including Romani women ‑‑ in Slovakia, the ERRC yesterday sent a letter to Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, urging him to undertake a number of matters including: (1) publicly correct the information issued by the Slovak General Prosecutor; (2) affirm that the Slovak government remains committed to justice for any and all identified victims; and (3) in light of the evident bad faith demonstrated by members of the Slovak Attorney General’s office, to demonstrate leadership in matters related to providing justice to victims of coercive sterilisation in Slovakia.

On 21 September 2004, the ERRC submitted, under a confidential complaint mechanism available before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW Article 8 procedure”), details concerning procedures undertaken by Slovak medical officials with respect to 49 Romani women. This complaint included details of 22 cases of sterilisation performed without any form of consent; 23 cases of sterilisation in which consent to sterilisation was obtained by coercion; and four cases in which sterilisation had been performed following consent secured absent the provision of information regarding alternative contraceptive measures.  In a communication of 1 August 2005, the CEDAW declined to conduct an Article 8 inquiry into the matter, primarily as a result of the entry into force, on 1 January 2005, of a new Act on Healthcare, including provisions to ensure “ethical medical practice as well as access to a patient’s file”.  The CEDAW communication states, however, that while it would not at present conduct an inquiry into the matter, under the Article 8 procedure, “it remains concerned that there may have been individual cases of sterilisation of Roma women without consent or with consent obtained by coercion and that, within this context, the issues of responsibility and redress have so far not been sufficiently addressed.” The Committee further advised the Slovak government “to pursue and appropriate consideration of these questions”.  This decision, issued confidentially to the ERRC and the Slovak Government has, in the week foregoing, been dramatically misrepresented by Slovak officials in public statements. In addition, the views of a number of European expert bodies which have expressed extreme concern at the actions of Slovak medical officials have also been misrepresented by Slovak officials. A summary of wrong, misleading or otherwise manipulative information disseminated by Slovak authorities and widely quoted in the Slovak media in the past week follows below:

According to the Slovak news agency SITA from September 29, 2005, Mr. Jozef Centes, Vice President of the Criminal Division of the Slovak Attorney‑General’s Office, made statements that “illegal sterilisation of Romani women has never happened in Slovakia” and claimed that the same conclusion had been reached by a UN Committee after examining the issue upon request submitted by the European Roma Rights Centre. The statements of Mr. Centes were welcomed, endorsed and repeated by a number of Slovak officials, and have been widely quoted in the media.  As of October 3, the Internet website of the Slovak General Prosecutor’s Office included a news item,  containing extensive misleading information on the issue, including for example the following: “The non‑existence of evidence of the crime of genocide has been affirmed also by an independent parliamentary survey by the Inter‑European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (IEPFPD), Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for Social, Health and Family Affairs Christine McCafferty, as well as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Alvaro Gil‑Robles”.  The statement of the Slovak General Prosecutor is formally correct solely because none of authorities listed, including the ERRC, have alleged the crime of genocide in Slovakia in connection with these practices. Indeed, the Slovak General Prosecutor opened investigation into the crime of genocide – which carries with it a very high burden of proof ‑‑ against the explicit recommendation of a number of parties, and apparently for the sole purpose of dismissing the claims.

In actual fact, every one of the officials listed above has expressed concern at practices of sterilisation of women carried out absent informed consent in Slovakia, as well as in particular the targeting of Romani women for coercive sterilisation.  In one example of statements misrepresented by the Slovak General Prosecutor, in 2003, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Alvaro Gil‑Robles stated, following visits to Slovakia: “On the basis of the information contained in the reports referred to above, and that obtained during the visit, it can reasonably be assumed that sterilizations have taken place, particularly in eastern Slovakia, without informed consent. The information available to the Commissioner does not suggest that an active or organized Government policy of improper sterilizations has existed (at least since the end of the communist regime). However, the Slovak Government has, in the view of the Commissioner, an objective responsibility in the matter for failing to put in place adequate legislation and for failing to exercise appropriate supervision of sterilisation practices although allegations of improper sterilizations have been made throughout the 1990’s and early 2000.”  The foregoing statement was reiterated in the High Commissioner’s Preliminary Report on the Human Rights Situation of Roma, Sinti and Travellers in Europe, dated May 4, 2005, to which was added the comment “I remain concerned that sufficient consideration has not, at least as yet, been given to the question of responsibility for the violations that have already occurred as well as providing redress for the victims”.  The Commissioner further concluded that “The issue of sterilizations does not appear to concern exclusively one ethnic group of the Slovak population, nor does the question of their improper performance. It is likely that vulnerable individuals from various ethnic origins have, at some stage, been exposed to the risk of sterilization without proper consent. However, for a number of factors, which are developed throughout this report, the Commissioner is convinced that the Roma population of eastern Slovakia has been at particular risk.”

Similarly, an independent study mission of the Inter‑European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (IEPFPD) after, as noted above, agreeing with all parties that the practices alleged likely did not amount to genocide, concluded, “Participants did find, that in most cases Romani woman were sterilized without sufficient information to make an informed consent. This is due to the fact, that hospital doctors do not consider it their duty to inform the woman, even when they should have realised that the patient has not attended prenatal care, where this information is supposed to be given and will also not attend post natal care. In cases of emergency the patient is also not informed. This is open to very strong criticism.”  Since plausible documentation was first brought forward in 2003 that practices of coercive sterilisation of Romani women have recently taken place in Slovakia, high‑level Slovak authorities have repeatedly misled the Slovak public on the nature and dimensions of the issue. Indeed, Slovak authorities have even threatened prosecution of the authors of “Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia”, the first comprehensive study published on the matter. To date, although some Slovak officials have occasionally acknowledged the practice, justice has been denied to victims.

The ERRC letter to Prime Minister Dzurinda of October 3 was copied to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which remains in the course of the most recent very disturbing developments in Slovakia described above.
© European Roma Rights Center


5/10/2005‑ Serbia's pro‑western president on Wednesday accused the Balkan republic's conservative government of betraying the ideals of a popular uprising that led to the ouster of former president Slobodan Milosevic exactly five years ago. Boris Tadic wrote in the Politika daily that the coalition cabinet of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica was reviving "political violence" and "persecution of opponents" similar to the one that existed in Serbia during Milosevic's autocratic rule of more than a decade. "Hardly anyone in Serbia today has the right to be satisfied," Tadic said. "Everything that had burdened Serbia under the rule of Slobodan Milosevic is back again."  Tadic's criticism of Kostunica illustrates the deep divisions that prevail among the leaders of the anti‑Milosevic coalition five years after the former president was toppled on Oct. 5, 2000. Back in 2000, Milosevic's attempt to annul Kostunica's triumph at a presidential vote drove hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities, forcing him to concede defeat and step down. The pro‑democracy leaders, including Tadic and Kostunica, promised then to work together to bring Serbia out of isolation and economic misery left by Milosevic. But the key players soon split, with Kostunica drifting away from the liberals in the bloc. Years later, Kostunica faces fierce criticism from the former allies for his political alliance with Milosevic's Socialists and alleged support of the former president's warmongering policies. "Serbia's government has publicly denounced anti‑fascism ... while it tolerates public displays of racism, anti‑Semitism and ethnic hatred," a group of liberal politicians and intellectuals said in a statement Wednesday.

