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Headlines 31 July, 2015

Headlines 24 July, 2015

Italy, Germany & UK News Week 30

Headlines 17 July, 2015

Headlines 31 July, 2015

Italy: Muslim rugs removed from Turin city hall

Two councillors from Italy's far-right Northern League provoked outrage on Tuesday after removing prayer mats that had been placed in Turin's city hall for a Muslim conference.

29/7/2015- Roberto Carbonero and Fabrizio Ricca removed the rugs from a Muslim prayer room that had been created especially for a conference on Islamic fashion. The pair insisted that the decision to remove the rugs was not down to prejudice or racism, but was because the city hall is a secular building. "If someone wants to pray, there are lots of religious centers they can go to," La Stampa reported the councillors as saying. "It's not as if people build a chapel whenever there's a Christian conference." Their actions were met with widespread criticism. Michele Paolino, the local leader of the Democratic Party, called it "an arbitrary and violent act," adding that "these actions offend people of all religions."
© The Local - Italy


Italy: 13 bodies found as 1,800 migrants rescued

More than 1,800 migrants have been picked up in the Mediterranean and 13 bodies recovered as the exodus from north Africa by boat endures, Italy's coast guard said on Tuesday.

28/7/2015- Vessels taking part in EU border security operation Triton rescued the migrants from their rickety boats in five separate operations on Monday, following the arrival in Sicily on Saturday of 1,300 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and Syria. The 13 bodies were recovered by an Irish military ship after it came to the aid of one of the boats, which was carrying 522 people. The cause of death was not yet known, the coast guard said, but migrants attempting the perilous crossing to Europe often suffer from dehydration and sun exposure. Italy and Greece have been hard pressed to handle a massive increase in migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. More than 1,900 migrants have died this year making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, out of around 150,000 people who have made the crossing, the International Organization for Migration said earlier this month.
© The Local - Italy


Italy: Politician mistakes chefs for 'refugees having fun'

A Northern League councillor for the Veneto region has been left red-faced after mistaking a group of people enjoying themselves in a swimming pool in the tourist town of Cavallino for “refugees from the Ivory Coast”.

28/7/2015- Francesco Calzavara, the ex-mayor of Jesolo, made the gaffe on his Facebook page, Corriere reported. “It seems that a dozen migrants from the Ivory Coast have arrived, and are enjoying themselves in the swimming pool of a residential building,” he wrote on July 25th. “I’m confident that the prefect of Cuttaia will implement his plan not to send any more refugees to tourist areas during the summer period.” But as the post was shared, it got picked up by Sebastiano Barbassi, the manager of the building, who said the people in the pool were chefs. They were in town for a conference and had rented out four apartments. In fact, the chefs regularly rent out apartments in the building.

“Accordingly, they are tourists in every respect,” Barbassi responded to the post. Having been forced to admit his error, Calzavara then said: “The power of Facebook...they are a group who regularly rent the apartments out. All that’s left is to wish them a good holiday in Cavallino.” Veneto leaders have been staunch in their anti-immigration approach in recent months, opposing a government call to house more refugees as the country struggles amid persistent migrant arrivals. But tensions have hit boiling point, with residents in Treviso burning furniture intended for migrants earlier this month, in protest against their arrival. The tensions have been whipped up by the region’s leader, Luca Zaia, who supported the protesters, describing the mayhem as “the Africanization of Veneto”.
© The Local - Italy


France:1,500 migrants try to storm Channel Tunnel in Calais

Hundreds of migrants tried to storm the Channel Tunnel for the second successive night on Tuesday as the crisis reached a new peak. UK Prime Minister said the situation at Calais was "concerning".

