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Headlines 21 October, 2016

Headlines 14 October, 2016

Headlines 7 October, 2016

News from the UK & Germany - Week 40

Headlines 21 October, 2016

How Hungary and Poland Have Silenced Women and Stifled Human Rights

In the women’s movement in Central Europe, there are few moments to celebrate.
by Andrea Peto and Weronika Grzebalska

18/10/2016- Polish women successfully preventing a total ban on abortion from coming into law recently was one of them. While we may praise the success of Polish women’s “black protest” – where women across the country went on strike and dressed in black to mourn the loss of their reproductive rights – one troubling question remains unanswered. Why did an EU member state even consider forcing women to carry deformed fetuses and imprisoning doctors for terminating pregnancies? The popular view voiced by the Polish opposition – that the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) wants to bring back the Middle Ages – is insufficient. It relies on the “backlash” narrative of women’s emancipation, which sees nations making linear progress towards equality, interrupted by setbacks that can be overcome by joint action. Luckily, joint action worked in this case. But if progressive groups do not understand the new challenges posed to women’s rights by the illiberal states of Central Europe, future progress may be elusive.

The Polypore State
In recent years, Hungary and Poland have experienced a series of radical institutional changes aimed at a second transition from liberal to illiberal democracy. The emergent regimes of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Beata Szyd³o in Poland do not represent a revival of authoritarianism, but a new form of governance. This new system stems from the failures of globalisation and neoliberalism, which created states that are weak for the strong, and strong for the weak. To describe the modus operandi of these new regimes, we have coined a new term: the “polypore” state. A polypore is a parasitic fungus that feeds on rotting trees, contributing to their decay. In the same way, the governments of Poland and Hungary feed on the vital resources of their liberal predecessors, and produce a fully dependent state structure in return. This style of government involves appropriating the institutions, mechanisms and funding channels of the European liberal democratic project.

One widely publicised example in Hungary was a controversial 2011 anti-abortion poster campaign. The campaign was launched as part of a government work-life balance project and as such was funded from the EU employment and social solidarity program, ironically called PROGRESS. The “polypore state” divests resources from the already existing secular and modernist civil society sector towards the illiberal base, to secure and enlarge it. This year in Poland, the Ministry of Justice denied funding to several progressive women’s and children’s rights NGOs. As noted by the Commissioner for Human Rights, the funds were instead granted to Catholic organisations such as Caritas. Just as the polypore fungus usually attacks already damaged trees, illiberal regimes rise to power in the context of democratic standards weakened by the financial, security and migration crises.

In Central Europe, post-1989 regime transformation gave preference to economic reform measures over civic and social ones. Liberal norms and practices have never been fully embedded in these societies. This creates a paradoxical situation where illiberal forces have flourished amid an unfinished liberal revolution. There are three key tenets of this type of government that need to be understood to account for its success: parallel civil society, security narratives, and the family.

Parallel Civil Society
The goal of illiberal regimes in Central Europe is to transform post-communist infrastructure to benefit the new ruling elite and its voter base. The key aspect of this transformation is replacing previous civil society and human rights organisations with pro-government NGOs, which support the state’s agenda. While the new groups seemingly have the same profile and target group as the previous ones, they operate within a blatantly different framework that is predominantly religious and anti-modernist. For instance, there are two key women’s NGOs in Hungary that deal with the role of fathers  in families and work-life balance: the long-established, liberal Jol-let and the newly founded, conservative Harom Kiralyfi. Recently only the latter has received signficant state funding for its projects. Thus the NGO sector is transformed by the distribution of EU and state funding to groups that share the governments’ ideology, leaving progressive organisations reliant on increasingly scarce foreign donations and largely unable to influence domestic policy.

Security Narratives
To legitimise their disregard for a plural civil society, illiberal governments use the language of security. Human rights groups are framed as foreign-steered and potentially  dangerous for national sovereignty. Gender equality, open society and minority rights are portrayed as an existential threat to the survival of the nation. In 2013, Orbán ordered an investigation into certain Norwegian-funded NGOs, including the Roma Press Centre and Women for Women against Violence, which were accused of being “paid political activists who are trying to help foreign interests”. The investigation has since been resolved, but not without significant damage being inflicted on many NGOs. In this context, human rights issues become depoliticised – and advocacy groups are presented as state enemies rather than democratic adversaries.

Privileging Family Over Women’s Rights
Hungary and Poland use nationalist ideas about the family to attack human rights, emphasising the rights and interests of “traditional” families over those of individuals and minorities. Fidesz and PiS, the Hungarian and Polish ruling parties respectively, have both introduced the concept of “family mainstreaming” as central to their policy making. In EU and UN policy literature, family mainstreaming is presented as a tool to identify the impact of policies on families and strengthen the functions of the family. In the hands of illiberal actors, it’s become an alternative to women’s rights and an instrument for promoting “traditional” values. Women’s issues are gradually substituted with family issues, and institutions responsible for gender equality are replaced with ones dealing with family and demography. In Hungary, the highest coordinating government body for gender equality, the Council of Equal Opportunity of Men and Women, has not convened since 2010, and its portfolio has been delegated to the Demographic Roundtable.

This is Not a Backlash
If not properly recognised, illiberal states can have seriously detrimental consequences for the rights of women and minorities. When the state appropriates previously existing democratic structures, it shuts down opportunities for resistance. Underfunded, demonised, and operating outside a system of liberal checks and balances, feminists and progressive NGOs are unable to influence government policy through previously existing channels – advocacy, consultations or media. Illiberalism is not a backlash, after which one can go back to business as usual, but a new form of governance. Sadly, this means the recent success of the women’s protests in Poland might be impossible to sustain.
Andrea Peto is a professor of Gender Studies, Central European University and Weronika Grzebalska is a PhD candidate in Sociology, Graduate School for Social Research, Polish Academy of Sciences.
© Transitions Online.


German anti-Islam group PEGIDA stages anniversary rally in Dresden

Germany's anti-Islam PEGIDA movement drew thousands of supporters to Dresden city center on Sunday to celebrate its second anniversary, though numbers were subdued compared with crowds of about 25,000 at rallies in the city in early 2015.

16/10/2016- PEGIDA, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, made its mark on the political agenda with its first anti-Islam march in the eastern German city in October 2014 and then spread to other cities. About 900,000 migrants, mostly Muslims, entered Germany in 2015, prompting public concern over the country's ability to cope with the influx. More than 200,000 migrants have arrived this year. Police did not give any estimate on the number of rally participants but issued a statement saying they had deployed about 1,700 officers in Dresden and that the demonstrations had passed peacefully, though criminal proceedings were instigated over bodily harm in one case. Crowd-counting group Durchgezaehlt, run by a statistician at Leipzig University, said on Twitter that between 6,500 and 8,500 people attended Sunday's rally. Though the numbers were down on the levels of some of PEGIDA's 2015 demonstrations, support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has surged as migrants continue to arrive.

An Emnid poll published in Sunday's Bild am Sonntag showed that 13 percent of respondents would vote AfD if a federal election were to be held next week. That would comfortably exceed the 5 percent threshold parties must reach to enter the Bundestag lower house of parliament. Germany's next general election is in September 2017. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who lives in Dresden, told Bild am Sonntag that he hoped the second anniversary of PEGIDA would be its last and that the city remains cosmopolitan and tolerant despite PEGIDA's existence. Iris Gleicke, the federal government's commissioner for eastern German affairs, told Saturday's Die Welt newspaper that people who market Dresden to tourists had told her that fewer visitors were coming because of "a kind of PEGIDA effect". She said people had written to her saying they loved Dresden but did not want to go there at the moment.
© Reuters


UK: Neo-Nazi heavy metal band set to bring up to 500 thugs to Scottish venue

Bound for Glory's underground gig in Edinburgh is expected to attract hundreds, with campaigners Hope not Hate saying it would be Scotland's 'biggest ever Nazi gig'.

16/10/2016- A secret plot to bring ­hundreds of Nazis to ­Scotland is being probed by police. Extremist band Bound for Glory, who have been described as the “world’s leading white power band”, are due to perform in Edinburgh on Saturday. The underground concert by the US act is expected to attract as many as 500 fans paying £30 per ticket. Campaigners Hope not Hate say it would be ­Scotland’s “biggest ever Nazi gig”. But the exact location has yet to be revealed as organisers fear authorities will try to shut it down. It’s also feared the event could prompt clashes between supporters of the group and counter protesters. Hope not Hate have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd asking for the group to be refused entry to the UK.

Police confirmed they’re trying to find the “date, time and place” of the planned performance. A petition launched calling for the event to be cancelled attracted 5000 signatures within hours of going online last week. Hope not Hate’s Matthew Collins said: “These events are notoriously violent. “We’re hoping to flush the venue out. I don’t think any venue in Scotland would want 500 Nazis descending on them. “This is the band who boast that all their music has a racial theme that is 100 per cent white. “More than 500 hardcore neo-Nazis will travel to Edinburgh, the bulk from England and flying over from Germany. “There’s potential for violence and disruption in the city, particularly with stirring up tensions against the city’s minority communities. “This is even more of a concern with hundreds coming from ­outside Scotland and staying in hotels and bed and breakfasts in the city. “We’d say that this is not a group we should be welcoming – and we would hold a replacement gig at the venue to cover any lost revenue.”

Hope not Hate claim band ­members have been active in two white power groups, Hammerskins Nations and Blood and Honour. A poster for the event shows advance tickets being sold for £30 and that Bound for Glory will be supported by Endstufe, a German ultra-right rock band. Anti-fascist activists said it was “standard practice” for the gig ­location to be kept secret, in order to prevent it being shut down. ­Far-right fans are instead given somewhere to meet, such as a pub, before heading to the event. Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for the Lothians, said: “The Home Secretary must refuse the band entry to the UK. There’s no place here for extremism of any kind. “In every town and village we have war memorials paying tribute to those who have given their lives fighting Hitler’s fascism. It would be a gross insult to their memory if the current generation sat back and allowed this concert to go ahead.”

A police spokesman said: “We work closely with local authorities to investigate and, where possible, intervene in any event that ­promotes extremist or racist views.” Edinburgh Council said they are also investigating. A Home Office spokesman said: “An individual can be excluded on the grounds that their presence is ‘not conducive to the public good’ if it is reasonable, consistent and proportionate based on the ­evidence available.”
© The Daily Record


UK/USA: How British anti-racist group infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan online

Investigation by Hope Not Hate finds police officers among members of Loyal White Knights, names of expelled ‘race traitors’ and links to violence

15/10/2016- One of the most notorious Ku Klux Klan groups is stepping up attempts to ignite race war across the US with a call to arms against black people and violent support of the White Lives Matter campaign. An inside account from within the Loyal White Knights of the KKK also reveals that the group is linked to stabbings of anti-fascists, Holocaust denial, threats to attack gay men and extreme anti-Black Lives Matter propaganda. During a 15-month online infiltration of the Klan, British anti-racist group Hope Not Hate obtained the membership list of what is described as the largest KKK faction, a list of 270 individuals including police officers. (The group claims it has 3,000 members.) Most hailed from southern states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, although there was a considerable cohort from the Midwest, the east coast and California.

Among them is a 28-year-old British man from Suffolk who claims to be a member of the Knights Templar, an “interdenominational association of active Christians”. Another is a 44-year-old Frenchman based in Marseille who recently uploaded a series of anti-Muslim pictures to a secret Klan chatroom. Investigators also obtained a list of members expelled from the Loyal White Knights for so-called violations, ranging from drug use to sleeping with “a Jew whore” or a Mexican, watching Asian porn or having a “mixed child”, which made them a “race traitor”. Based in North Carolina, the Loyal White Knights was founded in 2012 by Chris Barker, a far-right supporter who last year was linked to a plot by a New York white supremacist convicted of conspiring to use a remote-controlled radiation device he called “Hiroshima on a light switch” to harm Muslims.

Barker is a contentious figure among Klansmen, partly because of his connections to neo-Nazis. He recently became part of the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, an extreme coalition of white nationalist groups, including notorious US organisations such as Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party. Heimbach , who is dubbed the “face of a new generation of white nationalists” by critics, and has advocated racial segregation – was banned from entering the UK last year by Theresa May, who was then home secretary. Hope Not Hate’s investigation found considerable evidence that Loyal White Knights retains its desire for extreme racist violence, seeking to exploit the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant climate fostered by Donald Trump. “Once inside, we came across some of the worst racism we have ever encountered and learned about their dangerous racist ideology, witnessing a culture which encouraged extreme violence,” said one of the infiltrators.

It also found that the Klan is actively involved in “Knight Rides”, where members drive around communities at night and throw white supremacist leaflets on to the lawns of black people’s homes. “They organise White Lives Matter demonstrations where they get ‘tooled up’ and also Knight Rides that hark back to when members rode horses through towns at night, to terrify communities,” said an investigator. In February this year, members of Barker’s group held an anti-immigration demonstration in Anaheim, California, during which they held White Lives Matter signs. The protest erupted into violence, with three people stabbed and 13 others arrested. Barker then emailed the infiltrator and wrote: “We just had a fight between our members and communist [sic] our members stabbed 3 in California.” Five KKK members were arrested following the brawl but later released as police said they had evidence the KKK members acted in self-defence. Barker, who calls himself the imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights, claimed his members were holding a peaceful anti-immigration demonstration. “If we’re attacked, we will attack back,” said Barker, who did not attend the rally.

Eventually, Hope Not Hate investigators were invited into the closed sections of the group’s website, where they found members circulating images of themselves posing with firearms or holding a hangman’s noose – a symbol linked to the lynching of black people – with one mocked-up picture showing President Obama apparently being hanged. Jokes and memes about hanging and running over black people were also posted. Investigators were sent magazines and leaflets, some of them deeply antisemitic. One image depicted a hooded figure in front of the confederate flag with the words: “Help save our race; everything we cherish is under assault by ZOG” – an acronym for zionist occupation government, which is an antisemitic conspiracy theory that claims Jews secretly control world power.

During the undercover operation Barker, a Holocaust denier, wrote: “They said there [sic] goal was to destroy the white race. Here they are doing just that – by brainwashing our people through the media.’ The most extreme leaflet encouraged violence against gay men, with one stating: “Stop Aids: support gay bashing,” and “Homosexual men and their sexual acts are disgusting and inhuman.” The same leaflet also espouses racism, adding: “Ban non-white immigration. Outlaw Haitians – deport mud people.” The extremism of the modern Klan movement may appear to be undimmed, but its membership has rapidly declined over recent decades. During the 1920s, the organisation’s four million members were able to stage huge demonstrations in Washington. The Southern Poverty law Centre estimates that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members active at the moment, split across dozens of groups.

In their responses to questioning about the findings of the investigation, Barker and his wife Amanda referred to the Holocaust as a “money-making scam”. They added: “Our group does not call for the killing of black people, but we do tell our members to arm and protect themselves.” Barker’s statement also defended the group’s homophobic stance.
© The Guardian.


Maltese ‘patriots’ target transgender protestor with offensive remarks

15/10/2016- Alex Caruana, who was one of the three people participating in a counter protest against the so called Maltese Patriots, has become the latest target for the far-right group, led by their ring leader Henry Battistino. Last Sunday, Patrijotti Maltin organised a protest March against the setting up of Mosques and to express what they described as 'solidarity' with the people of Qawra and Bugibba. Alex Caruana, a transgender person, together with two other counter protestors went to the event carrying placards preaching 'Love is the answer' and called on the Maltese to practice freedom of religion. Little did he know that this gesture would lead him to be targeted by very disturbing comments by Patrijotti Maltin supporters, which include pictures of ISIS members throwing homosexuals off a building.

"Every time I disagree with them, they fall back to the argument that I'm trans. It is as if one does not fall under their category - white, Maltese and Christian - you don't have the right to speak," Alex said in comments to The Malta Independent. What is even more troubling is that one particular man, who confronted Alex and his fellow protestors, was a certain Stephen Florian, who is a lecturer at the University of Malta. "Mr Florian has already publicly stated that he wants to raise the right wing and he also claimed I was paid to go protest," Mr Caruana said. Asked if these bullying tactics affected him personally, Alex Caruana said this would have affected him a year ago, when he was in his early stages his transition. But he has now grown immune to such offences.

"I am strong now. But I might not have been able to be so resistant a year ago. Transsexuality is a challenging thing and there are others who are still transitioning who are still weak. It is for them I am worried," Mr Caruana said. Meanwhile, Chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika Arnold Cassola described these offences as shameless spread of hatred. "Very worrying for the future of the country when coming from someone who has had a sound cultural and educational formation," he said in a Facebook post. Minister for Education and Employment, Evarist Bartolo also took to Facebook to condemn the attack by the so called 'patriots' against Alex Caruana. "These attacks are absolutely unacceptable, all of this because this student decided to favour respect towards other cultures and religions." He also added that the work of an educator is to civilize, not instigate hatred for other races.
© The Malta Independent


Headlines 14 October, 2016

Swiss poll backs gay marriage over partnerships

Seven out of ten people say gay couples should be allowed to get married in Switzerland rather than just have civil partnerships, a survey has found.

14/10/2016- In 2005, the Swiss people voted to allow same-sex civil unions, which came into force in 2007. The civil partnership resembles marriage in all but name with gay couples granted the same pension, inheritance and tax rights and obligations. However, adoption of children by gay couples in a civil partnership remains forbidden, as does facilitated application process for non-Swiss to become citizens, and access to fertility treatments. A survey by the gay rights group Pink Cross published on Friday found that 69% of people questioned were in favour of the same marriage status for all – this compares with 71% in a similar survey carried out two years ago. More women were in favour of the change than men. Support from political parties varied from 59% from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to 94% for the leftwing Green Party. The survey was carried out on behalf of Pink Cross by the gfs institute, which spoke to 1,011 people between April and May this year.
© Swissinfo


Serbia: Roma Denied Electricity

14/10/2016- The electricity supply to a majority Romani settlement in Serbia has been cut without notice, and with winter fast approaching. So far there have been no signs of the power returning to the hundred family homes in Crvena Zvezda any time soon. The electricity company cut power to the Romani settlement in Nis on 22nd August 2016. Romani homes in the area have remained without power ever since, yet astoundingly not one of the houses belonging to non-Roma in the settlement are reported to be without electricity. This is because in Crvena Zvezda, Roma and non-Roma are not treated equally and on the same basis by the electricity company. For Roma in this settlement, electricity is paid via collective meters for the entire Romani community whilst non-Roma have individual meters per household. This results in the settlement’s Roma, who live in material deprivation and are already in a vulnerable situation, paying the highest possible band for electricity to the company.

Romani residents must organise collection of cash between themselves and pay this to the electricity company collectively. Such an arrangement is otherwise unheard of for non-Roma. Treating a hundred households as one entity for billing purposes is discriminatory, and reflects cultural stereotypes of Roma. There is a dispute over how much is owed to the electricity company by the residents of the settlement. In 2014, the community was cut off for 5 months because of this, resulting in the Serbian Equality Commissioner issuing a recommendation on the case that the disconnection was discriminatory. This recommendation was clear that electricity should be provided to the inhabitants of the settlement “on an equal basis with other persons in Serbia”, i.e. with individual meters and separate household billing. It is quite clear from recent events that there have been no attempts by the electricity company or the local authorities to follow the commissioner’s recommendation.

Representatives from the ERRC and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have visited the area to investigate what appears to be an obvious case of discrimination. Information gathered on the ground suggests Serbian authorities are breaching human rights obligations by allowing the electricity company to relegate this community to total deprivation. Disconnecting the electricity has seriously worsened the already dilapidated conditions in the settlement. The decision to cut electricity is already unnecessarily heightening the risk of illness, and putting the lives of children and the elderly at risk. The ERRC have contacted the Mayor’s office as well as the President of the Municipality, the EU Delegation to Serbia and the United Nations Country Team in Serbia about the matter.

We firmly reiterate that there is a duty on electricity providers to show that they are treating their Romani customers no differently than non-Romani customers, and that electricity providers have an obligation not to discriminate based on ethnicity. Furthermore, we note a similar case (Case C-83/14, CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria AD) involving discrimination in supply of electricity was heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled that the company’s practices of denying people in a Romani neighbourhood access to their meters, contrary to their normal practice, amounted to discrimination under the EU’s Race Equality Directive. The Serbian government has an obligation to Roma in relation to protection of their homes and standard of living. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Roma require special protection from the authorities, including when it comes to protection of their homes (D.H. and others v Czech Republic (Grand Chamber 2007), § 182; Winterstein and others v France (2013), § 159).

The ERRC have demanded further information from authorities on their proposed next steps to return power to the settlement. We will continue to investigate and explore all available avenues to resolve this precarious situation as swiftly as possible: including supporting the affected Roma through litigation in the courts if necessary. “Collective billing of Roma is, in reality, a form of collective punishment which can be used for leverage over the community when the electricity is disconnected. We have been told that previous electricity bills have been made out to ‘the Roma Community in Crvena Zvezda’– this simply doesn’t happen to non-Roma in the area. It is a discriminatory practice which is being carried out by the company, and it is being ignored, if not sanctioned by the local authorities. This cannot be allowed to continue, and we are prepared to take legal action against those responsible if measures are not taken to end this discrimination.” said ERRC President, Dorde Jovanovic.
© European Roma Rights Center


Austria: far-right party leader wrote foreword to xenophobic book he didn't read

13/10/2016- The head of Austria's right-wing party says he did not read a book warning that foreigners will destroy the country and endorsing archaic gender roles before he agreed to right the foreword. Freedom Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache distanced himself from the book, "For a Free Austria," on Wednesday. Strache told the Kurier newspaper that not knowing the book's contents "was surely a mistake." "For a Free Austria" warns that immigration will result in a "violent process of displacement in which we invite those after our scalps to accomplish this from the inside like a wasp larva that slowly devours the grub." It says men yearn for women whose "brood-care instinct exceeds imposed ambitions of self-realization." Freedom Party presidential candidate Norbert Hofer says he thinks the book is "overall in order."
© The Business Insider


Poland: Turkish student attacked as xenophobic crimes grow

12/10/2016- Polish police are searching for the perpetrators of a weekend attack against a Turkish student, the latest incident in a rising number of xenophobic attacks in the country. The Turkish citizen, a student at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, faced verbal insults and was attacked in the face over the weekend in a shop in the central Polish town, though the incident was not widely reported until several days later. A university spokesman, Marcin Czyzniewski, told the TVN24 broadcaster on Tuesday that he feared the university could start losing students if people don't feel safe there, and that would hurt the entire community. Another Turkish student was attacked in recent months in Torun. Last month a Warsaw university lecturer was beaten on a tram for speaking German.
© The Associated Press


Italy: Judge jails 3 for 20 years each over deadly 2015 migrant voyage

12/10/2016- An Italian judge sentenced three men to 20 years each in jail on Wednesday for their role in packing hundreds of migrants into a boat in which 49 suffocated in the Mediterranean last August, a legal source said. The judge in Catania, Sicily, found the three guilty of murder and facilitating illegal immigration, more than a year after rescuers recovered the victims from the hold of a fishing boat from which they also pulled 312 survivors. Five others suspected of forming the boat's crew still face trial by a court in Catania, where the victims and survivors were taken by a Norwegian ship after the rescue. The three convicted, named in a Catania court document seen by Reuters as Mohamed Assayd, Mustapha Saaid and Mohamed Ali Chouchane, were given an accelerated trial. The source said Assayd is a 19-year-old Libyan, while the latter two are both 24 years old and from Morocco and Tunisia respectively.

Italy is on the front line of a migration crisis which has become increasingly deadly in its third year. Some 90 percent of arrivals began their voyage on smugglers' boats in Libya, European Union officials say. Last July, another Sicilian court sentenced a Tunisian man to 18 years in jail for contributing to a 2013 shipwreck that killed 366 people. Prosecutors have demanded an 18-year sentence for the man they say captained a boat that sank killing more than 600 migrants in 2015. At least 142,000 migrants have reached Italy in 2016 and around 3,100 have died making the perilous trip. An estimated 154,000 came to Italy in 2015 and 2,892 died.
© Reuters


Dutch court upholds hate speech case against far-right MP Geert Wilders

14/10/2016- A Dutch court on Friday upheld hate speech charges against anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, meaning his trial will now start later this month. "The court rejects all the defence's objections," judge Hendrik Steenhuis told The Hague district court. Wilders' lawyers last month urged judges at a preliminary hearing to drop the charges against the far-right leader, slamming it as a "political case" ahead of elections due in March. But in his ruling, Steenhuis said prosecuting Wilders will "not affect his political freedoms or that of his Freedom Party." The trial, which will now start on October 31, focuses on comments made at a March 2014 election rally in The Hague, when Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?" When the crowd shouted back "Fewer! Fewer!" a smiling Wilders answered: "We're going to organise that."

His lawyers argued Wilders had merely "put forward his party's political programme", and insisted he had a fundamental right to freedom of speech. Continuing with the case to trial could have "far reaching political consequences for democracy in the Netherlands," his lawyer had argued. Judge Steenhuis on Friday said: "Just because... Wilders or his party have not been prosecuted over the last nine years because of their viewpoints about Moroccans... doesn't mean that he won't be prosecuted for any statements about Moroccans now."

- 'No regrets' -
Wilders has remained unrepentant, insisting at his last court appearance that he only said "what millions of Dutch citizens think," and adding he had "no regrets." He tweeted the same comment on Friday, adding the hashtag "#pleurop," a vulgar Dutch way of telling someone to "go away." It was a deliberate echo of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who in a recent TV interview made headlines by using the phrase to suggest Dutch citizens of Turkish and Dutch descent who failed to assimilate should return to their countries of origin. The prosecution of the platinum-haired politician comes as his Freedom Party has been riding high in the polls ahead of the March vote. But the PVV recently lost its lead to Rutte's liberal VVD party.

Wilders's remarks triggered 6,400 complaints, and criticism from within his own party. Some 56 people and five organisations have registered as victims of the comments and at least 34 witnesses have come forward, judges have said. Although judges on Friday allowed 40 claims to go ahead, they capped the amount sought as damages at 500 euros, dismissing the 21 other claims. Wilders is described as the "most heavily-guarded man" in the Netherlands. And since the 2004 assassination of anti-Islam film director Theo van Gogh, he has had around-the-clock protection. But he has drawn heavy flack recently from fellow MPs after saying he would close all mosques and confiscate Korans -- which he famously compares to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- should he win the elections. If found guilty, Wilders could face up to two years in jail or a fine of more than 20,000 euros ($22,000). In an earlier 2011 hate trial Wilders was acquitted when judges ruled his remarks targeted a religion and not a specific group of people.


