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Headlines 25 April, 2014

Headlines 18 April, 2014

Headlines 11 April, 2014

INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY 2014

Headlines 4 April, 2014

Headlines 25 April, 2014

France's Le Pen Attacks UK Euroskeptic over Anti-Semitism Snub

French National Front party head Marine Le Pen expresses surprise after UK Independence Party leader snubs her over anti-Semitism.

22/4/2014- French far-right leader Marine Le Pen accused Nigel Farage of double standards Tuesday over the British eurosceptic leader's refusal to ally with her National Front (FN) party in the European Parliament. Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), ruled out an alliance with the FN last week, saying the French party was too tainted by anti-Semitism - a reference to the convictions for hate-speech and Holocaust denial of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the current leader's father. Marine Le Pen has worked hard to rid the FN of that image and she said Tuesday she was bemused by Farage's decision that any UKIP MPs elected to the European Parliament next month would ally instead with another anti-EU French group, Debout la Republique (Stand Up The Republic), led by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. "I have tried very hard to understand what has pushed him (Farage) into these completely new statements, because, in the past, he was rather courteous towards us," Le Pen said.  

"Dupont-Aignan, I would remind you, has just welcomed into his group Gilles Bourdouleix, whose one claim to fame is having said that Hitler did not kill enough gypsies," she added. Bourdouleix is currently awaiting judgement after being prosecuted for a remark along those lines which he made in July 2013. Prosecutors have requested a fine of up to 5,000 euros. Both Le Pen and Farage's parties are riding high in the polls heading into the European election campaign. Latest opinion polls put the FN neck and neck with the mainstream centre-right opposition, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, in the battle to emerge from the vote as the best-supported party in France. Le Pen recently hit headlines after she stated that her party would not allow non-pork options to be offered at schools in regions under their control, in a move seen as targeting the country's Muslim and Jewish communities.
© AFP

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Will Straw defends 'black-face' Britannia Coconut Dancers (UK)

22/4/2014- Labour Parliamentary candidate Will Straw has defended a photo he shared online which shows him with a pair of Morris dancers with their faces painted black, after their makeup was called racist. But anti-racism campaigners maintain that so-called "blacking-up" is "out of date" and "unacceptable in modern day Britain," after Twitter users rallied against the photo. The 32-year-old Labour candidate for the marginal seat of Rossendale and Darwen, and son of former Home Secretary Jack Straw, was pictured with the Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup, Lancashire, on 19 April after their annual Easter Saturday Beating the Bounds performance. During the ritual, which celebrates the arrival of spring, the 150-year-old troupe dances for ten hours from one side of the town to the other, dressed in black face paint, turbans, kilts, clogs, and with coconuts tied to their hands and knees.

While the origin of the costumes are not certain, the group has said that they reflect North African Moorish pirates who settled in England, as well as the area's mining traditions, according to The Telegraph. The Coconutter's makeup has been criticised for its similarities to that worn in racist Black and White Ministrel shows, in which white performers paint their faces black to parody black culture, according to the newspaper. Minutes after Mr Straw posted his tweet, users of the social media website had accused the photo of depicting racism. ""re you standing there with some people in Blackface??! WTF?" said one user, Alana Lentin. "You do realise that this picture is pretty offensive don't you?" said another called Lisa Maynard-Atem. "If the tradition comes from emulating 'Moorish' people, then it is to do with race - it is blackface,"Suzanne Williams replied to Mr Straw's tweet.

However, Mr Straw has accused those who are offended of the practice as being ignorant of history. "Accusers [should] mug up on their history before making false accusations," he wrote on the Telegraph website. "The dance, which marks the return of spring, is believed to trace its roots to Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall and became employed in local mining. "As more mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries, a few Cornishmen are said to have headed to the area, taking with them mining expertise and the costume of red and white kilts, breeches, bonnets and blackened faces," he added. But anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card has suggested that the makeup being a part of history is irrelevant. A spokesman from the charity told The Independent: "The use of blackface is an out of date practice which is rarely seen these days demonstrating that public attitudes have long since moved on and that crude caricatures of black people are considered unacceptable in modern day Britain."
© The Independent

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Teachers are facing devastating levels of online anti-gay abuse from students (UK)

Britain’s largest teachers’ union says school children are using social media to bombard teachers with homophobic abuse.

22/4/2014- A growing number of children, some as young as four to seven-years-old, are targeting staff with offensive language and comments about their race, sexual orientation and appearance. In a survey of 7,500 members, NASUWT found that the problem is widespread, with 21% of teachers polled revealing that they had been the victim of abuse. A further 26% said that videos or photos of them had been uploaded online without their consent. According to the poll, at least 27% of abuse came from parents, 64% were sent by pupils and 9% were sent by both. The majority (58%) of teachers did not report abuse from pupils to their employer or police.

Nearly two thirds (64%) said that this was because they didn’t think anything could be done, 21% did not think it would be taken seriously, 9% were too embarrassed and 6% had previously reported incidents which had not been dealt with. Where teachers did report abuse to their headteacher, 40% said that no action was taken against pupils and 55% said no action was taken against parents. Where abuse was reported to the police, over three quarters (77%) said no action was taken against pupils and 76% said no action was taken against parents. The overwhelming majority of comments were posted on Facebook by secondary school pupils.

General Secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, said: “Technology has transformed the working and social lives of many teachers and enhanced the learning experiences of pupils. “However, it is clear that steps need to be taken to protect teachers from the abuse of social media by pupils and parents. “Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering. “Teachers are often traumatised by the attacks made on them through social media. “Some have lost their confidence to teach once they see foul and personal remarks made by pupils in their classes and have left the profession.”

Ms Keates said the government needed to do more in tackling the problem. “Great strides had been made by the previous government, working in partnership with the NASUWT and other teacher unions and social media providers, in seeking to address this problem.” She added: “Comprehensive guidance had been produced about social media and internet safety which promoted good practice for schools on how to protect staff, and indeed pupils, from abuse. “One of the Coalition Government’s first acts was to remove the guidance on the grounds that it was unnecessary bureaucracy. “Schools need policies which prevent abuse and identify sanctions which will be taken against parents and pupils who abuse staff in this way. “Schools should also be supporting staff in securing the removal of the offensive material from social media sites and encouraging the staff concerned to go to the police.”
© Pink News

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Adolf Hitler's birthday celebrated in Milan (Italy)

Supporters of Adolf Hitler in Milan emblazoned the city with posters of the German dictator over the weekend in honour of his 125th birthday.

22/4/2014- The posters were put up overnight on Saturday by members of the National Socialist Workers Movement, a neo-Nazi group that originated in the Lombardy town of Varese in 2002. In comments published in Il Messaggero, the group said the posters were a “simple gesture” to mark the birthday of “the greatest leader that Europe has known so far”. Hitler was born on April 20th 1889. “Every year, we feel it’s important to pay respect to a man who knew how to take a nation’s hand and guide it to rescue, until its tragic end.” Anti-semitic posters, featuring a stereotypical Jewish man holding a bunch of banknotes, also appeared across the city. Hitler supporters in Lombardy have gathered prominence in recent years, with some representatives being elected to local governments including Como and Novara. Neo-Nazi group Militia has also been responsible for a number of anti-Jewish attacks, including allegedly plotting to bomb the president of Rome’s Jewish Community, Riccardo Pacifici.
© The Local - Italy

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State Member PVV leaves party (Netherlands)

23/4/2014- Stephan Jansen, State Member for the PVV in South-Holland is leaving the party. The personal employee of party-leader Geert Wilders published a farewell letter in the Volkskrant. In the letter, he writes that the party will “never be taken seriously anymore” after the now-notorious anti-Moroccan expressions of Wilders. As a second reason for his departure, Jansen argues that the party is taking a leftist course: “With the departure of, among others, Joram van Klaveren it seems that the right wing of healthily-thinking conservatives definitely seems to have taken off within the PVV. The left side of the party will determine the policy further in the coming years. I presented myself to the PVV in 2006 due to the rightist noise of Klare Wijn and the Pland for a new Golden Age. Of this thinking, little to nothing is left.” The 31-year old State Member has been part of the PVV since 2006. In 2011 Jansen became State Member in South-Holland. Next to that, he was Wilders’ right-hand man. Jansen will continue as independent State Member, he writes, and will “strain myself to shine a rightist light on current issues.”

Jansen’s departure is one in a steady stream of PVV members who feel the party has veered into an ideology that they no longer want to be a part of. It is especially Wilders’ comments about “fewer Moroccans” on election night, the 19th of March, that has members fleeing. Members of Parliament Roland van Vliet and Joram van Klaveren left after those comments, as European Parliamentarian Laurence Stassen. State Members in Friesland and a municipal council member for the party in The Hague stepped down. Jansen and Van Klaveren also state that the party is taking a more leftist course now. Van Klaveren now works with MP Louis Bontes, who had stepped out of the PVV earlier. They are setting up a new right wing party.
© The NL Times

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De Hond defends Dutch poll as 43% say they want fewer Moroccans in NL

22/4/2014- Some 43% of the Dutch agree they would rather there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, according to an opinion poll by Maurice de Hond for the anti-immigration PVV. PVV leader Geert Wilders could be facing prosecution for leading his supporters in chanting 'fewer, fewer, fewer' when asked if they would like more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands after last month’s local elections. The Maurice the Hond result, based on a poll of 2,500 people, is in line with other surveys after the ‘fewer Moroccans’ incident. It also shows 48% of people don’t care about the number of Moroccans in the country.

Criticism
De Hond himself has responded to criticism of the poll by saying he carries out research for all political parties. A number of prominent people had sent Twitter messages to De Hond asking if he was also prepared to take on commissions asking if people would like to see fewer Jews or Catholics. De Hond said in his blog that he denounced all forms of discrimination and referred to his Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust but had been shocked by the anti-Semitism of Dutch people they thought they knew.

Visible
‘And it will not go way by not making research visible,’ he said. ‘I think my parents before the war would have rather known how the world actually was.’ A survey carried out by De Hond shortly after the ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ chant showed 72% thought Wilders’ behaviour was unacceptable, including 20% of PVV supporters.
© The Dutch News

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Syriza drops Roma candidate from European Parliament race (Greece)

A section of Thrace's Muslim minority was not happy with Suleiman's candidacy because of her attempts to differentiate the Roma community from the wider Turkish-speaking Muslim community in the region

22/4/2014- Following intense criticism within the party to her candidature, Syriza on Monday announced that it had removed the name of a Roma candidate from its list of candidates for the European Parliament elections next month. In a statement, Syriza provided no reason why it was withdrawing the candidature of Sabiha Suleiman, a well-known Roma activist in the northeastern region of Thrace. Syriza said that the decision not to run Suleiman was made at a meeting of the party's prefectural committee as well as local MPs, in the presence of the party's general secretary. It added that she was being replaced by Oumit Mestan Osman. A molecular biologist, Mestan Osman is a member of the region's Muslim minority, a section of which was not happy with Suleiman's candidacy because of her attempts to differentiate the Roma Muslim community from the wider Turkish-speaking Muslim community in the region.

An NGO set up by Suleiman in her village of Drosero encourages Roma children to attend Greek-speaking schools instead of the minority schools for Muslims where some classes are conducted through the medium of Turkish. As a result of her work, Suleiman told Skai FM on Monday that has been attacked by "people of Turkish origin" in the past. The region's Muslims are divided into ethnic Turks, Roma and Pomaks, who speak a Bulgarian dialect. Under the Lausanne treaty between Greece and Turkey, they are defined by their religion only, not ethnicity or language. Some commentators say that the local Turkish consulate in the region is seeking the Turkification of all the region's Muslims, while on the other hand there are those who say the government in Athens promotes the differentiation between them.
© Enet English

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Rise in racist activity seen on social networks (Germany)

In key respects, the advent of social networking sites has aided right-wing extremists. Platforms like Facebook can be used to spread racist propaganda, and such activity appears to be increasing in Germany and beyond.

21/4/2014- Facebook user Susanne W. has an appreciation for canines, evident in her profile photo and from the pages she has liked. She supports animal protection initiatives and is a fan of pages such as "Romania's dogs." Equally apparent, however, is her lack of support for asylum seekers in her home country, Germany. She is a member of several virtual "civil movements" that oppose refugee shelters and has written on some of their pages that money spent on such institutions would better be spent on animal shelters. Just a few years ago, it's likely that Susanne W. would have only expressed her opinions to close friends and acquaintances. But since becoming a member of social networking sites like Facebook, she's had ample opportunity to share her views with hundreds of like-minded strangers. One such platform is the Facebook page "Mut zur Demokratie" ("Daring to Uphold Democracy"), which has over 20,000 fans. Some of the most commented topics on it are "Misuse of the asylum system," "Foreign infiltration" and "Proud to be German."

Sharing xenophobia.
Hundreds of similar pages on the social network have been created in Germany. According to Felix M. Steiner, they are mostly set up and administered by members of the far-right scene. Steiner is one of the authors of Publikative.org - a blog that monitors right-wing extremism on the Internet and reports on issues such as racism in everyday life and in the media. In 2013, the site won the most user votes in the "Best Blog, German" category of The Bobs - DW's online activism awards. According to Steiner, extreme right-wing pages on social networking sites are there to "spread propaganda." They serve as "platforms through which asylum seekers and migrants are attacked in the most malicious way." And although the number of people who "like" such pages is far higher than the number of those who demonstrate in the street, Steiner said that the overall impression conveyed is one of large-scale support for such causes.

The trend of publishing right-wing material on social networking sites in Germany has been monitored for several years by Jugendschutz.net, a state-sponsored child protection service. Its latest annual report, published in mid-2013, indicates a strong increase of online right-wing activity, especially on pages popular with young users, such as Facebook and YouTube. According to Jugendschutz.net representatives, the typical way of disguising online hate speech is through "black humor." In Germany, satirical statements are protected to some degree by the constitution, so long as a case can be made that they do not attack the dignity of a group of people. On the other hand, in the US, where many of the largest social networking sites are hosted, the relevant laws are more lax. This is why, according to Christiane Schneider, head of the anti-political extremism department at Jugendschutz, it is sometimes difficult to convince the administrators of such sites to delete certain content.

A legal dilemma
Most social networks do have a function that allows users to report content they deem to be inappropriate, but very often the items in question remain online. One such incident involved a Twitter hashtag published in France in October 2012: #UnBonJuif (AGoodJew), which triggered a wave of anti-Semitic jokes and slogans. The hashtag was the third most tweeted subject in France on October 10, 2012. After a long legal battle between Twitter and the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) backed by anti-racism groups, Twitter revealed to prosecutors the identity of the person who posted the hashtag: Gregory P., who faced court in January 2014 on charges of incitement of the people - the first person ever to be charged in France for hate speech via Twitter. The #UnBonJuif hashtag has not disappeared, however. In fact, it has trended again recently. Many of the hashtag's users say it's a question of their right to humor and freedom of speech and deny any anti-Semitic or racist intentions.

Exposing racists online
In the US, the right to freedom of speech has a particularly high status. But one Twitter user has found his own way of bringing racists to justice. Logan Smith, a journalist and social media expert, set up the YesYoureRacist account on Twitter one and a half years ago. He uses it to retweet racist statements he comes across, especially when those responsible start sentences with "I'm not racist, but…" or mark their tweets with the hashtag #notracist. "I want to show how widespread racism is in everyday life in America, especially among young people - even though you'd assume that they are more tolerant," said Smith. His account has over 46,000 followers. A similar initiative was started on Twitter in Germany by a group of bloggers in September 2013, using the hashtag #schauhin (payattention).

"In Germany we only talk about racism when a murder happens or when a new study is published," said blogger Kübra Gümüsay. "We wanted to build up on the successful Outcry initiative against sexism in everyday life [started on Twitter in Germany in January 2013] in order to put a spotlight on a phenomenon that we're all familiar with." In the campaign's first weeks, many German users took part and contributed tweets. However, the hashtag has since then largely been hijacked by racists, and around 80 percent of the content is now driven by racism, according to Gümüsay. "It's not a defeat, though - it's a demonstration of how ugly the Internet can get," she added. Gümüsay says society too often views racism as if it were something far removed from everyday life. "But all these tweets show that it's right there among us," she said. "We, as a society, need to talk about racism in order to get better at combating it."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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More Jewish sites vandalized in Ukraine

22/4/2014- A Holocaust memorial and the grave of the brother of the late Lubavitcher rebbe were vandalized in Ukraine, amid a string of anti-Semitic attacks in the country. The Holocaust Memorial in Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula was spray painted in red with a hammer and sickle and the letters USSR, and with what appeared to be other pro-Russian graffiti according to the Sevastopolskaya Gazeta. The Sevastopol Jewish Welfare Center, Hesed Shahar, reported the vandalism to local police, according to Sevastopolskaya Gazeta. The memorial was erected in Sevastopol in 2003 at the site where 4,200 Jews were murdered by the Nazis on July 12, 1942.

The monument has been vandalized by neo-Nazis in the past. Also on Tuesday it was reported that, in Dnepropetrovsk, swastikas were sprayed on the tomb of Dov Ber Schneerson, brother of the late Lubavicher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson. Chabad emissary Rabbi Moshe Weber, who works in Dnepropetrovsk, said that the graffiti looked recent, according to Chabad Online. Since the revolution erupted in November, Ukraine, which has relatively low levels of anti-Semitic violence, has seen several serious attacks including a stabbing and the attempted torching of two synagogues, most recently last week in Nikolayev. The Ukrainian government and Russian government officials, as well as their supporters in Ukraine, have exchanged allegations of anti-Semitism.
© JTA News

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Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (OSCE)

21/4/2014- Over the holiday weekend the situation in the western and central Ukraine was calm. Tensions remained in the Donbas - the separatists continued the occupation of the building of the state security service (SBU) in Luhansk as well as several other administrative buildings in Donetsk Oblast. Due to the proximity to this region, the situation in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine remains tense. Both proponents of the unitary Ukraine and separatists declared that their implementation of the Geneva statement depends on the mutual, synchronized disarmament and vacation of buildings.

The situation in Kharkiv remained calm over the weekend. A meeting of anti-Maidan groups on Liberty Square was conducted peacefully. Police presence in the city centre had been notably enhanced, but forces kept a low profile with very few wearing riot gear. The monitors in Luhansk were approached on several occasions by spontaneous assembled groups, expressing their views. They challenged the position of the Government, and regarded the Geneva Statement as not being relevant to them or likely to be ineffective. In their assessment, a division of Ukraine or union with Russia would be the most likely way to achieve an acceptable quality of life. The team did not find any indications that the Geneva Statement was starting to be implemented in the Luhansk region. Occupants of the SBU building told the team that they would demobilize once the occupied buildings in Kiev were vacated.

The overall situation in Donetsk remained very tense. Occupation of state institutions was ongoing. The Deputy Chief Monitor of Special Monitoring Mission visited Donetsk and met with various local interlocutors. Activists manning the barricades expressed a friendly interest in the Geneva Statement.

In Sloviansk the entire town is under the control of armed groups. The security situation is assessed as deteriorating, and operating conditions for OSCE teams are marginal. The reported shooting incident of 20 April early morning is a worrying deterioration of the situation. Due to unpredictable security risks, it was not possible for the Special Monitoring Mission to reach the scene of the incident in the immediate aftermath of the incident on April 20. However, SMM aims to access the town on Monday April 21. On 19 April in the morning the monitors from the Kharkiv and Donetsk teams visited Sloviansk. Before reaching the town, they observed multiple checkpoints, each manned by dozens of individuals, most unarmed and unmasked. According to the head of the local branch of the Communist Party, a wish to live in a federal Ukraine was shared by many Sloviansk people. The interlocutor also indicated a significant rise in crime after the take-over of the town by the separatists. Before entering the occupied Town Administration, the monitors observed the heavily barricaded and fortified entrance hall, and the numerous armed and masked individuals present.

Reportedly, local authorities are conducting negotiations at a number of the occupied buildings, in particular in Mariupol and Horlivka. In Mariupol, reports indicate that two out of three groups have left the city hall.

In Makiivka, the city administration building is being “guarded” by some 20 men, but appears to be functioning. OSCE monitors succeeded in entering the building. The building was in good shape, clean and the offices were locked and sealed. Occupiers have been in control of the city administration as of 13 April. There are no barricades and a few persons are guarding the building. There are flags and symbols of the separatists. The city administration is apparently operational.

In Khartsyzk, occupiers are in control of the city administration building. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observed barricades. There were men in front of the building, some of whom were wearing uniforms.

On 19 April, at 11:00, the team spoke to the Commander of the Main Police Station in Horlivka (around 40 km north-east of Donetsk), representing the so-called People’s Militia of Donbas. In front of the building the Team observed a group of young men with police metal shields controlling access to the building. Some of them appeared to be as young as 15-16 years old. According to the commander, who was aware of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s role, the Police Station had about 50 volunteers (men and women) in the building, on the street and inside the barricades.

The general situation in the Dnepropetrovsk area remained calm and quiet at present. However, some tensions existed and the team monitored a checkpoint under construction, located at the junction to Vilne village on the E105 road to Kharkiv in front of the local administration building. It was manned by three regular district police officers and a civilian. The police officers were carrying automatic weapons; the civilian was unarmed. None of the personnel, to whom the team talked, were aware of the Geneva Statement, and had not received any instructions to remove checkpoints. According to the Deputy Head of the National Defense – a paramilitary structure, supporting the Kyiv government – there were, as of 19 April, nine checkpoints around the city itself and 26 in total throughout the oblast. The interlocutor made reference to Russian military in civilian clothes in the Dnepropetrovsk region, some of them allegedly armed.

The situation in Kherson and Odessa remained calm. The Kherson team visited the water gate to the channel supplying water to Crimea (at Kalanchak, 85 km south-east of Kherson). According to the gate operator, 85 per cent of the water for Crimea moved through this gate and the present flow was about one third of that noted in the previous year.

In Odessa the team spoke to a group of approximately ten activists of the pro-Maidan Self Defense about their opinion of the Geneva Statement. Overall, they perceived the agreement as a temporary inhibiting factor, but not as a decisive mechanism to solve the current situation. They insisted that the separatists in the East should first leave the buildings which they had occupied. The team asked also two leaders of the local anti-Maidan movement for their view on the Geneva agreements. They were skeptical about its chances, or that the government would implement it. From their point of view, the most important elements of a political solution were immediate freedom of all political prisoners and disarming/disbanding mercenaries brought into Odessa Oblast from other regions. The anti-Maidan leaders also insisted, that the Kyiv Maidan and Right Sector should disarm first and a referendum at the regional level on constitutional reforms be conducted. They aimed not at secession, but at the establishment of a wider federative state called “Novorossija” within Ukraine.

In the western Ukrainian cities of Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv a festive atmosphere reigned. The Head of the Right Sector in the Lviv Oblast, who talked to the monitors on 20 April, denied responsibility for the attack in Sloviansk the previous night. The interlocutor added that information reported on Right Sector symbols worn by attackers might indicate that the attack was an operation of the Russian FSB with the intention to discredit the Right Sector.

Also in Kyiv, the atmosphere was calm. Parts of the Maidan Square had been cleared up and looked much neater, although barricades and tents remained in place. In Khreshchatyk Street, close to the Maidan, parts of barricades had been removed and replaced with bricks. People in the Maidan reacted ambivalently to the Geneva Statement. According to the Head of th Kyiv City Police, the Kyiv City Hall (a five-floor building) was currently under reconstruction. Maidan activists were still using the first and second floors as self-defense headquarters; however within two or three days they should move to another building where they would have an official rental contract. Reports about beatings of a prominent ethnic Kazakh has been brought to the attention to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. The Mission will verify this incident.
© OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

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Southeastern Ukrainian synagogue reportedly firebombed

20/4/2014- The main synagogue in the Ukrainian city of Nikolayev was firebombed. The synagogue was empty of worshippers when it was firebombed early Saturday morning, according to the Chabad-affiliated Shturem.org website. Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the door and window, the report said, citing Yisroel Gotlieb, son of the city’s chief rabbi, Sholom Gotlieb. A passer-by put out the fires with a fire extinguisher, according to the report. The attack was recorded by the synagogue’s closed circuit television security camera and uploaded to YouTube. Nikolayev, a Black Sea port city of approximately 500,000, is located in southeastern Ukraine about 70 miles from Odessa. The Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 250 miles southeast of Kiev, in eastern Ukraine, was firebombed in late February. Last week in eastern Ukraine, fliers calling on Jews to register with pro-Russian separatists and pay special taxes were distributed in Donetsk.
© JTA News

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Pro-Russian Separatists Loot, Assault Romani in Sloviansk (Ukraine)

19/4/2014- Pro-Russian separatists have engaged in seemingly racially motivated acts of looting and assault against Romani residents of Sloviansk, reports the News of Donbass. Reports of the attacks were confirmed by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. Armed separatists have reportedly begun a series of home invasions against the city’s Romani population, robbing and assaulting their victims. The militants apparently have shown no regard for age or gender, and women and children have been among the victims who were beaten According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen carried off stolen property in trucks.

The perpetrators claim that they are acting on the orders of the self-described ‘People’s Mayor’ and leader of the separatist militant wing, Vyacheslav Ponomarev. According to Ponomarev, he held talks with a Romani who he alleged were involved in drug trafficking, and “removed them from the city.” Ponomarev said they were not attacks on Romani, but rather ‘cleaning the city from drugs.’ The attacks on Romani, also known as Gypsies, follow a troubling precedent set the day prior when members of the Donetsk Republic organization distributed anti-Semitic leaflets in an attempt to extort and intimidate members of the Jewish community. Ponomarev has also announced a “hunt” on the Ukrainian speaking population of Sloviansk, wherein those who speak the indigenous language be treated as suspicious and reported to the local militia.

The Prime Minister has instructed law enforcement agencies to identify those distributing hateful material and bring them to justice, as well as those involved in the attacks on Romani.
© Ukrainian Policy

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Headlines 18 April, 2014

"Star House Nat. Mag extolling Adolf Hitler violates Membership Rukes to OSCE"(Kazakhstan)

18/4/2014- In a letter to the President Noursultan Nazarbayev the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, protested "Kazakh nationalist magazine, 'Star House', that evokes Nazi symbols and extols Adolf Hitler, that threatens the country's good name". Samuels commended "Kazakhstan's policy and success in containing Jihadi/Islamist infiltration" and noted that the country "had provided refuge to many Jews fleeing the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two and, only last year, a Kazakh man was killed by neo-Nazis at a Bavarian folk festival in Germany" The letter emphasised that "the offensive magazine is dedicated totally to Hitler's so-called 'positive contribution' to history, which would perversely include the Holocaust. This is a publication that violates Kazakhstan's obligations as a State Party member of the Organisation for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)." Samuels stressed that "your Public Prosecutor and other official authorities have ignored domestic protests." The Centre urged the President "to take immediate measures against Star House and its publishers and contributors". "Silence in the face of this Nazi incitement will be perceived as an official endorsement of their views", concluded Samuels.
© Wiesenthal Centre Europe

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Immigrants bullied into leaving The Hague district (Netherlands)

18/4/2014- The Hague's mayor Jozias van Aartsen and a local housing corporation have pledged to take action against a group of white residents in a working class neighbourhood who are bullying immigrants until they leave. The Duindorp neighbourhood, a pre-war neighbourhood close to Scheveningen harbour, hit the headlines this week after locals appeared on television saying they saw nothing wrong in trying to drive out foreigners. 'My son has been waiting for a house in Duindorp for four years and then along comes a burqa with a man who has a dromedary and a camel. They get one within a week. Get lost. We don't want them here,' one man, Nico den Heijer, said on camera.

Pig's head
Immigrants have complained about having their windows smashed and swasticas painted on the walls of their home, local housing corporation Vestia said. One family found a pig's head had been nailed to their door 'because they had the cheek to come and live here', the AD reports. Housing corporation officials who show prospective new tenants around have also been threatened so seriously the police have been informed, the AD says on Friday.

Fire
A Turkish bakery close by was also set on fire last weekend and the owner suspects a racist motive. Local Peter de Bruijn, described as a large, bald man in a jogging suit by the AD, told the paper Duindorp residents all know each other from school. 'It is a big group of friends, we leave our doors open and nothing ever happens between us,' he said. 'But if the foreigners move in, then the problems start.'

Repercussions
Not all locals are opposed to foreigners moving in, but those that have defended them in the past are reluctant to talk to the press because of local repercussions, the AD says. The Hague's mayor, police and Vestia are now trying to work out how to deal with the situation. Van Aartsen says he will not tolerate the situation: 'not in Duindorp, not in Scheveningen, nowhere in the city.' Local politicians have also expressed their concern at the situation. 'There is nothing the matter with sentiment but we cannot tolerate the use of violence against other population groups,' city councillor Richard de Mos, a former MP for Geert Wilders' PVV, told local broadcaster Omroep West. Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch has asked justice minister Ivo Opstelten to make a statement on the issue and urged Wilders to condemn events in the village.
© The Dutch News

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Ireland: Third of racist incidents occur in workplace or classroom

Immigrant Council say employers and educational institutions must be more robust in combating racism

18/4/2014- Almost one- third of racist incidents reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland in the first three months of this year related to the workplace and the classroom. Of the 67 cases reported to stopracism@immigrantcouncil.ie between January and March, 15 per cent related to racist incidents which occurred in workplaces while a further 15 per cent related to classrooms. Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said the trend for racist incidents to occur in these environments indicated that employers and educational institutions needed to be more robust in combating racism. “People have a right to go about their work and studies without the threat of racism, and we would ask employers as well as boards of management in schools and colleges to make sure procedures are in place to ensure that their premises are free from racism,” she said. A fifth of the reports related to racism experienced by individuals in their homes or in local communities. A further 13.4 per cent occurred on the street, while 12 per cent related to incidents which occurred when the person involved was accessing government or community services.

Verbal harassment
Individual incidents can involve multiple forms of racism, with verbal harassment the most common, experienced in almost half of the 67 recorded cases. Discrimination and social exclusion were a feature of 37 per cent of cases, while physical violence was recorded in almost a fifth of the cases. A quarter of the reports related to children under the age of 18. Men were slightly more likely to have experienced racism than women, with 55 per cent of the cases involving men. The Immigrant Council of Ireland is calling for the establishment of a centralised data base and the use of the Garda Pulse system to ensure accurate recording of racist incidents.
© The Irish Times.

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Council of Europe launches a human rights guide for internet users

17/4/2014- The Council of Europe today launched a guide for internet users to help them better understand their human rights online and what they can do when these rights are challenged. The creation of the Guide was triggered by the need to empower users to exercise their human rights online. Generally, their rights are set out in the terms of service of Internet companies, which are mostly lengthy legal contractual conditions which are seldom read and even more seldom fully understood. The Guide focuses on the human rights on which the internet has most impact: access and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly, association and participation, privacy and data protection, education and literacy, protection of children and young people, and the right to effective remedies for violations of human rights.

Adopted by the Committee of Ministers representing the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, it is based on the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, and on other Council of Europe conventions and legal texts. Welcoming the Guide’s adoption, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “Governments, private companies and other actors have a duty to respect human rights offline and online. We will work with them to apply the guide, and to ensure that internet users have access to effective remedies when they believe their rights have been restricted or violated.” The Guide was developed with broad multi-stakeholder consultation with governments, private companies, in particular telecommunication and online service providers, civil society organisations, and representatives of the technical community and academia.
© The Council of Europe

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Europe faces worst human rights 'crisis' in decades

17/4/2014- Europe is facing its largest human rights crisis in over two decades, according to the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe (CoE). The human rights watchdog, in a report published on Wednesday (16), says corruption, human trafficking, racism and discrimination persist across Europe. Coupled with unemployment and poverty in many of the 47 countries under its mandate, the violations help feed extremism and fuel conflict, it notes. “The challenges to security in Europe are more often caused by conflicts within territories, within states rather than classical conflicts between states,” Daniel Holtgen, CoE spokesperson told this website. CoE secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland – in a statement entitled "Europe in biggest human rights crisis since Cold War” – said the lack of democratic checks and balances, free media and an independent judiciary is the cause of widespread corruption and misuse of power. He is calling for a “new pan-European security agenda” to help stem the abuse.

The idea is to make sure human rights are woven, from the beginning, into security-driven policies and laws. He says members must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights to stop the erosion of fundamental rights, which has now become the source of conflicts inside Europe. CoE says issues like discrimination and austerity measures gave rise to the far-right in Greece. Meanwhile, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s dire economy, unemployment, and popular resentment against the ruling class are fuelling protest movements. Last year’s Taksim Gezi Park protests in Turkey and its clamp down on free media is also a source of growing internal conflict. The 72-page report notes the current crisis in Ukraine illustrates “the dangers that we face”. The report points out Ukraine’s lack of an independent judiciary, of free press, and of checks and balances on government, created conditions ripe for corruption and misuse of power. “This caused mistrust, social unrest and ultimately a revolution. The annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation by a unilateral action clearly in contradiction with the Constitution of Ukraine provoked a fully-fledged crisis in Europe,” it notes.

Specialised bodies set up inside the Council to monitor human rights standards found that ethnic discrimination against national minorities is the most common. Discrimination is a serious issue in 39 of the CoE member states. Poor detention conditions, including prison over-crowding are found in 30 states. Corruption is prevalent in 26 followed by police abuse in 20 states, among other violations.
© The EUobserver

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White Supremacist Website Linked to Nearly 100 Murders Worldwide

US-based racist site frequented by mass-killers including Frazier Glenn Cross, Anders Breivik; branded 'breeding ground' for extremists.

18/4/2014- Nearly 100 murders around the world in the last five years can be traced back to users of the biggest white supremacist forum on the Internet, a hate-group watchdog said Thursday. The majority of those killings were committed by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist best known for the massacre of 69 people, most of them teenagers, at a summer camp outside Oslo in 2011. But, in common with other killers, he frequented Stormfront.org, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) branded a "racist forum" in a study that comes on the heels of Sunday's triple murder at two Jewish sites in Kansas. "Stormfront is really a worldwide enterprise," said Heidi Beirich, who authored the report for the Alabama-based non-profit organization that monitors homegrown extremist groups in the United States. Such websites, added Beirich in a conference call with reporters, serve as virtual "breeding grounds for people just enraged by their situation."    

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, also known as F. Glenn Miller, who has been charged with murder for the Passover eve Kansas City shooting on Sunday, frequented another site, Vanguard News Network, posting more than 12,000 times. Members of that site reacted euphorically to news that one of their fellow members had carried out the shooting, in a discussion thread which reached over 100 posts by late Monday alone. One post read  "3 ain't bad. Hail Hitler brother!!" Launched in 1995, Stormfront - whose motto is "White Pride, World Wide" - has 286,000 registered users, though on any given day fewer than 1,800 log on to the site, most of them from outside the United States, the SPLC said. Its users have included Wade Michael Page, who killed six people and then himself at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, and Buford O'Neil Furrow, who shot and wounded five people at a Jewish day care center in Los Angeles in 1999 before killing a Filipino-American postal worker.    

Not all race-related
Not all the homicides were race-related, however: the report mentioned two Stormfront users who shot and killed their wives and then themselves, as well as an "aspiring skinhead" who gunned down three Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania police officers in 2009. More often than not, the perpetrators have been frustrated, unemployed white adult males, living with their mothers or an estranged mother or girlfriend, who "binges online for hours" on militant hate sites. Breivik, who claimed Norway was being invaded by Muslims, was a registered Stormfront member for three years, introducing himself in 2008 with the username "year2183," the SPLC said. He is serving a 21-year sentence for the summer-camp shooting and a bomb attack on a government building in which eight people died.

"Registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings" since its launch by Don Black, a one-time Klan leader in Alabama, said the study. "He is providing a kind of community for these people, an ideological home," said SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok, who faulted the Department of Homeland Security for failing to assign more attention and resources to confronting domestic extremism. "The Internet in general, and Don Black in particular, has really helped to build something that is fueling the radical right in America," Potok said. No reaction to the SPLC report, posted on its www.splcenter.org website, could be seen Thursday on those sections of Stormfront that are open to the public without registration.
© Arutz Sheva

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Putin and the European Right: A Love Story

Apologists for the Russian leader are poised to make big gains in the EU elections next month.
by Katerina Safarikova

16/4/2014- Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right party National Front, made headlines last week with a visit to Moscow. She blamed the EU for declaring a new Cold War on Russia and sided with Vladimir Putin on the future of Ukraine. Like the Russian leader, but unlike every Western European government, she supports “federalization” of Ukraine, widely seen as a device via which the Russians could divide and rule eastern regions of the country. It was the second time in only 10 months that Le Pen made an official trip to the Russian capital. She went to Moscow in June on an invite from Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the lower chamber of parliament. Then, too, Le Pen said the EU is waging a new Cold War, and she was accorded the ceremonial niceties – a red carpet and a state banquet – of a state visit.

The relationship between the Kremlin and the National Front go way beyond a handshake photo op. Madame Le Pen’s entourage is filled with Russophiles who cultivate friendship with Moscow. Among them is geopolitical strategist Aymeric Chauprade – a personal adviser to Le Pen, a National Front candidate for the May EU elections, and recently one of the Kremlin-invited international “observers” of the Crimean referendum. Chauprade runs an opinionated website called Realpolitik TV that serves as an outlet for the National Front’s anti-Western propaganda. An active contributor there is Xavier Moreau, who has had a private security agency in Moscow since 2000 and runs his personal blog, “The Banana Republic of Ukraine,” on Chauprade’s website.

According to French media and a report by the French League of Human Rights, Moreau is a key contact for Le Pen in Moscow and manages a network of extreme-right supporters in the Russian capital. Not much is known about the content of contacts between Le Pen and Russia’s rulers, nor about whether Moscow finances National Front activities in any way. But some party members acknowledge the importance of Russia’s agenda within Le Pen’s group. “Our interests and those of Russia coincide and we have a certain network of expats in Moscow with whom we work,” National Front lawmaker Bruno Gollnisch told the French press. Of Moreau, he said, “He has friends in Moscow and especially among Putin’s entourage. He has served as an intermediary at various opportunities.” Le Pen shares many of the Russian president’s views. No liberal, she dreams of state-owned industry champions a la Gazprom. She would re-establish border controls among EU members and restrict marriages between French citizens and resident non-citizens.

The Russian state machinery is betting that public opinion in the West will embrace the nationalistic, socially conservative paradigm already installed in Russia, and having friends among the would-be architects of that shift comes in handy. Kremlin officials “see in Marine Le Pen a promising figure who will profit from increasing racism. And even if she doesn’t achieve her ends, it will have cost them nothing to forge ties with her,” Russian political analyst Dmitri Oreshkin told the French daily Le Figaro. Le Pen doesn’t walk alone in this. Nationalistic, socially conservative parties have emerged in almost every European state over the last decade or so and are set to gain an unprecedented number of seats in the forthcoming EU vote.

They’re not all alike. The Dutch Freedom party of Geert Wilders, an ally of Le Pen for the European elections, despises Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands precisely because they’re socially more conservative than the Dutch, and Wilders sees them as a threat to his country. The Danish People’s Party steers clear of Russia’s homophobic agenda, which likely would be a loser with Danes. Still, their points of agreement are many. The European far right echoes Putin’s criticism that the West, especially the EU, is rotten and corrupt, and hence should be brought down. Both the Western far-right leaders and the Russian president aim to wrest more power for their governments and look askance at international cooperation. In this context, it isn’t surprising that the vast majority of the main right-wingers largely share Putin’s view on Ukraine. Wilders, the Danes, Austrian Heinz-Christian Strache, and Hungary’s Jobbik party blame the EU for causing the crisis, claiming Putin was merely reacting to the West’s vendetta against him. In the Dutch parliament, Wilders spoke of Brussels’ “expansionist and militaristic agenda.”