29/7/2015- Hundreds of migrants desperate to reach England made around 1,500 attempts to enter the Eurotunnel terminal overnight in the French port town of Calais, a police source told AFP Wednesday, adding that one person was found dead. "Our team found a corpse this morning and the firefighters have confirmed the death of this person," added a spokesman for Eurotunnel. "Everything happened overnight, and at 6 am (0400 GMT), the police still have quite a lot of work to do," said the police source, adding that "between 500 and 1,000 migrants" were still around the tunnel site. Speaking on Wednesday Morning UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the situation was "very concerning" and that Britain was "doing everything we can" to prevent such incidents, including investing in fencing around the area, adding he did not want to "point fingers at people to blame".

The migrant, a man of Sudanese origin believed to be aged between 25 and 30, was hit by a truck that was leaving a cross-Channel ferry, the police source said. The latest fatality brings the number of migrants who died near the Channel Tunnel Tunnel terminal site to nine since June. Tuesday night's attempts to storm the Channel Tunnel came the night after migrants made around 2,000 attempts to get to Britain through the same way on Monday night. "It was the biggest incursion effort in the past month and a half," said a spokesman for Eurotunnel, which is battling often deadly efforts by migrants to smuggle into Britain. As the crisis reached new levels Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the UK would stump up a further €7million towards improving security in Calais following talks in London with her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve.

For several weeks, there have been many attempts by large numbers of to enter the Eurotunnel premises. Security at the Calais port was stepped up in mid-June, driving migrants who previously tried to stow away on trucks that take ferries across the Channel to try their luck smuggling through the undersea tunnel. The migrants were trying to enter the site "between midnight and 6:00 am," the Eurotunnel spokesman said. "All our security personnel, that is nearly 200 people, as well as police were called in," he added. The incident caused serious delays to the Eurotunnel service for much of Tuesday, with passengers held up for around an hour on the British side and 30 minutes on the French side.

A French police source said the migrants did not try to force their way all at once, and that the figure of 2,000 related to the total number of incursion attempts -- not of migrants. Up to three migrants were hurt trying to board the trains, he said. Since the beginning of June, eight migrants have died trying to enter the tunnel. The port at Calais has been mostly closed since June because of a dispute between ferry staff from France's MyFerryLink and the Eurotunnel group, which owns the boats. Many migrants have tried to take advantage of the backed-up traffic to jump onto trucks making their way towards the harbour. According to the last official count in early July, around 3,000 migrants, mainly from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan, were camped out in Calais

British Home Secretary Theresa May said her government would put up an additional seven million pounds (€9.8 million ) to help France secure the Eurotunnel site on its side of the Channel. "We're dealing with terrible criminal gangs," she said. "We agreed that we will work together to return migrants, particularly to West Africa, to ensure that people see that making this journey does not mean that they are being able to settle in Europe." The Eurotunnel company itself is seeking 9.7 million euros ($10.67 million) from the British and French governments in compensation for disruption caused by illegal migrants. Cazeneuve accused the company in a letter Tuesday, the content of which was seen by AFP, of not taking the necessary security measures. "First of all I would like you to ask yourself about the human resources you are planning on dedicating to secure the site," Cazeneuve said in the letter, noting that the company has slashed two thirds of its security staff since 2002.
© The Local - France


France/UK: Blame game erupts over Calais migrants' crisis

Eurotunnel said on Wednesday it had stopped 37,000 migrants this year from getting to the UK through the Channel Tunnel as the company and the French government accused each other of not doing enough to stem the crisis in Calais.

29/7/2015- With the Calais migrant crisis reaching new levels, cracks are beginning to open up in the relationship between the various parties tasked with trying to deal with the ongoing chaos. While the governments of Britain and France are carefully trying their best to avoid pointing the finger of blame at each other, the same cannot be said for the Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel, which called on London and Paris to do more to help. On Wednesday Eurotunnel hit back at suggestions made by French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve that company only had itself to blame if it was struggling to deal with the migrants, because it wasn’t spending enough money on security. The company, which made €101 million net profit in 2013, released a statement saying its own security staff had managed to stop 37,000 attempts by migrants to get to the UK via the Channel Tunnel since January.