Netherlands: Geert Wilders’ brain

Credited as the inventor of the Freedom Party, Martin Bosma casts the average Dutch voter against the leftist elite.

11/19/2016- Look at photographs of Geert Wilders in the Dutch parliament, and the camera often shows a figure seated behind him: Martin Bosma, the polemicist of the Freedom Party (PVV). A former journalist, whose side-swept brown hair keeps him a youthful 52, Bosma is often described in Dutch media as the PVV’s ideologist. “He’s the brain. He invented the PVV,” said Geert Tomlow, a former parliamentary elections candidate from the party. Bosma’s ideas are bearing fruit at just the right time, with the PVV leading in the polls five months from a general election that could see the party double in size in the parliament. He and Wilders have helped push the center-ground of Dutch politics to the Right and mainstreamed positions once confined to the fringe.

Since entering parliament a decade ago, Bosma has published two books, each released to a flurry of television interviews and controversy. The autobiographical “The Fake Elite of the Counterfeiters” takes aim at a left-wing clique he accuses of taking over cultural institutions and allowing immigration in an underhand coup to achieve radical aims by stealth. “Minority in One’s Own Land” turns to South African history. Bosma argues that the predominantly Dutch-descended settlers, the Afrikaners, became outnumbered by black South Africans and subjected to “cultural genocide” and “Apartheid 2.0” in events he warns could foreshadow the fate of the Netherlands. The PVV is opaque about its internal workings and did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Bosma did not respond to several requests for an interview, but partially replied to an emailed list of questions for this article. He denied that he was Wilders’ right-hand man or the power behind the throne of the PVV.

“There are plenty of people willing to gossip about PVV lawmakers or to confirm what you put to them. You can ask them if I kill a puppy each day and they will confirm it,” he said via email. Bosma did not respond to requests for follow-up comments. However, conversations with former PVV lawmakers, experts, colleagues and friends built up a picture of Bosma as the man who wields a powerful position as Wilders’ closest and longest ally.

Running the show
Bosma joined Wilders in late 2004, at a time when Wilders was politically isolated, having walked out of the conservative-liberal VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) after failing in his bid to shift it to the Right. Bosma became Wilders’ chief speechwriter, senior strategist, internet chief and in charge of tea and coffee, he recalls in his autobiography. His pay was €500 a month. The party he was building would top Dutch opinion polls within a decade. As it stands now, the PVV has 12 seats in the lower house, and polls put the party on track to double that, potentially propelling it into the next government. Technically, Wilders is the PVV, as the party’s only official member. Bosma recalls creating a “virtual party,” forgoing the usual headquarters, campaigning apparatus and public funding available for parties with over 1,000 members. This structure also gave the leadership complete control, with Bosma as party secretary and chief whip, in charge of discipline.

A number of people have abandoned the party after attempts to democratize it. Tomlow is one of them. “Martin runs the show,” he told POLITICO. “He reigns.” Wim Kortenoeven, an admirer of Bosma who left the PVV when he was a lawmaker due to internal disagreements, described Bosma as an uncompromising intellectual with a “special relationship” with Wilders. “Because he has his own, not agenda per se, but his own integrity, people in the party are afraid of him,” Kortenoeven said. “He has enormous power.”

Henk and Ingrid
Friends and foes alike describe Bosma as eloquent, clever and funny. This helps him oil relations with political foes in parliament and score points in a news cycle often driven by cutting one-liners and quips. The PVV’s sharpest barbs are aimed at Muslims. In its view, Muslim immigrants are troops in an ancient war between Islam and the West which has raged for 1,400 years. Wilders does battle from behind 24-hour police protection by sounding the alarm over “street terrorists” (immigrant youths), “hate palaces” (mosques) and “testosterone bombs” (asylum seekers). People who spoke to POLITICO said such language had the ring of Bosma’s caustic tongue. “He always says that we have the most easy job in the world. We only have to wait [for] a month when Wilders says something shocking and our voters will come to the PVV again,” said one former PVV lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Bosma’s telling, it was he who came up with the boilerplate for Wilders’ first program: “Less taxes, less crime, and less multikul” (a derogatory abbreviation of multiculturalism, meaning something like “multicrap.”) He has a knack for appeals to the ordinary Dutch voter — “Henk and Ingrid,” in PVV parlance — whom he casts in vintage populist terms as the virtuous side in a struggle against a contemptible, out-of-touch, left-wing elite. Bosma himself was born in the heartland of the old Dutch Left, in the industrial region of Zaanstreek, north of Amsterdam, in 1964. He began working for the local newspaper De Zaanlander aged 17, and studied at the University of Amsterdam. Ronald Spanier, a fellow politics student, recalls “a nice guy, with no extreme political standpoints.” Another fellow student and friend, who did not want to be named due to career concerns, said: “He was a sort of pleasant person to hang out with, as long as you would not mention black people or foreigners.”

In his own account, Bosma discovered conservative thinking in New York, where he went to study at the New School for Social Research in the early 1990s. He worked stints in television journalism, including as a producer for Dutch correspondent Max Westerman, who remembers a man in love with New York. “A few years ago I visited him in his office in The Hague and he had a poster of the World Trade Center on the wall,” Westerman recalled. “I think perhaps his hardline views are down to what happened there on September 11, 2001. I think his party owes its existence to those attacks.” In Bosma’s telling, it was the 2004 murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh that changed everything. Bosma was then living in east Amsterdam and came across the scene on the way to buy bread. Van Gogh, who Bosma knew well, had been shot and stabbed to death by an Islamist extremist in the street. “That Tuesday morning the choice was made for me,” he writes in the opening pages of his first book.

Black and white
Political historian and PVV expert Koen Vossen characterised Bosma as a “real nationalist,” with the typical interests of Dutch nationalists such as promoting the language and supporting the breakup of Belgium to form a “Greater Netherlands” with Flanders. As a proponent of a variant of what has been called the “cultural Marxism conspiracy theory,” Bosma argues that concepts such as political correctness, multiculturalism and cultural relativism were deliberately introduced by the Left to destroy all he holds dear. ”Only when the people had lost their ancient traditions and links with their country or faith could the revolution be successful,” Bosma writes in his first book. As such, he is determined to champion even the most controversial of Dutch symbols, such as the Prince’s Flag, an old Dutch banner tainted by its association with the Dutch Nazi party, or NSB, which he has worn on his lapel into parliament.

As the PVV’s spokesman on home affairs, media, culture and development, he has been a stout defender of Zwarte Piet — the festive character who is the subject of a bitter row in the Netherlands between those who see him as a harmless tradition and those who insist his blackface is unacceptably racist. Bosma, however, sees racism elsewhere. “We now have no doubt that at least part of the protest against Black Pete was racially motivated,” he announced after demonstrators in Black Panther-style berets stood with raised fists at a parade of Zwarte Piets last year. “The Panthers drive anti-white racism. We see that racism now in our streets.” His first book opens with a bible verse from the Old Testament, Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

The former PVV lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity described Bosma as “a man who has dangerous ideas.” “I am glad that he is living in this time and in this country,” the former lawmaker said. “He can’t do any harm here.”
© Politico EU


Russian LGBT Teen Support Site Deti-404 Blacklisted

A Russian website supporting LGBT teenagers has been blacklisted by the state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

11/10/2016- Founded in 2013, online project Deti-404 provided help and support for young people in Russia who were questioning their sexuality. The site also published letters from LGBT teenagers as they documented the struggles and homophobia they faced in their everyday lives. The site has repeatedly attracted the attention of Russian authorities, who claim that the project illegally promotes “non-traditional relationships” to children. Writing on her VKontakte social media page, site founder Yelena Klimova said that the project had been found guilty of “spreading banned information,” but that the court had not explained the decision in detail. “Most likely, the site will be suspended in Russia in the near future,” she wrote. “We shall keep working.” The decision was originally made by Siberia's Barnaul District Central Court in March 2016, but Roskomnadzor only contacted Klimova in relation to the case on Monday, she said. Roskomnadzor previously tried to ban the site in February 2015 for “promoting suicide.” The project often features letters from teenagers who consider ending their lives after suffering homophobic abuse.
© The Moscow Times


Russia: Court declared refusal to employ on the ground of sexual orientation to be illegal

10/10/2016- On July 29, Zheleznodorozhny district court of Novosibirsk examined the case of Anna Balash who went to the court to protect her labor rights. The court declared “illegal the refusal of LTD “Sib-Alians” to employ Balash Anna on the grounds of her non-traditional sexual orientation” and ruled to to recover compensation for moral damages at the rate of 1000 rubles. Anna Balash tried to get a job at LTD “Sib-Alians” twice. First time, in October 2015 and second time - seeing that the vacancy remained to be filled – in February 2016. The reason why woman was refused was the same – “non-traditional sexual orientation”. For the second time, potential employer even provided women with lengthy written explanation of the refusal. According to the employer, “non-traditional sexual orientation doesn’t meet job requirements, can negatively affect company’s reputation and will impede to carry out work duties. The position requires a lot of work with clients. The majority of our clients support traditional values. Therefore the employment can lead to financial losses”. As the lawyer, Anna Yagubtseva pointed it out, “The position of the potential employer is discriminative and contradicts to the legislation of the Russian Federation. There are however very few cases when we can prove the fact of discrimination in the court. It is highly probable that the employer will appeal, but we are ready”.
© The Russian LGBT Network


Holocaust deniers: Negating history

The genocide of the Jews has been historically researched and confirmed. But there are still people who simply deny the facts, even more than 70 years after the Holocaust. That's a crime in many European countries.

10/10/2016- She is 87 years old, and she refuses to learn. Ursula Haverbeck is well-known in legal circles all over Germany. She's been keeping the courts busy for years: in the Westphalian town of Detmold; in Verden near Bremen; in Hamburg; in Berlin; and Tuesday (October 11) in another Westphalian town, Bad Oeynhausen. Again and again public prosecutors have had to investigate accusations of incitement made against her. This sprightly old lady is popular in far-right political circles. She denies the Holocaust, and even at her advanced age is able to provoke uproar in the courtroom. In February this year she tried to enter the courtroom in Detmold during the trial of a former Auschwitz SS guard. As far as she's concerned, Auschwitz was just a labor camp, not an extermination camp. She insists that the Nazi genocide of the Jews is "the biggest and most sustained lie in history." Ursula Haverbeck is not the most high-profile example of denial of Nazi Germany's crimes against the Jews, which have been historically and legally acknowledged throughout the world. She's just the most recent one to make news.

Prominent denier: David Irving
David Irving has been a thorn in the side of the judiciary, politicians and the media with his theories about the Second World War in general and the Holocaust in particular for a long time now. During the 1950s he was a steelworker in the Ruhr region, and learned to speak fluent German. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books about the National Socialist period. The British author came to prominence in 1963 with his book "The Destruction of Dresden" in which he cited fake documents to substantiate his claim that the number of victims was far higher than believed. While at first Irving may have been regarded as an unconventional researcher, credited with referencing hitherto unknown sources, he has not been taken seriously as a historian since the late 1980s. That was when he first emerged as a Holocaust denier. Since then he has regularly aligned himself with right-wing extremists, principally in Germany.

The core message of his revisionist historical convictions is that Hitler neither ordered nor was aware of the extermination of the Jews. The Vienna district court sentenced Irving to three years imprisonment without probation for asserting that there were no concentration camps in Austria. He served two-thirds of his sentence, and has been refused entry to numerous countries ever since. In 1993 the American historian Deborah Lipstadt described Irving as an "authentic Holocaust denier" who falsified facts and manipulated documents in his books. Irving sued her for libel, initiating his own financial ruin. In the year 2000 the High Court in London rejected his suit. Judge Charles Gray described Irving as "a right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist," stating that he was "an active Holocaust denier; that he was anti-Semitic and racist and that he associated with right-wing extremists who promoted neo-Nazism." Irving was ordered to pay the costs of the trial, totaling around 2.5 million pounds.

Prominent denier: Bishop Richard Williamson
The theories of a high-ranking Catholic cleric have been causing a similar stir for years. The British bishop Richard Williamson denied the mass extermination of the Jews, and in doing so became the best-known representative of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) . This renegade brotherhood of priests, ounded in 1970 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, devotes itself to fundamentalist Catholic tradition. It rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which, among other things, opened up the Catholic Church to ecumenical Christianity and the freedom of religion, and recognized Judaism as a path of salvation. Williamson was already flatly denying the existence of gas chambers in 2008: "I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers," he said. He also claimed that "the most serious conclude that between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration-camps. But not one of them by gassing in a gas-chamber."

These claims were made, on record, during an interview with a Swedish journalist. Knowing that Holocaust denial was a criminal offense in Germany punishable by up to five years in prison, Williamson asked for the interview to be published only in Sweden, and not online. The Swedish journalist ignored his request. The district court in Regensburg sentenced Williamson in absentia to 100 daily fines in lieu of jail time, at a rate of 100 euros per day. SSPX excommunicated Williamson in 2012 over a different matter.

Legal consequences for deniers
The punishment for Holocaust denial varies widely from one country to another. In the United States the right to freedom of speech also includes the right to dispute the extermination of the Jews. This is also the case in Great Britain, and this is why David Irving preferred to express himself in these countries. However, Holocaust denial is now a criminal offense in several other European countries as well. Since 1992 Austria has been punishing those who "seek to deny, grossly trivialize, endorse or justify the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity." Two years prior to this, France also made it an offense punishable by law. Historical denial is punishable in Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as in the Czech Republic and Poland, where the denial of Communist crimes is also an offence. In Spain, however, the law is different. In 2007 the Spanish constitutional court decided that its law against Holocaust denial infringed upon the right to freedom of expression.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Sweden: Arson suspected in Muslim prayer room fire

13/10/2016- Police suspect an arson attack in a fire which damaged a Muslim prayer room in Malmo, southern Sweden. Firefighters from three different fire stations in the city – Sweden’s third-largest – quickly put the fire out Tuesday, and no one was injured. The entire building was smoke damaged. “Technicians on site have located traces indicating that it’s anarson attack,” Daniel Jonasson, central command at the Malmo police, told tabloid newspaper Kvallsposten. The building is also home to various community associations. One local told state media SVT Nyheter Skane that he often comes to the building for his visits to the Iraqi culture association Aldorr. “We were here last night celebrating Ashura,” the Islamic Day of Remembrance, he said. “I didn’t notice anything strange at the time. I drove past just now and saw that there had been a fire.” Some 38 percent of Malmo’s population is of a foreign origin, making up 110,000 people in the coastal city.
© World Bulletin


Sweden: Just how 'far right' are the Sweden Democrats?

A political row has broken out in Sweden this week after Prime Minister Stefan Löfven labelled the Sweden Democrats (SD) a "Nazi and racist party" during a TV debate, which the party subject to the term did not take kindly to.

10/10/2016- Löfven’s label for SD isn’t the only one that is a bone of contention: there is also the matter of whether labelling them a "far right" party is fair or not. So just where exactly do SD lie on the political spectrum? The Local asked experts for their opinions on the matter. “It’s not controversial to point out that when SD was formed in the late 1980s it was by people who could reasonably be classified as Nazis,” Nicholas Aylott, a senior lecturer in political science at Södertörn University in Stockholm, told The Local. “What was true then needn’t necessarily be true now, but on the other hand, 25 years isn’t a long time in politics. So the roots of a reasonably young party are probably not entirely irrelevant to understanding its character today.”

One person who would agree with that assessment is Swedish PM Löfven, who corrected his initial statement after the TV debate by expanding that he meant SD had “Nazi roots”, adding that the party “came from the white power movement”. Indeed, SD’s roots have played a significant part in colouring how they are labeled today, according to Ian Manners, a politics professor at the University of Copenhagen who specializes in European politics. “Löfven was right in that SD clearly have their roots in Nazi and neo-Nazi movements in the 1980s, which has been sustained through the 1990s and 2000s,” he told The Local.

Does that mean that today’s SD could be considered “far right"? Uppsala University political scientist Li Bennich-Björkman doesn’t think so. “SD are not ‘far right’ by any standard. In placing them on a left-right scale they are actually centrist. In terms of welfare policies, for example. They could also be characterized as holding social conservative values,” she told The Local. “Nationalism-cosmopolitanism is a separate scale from the left-right one,” she clarified. “There, the party is far to the pole of nationalism (whereas you would find the Greens and Feminist Initiative at the other end).”

Södertörn University’s Aylott agreed that finding an appropriate left-right political label for the contemporary SD is not a straightforward matter. “They say themselves that they are a nationalist party and describe themselves as social conservatives with a nationalist attitude,” he said. “That would put them unequivocally on the right in one sense but then their economic policies are probably in most respects to the left of those of the (centre-right) Alliance. So deciding what label to give them is not unproblematic at all.”

One way of trying to assess how appropriate any of the labels for SD are is to use a comparative approach, looking at the party from a broader perspective than just within Sweden.  That’s a method University of Copenhagen professor Manners thinks is a fair one, but again, it’s not simple. “One way to try and unpack this is that in the USA and the UK, the term ‘far right’ is regularly used to describe them. The Independent, Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post would all use that term,” he said. “Another is to compare their stance with that of other right of centre parties across Europe. Broadly speaking they would still remain far right in one sense because they haven’t made an attempt to enter government yet, and that moment of entering government does have a moderating effect. So from a comparative perspective, they’re still far right.”

A third option is to compare SD to other parties in Europe by looking at European Parliament groups. “There’s a right of centre party grouping in the European Parliament which doesn’t advocate leaving the EU, and to the right of them is the European Freedom and Direct Democracy group where the Sweden Democrats sit,” Manners explained. “That’s definitely far right, in that they are anti-EU, but also anti-immigrant. They’re not however extreme right, as there’s a group further to the right of them still.” Uppsala University’s Bennich-Björkman argued however that the term “far right” is too often used without analytical purpose. “Far-right is a strange label, often used not as an analytical but as a normative and negative way of characterizing many of the parties in Europe that are immigrant-unfriendly and often un-civic in rhetoric,” she said. “Aggressive nationalists would be a more adequate way of labeling many of them.”

Södertorn University’s Aylott was not of the same opinion. “I do tend to still describe them as far right. For me, ‘radical right’, another term used, sounds a bit too much like neo-liberal. That’s just the connotation that has grown up – it’s the way people use it. Whereas far right does tend to be more associated with authoritarian nationalist right.” Deciding which labels are appropriate to attach to SD and which ones are not depends on a number of factors therefore. Are we analyzing their past, as Löfven said he was? Are we analyzing their policies on a left-right scale? Or, are we analyzing them in the context of their party grouping within Europe? All will shape whether the conclusion is that they are "far right", or something else.
© The Local - Sweden


France simplifies gender recognition process for trans people

France has approved new gender recognition rules for trans people that separate the legal recognition process from medical treatment.

13/10/2016- The French parliament this week voted to introduce a new legal gender recognition mechanism that makes it easier for trans people to gain recognition as their legal gender. The provisions passed through the National Assembly as part of a justice law (La loi sur la justice au XX1eme siècle), which included provisions relating to legal gender recognition. Under the updated process, trans people will no longer have to be sterilised before being legally recognised in their true gender. In addition to this, there will be no requirement to provide proof of medical treatment, as had been proposed in amendments introduced by the Senate several weeks ago. Emancipated minors will also be able to access the updated process. Evelyne Paradis of ILGA-Europe said: “Congratulations to all the trans community in France and the activist movement that has pushed for this profound change! “This is a sign of clear progress – another European country has dispensed with the shameful practice of sterilisation and the intrusion that accompanied medicalisation.”

However, the law falls short of campaigners’ hopes on a number of issues, lacking access to gender recognition for young transgender people, and not permitting people to self-determine their gender. This means that trans people will still have to go to court to have their gender legally recognised. Evelyne Paradis continued: “In Europe, there are several model examples that were open to France to follow – Denmark, Malta, Ireland and, most recently, Norway have all chosen to respect the bodily integrity of trans people and opt for self-determination. “The fact that France did not take the more progressive and humane path open to it is very regretful. The fight will go on for full equality and respect for trans people in France.”

Sophie Aujean, ILGA-Europe’s Senior Policy and Programmes Officer, also reflected on the new law: “Ruben, one of the trans people who shared their testimony as part of a video campaign before the vote, put it perfectly: ‘…An ideal world, as far as I am concerned, would be a world where we would stop judging each other; where we would let people live their lives in the way they have chosen…’ “While the law finalised today is not 100% perfect, it is a purposeful step towards the ideal world that Ruben spoke of.” France has made progress on LGBT equality in recent years, passing equal marriage in 2013 in the face of mass protests.
© The Pink News


France says Britain has 'moral duty' on Calais migrant children

10/10/2016- Britain has a "moral duty" to let hundreds of migrant children join their relatives across the Channel, France said Monday, days before the notorious "Jungle" camp in Calais is due to be bulldozed. Campaigners are worried about the fate of unaccompanied child migrants, some as young as eight, at the sprawling shanty town on the north coast of France, once the authorities dismantle the site. "I am solemnly asking Britain to assume its moral duty," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio ahead of talks in London with British counterpart Amber Rudd. After meeting Cazeneuve later Monday, Rudd said that while Britain was ready to cooperate, it was still waiting for France to deliver a list of the children concerned.

"There are several hundred unaccompanied minors in Calais who have family in Britain," Cazeneuve told RTL. "We are in the process of drawing up a precise list and the British need to live up to their responsibilities. "We have lived up to ours," he said. Rudd, in a statement to parliament Monday, insisted Britain was ready to cooperate. But she added: "The primary responsibility (for the children involved)... lies with the French authorities. The UK government has no authority in France." Britain was keen to bring as many eligible children over to Britain before the "Jungle" site was dismantled, Rudd said. But before they could act, French officials needed to provide a list of the children concerned, she added. "We will move with all urgency. A matter of days, a week at most," said Rudd. But while they were working to get an agreement from the French, "we haven't got one yet".

- 'Urgent action' -
French officials have said that work to clear the camp could begin next week, with residents to be spread around reception centres across France. The makeshift settlement has become a focal point in France of Europe's migrant crisis, the subject of heated debate among politicians and a constant source of tension with Britain. Cazeneuve said last week there were up to 950 children living in the "Jungle", many of them unaccompanied. The British Red Cross said 178 unaccompanied children in the camp had already been identified as having the right to claim asylum in Britain as they had family there. The charity called on both governments to slash through the paperwork.

"We need urgent action from both the UK and French governments," said spokesman Alex Fraser as the group released a report on the issue Sunday. While both countries were working on the problem, "more can and must be done, on both sides of the Channel," he added. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the leader of Anglicans worldwide, was among signatories of an open letter calling for the children to be admitted. The children "have fled conflict and persecution, are now stuck in northern France, deeply traumatised and at great risk," said the letter.

"The time to act is now."
A number of other British religious leaders from different faiths also signed the letter, which was drawn up by the charity Citizens UK. Another migrant died this weekend in the Calais region, the 14th such death this year. The Eritrean died after being hit by a car on a motorway near the port city late Sunday. A second migrant hurt in the accident required hospital treatment for minor injuries, local officials said. Migrants desperate to get to Britain regularly try to stow away on lorries heading to the Channel ports for the crossing to England.


French mayor launches poster campaign after his town accepts 40 refugees

Official in Béziers calls for a referendum asking residents whether they want to welcome refugees

12/10/2016- Posters warning that “migrants are coming” and stating they are being “imposed” on French people have been put up in a town that is set to receive 40 displaced people from the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais. The poster, which features a darkened image of middle-eastern and African men beneath a cathedral alongside the words: “The state is imposing them on us: That’s it, they are coming”, was put up in 100 parts of the Southern French town of Béziers yesterday (11 October). The mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, who was elected with the support of far-right political party Front National, launched the poster campaign in response to government plans for 40 people from the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais to be received by the town, and the subsequent expansion of Béziers' reception centres. Mr Ménard, who shared the poster on his Facebook page alongside the words: "We are informing the population", last week called for a referendum to ask residents whether they approved of the plans to receive refugees in the town.

He said the decisions were made “without alerting the mayor or the city council,” describing the decision as a “real stab in the back” to the people of Béziers. The mayor's campaign has since been reported to the justice board and to anti-racist movement SOS Racisme, who have condemned his actions, describing the posters as “hatred against the other and contempt for the rule of law”. The organisation released a statement saying: “Robert Ménard, a little man with small ideas and a small career, has succeeded in one day to show two facets of the extreme-right: hatred against the other and contempt for the rule of law. It is up to public authorities and citizens to show that we won’t allow the reputation of our country to be tarnished and weakened by people who are the antithesis of the Republic.” In response to the criticism, Mr Ménard said he was "putting his town first".

Speaking to The Independent, the mayor said: "I don't care what SOS Racisme says. Béziers is the fourth poorest town in France. I have compassion for Syrian refugees, but I prioritise the people of my town. I put my town first. "I've put up the posters to inform the residents. To explain to them what we are in the process of doing. Without informing them and asking for their opinion. The local government representatives didn't even tell me about this decision. Are we in a democracy or not? This is why I've organised a referendum. "Forty migrants are definitely coming before the end of the month. There has been talk of another centre for 30 or 50 more people. But the number isn't important. The problem is we're in a town where immigration is already massive."

Mr Ménard went on to pledge that if the refugees did come to the town, he would not grant them authorisation to settle there. He added: "If these migrants do come and try to settle here, they will need authorisation from the mayor, and I won't give it to them." Some residents of Béziers have responded to the posters with anger. A petition has been set up containing a letter to the local government asking that the posters are removed, and has so far garnered 29,498 signatures. It reads: “Since the morning of 11 October, the city is littered with hateful and intolerable posters. The Front National-affiliated mayor has again splashed the citizens with hatred. “He’s put up violent posters. This today has reached the height of racial hate. They are everywhere, even in schools. We demand that these posters are removed and that the municipality is punished.”

Others have reacted with shock and disappointment to the poster on Twitter. One user wrote: "My country disgusts me", while another said he was "speechless" and "absolutely ashamed". Last week, the Béziers mayor’s office issued a statement claiming the town was being "imposed with things [it] doesn't want". “The mayor of Béziers learned yesterday that another Asylum seeker welcome centre will open very soon. More than one. Right in the centre of town," the statement read. "While the municipality has worked for two years to renovate the town centre, this announcement sounds like a stab in the back for the town’s people. The prefect (leader of the local government) did not alert the mayor. "Once again, the residents of Béziers are summoned to pay the price of a policy that opens wide he door to our country to the immigration of a huge wave of immigration. Once again, we see ourselves imposed with things we didn’t want. But once again, we will resist it.”