This would all be merely interesting if it had no real implications. But if the opinion polls prove correct, various far-right parties could get as much as a fifth of the 751 seats in the EU parliament in May. This means potentially 150 Putin apologists, or at least 150 allies ready to hook up with Moscow at the West’s expense. Russia’s West-baiting president could soon find himself with a ready and very vocal base of support in Strasbourg and Brussels.
Katerina Safarikova is a journalist with Czech daily Lidove noviny and online news and opinion site Ceska pozice.
© Transitions Online.

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Donetsk leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation (Ukraine)

Fear replaced communal atmosphere in Donetsk's Jewish community as armed men handed out a leaflet Passover eve calling on Jews register their religion and property with the interim pro-Russian government or face deportation and loss of citizenship.

16/4/2014- A leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine calling for all Jews over 16 years old to register as Jews marred the Jewish community's Passover festivities Monday (Passover eve), replacing them with feelings of concern. The leaflet demanded the city's Jews supply a detailed list of all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportion and see their assets confiscated. Donetsk, a Ukraine province with 4.3 million people - 10 percent of Ukraine's population - and 17,000 Jews, is home to much of the country's heavy industry, and is thus the biggest prize of the eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have captured government buildings in the past week. The leaflet, signed by Chairman of Donetsk's temporary government Denis Pushilin, was distrbiuted to Jews near the Donetsk synagogue and later in other areas of the city where pro-Russians activists have declared Donetsk as an independent "people's republic", defying an ultimatum from Kiev to surrender. The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia's national symbol on it, as well as the Donetsk People's Republic insignia.

"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality," the flyer began, "due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta," a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement which fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register." The leaflet detailed what type of documents the Jewish citizens would need to supply: "ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles."

If the message was not made clear enough, the leaflet further stipulated the consequences that would come to those who failed to abide by the new demands: "Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property." To add insult to injury, the leaflet demanded the Jews pay a registration fee of $50. According to Alex Tenzer, a Kiev native and one of the directors of the National Association of Immigrants from the Former USSR in Israel, said: "The Jewish-Ukrainian leadership supports Ukraine's new government, but it's hard to tell whether the leaflet is valid or simply a provocation. "Anyway, the material is very anti-Semitic and reminds me of the kind of material distributed by the Nazis in WWII." Emanuelle Shechter, from Israel, received a copy of the leaflet via Whatsapp from his friends in Donetsk. "They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flyer and told them to obey its instructions."

Olga Reznikova, a member of Donetsk's Jewish community, told Ynet that "we do not know if the leaflet was spread by pro-Russian forces or someone else, but it did manage to create quite a fear. This reminds me of texts from darker times. Other members of the Jewish community I spoke with are not afraid, but it is unpleasant. "I do not intend to register, I am 32, I have lived in Donetsk my entire life and have never had to deal with anti-Semitism until I laid eyes on this piece of paper. Though I take it very seriously, I am uncertain of its authenticity." Jenia from Israel, who also received the letter from a Jewish acquaintance, said "the Jews in Donetsk are uncertain of anything; it is unclear who is responsible for the leaflet and who controls the city at the moment. "We don't feel safe like we used to because of the political instability in the area; there isn't a legitimate president or sovereign. Currently Donetsk is ruled by a junta." In a response to a request by a Ukrainian Jewish website, Pushilin, the interim government's regional chairman, confirmed that the flyers were distributed by his organization, but denied any connection to the leaflet's content.
© Ynet News

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Dutch rightist Wilders blames EU for Ukraine crisis; hints at UKIP

17/4/2014- Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders blamed the crisis in Ukraine on the European Union on Thursday, accusing it of inciting violence by dangling the "carrot" of EU integration. Weeks ahead of European Parliament elections likely to hand big gains to rightists, Wilders also said British Eurosceptic party UKIP - which has so far shunned his staunchly anti-Muslim Freedom Party - would choose to work with him after the polls. "Europe is responsible for a lot of the mess here," Wilders said of Ukraine. "I would not have given them the carrot to give them the hope to wish for European membership. Everyone knows the country is divided," he told Reuters in an interview. Russian President Vladimir Putin overturned two decades of post-Cold War diplomacy last month by declaring Russia's right to intervene in neighboring countries and annexing Ukraine's Crimea region.

The crisis began when former president Viktor Yanukovich fled after months of pro-Western protests by Ukrainians angry at his decision to turn away from closer relations with the EU and move the country towards Moscow. Putin said on Thursday that the annexation of Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, was partly influenced by the western military alliance's expansion into eastern Europe. "European politicians ... went to speak to people in Kiev, half of whom were fascists standing there, and said: 'We will help you, we will support you,'" Wilders said. "That was almost hate speech. It didn't really help."

New Cold War
His comments echo those of France's most prominent rightist politician, National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who said during a recent visit to Moscow that the EU had declared a new Cold War on Russia. Wilders, whose party is second in Dutch opinion polls, said the European Union had no business adopting a joint foreign policy towards its giant eastern neighbor and that EU sanctions against Russia would be ineffective. "I believe the Russians should stay on their own territory: Ukraine is a sovereign country ... We should try to de-escalate," he said. "Make sure the Russian minority in eastern Ukraine is taken seriously without Russia interfering."

Wilders is one of the most prominent of a generation of populists in Europe who are united in their opposition to the EU, which they variously blame for low economic growth, too much immigration and an erosion of national sovereignty. Anti-European parties are set to make a strong showing across Europe next month, with partner parties including France's National Front, Austria's Freedom Party and the Danish People's Party all polling strongly. UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has said he has no plans to form any alliance with Wilders, and a spokeswoman for UKIP on Thursday said this position had not changed - but Wilders was still optimistic. "Farage is a terrific politician," he said. "I get that he can't say it before the elections, but I don't rule out him getting involved after the elections.
© Reuters

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'Here comes the mayor!' - Greek far right fires up Athens campaign

15/4/2014- Greek far-right Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris strode into a packed hotel room in central Athens last month to the sound of a marching song and supporters' cries of "Here comes the mayor!" "In less than 100 years, Greeks will become a minority in their country. The only way to strike at the root of evil is through the municipal elections," Kasidiaris said, pledging to rid the Greek capital of "thieves and immigrants". "We must win the May elections to save the Greek blood," he roared before leading the crowd in singing the national anthem. The raucous gathering was just one campaign stop in an increasingly heated Athens' mayoral race, the most symbolic and closely watched battle in Greece's local and European elections in May - the first big electoral test for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras since he took power in 2012. At stake is the right to run the ancient city that gave birth to democracy over 2,500 years ago but is now on its knees, riven by protests, rising homelessness and poverty-ridden areas.

After six years of recession and austerity, the election is being fought as much on national issues like an unpopular EU/IMF bailout as on local issues. Opposition parties see it as a test of sentiment on Samaras's pro-bailout government. "The municipal elections now have more of a political meaning because they are being held for the first time in the middle of the chaos of the debt crisis," said Dimitris Mavros, head of the MRB polling agency. The rise of far-right and anti-EU parties has been seen across Europe as voters shun the mainstream architects of austerity policies, such as in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and even non-euro zone Britain. It has led to figures like Kasidiaris, who stunned viewers of a live TV debate before the election in 2012 by hurling a glass of water at one female politician and surging from his seat to slap another in the face, becoming household names.

Greek opposition parties such as Syriza on the left and Golden Dawn on the right - the anti-immigrant party accused of being a neo-Nazi criminal organization - have tried to raise the stakes by calling the municipal elections the first step towards overthrowing the government. "Everyone knows that the municipal elections have a deep political significance," said Gabriel Sakellaridis, the 33-year-old economist put forward by Syriza as its candidate. "The Athens ballot will certainly send a political message. A message for resistance and dignity, for change and creativity. A message that will be heard and discussed, not only across the country, but also across Europe." He and Golden Dawn's Kasidiaris are one of seven contenders, including two rival candidates from the ruling New Democracy party, a popular Communist party member, an HIV-positive gay activist as well as a right-wing lawyer, reflecting the chaotic post-crisis political landscape in Greece.

Resurrecting the Past
In the lead is George Kaminis, the current Socialist mayor who boosted his fortunes by declaring himself an independent in November, capitalizing on anger among Greeks towards the established political class blamed for driving the country close to bankruptcy. "Yesterday has no place in what's happening today," he said this month referring to Greece's decades-old political system dominated by two parties. "People have already left it behind. Only some hope in vain that they can resurrect it." Coalition member PASOK, which put Kaminis forward in 2010, and the small Democratic Left party have come out in his support but have both kept a low profile during campaigning after seeing their support hammered over the crisis years.

The latest polls for the vote, the first round of which will be held on May 18 and the second a week later, show Kaminis at least 10 points ahead of his closest rival, New Democracy's Aris Spiliotopoulos. Former Athens mayor and renegade conservative lawmaker Nikitas Kaklamanis, who was expelled from the party's parliamentary group last month for not backing a key reform bill, is close behind along with the Syriza and Golden Dawn candidates. The outcome in Athens is likely to be decided by who makes it through to the second round with Kaminis. Analysts say the major parties, knowing they are unlikely to win, may adopt a defensive strategy, with Samaras expected to play it as a victory if arch-rival Syriza loses while Syriza is likely to say it is satisfied with the showing of the virtually unknown, young candidate it has fielded. "The one who loses the least will be a winner," Mavros said.

Golden Dawn's Second Surge
Among the more fascinating sub-plots within the mayoral race is the campaign of Golden Dawn, whose leader and top lawmakers are in jail pending trial following a crackdown after a party sympathizer killed an anti-fascist rapper in September. You wouldn't know the party is on the defensive based on its spirited campaigning, including Internet clips of featuring Kasidiaris - now the party's public face - striding through the bustling central Athens meat market to cheers and even a cry of "You are lovely! You're the best!" from a vegetable vendor. At the Athens hotel gathering last month, Kasidiaris outlined a long list of priorities if elected - from vaccinating stray dogs to hosting ancient Greek-style games in the city and erecting a statue of a former Greek Orthodox archbishop. "This candidacy is essentially the second surge for Golden Dawn, this time with the aim of taking power in Greece," Kasidiaris told Reuters at the party's headquarters.

Golden Dawn is Greece's fourth-most popular party according to recent polls. Its success echoes the sentiment of anger across Europe with fringe parties expected to fare well in European polls in May. Kasidiaris dismisses the crackdown on the party as a ruse to steal votes, a claim he has repeated recently after a leaked video showed a government aide implying the government had tried to exert pressure on judges to jail members of the party. The aide, who has resigned, said he made the comments for tactical reasons, and the government has denied any wrongdoing. "A clique of judges who are being controlled by the political authorities have taken direct orders and aim to jail me so that I don't speak in the pre-election period," Kasidiaris said. "We will not falter... Greeks have opened their arms to us."
© Reuters

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Parliament Delays Could Free Golden Dawn Suspects (Greece)

17/4/2014- A number of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn lawmakers, including the party leader, could be released from pre-trial detention because Parliament isn’t acting fast enough to lift the immunity of other party MP’s prosecutors want to charge with an array of crimes. The warning came from magistrates overseeing the investigation into alleged illegal activities of the party, whose hierarchy is charged with running a criminal organization. In their note to MPs, magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou said that the case files have not yet been closed and the maximum time some of suspects can be held in custody will expire before their court dates are set and they would have to be released until coming to trial. Klapa and Dimitropoulou said delays in lifting Golden Dawn MPs’ parliamentary immunity are hampering the progress of the investigation. On April 2, Parliament voted to lift the immunity of another four Golden Dawn MPs on charges of setting up a criminal organization.

This brought the total number of neo-Nazi MPs facing prosecution on charges of setting up a criminal investigation to 13, six of whom are in jail, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos. His wife, Eleni Zaroulia, also an MP, is one of those charged. Besides the major charge, the Golden Dawn MP’s facing other accusations of wrongdoing have to have their immunity lifted in every instance or they can’t be prosecuted. Members of Parliament are untouchable for virtually any crime unless their protection is lifted. Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani asked Parliament to lift the immunity of Golden Dawn lawmaker Artemis Matthaiopoulos so he can face theft charges in connection with a mugging in central Athens in 2005. According to the case file submitted by Koutzamani to the House, Matthaiopoulos and several accomplices used threats and violence to steal a bag from a local in the area of the Ancient Agora in August 2005.

Meanwhile, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) submitted a request to the Supreme Court for an investigation into whether the claims made by ex-cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos in a secretly filmed conversation with Golden Dawn spokesman were true. Baltakos suggested that the probe into the far-right party had been politically influenced but later said he was lying to Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and was working on his own as a secret agent to ferret out information about the party. But he later also suggested that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy’s party and the right-wing Independent Greeks, made up of Conservatives outcasts and rejects, should join with Golden Dawn to form an alliance he said could rule Greece for 50 years.
© The Greek Reporter

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Sepp Blatter wants racism to be punished by points deductions

FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes points deductions are a far more effective punishment for teams whose fans are guilty of racist behaviour rather than closing stadiums.

17/4/2014- FIFA themselves have ordered games to be played behind closed doors - Ukraine were ordered to play a World Cup qualifier against Poland in an empty stadium after fans made monkey chants and performed Nazi salutes. But writing in his column in FIFA Weekly, the FIFA president says stadium closures unfairly penalise innocent fans from opposing teams who are denied the opportunity to watch their team play. "Football without a crowd is like a concert without sound," he said. "Games behind closed doors are also included in the (FIFA) code but I regard this penalty as an extremely dubious instrument. They represent a disproportionately collective punishment.

"Furthermore it involves excluding innocent fans of the opposing team. In the final analysis matches played behind closed doors penalise football. The punishment is unduly excessive. "Instead it is the troublemakers who must be punished. And it is clear to me that the clubs are responsible for the hooligans. "To my mind there remains only one solution to the problem: sporting sanctions are the only effective punishment. It has to cause the clubs real hurt otherwise nothing will change." FIFA's disciplinary code punishes racism by a warning for a first offence. More serious sanctions such as stadium closures, points deductions or even expulsion from the competition could follow for clubs whose fans are guilty of further offences.
© Sky Sports

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'Migrant Files:' The EU's refugee victims

Scores of refugees have died attempting to reach European territory. Now, a group of European journalists has found that the EU's lure claims a higher number of casualties than previously thought.

15/4/2014- In October 2013, 360 migrants drowned off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. In February of this year, 15 people died attempting to swim to the Spanish enclave Ceuta in Marocco. It is usually prominent cases like these that draw public attention to the refugee tragedies that take place on the EU's borders. But the tragedies don't stop happening when no one is looking. There is hardly any information or any reliable data about how many people die on their way to Europe in an overcrowded refugee boat on the Mediterranean Sea or in an attempt to cross one of the border fences, which are supposed to keep migrants out of Spanish enclaves in Africa. In order to provide such numbers, a group of journalists from various European countries has now attempted to collate data from all the known cases.

New data?
One source of the information in the so-called Migrant Files is UNITED for Intercultural Action, a network of 560 international NGOs. "When we first started we thought our work would mainly be to check the data and aggregate it," explained French journalist Nicolas Kayser-Bril. "And when we put the two databases together we realized that many of the events were in one but not in the other, which meant that the actual number of casualties was much higher than what any one of these databases was claiming," he said, explaining that they then also began to use data from other public sources, including newspaper reports.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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France's Front National party leader 'opens arms' to UKIP

The leader of the French far right-wing Front National (FN) party has said that she would welcome collaboration with UKIP with "open arms".

17/4/2014- Marine Le Pen told BBC Newsnight ideas UKIP leader Nigel Farage defends are "very similar" to those of her party. In a statement, UKIP said it was "not interested in any deal" with Ms Le Pen or her party because of "prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular" in the FN. UKIP this week appeared to align itself with a French Eurosceptic party. Speaking on Newsnight, Ms Le Pen insisted that Front National's campaign against the European Union was in line with UKIP's Eurosceptic policies. She said her "arms will be open" to Mr Farage if he were willing to "join up in a common plan to fight the European Union." "As long as it serves the interests of the European people" she added.

Charismatic leader
Ms Le Pen said that although there are "strategic or tactical differences" between the two parties, there were "obvious similarities" in polices such as "refusal of massive immigration" and "peoples' freedom to decide for themselves". "People have progressively realised the EU has brought them nothing but unhappiness, devastation, identity loss, and unprotected frontiers," she said. "If he understood how serious the EU's situation is, he would support the reunion of all patriotic movements, and he would not use tactics and strategy," she told Newsnight.

UKIP said that despite "efforts that Ms Le Pen has made at modernisation" of the Front National, they were "not interested in any deal" because "in the parties DNA there is prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular". On Tuesday, Mr Farage appeared to form an allegiance with a fellow Eurosceptic party, Debout la Republique (DLR: Stand up, the Republic!) at a rally in Paris.
© BBC News

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France's other Le Pen sells gentler brand of nationalism

14/4/2014- From her nondescript offices in the Paris suburbs, Marine Le Pen — the blond, hazel-eyed face of France's far right — is leading the charge to build a new alliance of European nationalists, this time by blitzing the ballot box. A 45-year-old lawyer who wants to halt immigration, Le Pen led France's National Front to historic gains in local elections last month. She did it by destigmatising the party co-founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, her 85-year-old father, who once called the Nazi gas chambers a mere "detail" of history and lost five bids for the French presidency. In appearances across the country, the younger Le Pen is rolling out a more tempered brand of nationalism that has become a new model across Europe, rejecting her father's overt racism and playing down the party's former links to Nazi collaborators. All the while, she is tapping into the rising economic despair of a nation as well as a backlash against the European Union, the 28-country bloc headquartered in Brussels.

Now she is training her sights on a larger prize. From Sweden to Austria, Britain to Italy, nationalist and far-right parties are poised to make record gains next month in elections for the European Parliament. Rather than see their power diluted, Le Pen is seeking to unite a variety of such parties into an extraordinary coalition of anti-E.U. nationalists. Together, she said, they would work to turn back the clock on the integration and open borders that have defined post-World War II Europe. "You judge a tree by its fruit," she said last week in her office, a statuette of the Greek goddess of justice resting on a shelf above her. "And the fruits of the E.U. are rotten." But these are, after all, nationalists, and forging an international alliance of xenophobes is proving to be just as hard as it sounds. On a continent riddled with old grudges and the ghosts of battles past, working together — for some, anyway — means setting aside centuries-old animosities.

Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, for instance, remains locked in a war of words with its counterparts in Romania and Slovakia over Hungarian-speaking regions in those countries that date to the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Far-right Italians, meanwhile, are at odds with Austria's Freedom Party over the fate of Alto Adige, a largely German-speaking enclave in northern Italy that has been the site of a political tug of war for years. But there is also a lingering question over just how much certain parties have truly changed. Indeed, even as Le Pen and her European partners seek to shed their image as far-right extremists, their words have often seemed to undermine that effort.

Le Pen's closest ally, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, sparked outrage at home last month after fiercely promising his faithful that he would work toward having "fewer Moroccans" in the country. Last week, the Austrian Freedom Party's Andreas Molzer pulled out of his campaign for reelection to the European Parliament after calling the diverse, 28-nation bloc "a conglomerate of Negroes" whose regulations were worse than Germany's Third Reich. But unlike her father, who was accused of being anti-Semitic, Le Pen has instead been accused of espousing Islamophobia — a word she dismissed in an interview as "a creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Yet she has appeared to push the envelope recently, telling French radio that pork-free meals for Muslim and Jewish children would be banned in the cities and towns now controlled by her party. In an interview with The Washington Post, however, she seemed to backtrack, saying that both pork and non-pork meals would be offered in schools.

And although they agree on the fundamental issue of loosening the ties that bind the E.U., the parties remain deeply at odds over a host of issues, including same-sex marriage. The track record for cooperation among members of the far right also bodes ill. Such parties have repeatedly sought to build alliances in the European Parliament, only to see them fall apart because of infighting. "Nationalists inherently disagree with each other," said Simon Hix, professor of comparative politics at the London School of Economics. "They're all like, "My country is the best one in the world,' and then the other one says, 'No, my country is the best one in the world.' And from there, they all end up fighting." But Le Pen insists that this time will be different, that she is gunning for a big win next month. A strong showing by the nationalists, which opinion polls in multiple countries suggest could happen, could effectively put some of the E.U.'s toughest opponents inside its gates.

Once viewed as a paper tiger, the 751-seat European Parliament, based in Strasbourg, France, has continued to gain power. Even in the best-case scenario for Le Pen, any far-right alliance is unlikely to unseat Europe's mainstream majorities on the center-right and center-left. But the vote — over four days starting May 22 — could make the far right a stronger force on issues such as immigration legislation and rights for religious minorities. In the name of protecting domestic industries, far right representatives would seek to bring free trade to a standstill — for example, opposing any attempt to ratify the sweeping E.U.-U.S. free-trade deal that is under negotiation. Analysts say a stronger far right could compel mainstream conservative parties to tow a harder right-wing line.

With France's National Front the likely anchor of any nationalist coalition, it has been up to Le Pen to try to forge a legislative bloc. Success would mean winning at least 25 seats from seven countries. Though almost assured of enough seats, Le Pen appears to be at least one nation shy of the country threshold. That is partly because of the varying degrees of extremism tolerated by each party. Le Pen dismissed the notion of working with the black-clad ultranationalist members of Greece's Golden Dawn, whom she described as "neo-Nazis." She also ruled out collaborating with Hungary's Jobbik party, one of whose leaders has called for a government list of Jews in the name of national security. Meanwhile, one nationalist group, the United Kingdom Independence Party, has refused to work with her. Like Le Pen, UKIP chief Nigel Farage has sought to position his party as sane moderates who happen to have an anti-E.U., anti-immigration bent. While he touts his party as mainstream, Le Pen's National Front, he insists, is just faking it.

"Our view is that whatever Marine Le Pen is trying to do with the Front National, anti-Semitism is still imbedded in that party, and we're not going to work with them now or at any point in the future," Farage told Britain's Telegraph newspaper. But even her critics concede that Le Pen has determinedly sought to distance herself from her controversial father and has made strides toward steering the party away from explicit racism. In October, the National Front ejected a mayoral candidate, Anne-Sophie Leclerc, after she publicly compared France's French Guiana-born justice minister, Christiane Taubira, to a monkey. In fact, Le Pen is portraying the party as the best ally French Jews could have against a common enemy. "Not only am I not anti-Semitic, but I have explained to my Jewish compatriots that the movement most able to protect them is the Front National," she said. "For the greatest danger today is the rise of an anti-Semitism in the suburbs, stemming from Muslim fundamentalists."
© The Helsinki Times.

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Paris police order 'systematic eviction' of Roma gypsies (France)

Row erupts over leaked note ordering police in Paris' chic sixth arrondissement to 'systematically evict' Roma gypsies

15/4/2014- A leaked police note ordering officers to “systematically evict” Roma gypsies from a chic Paris district has sparked uproar in France and re-ignited a debate about their presence in the country. The internal note, drawn up by a police chief in Paris’ sixth arrondissement and written “on the orders” of his superiors, instructs police “day and night” to “locate Roma families living in the street and systematically evict them”. It is illegal in France for police to stop and single out any population according to their “real or supposed nationality”. The existence of the note sparked an angry reaction from Roma defence group La Voix des Roms, which said it was “unworthy of a democratic state”. SOS Racism, said it was “scandalised”, was “one more act of violence against Roma or supposed Roma” and underlined a “lack of political will to deal with the urgent social problem”. The Left-wing magistrates union SM denounced “the daily stigmatisation of certain categories of the population, relegated to the rank of sub-citizens”.

But Jean-Pierre Lecoq, mayor of the sixth arrondissement from the centre-Right UMP party, said he was “not shocked” by the tone of the note. “What shocks me is to see Roma families in the street with very young children, which is unacceptable from a human and social point of view,” he told Le Parisien. The area, he said, had seen a “massive” influx of Roma families over the past two months, which prompted him to complain to local police authorities. He added: “The number of families has tripled. It’s a real problem.” The mayor’s complaints led to the crackdown, according to a police source. Police say the Roma presence has increased in the 6th arrondissement because they have been chased out of neighboring areas. “It’s musical chairs”, Jean-Pierre Colombies, an official with the SNOP-SCSI police union, told Le Parisien. “We chase the Roma from one place to another, from one arrondissement to another and it resolves nothing.

Given the scale of the controversy, Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, said the note had been “rectified”. But he said the police had respected the law and were obliged to “fight illegal begging and the exploitation of minors and prevent families with young children from sleeping in the street”. The affair has reignited a heated debate about how to deal with a growing Roma population in Paris and other big cities. Stéphane Le Foll, spokesman for president François Hollande’s Socialist government, denied there was a Roma “invasion”, but said: “We must try and get them to return to where they came from, to Romania or Bulgaria”. “The aim is to avoid people in the capital making people in the capital in a situation of difficulty and poverty making everyone extremely nervous. Parisians no longer accept this presence,” he said.

Jean-Marc Bailleuil, head of the main police officers’ union, SCSI, said the language in the note was “poorly chosen”. But he said the police “lack clear legal means to fight against delinquency coming from Eastern Europe and the influx of Roma”. An Amnesty International study released last week accused French police of using excessive force against Roma people, especially when evicting them from illegal camps. Last year French authorities expelled a record 20,000 Roma – practically the entire population currently in France. Last September, Manuel Valls, the then interior minister, declared that Roma gypsies were incompatible with the French way of life and should return home.
© The Telegraph

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Slovenia's first Roma restaurant offers hope, integration

16/4/2014- "Come hungry and with an open heart," urge flyers advertising Slovenia's first Roma restaurant. More than impressing food critics, the Romani Kafenava (Roma coffeeshop), which opened last week in the northern city of Maribor, aims to build ties with the local community and offer hope to an impoverished minority. "The point of this kind of social enterprise is to integrate socially vulnerable groups and teach them to work. And future customers should bear that in mind," Stefan Simoncic, head of the Epeka NGO, which backed the restaurant. Located in a 19th-century brick building that once belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian railway company, the restaurant recruited people with little experience, most of whom had never held down a job before. "Our waiters and cooks are not professionals, they would never get a job in a (regular) restaurant. Most of them never finished school," Simoncic noted.

Slovenia has a small Roma population of close to 10,000. But unemployment in the community stands at a massive 97 percent, compared with 13 percent for the rest of the country, the wealthiest of the former Yugoslav republics. And many Roma -- often known as gypsies -- live in abject poverty, though with some state support. The restaurant, which hopes to showcase Roma culture, gastronomy and hospitality, is a life line for many of its 15-member staff. At a modest opening ceremony that coincided with International Roma Day on April 8, the staff -- including six waiters dressed in burgundy and black uniforms -- eagerly waited to start serving guests for the first time after months of preparation. "I'm very glad to have a job here," 22-year-old waiter Esad Beciri told AFP, excited like most of his colleagues at the prospect of regular work.

In a corner of the rustically decorated restaurant, fortune teller Radmila awaited customers with their cups of Turkish coffee to predict their future. The menu promises a wide range of Balkan specialities with a Roma twist: barbecued meat, soups, stuffed peppers and Turkish sweets like baklava or tulumba semolina doughnuts. "The food will be excellent but prices will be reasonable. It would be insane to go for an elite public in Maribor," said Rastko Zdravkovic, the restaurant's non-Roma manager, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field. No pork is served since most Roma here are Muslims who came from Kosovo in the 1980s, when Maribor was one of the then Yugoslavia's main industrial centres.

- 'We have to succeed' -
Dzevrija Mazreti worked in a nearby restaurant and a hotel before she was hired as a cook at Romani Kafenava, but her main experience was cooking for weddings and funerals. "You know, we never order catering, we cook it ourselves and for quite a bunch of people," said the cheerful, squarely built woman. "We've come a long way and I assure you we'll all give 100 percent to succeed," added Fatmir Beciri, a Roma community representative. At an early stage of the project, non-Romas in the neighbourhood near central Maribor opposed the restaurant and even sent anonymous threats. Protests in November almost succeeded in blocking the whole project. "But many of them have changed their minds and have come to apologise," Fatmir Beciri said. "We Roma, we forgive and forget." Romani Kafenava's success in Maribor, which has one of Slovenia's highest unemployment rates, could open the way for similar restaurants in the eurozone country and elsewhere, its organisers hope. "We will succeed, we have to," Mazreti said confidently.
© AFP

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Malta legalizes gay partnerships and adoption

14/4/2014- The Maltese parliament approved a law late on Monday to recognise same-sex partnerships on a legal par with marriage, including allowing gay couples to adopt. The law was greeted by wild celebrations by some 1,000 people in a square just outside parliament in Valletta, the capital of the predominantly Roman Catholic Mediterranean island where divorce was only legalized two years ago. Labor Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, elected one year ago, said: "Malta is now more liberal and more European and it has given equality to all its people." The opposition Nationalist Party abstained from the vote, saying it was in favor of civil unions but had reservations about gay adoptions. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil quoted a survey which found that 80 percent of the people were against adoptions by gay couples. "Malta has not been prepared for such a step" he said.
© Reuters

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Fascist rally banned in Calais as police swoop on migrant jungle (France)

14/4/2014- A fascist rally against migrants in Calais planned for yesterday became the first public event to be banned by the town’s mayor. Denis Robin announced the decision on Friday. He said: "This event organised by the group Saving Calais is high risk, with reinforcements from outside the department, intentions and ability to take action. "Add to that the presence of several camps or squats migrants on their way to the event ... I felt that the risks were too high to allow this event. "This is a rare decision, and an exception since the principle of our law is that of freedom of assembly and demonstration.“ The request for a demonstration was made by Kevin Reche, a young Sauvons Calais – Save Calais – leader who sports a swastika tattoo on his chest. Robin added: "Kevin Reche has already held about extremists and hate speech, accompanied by significant damage on a house squatted by No Borders in a previous rally February.”

As previously reported in the Express, migrants had claimed their house was bombarded with rocks, firebombs and sledgehammers over the course of several days. Individual attempts to cross the Channel are set to surpass 11,000 recorded by the Home Office last year. And on the same day Robin made the call to cancel the Sauvons Calais rally, French police, which MP Charlie Elphicke this week described as "completely ineffective", swooped on a collection of tents known as the Sudanese jungle. According to campaign group Calais Migrant Solidarity: “The police came in incredibly large numbers and there were around 30 to 40 vehicles that came to carry out the eviction - 18 cars, 12 CRS vans and 6 arrest vans. “They came to the jungle from four different directions, lining the motorway, to catch people who were running away.

“Because it is difficult to get near to big police actions like this, we do not know exactly how many people were arrested. At the moment we think that it was around eight. “With a van, the No Borders collective managed to collect a lot of tents, blankets and bicycles from the camp before they were taken by the council workers. “One official was there chatting about human rights and saying he had agreed everything in advance with Jean-Claude Lenoir, of Salam, that the associations would be able to collect people’s stuff after the operation. “However that seems entirely dubious because there was a load of cleaning workers throwing everything randomly in a big container headed for the dump. “There are now around 30 people from the camp that have lost their home in Calais.”
© The Folkestone Herald

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France, Islam and the 'Spreading Hatred' (opinion)

The EU has no extensions for the clash of civilizations that threatens European society.
By John Vinocur 

14/4/2014- There's an area of French society bleak beyond any let's-pretend action-plan or incantatory chorus about brotherhood. The country's existential problem of coming to terms with more than five million Muslims in its midst—and how these immigrants and citizens accommodate (or flout) French law and custom—is deepening into a new phase of what is described as intolerance, seeming incompatibility, and political polarization. Minus the multi-syllabic wadding, reality says France is knee-deep in racial and religious nastiness. It is widely perceived at schools, in the metro and on the streets. And it precludes evasion. "An unhealthy climate grows day after day in our country,'' the leaders of four major religious denominations warned in a statement over the weekend. "It's urgent to react and get a grip on ourselves.'' But the problem doesn't go in a single direction. It involves a dissolving and disputed notion of French identity.

As real as discrimination against Muslims has become, researchers describe the growth of Muslim communities at the edges of large French cities that are developing parallel cultures. They are said to demand an allegiance to fundamentalist Islam, thus antagonizing the national majority's notion of the French way of life. The result is a kind of double sense of victimization: Muslims are drawn by extremists into a rage about "Islamophobia,'' while poor whites are lured toward the hard right with promises of understanding and protection by the National Front. Ultimately, France can handle its tribulations with big deficits, low competitiveness and tardiness in meeting European Union fiscal-consolidation targets. But the EU has no extensions to offer for a clash of civilizations that exemplifies Europe-wide concerns.

When Prime Minister Manuel Valls took office March 31, as the head of a new government he was confronted with an alarmed official report on the decline of French tolerance. The report found an increase in tension in national life focused on "Arab Muslims," who, it said, are perceived as being involved in criminality, taking advantage of the welfare system, refusing to respect the supremacy of the secular rules of the French state, and pressing aggressive religious practices. The findings of the report from the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights were brutal. The commission's poll found that 68% of respondents regard integration's failure as the fault of the newcomers; 74% said they think there are "too many" immigrants in France; and 77% believe these immigrants are in France solely for its welfare benefits.

At the same time, in a book published last week titled "Passion Française," Gilles Kepel, an Arabist and academic respected for his studies over 25 years of France's Islamic communities, concentrated on what he called a new element moving at "lightning speed" into the identity equation. Mr. Kepel writes that the marked presence of Salafists, or Muslim puritans, in certain communities signals "a rupture in values with French society, a will to subvert it morally and juridically." Mr. Kepel also describes public services in areas of Marseille as falling into the hands of local drug-dealing bosses. All this creates an enormous challenge for Mr. Valls, who had previously dealt directly with the issue as interior minister. In appointing him as prime minister, President François Hollande chose a more popular Socialist and probable future rival, admired for his energy and combativeness—and a man portrayed as regarding the president as reluctant to engage on volatile issues such as security, immigration and Islam.

So the field of initiative is open for both Mr. Valls and for more determination. Still, because of the accompanying electoral risks, no one in a French government has ever attempted to install a national affirmative-action program favoring Muslim integration or a zero-tolerance police campaign aimed at reassuring the white majority. The new prime minister is unlikely to take either step. As a candidate, former President Nicolas Sarkozy promised affirmative action but dropped it once on the job—just as Mr. Valls in 2011 called for an end to the 35-hour French workweek, then backed off. All the same, Mr. Valls can be true to the spirit of what he has said concerning "Islamophobia" not being a legitimate complaint, but rather a concept employed by Islamic fundamentalists to make Muslims in France feel victimized by the state. He can also proceed with the frank views he's previously expressed on the presence of Roma in France: "These people have ways of life extremely different from ours which are in obvious confrontation'' with the local population, Mr. Valls said last year. Fitting the Roma into France, he added, was "illusory."

On the other hand, there is the business of staying in office, including through the European parliamentary elections in May. A Socialist prime minister must note that French Muslims who voted at an 86% rate for Mr. Hollande in 2012 turned away from the party in municipal elections last month. Muslims who contributed to the Socialists' drubbing exposed the additional and difficult-to-resolve electoral concern for the party in its advocacy of gay marriage. The new prime minister is a supporter. So where does all that leave Manuel Valls, the politician? What does he do—and soon—about the appeal from the four religious leaders, which points to the "spreading hatred" that "threatens the unity of our country"?

Mr. Valls is genuinely smart and capable. But he has never gotten more specific about how to systematically extract this hatred than his September 2012 promise, as interior minister, that "the Republic will be intransigent with anyone who seeks to challenge it." Explanation please? Answer: obfuscation. In his first policy speech as prime minister last week, Mr. Valls issued this substanceless gush: "France, yes, has the arrogance to believe that what is done here has value for the rest of the world. This famous 'French arrogance' that our neighbors often attribute to us is in fact the enormous generosity of a country that wants to surpass itself." Mr. Valls will have to do better.
Mr. Vinocur is former executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.
© The Wall Street Journal..

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Learn Dutch or lose welfare benefits, new draft law says

16/4/2014- People who do not speak sufficient Dutch will lose their rights to welfare benefits after one year, if draft legislation now sent out to consultation becomes law, broadcaster Nos reports. Junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma has sent the draft bill to the Council of State advisory body for its recommendations, the broadcaster says. Making speaking Dutch one of the conditions for claiming welfare benefits (bijstand) has been mooted for several years and was included in the coalition agreement. Welfare is paid to people who do not, or no longer, qualify for unemployment (ww) or incapacity (wao) benefits. The level of Dutch required to continue to qualify for welfare involves ‘simple conversations about everyday things’, Nos says.

People who refuse to learn Dutch will have their benefits cut by 20%, which will rise to 40% after six months. After a full year, the benefits will be stopped altogether. The cabinet hopes to implement the new rules next year The Dutch requirement is the latest in a string of reforms to the welfare system which Klijnsma is introducing. People who refuse to look for work or who wear unsuitable clothing such as a burka will have their benefits stopped for three months. In addition, claimants will be required to 'give something back to society' in return for their financial support.'
© The Dutch News

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Child refugee amnesty: 675 have been given residency permits

14/4/2014- A total of 675 children and 775 of their family members have been given Dutch residency permits under the government’s amnesty for young refugees, according to new immigration service figures. The figures, due to be published later on Monday, are in the hands of newspaper Trouw. Junior justice minister Fred Teeven told MPs in October that 3,260 applications for the amnesty have been made on behalf of children and their family members and 1,800 have been refused. Of those, 1,330 cases have now gone to appeal. Teeven said at the time the amnesty was launched he expected it would apply to 800 children.

Five years
According to Trouw, most of the appeals have been dealt with and amnesty is ‘as good as completed’. However, some cases are still likely to go to appeal, the paper says. To qualify for the amnesty, children should have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years and not been out of contact with the Dutch authorities for more than three months. They must also be under the age of 21 and have lied about their identity to officials no more than once. The amnesty for child refugees formed part of the coalition agreement between the VVD and Labour party in 2012.

School
Most of the children whose request for residency has been refused could not prove they had lived in the Netherlands for more than five years. This means, for example, that children who were under local authority supervision and were not living in an official government refugee centre, are not covered, even if they can prove they attended school.
Dutch lawyers who work with asylum seekers say the number of approved application is ‘depressingly low’. They say the rules have been extremely strictly applied not to include children who were living in local council accommodation.
© The Dutch News

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Neo-Nazi infiltrator found dead in Germany

14/4/2014- German authorities have revealed that a member of their secret services, who was due to testify in court against the neo-Nazi NSU group was found dead in his home 2 weeks ago. Thomas R, who was also known by his code name 'Corelli', was found in his home in the North Ren-Westfalia province. The secret services agent was forced to take on another identity when he was brought into the witness protection program for his infiltrating the group, which was exposed in September 2012. So far there has been no indication of foul-play regarding his death, and it has been said that he was suffering from diabetes. Thomas R has been accused of being a neo-Nazi himself, but he always denied the claims.
© World Bulletin

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Far-right's favourite outfitter 'Thor Steinar' opens shop in heart of Jewish community (UK)

A German clothing brand favoured by neo-Nazis in Europe, whose goods were banned because of their similarity to logos worn by SS officers, has opened a high-street store in the heart of London’s Jewish community.