The firm said it has also spent €13 million on boosting security at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais. "The pressure we are now under every night exceeds that which an operator can reasonably handle, and calls for an appropriate reaction from the states" of France and Britain, Eurotunnel said in a statement. Eurotunnel said that since migrants began appearing in Calais, going to extreme lengths to smuggle themselves into Britain, it had spent over €160 million on additional security such as guards, fencing, lighting and cameras. "To make up for the lack of resources of state security forces in Calais, Eurotunnel has for example gone as far as putting buses at their disposal to transport the migrants caught" on the premises, read the Eurotunnel statement.

Speaking to The Local recently Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe repeated calls for French authorities to do more saying Eurotunnel was "a transport service not a police force". The company has irked the French government by seeking €9.7 million ($10.67 million) from the British and French governments in compensation for disruption caused by illegal migrants. Around two-thirds of the €9.7 million comes from fencing and other security measures, and the rest from loss of income caused by closure of the line. That move led to Cazeneuve criticising Eurotunnel for cutting back on security staff. Cazeneuve was in London on Tuesday to hold talks with his counterpart Theresa May on how to tackle the migrant issue, which has been a thorn in the side of Franco-British relations for years.

Cazeneuve accused Eurotunnel in a letter on Tuesday, the content of which was seen by AFP, of not taking the necessary security measures. "First of all I would like you to ask yourself about the human resources you are planning on dedicating to secure the site," Cazeneuve said in the letter, noting that the company has slashed two thirds of its security staff since 2002. The Calais crisis has been a constant thorn in Anglo-French relations in recent years, with some French politicians, notably the mayor of Calais blaming the UK for encouraging migrants to come by allowing them to work outside the formal economy and for having no ID cards. But for the moment UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been at pains not to get involved in any blame game. Paris has pressured London to do more to help and this week Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said a further €7million will be spent on improving security in Calais.
© The Local - France


France: Nazi tombstone stolen from Normandy cemetery

The gravestone of a formidable Nazi SS tank commander has been stolen from a German cemetery in the small Normandy town of La Cambe, municipal sources said on Tuesday.

29/7/2015- "The tombstone will be replaced. Even if it was a German officer, we must respect the dead," La Cambe's mayor, Bernard Lenice, told AFP.  A German national from the area who preferred to remain anonymous identified the SS officer whose tombstone was stolen "a few days ago" as tank commander Michael Wittmann. "It was a square tombstone bolted to the ground with his name engraved upon it, but without any other inscription," the source said, saying nothing on the stone indicated Wittmann's role in the SS. The German said the grave attracted numerous visitors -- including Britons and Americans -- drawn by Wittman's reputation as having been one of the most daunting tank commanders in the German army.

The northwestern French region of Normandy was the theatre of fierce World War II battles between occupying Nazi forces and Allied armies that advanced eastward following the D-Day invasion. The remains of soldiers from various countries involved in the fighting lie in graveyards across the area. The bodies of around 21,000 German soldiers are buried in La Cambe alone. The theft of Wittmann's stone has been reported to local police officials for investigation.
© The Local - France


France: Fleeting fixtures and precarious lives in migrant camp of Fortress Calais

With street lights and bike shops springing up in the ‘Jungle’ there is a growing sense of permanence, but often little trace of the people who came and went.

27/7/2015- In the far corner of a cemetery on the outskirts of Calais, a couple of gravediggers chat quietly as they wait beside a small, freshly dug hole. The conversation stops as they are joined by two officials. Moments later a tiny coffin is lifted from a nearby car and lowered into the ground. The whole scene is over in a few minutes. Samir Khedija, a stillborn baby boy, died when his mother, an Eritrean woman in her 20s, miscarried 22 weeks into her pregnancy after falling from the back of a lorry as she attempted to cross the Channel to the UK. Buried two weeks ago, he is one of the latest victims of the humanitarian crisis that is engulfing the French port, exacer-bated by a ferry workers’ strike that started six weeks ago.