Bénédicte Jeannerod, director of Human Rights Watch in France, described the campaign as "heinous" and "shameful", tweeting: "Heinous, shameful anti-refugee campaign by the far-right Mayor of the city of Béziers, South France. Despicable." The inter-ministerial delegation to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism in France, known as Dilcra, said the posters “constitute a flagrant provocation to hatred”. The organisation wrote in statement: “In the period we know, the repeated targeting of individuals or groups because of their origin or creed can not be accepted. It is all the more serious when committed by an elected of the Republic.”
© The Independent


France: Islam like ‘gangrene’, wearing burka 'serious crime’, says presidential candidate

French presidential candidate Bruno Le Maire has launched a scathing attack on political Islam and vowed to put an end to its influence on the country.

10/10/2016- The Republican and former agriculture minister, has called on all “disillusioned Socialists” to vote for him in the first and most decisive round of the French elections, which will be held on November 20 and 27. Mr Le Maire, 47, who is known for his strong anti- stance, told French magazine Le Journal du Dimanche political Islam had been gnawing away at France’s secular values for years; and Islamic institutions were being run from afar by powerful religious leaders based in more radical Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He said: “Political Islam is like gangrene. It’s an infection which has caused France’s liberal traditions to slowly rot away. “There is an urgent need to regain control and to reorganise the way in which Islamic institutions based in this country are run.”

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) – which acts as a bridge between Muslims and the government – is “doomed to failure”, he said, and has helped give Salafi-jihadist leaders and militants a voice. The council must become more “transparent and secular” if it is to succeed in helping Muslims integrate into French society, he warned. Mr Le Maire also said that a blanket ban should be imposed on the Islamic face veil – including the headscarf and the body-covering burqa and niqab – and that it should be banned in all public places, and not just in schools. He said: “I would be more than willing to launch a debate on the wearing of ostentatious displays of religion in public places, including hospitals, government-run offices, and universities.” If successful, such a debate could lead to a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, and on the slightly less conservative headscarf: “When you see Muslim woman walking down the street clad in a niqab, it is both ill-mannered of them and indecent.”

And according to Mr Le Maire, wearing the burqa or the niqab in public should no longer be a fineable offence: it should be considered “serious misdemeanour”. The right-winger also said French Muslims had never been stigmatised, but that on the contrary, the public’s growing tolerance of political Islam and fear of causing offence had given Muslim leaders “too much” power, and had chipped away at the country’s secular traditions. In his opinion, voters should ask themselves two questions as they head to the polls next month: “Am I proud to live in France, and am I proud to be French?”.
© The Express


‘France has a problem with Islam’ - Hollande

French President Francois Hollande told the authors of a book just published that "France has a problem with Islam", comments that risk dividing his party before next year's presidential election.

10/10/2016- Hollande made the remarks to the two authors of "A President Shouldn't Say That...." in December 2015, a month after Islamist militant gunmen and bombers attacked Paris, killing 130 people. Their book was published on Wednesday. "It's true that there's a problem with Islam. No one doubts it," Hollande is quoted as saying. "It's not that Islam poses a problem in the sense that it is a dangerous religion, but in as far as it wants to affirm itself as a religion of the Republic." The comments echo similar statements by conservative politicians following a fresh wave of militant attacks this summer, though Hollande did not suggest the hard-line responses advocated by some right-wing opponents. Among other proposals, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking a return to the Elysee palace, has promised a nationwide ban on burkinis and said France should detain or tag all individuals on an intelligence watchlist.

Since the late 1980s, successive Paris governments have tried but failed to nurture a liberal "Islam of France" that would help integrate the faith into secular society. In August, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the state must re-invent its relationship with the "Islam of France". Asked about Hollande's comments, government spokesman Stephan Le Foll said: "There's a problem with Islam today because Islam is politicized by some. There is a problem and at the same time we need to be able to overcome this problem." The book was written by two respected journalists, Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, who met with Hollande 61 times. Opposition politicians said on Wednesday that Hollande, France's most unpopular president in six decades, should spend less time talking to journalists and more time governing.

The release of the book eclipsed any media boost for Hollande from a wide-ranging interview with L'Obs magazine also published on Wednesday, which people close to him said was supposed to take him a step closer to formally launching a bid for re-election. Late on Wednesday, Hollande invited two of France's highest ranking judges to see him to patch up relations after the book also quoted him disparaging judges, according to a tweet on the top appeals court's Twitter account. Hollande sits atop a deeply divided ruling Socialist Party and has not yet declared if he will run for re-election. Should he chose to, he will face several challengers for the party's nomination.
© RFI.


France: Calais migrant dies after being run over by British driver

10/10/2016- A British man is facing the possibility of having involuntary manslaughter charges brought against him after he struck and killed a migrant from the so-called Calais "jungle" camp with his car. Abraham Reichman, 35 ,the director of a jewellery importers based in Tottenham, north London, was driving towards the Eurotunnel site at 8.30pm on Sunday night when an Eritrean migrant and his wife rushed across his path, he told police. The migrant was part of a group that were seeking to erect barriers to block passing cars on the A16 motorway in a bid to make them slow down so they could climb on top of them. Mr Reichman, who the prosecutor said was on a “professional trip”, failed to see the pair in the darkness and despite swerving, ran into them. His father, who was driving in a vehicle behind, watched horrified as the whole accident unfolded.

The male migrant was rushed to hospital but died two hours later. The other, a woman, suffered broken limbs but is in a stable condition. Mr Reichman and his father told police that they were very shocked, and stopped to try and help the injured migrants, but were set upon by ”several dozen” others who attacked their car, forcing them to flee “to avoid being lynched”. His wife did not wish to discuss the accident at their home in Stamford Hill last night. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Pascal Marconville, the prosecutor of nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer, said: “The father and son were in their cars on the A16 motorway at a point where migrants regularly try to erect barriers at this time. The two migrants were crossing the road and he braked but unfortunately could not stop in time.”

“He wanted to stay and help, parking on the hard shoulder, but several dozen migrants starting trying to smash up his car. He was scared of getting lynched so drove off and came straight to the nearest police station to alert authorities.” He added: “We checked that he had consumed no alcohol or drugs. He was questioned at length by police and as they didn’t consider there was any threat he would seek to flee, he was allowed to leave. He was questioned again on Monday night and will likely be allowed to return to the UK after that.” An inquiry into involuntary injury and manslaughter has been opened. Mr Marconville said that it would take “weeks” to gather testimony, which he said could prove “very hard to obtain from migrants present”, before deciding on whether to charge Mr Reichman. The prosecutor said: “In his favour, he tried to help and then came straight to the police, which is rare. We have seen several hit and run cases when motorists have simply driven off after an accident involving migrants,” he said.
© The Telegraph


Germany: Neo-Nazi killer's DNA found near bones of missing girl

In a surprising twist linking two of Germany's most high-profile criminal investigations, the DNA of a deceased neo-Nazi terrorist was found near the remains of Peggy K., whose disappearance 15 years ago rocked the country.

14/10/2016- The DNA traces of NSU terrorist Uwe Böhnhardt were found at the site where Peggy’s remains were found in July, police and state prosecutors said on Thursday evening. It is not clear whether this is a coincidence, or whether Böhnhardt could have been involved in the girl’s disappearance. The nine-year-old went missing on May 7th 2001 on her way home from school in Lichtenberg in Upper Franconia, Bavaria, prompting one of Germany’s largest child abduction searches with alerts about her disappearance broadcast as far as Turkey, her father’s homeland. The investigation involved thousands of police officers, as well as German military Tornado jets to search the woods surrounding her home. Finally this year in July, police confirmed that skeletal remains discovered by a mushroom hunter in Thuringia, near the Bavarian border, were highly likely to be those of Peggy.

But the announcement that the DNA of notorious neo-Nazi Böhnhardt was found at the site brings forth new questions. Böhnhardt was a member of the three-person NSU terrorist cell, which has been implicated in ten murders between 2000 and 2007 of victims who mostly came from immigrant backgrounds, as well as bombings and bank robberies. Böhnhardt and fellow NSU member Uwe Mundlos were found dead in 2011 in an apparent double suicide after a botched bank robbery attempt. The third and only surviving member, Beate Zschäpe is currently on trial for the group’s actions. Investigators said that a large amount of DNA evidence was found at the site of Peggy’s bones, which had been identified as “matching with Böhnhardt”. “In what context this DNA was there, how it came to be there and whether it is associated with the death of Peggy, this requires a comprehensive investigation in all directions, which is currently still being conducted and is at the very beginning,” investigators said.

Investigators would not give further details about Böhnhardt’s DNA, but Spiegel reported that sources said his DNA was found on a piece of textile, and broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk reported that it was found on a piece of fabric the size of a fingernail. What the new find in connection to Peggy will mean for the ongoing case against Zschäpe is yet unclear. “I would hope that Ms. Zschäpe would shed light on what happened and unpack what she knows about this case,” said attorney Mehmet Daimagüler, who represents plaintiffs in the case, to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. Daimagüler has also requested the presentation of new evidence in the case, including reviewing child porn found on a computer of the NSU, he told news agency DPA. Inside the hide-out of the trio, which was found burned down after the two men killed themselves, police had found evidence of child pornography materials.

The lawyer said that it must be investigated as to who had downloaded the materials - “Böhnhardt, Uwe Mundlos, Beate Zschäpe or all three”. What happened to Peggy has remained one of Germany’s biggest mysteries. The case led to the controversial prosecution of Ulvi K., who lived in the same town as Peggy. Despite having a reported IQ of 68, police claimed he confessed to the crime, including murdering Peggy to get rid of the evidence of sexual assault. In 2004 he was sentenced to life in prison, but ten years later the verdict was overturned on appeal. Since then no further arrests have been made.
© The Local - Germany


Germany Should Take on Rising Hate Crime

Government Should Review Compliance with OSCE Human Rights Standards
By Hugh Williamson, HRW Director, Europe and Central Asia Division

13/10/2016-  German authorities should step up efforts to tackle rising hate crime, an independent government report recommended this week. There were 10,373 hate crimes in Germany in 2015, according to official data, a leap of 77 percent from 2014. The report is by the German Institute for Human Rights, the country’s independent national human rights body. The report is important not only for its findings but for its genesis. It was commissioned and paid for by the German government itself, as part of the government’s role as this year’s chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The report assesses Germany’s performance in meeting a range of human rights standards that apply to all the OSCE’s 57 members. Unlike the United Nations, the OSCE has no mechanism for monitoring human rights in its member countries, which includes Europe, the US and Canada, and countries of the former Soviet Union.

This is a major problem in a region where serious human rights violations and restrictions on basic freedoms are common. For this reason, Germany’s decision to commission this study – a voluntary monitoring of its own human rights performance – is welcome. The German Institute for Human Rights decided on the report’s focus. Both the government and civil society organizations (including Human Rights Watch) made submissions. The report defines hate crimes as those “motivated by group-based bias.” It criticizes the police and judiciary for their handling of the investigations into at least 10 murders between 2000 and 2007 by the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU). It says there are clear “deficiencies” in the way hate crime legislation is applied, “especially when dealing with those affected by hate crimes.” Germany needs to better train police and the judiciary on protecting victims. More comprehensive data is needed on the alleged perpetrators of hate crimes, including on the numbers of cases prosecuted and rulings passed. The state should also do more to involve civil society in combatting hate crimes, the report says.

Germany should take extra steps to tackle sexual violence and domestic violence, and to prevent human trafficking, especially of children, it states. Germany is the third OSCE chair to commission a self-evaluation. Switzerland led the way in 2014 followed by Serbia in 2015. Switzerland says its report has led to government steps to improve human rights, for instance by better training Swiss diplomats on human trafficking. Germany’s self-evaluation is an important signal to other OSCE members that the organization’s human rights standards are a vital part of its approach to protecting security in the region It’s now up to Germany to take the next step and act on the report’s recommendations, putting into practice this human rights commitment.
© Human Rights Watch


Germany: Nazi jargon revival causes alarm

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented wave of Muslim migrants, some protesters and politicians seen using once-taboo nationalist rhetoric

13/10/2016- Long-banished German words and phrases linked to the country’s Nazi past have been revived by far-right politicians railing against the migrant influx, sparking comparisons to the 1930s. The re-emergence of formerly taboo words has prompted some historians to draw parallels with the rhetoric used in the final, turbulent years of the Weimar Republic, the fledgling democracy that gave way to Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship. For more than a year, the Islamophobic Pegida street movement has routinely insulted the media as “Luegenpresse” (lying press), a word used by Hitler in the 1920s to discredit the mainstream press. Far-right demonstrators heckling Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers also labelled them “Volksverraeter” (traitors) for allowing 890,000 asylum-seekers to come to the country last year.

While “Volksverraeter” is a bona fide word denoting someone committing treason, its use in political protests evokes Hitler and his henchmen going after those they labelled enemies of the nation. At German reunification anniversary celebrations in the eastern city of Dresden in early October, one protester went as far as to carry a banner bearing a quote attributed to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. In Germany, where glorification of the Nazis is a crime, some have called for the law to step in. “When national incitement becomes a popular sport, the state cannot just watch on,” said Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an editorial, adding that “there has already been a Weimar Republic. It must not be followed by a Dresden Republic.” But the loaded vocabulary is not only deployed by angry protesters ranting on the streets.

Stirring up fear
Some politicians too have been using racially charged words such as “voelkisch,” a term meaning “ethnic” but used by the Nazis to describe people belonging to the superior German race, and “Umvolkung” — the fascist idea of replacing racially inferior populations with the German people. The leader of the anti-migrant right-wing populist party AfD, Frauke Petry, who has never been shy of controversy, last month suggested that “voelkisch” be rehabilitated and wiped of its negative connotation. “I do not use this term myself, but I don’t agree that it should only be used in a negative context,” she told Die Welt daily, drawing a chorus of condemnation.

Die Zeit columnist Kai Biermann pointed out that “the term voelkisch was a synonym for extreme nationalism and racism. It is, until today, a symbol for Nazism and its ideology to exterminate and murder everyone who is not German.” The columnist charged that Petry had dug up the term because “it expresses the wish to reject everything that does not belong to one’s people.” “It stirs up the fear that too many foreign people are coming who can change the status quo,” he wrote. A politician belonging to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union went on to also use the term “Umvolkung.” While the Nazis had used the word to define the Germanization of people in regions seized by the Third Reich, today it is used in the far-right milieu as shorthand for immigration. Bettina Kudla drew fire when she said in a tweet that: “Merkel disputes it … The Umvolkung of Germany has already begun. Action is needed!”

Shift in identity
Hans Kundnani, political analyst at the German Marshall Fund, noted that politicians would not have used these controversial terms two decades ago. “There’s been a shift in German national identity over the last 15 years or so, and I think the use of these terms has reemerged against that backdrop,” he said. What has changed is that there has been a “resurgence in the collective memory of Germans as victims” in World War II. As a result “Germany has become a little bit less critical about the Nazi past than it used to be,” he said.

Reunification 26 years ago may also have played a part, as it meant that “discourse in Germany is now partly being influenced by east Germans in a way that it hasn’t been before,” he said. “They had a different historical experience, and had a different engagement — less of an engagement with the Nazi past.” Political scientist Hans Vorlaender said: “In eastern Germany, and in particular in Saxony state, there is a greater propensity to use these terms. “This is because, especially in Saxony, they are much more conservative and more nationalist in their thinking,” he said, noting that the AfD and Pegida were playing to this. Such speech should not be interpreted as an attempt to resurrect fascism, said the professor at Dresden University. Rather, he said, “what they want is to strengthen national patriotism and to say that there is no historical responsibility for Germany to welcome every Muslim here.”


Germany: Overburdened Cities Tell Refugees to Move Out

New law passed this summer is a sign of Berlin’s scramble to accommodate historic inflow

12/10/2016- Thomas Kufen, the mayor of this rust-belt town in western Germany, thinks his city has a bad case of refugee overload. Since the beginning of the year, some 7,150 refugees have flocked to Essen from other towns, twice as many as the city was allocated for the whole year under Germany’s complex burden-sharing mechanism. This, Mr. Kufen says, is more than it can handle. So when parliament passed a law this summer allowing overburdened cities to send jobless refugees back to the states where they were first assigned, Mr. Kufen thought he had found the solution to his problem. “As a big city we already are doing integration work for the entire country. But there is a limit to our capacity that we don’t want to put to the test,” Mr. Kufen said. The case of Essen and the new residency restrictions underlines how Berlin is scrambling to regain control of last year’s historic refugee inflows and to fend off a mounting popular backlash. It also shows that while Berlin has gradually tightened its liberal policies, the goal of integrating the newcomers remains fraught with pitfalls.

When the flow of refugees reached its peak a year ago, Germany initially dispatched the newcomers across the country, spreading the cost of looking after them. But once the migrants had obtained asylum, they were free to settle anywhere. As a result, some regions, like the old industrial Ruhr area, with housing left empty after a coal-mining decline and already existing migrant communities, have become magnets for Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. With many unable to support themselves because they can’t speak German or don’t have the right job qualifications, the influx is turning into a heavy financial burden. Since Aug. 6, refugees who don’t work or study have to live in the state they were originally sent to for three years. In Essen, that means some 2,500 refugees who moved here, but failed to register before then, are being told to leave and those who received benefits will be cut off.

Mazen Sheikh Alhadedeen is one of those asked to go. After struggling to find an apartment in the Bavarian village of Miltenberg, the 26-year-old moved to Essen with his wife. But he said he couldn’t get an appointment to register with the overstretched immigration office in time. “I have an apartment now, a place in German class, I don’t want to go back,” Mr. Alhadedeen said. He is challenging the rule in court. City officials said they are aware of a growing number of court filings. That’s just one hurdle in enforcing the law. The legislation leaves open many questions—such as which administration is in charge, who can be exempted, and whether cities can force refugees to leave, officials say. Maisoun Mahmoud Khalaf, a 45-year-old Syrian, feels caught amid the uncertainty. After Essen warned her in a letter that she would stop receiving benefits, she agreed to move back to Schwerin in eastern Germany with her 7-year-old son.

Days before the looming deadline last month, local authorities hadn’t told her who would pay for her transportation, so she took the offer of a driver for €350. She had only just bought the bed and fridge for the newly renovated apartment she left behind. “I regret I moved now. If only I had known about all this trouble,” she said. A social worker in Schwerin found her a place to stay for the first month. “But then what?,” she asked Mr. Kufen acknowledged some people are hit hard but insists the law is vital. In 2015, Essen spent €130 million ($145 million) on refugees, only half of which is reimbursed by the federal government, he said. Kindergartens, schools and housing will cost millions more.

The neighboring city of Gelsenkirchen, also popular with migrants, is equally concerned. Some 800 refugees who were told to return to other states will be cut off from social benefits at the end of October. “I don’t know if we would do the refugees a favor by allowing them to stay,” said Hans-Joachim Olbering, in charge of social affairs for Gelsenkirchen. “We have an unemployment rate of 15%. What sort of an integration prospect can we offer to someone except social benefits and an apartment?” Essen’s and Gelsenkirchen’s popularity with migrants has taken a first toll: Apartments are becoming rarer. And some of the changes brought by the newcomers aren’t to everyone’s liking. Earlier this year, citizens protested plans to build refugee shelters in Essen’s north. “Some people feel things have been going only downhill for years here so that’s where we said ‘stop,’” said Theodor Jansen, a member of the council of Altenessen, where over 30% of people live on social benefits.

That Mr. Jansen is a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, a ruling party in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition in Berlin and a strong backer of the country’s open-door policy, illustrates the rift. The government is fighting a strong force. Migrants tend to group among those who share the same language and customs, and efforts to prevent them from doing so have often been ineffective, researchers say. Fearing migrant ghettos, the West Berlin state government banned foreigners from settling in some neighborhoods between 1975 and 1990, including Kreuzberg, popular with Turkish immigrants. Despite this, the number of Turks there continued to grow until well into the 1980s, statistics show. “It can be positive for integration to be surrounded by like-minded people” because it offers more support, said Ulrike Hamann, researcher at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Back in Essen, Ahmad Hmedi from the Syrian-German Association is convinced the Syrian community will continue to grow. He is advising his fellow countrymen to challenge evictions and points out that refugees who obtained asylum in 2015 still remain free to move. “Others will come,” he said. “The city is still popular.”
© The Wall Street Journal-


Germany may tighten rules allowing failed asylum seekers leave to stay

11/10/2016- New draft legislation would make it harder for some migrants who have been denied asylum in Germany to obtain waivers to stay in the country, the German newspaper Die Welt said on Wednesday. It said new legislation drafted by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and being circulated among other ministries would establish new rules for deporting migrants who had broken German law and who posed significant danger. De Maiziere and other conservative government officials began urging faster repatriation of those whose asylum applications have been denied after a spate of violent attacks in Germany in July, two of which were carried out by Syrian refugees linked to the Islamic State militant group.

Police on Monday arrested a 22-year-old Syrian man who had been granted temporary asylum in June 2015 and said he was ready to carry out attacks similar to those in Brussels and Paris. Intelligence sources on Tuesday said the man had ties to Islamic State. The incident has fueled criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and de Maiziere, whose conservative Christian Democrats have lost support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over the government's open-door refugee policy. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a member of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, and other top officials in that party, have called for a review of all migrants who were granted asylum after last year's influx of nearly a million people.

As of Aug. 31 there were 210,0209 migrants in Germany who were required to leave, of whom 158,190 had been granted waivers of some kind that allowed them to stay temporarily, Die Welt said, citing the draft legislation. "If deportation is not possible because the foreigner has, for example, misled authorities about identity or nationality, or is not cooperating with efforts to secure a replacement passport, then he will no longer receive exceptional leave to stay," the legislative draft said. The refusal of the country of origin to issue replacement papers would also no longer be a reason for granting waivers, the paper said. n addition, the legislation would require authorities to notify migrants only 30 days before their scheduled deportation, so as to minimize the opportunity for them to go underground to avoid leaving the country. The draft law would also increase the time that those who refused to leave the country could be held in custody to two weeks from four days currently.
© Reuters


Germany: Far-right radicals try to storm east German police station

A group of nearly a dozen people from the far-right scene in Magdeburg attempted to storm a police station on Saturday to free a companion who had been arrested earlier in the day.

10/10/2016- Nine men and two women turned up at the the police station in Magdeburg train station and tried to force their way into the premises, threatening that 50 more of their associates were on their way to back them up. The assault was an attempt to a free a 32-year-old man who had been arrested in the vicinity of the station after he had struck a bystander over the head. As police attempted to arrest the man, his companions tried to prevent them from doing so, authorities in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt reported on Sunday. The 11 demonstrators - aged between 15 and 33 - then attempted to break into the station to force his release. Police were able to arrest all those involved and bring them into custody. They are now investigating charges of bodily harm and resisting arrest against the 32-year-old. The others all face charges of attempting to free a prisoner.

A government report released in September warned that right-wing extremism is a risk to stability and peace in east Germany. The five states which make up the former communist East Germany have been plagued by radicalism ever since reunification over a quarter century ago. The neo-Nazi NSU terror cell, which murdered ten people between 2000 and 2007, originated in eastern Germany. But the influx of almost 900,000 asylum seekers to Germany last year has seen xenophobic and far-right crime skyrocket and has led to a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. In state elections in Saxony-Anhalt, in March the AfD won their biggest poll success to date, gaining 24 percent of the vote. Last week police in Saxony-Anhalt reported that two armed men attacked the home of an African immigrant, leaving his 5-year-old son hospitalized.
© The Local - Germany


'To Burkini or Not to Burkini' (opinion)

A Defence of the French & Bulgarian Burqa Ban 
By Fayzal Mahamed

Novinite is publishing an article by Fayzal Mahamed written on the occasion of the blanket ban on face-covering garments in Bulgaria and, earlier, a prohibition to wear burkini in France. In Bulgaria, known as "the burqa ban" - even though women wearing the veil in question can hardly be seen in the streets - the legislation has sparked controversy, with the opposition and human rights activists blaming lawmakers of being driven by populism, amidst migration and security concerns in the country. To the contrary, Mr Mahamed, a Research Associate at the Department of Social Work at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, has chosen a more general point of view, one leaving aside the domestic contexts in the two countries, to make his point supporting the ban.
The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the view of Novinite.
We encourage all scholars, activists and other people with expertise on the issue to share their opinion, be it related to the specific Bulgarian context or to a more general debate on burqas.

9/10/2016- Since August 24, when news of the French ban on the burkini first broke out, there has been a frenzy and a knee jerk reaction by almost all liberal civil organizations, feminist and the media to condemn the ban as a violation of human rights, a form of religious intolerance and a discrimination against Muslim women to choose what she would like to wear in a public space. The furore around the burkini ban has continued unabated now that Bulgaria has banned the burqa veil covering the face and Germany is considering similar measures. I am also a liberal thinker and while I agree with other liberals and feminist on the general principle of women having a free choice of what to wear, I disagree that the French and Bulgarians are violating that principle and go further to agree with the French and Bulgarian ban on the burqa. Let me explain why. I want to begin by extending my argument not only to the burkini but to the niqab and burqa and by this I mean not only the burqa that covers the face that has been banned in French and Bulgarian society but includes the niqab that leaves the face uncovered. For the purpose of this article I will refer to the term “burqa” but this will include the niqab.

To understand what the burqa represents you have to begin at a period over two thousand years ago. Historically, the burqa predates Islam and was used by medieval society to distinguish between women of nobility from the common women of society. Islam adopted the burqa into its religious beliefs as a religious law (Sharia), whereby Muslim women were restricted to wearing a burqa in order for their “modesty to be guarded”. The Sharia not only restricted the dress of Muslim women but also imposed other behavioural restrictions such as “lowering the gaze”. In fairness, some of the restrictions applied to Muslim men but the harshest form of restrictions was reserved for Muslim women. The harsh religious restrictions applied to women is not surprising if you consider that all the major religions and religious beliefs were deeply embedded in patriarchy.

Modesty and decency is the catch phrase used by imams to give a veneer of morality to religious laws in Islam. The burqa as a dress code of modesty is not only applied in the Islamic religion but to other religions as well such a Judaism and Amish Christians. The difference that makes the burqa stand out today is because it is the only dress code that is enforced upon women to wear in many Muslim countries of the world such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia. This enforcement of a dress code and by extension to a particular behaviour by state religious authorities subjugates, represses and enslaves millions of Muslim women. In other countries with a large Muslim population outside of the Middle East it is enforced or coerced by tradition and a patriarchal religious society to conform to the religious dress code.