16/4/2014- The Viking Thor Shop, which opened in Finchley, North London a fortnight ago, is an outlet for Thor Steinar, a controversial brand whose products are strongly associated with far-right street groups and football hooligans. The Ballards Lane store is situated yards from the office of the UK’s Chief Rabbi. Jewish and Islamic groups in the multicultural community have expressed concerns that the shop will attract far-right supporters and inflame tensions. But the store’s manager denied any neo-Nazi associations and claimed he was simply selling leisurewear. The Thor Steinar brand has faced bans in the German Bundestag and across several football stadiums.

In 2012, eight members of the far-right German National Democratic Party were expelled from Saxony’s state parliament for wearing the brand’s T-shirts, which display runic symbols and Nordic themes popular with neo-Nazis. After a 2004 ban in Germany, the company rebranded its original logo which bore a similarity to symbols worn by the Nazi SS. The Finchley shop displays a Wolfsangel-style Nordic rune above the door, and variations of the symbol, which was adopted by some Waffen-SS units, feature on the brand’s T-shirts and hoodies. One T-shirt on sale shows a man holding an automatic weapon and reads “last man standing”. Users on the white power website Stormfront claimed “London gets its first white nationalist clothing shop”.

The office of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is based a few doors away, as is the Islamic Association of North London, a mosque which serves the large local Muslim population. A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, a charity which provides security advice for the UK Jewish community, said: “This is a multi-cultural area with very few problems from racism and neo-Nazism and the like. This shop is not welcome here and the sooner it moves on the better.” Store owner Zsolt Mogyorodi said he was not racist and had opened the store to serve a local eastern European community with whom the brand is popular.

Mogyorodi told The Independent: “I don’t know what is wrong with our clothes, they are just normal outdoor clothes. I can’t stop stupid people like football hooligans from wearing them.” He denied any neo-Nazi link: “We welcome all kinds of customers in the shop. The Nazi thing is a silly old story from years ago and the brand has changed since then.” Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said that while the shop might be “unwelcome” there was as yet no evidence that it was operating illegally. Passers-by said they found the shop and its clientele intimidating and considered its location, situated between a number of Asian-owned shops and Afghan restaurants, “provocative”.

In 2012, Thor Steinar named a new German store Brevik, which critics claimed was in honour of right-wing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. The brand claimed it was named in honour of the Norwegian town of Brevik in Oslo but later changed the name and removed the sign. Anti-fascist groups have staged protests outside German Thor Steinar stores, which have been repeatedly vandalised. Launched in 2002, Thor Steinar was sold to a Dubai-based company in 2009. Its clothes are banned from the Bundestag, the state parliaments of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony as well as the football stadiums of Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen.
© The Independent

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Birmingham 'Islam plot' probe appointment 'a disaster' (UK)

A school governor has said it is "a disaster for community cohesion" that the former national head of counter terrorism has been appointed to lead an inquiry into 25 Birmingham schools.

16/4/2014- The Department for Education (DfE) has appointed Peter Clarke to review evidence over allegations of a hard-line Islamist takeover plot. Regents Park governor Father Oliver Coss has criticised the appointment. The DfE said Mr Clarke was "exactly the right appointment". The so-called Operation Trojan Horse letter, which came to light in March, purported to outline a template on how schools could be pushed into adopting more Islamic cultures.

'Very upset'
Birmingham City Council said it had more than 200 reports over its inquiry. Writing on his blog, Father Coss, a vicar in Small Heath in Birmingham, said the appointment would be "a disaster for community cohesion in East Birmingham". On Wednesday, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the claims had not been substantiated. "I think I would want him (Mr Clarke) to know that carrying his former counter terrorism brief into a neighbourhood like Small Heath does have inherent risks and if he's going to continue doing this, he does need to tread carefully," he said. Apparently written by someone in Birmingham to a contact in Bradford last year, the undated and unsigned Trojan Horse document proposed a co-ordinated effort of installing governors and replacing staff - including head teachers - who were unsympathetic to Muslim doctrines. It claimed the tactics had been successfully deployed at several schools in Birmingham. When Mr Clarke's appointment was announced on Tuesday, West Midlands Police criticised the decision. Chief Constable Chris Sims said Mr Clarke had "many qualities" but people would "inevitably draw unwarranted conclusions from his former role". The DfE said Mr Clarke "has long experience of leading sensitive investigations" and "has earned a reputation for thoroughness, integrity and independence".
© BBC News

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25 schools in 'Muslim plot' probe (UK)

There are now 25 schools under investigation over an alleged hardline Muslim plot to force out governors and headteachers.

14/4/2014- Birmingham City Council said it was appointing a new chief adviser to directly handle at least 200 complaints received in relation to the Operation Trojan Horse allegations focusing on schools in the city, as the investigation continues to widen. The council's investigation, running in parallel to a separate inquiry by the Department for Education (DfE), is due to initially report back in May. However, Sir Albert Bore the council leader expressed "frustration" with the two-tier schools system which means academies - which are at the heart of the allegations - are outside the local authority's control, because they report directly to the DfE. The council said Ian Kershaw, managing director of Northern Education, will take up the chief adviser role, and it is also setting up a review group of MPs, councillors, national teaching and governors groups, the police, and faith leaders, to look into the claims. Mr Kershaw will publish his findings to the review group, which will then report to a council committee.

Sir Albert said a follow-up report containing recommendations for schools locally, and for the DfE to look at nationally, would be published by July. He also confirmed the council had spoken to the local authorities in both Manchester and Bradford, during its three-month long investigation, where similar allegations have been raised. Separately, Education Secretary Michael Gove has personally sent Ofsted in to inspect 15 Birmingham schools in recent weeks, after the allegations first broke. Concerns over how some of the city's 430 schools were being run first emerged when an anonymous letter known as Operation Trojan Horse was leaked, claiming a small but radical group of Muslims were pursuing their own agenda in the classrooms, with uncooperative headteachers and governors forced out. The unsigned and undated document also claimed to have caused "a great amount of organised disruption" in the city, crediting the plan with forcing a change of leadership at four schools.

Since the letter came to light, anonymous whistle-blowers have claimed that boys and girls were segregated in classrooms and assemblies, sex education was banned, non-Muslim staff bullied, and in one case it was alleged that the teachings of a firebrand al Qaida-linked Muslim preacher praised to pupils. Sir Albert said the council was "in dialogue" with the DfE, and confirmed none of the Ofsted inspection reports would be published by the education watchdog until after Easter. West Midlands Police is also still looking into the authorship of the document, the council's leader said. Sir Albert also described as "frustrating in the extreme" the situation whereby the city council is investigating possible wrong-doing at academies, where it has only limited powers to intervene if evidence of wrong-doing is uncovered.

Instead, the council has been speaking with headteachers and governors of non-local authority schools voluntarily and making approaches on the basis of its legal duty of care towards children. He said: "It (the allegations) started off with reference to academy schools and that for us was a bit of a problem because academy schools are of course accountable to the DfE, not to ourselves." Sir Albert added: "It's in the DfE's interest to settle some matters with us so we can move forward - it's unsatisfactory that you don't know who's on the governing body of academy schools." The council's education chiefs have said that pupils deserve a "fantastic education system" while teachers "deserve to be able to work in their jobs without intimidation". The allegations detailed in the Trojan Horse letter focus on the Park View Educational Trust, which runs three schools in the city - all of which have been subjected to snap Ofsted inspections in recent weeks.

Among further claims which have since come to light, one former anonymous staff member at Park View Academy in Alum Rock alleged a colleague had in an assembly praised the firebrand al-Qaida-linked Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - he was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011. The school trustees have firmly denied all the claims, branding the allegations "a witch-hunt", while pointing to very good academic results among its pupils. All of the city's MPs recently wrote a letter to Mr Gove calling for a full inquiry into the issues to settle the matter. A DfE spokesperson said its investigation was continuing and it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said schools should not be allowed to become "silos of segregation", as he backed the DfE's probe. At a press conference in Westminster he said: "I am very concerned whenever I hear allegations that schools, funded by the taxpayer, become vehicles for the propagation of particular ideologies which divide young children and pupils off from other people in society. He added: "The best faith schools, partly because they are conscious of their own faith, reach out to other faiths, reach out to other schools in the local community, teach about other faiths, rather than allowing them to become silos of segregations." He said his comments were not "directed at any one faith", but said schools which "turn inwards" needed to be investigated.
© The Belfast Telegraph

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Racism in Bristol: 349 victims report abuse in 2012/13 (UK)

15/4/2014- The words fill the entire length of another victim's front door. Daubed in paint, they are just one example of the racist abuse facing hundreds of people across Bristol.
The shocking images have been released by Bristol hate crime charity Stand Against Racism and Inequality (Sari), which has published its annual review. Despite a slight fall in racist incidents recorded by the charity, 349 victims reported abuse during 2012/13. The abuse varied from racist language to threats and physical assaults. Sari's annual report showed a seven per cent drop in recorded incidents between 2011/12 and 2012/13. The data has been coupled with census figures which show Bristol is becoming more ethnically diverse. Although the number of racist incidents fell across the city, some wards saw a sharp increase. Incidents reported in Brislington East, where Iran-born Bijan Ebrahimi was found burned to death on an estate in an apparent hate crime last summer, increased from two to 32.

Racist incidents recorded per ward in Bristol:
In total, Sari recorded 349 racist incidents in Bristol and the surrounding area in 2012/13, down from 374 in 2011/12. Census figures show Bristol's black and ethnic minority (BME) population doubled between 2001 and 2011. The increases were attributed to migration from eastern Europe and Somalia. In wards such as Avonmouth and Brislington East, where the BME population has grown, racist incidents have also increased.

+ The highest number of such incidents in 2012/13 were recorded in Lawrence Hill (51), which has the most ethnically diverse population.
+ The large majority (245) of incidents reported to Sari were classed as verbal abuse.
+ Assaults and intimidation were the second most common forms of racist abuse and the proportion has not changed year-on-year.
+ However, attacks on property and police discrimination has risen, according to the charity. Attacks on property increased from 32 to 43 over a year. In one instance, "go back ur country or dead" was spray-painted on a front door. Incidents of police discrimination went up from four to nine.
+ Of the 349 incidents in total, 346 took place at or around the home. The second most common place was at work.
+ Alarmingly, the highest number of victims were children below the age of nine. The second most common age category was 30-39.
+ Fifty-six people of Caribbean and Somali heritage were victims of incidents over the past year. Eastern European victims numbered 35.

Sari provides support to victims and training to employers and in schools. It is funded by local authorities. The charity lost its long-serving director Batook Pandya, who died of a heart attack, earlier this year. Esther Deans, Sari's chairwoman, said the charity had a "significant and inspiring year" marking 50 years since the Bristol Bus Boycott and 20 years since Stephen Lawrence was murdered. She said in her personal report: "At a time of so much change around the South West, we must continue to survive and work together to make Bristol the place where people feel safe and where diversity is truly valued."
© The Bristol Post

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Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers

A man facing deportation from Sweden has been granted a temporary reprieve after fellow passengers aboard his flight to Iran prevented it from taking off by refusing to fasten their seat belts.

14/4/2014- A Kurd fearing persecution in his home country of Iran, Ghader Ghalamere fled the country years ago and now has two young children with his wife Fatemeh, a Swedish resident. As a result he qualifies for a residence permit himself – yet because of a quirk in immigration laws he is required to apply for it from outside Sweden. On Thursday, Mr Ghalamere was put on a flight at Östersund bound for Stockholm – and ultimately Iran itself – accompanied by his friends and family in protest. Gathering in the departure lounge, they spoke to other passengers preparing to board the flight and explained the situation. Clearly moved, once on board the plane the other passengers refused to fasten their seat belts – a protest that prevented the pilots from being able to begin take off. With the flight unable to go ahead as scheduled, Mr Ghalamere was removed and taken to a migrant detention centre in Gävle, central Sweden – but the country’s migration board insists nothing about his situation has changed.

“It's enough now,” said Sanna Vestin, chairman of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR). “No one who sees the family can doubt that it would harm the children to their father expelled.” Ms Vestin, who has followed the family’s fate since the father contacted FARR a year ago, said police had asked Mr Ghalamere to travel to Norway to make his application for a Swedish passport from there. After two weeks the attempt failed and he returned to Sweden empty-handed – but upon his arrival the family was told his trip had proven the children could survive in his absence, and the Migration Board ordered his deportation. Mr Ghalamere first fled the prospect of torture and execution in Iran by travelling to Turkey, where he met Fatemeh and was granted refugee status by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

After five years of failed attempts to find him a country that would take him from Turkey, Mr Ghalamere was finally able to reach Sweden. “Now his case has received attention in the media – even in Iran itself,” Ms Vestin said. “There is one more reason to reconsider the case. The Migration Board can do [his hearing] over and do it right.” Since being returned to the detention centre, Mr Ghalamere has gone on hunger strike, and FARR have organised two demonstrations for Tuesday in Östersund and Gävle. Campaigners have also set up a Facebook group, stoppa utvisningen av ghader, which has around 4,000 members. Ms Vestin said: “It is gratifying that so many people have lined up. Sweden has undertaken to defend the rights of children and the right of asylum. When the authorities cannot do it on their own, others have to take responsibility when we get the chance.”
© The Independent

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One Czech Facebook page calling for the killing of "gypsies" shut down, one still open

12/4/2014- For the past several days the Facebook social networking site has hosted an openly hateful, racist page in the Czech language called "We demand impunity for shooting gypsies" (Požadujeme beztrestné vystřílení cikánů). On 11 April at 11:08 AM, news server Romea.cz published an article about the fact that according to communications with those who reported the page, Facebook did not find that it violated its "community principles". Three hours after the article was published on Romea.cz, the Facebook administrators re-evaluated their decision and closed this particular page. However, another page calling for the execution of the director of the ROMEA organization remains active on Facebook and most recently features a post threatening violence against three prominent Romani people: Jarmila Balážová, spokesperson for the Czech Human Rights Minister, journalist Tomáš Bystrý, and David Tišer, a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament.

"Kill them from birth", "That's why this PETITION to KILL these gypsy beasts WITH IMPUNITY!!!" - these are just two examples of the status updates to be found on the now-defunct Facebook page, which had 120 fans. The posts to the page openly called for the killing of a specific ethnic group. "We noticed the page practically right when it was created, which was 7 April. Racist and vulgar posts began showing up on our own Facebook page with the name of that page," Ryšavý told news server Romea.cz. "We immediately reported the page and called on our supporters to do the same," Ryšavý said. Facebook automatically sent the following message to those who reported the page within just a few minutes of their having done so: "We have checked the page you reported as containing hateful language or symbols and determined that it does not violate our community principles."

"The founder of the page, its fans, and the administrators of Facebook are violating the Czech criminal code and opening themselves up to the possibility of criminal prosecution and, in the case of the Facebook firm, to fines or possibly more serious repercussions. The question is why Facebook makes it possible for users to report hate pages if it is unwilling to do anything about them. Under the current state of affairs, Facebook is socially responsible for disseminating hatred and prejudice on the territory of the Czech Republic. I presume that the responsibility for not closing this page lies with the Czech administrators. The American management of Facebook actively guards against such manifestations of hatred," lawyer Klára Klaibová of the In IUSTITIA organization said prior to the page being closed.

Two mobile phone contact numbers were listed in the description of the now-closed page, apparently with the aim of harming the reputation of a person who did not establish the page. According to information obtained by news server Romea.cz, the owner of the numbers has filed a criminal report over their publication already. This particular page is not unique. For years it has been customary for Czech-language pages with hateful and racist content targeting specific individuals to be featured on the social networking site. One such page still features a call for the public execution of the director of the ROMEA organization, Zdeněk Ryšavý. "I filed a criminal report about that at the start of March. No one from the police has contacted me yet, but I believe someone is looking into it," he said.
© Romea.

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CoE report confirms concerns about Islamophobia in Denmark

A recent report released by the Council of Europe (CoE) has stated that there is an increase in incidents of Islamophobia and hate speech against Muslims living in Denmark

12/4/2014- The report, published March 24, is based on the examinations of Nils Muiznieks, commissioner for human rights of the CoE, during his visit to Denmark in November of last year. Muiznieks concluded that the high prevalence of racist and stigmatizing speech being used against Muslims in political life and in the media is a very problematic issue in Denmark. In the report, Muiznieks also focuses on issues regarding human rights of asylum-seekers and immigrants, with a particular emphasis on the rights of children as well as those of people with disabilities. “The commissioner encourages the Danish authorities to step up their efforts to combat hate speech, and in particular Islamophobia, which continues to be widespread in public and political debate. He particularly urges the authorities to condemn firmly and unequivocally all instances of racist and xenophobic political discourse,” states the report.

Danish media contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims
There is a diverse range of debates in Denmark on what makes up Danish identity -- from whether or not to allow halal meats at schools or whether to allow cashiers to wear headscarves to questioning a Danish boy of Moroccan descent winning Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, an annual music competition that determines the country’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest. These debates have one common factor: not being Danish enough. Giving these types of incidents, one may think that it is no surprise Muiznieks found widespread debates that are particularly Islamophobic even though some political parties have criticized the report to be “thin” and not very comprehensive.

Brian Arly Jacobsen, assistant professor in sociology of religion from Copenhagen University, agrees that the Danish media and the political debates contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims in Denmark. Jacobsen, who also specializes in how Muslims and Islam are portrayed in Danish politics, does recognize the problematic issue regarding the portrayal of Muslims in the media. However, he adds that depending on whom you ask there will be different opinions on the issue. “What does it mean to be Islamophobic? There are tendencies, sure, but how can one define Islamophobic?” Jacobsen told Sunday’s Zaman, adding “The problem is that the political debates and the media contribute to a skewed picture of Muslims that have consequences for Danish society as the picture portrayed is often associated with conflicts -- and this problem is exactly the generalization of Islamophobia that Muiznieks refers to.”

Generalization is widespread
Özlem Cecik, a Danish politician of Kurdish descent from Turkey, argues there are particular types of rhetoric being used in political and public debates in Denmark that may be thought-provoking, but she doesn’t agree that the debates are Islamophobic. Cecik told Sunday’s Zaman: “Nuances have disappeared in the political debate; generalization is widespread and herein lies the problem. For example, if there is a criminal called Brian, we try to understand why he became a criminal and help him. However, if the boy is called Muhammad, then the standard response is that it’s a cultural problem. Instead of focusing on how we can help, we start by thinking of it as a cultural or religious problem. We don’t address it as a social issue, such as educational or health-related issues. “Unfortunately, there is a greater focus on culture or religion, which distracts us from the real problems. Setting fire to containers is not a traditional feature of Turkish or Kurdish culture, so there must be more to the problem and often it is social issues, such as lack of education, that we should look to.”

Reading Danish news, it is not hard to find a harsh tone and attitude towards Muslims. For example, a column headed “Islam is our civilization’s greatest threat” in the Danish newspaper, Politiken, on March 2, written by Soren Espersen, a politician from the Danish People’s Party, may encourage fear-mongering. For Cecik, this type of rhetoric is used to stoke fears and sabotages any constructive dialogue. She believes it is always easier to engage in politics by stirring up hostility toward another group of people, adding: “This is a populist approach. Societal groups which do this are fear-mongering.” Muiznieks has also noted the harsh tone used in the media and politics towards Muslims and writes in the report: “Several of the commissioner’s interlocutors have indicated that the focus of stigmatizing media and political debate has shifted from color and ethnicity to religion and culture, with Muslims and Islam being at the center of this shift. Terminology frequently used to refer to Islam includes words such as ‘barbaric,’ ‘tyrannical,’ ‘fundamentalist’ and Muslim men have frequently been portrayed as violent and rapists.”

As a consequence, the anti-Islamic approach has eventually led to tightening immigration requirements for non-Westerners, making Denmark one of the countries in the EU with some of the tightest immigration regulations. “Some people are concerned as to whether Sharia [strict Islamic] law will be implemented in Denmark or not… However, it is unrealistic to think that Sharia law will be implemented in a democratic country like Denmark,” said Cecik.

There is a different side to the problem
Rushy Rashid Hojbjerg, a Pakistani-descended Danish journalist and radio host at Radio24syv who has been working in media for 15 years, told Sunday’s Zaman that she recognizes that even though there is a great focus on Islam and ethnicity in the media, it does not necessarily mean that every time Islam gets mentioned it is a case of Islamophobia. “The media often goes for negative stories because that’s where the conflict lies. As a radio host at my program, I am told that I should also feature more success stories; I don’t make two hours covering success stories, but I interview people of various ethnicities and make them talk politics, social injustice, Islam and so many other topics. The main goal of the program is to give a more nuanced picture,” Hojbjerg noted.

Speaking with Sunday’s Zaman, Jens Stensgaard Jakobsen, an editor for the Danish cross-cultural paper Opinionen, agrees that the Danish debates in the media are not Islamphobic, adding: “If you look back at the 2000s, articles regarding Islam and immigration were published up to three times more than today, but now the focus has been taken away from that. Rather, there is a problem with good journalism. As a journalist, I see the problem lies within the lack of multi-cultural journalists who, with their different cultural insight, can contribute to a more nuanced debate. A lot of the big news agencies do not often have skilled journalists with solid resources. The lack of insightful reporting may be the problem...The big newspapers have to remember that their readers also include Danes with multicultural backgrounds now.”
© Today's Zaman

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Headlines 11 April, 2014

Report: Roma claim discrimination in housing, job markets (Finland)

Around half of all Finnish Roma say they have experienced discrimination in the housing market, according to a fresh report from Minorities Ombudsman Eva Biaudet. The report also found that Roma respondents said they faced discrimination in the search for work.

11/4/2014- The Minority Ombudsman report looked at three areas of life in the attempt to map Roma experiences of discrimination and to compare them with the experiences of other minority groups in Finland, such as Russians and Somalis. Respondents were polled on their experiences in acquiring housing, jobs and in inter-personal relations within the Roma community. The report found that nearly 70 percent of the respondents (68.7) reported discrimination in all of the areas being studied. Additionally, a similar proportion -- 68.5 percent -- said that they had experienced discrimination while trying to rent or buy a home. In terms of work, 53.8 percent said they'd been discriminated against in the search for work during the past five years.

The report compares these findings to a previous survey of Russian- and Somali-speakers conducted in 2009 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. That study found that 22 percent of Somali background and 11 percent of Russian background Finnish residents reported discrimmination looking for housing during the previous five years. In the job market, some 41 percent of Somalis and 25 percent of Russians complained about discrimination. Minorities Ombudsman Eva Biaudet stresses that not all negative experiences in the rental market are violations of Finland’s law on equality. Some are down to the applicant’s own personal history, or financial or social issues. She recommends more transparency in the public housing rental market, along with co-operation between the authorities and Roma. Roma have been living in Finland for at least 500 years. A decade ago, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health estimated their population at around 10,000.

Note: This report has been updated to reflect the fact that the data regarding experiences by Somali- and Russian-background immigrants was came from a previous study by the EU organisation the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, and not by the Minosiry Ombudsman.
© YLE News.

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Gang forces disabled Romanians to beg (Spain)

Spanish police have broken up a human trafficking ring that exploited disabled Romanian migrants by promising them jobs in Spain and then forcing them to beg and work as prostitutes on the streets of Alicante and Benidorm.

10/4/2014- Three men and one woman have been arrested after one of the gang’s victims told Spain’s National Police force about her ordeal. The disabled migrant had been forced to become a sex worker and had her papers taken away by the criminal ring, Spain’s edition of the Huffington Post reported on Thursday. “They capture whole families and convince them they’ll have well paid agricultural jobs in Spain,” says José Nieto, inspector in chief for Spain’s human trafficking and document forgery unit (UCRIF). “Each person gets charged between €300 and €500 for all the paperwork. They stick them on a bus and bring them to Barcelona, Madrid or the Mediterranean Coast.” Once they’ve arrived, it dawns on them they’ve been conned out of their savings and are often forced to sleep rough in the streets. It’s then that a ‘Good Samaritan’ turns up, offering them food and shelter in return for a service: begging or prostitution.

“Each beggar has to make between €80 and €100 a day or a ‘payment’ in the form of mobiles, handbags, wallets, sunglasses or computers which on most occasions they have to steal from bars or terraces,” Nieto adds. Four other disabled people were freed in this latest sting operation but hundreds more disabled migrants are still being exploited on the streets of Spain’s cities. Even though 90 human trafficking gang members have been arrested in Spain over the last three years, they tend to get round legal prosecution in the same way as the country’s pickpockets. They have no work contract so they can’t be accused of work exploitation. Neither can they be found guilty of fraud as they’re only making false promises of employment to their naïve victims. Criminal gangs continue to get off scot-free with their illicit ‘business practises’ and “all their earnings always end up in Romania”, inspector in chief José Nieto concludes.
© The Local - Spain

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Anti-racism bill to be tabled again in Parliament (Greece)

9/4/2014- Draft legislation that aimed to introduce stiffer criminal sanctions for incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence and to criminalize denial of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is to be reintroduced to Parliament on Thursday after a four-month hiatus. The anti-racism bill was first presented to the parliamentary committee for public administration, public order and justice on November 20 but was withdrawn on December 3 before MPs managed to start a second reading of the legislation. Opposition parties, as well as coalition partner PASOK, blamed former cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos for the bill being snatched from Parliament. Baltakos was forced to resign last week over a secretly filmed video of him meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. Over the past few days Democratic Left and PASOK called for the legislation to be brought back to Parliament so it could be passed at committee level and then be put to the plenary. The decision to reintroduce the anti-racism bill is also seen as an attempt by New Democracy to heal its differences with PASOK in the wake of Baltakos’s departure. It is believed the move came after a conversation between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos.
© Kathimerini

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Jewish organizations fear rise of anti-Semitism in the EU during elections

9/4/2014- The eventual success of right-wing extremist parties in the EP elections could lead to a strengthening of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Europe and could contribute to increased attacks against Jewish people. Rabbi Andrew Baker, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, warned of such a possibility on Monday. According to Baker, anti-Semitic sentiment can be observed in all EU countries today, manifesting itself differently in different places. "European right-wing extremist parties have included anti-Semitic positions in their programs. None of them is free of anti-Semitism, even if it's not a main point of their program," he said recently at a meeting of American and European Jewish organizations in Berlin. Baker says anti-Semitism can be traced in all European countries today. Its most frequent manifestations are anti-Jewish texts spread online or efforts to deny or relativize the Holocaust. In many countries, however, physical assaults against Jewish people or efforts by some organizations to abolish traditional Jewish rituals can be observed.

Baker includes a recent attempt by German child protection organizations to ban the ritual circumcision of boys as one example. "We are encountering an attack on the basis of our faith, a violation of our freedom of religious worship," Baker said of the anti-circumcision movement. Such manifestations of anti-Semitism differ depending on the EU Member State involved. In countries that were once under the Soviet sphere of influence, Baker says an older type of anti-Semitism is still displayed, related to the dissemination of stereotypes about Jewish people. Such stereotypes are accompanied by hateful rhetoric which can be heard in various parts of society, but physical assaults on Jewish individuals are rare. In West European countries the situation is different, with more violent anti-Semitic incidents occurring. Baker says this is partially due to the radicalization of Muslim immigrants in those countries. The fact that the Middle East peace process has made only minimal progress also influences the situation. Baker says many Europeans do not perceive any difference between Israel and the Jewish communities in their own countries and take the side of the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict.
© Romea.

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No, Brandeis Isn't 'Silencing' Ayaan Hirsi Ali (opinion)

By Ali Gharib

10/4/2014- To begin with, let’s clear up a few details of the flap over Brandeis University’s decision to revoke an invitation for Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree and address the graduating class: Hirsi Ali is emphatically not being “silenced,” as she and her defenders claim. The university, in tandem with its notice to Hirsi Ali that her award was rescinded, invited her to campus to expound on her views in a forum that did not confer upon her any honor. That latter invitation was the lynchpin in Brandeis’s strategy to correct its mistake — the initial offer of an honor — in the best way possible: by preserving the notion that universities should be bastions of free thought, even for deeply unpopular ideas. And it is that invitation which renders moot Hirsi Ali’s complaint that “neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced.” The issue with honoring Hirsi Ali was never what she may say — hence the standing invitation to speak — but rather what she has said.

Hirsi Ali’s record is plump with remarks that any tolerant, liberal institution should view with caution. Her personal narrative and work on women’s rights may tell a different, laudable story, but not one that outweighs the pattern of hostility toward a major world religion. This hostility crosses boundaries beyond atheistic skepticism and into literal militant opposition to one faith in particular: Islam. Hirsi Ali claims her “critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work.” Consult, in full, a 2007 interview with Reason, which Hirsi Ali has never disavowed, wherein she repudiates the notion that her enemy is merely radical or political Islam. When Hirsi Ali describes a “war with Islam,” the interviewer asks simply, “Militarily?” Hirsi Ali responds in the affirmative.

That Hirsi Ali falls back on claims that she’s being “silenced” — which, again, she is not — should raise some alarms. I reported two years ago on an event — another award ceremony for Hirsi Ali — where she spoke on “the advocates of silence.” In the speech, she raised the anti-Muslim Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. Hirsi Ali denounces his act, but then gives a credulous voice to the justification Breivik used: “He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.” That view is not difficult to reconcile with Hirsi Ali’s call for a military war against Islam: Breivik, after all, hoped to spark, as the New York Times put it, a “war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination.” The goal, if not exactly the tactics, was the same as Hirsi Ali’s clarion call.

The latest project Hirsi Ali finds herself involved with also relies on a clarion call, that of the aptly named Clarion Project, a film production outfit with close ties to the pro-Israel right. Clarion is so noxiously Islamophobic that New York’s former mayor denounced the airing of one of their films at a police event. Hirsi Ali features as an expert interviewee in Clarion’s latest film. Clarion’s involvement with Hirsi nicely encapsulates something observers of the current row may have noticed: many — though not all — of the vociferous objections to Brandeis withdrawing its offer to award come from the pro-Israel community. Occasionally it comes from the center, but it’s heavily concentrated in the community’s right wing.

This is most unfortunate precisely because it, too, has become something of a pattern. From the pages of Commentary and the Weekly Standard, to the proclamations of Abraham Foxman, to the writings of former New Republic editor Marty Peretz, those in the hard-line pro-Israel community have become the chief public voices of a pervasive anti-Muslim bias. This troubling trend has garnered some coverage in the progressive press, but mainstream and Jewish press have lagged behind. On the latter score, the editors of the online magazine Tablet, on Thursday, bestowed upon Hirsi Ali their impromptu “Moses Award.”

“There is every reason to imagine that [Supreme court justice and university namesake Louis] Brandeis would have enjoyed hearing Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak — regardless of whether he agreed with her or not, and maybe especially if not,” wrote the editors. Brandeis would, then, have had no issue: like many of Hirsi Ali’s defenders, the Tablet editors’ sleight of hand about “silencing” her speech only works when you elide the school’s standing invitation for her to speak.
© The Forward- blogs- Forward Thinking

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Italy alarmed over boat migrant influx

Italy says 4,000 boat migrants have made landings "non-stop" along its shores or have been rescued by ships over the past two days. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has urged the EU to "take the situation in hand."

9/4/2014- Italy said on Wednesday that bids by thousands of boat migrants to cross the Mediterranean from northern Africa had become "glaring" with many more waiting in Libya.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said that two merchant ships had rescued two boatloads carrying 300 and 361 people early on Wednesday. At least one dead body was discovered on board, he said. Alfano demanded that the EU do more than just hand funds to its border agency Frontex. "There are death merchants who profit from this human trafficking and who send out requests for help just 30 to 40 miles after leaving the Libyan coasts," Alfano said.

Policy overhaul awaited
Late last year, Italy began a naval operation to spot migrant boats in transit after more than 400 migrants from Eritrea and Syria perished just off Italy's southern-most island of Lampedusa. That tragedy prompted calls for an overhaul of European migration and asylum policies, which culminated at an EU-Africa summit in Brussels last week in joint promises to try new approaches. The EU and the African Union said they would "upscale efforts" to tackle "irregular migration" by focusing instead on development and education in Africa, combined with crackdowns on people traffickers.

Thousands perished
Migrant advocacy groups estimate that between 17,000 and 20,000 migrants have died at sea while trying to reach "fortress Europe" in the past 20 years. Alfano estimated that so far this year 15,000 migrants had been rescued. An estimated 1,000 have already reached Spain in the first three months of this year crossing from Morocco into two Spanish enclaves in northern Africa - Melilla and Ceuta. Migrants from central and western Africa converged on Morocco and then tried to scale the enclaves' high barbed-wire fences, often enduring deep cuts to their hands and feet. "As long as there is such a big difference in wealth and there are problems in Africa, there will always be immigration," said Adil Akkid of the Moroccan Assocation of Human Rights. Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for "greater commitment" to deal with pressure on Ceuta and Melilla. Once on European territory, would-be migrants face repatriation or often long procedural waits if they apply for asylum.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Up to 6% of migrants lose their life at sea (Malta/Italy)

A study on migration flows shows that 6% of migrants die at sea near Malta and Lampedusa.

9/4/2014- The matter of a few days shocked Europe with hundreds of migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean. The Migrants Files, a project by a European conglomerate of journalists, aims at precisely assessing the number of men, women and children that died as a result of EU Member States migration policies. The study concludes that the number of sourced dead and missing migrants was 50% higher than current estimates. A reliable overview of migrant deaths has so far been difficult if not impossible to reach, however the Migrants Files, compiled by a consortium of more than 10 European journalists, now offers the most comprehensive and rigorous database on migrant fatalities ever assembled. And their assessment is shocking. Over the last 14 years, more than 23,000 people have died or vanished attempting to enter Europe, the study shows.

The number of migrant fatalities on their journey to Europe is much higher than previously believed. Earlier estimates ranged between 17,000 and 19,000, however this was based on a longer period. The new study shows that mortality rates between migration routes vary widely, ranging from 2% in the Canaries to 6% near Malta and Lampedusa. Moreover, it concludes that EU member states constantly close the routes with low mortality, pushing migrants towards the more dangerous ones. The damning study also points out that member states and EU institutions do not collect data on migrant deaths. When it comes to talking of “lives saved” and security of migrations, politicians and border patrol agencies “engage in shameless lies and whitewashing of their activities and programs, renaming surveillance and push-back activity into search and rescue operations,” the project says.

The Migrants’ Files data indicates that migration flows vary between sea and land routes according to season, local conflicts and war zones, as well as the preferences of human traffickers. In recent years, the European Union has concluded a series of bilateral agreements with various north and west African countries and has undertaken several measures to tighten border security along Europe’s borders. As a result, the routes taken by migrants shifted from Spain, to Italy and then Greece, underscoring the variable nature of migrant flows. The flow of migrants travelling overland from Turkey into Greece fell from more than 55,500 in 2011 to just over 12,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, the sea route between these two eastern Mediterranean countries saw an increase, from less than 1,500 to over 11,000 in the same period.

An ever-increasing number of asylum seekers are making their way to Europe either through the Greek islands or Italy. Since the land route from the Horn of Africa – Somalia and Eritera – through the Sinai desert into Israel has been cut, the sea journey between Libya and Lampedusa and Malta has lately returned to favour among the traffickers. Libya is currently one of the main hubs for migrants wishing to enter Europe, with the North African country’s lack of effective law enforcement and power vacuum, facilitating the migrants’ attempts to travel by sea, at a great risk. An in-depth analysis of migrant flows by the European Parliament’s directorate-general for external policies confirmed that a major increase in border crossings in the Mediterranean was recorded in 2013.

While warning that “the EU should prevent the criminalisation of migrants and of humanitarian organisations supporting migrants,” the report says that member states should be encouraged to speed up their procedures to grant asylum, while differentiating between refugees and irregular migrants. Furthermore, the report says that the European Parliament should encourage member states, in cooperation with the UNHCR, to increase their quotas for resettling refugees “not adequately protected in third countries”.
© Malta Today

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UNHCR proposes ‘joint processing’ project for migrants’ relocation (Malta)

UNHCR launch information and statistics on asylum and migration in Malta toolkit for MEP hopefuls, calls on government to develop a framework to facilitate migrants’ integration.

10/4/2014- With migration and asylum policies topping the agenda of many Maltese MEP hopefuls, this afternoon, the UNCHR Office in Malta, in collaboration with the European Parliament Information Office in Malta, launched a toolkit on asylum and migration for Maltese MEP candidates – “a tool intended to provide MEP candidates and stakeholders with factual information on which to base positions and views.” While underlining that the European Parliament has been repeatedly insisting on “enhancing asylum and immigration policies on a European front,” Peter Agius, the representative of the European Parliament Office in Malta, argued that notwithstanding this, the European Commission has not “presented any concrete proposals, at least not up to the ambition of the European Parliament.”

Pinpointing statistics pertaining to the arrival of migrants in Malta, Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR representative to Malta, argued that among its solutions to the influx of migrants in Malta and Europe, the UN's refugee agency is proposing resettlement and relocation, voluntary repatriation as well as integration. “Among its measures to alleviate the influx of migrants, the UNCHR is proposing a pilot project whereby more than one country would agree to participate in a joint rescue operation. The country where the disembarkation of migration occurs would not shoulder the responsibility of migrants alone, but instead it will take a fraction,” Hoisaeter told MaltaToday. “Such arrangements would be based on the understanding that disembarkation takes place in the EU and does not necessarily imply sole responsibility for processing and solutions by the member state on whose territory disembarkation takes place, at least for those rescued in international waters.”

Asked whether this would still comply with the Dublin Regulation, Hoisaeter argued that countries such as Malta and neighbouring Mediterranean countries would not be demanded to comply, but instead invited to participate out of their own free will. Currently, the Dublin Regulation prohibits asylum-seeks from submitting asylum applications in multiple states. On integration, the UNHCR representative explained that the refugee agency is calling on the government to develop a framework to facilitate integration and settlement, to provide asylum-seekers to certain services, and to provide long term planning for individuals to settle in Malta. In addition, a day after Italy rescued 4,000 migrants, Hoisander argued that the arrivals of migrants in the first quarter is roughly ten times more when compared with the corresponding period. “There has been bigger movement in the Mediterranean, perhaps triggered by the ensuing crisis in Syria, but whether this would reflect in Malta is mere speculation. Nevertheless, countries must be ready for all eventualities,” he explained.

#knowthefacts toolkit
In their joint publication #knowthefacts – a booklet with information and statistics on asylum and migration in Malta, Europe and beyond, the UNHCR and the European Parliament Information Office explained that this is intended to provide MEP candidates and stakeholders with factual information on which to base positions and views. Basing the information available on UNHCR statistics, Eurostat data and other sources in Malta, the booklet includes update information and statistics up until 2014. “Asylum and migration issues remain high on the agenda in Malta. There are different perspectives as regards challenges and solutions. But the debate often suffers from lack of awareness about some of the basic facts,” Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR Representative to Malta said. Among its statistics, the toolkit highlighted that during 2013, Malta received a total of 2,200 asylum applications, while the EU received a total of 400,000 asylum seekers, 75,000 of whom were refugees from war-torn Syria.