Former reformist Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic added that "this government has revived the system that was toppled on Oct. 5." But Kostunica rejected the accusations late Tuesday in an interview on the state run Serbian television. The Serbian premier cited a decision by the European Union earlier this week to start talks on establishing closer ties with Serbia, as evidence that things were moving forward. Kostunica on Wednesday visited the miners outside Belgrade who played a key role in the 2000 changes by launching a strike. Kostunica told the miners that "Oct. 5 opened the way to changes in Serbia and creation of a democratic state that can live like the rest of the world."  Still, Serbia remains one of the poorest countries in Europe: every third Serb is jobless, inflation is a rampant 14 per cent and the average monthly paycheque amounts to the equivalent of $250 US. In addition, the republic is politically unstable, and ties with Montenegro ‑ junior partner in the Serbia‑Montenegro union ‑ have worsened. Tadic conceded in his text in Politika that Serbia has moved toward the EU, but noted that "negotiations will be slower and harder for us" because of Kostunica's reluctance to apprehend the remaining UN war crimes suspects, particularly the top fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic. Tadic declared that last week's 48‑hour detention of the first post‑Milosevic justice minister, Vladan Batic, showed that Kostunica's authorities have "crossed the line" that had divided them from Milosevic's policies. In a sign of protest, Tadic's opposition Democratic Party also threatened on Wednesday to walk out of the Serbian parliament, in a move that could further fuel political tensions. "The government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica does more to convince the people that things are not as bad as they seem than to offer a clear vision how to solve the problems," Tadic said. "The government is much more interested in staying in power at any price."
© Associated Press


4/10/2005‑ The night has been cold but Rama Kanoute and her family will sleep outside again, crouched on a pile of mattresses, their belongings beside them. French police evicted Kanoute, her husband and two children last month from the run‑down apartment they squatted in for years but she has vowed to stay on the cobblestones in front of the house until Paris city authorities offer them a permanent home. "All I want is dignity, a place to live," said Kanoute, whose parents came from Senegal, a former French colony. Dozens of families of African origin have been expelled from Paris squats in the past few weeks. Anti‑racism groups say their expulsions show the difficult plight of immigrants and their descendants in France, where many live a half‑life on the fringes of society, discriminated against for jobs and housing because of their origins. In the past five months, fires in crowded and dilapidated Paris buildings have killed almost 50 people, many of them immigrants and children. The deaths shocked a city best known abroad for its spacious boulevards and historic monuments, lifted the lid on living conditions for immigrants and exposed a grave housing shortage. Conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called for squats and run‑down buildings to be closed after the fires. The ambitious Sarkozy, who is the government's No. 2, has also angered opposition parties with vows to get tough on immigration ‑‑ comments many see as an attempt to win over right‑wing voters in his bid to become president in 2007. Officials say Paris has about 60 unsafe squats and around 1,500 families live in apartments that are considered unhygienic. Many poor people say they have no choice. "Rather than staying outside with our children, we came in," Kanoute said. "The walls were damp and moldy. There was no electricity in the bathroom. I have been washing in the dark for years."


In 2004, there were 4.5 million immigrants aged over 18 in France, making up 9.6 percent of the population, according to the national statistics office INSEE. The interior ministry has said there are between 200,000 and 400,000 illegal immigrants in France, seen as a kind of "promised land" to unemployed youths in former African colonies. In Paris, more than 100,000 families, many immigrants, are waiting for permanent social housing, officials say. For now, they live with friends or stay in shabby hotels or squats. Rene Dutrey from Paris' Green party, which is a partner in the city government, says it is hard to say how many of these are foreigners but a majority of those living in unhygienic flats have an immigrant background. "They are the most vulnerable," he said. "They face discrimination on the private housing market because many landlords don't want black people. And they are discriminated against because they don't have the resources." Others say the discrimination extends to the job market. "Many immigrants are doing the work the French don't want," said Jean‑Pierre Dubois from the LDH human rights group. "They are more likely to take on short‑term contracts." In 2004, unemployment was at 9.9 percent, with about 28 percent of France's African population out of work, official data shows. "Immigrants more often hold no‑qualification jobs, which are most affected by unemployment," INSEE said in a study. Kanoute, who has lived in France all her life and works in a retirement home, said it did not surprise her that the main victims of the recent fires were immigrants. Two fires killed 24 people in derelict houses in Paris at the end of August. Twenty‑four people were also killed when a hotel housing immigrants went up in flames in Paris in April. "It's always Africans. Always, always, always," Kanoute said, watching her children play around their makeshift camp. "We are the ones who get up in the mornings to work in buildings ... It's African women cleaning up the mess of politicians in their offices in the morning. And at night, we come back to our derelict homes. Is that normal?"

Immigration debate

After the fires, the government vowed to make land available to build more than 20,000 homes and said it would provide 50 million euros to renovate decrepit buildings. But opposition parties and anti‑racism groups have said the measures will not be enough to solve the housing crisis, pointing out that the recent expulsions and strong government rhetoric on immigration only risked feeding xenophobia. Sarkozy, who cracked down on crime during his first stint as interior minister from 2002 until 2004, has said France needs the same dynamism to fight illegal immigration. He has floated the idea of introducing immigration quotas according to job skills, and has vowed to step up expulsions. "By accepting people to whom we unfortunately cannot propose work or housing, we are finding ourselves in a situation where we are having tragedies like this," Sarkozy said just hours after the most recent fire, causing a storm of criticism. Dubois said Sarkozy's comments risked turning immigrants into scapegoats. "He is taking the line of the extreme right to build his presidential election platform for 2007," he said. The Greens' Dutrey called on the government not to close squats without offering people a new home: "These families are already afraid of burning alive. Now are also afraid of being expelled at 6 a.m. in the morning." Kanoute said she would not move to of one of Paris's shabby hotels, where many other expelled squatters were now living. "It's a poisoned trap. I might have to stay there even longer than I did in this mess. I dream of having a house, where my children have a room like their friends, a desk, a bed, a TV."
© Reuters