The argument used by liberals, feminist and “westernized Muslims” is that Muslim women wearing the burqa in western countries are doing so out of their free will and out of their own choosing and to ban the burkini means violating the human rights of women to choose what to wear. I agree that banning a women’s right to freely choose her clothing is a violation of a basic human right of women but I disagree that the burqa is a dress code that is voluntarily and freely chosen by Muslim women in the conventional sense of dresses freely chosen by women in western countries. Muslim women choosing to wear a burqa do not have a free choice as this choice is always restricted by her religious beliefs or imposed from outside, either by her husband or family or a religious society. A test of this freedom to choose is to enquire from Muslim women wearing the burqa if they would wear a bikini or a mini skirt in public and the answer would always be negative. If you asked whether Muslim women in Islamic countries such as Iran and Afghanistan should be allowed to wear a bikini or mini skirt, the answer will always be “no”. If you asked the same Muslim women if they would approve of Muslim women wearing a mini skirt in Mecca or Madinah in Saudi Arabia and you will find them shocked at the mere suggestion. On the one hand you had Muslim women claiming to wear the burqa out of choice but refusing to extend the same right of choosing what to wear to other supressed Muslim women. All this indicates that the choice of wearing the burqa in western countries is bounded and restricted by a Muslim woman’s religious beliefs or imposed from the outside and is not equivalent to the free choice of dressing that almost all women experience in a free and democratic society.

There is another subjective reason why the burqa should be banned in French and Bulgarian society. Muslim women wearing the burqa will claim that they are doing so because it is a religious requirement to dress modesty. This implies that there is a morality attached towards the wearing of the burqa and that Muslim women feel that they are morally upright when they wear the garment covering their entire body as opposed to the indecent and immoral dressing women have adopted in western nations. It follows that because of the morality attached towards a dress code, Muslim women wearing the burqa will have a feeling of moral superiority to other women who are deemed morally inferior. Racism comes in many forms and disguises. There is no difference between a Muslim woman feeling superior to other women because she wears a burqa than a white person feeling superior to black persons based on the colour of the skin.

Another relative argument allows for the French and Bulgarians to choose their own restrictions on religious beliefs subject to a secular constitution that provides for equality and freedom of expression and freedom of religious beliefs. French and Bulgarian society may feel it is an affront that a Muslim woman would wear the burqa claiming moral superiority while at the same time millions of Muslim women are subjected to subjugation and repression of their basic human right to decide what to wear. French and Bulgarian society may also feel that the burqa impedes assimilation of French and Bulgarian Muslims into the mainstream society. This relativism makes it difficult for an outsider to judge how French and Bulgarians decides on the assimilation of Muslims to French and Bulgarian society given the historical and cultural differences of each nation.

I conclude by stating that while I support the human rights of all women to choose what to wear, the rights of Muslim women to wear the burqa has to be seen in the context of a restrictive religious practice that subjugates, represses and enslaves Muslim women. Western nations have a duty to confront the subjugation and repression of the rights of Muslim women in Islamic countries. It begins by sending the message that the wearing of the burqa, symbolic of the subjugation and repression of Muslim women, will not be tolerated on home soil. The French and Bulgarian banning of the burqa and burkini is a tool that the French and Bulgarians are using to convey this message. The discrimination of Muslim women wearing the burqa in French and Bulgarian society has to be seen as a positive discrimination similar to the affirmative action discrimination a white person faces because the overall discrimination is meant to correct an injustice or an imbalance even if that injustice or imbalance is not occurring in France but in other Islamic countries.

Finally, an appropriate analogy is that of a school inviting all the girls and boys to come for a school prom and half the girls attend wearing the burqa. Besides preventing the intermingling of the sexes, the burqa would spoil and put a damper on the entire party. Who would blame the principle of the school if he had imposed a ban on the burqa in the first place?

I would like to be noted that I have not included the hijab in my discussion. The hijab is normally a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face uncovered. The reason I have not included the hijab although some of my arguments may apply to this Islamic garb, is because many women, Muslim and non-Muslim, wear this form of dressing. By this I mean a Muslim woman could wear the hijab and a mini skirt at the same time and that could be construed as a form of choice not compulsion.
© Novinite


Hungary’s chilling plight could foreshadow Europe’s future (opinion)

Rightwing populism is on the march – but the EU can’t even win enough support to impose sanctions 
By Owen Jones

13/10/2016- Hungary’s democracy is in mortal danger – and whether it survives will help determine the future of our embattled continent. This weekend the main opposition newspaper – think of it as a Hungarian Guardian – was closed down by its owners after six decades of existence. Its digital archive vanished from the internet; its workers were shut out of their offices and left unable to access emails. Publicly, it is presented as a commercial decision: in Hungary’s increasingly repressive society, there is widespread private cynicism about such a claim. Here was a newspaper that dared to challenge the government – whether on policy, corruption, or its onslaught against democracy.

Authoritarian rightwing populism is sweeping the western world: Hungary is an acute example. We all know history turned a corner after the 2008 financial crisis: we are beginning to see how sharp that turn was. From the Scottish independence movement to Podemos in Spain, from Donald Trump to France’s National Front and Hungary’s far right, from the rise of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn to Greece’s Syriza: a painful struggle for the west’s future has only just begun. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán – whose rightwing party swept to victory in 2010 – recognises this. His chief lesson from 2008 is that “liberal democratic states can’t remain globally competitive”. He has committed his government to building an “illiberal democracy” – and he is remaining true to his word. Others have harsher descriptions. Hungarian dissident Gáspar Miklós Tamás accuses the government of “pissing on the liberal status quo” in favour of “post-fascism”.

Hungarian-British poet George Szirtes knows all about repression. His mother was a photographer, his father a senior ministry official, and they fled after the Soviet Union crushed Hungary’s revolution in 1956. “Hungarian democracy is imperilled,” he told me. “We’re moving towards a Putinesque situation.” As Human Right Watch’s Lydia Gall puts it: “What we’ve seen in the last six years is essentially a continued undermining or deterioration of the rule of law and human rights protection.” In 2010 and 2011, Hungary adopted a series of laws which were damned by Amnesty International as “a threat to the right to freedom of expression”. Hungary’s media outlets had to register with a national authority. The Klubrádió station – a persistent critic of the government – became one of its victims. At the end of 2011, the authority decided not to grant Klubrádió a licence to broadcast, forcing it into a protracted battle – though the station did eventually win.

This authoritarian government has repeatedly amended the constitution: one change embedded discrimination against LGBT people by defining the family as a unit “based on the marriage of a man and a woman, or a linear blood relationship, or guardianship. Indeed, earlier this year Hungary blocked an EU-wide agreement to prevent discrimination against LGBT people. Other amendments have attacked judicial independence and religious freedoms. Key public institutions, such as the office of the prosecutor general and the constitutional court, have been de facto taken over by the ruling party. “These are institutions that should be independent checks and balances on the government,” says Gall. There is a growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country, with those who dissent being denounced as traitors and accomplices of terrorism. Worse still, one of the main opposition parties is Jobbik, an antisemitic neo-fascist party with a paramilitary wing.

Hungary’s role in Europe’s refugee crisis has been appalling, prompting Luxembourg’s foreign minister to propose the country’s expulsion for treating refugees “worse than wild animals”. Last year, the country declared a state of crisis and built a fence with the intention of driving refugees back into Serbia. People who have already fled violence are reportedly being chased by dogs and beaten. And what has the EU done? Hungary is, after all, dependent on economic assistance from the union. Article 7 of the EU constitution exists to sanction member states in violation of its norms, including the suspension of voting rights. The European commission has made it progressively harder to invoke, and last year the European parliament threw out a proposal to invoke Article 7 – or even to activate a warning mechanism.

When Hungary’s government imposed the mass early retirement of veteran judges in favour of more pliant replacements, the EU did take action – but only on he grounds of age discrimination. Hungary was fined and forced to pay financial compensation to those sacked – but it still achieved its goal. A recent government-initiated referendum to oppose EU plans to settle refugees failed because of insufficient turnout, but it stirred up inflammatory xenophobic and racist rhetoric. Hungary’s plight has disturbing echoes of Europe’s past: but, horrifyingly, it could foreshadow our future too. Rather than being repelled, a new generation – including the university-educated – are increasingly attracted to rightwing extremism. Poland too is in the grip of an authoritarian right which chips away at the country’s hard-won democracy. With no meaningful consequences, such governments feel increasingly emboldened. In Austria, the far right moves ever closer to power; in France, it grows stronger; in Sweden and other countries too.

The cure to such movements is a left that offers an inspiring alternative relevant to the insecurities and ambitions of the post-2008 world. We don’t have that yet. But that’s no excuse for inaction. And we in Britain cannot smugly condemn Hungary, of course: since the Brexit vote, xenophobic nationalism has marched defiantly. Our prime minister condemns her political opponents as having disdain for patriotism; this week, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express printed chilling front pages calling for “unpatriotic Bremoaners” to be damned for a “plot to subvert the will of the British people”, and demanding “EU exit whingers” be silenced. It is increasingly common in modern Europe for political opponents to be portrayed as unpatriotic fifth columnists. The history of our continent tells us where this can lead. Hungary is perhaps the most extreme, undiluted form of what Europe is becoming. It is a warning we should heed.
© Comment is free - Guardian


Hungary: Anti-Orban paper stops the presses

Hungary's biggest opposition newspaper has been suspended, its owner company said, citing financial loses. Government opponents have rejected the explanation and called for a street rally to defend freedom of the press.

8/10/2016- The suspension of the left-leaning Nepszabadsag newspaper marked a "black day for the press," Hungary's Socialists said on Saturday. Other opposition parties also criticized the decision to halt publication, accusing strongman Viktor Orban of trying to control the press. Earlier on Saturday, the paper's owner company Mediaworks unexpectedly announced it would suspend both the print and online editions of Nepszabadsag. The paper was operating at a "considerable" loss and struggled with dropping circulation, they said in a statement, adding that the publication needed to find a new business model. Mediaworks wants to "preserve Nepszabadsag for the future," according to the statement. While some reports indicated that the paper might soon be sold to an Orban ally, the company made no mention of any sale. The company did not say when the paper might reappear. The editors working at Nepszabadsag said they had no prior notice of the move. "The country knew about (the suspension) before we did... our first thought was that it had been a coup," they said on Facebook.

'Huge blow' to press freedom
A senior editor said that the reporters were suddenly stopped from entering their workplace. "We are in shock," he told the AFP news agency. "Of course they will try and paint this as a business decision but it's not the truth." Nepszabadsag has frequently criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his allies, drawing attention in a media landscape dominated by pro-government media. In the last several months, it ran multiple stories on scandals surrounding the top of the government. "It's a huge blow to investigative journalism and freedom of the press. Nepszabadsag was the largest group of quality journalists in Hungary trying to defend basic freedoms, democracy, freedom of speech, and tolerance," the editor added.

Jobbik accuses Orban of megalomania
Up until last year, the paper had been owned by a foundation set up by the Socialist party. The Socialists called for a protest rally in front of the newspaper's office later on Saturday. The suspension also sparked sharp criticism from other political parties, including the far-right Jobbik. "The total undermining of the Nepszabadsag is the latest example of Viktor's Orban's megalomania," Jobbik spokesman Adam Mirkoczi said. "The only aim of (Orban's ruling party) Fidesz is to either gain 100-percent control over Hungarian media or to obstruct it."

'About time'
Gianni Pittella, European lawmaker and head of the main center-left group in the EU Parliament, said that the paper's financial position was merely a "pretext." "The freedom of press is today in danger in Hungary," Pittella said in a statement. "It is very common in undemocratic systems to shut down hostile newspapers that undermine the power of the government by uncovering - for example - clear cases of corruption. This is exactly what has happened at Nepszabadsag." The Budapest government rejected allegations of pressuring the media. A spokesman described the suspension as "an autonomous decision of the outlet's owner." The vice president of the ruling Fidesz party, however, offered a different comment on the issue. "In my modest opinion, it was about time for this newspaper to be closed unexpectedly," Szilard Nemeth told the Hungarian Hir TV.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Hungary: Eight face charges over Austria migrant truck deaths

12/10/2016- Hungarian police said Wednesday they will seek charges against eight suspects after wrapping up a probe into the deaths of 71 migrants found in an abandoned truck in Austria last year, in a gruesome case that sent shockwaves through Europe. "The investigation has been completed... Police will recommend to prosecutors that they press charges against eight suspects," said Zoltan Boross, head of the police anti-migrant trafficking unit. In total, seven Bulgarians and an Afghan -- considered the ringleader -- have been remanded in custody over the tragedy. Four are accused of manslaughter, while another four could face charges of organised human trafficking, Boross told journalists in Budapest. A further three suspects remain at large.

The badly decomposing bodies of the 71 people were found inside a refrigerated poultry truck left in a layby in Burgenland state, close to the Hungarian border, on August 27 2015. The stench of human decay emanated from the container where bodies lay piled on top of each other, crammed into a small rectangular space. Among them was a baby girl, not even a year old. Budapest took over the case in November because the 59 men, eight women and four children were thought to have suffocated while the lorry was still in Hungary.

- 'Ruthless gangs' -
Investigations revealed that the migrants -- mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan -- had been picked up at Hungary's border with Serbia and transported to Austria via Budapest. An autopsy showed they had most probably died from lack of oxygen shortly after leaving the Hungarian capital. "The perpetrators knew by the time they crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border that the passengers were dead," Boross said. The case sparked international revulsion, highlighting the plight of desperate people putting their lives in the hands of traffickers. "This was a tragic example of how ruthless the criminal gangs are," said Robert Crepinko, the anti-smuggling chief of Europe's police agency Europol, at the press conference in Budapest. "We see a number of criminal gangs operating across Europe making their profits regardless of the risks put on migrants lives."

The continent's worst migration crisis since World War II has turned human trafficking into a booming criminal market, generating up to six billion euros ($6.6 billion) last year, according to Crepinko. The Budapest-based ring was a professional network with more than 15 vehicles used to transport refugees who were trekking up from Greece along the western Balkans to reach western Europe. The group had smuggled more than 1,100 people from Hungary into Austria since February 2015, charging between 1,100 and 1,500 euros per refugee, investigators said. The Afghan ringleader had arrived as an asylum-seeker in Hungary in 2013 and was granted protection status. He had Afghan helpers in Serbia -- another key transit country on the Balkan migrant trail -- who brought the migrants to the Hungarian border. Of the 71 victims found in the truck, all except one have been identified. Most were repatriated to their home countries, while a dozen have been buried at a Muslim cemetery in Vienna.


Greece: Scuffles break out in Oraiokastro over refugee, migrant children’s schooling

8/10/2016- Authorities in Oraiokastro in northern Greece are trying to put a lid on simmering tensions that have arisen between groups opposed to refugee and migrant children staying at a nearby camp attending a local school and pro-migrant activists. Tension arose between the two groups on Friday night after the pro-migrant activists held a really in response to an earlier gathering by the anti-migrant groups calling on the government to cancel plans to provide education to hundreds of migrant and refugee minors at the country’s public schools. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowds but there are concerns that the tensions could resume as the government’s plans are put into effect.
© The Kathimerini.


UK: Theresa May told: Even Ukip think you've gone too far with 'foreigners'

'Can I tell the Prime Minister that across the length and breadth of this land, people are totally disgusted by the xenophobic language on display from her Government?'

12/10/2016- Xenophobic language used by the Government has left the public “totally disgusted” and “even Ukip" believing the rhetoric has gone too far, the SNP's leader in Westminster has claimed. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions Angus Robertson pointed to Home Secretary Amber Rudd's ditched proposal to force businesses to list the foreign workers they employ. He also highlighted the controversial advertising campaign launched by Ms May when she was Home Secretary, which told illegal immigrants to "go home". He said: “Can I remind the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary she put advertising vans on the streets of this country telling foreigners to go home and at her party conference, we heard that her party is wishing to register foreigners working in the UK.

The crackdown and the rhetoric against foreigners by this Government has even led to Ukip, Ukip, saying that things have gone too far." "Can I tell the Prime Minister that across the length and breadth of this land, people are totally disgusted by the xenophobic language on display from her Government?" Last week Roger Helmer, Ukip's MEP in the East Midlands, had said plans to “shame” companies who employed foreigners would be branded “fascist” had they been advocated by his party.“I like what Theresa May is doing, she seems to have picked up about 90 per cent of Ukip’s programme. In some way she’s gone far beyond what we’d done,” he added. But Ms May responded: “Can I say very gently to the right honourable gentleman that I answered two questions on that earlier and I suggest he should have listened to the answer I gave them.

Earlier in the session, responding to a question from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister insisted it was never Government policy to force companies with high proportions of foreign-born workers to release lists of their employees. She added: “Can I say to him that the policy that he has just described was never the policy that the Home Secretary announced – no naming and shaming, no published list of foreign workers, no published data. “What we are going to consult on is whether we should bring ourselves in line with countries like the United States of America, which collect data in order to be able to ensure they are getting the right skills training for workers in their economy,” she added.
© The Independent


UK: What does Islamophobia feel like?

We dressed visibly as Muslims for a month to find out

12/10/2016- Britain is a nation of real diversity, tolerance and multicultural vibrancy. But for those who have suffered hate crime, it can be an alienating and terrifying place. Police figures have shown that hate crime surged in the UK in the weeks following the EU referendum vote, and still remains at significantly higher levels than a year ago. But two covert research experiments we undertook showed that even before the vote in favour of Brexit, animosity and hatred towards Muslims was considerable. In two independent research projects, we spent four weeks each living as “visible” Muslims.

In 2015, Imran grew a beard, wore the jubba (male Islamic dress) and Islamic cap in public places in Birmingham, while in 2014 I wore the full veil – including jilbab (long dress), hijab (headscarf) and niqab (face veil) – in public places in Leicester. Our goal was to examine how our perceived identity as Muslims made us vulnerable to Islamophobic victimisation. The level of hatred and vitriol we experienced was startling.

Imran Awan: wearing the jubba
I am a Muslim but I am not visibly identifiable as one from my appearance. In 2015, while interviewing some participants as part of another research project, one of the male participants challenged my status as a non-visible Muslim. He told me: “Look Imran, you don’t dress as a Muslim, you simply don’t know how it feels like.”  In light of this, between August and September 2015, I decided to adopt a “visibly” identifiable Muslim identity in public spaces in order to research Islamophobia. I grew a beard and wore the jubba and Islamic cap as part of my daily routine in Birmingham. My experiences of harassment and intimidation as a result of altering my appearance included name-calling, swearing and threats of physical violence. I was persistently either stared at or pointedly ignored in public, sneered and sworn at, and called a “f**** terrorist”.

In light of my Asian background, I also suffered verbal abuse such as “P**** terrorist”, indicating both Islamophobic and racist attitudes. I felt embarrassed, humiliated and in some cases started questioning whether I really was accepted in this country as a British Muslim. On one occasion I parked my car and went to a nearby shop to get a cold drink as it was a very hot day. As I was walking towards the shop, I heard a loud noise from a car and two men shouting: “You terrorist scum”. Another time, I was walking down a busy street and two teenage girls walked past me and shouted: “Get them out of our country.”

Irene Zempi: veiled in public
I am not a Muslim, I am an Orthodox Christian. For my PhD research, I examined the experiences of veiled Muslim women who had been victims of Islamophobia in public spaces. I did 60 individual and 20 group interviews with veiled Muslim women. During the interviews, some participants suggested that I wear the veil in order to see for myself the level of abuse and hostility that they suffered on a daily basis. They felt this was important so that I could accurately interpret their stories, and represent their “voices” regarding the nature, extent, and impact of Islamophobic victimisation. I decided to wear the veil for four weeks as part of my daily routine in public places in Leicester. My experiences included name-calling, swearing, threats of physical violence and derogatory forms of humour. Underlying all these forms of verbal abuse was a clear sense of anti-Muslim hatred and hostility, made apparent through the language used by the perpetrators.

Typical examples of name-calling included “Muslim terrorist”, “suicide bomber” and “you lot are terrorists”, indicating that the perpetrators perceived veiled Muslim women as a security or terrorist threat. The comments and gestures that perpetrators made were often threatening. On one occasion, I was walking on the street in Leicester when a white man came up close and started making explosion sounds at me. He asked me: “How many people have you lot killed in the name of Islam?” I also experienced verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment in public. For example, unknown men on the street made sexual comments, often followed by sexual noises. In some cases, these individuals shouted: “Take it off!” As these experiences demonstrate, the wearing of the veil carries connotations of gender inequality, religious extremism, lack of integration, and for some presents a threat to British and Western ideals.

Tackling hate crime
Our experiences were similar to the Islamophobic victimisation experienced by those men and women whose appearance is visibly Muslim. That said, we both realise it is not possible for “outsiders” to ever fully grasp the experience of being visibly Muslim and so vulnerable to Islamophobia on a daily basis. The emotional, psychological and physical impacts on them will be exponentially deeper. We have made a number of new recommendations in a short briefing about our research, starting with the need for the public to intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate crime. During our experiences we both saw bystanders who saw us being harassed but did not intervene. Victims of such hate crimes do not necessarily want physical action – just a phone call to inform the police what they have witnessed.

We also believe that frontline workers in the criminal justice system should be trained in how best to respond to victims who have reported a hate crime. They need to have better awareness of what hate crime is and how to help reassure victims. For both of us, we were more likely to be victimised on public transport and on the street and so argue that public transport staff should be given appropriate training on how to help hate crime victims. Taxi drivers, restaurant owners and others who work at night should also be better linked in with crime prevention teams. A campaign of powerful stories and posters against hate crime could be used on trains and buses. Much more work should be done to better understand the causes and drivers of anti-Muslim hatred. Public services such as the NHS need to help support those suffering emotional stress and anxiety after a hate crime. A local approach is necessary to see how best these services can be used to reassure targeted communities.

While conducting this social experiment, we were both subjected to verbal abuse, harassment and potential physical attacks. The EU referendum campaign was marked by divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric. In its wake, the number of Islamophobic attacks is likely to remain at high levels, with victims suffering in silence and perpetrators getting away with it.
© The Conversation


UK/USA: It's time the Government ended its silence on Sikh hate crime victims

By Hardeep Singh

11/10/2016- On 15 September 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner, was arranging flowers outside his family business in Arizona. He had just returned from Costco, where he purchased some American flags and donated money to a fund for victims of 9/11. Moments later, he was shot dead. Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh, goes down in history as the first person killed in retribution for the Al Qaeda terror attacks. On his arrest, his murderer Frank Roque told police, ‘I’m a patriot and American.’ Fifteen years on, Sikhs, both in the US and Britain, are acutely aware that hate does not discriminate. And Sikhs, like Muslims, continue to face the backlash to the Islamist war on the West.

That’s why ‘Action Against Hate’ – the Government’s four-year plan of how to tackle hate crime – is something of a damp squib. ‘Hate crime of any kind, directed against any community, race or religion has absolutely no place in our society’, declares Amber Rudd in the introduction to the report. When you scratch beneath the surface, though, it seems the Government takes the myopic view that only Abrahamic faiths suffer bigotry. All examples of religious hate crime cited in the report focus on Muslim, Jewish and Christian victims. These, of course, include some terrible incidents – like a woman who racially abused a pregnant Muslim lady on a bus, and an assault on Jewish schoolgirls. Remarkably, however, the report fails to highlight last year’s attempted beheading of a Sikh dentist by a neo-Nazi in Wales. Like Sodhi’s case, this was a revenge attack – this time in an apparent response to the Islamist murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. And it’s a trend Sikhs are all too familiar with.

Last month saw the conviction of a man for calling his Sikh neighbours, ‘ISIS slags’ and ‘ISIS bitches’. Many similar victims suffer in silence. Yet the problem is nothing new. The issue was detailed in evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Committee on Terrorism and Community Relations back in 2004. And it’s been raised repeatedly in both the Commons and the Lords. But despite this, case studies highlighting a phenomenon affecting one of Britain’s most visible minorities won’t be found in ‘Action Against Hate’. To complicate matters, many incidents against Sikhs and others (including Hindus and Christians) have been incorrectly recorded as ‘Islamophobic hate crimes’. In fact, Met Police figures for the first half of this year reveal a quarter of incidents put under this category involved victims who were either non-Muslim or of no recorded faith. These aren’t numbers to be scoffed at. Yet remarkably the authors of ‘Action Against Hate’ don’t consider them worthy of a mention.

But some are, thankfully, beginning to spot the problem. Sadiq Khan showed he had his finger on the pulse when he made a clear pledge to London’s 125,000-strong Sikh community prior to his election to ‘make sure [hate] crimes against Sikhs are properly recorded.’ Let’s hope he keeps his word. And important figures in Britain’s Hindu community are also speaking out. Satish Sharma from the National Council of Hindu Temples expressed his dissatisfaction with the status quo. He told me that ‘Action Against Hate’ is further evidence of the ‘complete indifference of the Establishment to Hinduphobia’. If there’s any hope for an equitable approach for all faiths, it comes from Britain’s most recognised Sikh, Lord Singh of Wimbledon. It was his intervention which helped encourage the Government in its move towards mandatory disaggregation of religious hate crime figures from April 2017.

If you’re a Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or Rastafarian, statistics for your community (as for Muslims and Jews) will now at last be made available from next year. And last month, Lord Singh expressed his disappointment at the ‘narrow and biased thinking’ behind ‘Action Against Hate’. He said the report contained, ’45 examples of hate crime against Abrahamic faiths but not a single example of the many, well-documented mistaken-identity hate crimes suffered by Sikhs and others’. In her response, Baroness Williams talked in vague terms about ‘common issues across the strands of hate crime’. But details of how to tackle this issue were thin on the ground. And as for Lord Singh’s accusation that those compiling the report could do with ‘acquiring some basic religious literacy’, Williams was clear who was at fault:  ‘We have talked about this in the past. People such as the media have a role to play in improving their religious literacy.’

But the truth is, journalists aren’t the only ones who need help with their understanding of religion, or the concerns of religious minorities are they? Let’s hope the Government can finally wake up to the fact that Sikhs can be victims of hate crimes too.
© The Spectator - Coffee House blog


UK: Ten Rotherham men in court accused of fight with far-right group

Violent disorder allegedly happened when anti-fascist protest coincided with Britain First demonstration.