Malta tops the list on the number of asylum seekers per 1000 inhabitants between 2009 and 2013, but recent Eurostat statistics have revealed that during 2013, Sweden saw the most asylum seekers per 1000 inhabitants. In 2013, 2,008 migrants arrived by boat from Libya, half of whom were from Somalia. Since 20012, an estimate 18,625 of migrants arrived in Malta, while 30% of whom are estimated to be currently living in Malta. Among its solutions, the toolkit is proposing greater resettlement and relocation – a protection tool that meets the needs of individual refugees whose fundamental rights might be at risk in the country where they have sought refuge. While explaining that the European Union must address migration at transit countries – most notably Libya, war-torn Syria and sub-Saharan countries – the information booklet is also proposing greater voluntary repatriation and integration.
© Malta Today

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Oslo to get first Muslim primary school (Norway)

Plans to launch Oslo's first Muslim-only primary school have been given the go-ahead by Norway's education ministry in the face of cross-party criticism.

8/4/2014- In the application to start the school, the Association of Muslim Mothers said that the school would teach its pupils Arabic and Islamic values as well as the standard subjects on the curriculum, replacing the subject of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics with Islam, Religion and Philosophy. The school aims to have 200 students, and is expected to look for premises in the east side of Oslo, where most of the city's immigrant population lives. Both Norway's opposition Labour Party and the anti-immigrant Progress Party, which is part of the government coalition, spoke up against the plans. "I'm concerned that if we begin to group ourselves by religion, it will weaken the inclusiveness of Norwegian society," said Trond Giske, the Labour MP who chairs the Norwegian parliament's education committee. "We spend a lot of money on inclusion in Norway, and now we are apparently going to be spending it on segregation." "These kids need to be in an environment with other Norwegian children," said Camilla Wilhelmsen, who leads the Progress Party in Oslo. "The community is already to some extent segregated and this will not make it any better." The Association of Muslim Mothers has fought for more than a year to open the school and has had its application turned down several times. Today, Oslo has a Muslim kindergarten, the Mosaikk Barnhage, but no Muslim schools.
© The Local - Norway

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Russian court forces closure of prominent human rights NGO

8/4/2014- Today’s decision by the St Petersburg City Court to deny the appeal of a prominent Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) against a previous court order to register as a “foreign agent” is a legal assault on the whole of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International said. Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, an important human rights NGO working on behalf of victims of racism and xenophobia in Russia, decided to close down its activities in Russia rather than wear the label of a “foreign agent” or risk the criminal prosecution of its leader for failing to register.

“The court had two options, and its choice was not in favour of justice and human rights. Its disheartening decision is in line with the prevailing tendency promoted by the Russian government to stamp its authority on any civil society activity. It sets a dangerous precedent which could be used against other NGOs,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office. “The Russian authorities are deliberately depriving Russian society of an alternative voice, of checks and balances to the government’s actions. They attack anybody who dares to criticize them.”

The persecution of ADC Memorial started more than a year ago when the Prosecutor’s Office referred to its report, Roma, migrants and activists: the victims of police abuse, submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in November 2012, as evidence of ADC Memorial being involved in “political activity” and hence, violating Russia’s newly adopted law by failing to register as a “foreign agent”. The NGO successfully resisted two court cases brought against it by the Prosecutor’s Office, in May and July 2013. However, on 12 December 2013 a court in St Petersburg found in favour of the Prosecutor’s Office’s new request to recognize all of ADC Memorial’s activities as “political” and compel it to register as a “foreign agent”.

After today’s ruling, ADC Memorial’s head, Stefania Kulaeva, voiced her disappointment to Amnesty International:
“The court proceedings were not objective. Our arguments were not considered. Our lawyers were interrupted time and again while the prosecution was given a free rein.” The “foreign agents” law, introduced more than a year ago, gives the Russian authorities the power to impose hefty fines and severe administrative penalties on organizations which receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined “political activities” but fail to register as “an organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

The court decision against ADC Memorial comes the same day as Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the “foreign agents law” is in line with the country’s Constitution. A number of NGOs and the Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin had challenged the law on the grounds that it violates the rights to freedom of expression and association, both of which are purportedly protected under Russia’s Constitution. “It has become increasingly clear that the Russian authorities are hell-bent on crushing civil society at all costs,” said Sergei Nikitin.
© Amnesty International

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Racism and Xenophobia in March 2014 (Russia)

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government coordination or countermeasures, for the month of March 2014. The review is based on material gathered by Sova Center in the course of our daily monitoring.

7/4/2014- This month, no fewer than thirteen people fell victim to racist violence in Moscow and the Moscow and Irkutsk regions, one of them being killed. We are also aware that ultra-right activists staged so-called ‘white cars’ – where non-Slavic people on public transit are targeted for attack – on at least three occasions. (This phenomenon is also known in the nationalist community as ‘cleaning.’) As such, since the beginning of the year, no fewer than 29 people have been subjected to racist violence, with seven of them being killed. The violence has taken place in nine regions of Russia: Moscow and the Moscow region; Saint Petersburg; the Vladimir, Irkutsk and Sakhalin regions; the republics of Karelia and Tatarstan; and the Perm Krai. We remind readers that these numbers do not include victims of violence in Russia’s Northern Caucasus.

In March, we recorded no fewer than six acts of vandalism that can be characterized as motivated by hatred or neo-Nazi ideology. That makes at least twelve such incidents since the beginning of this year. The ultra-right’s activities grew this month. Every notable Russian nationalist organization, more or less, weighed in on the government crisis in Ukraine and the Russian Federation’s annexation (in Russian, generally referred to as “merger”) of Crimea. The annexation was supported by the majority of Russians, who often refer to Crimea as a “Russian land.”

A few ultranationalist groups held actions in support of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking citizens, against the Ukrainian government, and for Russian politics in the region generally. On March 1, the People’s Council held an action that drew between 100-150 people. On March 15, on Moscow’s Novopushkinsky Square, the Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers (Soyuz pravoslavnykh khorugvenostsev) held an action that drew activists from organizations including Great Russia and the LDPR, the party of Duma Deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On March 9, St. Petersburg’s Mars Field hosted an action featuring activists from the People’s Council, the Great Fatherland (Velikoe Otechestvo) party, Motherland (Rodina), the Russian Imperial Movement, as well as Cossacks.

A few nationalist organizations (as part of the ‘Russian Spring’ campaign) actually sent activists to southern and eastern regions of Ukraine. At the end of March, Ukrainian state security expelled from the country Saint Petersburger Anton Raevsky, a member of the Black Hundreds, for “inciting ethnic hatred.” Meanwhile, some nationalists participated in the March for Peace held on March 15 in Moscow. Sova staff at the march noted symbols displaying the presence of the following nationalist groups: the Russian Right Party (Rossiiskaya pravaya partiya) of V. Ivanov (Istarkhov); the People’s Will (Narodnaya volya); and also a Russian imperial flag with the logos of the RONA and the RGS. A few people were detained for displaying nationalist symbols.

Nationalists also fixated on the Duma’s March 21 preliminary discussion of amending Russia’s citizenship laws. In this connection, members of the ‘Russians’ movement organized a campaign under the name “Russians Against the Distribution of Citizenship.” On March 19, about 25 of these activists gathered on Pushkin Square for an unsanctioned picket. On that day and the day before, the ‘Russians’ posted stickers in connection with the picket at Khimki and Dolgoprudny. On March 21, similar actions followed in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Orel, and Khabarovsk. On March 1 in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Ryazan, and Khabarovsk, the traditional Heroes’ Day was held in memory of the Pskov paratrooper battalion killed in action in Chechnya in 2000.

Ultra-right activists continued their raids on residences known to house so-called “illegals.” Unfortunately, the raids continued in coordination with Russian law enforcement. The ‘Russians’ movement posted information to their Guestbusters website showing that on February 17, 2014, it had “inspected” passengers on a Tashkent-to-Saint Petersburg train in conjunction with the Internal Ministry and Federal Migration Service. We are not aware of any convictions for racist violence in March 2014. There have been six convictions against thirteen people for violent crimes taking into consideration a hate motive so far this year, in five regions of the country. Russian courts made seven rulings against as many people related to xenophobic propaganda this month in as many regions of the country. As such, from the beginning of the year, there have been no fewer than 24 rulings on racist and other far-right propaganda, with 25 people convicted in 20 regions of Russia.

A noteworthy verdict came in the Ostankino District Court of Moscow on March 17, 2014. ‘Russians’ leader and prominent Russian ultranationalist Dmitry Demushkin was convicted under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, organization of a banned organization, and fined 200,000 RUB (roughly $5,650 – a major sum). However, the court released Demushkin from the obligation to pay due to an expired statute of limitations. The verdict came as a surprise: it remains unclear why the case was investigated for such a long period of time, and for what reason a litany of other charges were excluded from the case, for example those related to the activities of Demushkin’s banned Slavic Union (SS), which essentially has continued as the Slavic Force (also SS), a member organization of the ‘Russians’ movement.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated five times this month, on March 5, 7, 14, 24 and 27. Entries 2225-2269 were added. The usual suspects remained targets for addition to the list: Islamist materials, including videos from insurgents in the Caucasus and the Hizb ut-Tahrir party; articles from the website hunafa.com; an issue of regional magazine New Times of Udmurtia; Boris Stomakhin’s website, including articles by him; articles from the anarchist journal Avtonom; the website of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) and various other ultranationalist materials from the social network VKontakte (including a picture from a page entitled Russia for Cats); the Third-Reich-era anti-Semitic children’s book Der Giftpilz (Poganka, The Poisonous Mushroom) by Ernst Hiemer; and various racist slogans and placards.

The Faizrakhmanists, a Russian-born Islamist movement, were added to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations in March following a February 21 ruling by the Soviet District Court of Kazan, in the Republic of Tatarstan, which declared them to be extremist. In this connection, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations now includes 34 organizations (not including a separate 19 that are considered terrorist) whose activities in the Russian Federation have been enjoined by a court, and whose continued activities would be punishable under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

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Sweden orders inquiry into hate vandalism

The swedish government has ordered an inquiry into hate assaults and vandalism following an intensification of neo-Nazi attacks on Jewish and Muslim targets.



11/4/2014- The announcement came after a series of defacings, including at the part-Jewish Vasa Real high school in central Stockholm where pupils found Nazi symbols and antisemitic slurs such as “Jew swine” spray-painted in pink and blue on the walls. The findings of the inquiry, which will focus on attacks on Jewish and Muslim individuals and buildings, will be presented at a conference in October 2014. “We must stand up for an open and tolerant society and for everyone’s equal worth,” Sweden’s Minister of Integration, Erik Ullenhag, and the Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Stefan Attefall, wrote in an op-ed. “When a young Muslim woman has her headscarf torn off, when the rabbi in Malmö experiences blatant antisemitism and when converts are assaulted because they carry a christening certificate in their bag, society must react,” the ministers wrote. On Friday, pupils, staff and parents from Vasa Real organised a demonstration against racism. Addressing the crowds, Willy Silberstein, president of Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, said: “In 2014, swastikas are yet again being painted on walls and the word ‘Jew’ is being used as a slur in schools.” In a report published in March, anti-racist foundation Expo claimed that Nazi groups in Sweden were stepping up activities ahead of the September general election.
© The Jewish Chronicle

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'The Nazis should have fled for their lives' (Sweden)

The 35-year-old man who stabbed a man during the stand-off with neo-Nazis in Kärrtorp in December said in court on Tuesday that he acted in self-defence - "I don't know what choice we had."

8/4/2014- "He admits that he has stabbed the plaintiff twice," said defence lawyer Björn Törnell. "He did not intend to kill, only to cause minor injury." The 35-year-old reportedly belongs to the organization the Revolutionary Front, which is considered left-wing extremist. He has several previous convictions behind him. In court on Tuesday, he faced charges that he was among a group of black-clad demonstrators who went on the counter-attack when the neo-Nazi Swedish Resistance Movement threw firecrackers and bottles at an until-then peaceful neighbourhood demonstration against racism. The court was shown videos from the altercation, with large throngs of people pushing up against each other in apparent attempts to repel the opposing group. At times, the scene descends into violence as individuals get into fights. The words "Adolf Hitler" and "Sieg Heil" are clearly audible above the din, the TT news agency reported from court.

The prosecutor has argued that the 35-year-old suspect showed up in Kärrtorp armed with a morakniv, a traditional Swedish knife used for wood carving and odd jobs. "It was a heated atmosphere on our side also, of course, but that's because they (the neo-Nazis) arrived," the 35-year-old said in court. "It was calm before that." The Revolutionary Front has printed FreeJoel T-shirts, amassed pictures showing support for the suspect, as well as organizing protests. Demonstrators held banners stating that "anti-fascism is always self-defence". In court, the suspect explained that the neo-Nazis were the ones to go on the attack, which a recent verdict against seven of the Swedish Resistance Movement (SMR) members also stated, and that some people in the crowd had decided to fight back. "I don't know what choice we had. Either to stand there and get beaten up, or defend ourselves," he said.

The suspect argued that the insufficient police presence - admitted to by the police themselves after the event - had left them little choice. The plaintiff, also present in court on Tuesday, said that he did not at first notice that he had been stabbed, only later feeling the blood on his back. A police officer also testified in court, and said the altercation was among the worst the officer had seen despite working at several football derbies in the past. The officer said the police on the ground received orders to keep the two groups apart. The violence quickly became considerable, however. "Unfortunately, SMR didn't back off..... they should flee to not be beaten to death, but they don't," the police officer recalled.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Swastika vandals target foreign-born car owners

Small town residents in central Sweden have been rattled by a recent attack on cars owned by people with foreign-sounding names: "After seven years on the run, I've started looking over my shoulder again."

7/4/2014- "Many now say that you shouldn't walk around alone after 8pm," said Moussa Kasim, who has lived in Finspång for two years. He called the police after he saw the vandalized cars and spray-painted swastikas as he returned from morning prayers at a nearby mosque on Sunday morning. "I guess it's against migrants, some sort of 'Sweden for Swedes' logo," Kasim said of the swastikas. "After seven years on the run, finally we felt safe. So this is ironic. I've started looking over my shoulder again." Kasim said that despite an arson attack on an Arab immigrant's car two months ago and a hit-and-run incident four months earlier residents had not felt threatened, but the latest incident had residents worried about their families' safety.

Local police chief Hanna Sjögren told The Local via SMS that an officer had been selected to steer the investigation, but he was not immediately available for comment. Three cars were targeted in the attack, all registered to owners with foreign-sounding names, the Norrköpings Tidning local newspaper noted. "It is probably some sort of message for those of us who think the Sweden may become their second motherland, that they'll find peace and prosperity here," said Kasim, which is not his real name.

He underscored that other Finspång natives had gone out of their way to make him and his family feel welcome in the small town of 20,000 residents in central Sweden. Had it simply been vandalism, Kasim said, he would have not thought much of the incident. "I would think it was some drunk chaps who did this," he said. "But the swastika signs left on the cars made me think otherwise." If the attack were to be deemed politically motivated rather than a drunk prank, it would be the second attack using anti-Semitic messages in Finspång in less than three months. In late January, a woman came home to her Finspång apartment to find an axe wedged in the door, next to a Star of David and a scrawled message "Disappear".
© The Local - Sweden

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Austrian far-right politicians quit EU parliament campaign

8/4/2014- Two top far-right Austrian candidates for next month's EU parliamentary elections quit on Tuesday, under fire from their own party ranks, bucking a trend of Eurosceptic parties in the ascendancy. The co-lead candidate for the anti-immigrant Freedom Party said he had lost his party's trust after making racist comments, while the daughter of late Austrian right-wing populist leader Joerg Haider gave up on re-energizing her father's BZO party. Far-right anti-establishment parties are expected to fare well across much of the EU in May's election, mining voter dissatisfaction with high unemployment and entrenched centrist parties seen as out of touch, and fear of immigration. But the comments by the Freedom Party's Andreas Moelzer that the European Union's aggressive regulation made Nazi Germany look liberal by comparison and his warning the bloc could become a "conglomerate of negroes" risked alienating potential voters.

The Freedom Party (FPO) is scoring around 27 percent in Austrian national opinion polls, ahead of the governing Social Democrats and conservative People's Party. But how to handle Moelzer had become a tricky test for the party, which treads a fine line in positioning itself as a mainstream party electable by voters fed up with creeping EU centralization but who would not see themselves as far-right. Pressure had mounted on the party's leadership to fire the 61-year-old veteran EU parliamentarian, who was supposed to be one of its two top candidates. Moelzer told the Austria Press Agency he was not prompted to quit by pressure from other political parties, the media or other external critics. "It is the obvious loss of confidence in my party that prompts me to do this," he said.

Haider's Charisma
The daughter of Joerg Haider also quit as the BZO's top candidate for the EU polls after less than a month of campaigning, citing criticism from within the movement's ranks. Ulrike Haider-Quercia, a university professor in Rome, had hoped to recapture her father's charisma and political acumen for the floundering Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO), which has been polling only around 2.0 percent in opinion surveys. Joerg Haider, who helped bring anti-immigrant politics into the European mainstream, created the right-liberal BZO after quitting the far-right Freedom Party he had previously led. The BZO's popularity has dwindled since his death in 2008 car crash. His daughter told the Austria Press Agency (APA) she could not follow her own political line in the face of party critics. "Criticism was raised against my pro-European positions and my views on security policy in Europe. Therefore, I am no longer available as lead candidate for the BZO list," the 37-year-old wrote in an email to APA.

BZO leader Gerald Grosz said in a statement: "I am naturally disappointed in the step taken by Dr Ulrike Haider-Quercia, although I can only respect and understand her withdrawal from the candidacy." Separately, the pro-business party created by Austro-Canadian billionaire and Magna International founder Frank Stronach said it would not run for the EU parliament. Team Stronach leader Kathrin Nachbaur said the party, which scored a disappointing 6.0 percent in last year's Austrian elections, needed to concentrate on coming provincial and national polls. "One has to be realistic. I know our polling scores. For us it is important to use our resources in a sensible way. The EU parliament is in any case a toothless apparatus," she told Der Standard newspaper in an interview for Wednesday's edition.
© Reuters

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Special Report: From Hungary, far-right party spreads ideology, tactics

9/4/2014- In a rented public hall not far from Poland's parliament, about 150 people gathered one afternoon late last year to hear speeches by a collection of far-right leaders from around Europe. The event was organized by Ruch Narodowy, or National Movement, a Polish organization that opposes foreign influences, views homosexuality as an illness and believes Poland is threatened by a leftist revolution hatched in Brussels. Chief attraction was Marton Gyongyosi, one of the leaders of Hungarian far-right party Jobbik. In a 20-minute speech, Gyongyosi addressed the crowd, mostly men in their thirties and forties, as "our Polish brothers," and railed against globalization, environmentalists, socialists, and what he called a cabal of Western economic interests. Poles needed to resist the forces hurting ordinary people, he said, before urging "regional cooperation between our countries."

It is a familiar rallying cry. Far-right groups have emerged or grown stronger across Europe in the wake of the financial crisis, and they are increasingly sharing ideas and tactics. Reuters has found ties between at least half a dozen of the groups in Europe's ex-Communist east. At the network's heart, officials from those groups say, sits Jobbik. The party won 20.54 percent of the vote in Hungary's parliamentary election on April 6, up from the 15.86 percent it won in 2010, cementing its status as by far the largest far-right group in Eastern Europe. From its strong base at home, Jobbik has stepped up efforts to export its ideology and methods to the wider region, encouraging far-right parties to run in next month's European parliamentary elections, and propagating a brand of nationalist ideology which is so hardline and so tinged with anti-Semitism, that some rightist groups in Western Europe have distanced themselves from the Hungarians.

The spread of Jobbik's ideology has alarmed anti-racism campaigners, gay rights activists, and Jewish groups. They believe it could fuel a rise in racially-motivated, anti-Semitic or homophobic street attacks. Longer-term, they say, it could help the far-right gain more political power. In a statement sent to Reuters, Jobbik said that it hoped the people of central and eastern Europe would unite in an "alliance that spreads from the Adriatic to the Baltic Sea," to counter what it called Euro-Atlantic suppression. Jobbik rejected any link between the growing strength of radical nationalists and violence. "Jobbik condemns violence, and its members cannot be linked to such acts either," it said.

Spreading Ideology
The day after Gyongyosi's speech last November, Jobbik's leader, Gabor Vona, addressed another rally in a Warsaw park. "The path to final victory involves a million small steps," he told the crowd, through a translator. "You should take up this challenge. Take part in the European elections." The crowd chanted: "Poland and Hungary are brothers!" As they marched through the city earlier that day, some of the Polish participants fought pitched battles with police and set fire to a rainbow sculpture erected as a symbol of diversity. Poland is not the only example of Jobbik's regional outreach. Far-right groups in Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, and Bulgaria told Reuters they have ties with fellow parties in several countries in the region. Jobbik sat at the center of that web, the only one with contacts with all the parties.

Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP), one of the few far right parties in Western Europe with close relations with Jobbik, said the Hungarian party is the driving force behind efforts to forge a far-right coalition. Other groups say they admire the party because of its success in Hungary and its organizational muscle. Jobbik appears to operate on a shoestring. It has an annual budget of $2.34 million, according to the Hungarian state audit office, most of it from a state allowance to parties in parliament. Jobbik denies giving financial aid to other groups, but it can afford its own staff, travel, and facilities - all factors that enhance its influence. "Jobbik is a market leader of sorts," Gyongyosi said. "There are shared values, and the way Jobbik grew big, why could the same thing not happen elsewhere?"

"Against the Dictates of Brussels"
Broadly speaking those shared values include a strong opposition to Brussels, a dislike of immigrants, and a suspicion of Jews and of the Roma, an ethnic minority who number about 10 million in Eastern Europe and who have faced centuries of discrimination. Hromoslav Skrabak, leader of 19-year-old Slovakian group Slovenska Pospolitost, has argued for racial segregation and "humanitarian" methods to reduce Roma fertility. Skrabak said his group cooperates with far-right groups in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Serbia to jointly fight "against the dictate of Brussels," and to spread the idea of pan-Slavism, a union of ethnic Slavs. Frano Cirko, a member of the Croatian Pure Party of Rights, said cooperation between far-right groups helped take on "neo-liberal" capitalism, which he said threatened national values in Europe and made it too easy for foreign firms to buy Croatian companies.

Angel Dzhambazki, deputy leader of Bulgaria's VMRO, a movement that has its roots in the late 19th century and was revived in 1990, said its "close cooperation" with Jobbik and a Croatian group had helped it grow. "We invite them to participate in our meetings, and at the same time we take part in events organized by them." VRMO is in the process of forming a coalition with a new populist party called Bulgaria Without Censorship. A poll by Bulgaria's Institute of Modern Politics showed that, together, the parties would have 5.6 percent support for the European Parliament election, putting them third and giving them a chance of winning one of Bulgaria's allocation of 17 seats. The elections for the European Parliament take place on May 22-25 in all 28 member states of the bloc.

Western Front
Jobbik has had less success in Western Europe, where more established nationalist parties reject its anti-Semitic views. In 2012, Jobbik's Gyongyosi told the Hungarian parliament that Jews were a threat to national security and should be registered on lists. He later apologized and said he had been misunderstood. But parties such as the Dutch Party of Freedom, which is staunchly pro-Israel, and France's National Front, which has sought to move away from its anti-Semitic past, are both wary of the Hungarian group. Jobbik's principal ally in Western Europe is the British National Party. Griffin, its leader, said the BNP and Jobbik were working together on building a functioning bloc of nationalists within the European Parliament. "I would say probably I do more of the work in eastern and southern Europe than they (Jobbik) do, whereas they tend to concentrate on the center and the east," Griffin said in a telephone interview. Opinion polls in Britain suggest the BNP will lose the two seats it currently holds in the European parliament.

One far-right party that polls predict will win seats in Brussels is Greece's Golden Dawn, which says it wants to rid the country of the "stench" of immigrants. But Jobbik told Reuters Golden Dawn was "unfit" for the Hungarian party to cooperate with. Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris said there was no official cooperation with Jobbik. Cas Mudde, assistant professor at the School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in the United States, said that Jobbik is driven in part to look for allies "to show that it is not some kind of marginal phenomenon. There are two ways to do that: You can do it nationally, which is very hard, or you can do it internationally by saying: 'Look, we have friends all over the place.'"

"This is Dangerous"
Last May, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) urged European governments to consider banning neo-Nazi parties that threatened democracy and minority rights. The WJC met in the Hungarian capital Budapest to underscore its concerns about Jobbik. Rafal Pankowski from Never Again, a Polish anti-racist association that tracks cases of racially motivated violence, said he feared that Jobbik's efforts to spread its tactics and ideology could lead to more violence against minorities. "This is dangerous," he said of Jobbik's international influence. "If similar groups in other countries copy this model ... then the situation might worsen." Robert Biedron, a gay member of the Polish parliament, said Polish far-right activists ran a website called Red Watch where they posted pictures and personal details of people they described as "queers and deviants," as well as lists of left-wing activists and Jewish academics.

Biedron reported to police that he was beaten up in Warsaw at the end of February in what he believes was a homophobic attack. Biedron said he did not expect Ruch Narodowy to win seats in this year's European election, but the Polish party's support was rising, and it had a chance in next year's Polish parliamentary polls. If that happens, he said, it will use parliament to promote its rhetoric "based on hate for others." Jobbik's network-building has been most successful in Poland in part because Poland and Hungary have no historical claims on each other's territory, an issue that has often hindered cooperation between Jobbik and nationalists from other neighbors.

Paramilitaries
On a sandy riverbank in the shadow of a bridge over the river Vistula, members of the paramilitary arm of Ruch Narodowy rehearsed for their role as stewards before November's rally in Warsaw. Some looked like the stereotype of far-right skinheads. Others were middle-class professionals. One showed up in an Audi saloon, another in an expensive sports utility vehicle. The unit's leader, Przemyslaw Czyzewski, said several members were lawyers. A diagram of the organization's structure showed it had a military-style hierarchy, and units called "choragiew", a word which was used in the past to describe Polish cavalry formations. Explaining why he decided to join the unit, one man said he wanted to defend Polish values under threat from foreign influences. "I finally had to do something," said the man, in his thirties, who did not give his name. The group denies it takes its inspiration from Hungary, but it has striking similarities with Jobbik's paramilitary wing, called "Magyar Garda," or Hungarian Guard. In 2008 a court ruled that Magyar Garda threatened the dignity of Roma and Jewish people. The group disbanded but was quickly replaced by a similar organization.

Robert Winnicki, the bookish, bespectacled 28-year-old leader of Ruch Narodowy, has described homosexuality as "a plague" and talked of creating a "new type of Pole" disciplined enough to take on the country's enemies. He told Reuters that the aim of his movement's contacts with foreign peers was to "exchange experiences, learn from each other." Winnicki traveled to Hungary in March last year to address a rally of Jobbik activists. "Inspired by your example, we are organizing a national movement today in Poland," he told his Hungarian hosts, according to a published transcript. "An army is quickly growing in Poland which soon, on its section of the front, will join the battle that you are conducting. And together we will march to victory."
© Reuters

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With Jobbik gains, Hungary's far-right now strongest in EU

Incumbent PM re-elected as one on five voters back far-right opposition party accused of anti-Semitism.

7/4/2014- Hungarians handed their maverick Prime Minister Viktor Orban another four years in power in a parliamentary election on Sunday, while about one in every five voters backed a far-right opposition party accused of anti-Semitism. Orban has clashed repeatedly with the European Union and foreign investors over his unorthodox policies, and after Sunday's win, big businesses were bracing for another term of unpredictable and, for some of them, hostile measures. But many Hungarians see Orban, a 50-year-old former dissident against Communist rule, as a champion of national interests. They also like the fact that under his government personal income tax and household power bills have fallen. After 89.2 percent of the ballots were counted, election officials projected Orban's Fidesz party would win 132 of the 199 seats in parliament - hovering one seat below the two-thirds threshold needed for his party to change the constitution. The same projection gave the Socialist-led leftist alliance 38 seats, while Jobbik would take 24 seats. "We have scored ... a comprehensive victory, the significance of which we cannot yet fully grasp tonight," Orban told a jubilant crowd at his party's election headquarters.

Far-right harbinger
Jobbik's performance is being watched closely for clues about how other nationalist right-wing parties, such as France's Front National and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, will perform in European Parliament elections next month. In terms of its share of the national vote on party lists, Jobbik won 20.86 percent, up from 15.86 percent of all votes four years ago. Its showing based on the incomplete results on Sunday was the strongest of any far-right party in the EU in the past few years, according to Cas Mudde, Assistant Professor at the School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in the United States. He said the previous strongest result for a far-right group was the 20.5 percent won by Austria's Freedom Party last year. "There is no doubt that Jobbik will be among the strongest far-right parties in Europe, which is particularly striking because it is also one of the most extreme of Europe's far-right parties," Mudde told Reuters.

Jobbik has pledged to create jobs, be tough on crime, renegotiate state debt and hold a referendum on EU membership. While it denies being racist, it provides a lightning rod for suspicion among some Hungarians towards the Roma and Jews. Its leader, Gabor Vona, often works shifts in minimum wage jobs - a waiter, a construction worker - to show he is in touch with ordinary peoples' concerns. A senior party figure in 2012 proposed drawing up lists of Jews in parliament, though he later apologised and said he was misunderstood. "Jobbik is continuously ... increasing its popularity," Vona told party supporters late on Sunday. "And ahead of the European Parliament elections it is important to make clear that today in the EU Jobbik is the strongest national radical party."

Investors wary
In the past four years, Orban's policies have included a nationalisation of private pension funds, swingeing "crisis taxes" on big business, and a relief scheme for mortgage holders for which the banks, mostly foreign-owned, had to pay. Orban has pledged more of the same if re-elected, and the business community expects him in particular to press ahead with a plan to transfer big chunks of the banking sector into Hungarian hands, and impose more levies on foreign power firms. More unpredictable policies could weigh on Hungary's forint currency, especially if the central bank - led by a close ally of Orban's - cuts interest rates further from record lows, against a backdrop of jittery sentiment in global markets. His policies have played well with voters and helped Hungary emerge from recession, but some economists say that by hurting foreign investors, Orban may have scared off the kind of investment Hungary needs for long-term growth. "Big business do not want the frequent changes of policy, particularly in terms of taxes, which were characteristic of Orban's last term," said Timothy Ash of Standard Bank.

The election was a new low point for the leftists, who were ousted in 2010 after racking up huge amounts of public debt, and after their leader four years earlier was caught on tape admitting his government was lying to the public. Some Hungarians worry that, without a credible challenge to his dominance, Orban has accumulated too much power. Socialist leader Attila Mesterhazy acknowledged defeat but declined to congratulate Orban, saying the prime minister had won unfairly by changing the election system to Fidesz's advantage and compromising media freedom - allegations the government denies. Mesterhazy also lamented the strong performance by the Jobbik, calling it a party that "is poisoning the whole of Hungarian society."
© Haaretz

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UK councils to keep ties with French far-right twin towns

The leaders of two British towns say they have no plans to cut ties with the French towns they are twinned with despite the fact they were captured by the anti-EU far-right in recent local elections. That stance was in contrast to the position taken by towns in Belgium.

9/4/2014- After far-right candidates won 14 towns in France’s historic local election last month the response from Belgian cities twinned with two of the communes was swift. "Politically, we cannot continue to work with people who develop such views, such ideologies," Hughes Bayet, the Socialist mayor of Farciennes, which is twinned with Beaucaire in Northern France, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. However, elected officials in the British towns of Stockport and Wakefield, which are twinned respectively with Béziers and Henin-Beaumont, say the fact their sister cities are now governed by mayors backed by the anti-immigration, anti-EU party National Front, will not prompt official ties to be cut.

In Stockport, Council leader Sue Derbyshire had come under pressure from the left-wing Labour group to end its twinning with with Beziers, but although she said she wouldn't accept - or offer - any official visits at present, she sees cutting ties with the French town a breach of the democratic process. “As a democrat, I have to accept the result of the electoral process,” Derbyshire was quoted as saying in the Manchester Evening News. “If we say democracy is good, as long as we agree with the result, but if we don’t, then they can get lost, we will push those in a pluralist society who have minority views to believe they have no place in the democratic process. “We wouldn’t like it if they did it to us and I don’t think we have the right to do it to them," she said before adding “while I would not extend or accept an invitation to or from Beziers at the moment, I don’t see any need to say to them ‘we disapprove of you, therefore we’re not going to have anything to do with you’."

Since being elected Beziers mayor Robert Menard has banned the serving of halal meals in town canteens and sacked the local police chief. Derbyshire however pointed to the fact that Stockport, twinned with Béziers since 1972, hasn't had a civic exchange since 2005 with its French counterpart and not much school school involvement either lately. "Twinning was a post-war way of making connections internationally, but in this day and age, it’s not really necessary. It was always about culture, schools and young people," she said.

The council over in Wakefield was similarly unmoved by the The National Front's electoral success in its twin town of Henin Beaumont, though for more pragmatic reasons. “We don’t have the budget these days to have run twinning arrangements in the way we used to do and don’t have active links with Henin-Beaumont, so not really in a position to comment at the moment,” a Wakefield council spokeswoman told The Local. One of the first things Henin Beaumont's new National Front mayor Steeve Briois did after gaining office last week was to boot the local branch of the League of Human Right's out of their office and cut their €300-a-year subsidy, saying they are were not entitled to it. "The law will be respected in Henin-Beaumont," he said. The local elections have prompted quite a shake-up in France, however. As a result of voters deserting President François Hollande's Socialist party en masse, the prime minister has been replaced and the cabinet reshuffled in an attempt to quell the electorate's anger over the poor state of health of the economy.
© The Local - France

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No halal meat in town canteens: far-right mayor (France)

A newly elected far-right mayor in a town in southern France has vowed that no municipally-run cafeterias will serve halal meals, adding fuel to a growing controversy in the wake of the National Front's success in last month's local elections.

7/4/2014- One of the far-right mayors who swept into power two weeks ago after historic local elections has wasted no time in stoking controversy by stating that no halal meals will be served in municipal cafeterias in his town of Béziers. The mayor Robert Ménard, whose campaign was backed by Marine Le Pen and her National Front party told RTL radio any town establishments that serve halal will cease to do so immediately. “You must always give people the choice to avoid eating foods that they don’t want to or cannot eat due to their religious convictions. That said, there will be no halal meals in municipal cafeterias,” Ménard said. RTL noted that there is no official data available on which schools in Beziers, if any, serve halal meat to students who dine in the cafeterias.

Ménard's comments come just days after National Front party leader Marine Le Pen told RTL radio the nearly dozen French cities captured by her party would not allow “religious requirements” to dictate the composition of school lunches. Le Pen told a French radio station that in towns won by the party's candidates school cafeterias will no longer serve non-pork substitution meals, which generally go to Muslim and Jewish children. School meals is the first issue the National Front has flexed its newly strengthened political muscles on since winning a record number of town council seats and mayorships in March's local elections.

The issue of halal meat is often a controversial topic in France where those against it justify their opposition by pointing to France's historic principle of laïcité - a separation of religion from all matters of the state. The question around halal meat has been used as a political football, especially when elections approach. Marine Le Pen launched a fierce row before 2012’s presidential elections when she claimed all meat from abatoirs in the Paris region was prepared using Islamic halal traditions and non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy then waded into the row suggesting that meat should be labelled to tell consumers how the animal was slaughtered, which Jews and Muslims reject because they fear it will lead to them being stigmatized.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) hit back, slamming what it said was the use of Muslims as "scapegoats" in the election campaign.
© The Local - France

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France: National Front Mayor Evicts Dreyfus Affair Human Rights Group

8/4/2014- The far-right mayor-elect of a French town has ordered the eviction of a human rights group fighting anti-Semitism and racism because of its "leftist political agenda". Steeve Briois, the National Front (FN) mayor of Hénin-Beaumont, said that the Human Rights League (LDH), which was at the centre of the infamous Dreyfus Affair more than a century ago, was illegally occupying a council-owned office in the northern town of 27,000 people. "The Human Rights League has illegally enjoyed municipal subsidies and a council space for years," Briois said. "Not only was no tenancy agreement ever signed between the extreme-left association and the mayor - thus making the LDH an occupant with no legal right - but worse, it also [received] completely illegal grants." LDH had been allowed to use the office just metres away from city hall without charge for more than a decade by Hénin-Beaumont's previous administration. The council also gave an annual grant to the group of €300 (£250).

Hénin-Beaumont, a former coal-mining town, had been a socialist stronghold for decades before it was seized by FN in March. Briois claimed that LDH received unlawful funds as French law bans local authorities from subsidising political groups. He described LDH as a "partisan and politicised association". "It's the first time I heard a mayor saying such a thing," Alain Pruvot, LDH local branch chairman, said. The group was set up in 1898 to defend Jewish French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus on treason charges that were later found to be false and motivated by anti-Semitism. The case shocked France and went down in history as the Dreyfus Affair. LDH has campaigned for a century against racism and discrimination and has often crossed swords with FN, which pursues an anti-immigration, nationalist agenda. Hénin-Beaumont was one of 11 towns seized by FN in two rounds of local elections at the end of March. The result was hailed as a triumph by party leader Marine Le Pen who has been working on widening the FN's appeal by softening its image of being racist and anti-Semitic.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Germany: Hitler's face printed on 5,000 coffee mugs

A German furniture store has apologized after selling coffee mugs with a picture of Adolf Hitler printed on them. The motif of the Nazi dictator was mistakenly included by a designer in China. They could now go in a museum.

11/4/2014- The Bielefeld branch of the Zurbrüggen furniture store chain ordered 5,000 of the mugs and sold 175 of them for €1.99 before staff notice that Hitler's face and a Swastika formed part of the cup's complex design. Furniture chain boss Christian Zurbrüggen said the discovery was "dreadful" and apologized to those who bought the cups. He described the oversight as "a pretty stupid series of unfortunate events," the Neue Westfälische Post reported. One woman who unwittingly bought the mug said she got a shock when she looked more closely at her purchase over breakfast. Partially obscured by rose petals and an English love poem was a pale print of a 1930's postage stamp featuring the Führer. "I couldn't believe my eyes," she told the Neue Westfälische newspaper.

It has since emerged that the Chinese designer behind the mugs did not realize whose portrait he was using. According to the furniture chain, no one raised the alarm at any stage during the process of exporting and importing the offending mugs. "Nobody noticed anything when they were unpacking and sorting," Zurbrüggen said. The furniture chain boss has vowed not to sell any more of the 5,000 cups ordered and has offered anyone who returns one a €20 voucher. And the mugs could now go in the Haus der Geschichte museum in Bonn. A spokesman for the museum said they showed the complications of a globalized world, the Neue Westfälische reported.
© The Local - Germany

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Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down camp (Germany)

Residents at a refugee camp in central Berlin dismantled their own site on Tuesday morning, sparking clashes among the group when it became clear not everyone wanted to leave.

8/4/2014- Starting at about 6am, without police present, a group of refugees began tearing down their shacks and tents on Oranienplatz in the Kreuzberg area of the city. The makeshift homes were then carted away by bulldozers and city workers. The structures were part of a protest camp set up in 2012 by a group of asylum seekers who marched from Bavaria in a protest for better refugee rights. Those demolishing the camp explained that authorities had offered them accommodation and a suspension of deportation in exchange for their cooperation. Most had arrived in Lampedusa from Libya, but came to Germany after facing joblessness and discrimination in Italy. They proudly showed their keys and were adamant that they would stay in Germany.