Calais increasingly resembles a fortress. Hundreds of metres of high fences topped with razor wire are being erected along the motorways, while more fences and a new secure parking zone have been promised. And at the port’s northern fringes a sprawling shanty town, now home to more than 3,000 people, is becoming more permanent by the day. “The situation is getting worse and worse, as the migrants have to find ever more dangerous routes to try and get … to Great Britain,” says Cécile Bossy, a medical volunteer who works with migrants in Calais. Images of burning barricades and hundreds of people trying to break into the back of lorries at the peak of the holiday season have sparked fierce political debate on both sides of the Channel, once again focusing attention on Europe’s simmering migrant crisis.

Lorry drivers complain they have been threatened by those trying to board their vehicles, and officials say more than 1,000 people a night have been trying to get on to lorries or trains bound for the UK. Some haulage firms now bypass Calais altogether. The French authorities do not keep a record of how many migrants are killed or seriously injured attempting to cross the Channel but an investigation by the Guardian last year found at least 15 people had died in the preceding 12 months. In the past six weeks, the Guardian understands, at least six more have died. Among the warren of tents, plastic shelters and piles of rubbish that dominate the new “Jungle” camp near Calais, migrants told of terrible journeys.

Sitting on a piece of scrubland, Teddy, from Eritrea, watched as groups of young men tried to dodge French police guarding the motorway above the camp. He was forced to leave his homeland after his father was killed by the Eritrean regime two years ago. He survived the Sahara and spent a “terrible year” in a Libyan prison. “My girlfriend is still there I think,” he said. “This is not good but compared to what I have seen it is OK.” Bahad, 16, left his home in Ethiopia a year ago. He said his parents were killed by the regime there. Sitting in a child’s car seat outside the two-man tent that he shared with six other teenagers he spoke quietly, explaining how 10 of the 40 people who crossed the Sahara with him fell from the back of the smuggler’s pick-up truck they were travelling in due to exhaustion.

The new Jungle opened earlier this year and is already one of the biggest migrant camps in western Europe. It is part of the wider crisis that has seen more than 185,000 people crossing the Mediterranean into southern Europe since January. Most will try to claim asylum in other EU countries – Germany and Sweden top the list, with the UK more than halfway down. But some will end up in the Jungle risking their lives to get to the UK. Those who stay in the camp more than a few days are near the bottom of the migration food chain. People trying to get to the UK who have more money, and better contacts, often avoid the port altogether, paying between £1,000 and £4,000 to gangs to be put on to lorries bound for the UK hundreds of kilometres before they reach the coast. The rest are reduced to a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse, trying to outwit the French police and private security firms to jump on to lorries – and, increasingly, trains – bound for the UK.


Calais has had some sort of migrant camp for more than 15 years. Since 2002 they have followed a pattern: a makeshift “jungle” or squat appears, providing shelter for a few hundred people for a few months before being bulldozed by the authorities. But the new Jungle, nestled beside a motorway that leads to the port, feels different. It is bigger and increasingly better organised than most of its predecessors. And, amid the daily chaos and squalor, there are unmistakable signs that it is becoming more permanent. Adil, from Sudan, arrived six months ago. The former mechanic said he had made it to the UK once but had been deported to Italy because he did not have the right paperwork. He made his way to Calais to try to get back to the UK where the people “are so friendly”. He soon noticed migrants using bikes to get around, and saw an opportunity. He managed to get hold of thrown out parts, and started a fledgling business buying, fixing and selling second-hand bikes.


“It’s a good business,” Adil said with a broad smile as he tried to fix the brakes on a rickety blue bike in a makeshift workshop outside his tent. “People buy a bike to get to where they try and get on the lorries or trains. If they are lucky, then they are gone and don’t need the bike any more. Then I go and pick them up and sell them again!” There are more than a dozen shops at the camp selling everything from hair weaves to energy drinks, a couple of cafes and even a communal tent with an old stereo, playing mainly Ethiopian music, that serves as a rudimentary nightclub. There is also a 30ft high church built out of wooden pallets and plastic sheeting, at least two mosques and – as of two weeks ago – a school. But despite the signs of a burgeoning community, there have been fights between rival groups and a few months ago a fire wiped out a large area of tents. And the living conditions for many of those living there are leading to widespread health problems.