11/10/2016- Ten men have appeared in court charged with violent disorder following a clash with a far-right group in Rotherham. Most of the men were attending an anti-fascist demonstration in the town centre on 5 September 2015, a month after the murder of an 81-year-old Muslim man. On the same day, a far-right group, Britain First, staged a protest in the town and more than 800 police officers were deployed from across the UK to keep the two groups apart. A jury at Sheffield crown court heard that it had been one of a long line of far-right demonstrations held in Rotherham in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandals uncovered in the town in 2012.

The men – Asif Zaman, Mohammed Saleem, Arshad Khan, Abrar Javid, Imran Iqbal, Nasrum Rashid, Moshin Mahmood, Sadaqat Ali, Shaban Ditta and Akaash Nazir – claim they were acting in self-defence. Zaman is also charged with a second count of carrying a knife, which he denies, and two other men – Haseeb Alam and Mahroof Sultan – have already pleaded guilty to violent disorder. The jury was played various pieces of CCTV footage that showed two groups fighting in the street outside the William Fry pub in the South Yorkshire town before the police arrived. Paul O’Shea, prosecuting, said the far-right group was shouting “vile racist abuse” at the men, using language like “Paki bastards”. “Not exactly original but certainly offensive,” said O’Shea. But, the prosecution said, the far-right group “got rather more than they bargained for” when they started a fight with the men on their way home from the counter-protest, finding themselves very quickly outnumbered.

“Having started the trouble, as often happens in these sorts of circumstances, they found themselves in serious trouble themselves and on the receiving end of something they started,” he said. The prosecution said there was no doubt that “the other side” in the clash – who will be prosecuted at a later date – acted first but that the actions of the defendants could not be justified as self-defence. “The defendants were part of a large group that involved themselves in serious public disorder in Rotherham town centre … as the various marches dispersed,” he said. “There is no doubt that a large-scale public disorder took place and it amounted to, say the prosecution, violent disorder … You will not find the crown arguing anything other than the other side started it, but the crown say that what these accused did in response was a very long way short of self-defence.”

An investigation by the Times newspaper in 2012 alleged that gang rape and trafficking were widespread in Rotherham. A report in 2014 by Prof Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, concluded that failures of political and police leadership contributed to the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children by Asian men in the town over 16 years. “Anyone who lives and works in the South Yorkshire area or, frankly, anyone living anywhere in this country will know about the child sexual exploitation issues that have dominated the news and media coverage for many months,” O’Shea told the jury. He said that while the people of Rotherham did not like the regular far-right marches that occurred following the scandal, “they did not involve themselves in substantial numbers in any counter-protests or marches” until the murder of Mushin Ahmed on 10 August 2015 as he made his way to the local mosque for morning prayers.

“It is in the context of that incident, which you can well appreciate caused shock and outrage in the local community, that on 5 September when yet another march was planned, the local community did involve itself in the counter-protest.” The case continues.
© The Guardian.


UK: Is it a crime to send homophobic tweets?

The Crown Prosecution Service has laid out guidance for crimes related to abuse on social media.

11/10/2016- Social networks including Twitter have repeatedly vowed to clamp down on sexist, homophobic and racist hate speech, but critics say that trolls appear to operate with impunity. After a string of cases related to social media, the CPS has this week set out guidance for the range of offences for which users could face prosecution. The guidelines make clear that people who encourage others to participate in online harassment campaigns – known as ‘virtual mobbing’ – can face charges of encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. Examples of potentially criminal behaviour include making available personal information, for example a home address or bank details – a practice known as ‘doxxing’ – or creating a derogatory hashtag to encourage harassment of victims. The CPS notes that information that is “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false” will not always face prosecutions, but a discriminatory motive makes prosecution more likely.

The new guidance also alerts prosecutors to cyber-enabled hate crime offences and Violence against Women and Girls (VaWG). It notes the prominence of slurs of offensive discriminatory references. It also warns of ‘baiting’, the practice of humiliating a person online by labelling them as sexually promiscuous or posting ‘photoshopped’ images of people on social media platforms. In a section on hate crimes on social media, the guidance states: “Prosecutors must also have regard to whether the offence was motivated by any form of discrimination against the victim’s ethnic or national origin, gender, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity; or the suspect demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on any of those characteristics. “The presence of any such motivation or hostility will mean that it is more likely that prosecution is required.”

It continues: “When assessing communications that appear to be motivated by such discrimination or demonstrate such hostility, prosecutors should be alert to any additional reference or context to the communication in question. “Such references or context may sometimes elevate a communication that would otherwise not meet the high threshold to one that, in all the circumstances, can be considered grossly offensive. “For instance, a reference within the communication to a recent tragic event, involving many deaths of persons who share any of the protected characteristics.” The DPP said: “Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass. “Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted.”

The guidance provides information for prosecutors considering cases of ‘sexting’ that involve images taken of under-18-year-olds. It advises that it would not usually be in the public interest to prosecute the consensual sharing of an image between two children of a similar age in a relationship. A prosecution may be appropriate in other scenarios, however, such as those involving exploitation, grooming or bullying. Today also sees the launch of CPS Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime, which will now be put to a public consultation. These will focus on crimes against disabled people, racial and religious and homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

The DPP added: “This month marks the 30th anniversary of the CPS and this latest guidance shows how much the nature of our prosecutions has changed in that time. “We are constantly working to ensure that our guidance stays relevant to modern crime and consultations are a crucial part of that process. “We welcome the comments and opinions of communities and those affected by hate crimes to help us inform the way we deal with such cases in the future. “Our latest Hate Crime Report showed that in 2015/16 more hate crime prosecutions were completed than ever before. More than four in five prosecuted hate crimes result in a conviction; with over 73 per cent guilty pleas, which is good news for victims. “We have undertaken considerable steps to improve our prosecution of hate crime and we are committed to sustaining these efforts.”
© The Pink News


UK: Woman wearing hijab attacked in London street

A woman had her hijab pulled down on a busy London street in racially motivated assault.

9/10/2016- The woman, aged in her 20s, was walking along High Road in Tottenham, north London, with a friend when they were approached from behind by two males. The victim was not injured but shocked and distressed, the Met said. Police are appealing for witnesses and information into the attack on 28 September. One of the males pulled down the victim's hijab before both suspects made off in the direction of Pelham Road. The first suspect is described as a white man, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, with blond or ginger shaved hair and stubble.

What is a hijab?
The most visible form of hjab is the head covering that many Muslim women wear but it can go further. Hijab refers to the complete covering of everything except the hands, face and feet in long, loose and non see-through garments. He was approximately 5ft 6in and wearing a burgundy coloured hooded top. The second suspect is described as a man of Mediterranean appearance, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, clean shaven with spiky hair. He was wearing a grey hooded top. Det Con Ben Cousin said: "This was a shocking attack in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street." It comes ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness week on Monday, which will see police officers from across London talking to communities about concerns around hate crime. In the past 12 months, the Met has recorded a rise in nearly all areas of hate crime. Islamophobic attacks have seen the second largest increase, up 65% in the last year with a spate of religiously aggravated attacks on members of the public - many of whom were targeted on the presumption they were Muslim due to the clothes they were wearing.
© BBC News


UK: Homophobic attacks rose 147% in three months after Brexit vote

Campaigners call for tougher laws after hate crimes against LGBT people more than doubled after EU referendum

8/10/2016- The number of homophobic attacks more than doubled in the three months after the Brexit vote, with toxicity fostered by the EU referendum debate spreading beyond race and religion, new figures suggest. Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people increased 147% during July, August and September compared to the same period last year, according to the LGBT anti-violence charity Galop. Statistics from the police have already documented a spike of hate crimes against ethnic minorities and foreign nationals. Few analysts predicted a rise in hate crime based on victims’ sexual orientation, however. Galop gave support to 187 LGBT people who had suffered hate crimes in the three months that followed the referendum vote, compared with 72 in the same period in 2015. The rise is proportionately higher than other hate crime rises in the wake of Brexit.

More than 3,000 allegations of hate crimes were made to UK police, largely in the form of harassment and threats, in the week before and the week after the 23 June referendum vote, a year-on-year increase of 42%. On Monday the Home Office will publish comprehensive hate crime reporting figures covering the year until April 2016, although sources say they will also include an addendum addressing the post-Brexit spike. The figures are also expected to focus on Scotland Yard’s progress in tackling disability hate crime. Nik Noone, Galop’s chief executive, said: “UK responses to hate crime are among the best in the world but our hate crime laws are far from perfect. The highest prison sentence a court can give for homophobic, transphobic or disability common assault is six months. That is just a quarter of the two-year maximum for race and faith common assault. This disparity needs redress.”

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Currently, the law and sentencing policy create a ‘hierarchy of hate crime’ and send the message that some groups are more worthy of protection than others. This undermines confidence of victims in the law – and may contribute to the huge levels of under–reporting in some communities. We call on the government to undertake a full-scale review of aggravated offences and sentencing provision.” Four in five respondents to the Galop report, released today, say they have experienced hate crime. However, only a quarter reported the last hate crime they experienced, suggesting a gap in the data collected by police and government departments. The report, based on a survey of 467 LGBT people, shows low satisfaction with the police, with half of those who reported a hate crime to them feeling unsatisfied with the outcome.

A government spokesman said: “In a Britain that works for everyone, hatred against a person because of their sexual orientation will not be tolerated. We welcome Galop’s recognition that UK hate crime laws are among the best in the world, but there is more to be done – and the government’s hate crime action plan, published in July, included measures to encourage prosecutors to pursue tougher sentences for all hate crimes, including those targeting the LGBT community.”
© The Guardian.


UK: Neo-Nazi rally held in Cambridgeshire field despite ban on event around Europe

A three-day neo-Nazi rally has been held in a field in Cambridgeshire despite a ban in other countries around Europe and in Russia.

8/10/2016- The international white supremacist group Blood and Honour organised the gathering at Haddenham, near Ely, to mark the anniversary of the death of founder Ian Stuart Donaldson. Mr Donaldson died in a car crash on September 24 1993. A number of banning orders against the group are in place in countries including Germany and Russia due to imagery used at concerts and links to violent extremism, but no such ban is in place in the UK. An East Cambridgeshire District Council spokesman said: "A temporary event notice was filed online for a 'private party with music'." Only police and environmental services can oppose a temporary event notice, if they believe it would undermine a licensing objective. Cambridgeshire Police confirmed officers were aware of the "possible right wing element" and conducted risk assessments rather than oppose the event, and the temporary event notice was permitted.

Police had also been told the gathering would feature music and would be in aid of the Help for Heroes charity, though the charity has said it was unaware of the event, the event was not registered and the charity would not accept donations from extremist groups. It is thought the majority of around 350 attendees came from countries where Blood and Honour is banned. Matthew Collins, from the Hope Not Hate campaign group, said: "It's an attraction for foreign Nazis to attend a concert in the UK." He said it was "disappointing" the event had gone ahead on the weekend of Saturday September 24. Mr Donaldson was the founder of skinhead band Skrewdriver and Blood and Honour took its name from one of the band's albums.

Blood and Honour - or Blut and Ehre - was also the motto of the Hitler Youth, which was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party in Germany. After his death, Mr Donaldson became a martyr among neo-Nazis, Mr Collins said. He said there were only around 250 neo-Nazis in the UK, and most attendees would have come from countries such as Germany, Poland and Holland as they were drawn to the UK, where Mr Donaldson was born. A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: "There was a three-day music event held over the weekend before last in a private field near Haddenham, with the owner's permission. "We had been in contact with other police forces about similar events and were aware of the possible right wing element. "Senior officers planned and implemented a response proportionate to the risk. "We worked with the organisers and land owner and the event took place without any disorder or crime being committed."

No formal complaints had been received by police and no offences were being investigated. A spokesman for Help for Heroes said: "Help for Heroes is strictly non-political; we simply want to help our wounded. "This event was not registered with the charity and we do not accept donations from extremist groups. "Donations made by this group will be rejected." Blood and Honour has been approached for comment.
© The Press Association


UK: Leaflet calling for death of those who insult Islam 'handed out at London mosque'

The extremist booklets, reportedly handed out at a religious festival, say apostates 'deserve to be assassinated'

8/10/2016- The Metropolitan Police have launched a hate-crime investigation after literature stating that those who insult Islam “must be killed” was reportedly handed out at a London mosque. The leaflets, said to be distributed at a holy gathering by the Dar-ul-Uloom Qadria Jilania mosque in Walthamstow, state that apostates “deserve to be assassinated” and point to a classic manual of Islamic law to justify such killings. Imam Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, whose named appears on the front cover of the booklets, is believed to be linked to their distribution, the London Evening Standard reported, although he has strongly denied the claims. The booklet cites the case of Mumtaz Qadri, a fundamentalist who murdered Pakistani governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011 after he spoke in support for liberal reforms to the country’s strict Islamic laws. It says “all Muslims should support” Qadri and that being a “big shot” does not prevent someone from being an apostate who deserves to be killed.

One worshipper who received the leaflet said: “Two or three people delivered the leaflet. I am shocked. I think it gives a bad impression. Islam teaches when you live here you obey the law and the rule of law, but this is not doing that.” Scotland Yard responded to the reports that action was being taken to establish whether a criminal offence has taken place. A spokesman said: “We are committed to tackling hate crime in all its forms and have long since recognised the impact of hate crime on communities.” Mr Jilani said that he had no knowledge of the booklet being distributed. He said that he had not given permission for his face to be used on the front, that it had been “falsely attributed” to him, and that he does not agree with its message. He said: “I am not aware of if, why or how, the booklet was distributed in Dar-ul-Uloom Qadria Jilania.”
© The Independent


Headlines 7 October, 2016

UNITED List of Deaths presented at MoMA exhibition

7/10/2016- UNITED’s List of Deaths, which includes the details of over 22,000 migrants and refugees who died due to the fatal policies of Fortress Europe, has been included in the exhibition “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” at the Museum of Mordern Art in New York. The exhibition explores the ways in which contemporary architecture and design have addressed notions of shelter in light of global refugee emergencies. From the strengthening of international borders to the logistics of mobile housing systems, how we understand shelter is ultimately defined through an engagement with security. The extract from the UNITED’s List of Deaths presented at the exhibition takes up a whole museum wall, offering a striking view of the death that is wrought by Europe’s inhumane migration policies. The List of Deaths was also recently deployed at an action in Münster, Germany. There, activists deployed a 28 meter long print of the List, updated with newer entries from the IOM. One of the activists used a typewriter to add the names of the migrants and refugees who had died in the month between the printing of the list and the action.

The Museum of Mordern Art (MoMA), based in Manhatten, New York, is one of the world’s largest and most influential museums focusing on modern art. The exhibition  “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” is running until 22 January 2017. Read about and see more examples of the catalogue of the exhibition here. Since 1993 UNITED has been monitoring the deadly results of the building of ‘Fortress Europe’ by making a list of the refugees and migrants, who have died in their attempt of entering the ‘Fortress’ or as a result of Europe’s immigration policies. You can read more about the campaign here, or at the dedicated campaign website, which includes an interactive map.
© UNITED for Intercultural Action


Russia: Justice or Complicity? LGBT Rights and the Russian Courts

On Wednesday 5 October 2016, the Equal Rights Trust launched Justice or Complicity? LGBT Rights and the Russian Courts, the first ever study of the practice of the courts in Russia in cases relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

7/10/2016- Justice or Complicity? examines judicial practice on issues ranging from homophobic and transphobic violence to restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. It also reviews cases dealing with discrimination in areas including family and private life, work and education. Among other findings, the report reveals that the Russian courts routinely fail to challenge the application of blatantly discriminatory “anti-propaganda” laws, which were approved by the government in 2013 to “protect” children from being exposed to content recognising homosexuality as being a norm in society.

Addressing activists, lawyers and academics at the launch at King’s College London, the report’s lead researcher, Russian legal expert Dmitri Bartenev said that:
[Of the cases examined for the report] there were just a handful where there has been successful protection of LGBT rights (…) Such positive examples may be regarded as the exception rather than offering any promising pattern. The overall conclusion of the study is that the Russian judicial system has not only failed to provide any effective redress for victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity but effectively contributed to re-enforcing prejudices which lie at the heart of existing discriminatory attitudes.

Alongside Mr Bartenev, Jane Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Russian Law at King’s College London, spoke about the Russian legal system, the pressures on the judiciary and the increasing focus on “traditional values” impacting on the freedom of LGBT individuals. Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King’s College London spoke about Russia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Speaking after the launch, Joanna Whiteman¸

Co-Director of the Equal Rights Trust said:
Justice or Complicity? is published at a crucial time for the LGBT community in Russia and globally. By passing the notorious “anti-propaganda” law, Russia is among a number of states worldwide in which legislators are countering the movement towards greater equality, instead targeting LGBT individuals and restricting their freedom. Where states adopt discriminatory laws, the courts have a special responsibility to safeguard those at risk. As our report concludes, the Russian courts are failing in this role.

Justice or Complicity? is part of the Trust’s broader work on combatting LGBT discrimination in Russia carried out in partnership with the Russian LGBT Network to provide social and legal support to LGBT persons and to raise awareness on LGBT rights.

To download a copy of Justice or Complicity? LGBT Rights and the Russian Courts, click here.
For a hard copy of the report please contact
To watch a video of the report launch eventclick here.
The Trust is extremely grateful to its event sponsors, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London and Rights in Russia.
© The Equal Rights Trust


Russia: Kick It Out campaigner hopes World Cup can help tackle discrimination

Kick It Out campaigner Paul Elliott hopes the 2018 World Cup can improve attitudes to race in Russia for good.

5/10/2016- FIFA recently disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behaviour in Russia, where there have been numerous racist incidents at and around matches. "It's an unbelievable sport, an unbelievable power," former Chelsea defender Elliott, representing anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, said at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London. "By going to Russia, by going to Qatar you've got to use the power of football. "Hopefully we can challenge some of the areas and address some of the areas around anti-discrimination, around homosexuality. And just say 'hey, people have to start looking beyond that'." Elliott hopes the tournament can lead to "sustainable, measurable change".

Racist incidents in Russia have been one of the many talking points around the staging of the next World Cup. Piara Powar, head of trans-European anti-discrimination group FARE, believes the Russian authorities and president Vladimir Putin will be so keen for the country to be cast in a positive light that such incidents will be stamped out. "If they have big incidents of discrimination, they will be the talking point of the world," Powar said. "All of the good things, the interesting capital that Putin wants to make out of this, will be undone. "This will be a big opportunity for Putin. He'll know that."
© Eurosport


Italy’s national soccer team fined for anti-Semitic fan behavior

5/10/2016- The international soccer governing body FIFA slapped a more than $30,000 fine on Italy’s national soccer team for the anti-Semitic behavior of some of its fans at a match in Haifa. FIFA fined the Italian team 30,000 Swiss francs, or about $31,000, for the “improper and discriminatory” behavior of team Italy fans who gave the fascist salute during the playing of the national anthems ahead of the Italy-Israel match held in Haifa on Sept. 5. “A fine is never good news, but I am very proud to have raised the case on our portal,” said a spokesman for the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, which had first brought attention to the incident on its news website,
© JTA News


Malta: Council wants no part of far-right, extreme protest

Council ‘wants no part of far-right, extreme protest’

6/10/2016- A Catholic church school will be offering its facilities to Muslims who are facing difficulties to get a permit from where they can pray. St Albert the Great College this morning said that objections to Muslim prayer places based on issues of public order or parking problems were "dubious" since they were not used for other entities. The issue was once again rekindled after the St Paul's Bay council objected toa Malta Muslim Council application for planning permission to convert a basement-level shop in Triq il-Mazzola, Buġibba, into a new prayer room. But the college observed that many of these Muslims had been forced to flee their countries because they could not enjoy a proper life there. Such people had a right for a place of prayer as much as anybody else, the school said.

St Albert College said it was proud to welcome pupils with a diversity of religions and in the spirit of solidarity and justice and in line with the teachings of St Dominic, the college was therefore offering its facilities. Meanwhile, far-right protesters will not have the backing of the St Paul’s Bay local council when they meet on Sunday to oppose a Muslim prayer room in Buġibba, the council has said, dissociating itself from the “extreme” gathering. St Paul’s Bay mayor Graziella Galea said the council would take no part in the protest, organised by the anti-immigrant group G©¤aqda Patrijotti Maltin, although she maintained her opposition to the prayer room due to the unsuitability of the venue. “Everyone has the right to protest, and they have all the necessary permits, but the action is taking things to another extreme,” Ms Galea told the Times of Malta. “Our decision to object was reached independently and irrespective of religion; our only concern is residents and their rights.”

The prayer room was immediately opposed by far-right groups, but the local council has also submitted its objections, citing residents’ noise complaints and a lack of adequate parking. In a statement yesterday, the council stressed that its opposition was “not in any way linked to issues of religion”. “The venue is unsuited to its present use, due to public order,” it said. “The council affirms its commitment to all the people of the locality and their diverse perspectives, opinions and beliefs.”Ms Galea told this newspaper that she had had a “cordial” meeting with leaders from the Muslim community on Tuesday, on the request of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. The mayor said that Muslim representatives had agreed about the unsuitability of the venue and expressed openness to finding an alternative, although they would still be pursuing the current application. Ms Galea added that if an alternative application were to be submitted, the council would consider it on its own merits, taking into account local residents’ opinions.

The PA has taken a dim view of prayer rooms in recent months, with applications in Gozo, Blata l-Bajda and Santa Venera – for both the Christian and Muslim communities – all turned down due to issues of parking and the disruption to residents. In January, some 200 people met in an Msida square for Friday prayers that were organised by the Malta Muslim Council over several weeks, drawing attention to their situation after having been evicted from a number of meeting places around the island due to their lack of permits.
© The Times of Malta


Bosnia Offered Help to Tackle Discrimination

A new European-backed programme is being launched to help Bosnian institutions to use laws aimed at tackling widespread cases of discrimination in the country.

5/10/2016- A broad-reaching new project to bring Bosnia into line with European anti-discrimination norms launches on Wednesday. “Various forms of discrimination remain one of the most serious human rights issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said a statement by the Council of Europe, which launched the project in partnership with the European Union. “The problem does not only concern the still non-executed 2009 ‘Sejdic and Finci’ judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. It includes widespread cases of discrimination at the work place, access to work and education and in treatment before courts,” it adds. Dervo Sejdic, a Roma, and Jakob Finci, a Jew, won their case against Bosnia in 2009, which the court said should change its constitution to allow ethnic minorities run for posts in the state-level Presidency and the House of Peoples.

Power-sharing rules enshrined in the Dayton Agreement mean that in Bosnia, posts in the tripartite presidency and upper house of Parliament are reserved only for people from the ethnic groups of Bosniaks [Muslims], Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats. The fact that Bosnia has not yet removed barriers to elected office for people who do not belong to those three main ethnic groups is a barrier to European integration. Toni Pavloski, Acting Head of Office of the Council of Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, told BIRN there was "room for improvement" in implementing a broader and comprehensive raft of recommendations addressed to the Human Rights Ombudsman.

Recommendations made to the Ombudsman include calls to ensure that people with disabilities have adequate access to parking, and have fair access to jobs; ensure that information programs are adapted for the hard of hearing; and ensure rights to maternity payments for women. "The level of knowledge and skills of the staff is satisfactory but nevertheless we have the opportunity to supplement this with the latest knowledge in this field," said Pavlovski. The aim is to support lawyers and advisers as they work with Bosnians in need of support in all aspects of life. The project includes an intensive training program to support the Human Rights Ombudsman office's 31 staff in using the European Convention on Human Rights through regular talks and workshops taking place over the next 22 months.

"Discrimination ... can happen in working environment or in the relations with the authorities, for example. Within this project we will do our best to raise awareness with citizens how to recognize and fight discrimination, which is often not obvious," said Pavloski. The initiative will take in civic organisations such as Analitika, Mediacentar and Equality for All with the aim of bridging gaps between Bosnia’s institutions and NGOs.
© Balkan Insight


Polish abortion row puts women's rights on EU agenda

6/10/2016- A Polish proposal to jail women who have an abortion would bring the country back to medieval times, MEPs said on Wednesday (5 October) during a debate on Polish women's rights. The bill, which is currently examined by the Polish parliament, was “pro-death”, said Italian MEP Gianni Pittella, head of the Social Democratic group. “Women’s bodies were always a battleground… used for assaults on liberal democracy and open societies,” said Austrian liberal MEP Angelika Mlinar. It was widely reported that MPs had dropped the bill after a massive protest earlier this week, but it is still being debated and a vote is due later on Thursday. Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is expected to instruct its MPs to reject the bill, but the party is thought to be planning to introduce another proposal seriously limiting abortion rights.

MEPs from PiS defended their party during Wednesday's debate, saying the initial proposal was a citizens’ initiative, not a government bill. They repeated that the EU lacked the power to legislate on abortion. EU commissioner for justice and gender equality Vera Jourova agreed that health services were “primarily a concern for the EU member states”, but said she “cannot understand this proposal, which hopefully will not be adopted”. "We already lived through undemocratic times, in which liberty and dignity of individual people wasn’t respected,” the Czech politician said.

Abortion as right
Despite Wednesday’s bold statements, the European Parliament has in the past avoided speaking out on Polish women’s rights. Group leaders prohibited MEPs from touching the issue in January and April this year, during wider debates on the situation in Poland. Wednesday’s debate wasn’t accompanied by a resolution, a fact that reduced its importance. But Green MEP Terry Reintke told EUobserver her group would try to include Polish women’s rights in the European Commission’s monitoring of the rule of law in Poland. Swedish left-wing MEP Malin Bjork said her group had tried to introduce women's rights into the commission's rule of law probe from the very beginning, but leaders of the parliament's other fractions had blocked the effort. "The old men leading this parliament don't understand that nothing could be fundamental than the right to decide over one's body," Bjork told this website.

A group of pro-choice MEPs also met Polish activists earlier that day to find ways of promoting their situation within the EU legislative framework. Belgian socialist MEP Marie Arena said the EU directive on non-discrimination in access to healthcare services could serve to strengthen sexual and reproductive health within the EU. She could also see a stronger role for the EU in promoting sexual education and fighting the misuse of conscientious objections by doctors who didn’t want to carry out abortion procedures - a problem not only in Poland, but also in Italy and other EU countries. Polish pro-choice activist Barbara Nowacka told EUobserver MEPs understood that abortion was a fundamental right, not a question of conscience. "The different European nations have integrated during the last years," Nowacka said. "Polish women want the same rights as their European sisters." Wanda Nowicka, another activist, urged MEPs to speak on behalf of Polish women. "None of the parties in the Polish parliament represents us," Nowicka said.