Bashir Zakariya Youssef, who originates from Nigeria, said he has lived in the camp for the past year. "All the deportations were suspended. They will give us a place to stay... we are asking for permits to work," he told The Local. "They've offered us education. We have a lot of people who want to start their lives." But other residents of the camp were not convinced. They were sceptical about the government's offer and rejected the authority of other migrants to make decisions on their behalf. Ibrahim, who came to Germany from Niger, opposed the demolition. He said it was mostly the work of Nigerian refugees, some of whom did not even live in the camp. "There are people here who have accepted, but not everyone... [the Nigerians] have accepted the contract, and now they say we all have to leave," he explained. He was determined to resist. "Break what you want to break, but no one is touching my house," he said.

Clashes lead to police intervention
Residents opposing the demolition were eventually joined by a large group of activists, including Hakan Tas, a member of the Left's faction in the Berlin city senate. He explained that the conflict arose from the different status of the refugees living in the camp. "There are two groups. The so-called Lampedusa refugees, who already have official status in another EU country... and a group who have already had their applications rejected in another German state," he told The Local. While the agreement meant the first group would automatically profit from a six-month extension of their stay, the others could still be deported on an individual basis. The Lampedusa refugees continued their demolition work throughout the early afternoon. Arguments and short scuffles broke out between them and the other refugees and activists. "Let the police do it, not you!" one man shouted.

Some of the Nigerian migrants were upset at the presence of the activists, who they felt were denying them a opportunity to move into better housing. "Give us a chance not to be sleeping like animals... we are sleeping with rats here," Bashir said. He even accused the activists of stealing money donated to the refugees, and challenged them to sleep in the camp with him. An activist responded that they were concerned that the authorities were trying to split the migrants up, and would still deport all of them after six months. "I will be in Germany for my whole life!" Bashir shouted back. At around 2pm activists remained on the scene to protect the few remaining shacks, making human chains and organizing a sit-in. Riot police arrived shortly after and broke up the demonstration, dragging protesters away. By 3:30pm police had cleared everyone from the square. Activists have announced a demonstration leaving from Kotbusser Tor in Kreuzberg at 8pm.
© The Local - Germany

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Cookie monster, Neo-Nazi symbol (Germany)

German police say members are handing out leaflets with Sesame Street character's face to try and recruit children

7/4/2014- Sesame Street's Cookie Monster has become a symbol for far right extremists after he was used to help recruit children, according to German police. In the latest incident Neo Nazi Steffen Lange, 31, dressed as the popular children’s TV character, walked into a school in Senftenberg, in the German state of Brandenburg, and together with another Neo-Nazi handed out pamphlets to children. The Monster and his accomplice were arrested after a teacher complained to police about the contents of the leaflets. A search of the home of the two men found computers with far right material and other Neo Nazi Cookie Monster-related pamphlets. A police spokesman also confirmed that the Sesame Street character was increasingly being abused as a symbol of the far right seen in Brandenburg and in particular in helping to recruit children and to get them interested in the right-wing scene. One of the images found on the Internet shows the cookie monster with Adolf Hitler and other admirers under the caption: 'Who ate my biscuit'. A police spokesman investigating the scene in Brandenburg said: 'There is nothing humorous about far right ideology despite the fact they are trying to trivialise it by getting the Sesame Street character involved. 'It’s an attempt to make it seem harmless and every day and perhaps something a bit fun and a bit rebellious.'
© The Daily Mail.

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Garda is accused of using racist language (Ireland)

Gardai have launched an internal investigation following allegations that a senior garda used racist language to describe black people.

7/4/2014- The probe was launched after a claim by another garda that the officer involved, a superintendent based in Dublin, used the word "n****r" during a meeting with sergeants and inspectors. The incident is alleged to have taken place in January. It is alleged that the offensive language was used in the briefing and that the officer involved was advocating an increase in arrests and searches of black people in a certain area. A spokesman for the Garda Press Office confirmed that an inquiry was under way. "This matter is being enquired into by a chief superintendent outside of the division in question. It would be inappropriate to comment further while those enquiries are ongoing," the spokesman said.

The Irish Independent understands that the inquiry is being handled by Chief Superintendent Frank Clerkin, who is based in north Dublin. An investigation team has already been dispatched to the garda station at the centre of the allegations and inquiries have been made with officers who were at the meeting. It is understood the superintendent involved denies using the language complained of, and while he admits speaking about "black youths" he disputes claims the word "n*****r" was used. The part of the city where the increased garda activity was to take place has an ethnically diverse population.

The investigation arose after a rank-and-file member of the force made a detailed series of allegations. However, the officer was not present at the time of the alleged comments, and said they heard of them from other gardai. These allegations were forwarded to the Department of Justice, the Garda Commissioner, an assistant commissioner, a chief superintendent and to the Garda Inspectorate. The garda claimed that as a result of the superintendent's instructions, a black male was arrested for littering within days of the alleged comments being made. However, the Irish Independent has been unable to verify this.

It is not the first time allegations of racism within the force have been made. The investigation comes six months after gardai faced accusations of racial profiling after children from two Roma families were temporarily taken from their parents until their identities were confirmed.
© The Irish Independent

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'Racism row' over east Belfast posters (Northern Ireland)

Posters regarding employment for "local people" have sparked concerns over racism and counter-claims of unfairness in terms of job opportunities, after they appeared in east Belfast.

8/4/2014- The posters ask a series of questions, including why "outside labour" is being used instead of local skilled workers and why "hundreds of overseas workers" are being employed on higher wages. They are headed with the message: "What happened to the agreement on local jobs for local people?" Alliance MLA Anna Lo has branded the posters as racist and demanded that they be taken down. "I am appalled by these posters. They are giving out misinformation at a time when ethnic minorities' concerns are already heightened following recent racist attacks," Ms Lo said.

"Racism has no place in our society."
According to UKIP's leader in Northern Ireland, the posters are due to east Belfast residents being "deeply distressed that 500 foreign workers are being employed building oil rigs in Belfast harbour". David McNarry added that there were also concerns that 24 local workers had lost their jobs to foreign workers who were allegedly being paid at a higher rate than their predecessors. "I have been contacted by exasperated and annoyed local residents who say that Alliance slurs of racism are falsehoods," he said. UUP MLA Danny Kinahan has said that "scapegoating" foreign workers is not the answer to concerns about employment and the economy. "We have to be very careful when bandying about words like racism, but I am in no doubt that those behind the poster campaign are not doing so with good intentions," he said. "At a time when we are trying to come to grips with the major challenge of educational failure in working class areas, these sort of rows do no one any good whatsoever."

Workers Party representative Kevin McNally said there was "absolutely no justification" for the posters, which he called "racist and dangerous". He has called for Mr McNarry to withdraw his remarks on the subject, adding: "It is important that they (the posters), and the people who produced them, are condemned without reservation and that anyone who does seek to justify them is confronted and denounced." Mr McNarry asked Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster about this issue at Stormont on Tuesday. The DUP minister replied: "Of course, we are very aware that when companies come to Northern Ireland - I am talking now from a foreign-direct-investment point of view - they will, on occasion, bring people with them to embed the new company in Northern Ireland.

"It is wrong for us to say that we want jobs in Northern Ireland only for Northern Ireland people. "We want people to come to Northern Ireland and share their skills and experiences with us here in order to build up our workforce so that we can be competitive and global. "It is wrong to say that we are interested only in jobs here for people from Northern Ireland."
© UTV News

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New Tory Minister for Women opposes right of lesbians to marry (UK)

David Cameron’s new Minister for Women, Tory MP Nicky Morgan voted against same-sex marriage by stating “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

9/4/2014- In a government reshuffle on Wednesday, sparked by the resignation of Maria Miller, Ms Morgan, MP for Loughborough, was appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women. Conservative MP Sajid Javid, the new Culture Secretary, has also replaced Maria Miller as the most senior minister responsible for equalities in the UK Government. It means for the first time the equalities brief for all is held at Secretary of State level. Mr Javid, MP for Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, was elected to Parliament in May 2010. He voted in favour of the same-sex marriage act for England and Wales. However, Ms Morgan, also elected to Parliament in 2010, voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act at second and third reading last year.

Benjamin Cohen the Publisher of PinkNews.co.uk said: ”It is unfortunate that the new Minister for Women opposes the rights of some women, lesbians, to marry. I hope that in her new role, Nicky Morgan will represent all women regardless of the gender of the person they love.” After the second vote in February 2013 she said: “This was totally a free vote, it was an issue of conscience and I had no pressure put on me from anyone higher in the Conservative Party. “As an issue, this generated more response from my constituency than I have had before, the Loughborough office received more calls, visits and letters on this subject than we have ever seen before. “On the day of the vote, I had 285 people who had written to me asking me to vote against it and just 24 asking me to vote for it.

“At that point, it was clear to me that people in my constituency wanted me to vote against it. “There were also three main reasons of my own that I voted against it. “First, this is a very big social change. There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman. “I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too. “I totally support civil partnerships and that same-sex relationships are recognised in law. But marriage, to me, is between a man and a woman. “The second reason is that people have become a bit cynical about consultations about policy changes at national and local government level . “And in this case, I felt the question was not whether the change should be made, but how it should be made and I think we forgot that step of asking if it should be made. “And the third reason was legal aspects of the bill. For instance, if we have gay marriage, should civil partnerships now also be opened up to heterosexual couples too? Or should we just get rid of civil partnerships altogether? “Also, if same-sex marriages are to be dissolved, will that be different to heterosexual partnerships ending?

“I know there are a lot of worries for people like teachers and others in public sector roles and these are things I still feel need to be ironed out as the bill goes through Parliament. “I appreciate that there will be people in my constituency who will be unhappy with how I voted and I wish many of them had contacted me earlier and given me a clearer picture of what people thought. “A lot of people left it until the day, or the day after, the vote to tell me they supported it. “I would say to them, there is still a long way to for this bill to go, it has to go to House of Lords, for example, and there is still time for people to let me know if they are pro-change. “But at the end of the day, it was a free vote, I have to think about the views of the majority of my constituents and my own personal views and I think we could have handled the whole thing differently and taken more time to have more of a public debate about it instead of just ploughing on.” Mrs Miller, former culture secretary, resigned from government this morning following sustained political and media criticism for over claiming on expenses. The Basingstoke MP was the minister responsible for steering same-sex marriage through the House of Commons last year.
© Pink News

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‘Ignore EU and ban migrant benefits’ (UK)

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the Conservatives wanted to stop some migrants being able to claim benefits for up to a year

8/4/2014- Britain should be able to ignore European Union rules and ban some migrants from claiming benefits for up to a year, the Work and Pensions Secretary said on Monday. Iain Duncan Smith said the Conservatives wanted to “go further” in reducing migrants’ access to benefits. For legal reasons, the Government has only been able to stop EU migrants claiming benefits until they have been in Britain for three months, earning at the level at which employees start paying national insurance. The proposal, which comes into force this month, means migrants will have to show they have been earning at least £150 a week for three months before claiming benefits. Mr Duncan Smith said the measure would stop people “taking advantage” of the welfare system. The “minimum earnings threshold” is designed to stop some migrants gaining access to a range of benefits. Previously, a loophole allowed EU citizens to claim thousands of pounds of benefits despite working only a few hours every week.

Mr Duncan Smith believes that the Government should cast aside EU regulations and impose even tougher sanctions on foreign workers. Speaking at the headquarters of Pimlico Plumbers in London on Monday, Mr Duncan Smith said ministers would try to go further with their benefits reforms, regardless of “what the European Commission tries to tell us”. “We have also clamped down on those trying to manipulate the tax credits system – for too long a source of income for those in bogus jobs or falsely declaring themselves self-employed,” he said. “Now, until those who come here start paying National Insurance contributions, individuals must prove to us that they are working in a real job. So unless they breach that point of national interest they have to be able to demonstrate that they are in a real job.” Mr Duncan Smith said the Government wanted to go further still, insisting that migrants should show a longer record of commitment before they get benefits. He said the Tories wanted to restore the principle that nations ran their own welfare, “no matter what the European Commission tries to tell us”.

Sources close to Mr Duncan Smith conceded that the Government had been advised that it cannot legally go further than the current three-month limit. “Iain believes that nation states should be able to set their own rules,” the source said. “He thinks the limit should go up to six months or over a year. It has been set at three months at the moment because of advice from the Attorney General.” Under the previous rules, people classed as “workers” could claim child benefit and child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance if they were out of work, and housing benefit. However, anyone with earnings below the new threshold will now face a fuller assessment of whether their work was “genuine”, with the possibility of their access to benefits being restricted. Jobseekers will need to wait three months before gaining income-based jobseeker’s allowance and will be ineligible for housing benefit.
© The Telegraph

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Leigh Griffiths faces the axe after being caught on video leading Hibs fans in racist chant before Edinburgh derby (UK)

The Parkhead striker - who Neil Lennon said was already on final warning at the club - was filmed leading a packed pub in a chorus of hate against former Hearts midfielder Rudi Skacel.

7/4/2014- Celtic bad boy Leigh Griffiths is facing the sack over his racist video shame. Griffiths led a packed pub in a chorus of hate against former Hearts midfielder Rudi Skacel , who is Czech. He now faces the wrath of manager Neil Lennon, who warned two years ago that “any sign of any sort of racism” is a sackable offence at Celtic. And it was unclear last night if the striker – who Lennon said on Friday was already on a final warning at the club – will now be heading for the door. Video footage revealed yesterday by our sister paper the Sunday Mail shows the Scotland striker standing up in the packed Roseburn Bar in Edinburgh with fellow Hibernian fans and chanting: “Rudi Skacel is a f****** refugee”. At least one Scottish football fan has been prosecuted for singing the abusive song and police yesterday launched an ­investigation into Griffiths’ behaviour, which could result in prosecution. Sources say Griffiths, 23, who played two seasons on loan at Hibs, fears being sacked by Celtic, who only signed him from Wolves in January.

The video was recorded before Hibs’ Edinburgh derby with Hearts last Sunday. In it, he can be seen with his hands in the air conducting the chant before jumping up and down as others join in. The £800,000 striker already faces SFA disciplinary action after he was filmed singing a song about Hearts’ financial ­troubles in the same bar. Celtic fined him over the incident and had an apology accepted by Hearts. But the new footage will cause even more embarrassment to club officials. Last night, a source close to the player said: “Leigh didn’t really think about the consequences of his actions. “He knows the club has a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and he’s now worried it could be game over for him.” In 2012, Lennon declared his disgust at racism in football, saying: “We are an open club and we have been since the club was formed 125 years ago. “I have a zero-tolerance rule. I have spoken to the players about this before.

“Any sign of any sort of racism against colour, religion, background, will be an instant sackable offence. “I don’t have to really speak to my players about that. “There is no place for that ­[discrimination] in the game and there never should have been. “At this club we see everyone as equal and all I see are footballers and men and we treat them that way.” In 2012, Dunfermline fan Andrew Irvine pleaded guilty to aggravated breach of the peace and was fined £200 for singing the Skacel refugee chant to the tune of Yellow Submarine during a match against Hearts at East End Park. Yesterday, human rights campaigner Robina Qureshi criticised Griffiths and others seen chanting in the video. She said: “This country is built on the back of immigrants and refugees who come to the country and put far more in than they take out of it. “The word refugee should be regarded as a compliment. “It refers to someone who has dared to leave everything behind, from their home and their family to everything they hold dear so they could make a better life for themselves. “Football is supposed to have a zero-tolerance policy to this sort of thing and refugees have far more dignity and self-respect than he (Griffiths) does.”

Influential football charity Show Racism the Red Card urged Celtic to send ­Griffiths to their workshop. Spokesman David Foster said: “We want to ­eradicate racism, bigotry and ­sectarianism in all its forms and believe the best way is through education. “Whatever action Celtic feel they have to take is an internal matter but we hope that Leigh Griffiths will attend one of our events. “The racist words in this song aren’t acceptable and it may be that he isn’t fully aware of the damage they cause. “He is a role model and ­thousands of young fans look up to him.” A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed they were investigating the incident. She said: “Inquiries have been initiated.” The police inquiry follows a call by Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Anas Sarwar for officers to probe the video footage. Sarwar said: “Intolerance and racism are not acceptable in society, the ­workplace or football.” During his first controversial episode, Griffiths, who has four children to three women, cheered on Hibs with pals when his former team took on Hearts at Tynecastle. He was then filmed singing about Hearts’ financial problems in a pub after the match.

The SFA charged Griffiths with a breach of Rule 86: “Not acting in the best interests of Association Football by singing in public about Heart of Midlothian FC in administration.” His case is due to be heard on April 24. Lennon said on Friday: “We’ve all been guilty of doing daft things at times but that’s his one strike. “I don’t want him doing any more, otherwise his career at Celtic won’t be as long as he maybe wants it to be.” Now the apparent racial dimension to Griffiths’ behaviour – which Lennon was unaware of when issuing his warning to Griffiths – has put his career at the club in jeopardy. Last year, he was arrested and charged over an alleged racist ­comment he made on Twitter. Skacel, 34, who is from Trutnov, 100 miles from the Czech capital Prague, moved to Scotland in 2005. The popular midfielder played for Hearts for a season, rejoining them in 2010 before a short stint at Dundee United in 2012-13. He was ­unavailable for comment yesterday. A Celtic spokeswoman said: “We will not be able to comment until this matter has been fully investigated.”
© The Scottish Daily Record

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UK Muslim hotline invites gay, Jewish patrons

6/4/2014- The founder of a UK-based hotline that helps fight Islamophobia is recruiting senior figures from the gay and Jewish communities to send out a message against all forms of intolerance, a local newspaper reported Sunday. The Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) helpline, whose aim is to help victims and measure the level of anti-Muslim attacks in Britain, has invited the famous gay activist Peter Tatchell to become its patron, the Sunday Express reported. The daily also revealed that Tell MAMA’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, will make yet another controversial announcement next week when he officially recruits Richard Benson, a former president of the Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish organization that battles anti-Semitism, to be the group’s joint chairman. Mughal, who started the group in 2012, said that by linking up with key figures from these two communities, a message of tolerance will be proliferated. “We’re clear. If you are homophobic or anti-Semitic, you can’t campaign against anti-Muslim prejudice,” he told the Sunday Express. He added: “The two things just do not go together. If you’re an intolerant figure against someone else, you can’t then cry wolf when something happens to you... We’ll stand against intolerance in all communities.”

Charm offensive
Mughal's invitation to Tatchell comes after his challenge last month to Mohammad Naseem, the chairman of the huge Birmingham Central Mosque, over his stance on homosexuality. Naseem had likened homosexuals as being akin to “compulsive murderer[s],” “gambler[s]” or “pedophile[s],” adding that gays in Muslims countries should “respect the law and control their desire.” Mughal, angry by what he called Naseem’s “disgraceful” remarks, wrote an article on the Tell MAMA website in which he described the chairman as being “fundamentally wrong.” Since his unorthodox announcement, Mughal has faced being ostracized by some fellow Muslims. An anonymous leaflet under the banner “Muslim Community Alert” was circulated to mosques and other Muslim communities after his challenge to Naseem. It read: “Beware of the Tell MAMA organization.” The leaflet criticized the initiative, saying it “exposed its reformist agenda” and it had “overstepped its stated remit.” In defense, Mughal told the daily that “the leaflets suggest I’m trying to change, that Islam is under threat, and that just plays into a deeply corrosive narrative.” Mughal, who claims he tries to express the sentiments of mainstream Muslims, described them as the “silent majority.” The Tell MAMA founder has also been targeted by far-right groups and such as the British National Party (BNP) and English Defense League, the Sunday Express reported.
© Al Arabiya

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UK: Anti-hate crime Muslim campaign group attacked for supporting gay rights

The Muslim anti-hate crime campaign group Tell MAMA has been criticised for having a “reformist agenda” after it appointed human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as its patron.

6/4/2014- Last month, Peter Tatchell became one of the first openly gay persons appointed to a senior role in a mainstream, non-gay Muslim organisation. However, Fiyaz Mughal, the chairman of Tell MAMA has said he is now facing backlash from members of the Islamic community for overstepping a “stated remit.” According to The Sunday Express, the backlash started after he had responded to statements made by Dr Mohammed Naseem, the chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque, after Naseem compared being gay to being a “compulsive gambler, murder, peadophile, etc.” On a Tell MAMA article, Mr Mughal wrote that Dr Naseem was “fundamentally wrong” and “disgraceful”. Following this, an anonymous ‘Muslim Community Alert’ started circulating warnings to people about Tell MAMA’s “reformist agenda,” including criticisms of its recent appointment of Peter Tatchell.

Responding to these attacks, Mr Mughal told the Sunday Express: “We’re clear. If you are homophobic or anti-Semitic, you can’t campaign against anti-Muslim prejudice. “The two things just do not go together. If you’re an intolerant figure against someone else, you can’t then cry wolf when something happens to you. We’ll stand against intolerance in all communities.” Commenting on his appointment, Peter Tatchell said: “I am honoured to become a patron of Tell Mama, which does vital work monitoring, reporting and countering anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination and hate crime – and supporting the victims. “While the tiny minority of Islamist extremists – and fanatics from all faiths and none – must be challenged, we also need to challenge the unjustified demonisation of the general Muslim population.”
© Pink News

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Poll: Three in four people experienced discrimination at work (Czech Rep.)

7/4/2014- Three out of four Czechs have personally experienced discrimination at work and another 8 percent know someone who has experience with discrimination at work or when looking for a job, according to a poll among 2,000 visitors of portals Profesia.cz and i60.cz. People name the most often discrimination due to age (49 percent), which is alarming. Respondents have also lived discrimination due to children (10 percent), health condition (7 percent), race (6 percent) and gender (5 percent). Partner portal i60.cz, designed for active older men and women, asked whether the respondents had their autumn of life linked with work. Every fifth respondent said he/she would like to have a full-time job. A third would welcome a part-time job and 19 percent of the respondents want self-employment.

A third of people are looking forward to calm old age. "A half of our readers would like to be employed. However, finding a job in pension age or shortly before retirement is a big problem," said i60.cz manager Jan Raska. The comparison of results of people looking for a job on Profesia.cz with visitors of i60.cz is also interesting. Two thirds of the older people said they have not personally encountered discrimination. Earlier, the most frequent discrimination was due to gender (17 percent) and age (13 percent). "A similar share of parents (8 percent) have experienced the same difficulties due to children now as before," Katerina Jaronova of Profesia.cz. added.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Lily-white workers wanted, says Dutch cleaning company

The company's 'whites only' Facebook ad made headlines this week in the Netherlands, which has seen a rise in overt racism and xenophobia in recent years.

11/4/2014- "Only whites need apply." It’s a phrase that would bring any American back to the memories of the segregated south. Except this is a sentiment that was recently expressed in present-day Netherlands, and it was not meant to stir debate about the past. It was a job advertisement. The owner of a Dutch cleaning company has been splashed across front pages this week after admitting on the company’s Facebook account that he only wants white workers and calling other employers who think likewise, but say nothing, hypocrites. Wesley de Laat, owner of Budget Cleaning Brabant, has been lambasted for his “whites only” stance and his later defense. “White workers are better than non-white workers,” he told the media this week. “I don’t discriminate,” he went on. “I just don’t invite them for interview. Poles, Moroccans, any non-whites are not going to be hired to work for this company. Ahmed and Ali are probably very good people, but I don’t want them working for me.”



Mr. de Laat’s job announcement, which has since been removed from Facebook (though it is still viewable in Google's cache), is just the latest of several episodes to have shaken the Dutch sense of tolerance and cast a critical eye on growing xenophobia across Europe. His rant came in the same week that the government-funded Netherlands Institute for Human Rights released a report showing that inquiries about discrimination to their organization shot up by 75 percent between 2012 and 2013. Particularly worrisome was discrimination in the workplace. The organization's Marysha Molthoff says the statistics are not a sign that discrimination is necessarily on the rise; rather, they show that the nature of discrimination is changing. “It’s becoming more visible, and people are being more open about it.”

This trend has come hand-in-hand with the resurgence of anti-immigrant parties across the continent, poised to score historic wins at European parliamentary elections next month. In the Netherlands, it is Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party that have tapped into Dutch unease about immigration, particularly of Muslims. Yet while the rise of such parties – some of which have been openly anti-immigrant, some anti-Semitic, and all nationalistic – has stirred panic in some corners of Europe, it’s also forced a public debate on the realities of a changing Europe. In the Netherlands, Ms. Molthoff says that debates about discrimination kicked off in force with a report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, released last October, that criticized the Netherlands. “The settlement of Eastern Europeans in the Netherlands, as well as Islam and Muslims have been portrayed by politicians and media as a threat to Dutch society,” it said.

And the annual controversy over the Dutch Christmas tradition of “Black Pete,” the black-faced sidekick of St. Nicholas, grew to a crescendo this year after the United Nations waded into the debate – ultimately calling for more public discussion on whether the beloved figure is racist and whether the Dutch are racist for holding him so dear. Mr. Wilders continues to rail against the "Islamization" of the Netherlands and Europe at large – and more recently against the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians to the country. But he is widely believed to have taken a step too far recently, by leading an anti-Moroccan chant at a political rally. It provoked a widespread backlash. “Society said he has crossed a line,” says Molthoff. Now, with the cleaning company, she says, “this is also a moment when people say, ‘this is not allowe ’”
© The Christian Science Monitor

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Far right provincial councillor claims cash but fails to turn up (Netherlands)

8/4/2014- A Noord-Holland provincial councillor who has not attended any meeting in two years has been urged by the province’s senior official to step down. Monica Nunes, first elected on behalf of Geert Wilders’ PVV, attended three meetings in 2012 and none since then but is still paid €1,150 a month, Nos television says. Nunes left the PVV in early 2012 after a string of conflicts and continued as an independent under the Forza Noord-Holland flag.

No powers
The queen’s commissioner in Noord Holland, Johan Remkes, has now written to Nunes urging her to resign. However, the province has no powers to sack her or stop her salary, Nos says. Parliament is working on plans to make it easier to get rid of councillors who fail to turn up to meetings, Remkes said. Elsevier points out that in 2011, Nunes hit the headlines after it emerged she was both provincial councillor and a party worker. She is also said to have been a frequent visitor and contributor to neo-nazi website Stormfront.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Explosive growth in discrimination reports, says human rights council

8/4/2014- There has been ‘explosive growth’ in the number of reports about discrimination in the Netherlands over the past year, according to the Dutch human rights council College Rechten van de Mens. In particular, there has been a sharp rise in work-related discrimination claims, the council says in its 2013 annual report. ‘Discrimination is a broad subject and the increase in reports does not necessarily mean an increase in discrimination,’ said council chairwoman Laurien Koster. ‘But it is a serious issue.’

Work
In total, the commission received 2,481 complaints about discrimination last year, a rise of 75% on 2012. More than half the complaints focused on work. ‘Exclusion takes place at entry level to the labour market,’ the report states. ‘We have indications that companies are refusing to accept people on work experience schemes because of their skin colour or because they wear a headscarf.’ Of the discrimination reports, the council was asked to make a ruling in almost 500 cases. It made rulings in 183 cases. Of those, 22% dealt with sex discrimination, 18% were race or origin based, and 17% concerned both age and/or discrimination against people with a handicap.
© The Dutch News

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Srebrenica massacre back in spotlight as two legal cases start (Netherlands)

7/4/2014- An organisation representing the families of men and boys who died in the Srebrenica massacre during the Yugoslavia civil war in 1995 are back in court in the Netherlands on Monday in an effort to have their case against the Dutch state heard. The Dutch supreme court and European Court of Justice said earlier the women, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, cannot take the United Nations to court for failing to protect their menfolk because the UN's immunity from prosecution is absolute. The women claim the UN and the Netherlands did too little to protect husbands and sons in the Muslim enclave when it came under attack from Serb forces. Some 8,000 men and boys were taken away and killed. The enclave was under the protection of Dutch troops at the time.

Three men
The new civil case follows a decision by the Dutch supreme court last year, which said the Dutch state is responsible for the death of three Muslim men during the siege of Srebrenica. After the fall of the enclave, effective control passed from the United Nations to the Dutch army, which was the responsibility of the Dutch state, the court said in its long-awaited ruling. Relatives of the three men, who were murdered after the Dutch army sent them out of the compound, have been involved in a legal campaign since 2002.

General
Meanwhile, Nos television reports that the relatives are now taking legal action against Thom Karremans, who was in charge of the Dutch forces at the time. He and two other senior military officials should be tried for war crimes and genocide, Nos quotes the families' lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld as saying. She says last year's ruling was based on political considerations rather than criminal legal grounds. Zegveld has filed an 'article 12' procedure at Arnhem appeal court.
© The Dutch News

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Lega Nord activist’s sortie on Tunesia flaunders in farce off Malta

6/4/2014- Seven Lega Nord activists wanted to make a point by sailing a rubber dinghy from Italy to Tunisia to show how easy it is for asylum seekers to cross over in the opposite direction. But their adventure ended in a farce. The seven – brothers Diego and Giovanni Murtaro, Michele Brambilla, Gino Troisi, Giacomo Gremini, Fausto Sarti and Remo Girenni, aided and abetted by party secretary Matteo Salvini – left Modena, their home town, early one morning and drove to Melito di Porto Salvo, in the extreme south of Italy, next to Reggio Calabria, where they boarded the rubber dinghy they had brought with them, flying the Lega Nord flag. But when they were near Malta, the dinghy’s motor caught fire. After they had put out the fire, the Leghisti tried to launch a distress signal. Somehow, however, the launcher must have been facing the wrong direction, for the flare pierced the rubber dinghy and they all ended up in the sea. A second distress flare was launched and this time the Maltese Armed Forces were informed and saved the activists from the sea. Apart from being ridiculed all over the Italian press, and even in the Lega Nord paper itself, the seven will now have to pay for being saved from the sea. Instead of covering themselves with glory, they only succeeded in covering themselves with ridicule. And they actually proved that it is easy for sea trips of this sort to end in tragedy – and in Malta, where neither they nor asylum seekers want to land.
© The Malta Independent

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INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY 2014

Italian PM’s Move Strenghtens “Racism-Free” Europe Ideal (press release from the future)

8/4/2034- The European Roma Rights Centre welcomes the Prime Minister of Italy Marcello Cassanelli’s decision yesterday to sack Minister of Interior Gianni Lombroso after his racist statements about Roma and Sinti. This move of the Italian PM reaffirms that there is no longer room for anti-Romani racism in Europe. All those who want to return to the dark past will face strong sanctions. According to media reports, in a conference entitled, “Learning from the Mistakes of the Past: Inclusive Education for All”, organised by the Government of the Czech Republic, Minister Lombroso said that “Roma need to improve themselves. Only 37% of Romani youth is attending university level education, because Romani culture does not value education.”

The statement of the Minster was immediately protested by other participants, including Ministers of Education from 11 European Union countries. A Minister, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that, “If the university attendance is still low in Romani communities, policy makers should first question themselves, understand the root causes and address them. Blaming the Roma culture is irrelevant and very dangerous.” The European Commission also acted swiftly. Commissioner for Equality, Djordje Jovanovic congratulated the Italian Prime Minister on his prompt reaction and stated: “The Prime Minister demonstrated a zero tolerance policy for racist speech. In any case, we Roma are strong enough to cope with such ignorant statements.”

The Italian Minister also faced street protests across Europe. Demonstrators demanded an apology from the Italian Government. In Paris a banner read, “We are all Roma!”, in four universities in Bratislava, students boycotted classes for one day and European Union of Primary School Teachers issued a declaration protesting the statement. Aniko, a 55 year old Romani woman from Hungary stated “I grew up in dark times; I was placed in a special school and I could not continue my education. My family had to leave Hungary to Canada because we did not feel safe here. But I came back to Hungary with my children because now we feel that we are at home. My children are attending a very good school. I am happy now. I do not want my children to face discrimination that me and my parents have experienced. I am angry with the Minister’s comments. No one will marginalise us again.”

In his statement, the Prime Minister underlined that any manifestation of racism will not be tolerated in Italy or in Europe. “Italy has changed, Europe has changed. Roma are equal citizens, on the way to be fully integrated into Italian society. Our past is full of shameful practices: We put them in camps, we stigmatised them, we burnt their settlements, we attacked them. But these are past now. A past we do not want to honour; nor do we want to forget.” The Roma caucus in the Italian Parliament reacted positively to the Prime Minister’s statement and called on the government to expand the number of scholarships available to Roma and Sinti university students.

The Roma and Sinti communities have been segregated, discriminated and stigmatised in Europe until very recent times. In 2014, for example, Roma were subject to violence and hate speech across Europe including murder. In many countries Roma faced forced evictions almost on daily basis. Romani children were placed in segregated schools which severely hindered their chances to improve themselves and Western European countries were trying to close their borders for Roma from Southeast European countries. In these days, it was even necessary to develop policies for the integration of Roma, which was then, however, objected by some old Member States of the EU. However, starting from 2020, a gradual change in European policies towards Romani groups has been initiated. It was only in the late 2020s, that Europe managed to marginalise all forms of racism, including anti-Gypsysim.

(Dear Human Rights Defenders: We at the European Roma Rights Centre found it a bit depressing to produce yet another press release on International Roma Day recounting all of the challenges and rights abuses Roma faced in the past year. Instead, we let our imaginations run wild. Our “press release from the future” you read above presents a Europe that we are working to build. We still believe in the brighter future that awaits us.)
© European Roma Rights Center

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Soros Suggests Pathways for Improving Conditions of Europe’s Roma

9/4/2014- Because they lived on the outskirts of society back then, no one really knows how many of Europe’s Roma—pejoratively called “gypsies”—were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Herded into concentration camps like the continent’s Jewish population, between 25 and 75 percent of Europe’s Roma population may have been victims of the Holocaust. The Roma are not often on the radar screen of Americans, but they should be. There may be 10 to 12 million Roma still living in Europe, most in southern and eastern Europe, with six million actually within the boundaries of the European Union. For many Roma, they still face rampant discrimination, the effects of which are seen in the statistics that 90 percent live below the EU’s poverty levels and at least one out of three adults is unemployed.

While not much of an issue for most Americans, the challenges faced by the Roma have been repeatedly recognized by Amnesty International:

“Hundreds of thousands of Roma have been forced to live in informal settlements and camps, often without heating, water or sanitation; tens of thousands are forcibly evicted from their homes every year. Thousands of Romani children are placed in segregated schools and receive a substandard education. Roma are often denied access to jobs and quality health care. They are victims of racially motivated violence and are often left unprotected by the police and without access to justice. This is not a coincidence. It is the result of widespread discrimination and racism that Roma face throughout Europe. Governments across the region are failing to protect their rights.”



While there aren’t many U.S. grantmakers paying attention to the needs of the Roma, George Soros, through his Open Society Foundations, is. While he notes that the conditions of the Roma have improved over the years, in part due to the work of the Roma Educational Fund, which Soros created in partnership with the World Bank, and the EU’s Structural Funds, more has to be done to rectify the inequities faced by the people in what constitutes Europe’s largest minority group. He makes three suggestions for continuing the progress that has been achieved by the Roma:



  1. Get additional funding from the EU, since the Roma’s population “is expanding faster than the programs” funded by the EU.


  2. Ensure that the Roma who do get a good education “don’t forget where they came from” and “embrace their heritage and retain their identity.”


  3. Guarantee that money allocated for the Roma by participating European governments is spent wisely—or, in some cases, is spent at all, as Soros notes that “many countries with large Roma populations have used only a fraction of the funds provided them…[and] the rest of the money sits untouched.”




In his opinion piece, Soros makes a very intriguing comment: “If these programs could be scaled up with the help of additional EU Structural Funds, the Roma could, within a generation or two, be as well integrated in Europe as African-Americans are in the U.S. today.” While many African-Americans have been able to enter the American middle class, African-Americans in general, as we have demonstrated in repeated writings, lag behind whites and even other minorities on socio-economic indicators across the board. Hopefully, progress for African-Americans here and the Roma in Europe will progress from discrimination past inequity to equality. The Roma have a long way to go, and in the U.S., so do many people of color.
© Non Profit Quarterly
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Council of Europe: Most Romani people in Europe suffer from poverty and segregation

9/4/2014- Most of the 10 million Romani people living in Europe continue to suffer from overwhelming poverty and segregation. Despite European programs to support the integration of Romani people into society, the situation is improving only slowly. Romani people face daily discrimination on the labor market, in media coverage, and in politics. That is the message of Thorbjörn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe (CoE), on the occasion of International Romani Day. In his statement, Jagland said discrimination against Romani people is most visible in urban areas. Too many Romani people continue to live in ghettos, and many of their children attend segregated schools. Budgets for municipal services for education, health care and housing are often stretched to their maximum limits, but even so they must include Romani residents. Jagland believes the situation is made more difficult by prejudices about and resistance to Romani people among some sectors of the population.

International organizations, including the Council of Europe and the European Union, have agreed that aid to Romani people must now be targeted at local level. That was also one of the main conclusions of the Third EU Roma Summit that took place last Friday in Brussels, Jagland said. The Secretary-General went on to say that 1 300 mediators have already been trained by the CoE and EU to counsel Romani people in 20 countries on how to access an education, local government services, and medical care in concrete locations. José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, said at the summit that it will only be possible to aid the integration of the Romani minority into mainstream societies throughout the European Union by working primarily at local level and only through long-term efforts. "Society is only as strong as its weakest link," Barroso emphasized. The EC President believes what is needed is not just money, but also the thorough application of EU policy in this area.

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier admitted last Friday in Brussels that the situation regarding Romani people in the Czech Republic is not improving because of the economic crisis. "The number of socially excluded localities has increased, but that does not mean that nothing is being done," he noted at the summit, adding that he believed past administrations were not very accommodating in their policy of previously-designed strategies on this issue.
© Romea.

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Croatian Roma Join 'Happy' Dance Wave

Roma in the Medjimurje area of northern Croatia have joined the trend of filming local versions of Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ to mark Roma International Day.
BIRN

9/4/2014- Following examples set by locals in Vienna, Moscow, Belfast, Bristol, Dublin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Belgrade, Split, Sarajevo and a few other Balkan cities, Roma from Parag, in Medjimurje, Croatia, Macedonia have released a video of people dancing enthusiastically to Williams’ global R&B hit. The video, entitled "Parag is the happiest", premiered on Tuesday in the Ivan Novak school in Macinec, where the majority of children are Roma, on the occasion of the International Roma Day, celebrated on April 8.

American School of Kosova, Montenegro
© Balkan Insight

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Russian authorities plan to socialise Gypsies

Russia, as does the whole world, marks International Day of Gypsies on Tuesday, April 8. In Moscow and other Russian cities, remembrance services for Gypsies who perished in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 are traditionally held on this day. Churches hold remembrance services and wreaths of fresh flowers are set loose on the sea or river waters.
By Lyudmila Alexandrova

8/4/2014- This is a reason to recall once again the problems of ethnic groups with common Indian origin living all over the world, including Europe, Asia, North Africa, North and South America and Australia. The global Gypsy population is about 18 million, between 10 and 12 million living in European Union states. About 220,000 reside in Russia, according to the 2010 national census. According to unofficial reports, there are many more. Notably, according to the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Russian Gypsies, a million Gypsies live in Russia. A high birthrate and migration mobility lead to constant growth in their population. As other countries, Russia is making an effort to assimilate Gypsies. However, the Gypsy issue is not so acute in this country as in the EU. It is just enough to recall attempts to deport Gypsy migrants from Romania and Hungary that French authorities had taken in 2010.