Bossy, the volunteer, argues that conditions are worse than in refugee camps in war-torn countries – because no one will step up. “We can’t even call it a refugee camp – because it doesn’t have globally agreed humanitarian standards,” she says. The French authorities appear to be giving tacit, unpublicised, support. In the past few weeks street lighting has gone up, a few wooden toilet blocks have been built and another water point has been installed. A former children’s hospital at one end of the site provides shelter for 100 women with children, has a few showers and distributes one hot meal a day. But while the structures seem more permanent, life for those living in the camp remains chaotic and transient.


Two weeks after the Guardian met Bahad, a return visit found about a dozen teenagers inside his tent, chatting and laughing. None of them had heard of him. They had arrived a week earlier and gave blank looks when his name was mentioned. It was a recurring theme. People who seem semi-permanent fixtures one day are gone the next. Security officials at the Eurotunnel complex in France say they are removing up to 1,000 migrants from the backs of lorries every 24 hours. A further 500-700 people regularly break into the Eurotunnel complex each night to try get on to lorries or trains after they have been checked. No one knows how many of these attempts are successful but few doubt hundreds are getting through using these speculative methods. Others do not make it. Samir’s final resting place was “Angel Square”, an area of modest wooden crosses set aside for children in a Calais cemetery.

Little is known about the moments that led to his mother’s miscarriage. Aid workers said she was in her 20s and from Eritrea and that she fell from the back of a lorry and was badly hurt. She was taken to hospital but lost her baby. A few days later she discharged herself and no one has heard of her since. She was not one of the four people at her son’s burial.

© The Guardian

Austria 'top country' for asylum seekers

The Traiskirchen refugee centre in Lower Austria has broken a new record - it is now housing 4,300 asylum seekers, although it only has 2,300 beds. 480 people are sleeping in tents in the grounds of the centre, according to the Interior Ministry, but 2,000 people don’t have a bed to sleep in.

8/7/2015- Peter Webinger, head of the asylum and migration group within the ministry, said that overall there is an “accommodation crisis” across Austria as the country struggles to deal with an influx of asylum seekers. More than 80,000 asylum applications are expected this year, according to experts - up from an earlier estimate of 70,000. This is three times the number of applications Austria received in 2014. According to statistics from the interior ministry for the past month, Austria now has more asylum applications per capita than any other European country - having overtaken Germany and Sweden. In the first five months of this year it had 20,620 applications - an increase of 183 percent. Sweden, in contrast, had 22,342 applications which is equal to a decrease of 6.3 percent. Asylum seekers are reportedly starting to shun Sweden because of its long waiting times and cumbersome bureaucracy.

On paper, Hungary has more asylum applications registered per capita than Austria but many refugees are then sent on to another country - the majority to neighbouring Austria. Germany still continues to have the largest overall number of asylum applications - with around 179,000 refugees having applied for asylum so far this year. Austria's interior ministry has called the situation an “asylum emergency”, with Webinger saying that only ten out of 28 EU member states are taking 92 percent of all refugees to Europe. He pointed out that Portugal has only taken 455 asylum applications this year, and Slovakia only 300. The cost of providing basic care for asylum seekers in Austria has also risen, with the interior ministry estimating that this year the amount will be €380 million (double the amount paid in 2013).