Polish debate
Meanwhile, the citizens’ initiative went through several reversals of fortune in the Polish parliament. Prime minister Beata Szydlo told journalists on Tuesday that she felt humbled by opposition to the proposal. Some 100,000 people went on strike on Monday against the bill, in one of the largest mobilisations of Polish society since the fall of communism. But in a surprise move, the Polish parliament put up the proposal for both a first and second reading on Wednesday evening. The chamber is due to vote on the proposal on Thursday morning. According to sources, the PiS will impose party discipline on the matter and force MPs to reject it. But PiS MP Krystyna Pawlowicz announced already last night that PiS would come back with a party proposal that would “ban 90 percent of today’s abortions”. The new proposal will probably seek to limit legal abortion to cases of rape and incest, and cases where the pregnancy poses an imminent risk to the life of the mother.
© The EUobserver


Poland: Massive Uprising by Women Forced Government to Drop Abortion Ban

Parliamentary committee urges MPs to vote proposal down as minister says wave of protests ‘taught us humility’ 

5/10/2016- A controversial proposal to ban abortion in Poland appears to have collapsed after senior politicians from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) backed away from it after a parliamentary committee urged MPs to vote it down following mass protests. The justice and human rights committee, which reviews proposed legislation, recommended that parliament reject the bill following a wave of protests earlier in the week that appear to have caught the rightwing government off guard. In a humiliating climbdown, PiS members who had referred the legislation to the committee less than two weeks ago threw it out. The Liberal MP and former prime minister Ewa Kopacz told reporters the PiS had “backtracked because it was scared by all the women who hit the streets in protest”.

© The Guardian.

French far-right party to face campaign finance fraud trial

6/10/2016- France's far-right National Front (FN) party and two of its senior officials have been ordered to stand trial for alleged election campaign spending fraud, sources close to the case told AFP Thursday. Investigating magistrates have accused the FN and its treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just and one of its vice-presidents, Jean-Francois Jalkh, of fraud, abuse of trust and misuse of assets. The party's leader Marine Le Pen was questioned by investigators but has not been charged. The case concerns the alleged abuse of millions of euros of government money paid to reimburse campaign spending in both the 2012 legislative and presidential elections. Investigators suspect the party exaggerated its expenses to claim more than it was due. The party and both officials deny any wrongdoing. Le Pen is tipped to reach the second-round runoff in next year's presidential election. Her 88-year-old father and the FN's founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, returned to court on Wednesday in the latest round of his battle to overturn his exclusion from the party ordered by his daughter, Marine. She had him kicked out last year over a string of inflammatory comments that were undermining her efforts to make the anti-immigration party more palatable to the public.


France: Le Pen vs Le Pen enters its fourth round

The fourth round of a bitter trial between Jean-Marie Le Pen and the far-right FN party he founded has begun in Paris. Le Pen was expelled from the party by his daughter for anti-Semitic comments.

5/10/2016- The bitter legal battle between France's embattled far-right figurehead Jean-Marie Le Pen and the National Front (FN) party entered its fourth round on Wednesday, as the elderly firebrand seeks to overturn his expulsion from the party he founded. Le Pen was expelled from the FN last year for making anti-Semitic comments in an interview with a far-right magazine. His daughter and the current party leader, Marine Le Pen, is pursuing the presidency in next year's national elections on and claims to be trying to distance herself and the FN from her father's most extreme views. The 88-year-old told a court in Nanterre, west Paris, that his expulsion from the FN was against party procedures and was "marred by irregularities, both in style and substance." The decision was made by an "execution squad," he said.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is hoping to rejoin the party and its leadership, and is demanding 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in compensation. "That's a minimum he is owed for the immense loss" to his morale and reputation, his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, said. This is the fourth round of a hostile legal dispute. Jean-Marie Le Pen had won three earlier court hearings against the process in which he was dumped by his former party. However, after proposing a party vote on his status as an honorary president-for-life, members instead voted to definitively expel him. As part of the latest round, Le Pen wants the court to confirm his reintroduction and position as the FN's honorary president. Asked if he was saddened to be taking his daughter to court, Le Pen said, "I'm too old to be sad" but said he could imagine restoring ties with her. "Life always starts tomorrow," he said.

The FN's founder was expelled for inflammatory remarks the party considered a liability to its image. He had already been convicted for repeated offences of racism and anti-Semitism. However, the final straw came when Le Pen described the Nazi gas chambers as a mere "detail" of history. The comments forced his expulsion and drove a deep divide in the Le Pen family. Marine Le Pen is named in the lawsuit, but did not appear at Wednesday's trial. As part of her pursuit of the presidency, Le Pen has sought to somewhat soften the party's image - albeit still campaigning almost exclusively on a populist, anti-immigration, anti-EU platform. Polls currently suggest that she would make the runoff vote in next year's presidential elections in France, at the expense of center-left Socialists currently in power with incumbent President Francois Hollande. Her father argues that she will not win unless she stops "appearing more centrist than she is" and regains the far-right ground, which, he claims strongly reflects the public mood.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Austrian far right to sue judge for saying vote challenge was planned

5/10/2016- Austria's far-right Freedom Party said on Wednesday it is suing one of the judges who ordered a re-run of the country's presidential election for saying the party started preparing its challenge against the result before the vote took place. Johannes Schnizer sits on the 14-member Constitutional Court, which found widespread infringements of rules on how postal ballots were counted in the May presidential run-off that Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly lost. In examining the Freedom Party's challenge in June, the court found no proof of foul play in the ballot count but several cases of election officials cutting corners to ensure votes were processed quickly. The re-run will be held on Dec. 4.

Last month, Schnizer said in interviews with Austrian media that Freedom Party election observers knew their party would challenge the outcome and did not tell election authorities of any infringements they should correct. "It is a grave accusation. It is false," said Freedom Party lawyer Michael Rami, adding that he was preparing a civil case for slander and a criminal defamation case. The maximum prison sentence on the criminal charge is one year, he said. The Freedom Party (FPO) issued a statement saying it felt it had no choice but to take legal action. "We cannot let the accusations made publicly by Mr Schnizer against the FPO and Norbert Hofer stand," it said. Schnizer's lawyer Michael Pilz said: "I cannot understand why the FPO is reacting in such a sensitive way. If the FPO is of the opinion that it must settle this in court, we will deal with it."
© Reuters


Serbia: Refugees Start March from Belgrade to Hungary

A group of around 350 refugees and migrants began a protest march from the Serbian capital to the border, demanding to be allowed to pass freely into Hungary.

4/10/2016- The refugees and migrants began their protest march on Tuesday to Serbia's border with Hungary, some 200 kilometres north of Belgrade, escorted by police to ensure security and prevent them from blocking traffic on the highway. They are demanding that the border be opened to allow them to continue their journey towards Western Europe, as around 7,000 refugees and migrants are currently stuck in the country after fences were erected along the Hungarian-Serbian frontier to prevent them from passing through. Some of them held up hand-written placards with slogans demanding: “Open the border please!” “I request to Hungarian people, please open this border,” one of the protesters told Serbian media outlet Kurir. “We will continue our demonstration against Hungarian policy if they don’t open this border,” another protester told Kurir.

The protest march began after a group of migrants gathered earlier on Tuesday in a park near Belgrade’s central bus station and began a rally that erupted into a brawl, Gordan Paunovic, a coordinator from the Belgrade-based B92 Fund, which is involved in the refugee aid effort, told BIRN. Paunovic said that the situation escalated after some of the refugees and migrants became tense and nervous. “There was some unfortunate attempt by migrants to protest against the closing of the borders,” he said. But he added that such protests were not new since large groups of people became stuck in Serbia as a result of Hungary’s strict border controls. “People are sent to a refugee camp near Belgrade in Krnjaca; however, there is not enough room and most of the people here, at the bus station, are from Afghanistan and Pakistan so they cannot enter the camp,” he explained.

Some of the migrants in the park declined to join the march towards the border and chose to remain in central Belgrade. “I do not see the point of it. We could just get in trouble with Hungarian police and I have heard that they are tough with refugees,” Mohammed Khan from Afghanistan told BIRN. Muhammed Wajid also decided to stay in Belgrade, although some of his friends left for the border. “I had a very bad trip through Bulgaria, I need rest and not to walk and confront the police on the border,” Wajid told BIRN. “But yes, I wish that borders are open so that I could pass without ‘help’ of the smugglers and without fear of being beaten by the police,” he added. The 7,000 refugees and migrants currently in Serbia face an uncertain future since the EU’s borders are closed to most of them.

People who are not from Iraq or Syria are classified as economic migrants and cannot hope to get asylum in the EU. Serbia is also considering tightening control over its borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia in the hope that it will stem the flow of people along the ‘Balkan route’. The Serbian authorities have said that there is a risk that most of the refugees and migrants could remain stuck in the country without any chance of continuing their journey to the EU.
© Balkan Insight


Turkey: Anti-racism Commission concerned by deterioration of conditions for vulnerable groups

The Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Turkey in which it analyses recent developments and makes recommendations to the authorities. While noting positive institutional and legal changes, ECRI expressed concern over the deterioration of conditions of such vulnerable groups as refugees, Kurds, Roma, as well as LGBT persons.

4/10/2016- On the positive side, ECRI welcomes the establishment of the Ombudsman Institution in 2013 and of the Human Rights and Equality Authority in 2016. Also in 2016, the authorities enacted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, launched a national strategy for Roma and an “open-door” policy for Syrian refugees, including on issuing work permits. However, ECRI expresses concern over the lack of independence of the Human Rights and Equality Authority and the recently established Law Enforcement Oversight Commission. Hate speech is on the rise, and most of it goes unpunished. Its increasing use by the senior state representatives is particularly worrying. “Although the report was drafted before the coup attempt in July 2016, it contains recommendations to the Turkish authorities which are fully relevant today,” said the Chair of ECRI, Christian Ahlund. “Hate speech should be properly combatted and hate crime offences adequately investigated; and the hate speech legislation should not be abused to silence vulnerable groups.”

Despite huge efforts, at least 400,000 refugee children do not have access to school, and by the end of 2015 only 7,400 refugees had received work permits. Among the Roma, the rates of school enrolment and formal employment are low. Since the renewed security operations in 2015, the situation of the Kurds has sharply deteriorated. Prejudice against LGBT persons forces them to “stay invisible”, as neither the Criminal Code nor the draft anti-discrimination law provide them with basic protection. ECRI issued a number of recommendations to the Turkish authorities. The following two should be implemented as a matter of priority; ECRI will follow up on their implementation in two years: 
# bring the anti-discrimination legislation and the provisions on the independence and mandate of the new Human Rights and Equality Authority in line with ECRI’s standards;
# entrust a body that is fully independent of the police, other security forces and the prosecution services with the investigation of alleged cases of police misconduct including ill-treatment.

The report, including Government observations, was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Turkey in November 2015 (press release] and takes account of developments up to 17 March 2016.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.


Balkans Unlikely to Follow Hungary's Migrant Vote

Hungary's anti-migrant referendum on Sunday may have 'failed' - but Budapest's opposition to EU migrant quotas is still likely to boost the hand of xenophobes in the region and beyond.

3/10/2016- The referendum on Sunday in Hungary on EU migrant quotas failed to reach the necessary threshold of 50 per cent support by a margin of 7 per cent. However, more than 98 per cent of those who did cast ballots voted “No” to accepting Hungary's allocated share of migrants - and Prime Minister Viktor Orban - who initiated the vote - has announced that he will amend the constitution so that referendum becomes valid. He also added expects that the Hungarian referendum will boost similar moves in other countries. “We are proud that we are the first,” Orban stated on Sunday. However, nearby Balkan EU states are seen as unlikely to take the same path, experts say.

Viktor Koska, deputy director at the Zagreb Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Citizenship and Migration, CEDIM, told BIRN that predictions of the likely effect of the Hungarian referendum on the region “can’t be given unambiguously”. But he warned of a potential “spill-over effect” in terms of a rise in nationalist anti-migrant rhetoric. The radical rhetoric used in Hungary, based “on a myth of defending Western Christian civilisation from Islamic intruders”, is strengthening the far right in the region and all over Europe, he said. “The more this policy lasts, the bigger the platform for the far right will be in other countries and this is a potential risk,” he said. The Hungarian referendum has given a tool for the right in other states to oppose EU policies on migrants, while the EU also lacks “mechanisms to ensure its policies are implemented”, he added.

The EU quota system adopted in September 2015 aimed to resettle and reallocate 160,000 non-European asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU states by September 2017. Under the quota, Hungary was to receive around 1,200, Croatia 1,617, Bulgaria 1,271 and Romania 4,260 asylum seekers. The quota system is widely seen as having failed. According to Commission records, while Romania had received 202 migrants by last week, Bulgaria and Croatia had received only six and 14 respectively. Hungary has received none. Unlike Hungary, where supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold almost two-thirds of seats in parliament, Croatia is still in talks on forming a new coalition government. Andrej Plenkovic, head of the main centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, is likely to emerge as the new prime minister. But since Plenkovic is an MEP with a long career in diplomacy, he is expected to support EU policies.

Koska notes that, unlike the last HDZ-led government, which was keen to restrict migration, it is “still unknown how Plenkovic will deal with future challenges”. Nevertheless, Koska said Plenkovic “looks like a responsible politician who would rather listen to Brussels than to Budapest. “I don’t believe Plenkovic would be willing to risk his relations with Brussels and Berlin to get closer to Budapest and the far right,” Koska concluded. Two other Balkan EU states, Bulgaria and Romania, also take different views on EU quotas than Hungary. Despite failing to meet its EU quota, Bulgaria is unlikely to hold its own referendum on the EU refugee reallocation system.

At a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov criticized the countries of the "Visegrad Four", Poland, Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary, for rejecting the refugee quota system and for not being willing to take in asylum seekers. “The approach of every country for itself is wrong because it opposes European principles”, Borissov told Erdogan, while calling for more solidarity from the Visegrad Four. Romania along with Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic firmly opposed the EU refugee quota system when the idea was launched in 2015. However, President Klaus Iohannis in September 2015 said that Romania should accept its share of refugees. "I still believe mandatory quotas are not a solution to Europe's migrant crisis. But the number of refugees Romania must receive is not large. It is manageable and I think Romania must show solidarity,” he said back then.

Although not an EU member, Serbia, as Hungary’s neighbour, was involved in the Hungarian referendum because it is home to about 200,000 ethnic Hungarians in the northern region of Vojvodina many of whom are entitled to vote in Hungary. Hungarian minority parties in Serbia campaigned for local people to vote against the “imposed quotas”. Regardless of Hungarian future moves, the referendum has no legal implications for Serbia, which has not been assigned a quota by the EU anyway. But Rados Djurovic, director of the Asylum Protection Centre in Belgrade, warned that the Hungarian policy of blanket opposition to migrants and refugees was still worrying. “They may close the border for good and not even let in 15 people a day on every border crossing like they do now. That would complicate the situation overall and we could expect more injuries and traumas to refugees. "Also, let me remind you, those people would also stay longer in Serbia,” he concluded.
© Balkan Insight


Netherlands: DENK calls for racism police in election campaign

7/10/2016- Political party DENK wants a police team set up specifically to act against racism and discrimination. A thousand officers should be in this team, politician Farid Azarkan said on Pauw, NOS reports. According to Azarkan, at this stage too few people end up being prosecuted for these crimes and the police need more expertise on the matter. The racism police is part of DENK’s plan to fight racism in the Netherlands. It is one of ten points on DENK’s campaign for the elections in March next year. The full campaign will be presented later this month. The plan also includes harsher punishments for racist statements and attention to racism and discrimination in education. DENK also wants to abolish the Dutch concept of “allochtoon” – referring to a person staying in the Netherlands who has at least one non-Dutch parent. DENK also wants a national holiday to celebrate diversity in the Netherlands. And steps must be taken to “decolonize” street names, among other things. The party believes street names like Michiel de Ruyter and Jan Pieterszoon Coen should be changed due to their involvement in slavery.
© The NL Times


Dutch Police officers in arrest death told they could keep their jobs, whatever happened

7/10/2016- Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman promised the five police officers involved in the death of an Aruban tourist last year that they would not lose their jobs over the death, the NRC said on Friday. Bouman made the pledge during a meeting with the officers concerned, according to confidential correspondence in the hands of the paper. Mitch Henriquez died in hospital after a violent arrest, in which he was put in a choke hold. The paper bases its claim on an email written by Delft police chief Ronald Kruijswijk, reporting on a meeting between himself, the five officers and Bouman, some three months after Henriquez died. All five were at that point considered suspects by the public prosecution department. ‘Bouwman showed himself to be very involved,’ Kruijswijk wrote. ‘He made concrete promises to the officers during the meeting.’ This included handing back the five their police passes immediately – giving them access to the police station and the gym. The ‘financial effects of their suspension would also be reversed’ and they were given a ‘guarantee they would keep their jobs, whatever happened.’ Bouman, who left as police chief two weeks after the meeting, declined to comment on the reports, the NRC said. The police have confirmed that the five officers were paid their full salary with back pay and given access to the police station last year.

Last month the public prosecution department said two of the five officers should face charges of assault and manslaughter. An official police report on the death, published immediately after the leaked email on Friday, said that four of the five officers were in serious breach of their duties and will remain suspended. The fifth officer will be found a new job within the force.

Last month the public prosecution department said two of the five officers should face charges of assault and manslaughter. An official police report on the death, published immediately after the leaked email on Friday, said that four of the five officers were in serious breach of their duties and will remain suspended. The fifth officer will be found a new job within the force.

Read more at Police officers in arrest death told they could keep their jobs, whatever happened

© The Dutch News

Netherlands: Dramatic rise in violent incidents at asylum centres

3/10/2016- The number of violent incidents reported in and around asylum seekers’ centres rose dramatically in the first six months of this year, official figures show. Between January and June 502 incidents were reported to police, compared to 377 in the whole of 2015. The COA, the organisation in charge of accommodating refugees, logged 2803 instances of aggression and violence, including 1252 reports of physical violence. NOS reported that junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff attributed the increase to the strain placed on asylum seekers’ accommodation by the rapid increase in numbers over the last 12 months. Over the last six months the total population of accommodation centres has averaged 43,000. Long waiting lists and limited privacy have contributed to tension between residents, according to Dijkhoff. The majority of incidents reported to police concerned physical violence that caused no permanent injury and threats. In 166 cases the prosecution service investigated the incident, including three allegations of sexual offences. One in six violent incidents were directed towards police or accommodation service staff. Dijkhoff said 16 residency permits had been refused or withdrawn this year after an asylum seeker was convicted of an offence.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Call for ceasefire in Zwarte Piet debate

4/10/2016- Sinterklaas organisations have issued a statement calling for a calm discussion about Zwarte Piet, renouncing threats, violence, polarisation and aggression, reports NOS. The joint declaration was put out yesterday after Lodewijk Asscher, deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, had meetings with many organisations involved in Sinterklaas festivities. Margrite Kalverboer, children’s ombudsman, has gone to the police after receiving death threats for a report she published last week saying the current form of Zwarte Piet contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. She said the blacked-up Sinterklaas helper, with his thick, red lips and frizzy hair, can contribute to ‘bullying, exclusion or discrimination.’ Her report investigated about 20 complaints and cited interviews with young people from ethnic minorities who said racial discrimination gets worse at Sinterklaas.

Festival for all
Now a joint statement from Sinterklaas bodies pledges they will discuss the matter calmly, focusing on children’s interests and making the festivity something for all young people. It has been signed by the St Nicholas Society of the Netherlands, Sinterklaasintocht Amsterdam foundation, Surinamese Inspraakorgaan, RTL broadcaster and the Maassluis municipality – where Sinterklaas will arrive this year on 12th November. The ministry of social affairs said Monday’s meetings were planned before the children’s ombudsman’s report was published, to international attention. It was the fourth instance of a public body criticising Zwarte Piet, reported NRC, following a negative Amsterdam court ruling and report from the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights in 2014, then a UN committee report on racism and discrimination in 2015. A report in Joop online magazine suggests that the first newspaper articles to censure the tradition may have emerged in 1945, when black American soldiers liberating the Netherlands complained.
© The Dutch News


Dutch slowly recognizing that tradition of Zwarte Piet is racist and weird

2/10/2016- Over multiple years now, WorldViews has run stories about the problematic Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet. Around Christmastime, myriad Dutch adults and children have customarily donned frilly wigs, patted themselves in blackface, painted their lips red and japed around in costumes as "Black Pete," the dark-skinned helpers of Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas. For reasons that are both obvious and complicated, many people think the tradition is racist — one that is shaped by the country's not-so-distant colonial past and trades on garish racial stereotypes. Others, including a significant proportion of the Dutch public, are less sure. They argue that the legend of Sinterklass and his swarthy sidekicks predates any colonial entanglements and the legacy of slavery. Dressing up as the trickster figure, they say, is an innocent, jovial children's pastime. Even minorities in the Netherlands embrace the tradition, some say. (Last year, we addressed each of those arguments here.)

Protests and demonstrations from minority groups have rocked Sinterklaas celebrations in recent years in Dutch cities. In August 2015, a United Nations-convened committee on racial discrimination in Geneva called on the Dutch government to "promote the elimination of those features of the character of Black Pete which reflect negative stereotypes and are experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery." The growing backlash to Zwarte Piet seems to have had an effect. Last year, Dutch primary schools abolished the sporting of physical markings during Sinterklaas that could be deemed offensive, including blackface, thick lips and gold earrings. And on Friday, the country's children's ombudsman, a post linked to the government's oversight agency, issued a report arguing the tradition violates children's rights.

After interviews with Dutch children, Margrite Kalverboer, the ombudswoman, said Zwarte Piet should "be stripped of discriminatory or stereotypical characteristics." Otherwise, the Netherlands risked contravening conventions on children's rights to equal treatment and protection from discrimination. "Many children of color say they experience discrimination in their daily lives and that it is worse around the time of Sinterklaas," the report states. Changing the long-standing characteristics of Zwarte Piet would enable all children to "experience the joy of the tradition." Dutch politicians have largely tried to dismiss controversy surrounding Zwarte Piet as inconsequential, but one's attitude about such blackface antics is increasingly part of a political fault line in the country.

Far-right politician Geert Wilders has repeatedly spoken in defense of Zwarte Piet, even proposing a law that would ensure the character is preserved exactly as it is. Meanwhile, a burgeoning leftist, pro-immigrant party has called for a wider Dutch reckoning with the nation's multicultural identity that would include a museum about the history of slavery as well as the abolition of the black minstrel figure.
© The Washington Post.


Czech Rep: Dozens of people apply for asylum abroad

3/10/2016- Dozens of people from the Czech Republic apply for political asylum abroad, but Czech authorities do not seem interested in their cases, weekly Tyden writes in its issue out on Monday, referring to the OECD statistics registering 108 Czech asylum seekers from May 2015 to April 2016. The Czech interior and foreign ministries know nothing about any cases of Czech asylum seekers, Tyden writes. "Nobody has consulted this with us," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irena Valentova said. She said the Interior Ministry might know more about those people. "We only deal with migrants who arrive in the Czech Republic," Interior Ministry spokeswoman Hana Mala told Tyden.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 128 asylum seekers came from the Czech Republic and 1285 people from the Czech Republic had refugee status in 2015, the weekly writes. However, part of the asylum seekers probably are of Czech origin, but they live in regions hit by war. The number is also likely to include Romanies who massively left the Czech Republic around 2010 due to racism and discrimination and who mostly headed for Britain and Canada. The asylum procedure sometimes lasts several years and the applications of many of the Romanies may still be dealt with, Tyden writes. Some people nevertheless leave the country for exclusively political reasons. In May 2016, Czech blogger Petr Michalu applied for asylum in Russia. Michalu, an admirer of Vladimir Putin, told Russian media that he has always loved Russia and that he cannot live in the Czech environment where so many lies are told about Russia, Tyden writes.

As expected, the number of foreigners who apply for asylum in the Czech Republic is higher than the number of Czech asylum applicants, the weekly writes. From May 2015 to April 2016, 1027 foreigners applied for Czech asylum, Tyden writes, citing data of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD data show that 616 and 248 people from the neighbouring post-communist Slovakia and Poland, respectively, applied for asylum abroad in the given period of time, the weekly writes. According to the Interior Ministry, 996 people, mostly Ukrainians and Iraqis, have so far sought asylum in the Czech Republic this year. This is a very small number compared with the neighbouring Germany that has been recently flooded by hundreds of thousands refugees. But the number of seekers of Czech asylum might increase if the refugees whose asylum applications are rejected by German authorities start coming to the Czech Republic, Tyden writes.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech president calls for economic migrants to be deported

Zeman links Islamic immigration to rise in jihadism

2/10/2016- Milos Zeman, the Czech president, has called for hundreds of thousands of economic migrants who arrived in Europe since early last year to be deported, and claimed Muslim migrants’ culture is fundamentally incompatible with European society. The maverick Czech leader suggested migrants could be relocated to “empty places” in north Africa or on “uninhabited Greek islands” — with Greece’s foreign debt progressively reduced in return for shouldering the cost. He warned of a “strong connection” between the migrant influx and the “wave of jihadis” in Europe, arguing that moderate Muslims could be radicalised by extremists among them, as Germans were by the Nazis in the 1930s.

Mr Zeman’s comments echoed a similar recent call by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, and mark a hardening of rhetoric from the EU’s two most outspokenly anti-migrant leaders that has strained relations with west European counterparts. Hungarians were poised to vote in a referendum on Sunday over being compelled to take a “quota” of migrants by the EU. The Czech president was speaking at the Rhodes Forum, an annual conference organised by Vladimir Yakunin, the former Russian Railways chief and a close associate of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Mr Zeman told the Financial Times and two other media outlets in an interview the only solution to Europe’s migrant crisis was to deport those not fleeing war. “We are in Greece, and Greece has plenty of uninhabited islands, and big foreign debt. So if you have ‘hotspots’ in Greek islands, this would be a sort of payment of foreign debt,” Mr Zeman said.

“I am for deportation of all economic migrants,” he added. “Of course I respect the cruelty of civil war in Syria, Iraq, and so on. But we do not speak about those people, we speak about economic migrants.” The Czech leader conceded that since “less than one-third” of the 1m-plus arrivals into the EU were refugees, this would mean deporting hundreds of thousands of economic migrants. “If they go in, they may go out,” he shrugged. “And I am sure there is a strong connection between the wave of migrants and the wave of jihadis. There are even some reports of [the] German ministry of interior about the number of jihadis in Germany. And those people who deny this connection are wrong.”