4/10/2005‑ Five members of an extreme right‑wing group who plotted to produce material stirring up racial hatred against blacks and Jews were facing jail today after admitting the offence. The five plotted to publish Stormer, the magazine of extreme right group the Race Volunteer Force ‑ an offshoot of infamous race hate group Combat 18. They were involved in advertising the group's aims of racial intolerance, revolution and use of violence on their website and in the magazine Stormer. Their targets were Jewish, Muslim and black people living in Britain. The material produced included bomb making instructions and praise for racist nailbomber David Copeland. The men were charged after a national police operation Attend involving six police forces in Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire, Surrey, London, Merseyside and Manchester. The men who pleaded guilty to being involved are Nigel Piggins, 39, of Holtemprice Street, Hull; Jonathan Hill, 33, of South Croft, Oldham, Lancashire; Steven Bostock, 27, of Westmorland Road, Urmston, Manchester; Michael Denis, 30, of Ashdown Way, Tooting, south London; and Kevin Quinn, 40, of Ouseland Road, Bedford. Elizabeth Hunt, 36, a mother‑of‑three from Merseyside, was also charged with being involved but the decision was made not to proceed against her following the pleas of the other men. They had been due to stand trial at the Old Bailey today but entered pleas of guilty after legal argument. No date for sentence has yet been set.
© Life Style Extra


4/10/2005‑ FOR 12 days during October the football world comes together in a united message against racism. Clubs, schools, local authorities and all Premiership, Championship and Coca Cola League clubs from across the country will be holding a variety of events in a national anti‑racism week of action to send out a message against racism and in celebration of diversity in the game. And in the Huddersfield Junior RCD League it is Westend and Space who will be supporting the week which runs from October 13 to 25. On Saturday, October 15, Westend are holding a `Westend Olympics' morning at their Salendine Nook High School home (9.00am). Players will be given a country to represent and will take part in a number of track and field events to determine the `Westend Olympic Champion'. The event is being sponsored by Latitude, the United Kingdom's leading search marketing specialist.

Latitude's Head of Marketing Jackie Danicki, said:

"Latitude work in an environment that is blind to the colour of people's skin, and therefore are pleased to be given the opportunity to support an organisation such as Westend, who play such an active role with the young people in our community."

Ricky Thwaites, chairman of Westend, was very pleased to receive financial backing for the event, and said:

"Since our formation in June 1991 Westend have never tolerated racism of any kind, and the marvellous support from Latitude for our `Olympics' will enable us to provide refreshments, badges, wristbands to all participants and prizes for the winners. The event will be organised by Richard Boustead, who has arranged similar highly successful events during his time coaching young footballers in the USA. Richard has recently returned to play for Westend's District League team and is one of the many ex‑Westend Juniors who are now playing every Saturday for the open age team. Ricky was quick to praise the men's open age squad, who have volunteered to help throughout the morning. "Most of them have come through the ranks at Westend and have been taught good values," he said. " I am very pleased to see that they are now putting something back into the club that gave them such a wonderful start to their football careers."

Space, who are coached by former District League and Emley player Milton Brown, are holding an Under 14 five‑a‑side tournament at Bradley Mills Sports ground, Barr Street, off Leeds Road, on Monday, October 24. During the day there will be displays and information celebrating the contribution to football of ethnic minorities and information on how to tackle racism in football. There will also be other attractions, including a penalty shootout competition, football quizzes and raffles. The event kicks off at 11.00am and cost of entry is £20.00 per team.

The Huddersfield RCD Junior League is firmly against any sort of prejudice, as President Laurie Platt points out. "The League exists to give young people the chance to play football, whatever their ability, background, colour or religion. "Racism or prejudice will not be tolerated in any form and we are pleased that two of our clubs are involved in this national event."
More about the FA's "Kick it Out Week"
© IC Network


A gang of racist youths that targeted Asians and blacks in recent weeks has been arrested in southeast London ‑ a move welcomed by anti‑racism campaigners who, however, warned that such attacks were on the rise.

5/10/2005‑ In a swift action, Bexley Police rounded up 15 youths on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm to black locals. One attack left a 17‑year‑old boy in need of hospital treatment after he was kicked viciously in the head. Another incident left a 16‑year‑old boy suffering with facial injuries after being set on by a large group of youths. A 32‑year‑old Asian man was also assaulted after confronting youths who threw stones at his car and, on Sep 19, a 15‑year‑old and his older brother had their car stolen by youths who shouted racial abuse. The older brother, who is 20, was struck with a wrench during the robbery. Acting borough commander of Bexley Police, Superintendent Martin Bragg, said all of the attacks were characterised by outbursts of "racially abusive language" by the perpetrators. Officers had acted quickly to reassure the community that this behaviour "will not be tolerated and to ensure that those responsible are held to account for their actions". The National Assembly Against Racism welcomed the arrests and urged the authorities across Britain to be "extremely vigilant" as racist attacks continued to increase in the wake of the July 7 bombings. An assembly spokeswoman said several racist murders over recent months, coupled with the overall 600 percent increase in incidents of racial and religious hate crime and abuse, meant that "no‑one can afford not to take this problem seriously. Politicians must also be very careful about the comments that they make to the press, particularly on the subject of multiculturalism." "Lately, there have been attacks on the principle of multiculturalism in Britain, but this can lead to racists attacking people from ethnic minorities," she insisted.
© Hindustan Times


Why is the c‑word any less offensive than the n‑word? Campaigners are furious with Trevor Phillips for turning back the clock on racism.

5/10/2005‑ In a speech to a Conservative Party fringe meeting the Commission for Racial Equality chairman appeared to give the go‑ahead for white Britain to use the word 'coloured.' But in the week when a TV programme grappled with the word 'nigger' some are asking why it is any more acceptable to use the c‑word than the n‑word. In a made‑for‑the‑media speech Phillips told the Muslim Forum meeting: "Is it really offensive to call someone coloured?" As Phillips reopened the debate about whether it is acceptable to call people 'coloured' Channel 4 screened a programme in which Ashley Walters, known as Asher D in his So Solid days, explored the n‑word. Mr Walters began by admitting he used the word as a term of kinship with other black people, but as he began to understand the word's history and the effect it still has today he changed his mind.


Race experts are furious that Phillips has courted headlines with his comment about the word 'coloured' which, like the n‑word, is laden with negative connotations. The word is seen in some quarters as not merely a throwback to decades past, when racism was more even more explicit, but as an insulting term which divides communities. In southern Africa the word 'coloured' is applied only to mixed‑race communities who were encouraged by former white rulers to remain separate from, and feel superiority over, indigenous black people. The apartheid regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia guaranteed 'coloureds' second place in society above the black population. Today, while the c‑word is sometimes used to describe all African and African‑Caribbean peoples, it is also used to specifically describe those of mixed‑race.