Christoph Pinter, the head of the Vienna office of the UNHCR, says that Austria is now one of the main target countries in the EU for asylum seekers arriving in Europe via Greece and travelling through the western Balkans. The largest groups of asylum seekers coming to Austria are Afghans and Syrians. Austria is known to have a well-functioning and developed asylum system compared to other European countries but the increasing number of asylum applications are a challenge for the small country - particularly when it comes to finding suitable accommodation.
© The Local - Austria


Czech MEP invites Ukrainian extremist to European Parliament

Group has been condemned by US Congress for suing Nazi symbols

28/7/2015- Czech MEP Jaromír Štětina (TOP 09) has invited the commander of the Ukrainian volunteer Azov Battalion, which the U.S. House of Representatives labeled neo-Nazi last June, to the European Parliament (EP), he told reporters today, after his return from Ukraine. Štětina said he expected the visit by commander Andriy Biletsky to provoke the EP's criticism. Ultra-right radical Biletsky heads of the organization Social-National Assembly that is freely connected with the Ukrainian Right Sector. He is dubbed “White Leader.” “Volunteer battalions are a significant, real political and military force in eastern Ukraine. Not to talk to them and not to know who they are means not to be interested in the solution to the conflict,” Štětina told the Czech news Agency, answering its question why he had invited Biletsky. Štětina added that Biletsky alone should explain the positions of his movement.

Štětina has been to Ukraine several times since the war erupted there. He visited three volunteer battalions, Azov, Right Sector and Donbas, during his last journey. Their fighters have majorly prevented Eastern Ukraine from being fully controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Štětina said he was convinced that they were the political force to participate in the solution to the conflict. All three battalions' commanders are members of the Ukrainian parliament, he recalled. The Washington Post recently reported that Azov might attack Kyiv if it chose a political and not military solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Štětina, who reported about the war in Chechnya as a journalist in the past, admitted that these political forces would approach ultra-right extremism ideologically.

According to the Western press, some 1,000 members of the Azov Battalion openly followed neo-Nazi views. The Azov banner carries the symbol of Hitler's SS division Das Reich and the battalion fighters promote the idea of the white race supremacy and autocratic dictatorship. Štětina ruled out that mainly young neo-Nazis joined these battalions. Such reports are results of Russian propaganda, he added. Yet he admitted that he had seen the Nazi-tinged symbols among their recruits. However, extremists can be found in every society, even in Czech parliament, he added. Štětina is one of the Czechs included in Russia's blacklist of the EU countries' officials who are banned from entering its territory.
© The Prague Post


Austria investigating Dutch far-right politician Wilders over incitement

28/7/2015- Austria is investigating Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on suspicion of incitement of hatred at an event in Vienna he attended at the invitation of prominent Austrian far-right politician Heinz-Christian Strache. Wilders, whose party has been at or near the top of polls in the Netherlands for years, is under another investigation for alleged discrimination and incitement of hatred against Moroccans during a campaign rally in The Hague last year. He was acquitted of hate speech in a 2007 trial after making similar remarks critical of Islam. Other past targets of his populist ire have included East European migrant workers and the European Union. A spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutors' office said an investigation against Wilders was under way but declined to give details, including what he was alleged to have said in a speech that prompted the inquiry.

Wilders spoke at a meeting in March of Strache's far-right Freedom Party, which attracted a 30 percent approval rating in a recent opinion poll -- ahead of the two governing centrist coalition parties. Known for his trademark shock of bleach-blond hair, Wilders is currently running second in Dutch election polls, riding a wave of resentment against immigration in the Netherlands, once seen as an example of multicultural tolerance. Wilders has said the West is "at war" with Islam and has been the target of death threats that have forced him to live under 24-hour police protection. Strache and Wilders' parties along with other far-right European parties formed a common bloc in the European Parliament last month.
© Reuters


Denmark considers sending refugees abroad

The Danish People's Party believes that Denmark should consider striving for a bilateral agreement similar to the one recently reached between Austria and Slovakia, where asylum seekers will be housed in Slovakia while waiting for their cases to be processed.