Gypsies had been actively socialised in Soviet times. In 1956, they were banned from roaming and begging. Gypsies were hired at Soviet collective farms and some measures were taken to register them in concrete settlements. However, in the first post-Soviet years this ethnic group was actually turned adrift in the world, resulting in segregation of Gypsy communities in Russian regions. Russian Gypsies (the Ruska Roma as they call themselves) are mostly well-assimilated and wealthy, many of them integrated into the Russian-speaking environment. More active Gypsies often live quite wealthily lives; the problem lies in the sources of money that far from all earn in legal business. Representatives of different respected professions, including small-numbered intelligentsia, are among Russian Gypsies.

Gypsies live the best life in Moscow and St. Petersburg, board member of the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Russian Gypsies Vadim Bariev said. Their situation is different in Russian regions: whole Gypsy settlements without electric power, water and gas supplies and where buses do not stop exist in Russia, he noted. These settlements also do not have a school - the nearest situated a couple of kilometres away. As a result, children study only at primary schools and are uncompetitive on the labour market in adult life. Experts note that Gypsies roaming at railway stations represent only 20% of their overall population. The other 80% are not marginal elements at all.

Ruska Roma are gradually giving way to numerous “alien” ethnic groups of Romani people - from the Lyuli coming from the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to nomadic Magyars penetrating to Russia from western Ukraine. This is migration constituting the bulk of people begging and fortune-telling at railway stations and marketplaces that frequently have criminal records, according to law enforcement agencies. In 2013, the Russian government adopted a comprehensive plan which envisages involvement of the Romani in cultural, educational and business projects. This is the only “complex ethnic development programme” in Russia, a source in the country’s government told Izvestia daily, adding that “There is no such programme for other ethnos. Gypsies are special people left to sink or swim and requiring care from state authorities.”

The document envisions making films and programmes on television to tell the history of Russian Gypsies and “the problem of their integration into modern society.” The Ministry of Regional Development and chief executives of Russian constituent entities have been instructed to help Gypsies who would like to start a business. Potential business people will be educated and consulted. Meanwhile, Gypsy business people will be granted benefits to receive communications services and buy electronic office appliances. Free legal consultations will be given at special centres. Those who do not have identity cards will be provided with passports on easier rules. The government programme has a special section devoted to the problem of homelessness and lack of education among Romani children. A special alphabet book will be developed for them to study Russian. Pupils will have textbooks to learn the Romani language. At places of community living, young Gypsies will be able to go to clubs to learn traditional crafts such as blacksmithing, horse-breeding, sewing, embroidery and weaving.
ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors
© ITAR-TASS

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End anti-Roma racism: German Amnesty boss

Amnesty International released on Tuesday a damning report on Europe's attitude towards its Roma community. The head of the charity's German branch, Selmin Caliskan, said she believed that governments allowed racism to happen.

8/4/2014- Instead of working to abolish racism, statements from even high ranking politicians seem to “fuel the belief that Roma people are responsible for their own exclusion,” the Amnesty director said. “The EU and its member states have to finally put an end to racially-motivated attacks against members of the Roma community,” Caliskan said in a statement on Tuesday. The stern words followed an Amnesty International report in which it was revealed that many of Europe’s 10-12 million Roma are at increased risk of racist violence and discrimination. The organisation believes not enough is being done by governments to protect them. The problem was not a new one, she said. Instead, the “current situation can be traced back to years of disrespecting the rights of this large European minority.” Today, many countries blame Roma for a rise in petty crime. “Excluded from access to essential services and unable to get redress for human rights violations, many Roma feel abandoned,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Caliskan added, “It's totally unacceptable that Roma people are living in constant fear of violent attacks in many places across Europe.” And that this was perpetuated “by the passive behaviour of governments, which quietly accept systematic discrimination against Roma people” The Amnesty report – titled “Europe: “We ask for justice”: Europe’s failure to protect Roma from racist violence” – uses incidents from the Czech Republic, France and Greece, where excessive violence has been reported against members of the Roma community. The rest of Europe was not exempt, though. Amnesty has, following the report's release, called on the EU commission to stress to states' police to investigate incidents involving Roma people more seriously. All too frequently will police not look into suspected racial motivation, it said. The Roma, a traditionally nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination. They were killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazis during World War II, alongside Jews and homosexuals.
© The Local - Germany

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International Roma Day: Strong call for solidarity ahead of European elections

Roma across Europe continue to be the victims of racist attacks, widespread discrimination and hate speech. Today, on International Roma Day, anti-racist organisations are seriously concerned about the prevalence of anti-Gypsyism, and pledge to join forces to curb racism and hate speech ahead of the European elections.

8/4/2014- Roma are permanent victims of racist violence across Europe and are, to this day, still denied their basic human rights in their countries of origin and of residence. Walls are being built in cities throughout Eastern Europe to separate Roma from the rest of society. Anti-Roma marches are often used to mobilise votes by populist and far right groups and parties in many countries of the European Union. Roma children are segregated in schools in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovakia, among others. In Italy, many Roma are forced to live in isolated and segregated camps set up by the municipalities, making it extremely difficult for them to access basic rights to education, employment and healthcare. Roma still face forced evictions in France without receiving adequate alternative housing. The generalisation of anti-Roma discourses within some political parties is leading to an increase in incidences of discrimination and violence against Roma.

In the run-up to the European elections, we call on politicians not to incite to discrimination, prejudice or hatred against any ethnic and religious minorities. They should also commit to seriously address and recognise anti-Gypsyism as one of the root causes for the failure to bring about the necessary changes on the ground. The fight against anti-Gypsyism, as well as other specific forms of racism such as Afrophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, should be made a priority in all political parties’ programmes, because they are seriously damaging social cohesion in Europe.

International Roma Day should be a commemoration for these Roma victims and serve as a permanent call to Roma and non-Roma to become more united in the fight for Roma rights and against racism in Europe. Therefore, we are joining forces to achieve full equality for Roma and all the marginalized groups who struggle to have their rights respected, and to counter the rise and appeal of racist and xenophobic ideas and policies. It’s now time that SOLIDARITY becomes a value in European societies as violation of the rights of one group affects everyone else in our society.
European Network Against Racism (ENAR); CEJI - a Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe; European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO); European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC); Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO); Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA); Mouvement contre le Racisme, l’Antisémitisme et la Xénophobie (MRAX); Muslims' Rights Belgium; Open Republic Association against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia; Pan African Movement for Justice; Subjective Values Foundation.





© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Roma in Europe: Demanding justice and protection in the face of violence

European states are failing to curb and in some cases even fuelling discrimination, intimidation and violence against Roma, Amnesty International said on International Roma Day on 8 April.

8/4/2014- “There has been a marked rise in the frequency of anti-Roma violence in Europe in the last few years. The response to this alarming phenomenon has been woefully inadequate. It is unacceptable that in modern-day Europe some Roma communities live under the constant threat of violence and pogrom-like attacks,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director. “All too often European leaders have pandered to the prejudices fuelling anti-Roma violence by branding Roma as anti-social and unwelcome. While generally condemning the most blatant examples of anti-Roma violence, authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge its extent and slow to combat it. For its part, the European Union has been reluctant to challenge member states on the systemic discrimination of Roma that is all too evident.”

Amnesty International’s report, We ask for justice”: Europe’s failure to protect Roma from racist violence, examines hate motivated violence and harassment perpetrated against Roma by officials and ordinary citizens in the Czech Republic, France and Greece, illustrating the organization’s concerns across the continent. “On many occasions law enforcement agencies are failing to prevent racist attacks and ensure that hate motives are properly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. The fact that racist attitudes remain entrenched in many police forces is more often denied than addressed," said John Dalhuisen. Governments across Europe fail the Roma in multiple ways. Discrimination, forced evictions, segregation and sub-standard education are the norm in many countries. “The European Union has legislative arsenal at its disposal to ensure that discriminatory violence, and discrimination more generally, are addressed. However, the European Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the application of EU laws in the member states, has to date failed to take clear and decisive action to address discrimination and violence against Roma in member states,” said john Dalhuisen. Amnesty International calls on national governments and the European Union to commit, visibly and wholeheartedly, to eradicating the scourge of anti-Roma discrimination, intolerance and violence across the region.

Czech Republic
Throughout the summer and autumn of 2013, Czech far-right groups staged series of anti-Roma protests in dozens of towns and cities across the country. The protests meant systematic harrasmant of Romani communities. Between June and October 2013, far-right extremists joined by the local residents held regular marches through the city of Èeské Budìjovice to a housing estate following a conflict at a children’s playground between Roma and non-Roma adults. Štefan, a Romani man told Amnesty International: “Some people do not realize that [during the demonstrations, the Roma] have to stay at one place, that children… are afraid. This lasts the whole day and leaves trauma... Nobody deserves to experience something like this. People experienced this during the war and I think that in the year 2013, in the 21st century, we don’t have to experience it again.”

France
Having fled discrimination in their countries, many of the 20,000 Roma in France live in informal settlements where they rarely have access to basic services, such as water and sanitation. They are often forcibly evicted from their shelters, harassed by the police or other citizens and sometimes attacked. On the evening of 22 November 2011, the police went to the informal settlement next to the church of St. Martin d’Arenc in Marseille with the aim of forcibly evicting the 10 Roma families who lived there. They allegedly sprayed tear gas inside the tents where children were sleeping and then destroyed the tents and other personal belongings. R. was beaten up by the police. He said: “I wanted to run away but I couldn’t see anything, I just saw a gate in front of me, I tried to reach out to it but as soon as I approached it, I just had the feeling that my leg broke and then I don’t remember anything else. R. underwent surgery for a fractured thighbone and spent six months in a rehabilitation centre. Roma migrants in Marseille do not generally report cases of harassment and violence because of lack of trust in the police or fear of further victimization. S., a Roma social worker who used to live in an informal settlement, said: “Roma people are really scared of the police; I usually take kids to the hospital for medical treatments and they are afraid whenever they see the police on our way”.

Greece
The estimated 250,000 to 350,000 Roma living in Greece have been at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment for generations. During 2012 and 2013 a series of pogrom-like attacks against a Roma community took place in Etoliko, a village in western Greece. Irini told Amnesty International her experience of an attack on 4 January 2013 when approximately 70 individuals threw Molotov cocktails, stones and wooden planks at their homes: “When I saw them coming, I grabbed my children and locked us up in the house. My children were crying, screaming… I was frightened. Looking out of the window I knew most of them, we grew up together. They threw a glass bottle from the window and set the house on fire.” Six houses and four cars were firebombed or damaged by the attackers that day. Several Roma told Amnesty International that they felt betrayed by the police. One said: “I could see just two policemen from inside the house… They were just staring and asking people to stop. They did nothing more than this”.
© Amnesty International.

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Some 41,000 people consider Romani their mother tongue (Czech Rep.)

8/4/2014- Some 41,100 inhabitants of the Czech Republic consider Romany their mother tongue, the latest government annual report on the state of the Romany ethnic minority says, referring to the 2011 population and housing census data. The report says Romany culture and history have been somewhat recognised in the past years, but Czech society still does not consider them part of its national cultural heritage. "The majority society still does not consider Romany culture and language a full-fledged part of the Czech Republic's cultural heritage," the report said. The preservation and development of Romany culture and language is "threatened by continuing acculturation and language assimilation," primarily among young Romanies, it added.

The 2011 census says 4,919 people consider Romany their mother tongue. For 33,351 people, Romany and Czech were their mother tongues, while 2,100 said it was Romany along with Slovak. In all, Romany as a mother tongue in this or other form was reported by 41,087 people. Several years ago, Romany affairs scholars from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University examined the knowledge of Romany among almost 1,000 children aged ten to 17. They found that only about one-third of them spoke Romany well , which proves that Romanies in the Czech Republic were abandoning Romany to the benefit of Czech. Children mainly learn Romany from their peers and older relatives, but Czech is usually only used at home. They mostly start learning Romany when they come of age.

In addition, many Romanies are bilingual, but scant attention has been paid to this, the researchers said. Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD) said International Romany Day should enhance Romany identity and importance of Romany culture. "It should remind Romanies themselves and the society in which they live of the importance of Romany values, the identity, called romipen." Dienstbier said. Schools can offer Romany as an optional subject. In the Czech Republic, roughly 80 percent of Romanies use the east Slovak dialect of Romany as most Czech Romanies died in the Holocaust and after World War Two, many Romanies immigrated from Slovakia within the former Czechoslovakia.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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OSCE/ODIHR Director calls for greater efforts to improve co-operation between police and Roma communities

8/4/2014- Ambasssador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called today for greater efforts to improve relations and co-operation between police forces and Roma communities. On the occasion of International Roma Day, he further called on law-enforcement authorities to ensure effective police responses to violence against Roma and Sinti people in the OSCE area. “The police have a responsibility to safeguard the security of all individuals and communities where they serve, including in the protection and promotion of their human rights,” Lenarčič said. “Strong, positive relations and co-operation between police forces and Roma communities are needed if this type of protection is to be effective.” He underlined the obligation of relevant authorities in countries to prevent police misconduct and to ensure that crimes, including hate crimes, against Roma and Sinti are properly investigated and, where sufficient evidence exists, prosecuted.

“Greater efforts are needed to train police officers to properly identify and investigate hate crimes, including against Roma, as well as to sensitize them to the threats and difficulties faced by Roma communities,” Lenarčič said. “Strict action also has to be taken in instances where police officers themselves are the source of these problems.” The second Status Report on Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, published by ODIHR in 2013, identified problems specifically related to policing, including excessive use of force against or ill-treatment of Roma, racial profiling and failure to respond effectively to assist Roma victims of crime. It also highlighted mutual distrust and a lack of constructive contacts between police and Roma communities as an impediment to guaranteeing their security and human rights.

Twenty experts from law enforcement agencies and Roma civil society also met in Warsaw on International Roma Day to share good practices in policing at the local level. In particular, participants at the expert meeting, organized by ODIHR, the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU) and the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) focused on practical applications of the resource Police and Roma and Sinti: Good Practices in Building Trust and Understanding, which was published by ODIHR and the SPMU in 2010. In the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, adopted in 2003, ODIHR, the SPMU and the HCNM are mandated to assist OSCE participating States in developing programmes and confidence-building measures to improve relations and co-operation between Roma and Sinti communities and the police.
© The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

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Serbia Marks International Roma Day

While Serbia marked International Roma Day with exhibitions, meetings and debates, community leaders said the positition of the community remained desperate.

8/4/2014- Serbia marked International Roma Day on April 8 with debates about the poor social and economic position of the Roma community and exhibitions about their culture. The marginalised position of the Roma was the topic of a conference held at the media center in Belgrade where a report noted the progress made in improving their living standards, with suggestions about what more could be done. Vitomir Mihajlovic, president of the National Council of the Roma Minority, said the position of the community remained dire. Many of the 750 or so Roma settlements in Serbia have little or not hygene, he said. “Some 20 per cent have no water supply, 40 per cent have no sewage system while 10 percent have no electricity,” Mihajlovic told Serbia's public broadcaster, RTS, on April 8. Mihajlovic told the conference that the government had to take better care of the Roma population if they were ever to exit the cycle of poverty. He said the Roma needed their own representatives in the government, and ministries needed to cooperate to solve the problems affecting the community. He also said that the action plans predicted in a 2009 government strategy were largely not being implemented due to the lack of funds.

State ombudsman Sasa Jankovic told the conference that Serbia took some initial steps towards the better integration of Roma in 2009, when it adopted the strategy, “but we have bragged about these few steps as if we had run across a whole field. “This is a good time to put pressure on the new government and announce that the ombudsman will control practical implementation of the goals that have been set,” Jankovic said. A conference dealing with the position of women in the Roma community was organized in parliament by the Council for Equality of the Serbian Government and the Roma Womens Network. This noted that Roma women remain largely unemployed in Serbia, and that the level of their health protection is low, which is a consequence of their poor economic situation. After meeting representatives of the Roma community, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic stated that the position of the Roma community in Serbia needed improving and that the state should make it possible for them to realize their rights and preserve their identity.

The head of the OSCE mission to Serbia, Peter Burkhart, said further inclusion of the Roma into public and social-economic life required further investment. Burkhart said Serbia had to select priorities that would advance the accessibility of housing, health services, employment and education to the members of the Roma community. An exhibition, “Forgotten Holocaust”, meanwhile opened at the Roma Art Gallery in Belgrade, dealing with the sufferings of the Roma in the Second World War, when hundreds of thousands of them were killed by Nazi occupation forces and their local allies in Serbia. Another exhibition opened at Youth Cultural Centre of Belgrade, DOB, presenting the most famous Roma in the World. The decision to mark International Roma Day on April 8 was made in London in 1971 at the first Global congress of Roma.
© Balkan Insight

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OSCE Mission to Serbia calls for tangible change in daily lives of Roma

8/4/2014- On International Roma Day, thee Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Peter Burkhard, underlined the need for further efforts to ensure the greater inclusion of Roma in the public and socio-economic life. “International Roma Day presents a great opportunity to celebrate and recognize a rich cultural heritage,” said Ambassador Burkhard. “It is also an occasion to take stock of current policies, note past successes and consider the challenges the Roma community continues to face in Serbia.” “Making a tangible difference in the daily lives of the Roma people requires long-term commitments, adequate resources, and joint action by the ministries, local service providers, and civil society. However, full participation in Serbia’s socio-economic life can only advance as far as society’s attitudes towards the Roma community allow. Too often, stereotypes lead to prejudice, discrimination and sadly, even violence.” Ambassador Burkhard encouraged the new government, once formed, to build on the progress achieved through the National Strategy for Roma Inclusion in 2009 and to lay down concrete priorities to improve access to housing, healthcare, better employment and education. “Promoting the greater involvement of Roma women in the process and improving school retention rates is especially important for the Roma community to realize its full potential,” explained Burkhard.
© OSCE Mission to Serbia

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Roma Summit Gives Romanian Minister Rough Ride

Romania's claims that it was doing its best to help the Roma community met a mixed response at a summit of 500 Roma organisations held in Brussels last week.

7/4/2014- Romania's Labour Minister, Rovana Plumb, encountered both jeers and cheers in Brussels last week when she told a Roma summit that the "integration of Roma people is a longstanding and steady commitment of Romanian government. "We have achieved some results in combating poverty and offering jobs to people,” she maintained. The minister was speaking at the European Roma Summit, which held last week in Brussels. An estimated 12 million Roma live in the EU, of which Romania is a member. The European Commission, in a report released at the end of the summit in Brussels, noted that some progress has been made in recent years, with more Roma children attending pre-school and public programmes designed to improve access to healthcare, jobs and housing. However, discrimination against Roma remains widespread, which "has no place in the European Union,” the report also noted.

On the other hand, the reaction from Roma organisations and representatives – around 500 of which were in Brussels – is not always warm toward the EU or to national governments. “The commitment to combating discrimination and human rights abuses against Roma remains by and large no more than a promise,” the European Roma Rights Center, ERRC, said in a statement. The ERRC is an international organisation specialising in advocacy and policy development for Roma people. For Romania, officially home to some 620,000 Roma, the problems are especially daunting. A report released by the rights watchdog Amnesty International last year said Roma people in Romania remained “poverty stricken, persecuted and outcast”. Many communities are located on the outskirts of cities and are unofficially segregated, with poor housing conditions, and still struggling to access health care and education.

Many people of Roma origin do not declare their ethnicity on account of the widespread prejudice they face in Romania. The European Roma Summit was the third meeting of this type organised at European level. In 2011, member states involved committed themselves to reducing social inequalities among Roma in education, employment, healthcare, and housing. Some Roma activists at the summit were far from optimistic about the immediate future. "Highlighting commitments, strategies and recommendations – as happened in the summit in Brussels - yield nothing until these policies are translated to realities on the ground. We are still hoping for far clearer results,” one activist who did not wish to be named said in Brussels.
© Balkan Insight

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Forced Evictions in France: Absurdly Stubborn, Stubbornly Absurd

7/4/2014- French authorities continued forcibly evicting migrant Roma during the first three months of 2014. Despite harsh winter conditions, since 1 January 2014, 3428 people have been forcibly evicted from 36 different places; 2904 by authorities during 27 evictions and 524 became homeless after fires raged in nine different settlements. These figures, gathered by the Human Rights League (LDH) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) remain very high for the winter season, as in past years and even show an increase in inhumane evictions. The organisations counted 3,007 and 2,153 people forcibly evicted in the first three months of 2013 and 2012 respectively.

There were 22 forced evictions following a Court order requested by the owners of the land, three decisions taken by the Mayor or Prefect for security or sanitary reasons, and in one case, people left the settlement by themselves, under threat of a forced eviction. One settlement was evicted by force without any legal decision. On 12 February 2014, a Romani child died in a fire in the settlement in Bobigny. The European Roma Rights Centre and LDH did not see any noticeable change in the implementation of the inter-ministerial circular of 26 August 2012, which ordered local authorities to carry out a social assessment of Roma during all evictions. Evictions have continued almost everywhere without the social assessment, without offering adequate alternative housing solutions and without any social support.

During the recent municipal election campaign in France, the anti-Roma mood was pathological, and extreme and hateful speeches were legion. The announcement in late January by the Ministry for Housing of a plan to “eradicate slums” with the public-private company Adoma at the helm has yet to prove effective. The ERRC and the LDH are concerned whether such a policy is feasible when the Minister of the Interior’s approach is to evict Romani settlements systematically. The appointment of the previous Minister of Interior as First Minister indicates that the systematisation of the evictions as a solution to “eradicate the slums” would be accelerated, which may be feared as the worst scenario. This survey is the result of joint work between the ERRC and the LDH. The figures are not comprehensive, but the census aims be as accurate as possible in the absence of official data. The figures were gathered through media monitoring and reports from NGOs.
The detailed report is available in English and French.
© European Roma Rights Center

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Roma inclusion policy has to take real needs of the community into account

On 8 April, we will celebrate World Roma Day. However, far more effort is needed in EU Member States to implement national strategies for Roma integration and achieve their aim of improving Roma people’s opportunities and their full access to fundamental rights.

4/4/2014- Today, a Roma Summit will be held to discuss the progress made on Roma inclusion in the EU over the last four years. The EU institutions and the Council of Europe have often repeated their determination to combat the exclusion of Roma in a variety of areas, from education through housing to employment. Progress in Roma integration is nonetheless slow and indeed in some places has reversed, with anti-gypsyism an increasing problem in a number of countries. More active dialogue is also needed to ensure Roma voices are heard on all aspects of inclusion policy. This is why the motto of this year’s Roma Summit, "Going local on Roma inclusion", is so important. “Roma integration can only work if efforts at the EU and national level are matched by activities that engage local Roma communities,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “We often call the Roma a ‘target group’, but this is a false concept: Roma need to be core to the process of inclusion and integration. That’s why they need to be given the tools and opportunities to determine their own future.”

Evidence from FRA and numerous other organisations has shown that engaging Roma communities directly in the design and implementation of integration programmes helps to create more sustainable projects. In addition, this approach does a great deal to break down stereotypes and improve communication between the Roma and local majority communities, which in turn leads to higher levels of social cohesion. FRA is already supporting the effort to go local with its own Local Engagement Research for Roma Integration project. This aims to examine and develop ways of improving the design, implementation and monitoring of Roma integration policies at the local level. It will contribute to improving administrative capacity and make the monitoring tools for measuring progress more effective. Most importantly, it will equip Roma communities and local civil society bodies with the tools and self-confidence to become agents of their own destiny.

Findings from a survey of Roma in 11 EU Member States by FRA, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the European Commission show that 46% of Roma were discriminated against in the year preceding the research because of their ethnicity. Almost 9 in 10 Roma were at risk of falling into poverty, compared with less than half of non-Roma living nearby. To see more figures from the survey, please visit FRA’s Roma data explorer.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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Headlines 4 April, 2014

EU ignoring migrant suffering, says NGO

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Greece has called for the EU and Greece "to stop shirking their responsibility" when it comes to migrants and take into account the human cost of migration policies across the region.

4/4/2014- "Detention has a severe impact on both [the] physical and mental health [of migrants]" states Aliki Meimaridou, a psychologist working with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Greece. "But for me its greatest consequence is the sense of futility, the absence of all hope for the future. These people feel their lives have ended here," she continues. The Doctors Without Borders psychologist recalls an incident which sums up this sense of futility, one which Meimaridou cannot erase easily from her mind. "One thing I think I'll never forget and that's indicative of these people's despair is those who threaten to jump off the roof as a means of demanding their rights. On some occasions, they do jump. We experienced such an incident and I'll never forget the people on the roof shouting and voicing their disappointment and then, the sound their body made when it crashed to the ground. It's something I'd never heard before and it will remain etched on my mind forever - the sound the human body makes when it crashes to the ground."

Detained without charge
Meimaridou is just one of the MSF workers, doctors and psychologists, who bear witness to the so called "silent" or "invisible" suffering of illegal migrants held in detention on Greek soil. The men, women and children come from all over the world. Many of them have no proof of age, identity or address and for that they are rounded up and put in detention centers; many for up to 18 months. MSF this week (Wednesday April 2) denounced what is going on in Greece, calling for the government and the EU to do something about the unsanitary conditions in which many migrants are kept. Panagiotis Tziavas is a medical doctor who works with MSF in many of the detention centers. MSF has been providing medical and humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Greece since 1996. The report was based on regular assessments in three pre-removal centers and four police and border police stations in Northern Greece, as well as a further 27 facilities across the country in 2013 and 2014.

'I was shocked'
Despite the amount of exposure that many MSF workers have to conditions in these centers, Dr Tziavas said he was "shocked" at the conditions he witnessed. He testified that "too many people were crammed into a very small area." But for him, the biggest problem was the sanitary conditions. He explains, "most of the latrines were in a really deplorable state. A typical example was the detention center in Komotini where the latrines on the lower floor lacked sewage pipes resulting in the waste and excrement from the upper floor being siphoned to the lower floor through trash bags and from there to the main sewage system of the buildings." The consequences he explained are "tragic, because these people are forced to walk through the waste and excrement of the people from the upper floor in order to take a shower or go to the toilet. Not only is it a tragically disgusting sight, but it also poses a serious threat…to the health of the people there in terms of transmitting diseases and infections." Needless to say, "this is a very serious danger".

Something needs to be done
Ioanna Kotsioni is a migrant referent with MSF. She told DW that "the situation varies, but overall we're talking about substandard conditions." She lists failures to apply basic hygiene, or even provide migrants with soap or clean clothes or bedding as contributing to the overall situation. The report goes on to list the incidence of migrants sharing razors to shave as there were too few to go around, leading to the possibility of increased transmission of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C which are transmitted via blood or feces. At a later stage, the report notes that the humidity levels are so high in some of the camps that migrants regularly sleep on damp or wet bedding. The total lack of hygiene has led to several outbreaks of scabies and some incidences of TB. Kotsioni underlines that cases of tuberculosis have so far been isolated, but that diseases like scabies are totally preventable if basic hygiene rules are observed. Kotsioni went on to explain that the detention of migrants, including those who should be regarded as vulnerable, and minors, had increased significantly so the problems that MSF has noted for years have suddenly got much worse. She explained to DW that much of the EU money earmarked to deal with the problem of migrants who arrive on Greek soil has gone to expanding the capacity of detention centers instead of improving conditions or building more open centers.

Minors detained as adults
One 16 year old boy who has already spent 6 months in detention testifies in the report that "Some months ago I asked to be released, because I am a minor. I asked many times but they always refused. I got extremely anxious and was thinking about my family, [about whom I] have [no] information. Since they didn't want to release me, I thought it was better to jump off the roof than stay here. I broke my legs. Now I still have pain in my legs and when I eat, my teeth are hurting because I hit them against a wall when I jumped." According to MSF, his story is not uncommon. Many migrants have no way of proving their age and the authorities often register them as adults even when they are not. Some, believing they will be treated better as an adult also lie about their age initially.

Little daylight in detention…
MSF notes that many migrants in detention have little or no acces to daylight for months on end. A 34 year old man who has spent 17 months in detention explained that "The first time I stayed for one year in the detention center. When I left, I was free for about 40 days, but I didn't get the chance to figure out what I was going to do, I didn't know how the system works." So he ended up back in detention, despite having already applied for asylum in Italy where he first entered Europe from Libya. Originally from North Darfur, he had come to Greece to work as a blacksmith. On trying to leave the country he claims he was arrested and put in jail for 37 more days. The beatings, he claims, "were constant. Eventually I woke up in hospital. I was unconscious for three days. […] The way we live here is not like a detention center. […] It smells like a pigsty. […] Now I'm starting to have psychological issues. I am beginning to have insomnia. I was 72 kg now I am down to 64kg. I cannot express in words the situation we are in."

What could be done?
Ioanna Kotsioni, MSF Greece, explains that while money might come in from the EU and Greece to deal with this situation, the problem is the attitude in society and among the decision-makers, that many just ignore what is going on under their noses. "While migrants are seen as a problem, the human cost that migration policies inflict is being ignored." She believes that it all comes down to a question of priorities. With the current war in Syria, migrants have increased in the last year, but open centers to house vulnerable families fleeing conflict have stayed the same, with only about 1,000 beds available, while closed detention center places have increased by 4,500 in the last year.

In conclusion, MSF urges the Greek authorities to invest in a proper reception system and to guarantee uninterrupted access to healthcare services. The NGO wants to make sure that migrants are properly assessed and that vulnerable people and minors are never placed in detention centers in the first place. They also want inappropriate centers such as Komotini to be shut down if they can't provide basic standards of hygiene and care. They call the whole situation a "common responsibility and a shared shame," something which Greece and the EU cannot continue to shirk and ignore. "What is needed is for everyone to face up to the human cost of the restrictive immigration policies which are currently in place," and to bear witness to the scale of the human suffering inflicted on already vulnerable and displaced people.
Helen Seeney contributed to this report by interviewing Ioanna Kotsioni for Inside Europe on DW.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Czech Police never found mosque vandal

4/4/2014- Police never determined who placed a pile of pork bones in front of the doors of a mosque on Vídeňská Street in Brno just before the Christmas holidays last year. The perpetrator of the offensive vandalism spread lard on the door handle and hung a piece of pork flesh on it as well. Pavel Šváb, spokesperson for the Police of the Czech Republic, said today that detectives have shelved the case. Muslims perceive the incident as an affront. The Islamic faith forbids the consumption of pork, which it considers unclean. "We did not succeed in finding the perpetrator. The case has been shelved. If we discover new information, we will reopen it," Šváb said. A Brno-based Islamic foundation filed a criminal report in the matter. The police spokesperson said the incident would most probably be considered a misdemeanor offense against civil coexistence for which the perpetrator could be fined as much as CZK 5 000.

The Muslim community hoped police would apprehend the perpetrator. A security camera on the mosque partially caught him in the act. However, the footage was not enough to identify the man. Representatives of the Muslim community in Brno say the case is clear proof of the hatred felt by extremists against Islamic worshipers. The Muslim community was so angered by the incident that they decided to leave the bones in front of the mosque for several hours with a sign on them reading "This is an example of tolerance". The community believes the perpetrator should be criminally prosecuted for disseminating xenophobia, not just charged with a mere misdemeanor. The mosque in Brno opened more than 10 years ago as the first house of worship of its kind in the Czech Republic. It has previously been attacked several times by unidentified perpetrators who have broken its glass doors and windows and graffittied it.
© Romea.

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Roma still second class citizens, despite EU efforts

4/4/2014- Despite national strategies on Roma integration, many of Europe’s most discriminated minority are still being treated as second-class citizens. Zoni Weisz, a 77-year old Nazi Holocaust survivor, on Friday (4 April) asked whether history is at risk of repeating itself. “A civilised society respects human rights but still many Roma and Sinti are treated as second class citizens,” Weisz said at the third EU-level Roma summit in Brussels. Weisz, who lost his entire family at Auschwitz concentration camp for being Sinti, warned EU and national governments against producing more piles of paper in their policy efforts to stamp out prejudice against minorities.

Problems remain pervasive and elusive for policymakers.
Three years ago, local authorities in Cluj-Napoca evicted Romani families from their homes and pushed them into a ghetto near a toxic waste dump where they remain to this day. A Romanian court declared the eviction illegal but the families have nowhere to turn, according to the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). Romania’s president Traian Basescu, present at the summit, warned against anti-Roma discourse at the European level. “We see at the European level that there are a number of political people that resort to such discourse,” he told the audience. But Basescu was himself fined in February for making discriminatory remarks against the minority in 2010, describing a majority of the Roma at the time as lazy thieves. At the summit, he said many are doctors, lawyers and businessmen but are too afraid to reveal their true identities due to the stigmas. Romania officially has over 600,000 Roma but the true figure is reportedly likely to be higher since many mask their identities.

An estimated 12 million Roma live in the EU.
Member states, for their part, committed themselves last December to reduce Roma social inequalities in education, employment, healthcare, and housing. In 2011, they each adopted the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies but pro-rights group complain little is being done in substance. “The commitment to combatting discrimination and human rights abuses against Roma remains largely no more than a promise,” said the ERRC in a statement. The EU, for its part, in a report released on Friday said some progress had been made since 2011. It noted more Roma children are attending pre-school and that programmes are in place to improve access to healthcare, jobs, and housing. 

EU-wide stigmas remain entrenched.
Last year, police in Greece and Ireland raided Roma families and abducted children with blue eyes and blonde hair. Irish police returned the seven-year old after DNA tests confirmed the couple where indeed the biological parents. Accusations of human trafficking in the Greek case turned out to be unfounded. Meanwhile, at the EU level, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding described the Roma policy wrangling as a major achievement compared to a few years ago. Few bothered showing up at the EU Roma summit in 2010 in Cordoba, Spain. “There were only two ministers present and no interest at all about what should be done,” she told reporters. She noted it took four years before dozens of ministers from member states began to speak out. “You cannot have a change in the Roma population if the Roma population itself does not want to be integrated,” she pointed out. Reding had also locked horns with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 for booting out Roma from the country. Ethnic-based deportations have since stopped in France, she noted. 

But not forced evictions.
Last year, France kicked out 21,500 Roma from their homes, sometimes in the dead of winter. “Where there are illegal settlements, they are illegal and it is possible, under the responsibility of the state, to dismantle those but it is also the responsibility of the national state to see that those people are cared for,” said Reding.
© The EUobserver

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'Porn industry comes out best from this race row' (Germany)

Here is a story to mull over - a German porn star quits her film career and joins a far-right political party with neo-Nazi links, but runs into trouble when they discover an interracial scene from her one of her movies.

1/4/2014- It sounds almost too good to be true, but it is a story making a few gentle waves if only for the reason it casts a shadow of doubt over the usually amorous relationship between sex and politics. The protagonist is Ina Groll, aka Kitty Blair, a former German porn actress, who turned her back on her adult film industry career and focused her attentions on fighting, among other things, immigration - and all of those benefit scrounging, job-stealing immigrants. She went to the most obvious source of employment and joined the National Democratic Party (NPD), quickly settling in as the new face of hate. For a while, everything was going swimmingly. There were thousands of Facebook page likes, appearances outside election stations in outfits designed to entice male voters, and her own contribution to the party's publicity in the form of the slogan, “nationalism can be sexy too”. She peppered her Facebook page with rages against all parasitic non-Germans-living-in-Germany, who are ruining the future of the country with their sneaky, leeching ways. She even included a photo of a seemingly unconscious homeless person at Mannheim Hauptbahnhof, leaving the photo open to various, ragingly intellectual comments about asozials. Her determination to focus on a "policy of hatred" was going well.

Groll's fall
But Groll's tale took a turn when the NPD found out she had, at some point, had sex with a black man. It happened in Kitty Discovers Sperm, her final film before quitting the industry, and when it was brought to the NPD's attention, the backlash was instant. Suddenly the NPD took issue with her former career, despite previously being prepared to turn a blind eye for the greater good of the party. A Facebook page was set up, calling for her removal from the party - the NPD could not be seen to associate with someone who both sold her body for money and had sex with a black man. She was unceremoniously relieved of her duties, which appear to have been largely promotional, and booted from the party. The NPD wanted nothing to do with her. There was to be further trouble for Groll. She now finds herself shunned from her former career as well.

Big players in the German porn industry are speaking out against Groll's political preferences and are saying she is not welcome back. One man, Axel Schaffrath, described as an “insider” by the Daily Mail said: “The popular view is that she needs to be locked up, no one needs someone like her with her perverted view of the world.” Schaffrath seems adamant Groll's porn career, should she want to return to it post political brush, is over. “She certainly has no chance of filming any more porn movies after her Nazi links were revealed. I personally advised the producers to keep her as far away as possible, people like her need to be ignored by everyone," he said. President of Berlin porn film company GGG, John Thompson, has spoken of a “unanimous decision” to boycott Groll.

There is a lot to unpack here. There is something for everyone in this very modern and yet strangely ageless story - karma, hubris, sex, tragedy, politics, a weird sense of justice. A woman who chose to give her face to a political institution of ignorance and racism was sacked by an act of the very type of racism she was desperate to support and perpetuate. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this entire debacle is the party that has come out looking the best is the porn industry. The porn industry, relieved that for once it isn't coming under fire for its narrow, parochial portrayal of sex, womanhood, and female physicality and sexuality, took full advantage of the situation to shine. The porn industry, Thompson said, welcomes “participants with all skin colours and all nationalities, but we don't welcome Nazis”. The porn industry welcomes many other things, but perhaps we should let it have its moment in the sun.

Spurned by politics for her porn and the porn industry for her politics, it remains unclear what Groll's next move will be. What does remain clear, according to her Facebook page, is her policy of hate continues unabated, as she continues to rally against foreigners. A recent post calls for a Germany free from immigration and for social parasites (the foreign ones) to return to their homes. Groll demands it for the children of Germany's future. Let's hope her own future doesn't include availing herself of the very same government benefits she so despises others for taking.
© The Local - Germany

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Suspected Nazi killer still silent in NSU trial (Germany)

The trial of the neo-Nazi terrorist group known as the National Socialist Underground has reached its 100th day. And the families of the victims are concerned about the conduct of both the judge and the prosecutors.

1/4/2014- Suspected serial killers Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos can't testify. They took their own lives on November 4, 2011 to evade arrest. A video produced by the group they formed, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), bears witness to the fact that these two far-right extremists almost certainly shot dead 10 people. On the tape, in which images of the cartoon character the Pink Panther points to the photos of the victims, the NSU glorifies its own deeds with a sickening contempt for human life. The video is an important piece of evidence in the Munich courtroom where the third and presumably last NSU member, Beate Zschäpe, will face her 100th day of trial on April 1, along with four suspected accomplices. A friend and accomplice of Böhnhardt and Mundlos, Zschäpe had the chance to wipe the video. Instead she did the opposite and sent several copies to the media before turning herself in four days after the suicide of her neo-Nazi comrades. Why she did this is one of many still unanswered questions. As the chief suspect in the NSU trial, she could certainly make a decisive contribution to clearing up the series of murders, but she has not said a word in court since the trial began on May 6, 2013.