Phillips speech will be particularly galling for those who have fought for years against words like 'half‑caste' and 'coloured' to assert their identity as being Black. Blink editor Lester Holloway said: "I am appalled that this word has been winched out of the ground, rotting and putrid, by Trevor Phillips. "It has a lot of baggage. Where it is used innocently, that innocence inevitably goes hand‑in‑hand with a lot of ignorance. "The word also takes us back years to an era when signs saying 'No Coloureds, No Irish, No Dogs' hung on windows. We should not allow Trevor to turn back the clock. If he likes the word 'coloured' and doesn't like the word 'multicultural' we have to wonder what's going on."


Lee Jasper, director of equalities for London mayor Ken Livingstone, said: "Trevor Phillips has got his facts wrong. All evidence points to the fact that Britain are becoming less, not more, segregated. "Any chair of the Commission for Racial Equality who does not know whether councils should print documents in several languages, or holy days like Yom Kippur should be respected, or whether 'coloured' is an appropriate term, should seriously consider whether he is in the right job." Phillips speech also attracted reservations from the Institute of Race Relations and the Muslim Council of Britain. Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, said: "Trevor's attempt to bring people together would ultimately have the opposite effect."


The controversy comes two weeks after Phillips hit the headlines with a speech claiming Britain was sleepwalking towards New Orleans‑style ghettos. Some commentators suspect Phillips is playing to the chattering classes rather than considering the effect his words are having on Britain's black communities. Last April Phillips said the word 'multiculturalism' was "Not helpful." Last week the right‑wing think‑tank Civitas echoed those sentiments and went further, blaming multiculturalism for hampering the fight against terrorism. Reacting to the latest comments Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "No one disagrees with the importance of a shared society. "But it's all too easy to bang on about shared language and rather harder to stand up for non‑negotiable values such as ... freedom from arbitrary arrest."
Trevor Phillips speech to Conservative Party Conference Muslim Forum
© Black Information Link


Anti‑racist campaigners reply to Trevor Phillips: 'It is deeply offensive to use the term 'colored'

5/10/2005‑ The latest comments by the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality at the Conservative Party conference caused anger and dismay amongst anti‑racist campaigners. His comments come at a time where racism and racist attacks are on the rise: since the bombings in London in July, there has been a recorded 600% rise in racist attacks, including murders and more recently, an opinion survey carried out by MORI for the Greater London Authority showed attitudes towards black communities and migrants shifting in a more rightwing direction of intolerance, although there is still a majority opinion in favour of outlawing religious discrimination for example (56% as opposed to 32% who said they would oppose such a ban).

Milena Buyum, Vice‑Chair of the National Assembly Against Racism said:

‘These comments send us back to a time when the idea of having a Commission for Racial Equality had to be fought for. It predates the Race Relations Act 1976, and harks of the pre American civil rights movement, when black people had to die to achieve equality and respect under the law. Trevor Phillips is simply wrong. Far from opening up a healthy debate, his comments o__er comfort to those on the right who already want to undermine gains made against racism, such as the anti‑discrimination legislation and the Lawrence Report. By sparking a debate on integration he negates the fact that places like London are succesful because of multiculturalism ‑ where difference is respected and celebrated ‑ and has been affirmed by successive polls of Londoners.'

Dr Richard Stone, advisor to the Lawrence Inquiry and President of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality said:

'During the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, there were six 'areas' of police activity which together led the Inquiry to the conclusion that institutional racism had been a significant contributing factor to the 'collective failure' of the officers to try hard enough to find the killers. One of key areas uncovered by the barristers acting for the CRE was the absence of awareness by many officers that 'coloured' was a word considered by many Black people at the time to be offensive in describing themselves. Acceptable words to describe difference change over the years. It is not for me, as a white man, to tell Black people what is acceptable now and what is not, 12 years on from the time of death of Stephen Lawrence. If Trevor Phillips tells me we have moved on from 'coloured', I have to acknowledge what he says. Other friends and colleagues tell me they disagree with him. I look for guidance in this sensitive field. I can respond to his remark that we do not have to cancel an important committee meeting to be held on Yom Kippur, just because one member of the committee is Jewish. To start on what is acceptable/ unacceptable to do on Yom Kippur cannot be dealt with by one short sentence from the Chair of the Commission for racial Equality. If the topic is salmon fishing in Scotland, then probably the Jewish committee member might fell s/he has little to contribute to the discussion. Then again, it could well be that the Jew lives in Scotland because he loves salmon fishing.  If the committee is split 50:50 on a major matter of policy, then it is unacceptable to exclude the Jewish member by holding the meeting on Yom Kippur. I fear that Trevor's example of Yom Kippur will suggest to many Jews a scant concern or interest for their role in society. I have never suspected that of Trevor, and I hope that this superficially offensive example will be explained away in more depth by him very soon.'


4/10/2005‑ Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, says he's 'proud' of the tough position Austria staked out in crisis talks on the launch of negotiations with Turkey to join the European Union. Schuessel told Austrian state broadcaster ORF late Monday night that Austria succeeded in ensuring that all candidate countries ‑Turkey included‑ will be required to meet the same exacting conditions for EU entry. Austria had blocked the start of accession talks before finally withdrawing a demand that mostly Muslim Turkey settle for the possibility of something less than full EU membership. The alpine republic had faced fierce pressure from the EU's 24 other member states. Austria takes over the EU's rotating six‑month presidency on Jan. 1, raising questions about how Vienna will administer the bloc after alienating much of Europe with its unsuccessful attempt to scuttle the start of accession talks with Turkey. Allegations of resurgent racism and xenophobia hounded Austria, particularly after it pressed for the EU to open membership talks with Croatia ‑a fellow Roman Catholic country and longtime Balkan ally‑ at the same time it was casting aspersions on Turkey. On Monday, the EU also agreed to formally launch negotiations with Croatia. ``For Austrians, negotiating with Turkey and not with Croatia is like swearing at church,'''' the Belgian newspaper De Standaard wryly observed in a commentary on Tuesday. But Vice‑Chancellor Hubert Gorbach of the centrist Alliance for the Future of Austria, which shares power with Schuessel's center‑right Austrian People's Party, stood by the country's tough stance on Turkey.