28/7/2015- According to the Danish People’s Party (DF), one approach to limiting the number of refugees in Denmark may to export them abroad to neighbouring countries while their asylum applications are being processed. The idea comes from the agreement reached between Austria and Slovakia last weekend, where Slovakia will house 500 individuals whom have sought asylum in Austria. Their cases will still be processed in Austria, but they will only be allowed to return to the country if they are later granted asylum. This differs from the Australian model that DF has also been a proponent of, where the country sends asylum seekers to places like Papa New Guinea while their applications are being processed, but even if an individual is granted asylum, Australia offers them a resettlement package in countries like Cambodia, Naura or Papa New Guinea.

DF MP Martin Henriksen argues that this could potentially be a measure that would help deter asylum seekers from coming to Denmark. “One should not dismiss that the agreement Austria has made with Slovakia could lead to fewer people wanting to claim asylum in Austria. That’s why I believe that this is an exciting idea, and that we would like to investigate more closely to see if it is something that we can use here in Denmark,” Henriksen told Jyllands-Posten. According to Eurostat, Slovakia is a far less popular destination among asylum seekers than either Denmark or Austria; only 60 people sought asylum in Slovakia in the first quarter of 2015. In comparison, nearly 6000 arrived in Austria just in May alone, and 828 in Denmark.

However, Henriksen argues that such an approach would be more attractive if individuals whom are granted asylum would not be allowed to live in Denmark, and instead resettled in some other safe haven. DF is the largest party in the Danish blue bloc and its parliamentary support is vital for the Venstre minority government. Although DF is not in a formal coalition with the Venstre government, they have a major influence on government policy in areas concerning asylum and immigration. Venstre MP Jacob Ellemann-Jensen believes that his party would be open to the idea of such a bi-lateral agreement with one of Denmark’s neighbouring countries, but envisages that it will be a tough sell. “I find it difficult to imagine that either the Swedes or Germans would be willing to house a number of asylum seekers while we process their applications in Denmark, but if there is willingness to do so and it is legally possible, then we can be inspired [by the Austria-Slovakia agreement, ed.],” Ellemann-Jensen told Jyllands-Posten.

Earlier this month, the Danish People’s Party said it wanted the government to launch a video campaign clearly telling refugees to stay away, also inspired by the Australian government. The proposal came under heavy fire, however, leading Ellemann-Jensen to dismiss the idea as 'un-Danish' soon after. Denmark saw its asylum numbers nearly double in 2014, with 14,815 people arriving in the course of the year compared to 7,557 asylum seekers in 2013. A report from the Danish Immigration Service last month showed that 2015 is on pace to be yet another record year. Per capita, Denmark took in the sixth highest number of asylum applications in 2014. But due to its opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs, it is not participating in the EU plan to redistribute refugees even though this could see Denmark taking in fewer refugees than is currently the case.
© The Local - Denmark


Norway: Breivik accuses prison of blocking letter to press

Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik has accused the Norwegian prison authorities of preventing “the most important letter he has sent” from reaching the media.

28/7/2015- In a letter sent to Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper, Breivik claimed that he had sent no fewer than 87 copies of the censored letter to various newspapers, television broadcasters and other individuals and organisations. "Will you never truly accept that they are 'burying me alive'?" Breivik wrote in his letter to Dagbladet. "Do not you see that this would be an admission of failure for everything that you claim to believe in ?" According to Breivik, this is the first time that one of his letters to has been prevented from reaching the media, although correspondence with other individuals and groups has previously been stopped. In his letter, Breivik includes from what he claims is the formal decision made by the prison authorities. “The prisoner wishes to send out a joint letter to several media companies, government agencies, organisations, and individuals," he quotes. "The letter has been stopped due to its content...content that, seen in the context of the prisoner’s manifesto, actions, and use of symbolism, could incite disruption of peace, order, and security.”