Disappointment for victims' families
The 39-year-old's silence is a serious test of the patience for the many relatives of the 10 victims who are attending the trial. Some believe her behavior is a deliberate attempt to extend their suffering. Some of them were themselves suspected of complicity in the murders of their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and sisters. Chancellor Angela Merkel's promise that the murders would be thoroughly investigated once gave them comfort, hope, and courage. But after 11 months of trial most of the plaintiffs have lost faith in a fair trial or a just sentence. Zschäpe's self-confident, occasionally even cheerful demeanor, has played a major role in that. She has remained unmoved throughout, even when her mother and cousin testified on her behalf.

No sign of weakness
She behaves very differently towards her three defense attorneys, who always stand protectively in front of her - to make things difficult for the curious photographers - when she enters court room A 101. Zschäpe often smiles as she confers with the trio of defenders, as the visitors can clearly see from their gallery three meters above her head. Rarely does she tell the court, through her representatives, that she is unwell and can no longer follow the proceedings. This could well be the case, but the suspected far-right terrorist - prosecutors have so far been unable to prove that she was directly involved in any of the killings - is determined to avoid even the smallest sign of weakness. For the victims' relatives, it is small comfort that two of the NSU's suspected helpers have broken their silence - for Carsten S. and Holger G. claim they did not know of the series of murders. Meanwhile Andre E. and Ralf Wohlleben, a former senior functionary in the far-right National Democratic Party, are also maintaining their silence. But regardless of these four men's level of involvement in the killings, Zschäpe remains the face of the NSU trial.

Questionable witnesses
The woman behind this face will presumably maintain her silence in the coming 86 days of the trial too. They are scheduled up until Christmas this year, though a verdict is not expected until 2015, judging by the way the trial has panned out so far and the occasionally questionable witnesses, who often belong to the defendant's personal circle of acquaintances, Germany's neo-Nazi scene, or else to intelligence agencies. The court has cross-examined countless experts, who collected or analyzed evidence, as well as eye-witnesses - though none who say they actually saw a murder take place. This unavoidable complexity in the hearings has made the NSU trial exhausting and emotional. This is especially true when the victims' relatives describe their own suffering. But it is not only Zschäpe's silence that exasperates them - they are also angered when presiding judge Manfred Götzl reins in persistent questioning by their lawyers. But though his tone has occasionally been inappropriate, he cannot be accused of violating court protocol.

More questions, fewer answers
But families are also often nonplussed by the conduct of the state prosecutors when they dismiss as irrelevant their lawyers' requests to present evidence. Sebastian Scharmer, the attorney representing the interests of the family of Mehmet Kubasik, who was murdered in Dortmund in 2006, has openly accused the prosecutors of lacking interest in investigating the murders. Gamse Kubasik, Kubasik's daughter, has expressed her bitter disappointment, telling Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper that the worst thing was that "there are more and more questions and fewer and fewer answers."

State prosecutor Herbert Diemer, meanwhile, told the same paper that he was satisfied with the proceedings so far, remarking that they were "on the right path." The hearings, he said, reflected the results of police investigations. Zschäpe has been charged with 10 counts of committing murder "malignantly and with little motive." Defending attorney Wolfgang Heer, on the other hand, believes his own reasoning has been confirmed - that there is no legally-admissible evidence that "his client was involved in the killings." By the logic of their arguments, Diemer should demand a life sentence, while Heer and his colleagues ought to demand an acquittal. In the 99 days of the trial, there has been no indication that the rest of the trial will bring any major surprises - unless Beate Zschäpe breaks her silence after all.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Pressure mounts on Austrian far-right EU candidate to quit

4/4/2014- Pressure mounted on Austria's far-right Freedom Party to fire one of its two top candidates for next month's EU parliament elections after he made racist comments and said the bloc made Nazi Germany's Third Reich look liberal by comparison. Andreas Moelzer has apologised for saying the European Union was in danger of becoming a "conglomerate of negroes" who lacked the work ethic of the Germans and the Austrians. And he has denied being the author of an article complaining that today's Viennese look like "raven-black" Austrian soccer star David Alaba and that one has to visit an old people's home to see what "real Austrians" used to be like. The Freedom Party (FPO) is treading a fine line to position itself as a mainstream party electable by voters fed up with creeping EU centralisation who would not identify themselves as far-right.

The FPO is publicly standing behind Moelzer but in private FPO officials say the party leadership is unhappy with his behaviour and may take action. Moelzer himself has rejected calls from all of Austria's other political parties and the leader of its Jewish community to resign, and faced down criticism from other European right-wing parties. "That would hurt the party more than if I stayed," he told Austria's most popular tabloid Kronen-Zeitung in an interview published on Friday. "Of course it's a campaign against me because the FPO has very good chances in the EU elections." He added that Alaba - whose parents are Nigerian and Filipina - was a "dear chap".

Harald Vilimsky, co-head with Moelzer of the FPO's EU election campaign, told Reuters that Moelzer's comments had been "unhelpful" but added: "Mistakes happen, and these have been acknowledged by Moelzer." Moelzer's name has disappeared from schedules of events where he was due to speak in the next days. Austrian FPO European parliament member Franz Obermayr, who is shepherding cooperation with other Eurosceptic, populist parties in his role as president of the European Alliance for Freedom, said Moelzer had been criticised by other members. Sweden Democrats EAF member Kent Ekeroth told Swedish newspaper Expressen in an interview published this week: "I think it is important to make clear that this sort of outrage cannot be tolerated." And Obermayr, asked whether other EAF members had complained, told Reuters: "Of course there were also other negative voices," but declined to say whose they were.

Far-right, anti-establishment parties are expected to fare well in the European Parliament elections next month, mining voter dissatisfaction with high unemployment and entrenched centrist parties seen as out of touch, and fear of immigration. The FPO is scoring around 27 percent in Austrian national opinion polls, ahead of the governing Social Democrats and conservative People's Party. France's anti-immigrant National Front routed President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists in local elections last week and eurosceptic parties are making gains in other EU countries on the back of weak economies.
© Reuters

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Far-right waltz in Vienna: the Freedom Party and its fraternities (Austria)

Once a year, the Viennese faction of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) invites members and friends of the Burschenschaften (student fraternities) to a ball night at the city’s imperial Hofburg palace.

1/4/2014- On 24 January the ball was held once again. It is a platform for the biggest networking meeting of right-wing parties and representatives in Europe. Ever since its beginnings, in 1952, the annual event has polarised public opinion and within the last few years it attracted thousands of protestors. The extraordinary measures taken by Austrian police ahead of the ball further enflamed political debate. Protesters were banned from wearing masks or other disguises. Police restrictions were placed around the centrally located Hofburg and it was declared off-limits for the media as well. The sealed-off area was considerably larger than that put in place for former US president George W Bush's visit to the Austrian president in 2006. However, clashes between protesters and the police still occurred when around 6,000 anti-fascist and leftist protesters – 200 were considered violent – faced 2,000 police men equipped with tear gas and batons at the edge of the downtown area. Police reported that six people were injured, 11 police cars damaged and 15 protestors arrested, causing up to €1 million in damage.

Ribbons, scars and agitation
Austria's historic seat of power, the Hofburg palace, can accommodate up to 6,000 guests and runs to over 1,000 square metres. But this year only a few hundred guests attended the controversial highlight in Vienna’s ball season. Many guests, especially the young men, were wearing various uniforms as well as colourful caps and sashes. Many arrived in couleur, the distinctive headgear with ribbons that is worn by all student society and academic fraternity members. The colourful garb did not entirely distract from the traditional marks on some of their faces. Some had little scratches and cuts. Others had deep scars running along their cheeks. These marks – worn like a badge of honour – come from what is known as Mensur or academic fencing. This is a short stylised duel in which the participants wait for their face to be marked. Far-right politician and MEP Andreas Moelzer occasionally moved across the dance floor, dressed in white tie with fraternity insignia and federal medals. The Freedom Party's leading ideologist, who intends to run in the European elections again, also has sword traces across his cheeks.

Explaining these student fraternities, Heribert Schiedel, an expert on right-wing extremism in Europe and author of Extreme Rechte in Europa says: "Strongly traditional Burschenschaften in Austria are mainly characterised by support for German nationalist ideology and the continued practice of academic fencing, a traditional initiation rite that is carried out to undermine self-defence strategies and break individualism among young members." The far-right magazine Zur Zeit – of which Moelzer is publisher – described the ball and protests as "Kristallnacht 2014" a reference to the coordinated attacks carried out against Jews in Germany in late 1938. "It was an inappropriate comparison," the 61-year-old politician said weeks after its publication. But he added he was a publisher, "not a censor". Meanwhile, Moelzer finds himself under public pressure for his latest comments. The Green Party and the Jewish community recently said he should not run in the May European elections. Their criticism came after he stated that the EU was in danger of turning into a "conglomerate of Negroes, where chaos multiplies through mass immigration".

In its magazine edition, the Sueddeutsche newspaper reported that Moelzer also compared the EU to a dictatorship, stating that Hitler's Third Reich was "possibly informal and liberal" and had fewer "rules and regulations". Comments of this nature are not rare. Two years ago, party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who is known for having a past in the neo-Nazi scene, caused a stir by comparing the guests at the ball to the victims of the Holocaust. "We are the new Jews," he declared, unaware that media was present. Schiedel says statements such as these make other rightist politicians in Europe wary of teaming up with the Freedom Party. "The FPOe is still a party of Nazi apologists with anti-Semitic sentiments, which is the reason why right-wing populists like Geert Wilders [of the Netherlands] hesitated to form a political partnership," says Schiedel.

Dancing and networking
In the recent past, the ball appears to have turned into a political event. A look back on attendance is recent years reveals a who's who of Europe's hard right.
• Jean Marie Le Pen (Front National: 2008)
• Frank Vanhecke (Vlaams Belang: 2008)
• Philip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang: 2009, 2010, 2011)
• Bruno Gollnisch (Front National: 2009, 2011)
• Kent Ekeroth and Björn Söder (Sweden Democrats: 2012)
• Marine Le Pen (Front National: 2012)
• Philip Claeys (Vlaams Belang: 2012)

The event was traditionally hosted by the Burschenschaften but after public pressure increased the Freedom Party took over organisation of the event in 2012. The far-right were able to keep the Hofburg palace – currently the official residence of the Austrian president and the place from where Hitler officially annexed Austria into nazi Germany in 1938 - as their ball's venue. But the organisational handover has affected the ball's turnout. Guest numbers continue to decrease and, notwithstanding some German hardliners, European politicians did not visit this year's event. According to Schiedel, the far-right try to build and sustain a transnational network, but the parties' various backgrounds and origins differ fundamentally. Indeed, most international guests as well as some German student unions try to avoid public contact with the Freedom Party, since it has developed a reputation for political extremism. After visiting the festivity in 2012, Marine Le Pen then said she had not known what kind of event she had been invited to. This kind of political double-dealing only works, believes Schiedel, so long as there is no general European public to call attention to it.

The party's power base
At a traditional academic feast organised by student fraternities in 2009, party leader Heinz-Christian Strache spoke out against "nonconformist people", "professional antifascists" and "evil imperialists". "We feel in debt to our German people," he said. In fact, Austria's Burschenschaften are often more right-wing and radical than their German equivalents. As membership substantially declined in the 1990s, they were able to gain influence and power in the transnational umbrella organisation "Association of German Burschenschaften". In 2005, when former leader Joerg Haider left the FPOe to create the breakaway Alliance for the Future of Austria, the party crashed financially. Strache seized his opportunity. He was able to rebuild the party with the grassroots support of his fraternity brothers. "Without them [the fraternities] the Freedom Party would not have been able to recover that quickly," says Schiedel. The revamped party swung further to the right, with the Burschenschaften still serving as its intellectual backbone.

At the national assembly's constitutive meeting in 2006, all members of the Freedom Party arrived with cornflowers in their buttonholes, a symbol Austrian Nazis used instead of the Swastika after the banning of the Nazi Party in the early 1930s. In 2011, the party changed its political manifesto. In order to keep the far-right base satisfied, their allegiance to the "German people's community" was readopted. Wording on this had been removed in 1998. Since Strache's leadership of the Freedom Party, the far-right has seen a rise of 10 percentage points at the national level. It gained 21.4 percent in the most recent parliamentary elections. Polls suggest it could get around 30 percent in the EU elections.
© The EUobserver

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Immunity stripped from 5 additional Golden Dawn lawmakers

4/4/2014- Greece’s parliament removed immunity from another five lawmakers from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. The move brings to 13 the number of Golden Dawn lawmakers facing prosecution as part of Greece’s widespread crackdown on a party that authorities describe as a criminal organization. Prosecutors have described Golden Dawn as a structured organization that operates along military lines, inspired by the ideals of national socialism. The party had 18 lawmakers in the 300-member parliament, but recently dropped to 16 after one member quit, saying he was unaware of the organization’s illegal activities, and a second was expelled amid reports he planned to quit too.

Meanwhile, a top aide to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras resigned following the release of video that appeared to show him telling Golden Dawn lawmakers that the government was pressuring the courts to jail party members. The video was released by Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris during Wednesday’s parliamentary debate on lifting his immunity. The crackdown on Golden Dawn followed widespread outrage and protests in Greece in the wake of the Sept. 18 killing of anti-fascist rapper Killah P by a suspected Golden Dawn member. Golden Dawn has been accused of being behind dozens of attacks on immigrants in Greece. The party is known for its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leadership.
© JTA News

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Greece: A law unto themselves: A culture of abuse and impunity in the Greek police

3/4/2014- As Greece faces its sixth year of deep economic crisis, police responses to social tensions continue to flout international human rights law. A series of police-implemented state policies and police raids at Roma settlements have led to a rise in human rights violations such as racial profiling and arbitrary detention. These abuses are taking place against a background of a steep increase of racially motivated attacks. Successive Greek governments have failed to acknowledge the scale and systematic nature of human rights violations by law enforcement officials and entrenched impunity. A culture of abuse and impunity in the Greek police
© Amnesty International.

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Greece's PM Top Aide Resigns over Leaked Video (Greece)

2/4/2014- A top aide to Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has resigned following the outcry caused by a video released by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party showing him in a friendly conversation with Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris over the party crackdown. Panayiotis Baltakos, cabinet secretary to Samaras, has apologised for the comments, which he said were intended to "relieve pressure" from Golden Dawn party officials, according to AP. In the undated video, Baltakos can be heard saying that there was no evidence to support the government's crackdown on the neo-Nazi party, which followed the fatal stabbing of left-wing hip-hop singer Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter last year. The PM's top aide admitted that the prosecution was mainly political and aimed at stopping the far right party drawing support from New Democracy. "They left you out of prison for so long as they didn't have evidence," Baltakos allegedly said in the video, according to a translation by Greek Reporter. He added that justice minister Haralambos Athanassiou and Interior Minister Nikos Dendias used their influence on the supreme court's chief prosecutor to convince her that Golden Dawn were "pagans, idolaters, Nazis and opposed to Christianity".

Transcripts of the video were released by Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris while footage of the meeting was uploaded to a Russian file-sharing website and YouTube. Baltakos was appointed cabinet secretary in June 2012, and is being identified with the right-wing section of new Democracy. He reportedly opposed the crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. He said that a crackdown "would backfire, winning the party sympathy from voters disgusted with the establishment and alienating conservative constituencies such as the army and church", according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2013 he said that cooperation between New Democracy and Golden Dawn in future elections was "undesirable but not an unlikely possibility". On Wednesday, Greece's parliament agreed to lift the immunity of a further five Golden Dawn lawmakers, paving the way for prosecutors to file criminal charges against them.

The probe into the alleged criminal activities of the far-right group was triggered by the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, nicknamed Killah P. Among those awaiting trial is the party leader, Nikos Michaloliakos. Golden Dawn has always denied any role in the killing of Fyssas. Police arrested a 45-year-old self-professed supporter of Golden Dawn, George Roupakias, over the murder. Greek prosecutors have linked Golden Dawn with a series of violent attacks mostly against immigrants but also against political rivals. Six of the party's lawmakers are in pretrial detention. Another three, including party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, are also awaiting trial on the same charge but are not being held in custody. Golden Dawn won 18 seats in the 300-strong Greek parliament after national elections in June 2012, gaining support amid Greece's economic crisis and growing unemployment. Last year its support peaked to 15%, becoming the third most popular party in Greece. Since then, the backing for the party has dropped to around 7%.
© The International Business Times UK

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Racism is on the rise in Greece, NGO network finds

2/4/2014- Racially motivated attacks increased in Greece last year, according to the Racist Violence Recording Network, a collection of 30 nongovernmental organizations including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). According to the network’s annual report, which was made public on Wednesday, a total of 166 racially motivated attacks were recorded last year, up from 154 in 2012. The 166 attacks left at least 320 people injured, the report said, noting that 143 of the cases concerned immigrants or asylum seekers while almost all the other victims had been targeted because of their sexuality. The racist incident that caused the largest number of injuries in 2013, according to the report, was an attack last April on migrant laborers on a strawberry farm in Nea Manolada, in the Peloponnese, who were shot at by their supervisors for demanding unpaid wages. Assaults attributed to members or supporters of the neofascist Golden Dawn were also highlighted as a concern. But the head of the president of the network, Costis Papaioannou, said the spike in racism was a complex phenomenon. “Golden Dawn does not have the monopoly on racist violence,” he said. “It has many forms.”
© Kathimerini

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Arrests, loss of MPs unravel Greece's Golden Dawn (Greece)

31/3/2014- Its leaders arrested on charges of running a criminal organisation, Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is reeling after one of its lawmakers quit and another was ejected, and finds itself competing with a new populist party for voter support. The loss of MP Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos, who resigned after he said he was unaware of the party's "criminal activities," and colleague Stathis Boukaras, who was booted, left Golden Dawn with 16 lawmakers in the 300-member parliament. Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is in detention with four other Golden Dawn lawmakers and half the party's MPs have been arrested as the government is seeking to strip the rest of immunity so they can be prosecuted.

Even as the government tries to dismantle the party, Golden Dawn, after falling in popularity last September when one of its members was charged with murdering an anti-fascist hip-hop artist, had remained a steadfast third in polls behind the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists. But with May elections looming for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, a new anti-politician party To Potami (The River) jumped into third in recent polls, with Golden Dawn trailing the opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).

After first finding influence on the back of an anti-immigrant stance and opposition to austerity measures, the neo-Nazi party is fading as quickly as it rose. "It is the beginning of their decrease in electoral strength, although I don't estimate they will be gone for good. They will retain some influence, but far less than they had," Ioannis Michaletos, an analyst at the Athens-based Institute For Security & Defence Analysis, told SETimes. "Although their extremist rhetoric managed to gather pace in the previous years, they were not able to capitalise that upward trend into a coherent political alternative," he said.

Golden Dawn's leaders remain defiant. The remaining MPs called Alexopoulos a "liar," "defamer" and "coward." Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, one of those arrested, is a candidate for Athens mayor and fellow MP Panayiotis Iliopoulos, who is in detention, said he would run from jail for a regional governorship. He urged party members to "keep fighting until they prevail." Alex Sakellariou, a sociologist at Panteion University in Athens who has studied Golden Dawn, said it is resilient. "The political arena is very fluid and it is not easy to make any hypotheses about what is going to happen in the elections," he told SETimes.

Golden Dawn's hierarchy shows no signs of relenting from its volatile agenda. Prosecutors said they have amassed more than 10,000 pages of evidence as well as digital documentation, including photos and videos that show neo-Nazi training and methodology, with former members who've left said to be providing key testimony against the party. Alexopoulos claimed he was unaware of any of it. In a letter to the parliament speaker, he said he quit because of "a series of revelations regarding the activities of [Golden Dawn] members, which have been defined as criminal." He said that he should have spoken out earlier but did not do so for reasons he would clarify later.

Antonis Klapsis, head of research at the Konstandinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Athens, said it's too early to predict the party's demise. "I am not optimistic that this is going to happen soon," Klapsis told SETimes. "Seeing Golden Dawn MPs leaving the party is, of course, important and indeed gives point to the arguments against Golden Dawn but on the other hand there are still many people willing to vote for Golden Dawn."
© SETimes

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Irish justice minister threatened with anti-Semitic material, white powder

2/4/2014- Anti-Semitic material and an unidentified white powder were sent to Ireland’s justice minister, Alan Shatter. The Irish Army’s bomb squad on Wednesday morning was sent to the Dublin home of Shatter, who is Jewish, to remove the package, according to reports in the Irish media. The white powder was discovered to be harmless. The anti-Semitic material was identified in some reports as a swastika or a photograph of Nazi storm troopers carrying flags bearing swastikas. Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, told the Dali, or lower house of the Irish Parliament, that the incident was a “new low” for the country. A similar package also was sent to the Department of Justice, he said. “It’s not in order that that sort of anti-Semitic material is being received by somebody who happens to belong to a particular religion in our country, irrespective of the challenges that we have here,” Kenny said. A no-confidence motion on Shatter is scheduled for a parliament vote on Wednesday evening, according to the Irish Times.
© JTA News

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'Slavery' victims imprisoned in Ireland - report

A report on people trafficking for cannabis cultivation claims Ireland may be imprisoning victims of slavery.

31/3/2014- The report, published today by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, is part of a major European project on trafficking for forced labour. It says there is evidence that vulnerable people may have been trafficked into Ireland and forced to work in cannabis growhouses. The MCRI says people have been found malnourished and terrified in houses locked from the outside, yet they were still treated as criminals and given heavy prison sentences. Spokesperson Grainne O'Toole said the victims of forced labour need to be taken into protective care. Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said there are potentially victims of trafficking sitting in prison whose cases need to be assessed. "The reason the slavery exists is it's profit driven, so what's happening here is we know that cannabis production is a very profitable and lucrative business for criminal gangs. "But it's making it more lucrative for them if they can basically put slaves into cannabis grow houses to do their dirty work for them, then these people are serving the time, so it's risk free for them", she said.
© RTE News

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'Nazis not welcome here': Small-town mayor (Sweden)

Local politicians in the town of Jönköping have asked police to retract a demonstration permit to neo-Nazis, whose march through the central Sweden town landed two people in hospital last year.

31/3/2014- The small neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas party - SVP) was last week granted a permit to march through the small Swedish town of Jönköping on May 1st, much to the annoyance of the town's elected politicians. On Monday, the politicians announced they would try to have the permit revoked. "It's their democratic right to demonstrate, just as it is our democratic right to voice our objection to their demonstration," local Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) politician Anna Mårtensson told The Local on Monday. The town's mayor, Mats Green, went as far as telling the TT news agency that the demonstrators were not welcome in the central Sweden town. The politicians are now set to lodge an appeal with the courts. "Primarily, this is about the safety and security of people who live in this municipality," Mårtensson said.

Last year, extreme-left activists attacked the demo, Sveriges Television reported. In the ensuing tumult, five people were injured. The police, who were reinforced by officers from other districts, detained 29 people and arrested four of them. Counter-demonstrators torched several cars in the melée, which saw an estimated 200 people either marching or protesting against the march. "The police were nevertheless quite pleased with the outcome, yet a lot of people, including myself, chose not to visit town that day," Mårtensson said. "And a colleague chose not to bring his kids with him when he went in to town." "May 1st is a day off, it's supposed to be pleasant," she said.

While she said she did not pin any high hopes on a successful appeal, Mårtensson explained that she hoped the bid would get people talking about how demonstration permits are issued in Sweden. "They're given out very lackadaisically, there's no review worth its name. I think you should consider the demonstrators' right to express themselves, a safety analysis, and a look at the costs to society," she said. "A thorough review." Jönköping police spokesman Mats Rosenqvist told the TT news agency that he was sorry his office had not consulted local politicians before news of the permit was made public. "But then I could add that it wouldn't have affected the decision. We need to be clear on that," he said.
© The Local - Sweden

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Swedish Islam critic convicted of shoe attack

The 55-year-old who battered a Muslim woman with a shoe in Malmö was on Wednesday handed a suspended sentence for assault. He also attacked the woman's daughter.

2/4/2014- The assailant was sentenced to 75 hours community service and will have to pay 17,000 kronor ($2,632) in damages to his victims. In August 2012, the man attacked the woman with a shoe, hitting her on the head and in the face. He proceeded to slam her head against a wall. Once she fainted, he kicked her as she lay on the ground. The 18-year-old daughter's attempt to stave off the attack lead to her being hit also. The teenager told the Sydsvenskan newspaper last year that the man had seemed "completely crazy". "For me it's obvious that he attacked us because we are Muslims," she said. "He was screaming stupid things about immigrants, like 'It's all your fault' and 'You're destroying the country'," she said. A nurse from a nearby clinic managed to pull the man off his victims. The 55-year-old at first refused to talk to the police because the first officer who arrived on the scene had an immigrant background.

"There was no doubt that his view of Muslim was extremely hateful," the police wrote in their report. The prosecutor had tried to have the man convicted of hate crime (hatbrott), as he attacked the woman without provocation and later told the police he disliked Muslims. The Malmö District Court ruled, however, that there was not enough evidence to conclude that the man had targeted his victims due to their religion. The man is a member of the Free Press Association (Tryckfrihetssällskapet), which many consider to be a front to print xenophobic materials. The Malmö District Court reasoned, however, that membership in the association was not enough to prove any motive in the assault case. Local Malmö politician Mrutyuanjai Mishra earlier this year explained in an op-ed in The Local why he had joined but also why he had left that same association, by writing: "My immigrant background has been used to justify hatred and racism, and to defend a narrow-minded nationalism."
© The Local - Sweden

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EU politicians ‘stirring up’ sentiment against migrants (Malta)

Racism report says asylum seekers often accused of taking jobs from locals

31/3/2014- As most EU member states have been hit by the financial downturn, many politicians have resorted to stirring up sentiment against migrants and ethnic minorities as well as against the EU, according to a recent report on racism. In Malta, the public reaction to the arrival of migrants has become increasingly negative, “with xenophobic discourse all too often taking the mainstream stage”. Titled Racism and related discriminatory practices in employment in Malta, the report was drawn up by The People for Change Foundation and presented to the European Network against Racism (ENAR).

ENAR used the Malta report as well as those of other European countries to compile its 2012-2013 shadow report titled ‘Racism and discrimination in employment in Europe’. In light of lacking innovative solutions to move Europe out of the crisis, ENAR notes, many politicians have resorted to stirring up sentiment against migrants and ethnic minorities as well as against the EU. “The public perception of ethnic and religious minorities in most countries remains largely negative: they are often accused of taking job opportunities from the native labour force, of abusing the welfare system and of increased crime rates. “They are used as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong in society and their return has been called for as a solution to high unemployment rates.”

Besides this security-based discourse, a superiority-based approach is also very much present, which considers migrants as labour force entities, filling jobs that the bulk of EU citizens do not want to carry out. Migrants are also commonly said to be “welfare shopping” in many EU member states. In the UK, there were frequent references to “tidal floods of new immigrants” from Romania and Bulgaria. The Malta report notes how rhetoric about migrants taking the jobs of the Maltese (often as a way of fostering anti-migration sentiment) remains widespread. Moreover, discrimination in this context often varies depending on the nationality of the specific migrant.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that a good number of eastern European nationals have successfully found jobs in the restaurant industry, while the same cannot be said for migrants from Africa. The Malta report also notes how Maltese employers’ attitudes often reflect the public’s aversion to migrants. “Employers, sensing this aversion to irregular migrants, did not want to attract any eventual bad publicity and would refrain from employing irregular migrants, especially when the jobs involved direct contact with clients (such as working as a waiter)”. This, the Malta report continues, partly explains why people who have been through the asylum system often find themselves working in jobs which have been described as “the three Ds” – dirty, dangerous and degrading.

This category of migrants is often limited (by means of discrimination in various guises) to working in jobs that “the Maltese don’t want to do”. This often includes working in industries such as construction, waste removal and cleaning. Anecdotal evidence also indicates, however, that rather than the Maltese not wishing to undertake certain jobs, the working class poor might be unwilling to equate themselves with migrants and accept low-skilled jobs which may on occasion be offered to them at the same exploitative wage put forward to migrants. This serves to fuel their annoyance at migrants, rather than at their potential employer in the informal economy.

The Malta report calls upon the authorities to develop initiatives to measure equality as part of the positive duty to combat racial discrimination and to promote equality and social inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities. The authorities should also extend and improve efforts to raise awareness amongst ethnic and religious minorities of the rights and remedies available under national law and the role of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality in supporting victims of discrimination.
Helena Dalli’s reaction “I agree that politicians should take care not to fan xenophobic discourse,” said Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli. “As politicians, what we say is broadcast to a wider audience. So by what we say, we must set an example to sweep along other people in the way they view society. We give out a signal.

“During the last public consultation meeting, a father of a gay person thanked the government for raising this discussion to the national agenda. He said that the public could now understand that gay people have rights like others, have their own potential and are part of our society. ‘You helped make the lives of our children that bit better,’ he told us. “I am very worried by the ENAR report. We must understand this reality. We need to look at the potential of each individual. There are laws which we must abide by and controls which should be respected, but each person has his or her dignity and rights.”
© The Times of Malta

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Fall of the Dutch far-right: How a racist speech too far cost the flamboyant Geert Wilders his chance at the EU

Posters from the Dutch local election campaign a few weeks ago are already starting to peel away from the windows near the main station in The Hague. Battling for space at this particular spot near a handful of Halal butchers and a Moroccan bakery are the faces of hopeful candidates from two parties representing the city's Muslim community.

3/4/2014- The Islam Democrats and Party of Unity both advocate tolerance across The Netherlands' different communities, and their message won them three local council seats on 19 March. But it was a very different message ringing out from a bar as the results came in, the repercussions of which could reach beyond Dutch borders as new posters go up for May's European Parliament elections. Geert Wilders, the bottle-blonde politician with a line in anti-immigrant rhetoric as familiar as his hairstyle, took to the stage after his populist Party for Freedom (PVV) boosted its showing and won seven seats in The Hague. Buoyed by the cheers, Mr Wilders asked his supporters: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” The response came loud and clear: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”. “We'll take care of that,” their leader replied.
Watch the video of the anti-Moroccan chant in the Hague

Immediate shock among the country's Moroccan community swiftly turned into national outrage. Criminal complaints calling on Mr Wilders to face trial for discrimination have been piling up at police stations, with the prosecutor's office yesterday announcing that they were working their way through at least 5,000 forms. A number of prominent PVV members quit and support for the party plummeted. At a time when populist parties like the National Front in France and Britain's UKIP are riding high in the polls, Mr Wilders' disastrous few weeks serves as a timely reminder of how easily the tenuous alliances which bind anti-establishment parities can unravel. “They have no sustainable agenda, their analysis is one of fear and threats coming our way, and they need to reiterate that again and again and again,” says Wim Voermans, a professor of constitutional law at Leiden University. Mr Wilders had managed to win over many crisis-weary voters with promises of a pan-European alliance of right-wing MEPs who would bring down the European Union from the inside. But his ill-judged victory speech reminded voters of the darker undercurrents of the nationalist parties enjoying surging support in Europe today.

Salah Hadji, whose parents emigrated from Morocco in the 1990s, is glad the country finally saw Mr Wilders' true colours: “I was quite happy and surprised that the whole community – not only the Moroccan community but the whole Dutch community – was very strong in their opinion that what he said was not good: actually it was racism,” the 29-year-old tells The Independent. Mr Hadji works as a buyer for a Moroccan grocery store in The Hague, where both ethnic Dutch and members of other communities drop by to pick up tubs of shawarma meat and stuffed olives. It is this mix of cultures that Mr Hadji says truly reflects The Netherlands, not the PVV's vision of a broken multicultural society. But many of Europe's voters – worn down by six years of austerity, recession and unemployment – are looking for someone or something to blame. The EU and migrant communities have proved two easy targets, and parties like the PVV are happy to stoke that narrative. A poll last year predicted that between 20 and 30 percent of the vote at the European Parliament elections on 22-25 May could go to protest parties.

These parties cover the entire political spectrum. Far-left groups are thriving in Southern Europe, as are parties like Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement. On the extreme right are the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and Jobbik in Hungary. Slightly closer to the centre and pitching themselves to varying degrees as eurosceptic, libertarian and nationalist are UKIP, the PVV, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and Marine Le Pen's National Front in France. The latter three have teamed up to form a pan-EU alliance, with similar parties in Italy, Austria and Sweden potentially joining them. But their ideologies are far less unified than the Socialist or Conservative blocs in the European Parliament. Mr Wilders and Ms Le Pen want nothing to do with Golden Dawn. Nigel Farage of UKIP, however, finds the positions of the PVV and National Front toxic enough for his domestic image, and has declined to join their alliance. Even the French and Dutch party leaders have differing concerns. Mr Wilders openly insults Islam, and is an avid supporter of Israel. The National Front skirts around references to religion as it struggles to shrug off accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at the party founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Within the parties themselves there are wide gulfs between the modernisers and the old guard who can't keep their unpalatable views to themselves, even if they don't chime with the re-branding. Andrea Mammone, a historian of Modern Europe at Royal Holloway, University of London, says the parties also shift and realign their messages depending on domestic concerns. “There is an attempt to cover their far-right nature with a moderate image,” he says. “The discourse, at times, is about tradition, culture,and values.” This is where Mr Wilders came unstuck. He has not hidden his views about Islam in the past, calling it “a totalitarian ideology rather than a religion”. But an open call for the expulsion of an ethnic group was a step too far. “Everybody had this feeling they could let him speak, not give him the attention he wants, and everything will be OK,” says Amine el Morabit, a student of European Studies at the The Hague University for Applied Sciences. “But this time he addressed a specific group and because the audience started to scream with him, there was an outcry.”

Mr El Morabit is a moderator of a Facebook page called “I'm Filing a Complaint Against Wilders”, which now has more than 99,000 Likes. Mainstream politicians have condemned Mr Wilders' comments, and a least eight PVV members have withdrawn from the party. The resignation of Laurence Stassen – an MEP who was going to lead the PVV candidates in May – dealt a particularly heavy blow to Mr Wilders' hopes of becoming the largest Dutch party in the European Parliament. The most recent poll showed that if general elections were held now, the PVV – which did not respond to a request from The Independent for comment – would come third. Before his xenophobic outburst, Mr Wilders topped the polls. His setback does not appear to have dented the credibility of his allies in France and Belgium, with support for the National Front surging in local elections last month.

It could however affect their attempts to build a bloc in the European Parliament after the elections. Twenty-five MEPs from at least seven EU countries are needed to form a political grouping, which gives them access to greater funding. This means Mr Wilders may need Ms Le Pen more than ever to achieve his goal of slaying “the monster in Brussels” – although Prof Voermans thinks their presence in the EU capital would have the opposite effect. “It is very good that these voices that were always lingering in the member states are represented,” he says. “The controversy will be bigger and the debates will be harder, but that's a good thing, that is where the legitimacy will come from... This is a very hopeful sign for the European Union.”
© The Independent

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More than 5,000 complaints about Wilders' anti-Moroccan chant (Netherlands)

3/4/2014- More than 5,000 people have filed a formal police complaint against far-right politician Geert Wilders after he led supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant after last month's local elections. However, despite the volume of complaints, the public prosecution department said on Thursday the chance of prosecution is no greater than if there had been just one complaint. 'We look at the contents and what Mr Wilders exactly said and in which context,' the department said in a statement. 'In principle, one complaint is sufficient. We will take note that so many have been made but that will not influence what Wilders said or if he committed a crime.' In addition to the formal complaints, more than 15,000 people have reported the PVV leader for discriminatory remarks, the department said. The department could not say when it will have reached a decision on whether Wilders should face prosecution. 'It is a difficult and sensitive case so it will take time,' a spokesman told the Volkskrant.

Chant
Two MPs, one MEP and a handful of local and provincial councillors have broken ties with the PVV since Wilders asked his supporters in The Hague ‘and do you want more or fewer Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’ To which the crowd chanted ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’. 'We'll arrange that,' Wilders said when the chanting died down. Wilders has refused to apologise for the comments and said he was referring to Moroccan nationals with a criminal record.

Labour leader
On Thursday Wilders called on people to also file complaints against Labour leader Diederik Samsom and party chairman Hans Spekman for comments about Moroccans made by them. He referred to two interviews given by the men in the past. In one, Samsom is quoted as saying: 'It is correct that they are primarily Moroccan. These lads have an ethnic monopoly on this sort of nuisance behaviour.' Spekman, according to Wilders, said during another interview: 'You should humiliate Moroccans who are not okay in front of their own kind.' If there is any justice either all three of us or none of us should be prosecuted, Wilders said.

Court
In 2011, Wilders was found not guilty of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and non-westerm immigrants by judges in Amsterdam. The court ruled that some of Wilders' statements were insulting, shocking and on the edge of legal acceptibility, but that they were made in the broad context of a political and social debate on the multi-cultural society.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: New rules give equal rights to lesbian mothers

1/4/2014- New rules came into effect in the Netherlands on Tuesday which allow lesbian mothers to officially recognise their partner’s children. This means both women in a couple can legally be the parents of children without going through complicated and expensive adoption procedures. The same rules do not apply to male couples because legal parentship rests with the mother and she cannot simply transfer it, news agency ANP said. Gay rights lobby group COC said at least 20 couples took advantage of the new rules and formally recognised their partners’ children on Tuesday. There were special ceremonies in Nijmegen, Alkmaar, Den Haag, Wassenaar, Leiden and Zwolle, the COC said.
© The Dutch News

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Cabinet drops controversial plan to make illegality a criminal offence (Netherlands)

1/4/2014- In a major u-turn, the cabinet has abandoned plans to make being in the Netherlands without proper papers a criminal offence, following pressure from coalition partner Labour. In return for dropping a key part of the coalition accord, Labour has agreed to give a bigger tax break to people earning over €40,000 a year. Labour MPs had remained opposed to the plan to make it a crime to be an illegal immigrant, despite its inclusion in the coalition agreement. ‘This was a measure which kept following us and continued to hurt us,’ Labour leader Diederik Samsom said on Tuesday, after the change of heart was announced.

Middle class
In return for dropping the proposal, Labour has agreed to increase the tax break for people earning between €40,000 and €110,000 year, giving them extra income of some €300 a year. This measure will cost the treasury some €500m. The money will be found by making extra cuts in next year’s spending plans, if that proves to be necessary. Defence, security and infrastructure will not be affected, whatever happens, the VVD said in a reaction.