``Austria was the only country which wanted a clearer definition of the negotiation mandate," he said. Schuessel told ORF there was ``no connection" between the country's hard‑nosed approach at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg and this past Sunday's elections in the southern province of Styria, which Schuessel's party wound up losing. Only one in 10 Austrians supports EU membership for Turkey, and critics had accused the government of using the issue to gain political support going into the elections. Schuessel dismissed the allegations as ``considerable nonsense,'''' and he said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, deserved a medal for bravery for staking out a tough position in Luxembourg. Plassnik told reporters in Luxembourg that Austria, which is home to Europe's third‑largest Turkish expatriate community, ``has good bilateral relations with Turkey.'''' ``There are more than 250,000 Turks living in Austria. We live in harmony together,'''' she said. Austrian media reported Tuesday that Bulent Arinc, the speaker of Turkey's parliament, told his Austrian counterpart Andreas Khol in a meeting in Ankara that Turks were ``disappointed'''' over Austria's attitude. Alfred Gusenbauer, head of the Opposition Social Democrats, described the outcome on Tuesday as ``better than nothing,'''' but he criticized Schuessel's Government for having toed the EU line on Turkey for the past year, only to break ranks at the last minute. ``It would have been better to have done something earlier. Perhaps then Austria would not have stood alone,'' Gusenbauer said. Many Austrians, struggling to contain record 6 percent unemployment, worry that EU membership would unleash a flood of cheap Turkish labor into their country. There were similar fears when the EU expanded last year to take in eight Eastern European nations, but the immigration crush never materialized.
© Associated Press


7/10/2005‑ A journalist in Turkey has been found guilty of insulting Turkish identity and given a suspended six‑month jail sentence by a court in Istanbul. Hrant Dink, of Armenian‑Turkish descent, wrote a newspaper column, which he argued, was aimed at improving relations between Turkey and Armenia. The prosecution interpreted one part as an insult, but Mr Dink has said he will appeal against the ruling. The verdict follows criminal code reforms as Turkey seeks to join the EU. The reforms were intended to improve freedom of speech in Turkey. The article written by Mr Dink addressed the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during Ottoman rule in 1917. Armenians, supported by several countries, want Turkey to recognise the events as a genocide. Turkey rejects that description, saying the deaths occurred in a civil war in which many Turks were also killed.  A paragraph in the article calling on Armenians to symbolically reject "the adulterated part of their Turkish blood" was taken as offensive. The judge ruled that Mr Dink's newspaper column implied that Turkish blood was dirty. He is the editor of a bilingual Armenian‑Turkish newspaper, Agos. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford said the judge ordered a suspended sentence as it was Mr Dink's first offence. But the nationalist lawyers who brought the case were disappointed. "There was an obvious humiliation and result of this case should be at least two and a half years or three years criminal charge," one said.  "But I think that Turkish courts are under big pressure due to these European Union accession talks."  Mr Dink's lawyer Fethiye Cetin said the ruling showed how little had changed under Turkey's new criminal code, despite international and internal pressure.  "There was no crime here," she told the BBC. "We expected our client to get off."  Our correspondent says human rights lawyers believe his case shows there are still no‑go areas for discussion here and the new laws leave substantial room for interpretation. Mr Dink says he will appeal against the ruling. But if he cannot clear his name, he will leave the country. "If I'm guilty of insulting a nation," he told the BBC, "then it's a matter of honour not to live here."
© BBC News


3/10/2005‑ Time Magazine has named Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen as one of the European heroes of 2005. He is the only Dutch person in the list published by Time this week of 37 "extraordinary people who illuminate and inspire, persevere and provoke". Cohen, 57, was born into an intellectual Jewish family; his paternal grandparents perished at the Bergen‑Belsen concentration camp. He was appointed mayor of the Dutch capital in 2001. The European edition of Time names Cohen as one of its three "hate busters" of 2005. The magazine writes that Cohen knew his city risked a spiral of racial violence on 2 November last year when Muslim  extremist Mohammed B. shot and killed filmmaker Theo van Gogh for insulting Islam. "But Cohen was not about to let this outrage pass in silence. He called on Amsterdammers to 'kick up a ruckus and make yourselves heard'," Time writes. An estimated 20,000 people assembled on Dam Square and banged pots and drums to protest at the killing. "The Muslim community did not need to be asked. They took the initiative themselves to join in and condemn the murder," Cohen says. Time says the "inflammatory tone and language" of some Dutch politicians alienated the country's almost one million Muslim minority, while Cohen's inclusive approach was widely credited with helping keep reprisal attacks against the Muslim community in Amsterdam so low. A report by the Anne Frank Foundation counted 106 reprisals across the country, but only one incident was reported to Amsterdam police. "Cohen was incredibly successful in defusing the tension in Amsterdam," Hans Dijkstal, a former leader of the Liberal VVD party, says in Time. French international soccer star Thierry Henry and Arab‑Israeli soccer player Abbas Suan were also named as "hate busters" by Time.
© Expatica News


4/10/2005‑ The independent commission investigating the implications of the tough Dutch asylum laws has disbanded. The commission said on Tuesday it had decided to halt its work on behalf of the association of Dutch municipalities (VNG) because it was being obstructed by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. The VNG said the minister had refused to give the commission access to agencies and civil servants involved in the deportation of failed asylum seekers. The opportunity to visit asylum seekers awaiting deportation was also denied, the VNG claimed. The chairman of the commission, Schelto Patijn, handed back the assignment to the VNG, which is to discuss the issue at the end of the month. The commission was formed to investigate complaints from local authorities about the decision to expel 26,000 asylum seekers who have re‑established their lives in the Netherlands while waiting for a decision from the Immigration Service. Verdonk said on Tuesday that the commission was superfluous and that it was intolerable that a commission set up by local authorities would seek to supervise the work of her officials. It was up to parliament to do that, she said.
© Expatica News


Foreigners shot on the border, asylum‑seekers detained in metal containers, Roma forcibly evicted from their homes in Athens ‑‑ these are some of the examples of consistent pattern of human rights violations, Amnesty International reveals in a report today.

5/10/2005‑ The report, Out of the spotlight: The rights of foreigners and minorities are still a grey area, highlights the failure of the Greek authorities to combat discrimination. "People living on the margins of society ‑‑ asylum‑seekers, migrants, Roma and members of other minorities ‑‑ are the most likely victims of discrimination in all its forms.Most often, their tormentors are representatives of the state," Olga Demetriou, Amnesty International's researcher on Greece, said. Amnesty International's report focuses specifically on the failure of the state to comply with international human rights law and standards regarding access to the asylum process, the detention of migrants and protection from discrimination and ill‑treatment. "Thousands of people from Albania, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere come to Greece seeking refuge. Some are shot and killed on the border, others are charged with 'illegal entry' straight away and detained without having the chance to apply for refugee protection. The conditions of detention in particular areas of the country do not adhere to international law and standards," Olga Demetriou said. On the island of Chios the authorities have used a metal container to detain people. They have repeatedly detained others, including pregnant women and children, and failed to protect women and children who were victims of trafficking. Some migrants have been abused by police officers.  Y.S., an Iraqi national of 24, who had been arrested and detained upon entry into Greece stated: “there is no phone here and I have not spoken to my parents since I came here... they do not know whether I am dead or alive... my mother has a heart problem, and I have not been able to phone and let her know... we have not died but I wish I had." He claimed that for the first month of his detention he slept on cardboard and that people in his dormitory room had "insects" on their skin.