The remarks may embarrass the Czech government of premier Bohuslav Sobotka which — while also opposing migrant quotas — has recently sought to distance itself from the more hardline rhetoric of Mr Orban and of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice party. But they reflect the unpopularity of proposed EU migrant quotas in ex-communist central Europe, which has little experience of mass non-European immigration, and appear to resonate with Mr Zeman’s grassroots supporters. Since being elected president in the first direct elections to the post in 2013, the former social democratic prime minister has become known for unapologetically provocative rhetoric. Opponents have branded him a Putin apologist after he dismissed the Ukrainian crisis as a bout of “flu” and opposed EU and US sanctions on Moscow.

This weekend he again called the sanctions a “lose-lose strategy” that damage Europe as much as Russia. “If you isolate any country, you create the myth of the surrounded fortress, and paradoxically, you increase the popularity of the leaders of the surrounded fortress,” he said. The Czech leader criticised German chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Willkommenskultur” towards migrants as an “absolute error”, since Europe could not absorb such numbers. “I am not against migrants in my country from Ukraine, Vietnam, Russia, Belarussia, Serbia, and so on,” Mr Zeman added. “I am only against Islamic migration, because I think there is full incompatibility of culture — as one example only, the attitude of Islamic migrants to women. Completely different from European culture.” In earlier public comments in Rhodes, Mr Zeman called himself a “prophet” as he warned of possible radicalisation of migrants. “You remember the fate of Cassandra? She warned against the horse in Troy,” he said. “She was right.”
© The Financial Times*


Hungary: Orban suffers setback in migration referendum

3/10/2016- Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban's fight against EU migration policy suffered a setback in Sunday's (2 October) referendum on quotas as turnout was too low to make the result legally binding. Orban vowed to continue his fight in Brussels against the mandatory migrant quota scheme, and said he would still amend the constitution based on the referendum result. Despite a year-long anti-immigrant campaign, Orban’s governmen failed to convince more than half of the 8 million voters to go to the ballot boxes on Sunday). With over 99 percent of the vote counted, 39.8 percent of Hungarians cast a valid vote. Of those, 98.3 percent voted against allowing Brussels to decide on mandatory refugee quotas, while only 1.7 percent said yes.

Orban needed at least half of the voters to cast a valid ballot, which asked the following question: "Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?”. The number of invalid votes was over 6 percent, a relative win for the satire Two-Tailed Dog Party, which had called on voters to cast protest ballots. Opposition parties, including the far-right Jobbik party subsequently called for Orban’s resignation, but the government hailed the result as a victory. Hungary's government aimed to use the referendum to help divert attention from domestic issues, and boost its drive to stop any EU scheme set to distribute migrants among member states.

Downplaying the importance of the 50 percent threshold for the referendum to be valid, Orban said Sunday morning after casting his vote that the main issue is whether the "no" votes will be in majority. After the votes were counted Orban sounded defiant. "Brussels or Budapest. That was the question, and we have decided that the right to decide [with whom Hungarians want to live with] solely lies with Budapest," the prime minister said. He said he would initiate a constitutional change to reflect the will of the people, and vowed to continue his fight in Brussels against migrant quotas. "The weapon will be strong enough in Brussels too," he said about the referendum results, adding: "Brussels cannot force its will on Hungary." Orban did not comment on the low turnout, but pointed out that more Hungarians voted in favour of his stance on Sunday than who many voted in favour of EU membership in 2003. Orban has long been a staunch opponent of the EU's migration policy, and a fierce critic of German chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy.

His government challenged an EU decision last year on migration quotas at the EU's top court, and has refused to take in a single refugee. It also opposes any mandatory distribution scheme under the EU asylum policy reform, which has been declared politically dead also by Slovak PM Robert Fico, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU. "The whole of Europe has won. Populism and xenophobia have lost," Gianni Pitella, the socilaists group leader in the European Parliament said in a statement Sunday night. "Stunning result in Hungary. 95% reject EU migration quotas. Are you listening Mrs. Merkel?," Nigel Farage, a leading Brexit campaigner and MEP tweeted. The referendum setback is a disappointment for the government, which has mounted a massive communications campaign linking migration with criminality and terrorism, aimed at getting out the vote for Sunday. A few hours before polls closed state television ran a caption claiming that "migrants will move towards Hungary, if the referendum is favourable to them."
© The EUobserver


Hungary’s Muslims fear referendum will fuel Islamophobia

2/10/2016- Muslims in Hungary say they are wary of the government’s anti-migrant referendum this weekend, which polls suggest has boosted xenophobic feelings. The government contends there is a direct link between migrants and terrorism and is seeking a popular mandate in Sunday’s vote for its opposition to accepting any mandatory European Union quotas for resettling asylum seekers. "I’m starting to feel that my own homeland is repudiating me," says Timea Nagy, a Hungarian Muslim. Prime minister Viktor Orban has said Hungarians have "no problems" with the local Muslim community, but he believes any EU quotas to relocate asylum seekers, including many Muslims, would destroy Hungary’s Christian identity and culture. Mr Orban hopes a rejection of EU quotas in the Hungarian referendum will encourage others to follow suit and force Brussels to reconsider the scheme.

A poll taken in August by the Publicus Institute for the Vasarnapi Hirek newspaper found 35 per cent of the 1,000 people questioned said it was obligatory to help refugees — considerably lower than the 64 per cent who said so a year ago. Some 5,600 Muslims live in Hungary, according to the 2011 census, the latest available. On Friday, about 30 people took part in a "Muslims living among us" walking tour in a Budapest neighbourhood, an effort to counter prejudice. "In the past year, especially since the migrant crisis is causing tension in Hungarian society, this is one of our most popular walks," said tour guide Anna Lenard. "We present Hungarian Muslim communities and try to show their human face because people living here get a lot of false information from the media."

The tour in the city’s so-called "New Buda" neighbourhood stretching to the River Danube includes stops in several shops and mosques, as well as presentations and chats by community leaders. "We could say that this (referendum) campaign is against the migrants but in reality it is covertly against Islam, that’s how people mostly understood it," said Tayseer Saleh, imam of the Darusallam Mosque. "We do not support the migrants coming to Europe. We support putting an end to the problems there and I guarantee that 90 per cent of the people will return to their homeland Government billboards and media ads have drawn a direct link between migration and terrorism, warning Hungarians that millions more migrants may soon be heading to Europe and asserting that harassment of women in Europe has increased greatly since the migrant crisis.

Speaking last September at a meeting of Hungarian diplomats, the prime minister called the Muslims in Hungary a "valuable asset" and said he wanted to avoid causing "awkward situations, even at the verbal level" for them.

"We are truly glad that there are kebab shops on our avenues. We like buying lamb from Syrian butchers at Easter," said Mr Orban. "We are going to honour this Muslim community in Hungary, but we don’t want their proportion to grow suddenly." But local Muslims said "awkward" was far from the right word for the problems the referendum could pose. "I consider myself a good Hungarian and I want to be one, too," said Timea Nagy. "But if people are surrounded by this kind of propaganda and they are so impressionable, it often makes you wonder."
© The Associated Press


Celebrity consent: stop branding attacks on women as 'pranks'

Gigi Hadid faced criticism when she defended herself against an attacker this week. But why do men who manhandle women in the street continue to be cast as harmless jokers?
By Laura Bates

1/10/2016- Picture the scene: a male celebrity is exiting an event when suddenly someone runs up to him, dodging his security team, and attempts to grab his wallet from his pocket. Reacting instinctively, the celebrity puts up a hand to stop the attacker, perhaps pushing them away or to the ground. Headlines relay the shocking event, many praising the “action hero” for his real-life reflexes. Yet while our sympathies would likely be firmly aligned with a famous man facing an attempted robbery, the reaction seems to be very different when female celebrities experience what amounts to attempted assault. While exiting a fashion show in Milan last week, model Gigi Hadid obligingly smiled and posed for selfies with a crowd of fans. Suddenly, without warning, a man approached Hadid from behind and grabbed her, physically lifting her off her feet and into the air. Hadid swung her elbow backwards, forcing the man to release her and run away.

It must have been a terrifying moment. But instead of focusing on Hadid’s wellbeing or praising her for her quick instincts, the international media had another angle in mind. “NOT MODEL BEHAVIOUR,” blared one disapproving headline. Another said: “furious supermodel … lashes out”, emphasising that she had to be “held back by security”, as if she had reacted with undue aggression. While some publications came to her defence, the general consensus was that a highly strung and violent Hadid had overreacted. When Marie Claire ran an article praising Hadid for her actions, the magazine’s Twitter account shared it with the tagline “unpopular opinion”. Multiple media outlets suggested that the perpetrator, Vitalii Sediuk, was a “fan” of Hadid’s, subtly implying that she owed him some debt of gratitude. He is in fact a repeat offender who deliberately targets celebrities.

Before the story had died down, Sediuk struck again, this time ambushing Kim Kardashian as she entered a restaurant in Paris. Sediuk lunged at Kardashian, attempting to grab her leg and kiss her bottom, before being pulled to the floor by a security guard. Yet again, the media responded bafflingly. BBC Newsbeat chose to turn the issue into a “debate”, tweeting: “Is it OK to grab a woman on the street, even if it’s for a ‘prank’?” The linked article presents the issue as a dilemma, giving space to Sediuk’s excuses and “explanations”, including his claim that he was “protesting Kim for using fake butt implants”. Other outlets have also described Sediuk’s actions as a form of protest, and described them as pranks and stunts. These aren’t jokes, they are scary and unacceptable attacks. It isn’t a coincidence that many of them deliberately target women, nor that the “pranks” are often of a sexual nature and in several cases would clearly constitute a form of assault.

In another example, Sediuk famously ambushed actor America Ferrera, trying to crawl underneath her dress on the red carpet at Cannes. This time, he was described in media reports as a “pest” and “unwanted guest. While the media reaction must be upsetting for the individuals involved (Hadid herself responded by pointing out that she had every right to defend herself), it also has a trickle-down effect for the rest of us. Such attitudes underline the message that women should be gracious and grateful for any male attention, even when it takes an aggressive and unwanted form. They cast men who approach and manhandle women in the street as cheeky chappies and women who object as angry harpies. In short, they only exacerbate the street harassment thousands of women already face on a daily basis. Whether its on the red carpet or the pavement, it’s time we started to recognise these assaults for what they really are.
© Laura Bates on everyday sexism - The Guardian


News from the UK & Germany - Week 40

UK: Anti-Muslim hate monitor says staff intimidated at Conservative conference

Tell MAMA founder says he was 'made to feel like a criminal' and demands apology after being denied entry to host Islamophobia event

7/10/2016- The head of a government-endorsed Islamophobia monitoring group has demanded an apology from the Conservative Party after he said he and colleagues were subjected to a “barrage of abuse and intimidation” by security guards and refused entry to the governing party's conference. Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell MAMA, told Middle East Eye that he and two colleagues were refused entry to the event in Birmingham on Tuesday after being told by staff that they had not been “security cleared”, despite having applied for entry passes in advance. The three were attending the conference to host a Tell MAMA-organised fringe event on anti-Muslim hate crime.

Mughal said that the three had subsequently been intimidated and followed by security guards who he believes were assigned to follow them to make sure they left the building. He said that one of his colleagues, who is gay, was subjected to homophobic abuse by a security guard, while another female colleague was physically intimidated. “We are being made to look as if we are criminals,” said Mughal. “We wanted to come in and inform the Conservatives about anti-Muslim hate. We are now feeling as if we are part of the problem. Doesn’t that say that actually what we were trying to challenge may well be in the Conservative Party itself? “We attend Lib Dem conferences. We have always had a positive reception in the Labour Party and from Labour MPs. We have never been treated with such indignity.”

Conservatives, G4S: No apologies
In a letter sent to Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin on Thursday, which he subsequently forwarded to MEE, Mughal set out a detailed account of the abuse he says he and his colleagues were subjected to and called on the party to apologise. "We do not feel comfortable attending a future Conservative Party conference unless assurances can be given to us that such actions will not take place again and we ask that a full apology be provided to us," Mughal wrote. Tell MAMA’s account of the incident has been questioned by both the Conservative Party and G4S, the company which provided security for the event. The Conservative Party said that Tell MAMA had applied too late for passes to be issued, and added that Tell MAMA staff had themselves been abusive to the Conservative Party member of staff who refused them passes. "We always encourage delegates to apply for passes as early as possible," a party spokesperson told MEE. "Unfortunately if people apply close to the start of the conference we can't always guarantee they will get a pass in time." G4S denied that its staff had behaved in a threatening way. “We are very happy that our staff behaved in an entirely appropriate manner," they told MEE.

'A red line that cannot be crossed'
But Mughal accused both the Conservatives and G4S of attempting to “spin” the incident. In his letter to McLoughlin, Mughal wrote: “We find this intolerable and a further insult to what has taken place against us and shows what we are dealing with. "This is a matter of principle and whether or not this Government supports our work, there comes a red line that cannot be crossed. Given our treatment and the subsequent briefing taking place, that line is near to being crossed.” He also said that the fact that Tell MAMA had been prevented from attending its own event to “highlight prejudice, hatred and bigotry” would have been farcical had it not been so serious. “We also are part of the Home Office’s national hate crime strategy. Yet… it seemed that the very dignity of victims that we try and preserve through our work, was stripped from our staff,” Mughal wrote.

Tell MAMA was established in 2012 with government funding. It collates data, based on anti-Muslim hate crime incidents reported via its website, a hotline and social media. It work was highlighted by the government in a Home Office plan for tackling hate crime published in July. According to its latest report published in June, there was a 326 percent rise in reported attacks against Muslims in public areas in 2015. Many police forces in the UK now collate their own figures about Islamophobic hate crime.
© The Middle East Eye


UK: Man wielding axe threatened Jewish people during New Year festival

Police were called to reports of a racially-aggravated hate crime near to a synagogue in Prestwich

7/10/2016- A man wielding an axe threatened a group of Jewish people in an alleged anti-Semitic hate crime in Prestwich. Police were called to the ‘ugly’ incident, in an Orthodox Jewish area during the Jewish New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah and the start of Jewish holidays. At 1.30pm on Monday, October 3, officers were sent to the junction of Singleton Road and Bury Old Road, near to a local synagogue, to reports of a racially-aggravated hate crime against a number of Jewish people. It’s understood that the suspect was in a vehicle at the junction and was making verbal threats while brandishing the weapon. The incident was reported to police at the mobile policing unit on Bury Old Road and the vehicle’s registration plate was taken. Later that day, a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and possession of an offensive weapon. He was bailed until Monday, October 31.

A spokesman for CST, the Jewish security organisation, said: “This was unfortunately a very ugly incident and we are glad that the police response has been so speedy and correct.” Sgt Steve Wightman-Love, of GMP’s Prestwich Police Team , said: “This incident remains under investigation and officers in the case are continuing to make enquiries. “However, I wish to remind everyone that we take all reports of hate crime extremely seriously. “This particular incident was reported to GMP at one of our local drop-in mobile policing units, which are a useful way for people to conveniently report crime to us in the community. “I would encourage any victims of, or witnesses to, hate crime to use their local policing unit to inform our officers of the incident so that we can work to achieve a positive outcome. Alternatively, you can report hate crimes by calling 101 or 999 in the case of an emergency.”
© The Manchester Evening News.


UK: Spitting and assault can turn into 'unspeakable horrors', hate crime expert warns

Assault, spitting and verbal abuse can escalate into “unspeakable horrors” of hate if not challenged, experts have warned.

7/10/2016- Kids from secondary schools in Glasgow are to be given a talk by forensic expert Robert McNeil MBE of the Remembering Srebrenica (Scotland) charity as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week. During the event, the second to take place in the city, Mr McNeil is to warn kids that “everyday hate crime” can escalate into something much worse if society does not stand up to it. He will explain that prejudice is the first step on the ladder, and atrocities such as the Srebrenica genocide show what can happen if hate crime is not challenged. Authorities in Glasgow have a zero tolerance approach to hate crime, and try to encourage victims to report any form of abuse. This could be prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. A network of more than 60 third party reporting centres, including housing associations, transport hubs, and local organisations, has been set up as safe places to encourage more victims to come forward.

Chief Superintendent Brian McInulty, Divisional Commander, Greater Glasgow police said: “Targeting someone because of who they are is unacceptable and can have devastating effects. Police Scotland encourages anyone who has been the victim of, or has witnessed, hate crime to report it either directly to police or at one of our third party reporting centres. Don’t stay silent about hate crime.” Councillor Fariha Thomas, who chairs Glasgow’s hate crime working group, is to open the event today. She said: “Only by speaking out about Hate Crime, can victim’s regain their confidence and self belief. By doing so, they can also help ensure it does not happen to others and show perpetrators that it has no place in Glasgow or elsewhere.”
© The Evening Times


UK: Cambridgeshire neo-Nazi rally allowed as 'charity' event

Hundreds of people attended a neo-Nazi rally that was not opposed by police in the belief it was a charity event.

6/10/2016- About 350 people attended the rally on the anniversary of the death of Ian Stuart Donaldson, who founded white supremacist group Blood and Honour. But Cambridgeshire Police said the force had been told the Haddenham gathering on 23 and 24 September was in aid of Help for Heroes. Mr Donaldson died in a car crash in Derbyshire in 1993, aged 36. Blood and Honour has been banned in a number of countries across Europe and in Russia. Matthew Collins, from the Hope not Hate campaign group, told the BBC the gathering was an annual Blood and Honour event following the death of Mr Donaldson and had moved around the UK because it had "struggled to find venues that will host them". He said there were a number of banning orders against the group in other countries due to imagery used at concerts and links to violent extremism. About three-quarters of those attending travelled from Europe to be at the event and this included people from countries that ban Blood and Honour. A witness to the event, who wished to remain anonymous, described seeing "a lot of cars, a big bonfire and a lot of music". "The one that I heard was a song about white power and this kept going on and on. It was very loud and distinctive."

'Private party'
East Cambridgeshire District Council said a temporary event notice was filed online for a "private party with music". It said, like all applications, it was passed to the police to see if they had any objections and, as none were raised, the event went ahead. Help For Heroes said the event was not registered with the charity, adding it was "strictly non-political" and it did not accept donations from extremist groups. Mr Collins said it was "disappointing" the event had been allowed but he was "aware of a number of occasions when the police appear to have been caught short about the activities of the extreme far right". Mark Gardner from Community Security Trust, which protects British Jews from anti-Semitism, said it looked "like somebody pulled the wool over the police's eyes". The BBC contacted Blood and Honour for comment.
© BBC News


Ukip leadership favourite rushed to hospital after fight with fellow MEP

The party's immigration spokesman was seen as the best candidate to move Ukip forward

6/10/2016- The favourite to take over as Ukip leader Steven Woolfe collapsed at the European Parliament today and was rushed to hospital with suspected bleeding on the brain, after an altercation at a meeting of his party's MEPs.  Sources reported that Mr Woolfe was punched in the face after exchanges at the gathering became heated, before stumbling and hitting his head. Interim leader Nigel Farage said the Ukip immigration spokesman was in a "serious condition" after the incident, but later said he had regained consciousness. The latest reports suggested he was talking. Mr Woolfe, Mr Farage and Ukip's other MEPs had attended the meeting at the parliament building in Strasbourg to discuss the party's leadership crisis. But the discussion became tense, with Ukip MEP Roger Helmer telling The Independent: "There were some lively words exchanged."

According to Sky News, Mr Woolfe was punched by a colleague before staggering and knocking his head on a bar. He was seemingly alright after the fight and went to vote. But later on Mr Woolfe was seen to collapse on one of the building's internal bridges. He reportedly told the person who rushed over to assist him that he had "lost the feeling down one side of his body". Ukip MEP Nathan Gill, who was at the hospital in Strasbourg, later told Politico reporter Tara Palmeri that Mr Woolfe was "conscious and recovering". It comes just one day after Mr Woolfe put himself forward to be the party’s next leader, following the shock resignation of Diane James.

As early reports of the incident emerged, Mr Farage released a statement which said: "I deeply regret that following an altercation that took place at a meeting of Ukip MEPs this morning, that Steven Woolfe subsequently collapsed and was taken to hospital. His condition is serious." A UKIP Spokesman said: “Steven Woolfe MEP was taken suddenly ill in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg this morning. “He has been taken to hospital in the city and he is undergoing tests.” Ms James said: "My thoughts are with [Steven Woolfe] and his wife and daughter at this anxious time and I wish Steven a speedy and full recovery." Ukip's MP Douglas Carswell said he was "shocked and appalled" to hear what had happened, adding that he was "thinking of him", while fellow Ukip politician Suzanne Evans posted that she was "wishing him well for a speedy recovery."

Only last night he won the backing of the influential Ukip donor Arron Banks, who said Mr Woolfe "is the one candidate who can do it" when it comes to replacing Mr Farage as leader. But reports emerged on Twitter just before noon today that he had been taken ill. He recently said he was tempted to defect to the Tories after Theresa May took over, before deciding that Ukip was the only party that could ensure Brexit. In a statement, he said: "Her support of new grammar schools, her words on social mobility and the growing evidence that she is committed to a clean Brexit prompted me, as it did many of my friends and colleagues, to wonder whether our future was within her new Conservative Party. "However, having watched the Prime Minister's speech on Sunday I came to the conclusion that only a strong Ukip can guarantee Brexit is delivered in full and only our party can stand up for the communities of the Midlands and the North."

Mr Woolfe was forced to pull out of the last leadership contest after handing in his nomination papers 17 minutes late. Ms James was eventually declared winner on September 16, only to quit 18 days later for "personal and professional" reasons, citing a lack of support among the party's MEPs and officials. Nigel Farage is the party’s interim leader and has said he expects a new chief to be appointed before the end of November.
© The Independent


UK: Five teenagers face no further action over possible hate crime death of Polish immigrant in Harlow

One teenager remains on bail in connection with the possible hate crime in Harlow, Essex

6/10/2016- Five teenagers arrested after Polish immigrant Arek JóŸwik was killed in a possible hate crime in Harlow, Essex, will face no further action due to a lack of evidence, police have said. A 15-year-old, however, remains on bail in connection with Mr JóŸwik’s death. The 40-year-old suffered head injuries after he was allegedly attacked and fell to the ground outside a row of takeaway shops in The Stow, Harlow, on August 27. He died in hospital two days later. Six teenagers, five aged 15 and one 16-year-old, all from Harlow, were arrested on suspicion of murder between August 28 and 29. Five have now been released without charge due to insufficient evidence.

Detective Inspector Danny Stoten, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "The investigation into Arek Jozwik's death is progressing and I am grateful to the Harlow community for their ongoing support. "Arek's family has been updated throughout the investigation. "We have carried out a huge amount of work into the investigation. So far we have taken over 150 witness statements, spoken to over 300 people during house-to-house and general inquiries, and seized over 100 hours of CCTV, which is subject to ongoing viewing. "In excess of 30 police officers and staff have been involved in the investigation and have committed over 1,200 additional hours."

Mr Jozwick’s death had been linked by some commentators to the outpouring of so-called post-referendum racism’ that followed the June vote.  Visiting Harlow in August Arkady Rzegocki, Poland’s ambassador to the UK, spoke of “much more” racism occurring since the referendum. The incident also contributed to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker using his annual state of the union address last month to condemn attacks on Polish people in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Some immigrants in Harlow told The Independent they had thought of leaving the town in the wake of Mr Jozwick’s death. Others, however, insisted that Harlow was not a “racist town” and questioned whether the incident was more closely linked to anti-social behaviour by bored residents. One British-born resident complained of “little scumbags looking for anyone to pick on”.

In September a small team of Polish police officers flew to Harlow to patrol the streets alongside British officers in an effort to reassure the public.
© The Independent


UK: The far-right isn't dead – it's gone mainstream

On the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, three people face charges of 'violent disorder' after disrupting the activities of immigration officers seizing a man from a shop on East Street in south east London.

5/10/2016- Eighty years ago today London’s East End stood up to fascists, taking on the British black shirts led by Oswald Mosley. The dramatic day of riots in defence of the community’s Irish and Jewish population would eventually become mythologised as the Battle of Cable Street. Since then, the area has become one of symbolic importance to both left and right. In 2013 I walked the same streets, now home to London’s largest Muslim community, protesting against the far right English Defence League. In a perverse way, those days seemed much simpler. On one side of a police line a small group of middle-aged white men in camouflage gear held St George flags; on the other a younger crowd, community groups and local people, protested their presence in the heart of their community. There were scuffles and arrests (on that day in 2013, more than 160 members of the opposition march were arrested), but after the chanting, flag or banner-waving the far right would load themselves onto their coaches – they had great event-management skills – and the opposition crowd would disperse.

Since then the far right has been on the decline. Back in 2009 the British National Party (BNP) held 50 council seats and the English Defence League (EDL) organised regular street demonstrations. In the 2010 general election the party had 338 canidates and 563,743 votes. Come 2015 the party had eight candidates and 1,667 votes. The far right has been pushed to the fringes. It is no longer a visible presence in our society. Yet, rather than finding its political expression on the streets, nationalist sentiment is emerging through the ballot box. Where once calls for the protection of the British way of life were consigned to furtive meetings in the back rooms of pubs, it became the clarion call of the Conservative party – and long before Brexit mania took hold.

In her latest remarks ahead of her speech to the Conservative party conference, Theresa May stated that controlling immigration would be the key basis for Britain’s departure from the EU. “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again,” the Prime Minister said. Indeed, during her tenure as Home Secretary May launched a campaign “to create a hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. While she may have missed her own immigration targets, it has not been for lack of trying. Over the past five years there has been an 80 per cent increase in immigration raids. On the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, three people face charges of “violent disorder” after disrupting the activities of immigration officers seizing a man from a shop on East Street in south east London. The Anti-Raids Network, a London-based activist group, had been alerted to UK Border Agency vans and sent out alerts via social media and SMS messages. Rising to the defence of someone in their own community who risked detention and deportation, residents gathered to protest against his removal.

Riot police arrived, police dogs barked against the crowd, and residents fell to the floor. All for nothing: the shop worker who was seized was later deported from the UK. It’s little wonder that the atmosphere became charged so quickly. This was the fifth raid on the street that week. This is where we find our own modern day versions of the Battle of Cable Street. Not protesting against far-right groups and anti-fascists stalking their old hunting grounds in the East End. But by standing up to the UK Border Force and the communities they seek to break up.
© The Independent


UK: Sheffield thug jailed after clashes in Dove

A Sheffield thug who travelled 250 miles to throw objects at opposition groups has been jailed for nearly three years.