Senate
ChristenUnie leader Arie Slob said earlier dropping the proposal to make it a criminal offence to be in the Netherlands without a permit would be key in deciding if his party can continue to support the coalition government in the upper house of parliament. The coalition does not have a majority in the senate and relies on opposition party backing. Slob and D66 leader Alexander Pechtold have welcomed the decision to scrap the plan. ‘I am glad the cabinet is no longer sticking with this erroneous political gesture,’ Pechtold said.
© The Dutch News

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French court punishes man for quenelle salute

3/4/2014- A French court punished a 28-year-old Morocco native for performing the controversial quenelle gesture in front of a synagogue. The correctional tribunal of Bordeaux on Wednesday convicted the man of incitement to racial hatred and fined him the equivalent of $4,130. The conviction for performing the quasi-Nazi gesture, which some deem anti-Semitic, comes amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in France. The man, who was not named in media reports on the sentencing, was sued by the France-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, or LICRA, after posting photos of himself performing the quenelle in front of the city’s Grand Synagogue earlier this year, according to Le Figaro. LICRA said the sentence was the first criminal conviction in connection with a quenelle, a quasi-Nazi gesture that was invented and popularized by the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, whose anti-Jewish slurs have led to seven convictions for inciting racial hatred.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called the quenelle “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate,” but Dieudonne and others maintain it is merely anti-establishment. The defendant said he is not an anti-Semite. “On my Facebook account I try not to confuse anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he reportedly said during his trial. His Facebook account also features a photo of a man performing a quenelle in front of a portrait of Adolf Hitler with the caption, “I committed suicide but nowadays I’d get the Nobel Peace Prize.” Wednesday’s sentence came amid what the Drancy-based National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism has called an influx in violent attacks against Jews in recent weeks. The most recent incident occurred Saturday in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles when four men of African descent assaulted a Jewish man on the street as he was returning from synagogue with his son, according to a report on the news site JSSNews.com. The attackers performed the quenelle before one of them punched the father, causing minor injuries.
© JTA News

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French human rights defender becomes far-right mayor

At first glance, Robert Ménard is an unlikely champion of France’s far-right National Front party. He founded and led the freedom-of-expression group Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

31/3/2014- On Sunday he became mayor of southern French town Beziers on a Front National ticket. Ménard, 60, is one of 11 new FN mayors to be elected following Sunday’s nationwide local elections, an unprecedented victory for the anti-Europe and anti-immigration party. His win spotlights the question of how a vocal defender of freedom of speech can reconcile his background with the policies of the FN, a party whose founder has been convicted of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. “Defending freedom of expression cannot exclude the freedom of the right wing to express its own opinions,” Ménard wrote in 2011 in a manifesto titled “Vive Le Pen”, referring to the party’s leader Marine Le Pen, daughter of FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

It came as a shock to many, not least to French weekly news magazine “Jeune Afrique” (“Young Africa”, published in English as the “Africa Report”), which had previously called Ménard “the voice of conscience of an entire generation of independent African journalists”. “Behind the seeming clarity of this ayatollah of freedom of expression, who claims to support the right to freedom of speech, lies a terrible confusion of fundamental values,” "Jeune Afrique" editor François Soudan wrote in response to Ménard's manifesto.

Cult of the leader
Ménard isn’t just defending the FN’s right to voice its own opinions. In recent years he has been a vocal supporter of the FN’s nationalist policies. He supports the re-introduction of the death penalty and he opposes same-sex marriage. At the same time, he is proud that his work defending freedom of expression has led to him being banned from Cuba, Turkey and Algeria (where he was born when the North African country was still a French territory). “Ménard went the extra mile to defend journalists, taking on autocratic regimes, mostly in Africa,” said one of his former colleagues.

In 2008 he made headlines by protesting during the departure of the Olympic flame from Greece, unfurling behind the Chinese delegation a banner depicting the Olympic rings replaced by handcuffs. RWB accused China of clamping down on journalists as it prepared to host that year’s games. The same banner was hoisted over Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris when the torch came to France. He was arrested in July of that year for protesting on the Champs Elysées in central Paris against the presence of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (whom the FN supports as he wages a bitter civil war) at France’s national day parade. “Having such a strong personality running RWB meant that people listened to us,” a former colleague told FRANCE 24. He said Ménard’s imaginative and attention-grabbing campaigns were central to the NGO’s success.

“But he lived and breathed the cult of the leader,” the source said. “His management of RWB was autocratic. He did not tolerate opinions among his staff that were not his own. It’s probably the only trait that survived from his Trotskyite beginnings.” Rony Braumann, also a founding member of RWB, wrote of Ménard in a 2007 in regard to human rights in Cuba, “Not only would he not listen to dissenting voices, but anyone who disagreed with him or asked questions he didn’t like was mercilessly put down, if not sacked on the spot. The man was a tyrant.”

Hatred of ‘well-meaning but lukewarm’ left
Ménard began his political career as an activist for France’s Revolutionary Communist League before joining the more mainstream Socialist Party which he quit in 1981. Since then his positions have shifted ever to the right. He is appalled by the “well-meaning but lukewarm” left wing, which he claims wants to stop any meaningful debate on immigration, Islam and security. “Back when he ran RWB we were aware that he held some radical opinions,” said a former employee. “But RWB was never concerned with these debates; his principal focus was always on total freedom of expression.” His former employees and colleagues were shocked last year when Ménard spoke up for comedian and convicted anti-Semite Dieudonné and outspoken Holocaust denier Vincent Reynouard.

That shock was compounded when they hear him say on RTL radio in March 2013, “Marine Le Pen calls a spade a spade [in French: 'a cat a cat']. She asks questions that are valid. And despite what people say, her answers are valid too, whether we like them or not. She is trampling on a political class that is totally incapable of solving the problems of today.” RWB reacted by cutting all ties with its former boss and releasing a statement saying, “Ménard’s political stance is not linked in any way with the organisation he founded in 1985 and ran for 23 years." There was little surprise when he announced he was standing to become mayor of Béziers, a medieval walled town with a population of 70,000 in France’s Languedoc region, under the banner of the FN. He is not a member of the party but is part of the FN’s “Blue Marine” grouping of far-right candidates. Ménard insists that despite his allegiance with the FN, it is still not his party. “I’m not a card-carrying party member,” he told left-leaning French daily "Le Monde" in November 2013. “Having said that, I agree with the FN on 80 percent of their ideas, particularly their policies on immigration.”
© France 24.

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Belgian Town Cuts Ties With Twin French City After Far-Right Win

31/3/2014- The mayor of a Belgian industrial town cut off ties with a sister city in southern France on Monday after the far right won its city hall in weekend local elections. The far-right National Front will take control of about a dozen French towns after elections Sunday, including Beaucaire, a sun-soaked bullfighting town where 30-year-old Julien Sanchez, a party official, is to become the next mayor. "Politically, we cannot continue to work with people who develop such views, such ideologies," Hughes Bayet, the Socialist mayor of Farciennes, which is twinned with Beaucaire, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. The twinning between the two towns goes back to World War II when Farciennes residents fled the Nazi invasion of Belgium for southern France, but Bayet said the ties were now suspended. France's ruling Socialists suffered a humiliating defeat Sunday that saw the far right win historic gains.
© AFP

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Far right takes ten cities in French local elections

France’s far right made significant gains in local elections on Sunday, but the battered Socialists were able to hold on to Paris and Lyon.

31/3/2014- In the French capital, Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo won 54.5 percent of votes against Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet of the conservative opposition UMP party. Hidalgo, who has served for 13 years as deputy to outgoing Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, will become the first female mayor of the capital. Victories in Paris and Lyon came as consolation for the ruling Socialists, who suffered heavy defeats against the UMP in cities across the country, including Toulouse, Angers and Limoges. But the biggest story of the night was the strong showing by Marine Le Pen's far right National Front, which came out on top in ten cities.

Exit polls showed National Front (FN) candidate David Rachline winning in Fréjus, a sleepy Côte d’Azur town, while Robert Ménard, an FN-backed candidate (though he is not a party member himself) and founder of Reporters Without Borders, won in Béziers. Avignon, another city closely watched by FN partisans, ended up in the hands of the Socialists, with Cécile Helle getting 47.2 percent of the vote against far-right candidate Philippe Lottiaux, who won 34.7 percent, according to exit polls. Lottiaux came out on top in the first-round vote last Sunday, prompting the head of the city’s famed theatre festival to say the event would look for a new host city if the National Front ended up at city hall. Meanwhile, exit polls had UMP candidate Jean-Claude Gaudin headed for a fourth term as mayor of Marseille.

Low turnout
As of 5 p.m. (GMT+2), turnout was estimated at 52.36 percent (a historic low for French municipal elections), the interior ministry said. This was even lower than the 54.72 percent turnout reported after the first-round vote last Sunday. President François Hollande is tipped to react to his Socialist Party’s losses by ordering a cabinet reshuffle that could see the popular Interior Minister Manuel Valls installed as Prime Minister, replacing current premier Jean-Marc Ayrault. In a televised statement, Ayrault called the election a "moment of truth" for the ruling party. "This vote is a defeat for the government and for the majority," he said. "[The defeat is] collective, and I recognise my part in it."

Hollande told his ministers on Wednesday that they needed to "learn a lesson" from the Socialists' poor showing in the first round, in which the left took 38.2 percent of the vote, compared to 46.44 percent for the right. There have also been reports that Hollande is seeking to ramp up the pro-business credentials of his government by bringing veteran industrialist Louis Gallois or former World Trade Organisation director Pascal Lamy into the cabinet. (The French political system allows non-elected figures to be appointed to cabinet.) In the first round of polling last week, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) party took five percent of the vote - up from 0.9 percent in the first round of the last municipal polls in 2008 - despite only being able to field candidates in a minority of municipalities.

The FN has already claimed the mayor's seat in Henin-Beaumont in northern France, having secured more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round. The party has controlled a handful of local authorities, including the major port of Toulon, in the past. But their administrations were frequently tainted by allegations of mismanagement and cronyism, which led to voters ousting them at the first opportunity. Le Pen, who has made strenuous efforts to forge a new, more respectable image for the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, claims the FN has matured in terms of the quality of its candidates for office.

"The only glass ceiling we have not broken through is being able to show what we are capable of doing," she says in an interview with Saturday's edition of "Le Monde". "What we lack at the moment is a positive report card. That is important. With that we can move to a higher level."
© France 24.

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Le Pen: ‘We don’t have problems with Islam’ (France)

Marine Le Pen saw political gold in the abandoned coal mines of northern France that once pumped life, jobs and an identity into places like Henin-Beaumont — a bleak town that the far-right leader says is the avant-garde of her anti-immigration party’s march to power.

31/3/2014- Le Pen’s party, which disdains the European Union and globalization and fears that Islamic culture will subvert French civilization, is seeking to build a grassroots base upon which to draw ahead of May elections for the European Parliament and the French presidential vote in 2017. She wants to officially scrub away the racist stigma that has long clung to the National Front and ultimately to upend the French political system by winning broad support for the party's “patriotic” doctrine. Le Pen said in an interview that, while local concerns were at the centre of the municipal vote yesterday at which her party won key victories, the National Front will ensure that party priorities like secularism are respected where it wins. That could be a potential flashpoint for conflict in towns with large Muslim populations where some groups seek to build mosques or serve halal food in school cafeterias. “We don’t have problems with Islam,” she said, while adding: “France has Christian roots. (The French) want to recognize their own country, recognize their lifestyle, their habits, their traditions.”

Yesterday’s results showed the National Front has benefitted from widespread disappointment in the forces that have dominated French politics for decades. Scandals are engulfing former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his fractious conservative party. Meanwhile, the Socialists are suffering from President François Hollande’s deep unpopularity and a government that has failed to create jobs or improve the economy. “The system fears our vote, our choice for change,” Le Pen said at a rally in a packed hall in Henin-Beaumont last week. She was there to support her party’s mayoral candidate, Steeve Briois, who eventually won, but made clear the local vote carries a national message. “The municipal elections have an essential role, to give hope to the French,” she said. “You are the avant garde, the first to witness with rage in your hearts” all that is wrong with France. With a dearth of trained officials, the National Front could not compete on equal footing with leading parties. But it still ran candidates in 596 towns — a party record. It won around 15 municipalities yesterday, early results showed, but even that represents a sharp disavowal of mainstream politics. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault urged voters last week to “do everything” to keep National Front candidates from reaching city halls.

‘Like a good father’
National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the final round of presidential elections in 2002 but was crushed in the runoff. The party, financially strapped from the presidential fight, did poorly in the 2008 municipal elections. Along came Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter. A 45-year-old mother of three, she took over the National Front in 2010, working to clean its racist and anti-Semitic image and shoo away jack-booted followers in an attempt to make it a legitimate political alternative, not just a catch-all for protest votes. She’s been so successful that her party’s tirades against Muslim immigration are mimicked on the right and, more subtly, on the left. Marine Le Pen placed a strong third in the 2012 presidential race, and the National Front won two parliamentary seats. High unemployment and crime rates, corruption, and a visible Muslim population, are like calling cards for the National Front — and the extreme right elsewhere in Europe. Switzerland’s recent winning referendum to cap immigration was a morale boost for the National Front and extreme-right parties across Europe.

Le Pen told the AP that she thought Islamic Sharia law would take over French justice within three decades if “mass immigration” wasn’t stopped. The National Front would run towns it wins “like a good father,” she assured, hoping for victories in southern France, including towns where the party’s Parliament members are implanted. But some remember four extreme-right victories in southern France in 1995 municipal elections, and worry. Corruption, deficits and bids to impose National Front ideology, such as banning books from libraries and adding National Front literature, proved disastrous. Under the National Front, Henin-Beaumont will likely implement mainstream policies to provide a sanitized window to the broader French electorate. “The martyred city of Henin-Beaumont, you will be the renaissance of France,” she told the crowd at her final rally there. “You will show that another kind of politics is possible.”
© The Associated Press

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Riots break out in France over nationalist political gains

30/3/2014- Fights started outside French town halls tonight as they came under the control of the far-right National Front for the first time following dramatic gains in local elections. Exit polls suggested that the anti-immigration and anti-Europe party had roundly beaten the governing Socialists in a number of key constituencies. 'Demonstrators are trying to get at the Front representatives and starting fights,' said a police spokesman in Frejus, the picturesque Mediterranean town which is hugely popular with British tourists. Frejus and nearby Beziers are now expected to have National Front (FN) mayors sworn in, along with around five other towns, following a nationwide drubbing for President Francois Hollande's Socialists. Riot police were also out in force in other parts of the country as anti-fascist demonstrators threatened FN candidates with violence. It meant further humiliation for Mr Hollande, whose disastrous tax and spend policies have led to economic stagnation, so opening the electoral door to the FN, which is regularly accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim.

David Rachline, who is expected to become the FN mayor of Frejus, is a former head of the party's youth movement, and still just 26. Mr Rachline said: 'The political establishment has failed the people - it has ruined the town and filled its pockets. 'You can't talk about a protest vote any more - the Front's scores show that people are backing its ideas.' In a deeply humiliating blow for the Socialist government, finance minister Pierre Moscovici was unseated from the town council in Valentigny in the Doubs department. Mr Moscovici, who was tasked by Mr Hollande with leading the French economy out of recession, is deeply unpopular with the French people. There were also gains for the UMP conservative opposition, as Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the spokesman for Mr Hollande's government, said: 'These are bad results for the Left. Disappointing.' The FN took 50.26 per cent of the vote in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont last Sunday, giving it an instant majority and meaning it already has its first mayor there. As polls closed in the two round municipal elections tonight the FN said it was on track to claim 1,200 municipal council seats.

'We have moved on to a new level,' said Ms Le Pen. 'There is now a third major political force in our country.' The Socialists only consolation they have provided Paris with its first ever female mayor. Anne Hidalgo is expected to beat her conservative rival, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet in the French capital. Miss Hidalgo claimed 54.5 per cent of second round votes in the capital, comfortably beating her centre-Right rival, who won 45.5 per cent. The Spanish-born civil servant hailed a 'great victory' even before the full results were announced. Mr Hollande's response to the expected nationwide drubbing is said to be a major reshuffle, replacing Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault with Interior Minister Manuel Valls. The despairing Mr Hollande is also expected to bring his former girlfriend, Segolene Royal, back into government. This is now possible because Mr Hollande's ex-first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, who hates Ms Royal, has disappeared following the President's alleged affair with the actress Julie Gayet.
© The Daily Mail

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Commission report reveals racism and intolerance is on the rise in France

2/4/2014- Racist speech has become commonplace in 2013, particularly against Roma and Arab Muslims. That is the conclusion drawn by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) in its latest report. For the second year in a row that the body that advises Matignon has published a bleak report highlighting racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts, indicating that racial intolerance is on the rise. Of those surveyed , 9% reported being "quite racist", and 26% "a little racist". Concerns over immigration are at their highest level since 2002 and, while job prospects and the economic crisis are of greater concern to many French people, 63% of people who responded to a BVA survey said that they believed the integration of foreign people into French society was “malfunctioning” - an increase of 7% on 2012.

A majority blame immigrants for the problem. A total 68% think that people of foreign extraction do not try to integrate into French society. And 6 out of 10 people believe that “certain behaviour can sometimes justify racist reactions”. According to a “tolerance index” developed by researchers at Sciences Po, and calculated from a series of questions posed to respondents, fell for the fourth consecutive year and has dropped 12 points since 2009. Intolerance of Islamic and Roma people has risen most. A total 87% of respondents to the survey said they believed that Islamic and Roma people “are separate groups in French society”. Meanwhile, 13% of respondents believe that native French people are the greatest victims of racist abuse.

Commentators have been quick to link the rise in racist intolerance in France with the increasing popularity of the far-right and its successes in the recent local elections. But they have also pointed out that the country’s new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, was born in Barcelona, and the new mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, hails from San Fernando in Spain.
© The Connextion France

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The Migrants' Files: surveying migrants' deaths at Europe's door

A tide of humanity — people on the run from Africa, the Middle East and Asia — is washing over Europe’s boundaries, and many don’t survive the journey.

31/3/2014- The plight of migrants only grabs the media spotlight intermittently. It usually takes a disaster involving death in large numbers to drag this story into the public eye, although in fact it is a story that never ends. And the inevitable deaths are ongoing regardless of the attention or inattention they receive. For example, in early February 2014, at least 15 migrants drowned as hundreds tried to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco. And one of the most wretched recent incidents, in October 2013, involved the death of over 360 people off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Tragedy on this scale demands, and generally gets, the attention of the broad public and political leaders. During his visit to Lampedusa after the October 2013 disaster, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, proclaimed, “The European Union cannot accept that thousands of people die at its borders.” Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also issued a statement after the tragedy, warning that the Mediterranean risked turning into a “cemetery” for desperate migrants.

These well-publicised incidents, and the bursts of engagement from politicians and officials that follow, highlight the conflict at the heart of Europe's asylum and migration policies: on the one hand, the authorities acknowledge the humanitarian imperative of saving lives at Europe’s borders while at the same time they vigorously apply politically driven policies that restrict migration. In the end, the dynamics that put so many lives at risk remain unaltered.

Deaths and disappearances: the known and the unknown
Catastrophes grab the headlines; smaller incidents often go unreported. Any reliable overview of migrants’ deaths has been difficult if not impossible to achieve, until now. Thanks to The Migrants' Files, compiled by a consortium of more than 10 European journalists, the most comprehensive and rigorous database on migrant fatalities ever assembled is now up and running. Their assessment is shocking: since the beginning of the century more than 23,000 people have died or vanished attempting to enter Europe. Their approach was to use “open-source intelligence” (OSINT), a method originated by the intelligence services, acquiring data from publicly available resources such as news media, public data or grey literature. This material has now been collected, screened, cross-checked, analysed and registered in one database.

The main data sources for The Migrants' Files are United for Intercultural Action, a non-profit which coordinates a network of over 550 organisations across Europe, as well as Fortress Europe, founded by the journalist and author Gabriele Del Grande, which monitors the deaths and disappearances of migrants to Europe. The Migrants' Files' database also uses data from Puls, a project run by the University of Helsinki, Finland and commissioned by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. The findings of The Migrants' Files data mining have been eye-opening. The number of fatalities suffered by migrants on their journey to Europe turns out to be much higher than previously believed. Earlier estimates had ranged from 17,000 to 19,000 victims since the early 1990s. However, the estimated number including carefully assessed undocumented cases is indisputably higher.

Shifting routes make data more difficult to collect
The Migrants' Files data indicates that migration flows vary between sea and land routes according to season, flaring or ebbing depending on local conflicts and war zones, as well as the preferences of human traffickers. In recent years, the European Union has concluded a series of bilateral agreements with various north and west African countries and has undertaken several measures to tighten border security along Europe’s borders. As these measures came on stream, the routes taken by migrants shifted from Spain, to Italy and then Greece, underscoring the dynamic, adaptable nature of migrant flows. Frontex is the European Union’s border security coordination system. Its Operation Poseidon aims at tightening border controls between Greece and Turkey. In addition, on its own, Greece added some 1800 police officers to patrol its border with Turkey in response to the rising flood of migrants attempting to cross that border in the period from 2008 to 2012.

The number of migrants observed travelling overland from Turkey into Greece subsequently fell from more than 55,500 in 2011 to just over 12,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, the sea route between these two eastern Mediterranean neighbours saw an increase in detected emigrants from less than 1,500 to over 11,000 in the same period, an eightfold increase. At the moment, a growing number of migrants are making their way to Europe via the Greek islands and, once again, Italy. Since the land route from the Horn of Africa through Sinai into Israel has been cut, the sea journey between Libya and Lampedusa has lately returned to favour among the traffickers, who claim to arrange passage for paying migrants.

As a jumping-off point, Libya is currently one of the main hubs for migrants wishing to enter Europe. Libya’s lack of effective law enforcement, reflecting the country’s growing power vacuum, only makes the situation of migrants more precarious. Data from Frontex backs those findings but Frontex does not track dead or missing migrants, nor does Eurosur, the European Border Surveillance System or the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Data on dead and missing migrants risks being lost. Using open-source intelligence and carefully sifting other relevant information sources, The Migrants' Files is committed to supplying this vital information.

The Migrants' Files is a project by datajournalism agencies Journalism++ SAS, Journalism++ Stockholm and Dataninja ; media outlets Neue Zürcher Zeitung, El Confidencial, Sydsvenskan and Radiobubble as well as freelance journalists Jean-Marc Manach and Jacopo Ottaviani. The project is partially financed by JournalismFund.eu.
© The EUobserver

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Slovakia: Three suspects in beheading case of Romani man

1/4/2014- Daniel Horváth was 37 years old and the father of a five-year-old girl when his murderers first beat him up and then chopped off his head while he was still alive. The case of his brutal murder is now before a court in Slovakia. The tragedy occurred two days before Christmas in 2012. The murder was committed in the village of Žihárec, not far from the town of Šala. News server TN.cz reports that two youths and the father of one of them are behind the shocking crime. Mr Horváth's girlfriend had her first opportunity to come face-to-face with his brutal murderers during the trial. According to the indictment, the perpetrators beheaded her boyfriend while he was still alive. The Romani man was first brutally beaten up by them in a pub in Žihárec. The 40-year-old owner of a local bar, who is also a butcher by trade, his 18-year-old son, and his son's 19-year-old friend transported Mr Horváth by wheelbarrow into the garden, where they used a meat cleaver to separate his head from his body while he was still alive. They then threw the body parts into a cesspool.

Two days later, when they knew police were looking for Mr Horváth, they removed his corpse and his head from the cesspool, put them in a barrel, and drove them by car 25 km away to the town of Šoporňa. They hid the body and head in a shaft in an abandoned slaughterhouse. The butcher's son, Atila, initially testified that his father had cut off Mr Horváth's head. In court, however, he took all the blame, claiming to have committed the murder. Now the father, who was suspect number one at the start of the trial, has surprisingly been released from custody. He reportedly left the country and is in the Netherlands. The next hearing in the trial will be on 15 May. Should the men be found guilty, they could serve 25 to life. No one knows why the trio slaughtered their victim in such a brutal way. One year ago, the father of the 19-year-old involved in the murder said he had behaved as if nothing had happened all during Christmas: "Neither I nor my wife noticed anything unusual about him," the father admitted.
© Romea.

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Ukip is backed by a third of BNP voters (UK)

Farage boasts of his 'pride' in undermining far right party

31/3/2014- UKIP is harvesting thousands of votes from the BNP, Nigel Farage boasted yesterday. He said his anti-EU agenda and tough line on immigration was proving increasingly attractive to supporters of the far-Right party, and had already persuaded a third of them to switch their allegiance. The Ukip leader insisted he had ‘no truck’ with the BNP’s ‘racist agenda’ and said he was ‘proud’ to be attracting its voters. Speaking at an event at Chatham House, in London, he said: ‘We are saying to BNP voters, if you are voting BNP because you are frustrated, upset with the change in your community but you are doing it holding your nose, because you don’t agree with their racist agenda, come and vote for us. ‘I would think that we have probably taken a third of the BNP vote directly from them.’ BNP candidates secured 940,000 votes in the European elections in 2009, but the party’s support has slumped since then.

Mr Farage’s comments came as Nick Clegg claimed Ukip exploited the same ‘politics of blame’ as France’s far-Right National Front, which inflicted heavy defeats on the ruling socialists in local elections at the weekend. The Lib Dem leader said both parties were feeding off a ‘profound sense of anxiety and insecurity’ created by the financial crisis. ‘It is understandable that when politicians who come along in different guises and say to people, all your problems can go away, just blame someone else – blame foreigners, blame immigrants, blame Brussels – that politics of blame becomes very appealing,’ he said. ‘But however appealing that might be it isn’t an answer to the modern world... you can’t turn the clock back to the 1950s.’ The Deputy Prime Minister also criticised Mr Farage for praising Vladimir Putin’s ‘brilliant’ handling of the civil war in Syria.

In an interview with GQ magazine, published yesterday, the Ukip leader was asked which world leader he most admired. He replied: ‘As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?’ Speaking at a Westminster press conference, Mr Clegg said: ‘I think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the planet, President Assad.’
© The Daily Mail.

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Lutfur Rahman accuses BBC of racism amid Panorama storm (UK)

London mayor under fire after programme claimed he increased taxpayer funding to Bangladeshi and Somali groups

31/3/2014- A London mayor who was accused by the Panorama programme of diverting £2m in public grants allegedly to shore up his vote has complained of racism and Islamophobia by the BBC. The flagship current affairs show claimed Lutfur Rahman, executive mayor of the east end borough of Tower Hamlets, increased taxpayer funding to Bangladeshi and Somali groups from £1.5m to £3.6m despite council officer recommendations. Panorama said he used funds from the council's reserves and reduced what was left for other organisations by 25% overall. Hours before Panorama was broadcast on Monday night, Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities announced an inquiry into the claims citing "a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources by the mayoral administration". He said he would consider using legal powers against the borough which is led by Rahman, a Bangladesh-born former Labour politician who became independent after he was dropped by the party.

Rahman accused the BBC of allowing the programme to be used for political campaigning ahead of May's local and mayoral elections. A council spokesman confirmed Rahman had decided to spread funding but denied any check was made of the ethnicity of people running receiving organisations and said the council officer's recommendations were no more than "work in progress" assessments. Rahman revealed he had acquired a dossier of internal Panorama documents passed on by a researcher who worked on the programme. She took copies of the production files, including the script, research notes, translations and details about secret filming from a shared but secure database. Rahman claimed these revealed "clear racist and Islamophobic overtones targeting the Bangladeshi Muslim community in Tower Hamlets" and that the broadcaster had breached its editorial guidelines. "The BBC's targeting of our borough is nothing short of a direct intervention in the outcome of an election," he said.

The leak is now being investigated as a possible breach of the data protection act, the Information Commissioner's Office said. It is understood that among the documents were sensitive files relating to a separate documentary about Northern Ireland. On Monday, Rahman's office arranged for the researcher to speak to journalists and she claimed some of the production processes were racist and manipulative. His supporters also circulated a rebuttal documentary online which praised Rahman's record. The researcher, who declined to give her name or to supply supporting documents, told The Guardian she was hired in January as a Bengali speaker to work on the programme and was asked to determine, by looking at names only, whether trustees of charities which received council grants were of Bangladeshi origin. She said she felt this was "ethnic profiling". "The approaches they took were just unethical," she said. "There was manipulation, there was racism involved. I see them as Islamophobic bullies."

A spokesperson for the BBC said: "We strongly reject any suggestion of racial, religious or political motivation in the making or broadcast of Monday's programme, which investigates matters of legitimate public interest regarding an elected official." They added: "We can confirm that there has been a breach of data protection at an independent production company working with the BBC on a Panorama investigation as a result of unauthorised disclosure by a former researcher on the production team, in breach of her obligation of confidentiality. This breach includes material relating to the programme's confidential sources. Our primary concern is to protect our sources and we are urgently investigating the matter."
© The Guardian

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UK: Migrant Domestic Workers Face Serious Abuse

UK Government Should Abolish ‘Tied Visa’ to Protect Workers, Prevent Forced Labor

31/3/2014- Migrant domestic workers accompanying their employers to the United Kingdom are being subjected to serious abuses including forced labor, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The UK government is doing far too little to protect vulnerable workers, and recent changes to UK immigration rules make it harder for workers to flee abuse, the report found. “It’s scandalous that in modern Britain migrant domestic workers are subject to such appalling abuses,” said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But instead of protecting these workers, the system makes it harder for them escape.”

The 58-page report, “Hidden Away: Abuses against Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK,” documents the confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, physical and psychological abuse, extremely long working hours with no rest days, and very low wages or non-payment of wages. The report also shows the UK government has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to protect migrant domestic workers and enable them to access justice if they are mistreated. In April 2012, the UK abolished the right of migrant domestic workers to change employer once they are in the UK, against the recommendations of parliament, nongovernmental organizations, and UN experts. Under the terms of the new ‘tied visa,’ overseas domestic workers cannot legally leave their employer and find new work, meaning those abused can become trapped.

“Workers who are mistreated now face a horrendous choice: either endure the terrible abuse, or escape and become undocumented migrants, where of course they are much more vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation,” said Leghtas. “It’s abhorrent that anyone should be tied into abuse in this way.” Because domestic helpers work in private households, much of the abuse takes place behind closed doors. Workers told Human Rights Watch of working up to 18 hours per day for weeks on end without breaks, not being fed properly and surviving off leftovers, being forbidden from possessing a mobile phone or contacting their own families, and being unable to ever leave their employers’ homes unaccompanied. Some were paid wages as little as £100 (US$160) per month and sometimes even these meagre salaries were withheld.

The British Home Secretary Theresa May is bringing forward a modern slavery bill to tackle serious labor abuses in the UK. In December 2013, May presented a draft bill that would increase penalties for slavery, servitude, forced labor, and human trafficking from 14 years to life imprisonment. But the bill makes no reference at all to the plight of domestic workers. A parliamentary committee is reviewing the draft bill and is due to publish a report in early April. Human Rights Watch is urging the government to broaden the scope of the bill to ensure appropriate protections for migrant domestic workers, including the right to change employer. Restoring this right is vital to help combat abuse against this very vulnerable group of workers, Human Rights Watch said.

Every year, some 15,000 migrant domestic workers arrive in the UK. Many of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch were women from Asia or Africa who previously worked for their employers in the Gulf, and had already experienced abuse there at the hands of their employers. Human Rights Watch has documented serious and widespread abuses against migrant domestic workers in the Gulf where gaps in labor laws and the restrictive sponsorship (kafala) system contribute to exploitation. The kafala system ties a domestic worker’s visa to her employer, and gives employers control over whether the worker can change jobs and, in some places, exit the country. The UK’s abolition of the right to change employer risks sending a signal to employers from the Gulf that they can continue to treat their workers as they did under the kafala system, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch also found that the measures the UK government has in place to prevent abuse are inadequate. The government requires workers to have been employed for at least a year by their employer before coming to the UK. However, many migrant domestic workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch in London said their employers had subjected them to abuse in the Gulf and treated them the same, or sometimes even worse, in the UK. Migrant domestic workers are often unable to access redress mechanisms in the Gulf – because their employers confiscate their passports and heavily restrict their movements – so prior employment with a family overseas is not a reliable indicator that no abuse has occurred.

The UK government also requires written terms and conditions of employment to be signed by both the employer and the employee, including the obligation to pay UK minimum wage. But there is no mechanism to monitor whether those terms are respected. Under domestic, European, and international human rights law, the UK must protect migrant domestic workers from abuse, both from government officials and from private individuals. But recent cuts to legal aid deny victims who have not been recognized as possible victims of trafficking free legal assistance, even if they are victims of forced labor.

The UK government has also refused to ratify a groundbreaking international treaty which affords the same rights to domestic workers as other workers. In June 2011, the UK was one of only nine countries that did not vote in favor of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention. Human Rights Watch is also recommending that the UK ensure that domestic workers are made fully aware of their rights in the UK when they apply for visas, and that employers understand their duty to treat employees in accordance with UK law. “The UK government is failing in its duty to protect migrant domestic workers, who all too often are victims of horrific hidden abuse,” Leghtas said. “If it’s serious about ending what it calls modern day slavery, the government should recognize just how vulnerable these workers are and give them the protection they deserve.”
© Human Rights Watch

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Refugees fear destitution as vital services move south (UK)

A major shake-up in the system of support for asylum seekers in Scotland will plunge many more into destitution, campaigners have warned.

30/3/2014- Under new UK-wide arrangements instigated by the Home Office, advice services for those going through the asylum system will be transferred from Scotland to Kent from Tuesday, where they will be run by the charity Migrant Help. But the new system will not carry out advocacy work, such as helping asylum seekers who have been refused permission to stay in the UK appeal, or chasing decisions on applications for financial and accommodation support. Critics said asylum seekers will find it difficult to get adequate support as services will now be provided through a website and a telephone helpline based in Dover, rather than the previous face-to-face service provided in Glasgow. The Scottish Government has pledged to monitor the new contract and said it will raise any concerns with the Home Office. For the past 14 years, the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) provided asylum advice services in Scotland through a drop-in service, with around 30 people a day attending. Gary Christie, head of policy at the SRC, said: "Previously we have had full flexibility to meet the needs of people coming through the asylum system.

"There is concern about the lack of face-to-face sessions. They come with different levels of English … for many of them, having to phone up somebody or go on to a website will mean they have difficulty accessing advice. "The fear is that applications will not be made for asylum support and potentially more people will fall into destitution, even when they have a right to be accessing support." The exact numbers of destitute asylum seekers in Scotland is not known, but one survey in 2012 identified 140 people seeking help from asylum seeker or refuge support agencies over just one week as being destitute. Migrant Help will run two services, providing advice to those making applications for asylum and also to asylum seekers seeking financial and accommodation support. But it states that advocacy - charity staff speaking on behalf of an asylum seeker, as was done by the Scottish service - is excluded from both services and clients will need to be referred elsewhere.

Christie said: "There can be major delays in the Home Office making a decision on whether somebody should be receiving support or not, for example. What we would do is to chivvy the Home Office and say, 'Where is this application at and what are you doing about it?' That is just not within the specification of the new service." He added: "If someone is refused asylum support they can appeal to a tribunal down in London. But supporting somebody through that process … will not be within the specifications of this new contract.
"People who have been denied support, who should be getting support, will potentially fall through the net." A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said the SRC had a "strong history" of providing expert advice and support to asylum seekers dispersed to Scotland. She said: "It is regrettable that the SRC has lost the contract to provide invaluable advice to vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in Scotland. We will monitor the situation once the new contract is in place and, if any gaps in service are apparent, we will raise this with the Home Office."

Migrant Help, which describes itself as a non-campaigning charity, said its Asylum Help services would be provided through a variety of methods. Asylum seekers outside the southeast of England will be given an initial interview by Migrant Help staff in offices in Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Wakefield in Yorkshire, Belfast and Cardiff. However, from then on, advice and guidance will be through the free telephone helpline and website, with information made available in 15 languages. A Migrant Help spokeswoman said: "Our advisers will offer demand-led outreach services to vulnerable clients, clients with special needs and those who are unable to access the telephone or online advice. "Clients who require advocacy services will be referred to another voluntary sector organisation or a legal representative as appropriate." A Home Office spokesman said funding for the services had not been cut and it was committed to an asylum support system that "meets the essential needs of asylum seekers". He added: "We are clear that those who do not need our protection should return home. If failed asylum seekers are unable to return home for reasons beyond their control, we will provide support to ensure they are not destitute."
© The Herald Scotland

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BNP food banks 'are for indigenous Brits only' says Nick Griffin (UK)

1/4/2014- British National Party leader Nick Griffin has said that the party’s mobile “food banks” are for “indigenous Brits only”. He also described a leading anti-fascist campaigner who criticised the scheme as an “orc”. The BNP says it has started sending activists from door to door, offering canned goods, tea and washing powder to people in need in parts of London, the Midlands and the North-West. But Mr Griffin, who is an MEP, tweeted yesterday: “For the avoidance of doubt, our BNP food banks are for indigenous Brits only. 'Minorities' all have their own (taxpayer-funded) charities.” He also dismissed criticism from Weyman Bennett, the general secretary of Unite Against Fascism, who said the offers of free food were reminiscent of “Hitler’s soup kitchens” and, more recently, the tactics of the far-right Golden Dawn movement in Greece. “Crazed reaction from the UAF orc shows it's the way ahead!” Mr Griffin said.

Mr Bennett said Mr Griffin’s comments exposed the donations for what they were. “To say it’s only for indigenous people is blatantly racist,” he said. “No charity in this country is based itself around racist ideas and discriminatory ideas. “Nick Griffin is seeking to exploit people’s poverty and pain and twist it to racist and fascist ideas.” He reiterated his call for an investigation into the BNP by the Electoral Commission, saying they were “using racist policies” to try to win votes illegally. Mr Bennett, who is black, said the word “orc” was used by far-right groups in the same way as the Nazis used the word “untermensch”, meaning under-man or sub-human. “It’s a racial thing. I’m not surprised he uses racist terminology towards anybody who disagrees with him,” he said. The Commission’s website say that it is “an offence to publish or distribute threatening, abusive or insulting material that is intended to stir up racial hatred or which is likely to stir up racial hatred”.
© The Independent

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Report: Disproportionate amount of black and Asians stopped by Northamptonshire Police (UK)

A disproportionate amount of black and Asian people are being stopped and searched by Northamptonshire Police, according to the county’s racial equality council.

31/3/2014- Latest figures show that 9,521 people were stopped and searched last year and 7,406 of these were white (77.6 per cent). However, white people account for 86 per cent of the county’s population. In total, 303 Asian, 659 black and 295 mixed race people were stopped and searched by Northamptonshire Police in 2013. The arrest rate for black people was 8.7 per cent, which is the highest arrest rate of the main ethnic groups, although this rate has fallen over the last two years. Anjona Roy, of Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council, said the figures “spoke for themselves” and said she believed the force needed to be more open about the disproportion of black and Asian people being stopped and searched.

She said: “We have been in discussions with Northamptonshire Police over the last year now, making suggestions about how they could change things to reduce stop and search and get it used more effectively, but the figures showing an increase in stop and search in Northamptonshire speak for themselves. “This is at a time when many other local forces have brought its use down and reduced disproportionately. The force know that local people want to know, yet they produce data on stop and search that says everything but what the disproportionately figures are for black and Asian people. Is that really transparency and accountability?” Ms Roy said the equality council also had concerns about a survey on stop and search currently being conducted by the Office of the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

The survey, which can be completed at www.surveymonkey.com/s/StopandSearch, is asking people who have been stopped and searched to share their views on the policing technique but Ms Roy said the questions “presumed” it was an effective policing tool. She said: “We believe that in order to get the right questions they should have consulted those concerned about the use of it first.” Superintendent Andrew Cox, of Northmaptonshire Police said stop and search was a useful tactic to help prevent, deter and detect crime.

Number of stop and searches by Northamptonshire Police stop and search by ethnicity (The figures relate, left to right, for 2009 through to 2013)

Asian 441; 532; 365; 267; 303
Black 658; 624; 580; 574; 659
Mixed 325; 372; 294; 272; 295
Not Stated 815; 1,017; 731; 640; 723
Other 40; 53; 40; 37; 61
Unknown 96; 90; 83; 89; 74
White 9,178; 10,377; 7,434; 6,352; 7,406
© Northampton Cronicle

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