The report documents the mechanisms that contribute to this failure and urges the Greek authorities to meet their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of marginalized people. Over the last two decades, Greece has rapidly transformed from a traditional emigration country to one attracting migrants, thus marking the border between the global south and the European Union. This rapid transformation has brought to the surface the inadequacies in the country's laws governing migration as well as in practices violating the human rights of refugees. Specifically, the Greece's legal framework fails to adhere to international human rights law and standards in two respects:

At no stage of the process does it provide for an independent review of a rejected application on the substance of the claim;

  It lacks provisions explicitly safeguarding against the risk of refoulement. 

Although there has been a sharp increase in the number of people seeking refuge, Greece has some of the lowest asylum application rates in Europe. At the same time it has some of the lowest refugee rates. According to a global overview of refugee populations in 2004 conducted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Greece has the lowest rates of refugee recognition (0.3 per cent for the first nine months of the year) and granting of protection status (0.9 per cent) out of 148 countries considered.

"The rapid transformation of Greece into a country attracting migrants cannot be an excuse for its authorities to turn their back on the needs of refugees and to ignore their international obligations," Olga Demetriou said. Living also on the margins of society, Roma and other minority groups bear the brunt of direct or indirect discrimination. In Athens and Patras, Romani residents were forcibly evicted from their houses, taking on much of the financial burden of the resettlement themselves. Roma have also been the target of racist abuse, which in some cases the authorities have tended to overlook. Members of minorities have their rights to freedom of expression, religion and association violated due to gaps in national anti‑discrimination legislation, as well as the failure by the Greek authorities to adopt relevant international legislation and standards.  "In the last few years the Greek authorities have admitted that they have not been effective enough in responding to the needs of migrants and minorities. This ineffectiveness is having a negative impact on the way these vulnerable groups are perceived and treated in the country. It is creating a climate for tolerance of racism and xenophobia within the wider Greek population," Olga Demetriou said. "Everybody in Greece, whether a member of the majority, the minorities or a refugee must enjoy the human rights to which they are entitled. It is the responsibility of the Greek authorities to make sure that this happens."

See Out of the spotlight: The rights of foreigners and minorities are still a grey area(AI Index: EUR 25/016/2005)
Take Action: Refugees: degrading practices of detention in Greece
© Amnesty International


5/10/2005‑ At least 500 migrants launched a mass assault to break through the frontier border at Melilla. It is thought about 100 broke through and were arrested by police inside Spain's North African enclave. Thirteen suffered various minor injuries in the overnight assault. Two Guardia Civil officers were also hurt. The latest mass assault on the border defences came at Pinares de Rostrogordo, a point where the fence has not been strengthened. It came a day after authorities in Melilla announced they are to build a third fence to try to stop repeated mass assaults by migrants from Morocco. At present there are two 6m‑high razor‑wire fences, but they have not stopped hundreds of migrants breaking through. On Monday night, hundreds stormed the frontier in a fresh attempt to reach Europe. In what was the ninth mass assault of the past three months, a group of about 650 would‑be immigrants sought to force their way onto European Union soil. It is estimated that at least 350 reached their goal, while some 100 were detained by Moroccan security forces. More than 100 migrants and seven members of Spain's Civil Guard ‑ which has reinforced its presence along the 11‑kilometre (7‑mile) razor‑wire fence to thwart the continuous waves of border rushes ‑ were injured in the pre‑dawn assault. A delegation from European Commission is to visit Melilla to study the situation.

The latest breach of security at Melilla came after Spain and Morocco launched an inquiry to try to establish how five people were killed during a mass attempt by migrants to get into the neighbouring Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta last week. The five who died last Wednesday night all had signs of bullet holes in their bodies, according to post‑mortems. But the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Moroccan Gendarmerie have both denied they opened fire on hundreds of migrants who tried to storm the borders at Ceuta. Officials in Ceuta said the migrants were crushed to death as hundreds tried to cross the border fence from Morocco, the BBC reported. The Spanish government took the unprecedented step of sending in 480 soldiers to try and bring the situation under control. Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Moroccan counterpart Driss Jettou held crisis talks in Seville on Thursday. More than 40 people, including policemen, have been injured in recent mass assaults. Three other would‑be immigrants have died since August.  Over the last few weeks would‑be immigrants have been using ladders and what Spanish officials have described as military tactics in their increasingly desperate attempts to get over border barriers, our correspondent says. Morocco and Spain are geographically so close that Africans pour into Morocco from all over the continent in an attempt to enter the EU.
© Expatica News


7/10/2005‑ NGOs on Friday accused Moroccan authorities of dumping immigrants in the middle of the Sahara desert, while Brussels continues to put pressure on Rabat to sign‑up to an EU‑wide immigrant repatriation deal.  A "technical mission" of EU officials flew to the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa on Friday to investigate illegal immigration patterns and evaluate the gravity of last week's clashes, which left 10 immigrants dead. A commission spokesman the same day reiterated that pressure is being put on Morocco to re‑admit Sub‑Saharan immigrants. But Brussels' comment came just as Medecins sans Frontieres announced that over 500 mostly Sub‑Saharan immigrants had been found "in bad shape" in the desert area of Auoina‑Souatar near the Morocco‑Algerian border, with the NGO claiming that they had been abndonoed there by the Moroccan authorities. Volunteers of another international NGO, SOS Racisme, said 24 immigrants, out of which many had previously applied for asylum in Spain, had died of thirst in similar circumstances. On top of this, Javier Sancho of Medecins sans Frontieres told EUobserver that several of the immigrants had "injuries of the kind that are inflicted by sticks or hits, or by the rubber batons used by Spanish border police".