4/10/2016- Lee Robinson, aged 24, of Tipton Street, Wincobank, was involved in violent clashes between members of far-right groups such as the English Defence League and left-wing anti-fascist demonstrators in Dover back in January. The port town descended into chaos as violence broke out as a counter-protest was held at the same time. Canterbury Crown Court heard Robinson was filmed acting in an 'aggressive manner' at various points throughout the day, including pushing against the police cordon and throwing objects at opposition protesters. But the court heard Robinson returned to the Kent port town only three months later with the aim to take part in similar clashes. The defendant's photograph was circulated to other police forces for identification but he was arrested after returning to Dover for another planned protest on Saturday, April 2. Extra police officers had been provided to prevent a repeat of violent clashes in January, which saw bricks and smoke bombs thrown between the opposing groups.

Investigating officer PC Peter Frampton said: “By returning to the scene of his crimes, Lee Robinson clearly thought he had got away with the disgraceful behaviour he displayed last January. “Like more than 70 others arrested since that day, he appeared far more interested in causing trouble and getting into fights than carrying out any type of peaceful protest. “The courts are coming down hard on offenders like Robinson, and I hope this sends a clear message to anyone planning on attending demonstrations in Kent that you risk receiving a lengthy prison sentence if you are unable to behave in a responsible manner.” Robinson pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison.
© The Star


UK: Racial elements in hate crime cases being 'filtered out'

Council of Europe anti-racism experts say half of reported hate crime is not prosecuted and judges underuse heavier sentences

4/10/2016- Police, prosecutors and the courts in Britain are “filtering out” racial elements in hate crime cases, half of reported hate crime is not prosecuted and judges are underusing heavier sentences for hate crime, say Council of Europe anti-racism experts. The European commission against racism and intolerance (ECRI) says racial aspects of hate crime cases are often being filtered out through a combination of an unwillingness to recognise racist motivation, reclassifying racist attacks as disputes or other forms of hostility, and an over-strict interpretation of the legal provisions on racist motivation. The report of experts from 47 European countries, published on Tuesday, also says that about half the hate crime recorded by British police – including on social media – goes unpunished because no suspects are identified.

The fifth Council of Europe report on racism in the UK highlights concerns over the “considerable intolerant element” in the public political debate in Britain, particularly on immigration. The experts say that hate speech continues to be a serious problem in tabloid newspapers, and online hate speech against Muslim people has soared since 2013. They say this is particularly evident in the targeting of Muslim women online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said the Ecri chair, Christian Ahlund. “The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.”

Police hate crime figures showed there was a sustained surge in reported hate crime incidents, with a first spike immediately after the 23 June referendum and a second spike at the end of July. Reported hate crime incidents continued to 15-20% higher than the previous 12 months until early September, when weekly figures were no longer released. The Ecri report says Home Office figures show police recorded 52,528 hate-motivated criminal offences in 2014/15, including hate speech and violence covering religious, race and sexual orientation hate crimes. But the Crown Prosecution Service said that 49% of all recorded offences went unprosecuted because no suspect had been identified and the case was closed. “This means a very large amount of hate crime goes unpunished,” says the report.

The anti-racism experts say that heavier “enhanced” sentences are one of the clearest indicators that the police, crown prosecutors and courts have all recognised the hate motivation in a case but say no data is available to show how often they are imposed. This has given rise to speculation that the provision in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act for enhanced sentences is underused. The report also highlights concerns that the process of accepting guilty pleas sometimes leads to the “aggravating” race or religious crime element being dropped. The CPS told the commission that it is not policy to accept pleas to lesser offences or to minimise admissible evidence of racial or religious aggravation for the sake of expediency, but guilty pleas can benefit victims and witnesses who then do not have to attend court to give evidence and can substantially reduce costs.

“However, in light of the considerable evidence that hate crime is more traumatising to victims that other types of crime, the failure to acknowledge the hate motivation is emotionally damaging to victims as it does not recognise the specific harm suffered by them,” says the report. The experts say that the CPS has already taken steps in response to community concerns to reinforce its policy to ensure that the racial aggravation element is not dropped in hate crime cases. But they recommend that data should be recorded when “enhanced sentences” are imposed, including on the criminal record of the offender. Steps also need to be taken to close the 50% gap between hate crime recorded by the police and cases referred for prosecution. The report also praises progress in Britain, including the development by the government and police of a hate crime action plan and a new policy to improve opportunities for black and minority ethnic communities and substantial efforts to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
© The Guardian.


UK: Boy, 6, forced out of school by race hate kids who battered and spat on him

Kaiden Jack, 6, was called a "black b******" by the young thugs, aged
 six and 10.

3/10/2016- Two schoolboys were reprimanded by police for racially abusing a six-year-old pupil. The young thugs, aged
 six and 10, called Kaiden
 Jack a “black b******”. Kaiden’s mum Jennifer said her son was also spat on and beaten up by older boys. He has now moved school to escape the bullies. She added: “It breaks my heart to have my beautiful 
boy coming home asking
 what’s wrong with him and what’s wrong with the colour of his skin. “It is totally disgusting. 
No one should have to suffer like that.” Teachers at Deerpark Primary in Sauchie,
 Clackmannanshire, called in police about the racist
 name-calling. The culprits were
 interviewed by police and are understood to have admitted abusing Kaiden.

Officers warned them about their behaviour. It’s believed the boys were told they face being hauled before the Children’s Reporter if it happens again. Jennifer, 31, claims the mum of one boy contacted her and apologised, saying she was extremely embarrassed. She added: “But when I went to the door of one of Kaiden’s other abusers, the parents weren’t interested and said they didn’t care about what was going on. “The police are treating this very seriously as a hate crime.” Jennifer said there were several assaults on Kaiden before the school alerted her. She claimed staff told
 her they had dealt with the abuse themselves until the name-calling incident last month.

Jennifer, an administrator, said: “Kids will be kids, but this sort of behaviour is extremely unacceptable. “Teachers only called the police after the boys were caught calling him a ‘black b******’ in school. “But there had been other incidents before that, including one time when three older boys set about him right outside the school. “When I first spoke to the school, they said the matter had been dealt with internally, but then it happened again.” Jennifer said Kaiden, who turned seven at the weekend, was attacked outside the school one Saturday when she was visiting a friend nearby.
© The Daily Record


Germany: Neo-Nazi cell 'spied on Berlin synagogue to plot attack'

Statements from a police officer in 2000 reveal that the NSU terrorist group may also have been active in Berlin, and appeared to be scouting out a major synagogue to attack.

7/10/2016- A lawyer told the court in an ongoing case against the last surviving member of a murderous neo-Nazi cell that a police officer saw its members scouting out Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin, Germany’s largest synagogue, according to Tagesspiegel. The prosecutor, Yavuz Narin, was relying on a report that the officer made to the Berlin Office of Criminal Investigations. In 2000, the police officer was guarding the synagogue when he saw the now deceased National Socialist Underground (NSU) member Uwe Mundlos at a cafe nearby, along with Beate Zschäpe, who is currently on trial for the ten murders committed by her three-person cell. The two were joined by another man and a woman with two children, according to Narin. And the group was together looking at a city map. Later the police officer saw Zschäpe and Mundlos again by the synagogue.

Narin explained that it appeared Zschäpe and Mundlos were scoping out the synagogue for a possible attack. Later in the evening after the officer spotted the NSU members, he was watching television and saw their pictures shown, listed as criminals. He then called the criminal office in Thuringia, the state where the group originally formed. The next day, he was questioned by and gave statements to the Berlin criminal office. There he again identified Zschäpe and Mundlos in photos. Narin has now requested that the officer be brought in as a witness in the case. Mundlos and the third member Uwe Böhnhardt are believed to have carried out the murders, and were found dead in an apparent double suicide following a failed bank robbery attempt in 2011. Zschäpe turned herself in days later.

The NSU is accused of carrying out a series of ten murders between 2000 and 2007 against mostly victims with immigrant backgrounds - eight ethnic Turks, one Greek and one German policewoman. Zschäpe has stated that she had no knowledge of the murders before they were committed, claiming that the other two members only told her after the fact. The murders were committed around Germany, from Rostock in the north down to Munich, but none in Berlin. The group is also implicated in two bombings in Cologne as well as numerous bank robberies. Breaking her three years of silence during the trial, Zschäpe admitted in court last week that she had once identified “completely with aspects of nationalistic thought,” but she was no longer this way. “Today I do not judge people based on their ethnic background or their political views but on how they act,” she said.

She apologized to the victims of the NSU and their relatives, referring to a statement she had made through her lawyer in December 2015. The NSU case has also raised questions about the competence of German authorities: it took years for police to connect the murders to one another, or to right-wing extremism.
© The Local - Germany


Germany: Scared Syrian refugees stuck in east Germany mull leaving

Refugees who have been placed in the eastern state of Saxony are regularly the victims of racist attacks. Some can't take the intimidation any more.

7/10/2016- One had a beer bottle flung at him on a train. Another was woken at midnight as three men holding wooden slats rang his doorbell. A third had her headscarf pulled off by a stranger in the street. A year after they arrived in Germany seeking refuge from war, some Syrians say they have experienced so much animosity that they are contemplating leaving. The trouble is, they have landed in the eastern state of Saxony - a flashpoint zone home to the Islamophobic Pegida movement that has seen a spate of racist hate crimes. "It's too scary here," said Fares Kassas, victim of the train aggression. "The man threw the bottle just as the door was closing and the train left the station. There was nothing I could do," said Kassas, who has obtained refugee status in Germany but is now contemplating leaving for Turkey, where his parents are living.

Mohammad Alkhodari, who spoke of a car that pulled up next to him with men preparing to beat him before he ran away, said he avoids going out after 6:00 pm. "I am so stressed that I have developed a stomach problem," he said. In Saxony, the number of far-right crimes, including assaults against asylum seekers and arson at refugee homes, tripled to 784 last year compared with 235 in 2014. Both Kassas and Alkhodari are in the town of Freital, scene of anti-migrant demonstrations a year ago. The area is linked to two neo-Nazi groups that plotted attacks against refugees but were dismantled by security forces last year. In a report last month taking stock of the quarter century since reunification, the government warned that growing xenophobia and right-wing extremism now threaten peace in eastern Germany. "Eastern states are bad states for refugees. It's hard to find apartments. There are no jobs and no contact with locals," said Alkhodari, a dental hygienist who desperately wants to move to western Germany.

'New level of hate'
The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has deeply polarised Germany, and misgivings against the newcomers run particularly deep in eastern states like Saxony. The former communist state has become fertile ground for the far right, with unemployment fuelling resentment and xenophobia. "They should all just disappear," said a man in his fifties, when asked what he thought of the refugees in Saxony. Enrico Schwarz, who runs an association in Freital that has been helping Kassas and Alkhodari, said "latent racism and latent right-wing radicalism" has always existed in German society, but "at this time of the refugee movement, they have become bolder." He said eastern Germans were more susceptible to xenophobia because many felt like migrants in a new country when Germany reunited. "And [they feel] threatened by other migrants who are arriving now," he said.
Right-wing extremists are capitalising on fears with arguments such as "they're taking jobs away, or they'll drive health insurance contributions up", and lines are gradually blurring between those who are stirring up hate, and others who are simply worried about their future. "Who is the 'concerned citizen', and who is the violent citizen? Who is the extremist citizen and who is the one who only has fears? It's no longer so clear," Schwarz said. Erdmute Gustke, pastor at a church in Heidenau - another Saxony village hit by violent anti-refugee demonstrations - said some saw the migrant influx as another unwanted change affecting their lives. "There is a feeling of 'leave us in peace, we've only just found our way after reunification and now we're facing something new again,'" she said. Social media has also lifted the expression of hatred for foreigners to a "new level", said refugee aid volunteer Marc Lalonde. "Before this social media explosion, people were probably racist but they kept it to themselves," he said. Now they see that "they are not alone."

'No one to talk to'
Lalonde helps out weekly at a small village that few had heard of before February. But Clausnitz gained notoriety after a bus carrying refugees was mobbed by a marauding crowd. "They shouted things like 'we will kill you'. They were drunk. We were so scared," said Afghan asylum seeker Sadia Azizi. Six months on, two dozen refugees still living there complain of isolation as most locals have kept a distance and only German is spoken. "There is no one to talk to," said Lebanese asylum seeker Majdi Khatun. Some however have made an effort to reach out. Khatun's son Luai, 15, spoke of schoolmates who help with homework or lend him notes to copy when the teacher's German is too rapid for him. "There are no Nazis here," Luai said before greeting an elderly German couple. "Did you like the marmalade? I've also packed some cake for you," said the woman who called herself "Luai's Deutsche Oma", or German grandma. Lalonde admitted that it is "discouraging" that these efforts are often overshadowed by xenophobia. "But I get motivated when I hear about a new attack because it means we have more work to do," he said. "And we can't give up."


Germany: Far-right AfD loses support for first time in months

Several polls show that the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party are losing the support of voters for the first time since July.

5/10/2016- A poll carried out by Forsa and published by Stern magazine on Wednesday showed that if federal elections were to be held on Sunday, 13 percent of Germans would vote for the AfD. That was a one percent loss since a Forsa poll carried out last week. “The refugee debate has taken a backseat in public discourse,” Forsa director Manfred Güllner said. “The AfD isn’t growing anymore.” The result supports the conclusion of other recent polling that the AfD's popularity is currently waning. An Insa poll for Bild showed a drop of half a point to 15 percent, while an Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag showed a drop to 12 percent from 14 percent. The results come after months of growth and some stunning state election results for the AfD.

On September 23rd a survey by public broadcaster ARD had put the far-right party on 16 percent approval, a record high. Nonetheless, the most recent polling did not show an increase in support for the traditional ruling parties, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In the Forsa poll, the SPD even dropped a point to 22 percent, while the CDU stayed stable at 33 percent. Slight gains were made in both polls by the Greens and Die Linke (the Left Party), although both still trail the AfD. The AfD, founded in 2013 as a protest party against the Euro, has steadily moved further to the right, capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment stirred up by the arrival of close to 900,000 refugees in Germany last year.

In all five state parliament elections held in Germany this year, the party has gained double digit scores, recording its biggest victory in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt at 24 percent in March. After gaining 14 percent in Berlin’s state election in July, the party’s deputy leader claimed they were on course to become the third largest party in the country in federal elections next year.
© The Local - Germany


German justice minister: AfD uses hate speech online

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said that the AfD party exploits online radicalization for political gain. He also called on social networks to take it upon themselves to more seriously police online hate speech.

5/10/2016- In an interview with the German newspaper "Handelsblatt" on Wednesday, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party "takes advantage of radicalization online and elsewhere for its political purposes." "Catering to xenophobic sentiment is part of the AfD's approach," Maas told the paper when asked if social media played a role in the AfD benefitting from the ongoing debate surrounding the refugee crisis in Germany. In the interview, which focused on the broader issue of how social networks such as Facebook and Twitter should deal with online hate speech in Germany, Maas went on to say that the AfD posts xenophobic statements online only to walk them back later. By the time the party starts qualifying its comments, "the oil has already been added to the fire," Maas said. To counteract this effect, Maas said, ignoring the AfD would not do the job. Instead, he called for more direct tactics to factually counteract the AfD's message. Maas is a member of the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition.

Fighting with facts
With regard to broader policies, such as Germany's stance on refugees, Maas said it was a mistake to only search for party and parliamentary consensus without considering how the reasoning and facts behind a decision will reach the public. "We need to do a better job of explaining the facts," Maas said, "because there's a lot of stuff being said online that simply isn't true. I admit it's challenging to argue against firmly held prejudices, but we don't have a choice." Maas has been a vocal campaigner in recent months, calling on social media giants to censor user comments they deem inappropriate. The justice department had previously formed a task force with Facebook, Twitter, and Google to address online hate crime, and Maas said they had recently taken a look at the impact. He said that when an online watchdog, such as Germany's (Jugendschutz translates as youth protection) reports a hateful post online, the comment is deleted relatively quickly. But if a normal user reports hate speech, only one percent of Tweets and 46 percent of Facebook posts are deleted. "That is of course too little," Maas said.

Voluntary compliance vs. regulation
Maas said online platforms needed to take their customers more seriously. He also warned that Germany would take action if the task force's findings - slated for next year - show companies are not fulfilling their obligations. Creating laws that forced companies such as Facebook and Twitter to be more transparent when it came to online hate speech was an option, Maas said, but he added that the companies had the opportunity to take the initiative themselves now. "It is in no company's interest that its platform is abused to commit crimes," Maas said at the end of the interview.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Germany: Office of anti-migrant politician trashed

Unknown assailants have attacked the office of a German MP who recently caused controversy for using a Nazi phrase to criticize immigration. Bettina Kudla's Leipzig office was also attacked in August.

4/10/2016- The office of a controversial anti-immigration politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party was vandalized overnight, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said on Tuesday. The unknown attackers smeared the outside of the office with a black substance, smashed in four windows and trashed the inside of Bettina Kudla's office in Leipzig, police said. Kudla recently used the word "Umvolkung," meaning "ethnicity inversion" in a tweet about immigration. The world was originally used by the Nazis to refer to the forced ethnic change of a population by immigration or compulsory transfer in Eastern Europe. It was also used to refer to the Germanization or re-Germanization of eastern occupied areas in World War Two. The term has recently been used by the right-wing to criticize Germany's intake of migrants and refugees. "The ethnicity inversion of Germany began long ago. It's time for action!" Kudla wrote in the tweet criticizing Germany's immigration policy. CDU politicians and others condemned the tweet.

Left-wing violence
"MDR Sachsen" news reported that as early as Sunday a post published on left-wing, anti-fascist website "linksunten.indymedia" claimed responsibility for the attack on Kudla's office. According to the claim of responsibility, as a member of parliament Kudla was responsible for the hardening of asylum policies and the worsening of basic unemployment insurance. She was also the only member of parliament to vote against the Armenian genocide resolution earlier this year "in order to not put in danger the dirty refugee deal between the EU and Turkey," the claim said. Kudla's office was also attacked in August. A claim for that attack was also posted on "linksunten.indymedia." The vandalism comes after a series of attacks on offices, vehicles and election posters of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, support for which has risen to double-digits. The influx of migrants in Germany has led to an increase xenophobic right-wing attacks on migrants and refugees, but there has also been increased concern over left-wing violence against the right-wing. According to government statistics, there were more than 800 attacks directed at public servants, including local politicians, since the start of the year. Most were committed by right-wing extremists.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Germany: 'Get out' jeering crowds tell Merkel in Dresden

Angela Merkel was jeered and whistled as she arrived at German Reunification Day celebrations in Dresden on Monday.

3/10/2016- Shouts of "get out" were heard as the German chancellor arrived in Dresden – birthplace of xenophobic movement Pegida – for celebrations. The angry crowd in the east German city also waved signs saying "Merkel must go". The German leader has been under pressure at home over her liberal refugee policy that saw an influx of nearly one million migrants last year. Dresden is hosting national celebrations to mark 26 years since the reunification of East and West Germany, with the chancellor and President Joachim Gauck in attendance. Supporters of Pegida, the anti-immigrant, xenophobic group that began in Dresden, also gave Gauck a hostile greeting upon his arrival for the events. The group initially drew just a few hundred supporters to demonstrations before gaining strength, peaking with rallies of up to 25,000 people in early 2015.

Though Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) took a drubbing in recent regional polls, she insisted on the sidelines of Monday's celebrations that "mutual respect" and "acceptance of very divergent political opinions" are needed to meet the challenges facing Germany. The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) harnessed a wave of anger over the refugee influx to claim around 14 percent of the vote last month the Berlin state vote. Its success has mirrored the march of anti-migrant parties in France, Austria and the Netherlands as well as Republican maverick Donald Trump in the United States. Bomb attacks hit a mosque and an international convention centre in Dresden last week, with police suspecting xenophobic and nationalist motives.

Saxony, of which Dresden is the state capital, saw far-right hate crimes targeting shelters for asylum seekers rise to 106 in 2015, with another 50 recorded in the first half of this year. In an annual report outlining progress since reunification, the government warned last week that growing xenophobia and right-wing extremism could threaten peace in eastern Germany.
© The Local - Germany


Germany: Three police cars torched in Dresden during German Unity Festival

Police have said the incident is the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks in the city. Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are scheduled to attend the Dresden festival on Monday.

2/10/2016- Three police vehicles were torched in Dresden on Saturday night, as the city began its German Unity Festival in celebration of the 26th anniversary of German reunification. Dresden police said the vehicles were so badly damaged that they can no longer be used. Damages are estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Police have yet to find the perpetrator, but are questioning one man initially taken into custody on suspicion of writing hateful graffiti. Police apprehended the man near the spot where "Dresden hates the police" had been sprayed. They said they are investigating whether there is a connection between the graffiti and the torched vehicles, with the incidents happening around 2.5 kilometers away from each other.

A 'politically motivated' act
Police said that they assume the perpetrator was politically motivated and was likely responding to Dresden's three-day festival celebrating German reunification, which has seen an increased police presence in the city. On Friday, Dresden Police President Horst Kretschmar announced that 2,600 police officers would be safeguarding around 750,000 visitors expected to attend the German Unity Day festivities. The announcement coincided with former German Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse saying Germans needed to acknowledge that the threat of far-right fanatical violence was "four to five times higher" in east Germany than in the west.

Dresden has been a hot spot for extremist far-right violence in recent years. The nationalist, anti-Islam movement PEGIDA was founded in Dresden in 2014 and has drawn as many as 20,000 people to its protest rallies. Last Monday evening, two bombs detonated within half an hour of each other in front of a mosque and a congress center. Nobody was injured. Dresden security and police officers will be on increased alert on Monday when Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck travel to the city for the festival's official ceremony.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Troubled Dresden hopes for peaceful Day of German Unity

Anxiety is rife in the capital of the state of Saxony. Worries and all, Dresden is expecting several hundred thousand visitors for Day of German Unity celebrations.

2/10/2016- Two of Dresden's most attractive buildings will take Germany's center stage on Monday, when the nation celebrates the 26th anniversary of its peaceful reunification. An ecumenical service is being held in the Frauenkirche, the city's symbolic landmark, which was rebuilt with the support of various citizens' initiatives after being destroyed in an Allied firebombing during World War II. And the main ceremony will be held in the world-famous Semperoper. German President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert top the guest list. According to tradition, all 16 federal states are showcasing themselves on the Day of German Unity. Given the lavish program of cultural events and the noted excellence of Saxon cuisine, Dresden can be sure that visitors will get their money's worth. Dresden is expecting several hundred thousand visitors for the Day of German Unity celebrations. Hotel bookings are looking good, though there have reportedly been a few isolated cancellations. Mayor Dirk Hilbert has called on locals and visitors to celebrate and have fun. Otherwise, he fears, the "agitators and rabble-rousers" will feel emboldened.

Massive anti-migrant protests
Dresden has acquired a bad image throughout Germany and internationally because of its weekly xenophobic marches. A group calling itself Patriotic Europeans Against the "Islamization" of the West has mobilized there every Monday for almost two years now. Sometimes the protests have numbered thousands of people. The group intends to march this week, too, and, like every Monday, on the Day of German Unity. Last Monday's bomb attacks in Dresden made clear just how explosive the situation has become. The targets were a mosque and the convention center. The perpetrators and their motives are still unknown, but xenophobia has not been ruled out. More than 2,000 police will be on duty to provide security. Concrete blocks have been placed around the extensive festival grounds in the center of Dresden to ward off the possibility of attackers using vehicles to break through. The organizers have taken France's Bastille Day attack in Nice as a warning.

The xenophobia that has repeatedly been displayed in Saxony was a topic of discussion in the Bundestag on Friday, when parliamentarians commented on the recent annual report on the state of German unity. Iris Gleicke, the federal commissioner for eastern German Affairs, said far-right extremism, racism and xenophobia were, of course, phenomena that affect the entire nation. However, she said, far more right-motivated crimes were taking place in eastern Germany per capita. "Are we supposed to act as if this finding did not exist?" the Social Democrat asked.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the parliamentary chairwoman of the opposition Greens, expressed horror at recent events in Dresden, particularly in light of the Day of German Unity. She said that what could have been a celebration of the unification of an open, free and tolerant Germany would be overshadowed by the bomb attacks. "If we're serious about German unity, the key issues are coexistence and maintaining solidarity in our country," Göring-Eckardt said. She added that it was also a question of standing alongside those who had recently arrived in Germany to take action against xenophobes and make clear that "this is our country, this is our democracy, and we will defend it."
© The Deutsche Welle*


Germany: 3-D Auschwitz model to help in last Nazi trials

The Bavarian Criminal Police Agency has developed a virtual model of the Auschwitz death camp to help reconstruct past events there. The model could help determine whether accounts given by accused are true or not.

2/10/2016- The Criminal Police Agency (LKA) in the southern German state of Bavaria has developed a detailed virtual 3-D model of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. The model is designed to aid prosecutors in judging the veracity of the accounts given by witnesses and those accused of events from several decades ago. Prosecutors equipped with a headset can use the model to determine, for example, what a guard could have seen from a watch tower and what not, or whether trees might have blocked the view of a criminal act. "Formerly, people often said that they had been on duty in Auschwitz, but did not know what was happening," said Jens Rommel, director of the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. "Legally speaking, what is important is intent: Did a suspect have to know that people were taken into gas chambers or shot dead? In this regard, the model is a very good, very modern help in investigations," he added.

Down to the smallest detail
The virtual reality model was developed by an LKA expert on image processing, Ralf Breker, who used material from the Surveyors' Office in Warsaw and more than 1,000 photos. He also traveled to Auschwitz in 2013 to collect further data. "We were able to reconstruct every building thanks to very exact plans," Breker said, adding that it was, to his knowledge, the most detailed plan of the death camp in the world. "We use the most modern virtual reality glasses on the market. When I zoom in, I can see the smallest details," he said. Germany is currently holding what are likely to be the last trials of people suspected of involvement in war crimes committed at the camp in what was then occupied Poland. More than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, died there at the hands of the Nazis during World War Two.

Danger of misuse
Breker said that after the final investigations had been concluded, the model could theoretically be handed over to Holocaust memorial sites such as Yad Vashem in Israel or Auschwitz itself, but that there were no concrete plans. "We have to be very careful, of course; we are afraid the data could be stolen and misused," in computer games, for example, he said. Breker also predicted that such models could soon become an established feature in criminal investigations worldwide. The Munich LKA is already using one for new investigations into a far-right attack at the Oktoberfest in 1980, in which 13 people died.
© The Deutsche Welle*


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