Morocco on the "safe countries" list

Morocco has signed an agreement with Spain on the repatriation of illegal Moroccan immigrants from Spain. Meanwhile, the European Commission is urging Morocco to sign another EU‑wide agreement on the repatriation of third country citizens. This would cover Sub‑Saharan immigrants that entered the EU through Morocco.  Morocco is on a draft "list of safe countries" where immigrants can be safely sent back to, established by the commission and member states.  But so far the European Parliament has opposed these plans, claiming that Morocco is not to be trusted as a "safe country". NGOs also criticised the fact that the commission wants Morocco on the "safe" list after their findings in the desert. "The EU countries should not send immigrants to any country that does not have the capacity to receive immigrants, let alone guarantee their basic human rights", the Medecins sans Frontieres spokesman said. Medecins sans Frontieres in a press release said it had seen no sites in Morocco which resemble a detention camp, or similar. The NGO added that the Moroccan treatment of immigrants is in breach of the Geneva Charter on Human Rights ‑ as is the Spanish expulsion of immigrants to Morocco.  A commission spokesman on Friday declined to comment on the alleged "dumping" of immigrants in the desert by Morocco, saying Brussels would respond after its technical mission came back on Monday. He did not exclude that the mission would visit the desert area concerned. The technical mission consists of officials from the commission's external relations and justice and home affairs directorates, as well as from the Warsaw‑based EU External Borders Agency. The number of immigrants who have died during attempts to jump from the walls that surround Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla rose from 4 to ten on Thursday night after another assault
© EUobserver


Migrants contribute over $2 trillion (1.67 trillion euros) to their host countries' economies each year but are often mistreated, a study released Wednesday said. As a top destination, Germany benefits from them too.

6/10/2005‑ The roughly 200 million migrants worldwide were an important force for the world economy, the UN‑backed study by the Global Commission on International Migration, a 19‑member independent panel, showed. In addition to the trillions they spent in their host countries, they sent remittances of around $150 billion home, three times the amount the world officially devotes to developmental aid. An additional $300 billion may be transferred informally, the report added. "In the 21st century, one of our most important challenges is to find ways to manage migration for the benefit of all ‑‑ of sending countries, receiving countries, transit countries and migrants themselves," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said at the launch of the report. "I agree with the commission that we are not rising to the challenge yet. But I am convinced we must do so," Reuters quoted Annan as saying. After the United States and Russia, Germany had the third greatest number of migrants, 7.3 million, 4.2 percent of the world's migrants, in 2000. Along with Belgium and Switzerland, the country also ranked third in the amount of remittances migrants send home: $8 billion in 2001. The same year Germany spent $5.68 billion on developmental aid.

Combatting xenophobia

Although the commission criticized the manner in which states treat migrants, it gave few detailed examples. It did though point out that the economies of industrial countries would collapse without foreign nurses, computer engineers or farm workers. "If information percolated throughout economies, people would stop moaning about migrants taking away work," Mamphela Ramphele, a South African member of the commission and former senior World Bank official, said. Over the past 35 years, the number of migrants worldwide has grown from 72 million to 200 million, around 10 million of whom are refugees. From 1990 to 2000, international migration accounted for 56 percent of population growth in the developed world, compared with 3 percent in developing nations, the report noted. And the numbers continue to grow. "The expansion in the scale and scope of migration seems certain to continue for the foreseeable future and may well accelerate, due to the growing developmental, demographic and democratic disparities that exist between different regions of the world," the report said. "Migration is driven by some powerful economic, social and political forces, and states must acknowledge its reality." "The international community has failed to realize the full potential of international migration and has not risen to the many opportunities and challenges it represents," the report said. It called for a "comprehensive, coherent and global action framework" for UN member nations' migration policies.

Harsh approaches to illegal immigration

The study also estimated that 2.5 to 4 million people move to other countries illegally each year. Though the report recognized the right of states to set rules to deal with illegal immigration, the authors were critical. "A purely restrictive approach to irregular migration is neither desirable nor feasible and may jeopardize the rights of migrants and refugees," they said. The report pressed for improved cooperation among governments trying to tackle illegal immigration, combined with efforts to ensure legal migrants are "effectively integrated" in the countries where they settle. "The role of migrants in promoting economic growth, development and poverty reduction should be recognized and reinforced," the report added. "Migration must become an integral part of global development strategies." The commission was created in 2003 by UN head Kofi Annan to study policies worldwide, spurred by Brazil, Morocco, the Philippines, Sweden and Switzerland. Its members include Sweden's former migration minister, Jan Karlsson.  The report was based on statistics from the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
© Deutsche Welle


Homophobia is rife in Kyrgyzstan with gay women particularly susceptible to discrimination.

By Gulnura Toralieva, regular contributor to IWPR’s Women’s Perspectives and Reporting Central Asia.

6/10/2005‑ It was an unpleasant incident at a Bishkek cafe that helped convince Sasha Kim that Kyrgyz lesbians had been silent for too long. She was among several women ordered out of the cafe when two of their number were spotted by the other patrons exchanging a kiss. They were told the restaurant was a “respectable establishment” and no place for gays and lesbians. The confrontation infuriated Kim and sparked the creation of Labris – an activist group for lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. It is the first of its kind in Central Asia, telling lesbians about their rights, offering training sessions, showing films and simply offering support. “After this incident, when we were thrown out of the cafe like dogs, we decided to gather together and create an organisation which could protect our rights, the rights of lesbians,” said Kim, a fifth‑year university student. In this conservative country, the women of Labris say they face discrimination on all fronts – at home, at work and at university.  Kim, who is studying law, was threatened with expulsion from her university if she defended the dissertation she’d written on the problems of legal regulation of sexual minorities in Kyrgyzstan.  “I had to write another paper in one night,” she said, adding attitudes towards lesbians have remained unchanged since the March revolution. “Our problems were ignored by the government in the past, and it continues to ignore them. But we are not unhappy about this. The most important thing is that they do not hinder us. We don’t expect anything from them and do not link any of our hopes with them.”  Sveta, another Labris leader, was recently refused a job, because she is gay. “They said that I could ruin the image of the organisation,” said Sveta who asked her real name not be used. “Although I was an ideal candidate for this position, I was not employed in this job. “The worst thing is that we do not even have the right to take them to court, because according to our legislation, this is only possible if a person was discriminated against because of their gender, nationality or age, but the reason of belonging to a sexual minority is not included.” Other Labris members, particularly those sporting short hair or masculine clothes, tell of open hostility and their fear of homophobic attacks. “We are called the most indecent words on the street,” said Vika. “Over the last half year, if I am not mistaken, there have already been three cases when girls were beaten on the street.” The women insist it is useless to complain to the police, many of whom have little sympathy for homosexuals.

At a May round‑table discussion to mark International Day Against Homophobia, one invited representative of the internal affairs ministry said he would beat up a gay couple if he saw them holding hands in public. A representative of the Ombudsman’s office was more sympathetic, however, telling the assembled NGOs, human rights activists and government envoys that homosexuals are part of society and their rights should be protected.  A delegate from the OSCE pointed out that Kyrgyzstan had signed numerous international conventions that required it to fight discrimination and abuses of human rights. One of the most serious problems faced by gay women – but one that seminars and legislation is unlikely to address ‑ is the reaction of family members to news of a homosexual daughter, sister or mother in their midst. Many like Sasha Kim’s mother will never accept a gay family member. “I remember that terrible day as if it had just happened,” said Kim, describing the conversation in which she came out to her mother. “My mother started shouting at me and crying violently. I will never forget her words, ‘Better you had been a prostitute or drug addict than a lesbian’.” Kim left home and eventually made gay friends, relieving the terrible loneliness that she had felt since first realising in high school that she was attracted to women. However, her own family still refuse to accept her “defect”, she said. “Now I occasionally visit my home. I have a wonderful girlfriend, and I am happy. But nevertheless, everyone feels sorry for me, and thinks that I am miserable, because I was born different. My mother has still not lost hope that I will come to my senses and find a man, get married and give birth to her grandchildren.” Especially problematic is the situation faced by ethnic Kyrgyz lesbians, who are particularly susceptible to discrimination by their families and wider society, and provoke the wrath of religious leaders.

Loma Yusur Yakubovich, the head of administration of the Islamic clergy in Kyrgyzstan, described homosexuality as a “great sin”. “Islam categorically does not accept these people,” he said. “It is haaram [forbidden]. It is also a disgrace for the family. Allah made all people as men or women. There should not be any other possibility. A woman who performs the role of a man is an anomaly, a psychological deviation. A normal woman should marry and give birth to children. If she chooses another path, then she is at the very least behaving amorally.” He suggested the burgeoning gay rights movement is simply a fad. “Our country wants to seem advanced and democratic. So now we have the opportunity even to fight for the rights of sexual minorities in a country where more than 90 per cent of the population is Muslim,” he said. “But I do not think that this is an achievement. We are on the contrary moving backwards. The main reason for the amoral behaviour of young people is the difficult socio‑economic situation.” Perhaps not surprising then that Erik Iriskulbekov’s Adilet legal aid centre seldom hears from lesbians who’ve suffered from bigotry.  “Only once did someone come to us for help,” he said. “The other women who face discrimination have to put up with this, because by announcing their rights, they risk drawing even more aggression from society.” But there are bright spots on the horizon for Kyrgyzstan’s lesbian community. Gay men’s groups who’ve been campaigning for ten years now insist that attitudes are changing. Vladimir Tyupin from the Oasis youth foundation, which works to protect the rights of gay men, said his group now comes under less pressure from the authorities than in the past and is even expanding its activities to the more conservative south. “I think that lesbians will also be successful and they will be able to win people over,” he said. Despite the difficult times ahead, Labris members also remain hopeful that they will one day be accepted by Kyrgyz society. “If we were not certain that we could stand up for our rights, gain acceptance from society, love each other openly like everyone else, register our marriages legally and have families, we would not have gathered together to fight. This will take years, and perhaps several generations. But we have come out of the underground and have been the first to do so” said Sveta.


4/10/2005‑ The Council of Europe failed to reach a decision in the first round of voting over the new human rights commissioner. None of the three candidates won a majority of the votes, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday. Belgian Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen finished third in the voting, a Belgian Liberal VLD member of the council, Stef Goris, said. The 237 members of the council voted on the post of human rights commissioner last Wednesday. Five of the votes were blank or invalid, meaning the successful candidate had to gain 117 votes. However, none of the three candidates succeeded. Verwilghen received 68 votes, with the most amount of voters (89) backing the Polish candidate Marek Nowicki. The Swede Thomas Hammarberg won 78 votes. The second round of the election will now take place on Wednesday. The new commissioner will replace Alvaro Gil Robles. He was the first holder of the post and was elected by the parliamentary assembly in September 1999.  The commissioner is responsible for promoting education, awareness and respect for human rights in member states and ensuring full and effective compliance with Council of Europe texts. The Commissioner plays a supporting and essentially preventive role, without legal powers.
© Expatica News


5/10/2005‑ 2008 will be the ‘European year of intercultural dialogue’, the European Commission has proposed. The idea has been put forward by European Culture and Language Commissioner Jan Figel and has an overall budget of  10 million.  “Over the past few years, Europe has seen major changes resulting from successive enlargements of the EU, greater mobility in the single market, and increased travel to and trade with the rest of the world,” said Figel.  “This has resulted in interaction between Europeans and the different cultures, languages, ethnic groups and religions on the continent and elsewhere.” “Dialogue between cultures would therefore appear to be an essential tool in forging closer links both between European peoples themselves and between their respective cultures.”  The initiative is driven by concerns over the speed of globalisation and fears over a ‘clash of civilisations’ between East and West, Christian and Muslim. “The real challenge is to move from a “multi‑cultural” society to an “inter‑cultural” one,” concludes a commission document. “The social fabric of the EU is threatened by rampant racism and xenophobia, the existence of many forms of discrimination and the emergence of extreme‑right parties.” The main objective of the European year is to raise awareness among young people about how best to deal with a more ‘open’ society. The commission envisage the  10 million budget will fund a promotional campaign, fund community projects and finance action at a national level.  The project would follow the ‘European Year of Equal Opportunities for All’ in 2007. This proposal will now be considered by the European Council and European Parliament for adoption under the co‑decision procedure by the end of 2006.


7/10/2005- The Council of Europe is organising a Seminar to mark the entry into force of Protocol No 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) “Non-discrimination: a human right”, in Strasbourg on 11 October.

Its aim is to examine the challenges to the effective application of this Protocol – which sets out a general prohibition of discrimination - with a view to promoting further ratifications.

The seminar will focus on two topics:

-the Protocol’s scope of application : its relations with Article 14 of the ECHR and EU law,
-the ratification process : national experiences, obstacles, prior measures (legislative and other).

It will also hear presentations on the experience of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the existing case-law of the Court under Article 14, and the development of Protocol No. 12.

The seminar will bring together government representatives of the 46 Council of Europe member States and of observer States, judges of the European Court of Human Rights, members of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), and of the Parliamentary Assembly, academic experts and representatives of civil society, including NGOs active in the fight against discrimination, and national and international human rights institutions.

This meeting is open to the press and will take place in Room 5 (2nd Floor, Palais de l’Europe).

Protocole N°12 entered into force on 1 April 2005. Up to now, it has been signed by 34 States and ratified by 11 States.

© Council of Europe

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