In December last year, Norway's prison authorities admitted that they had blocked several of Breivik’s letters to prevent him from setting up a political network outside the prison gates. "We have refused to send some letters from Breivik for reasons of security. We're talking about roughly 220 letters," Yling Faeste, a spokesman for the prison administration, told AFP. "We control his communication, and he is not allowed to set up a network that could commit even more crimes." Since Breivik’s bombing of Oslo’s government district that killed eight people and attack on the Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utøya, where he shot dead another 69, he has been kept in strict isolation with no contact with other prisoners. Breivik claims that his prison conditions are in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights and has recently filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian state.

Øystein Storrvik, Breivik’s lawyer, confirmed that letters have been stopped by the prison authorities. “This will be a topic in the lawsuit against the state. This type of censorship is problematic and a matter of principle, especially as the letters were addressed to large Norwegian media companies," he told Dagbladet. “His isolation is by far the most important issue in the lawsuit, but we think that communication with major Norwegian media should not be censored.”

© The Local - Norway


Netherlands: Rotterdam mayor speaks out on ‘hurt’ caused by Wilders’ anti-Moroccan stand

27/7/2015- Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has urged PVV leader Geert Wilders to come clean about how he intends to reduce the size of the Moroccan population in the Netherlands. Moroccan-born Aboutaleb was speaking on Zomergasten, a summer series of long television interviews with a single guest broadcast on Sunday evening by the VPRO. During the interview, which pulled in an audience of 800,000, Aboutaleb spoke about his parents’ fears that they will be ordered to leave the Netherlands, and how much this hurts him. His father worked two jobs so his children could study, Aboutaleb said. ‘But there have to be fewer people like him, not because he has done something wrong but because he is a member of a particular ethnic group,’ the mayor said. ‘So I want to know from Wilders “when are you going to send them back?”.. Wilders has said he is going to organise it. So society has a right to know how he plans to do this.’

Wilders is currently under investigation for leading his supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant of ‘fewer fewer fewer’ during the European election campaign last year. The 
 PVV leader used Twitter to remind Aboutaleb he had already outlined his plans at a press conference in March 2014. Wilders wants limits to immigration from Islamic countries, measures to stimulate voluntary repatriation and the deportation of criminals.
© The Dutch News


Finland: Thousands rally against lawmaker's anti-immigration remark

28/7/2015- Thousands of people protested in Finland on Tuesday against a lawmaker's anti-immigration remarks and voiced their support for a multicultural Finnish society. "We have been used to racism, but we must oppose this. We have been silent for too long and it is time to say out loud that it is not ok," said Turkish-born Ozan Yanar, a Finnish parliamentarian from the opposition Green party, at a Helsinki demonstration that gathered around 15,000 people. The protests followed comments in a Facebook post by Olli Immonen, a lawmaker from the co-ruling Finns Party known for its euro-sceptic views. "I'm dreaming of a strong, brave nation that will defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism. This ugly bubble that our enemies live in, will soon enough burst into a million little pieces," he wrote on Saturday. "I have strong belief in my fellow fighters. We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation. The victory will be ours." The Finns Party, second-biggest in the parliament, is known for backing tougher immigration laws, but has distanced itself from Europe's far-right parties.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini, leader of the Finns party, said Immonen's comments were harmful to the party. Many Finns saw the timing and content of Immonen's remarks linked to the massacre of 77 people in Norway just over four years ago by far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik. Immonen denied any intentional connection between his comments and the July 22, 2011 killings. Finnish Prime minister Juha Sipila of the Center party said Immonen's statement was unacceptable. "Finland has always been international, and people coming here have significantly richened our culture and business life," he wrote in a blog. Juhana Aunesluoma, research director of European studies at the University of Helsinki, said Immonen's remarks showed divisions in the Finns party after it entered the centre-right coalition government and had to deal with issues like the Greek crisis. "There is a certain, feisty section inside the party, and the leadership has a challenge in its balancing act," said Aunesluoma.
© Reuters


Finnish MP calls for fight against "nightmare of multiculturalism"

Facebook post by the prominent Finns Party MP Olli Immonen promises to "fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation", igniting criticism of party leader Timo Soini for his lack of public condemnation of the comments.

26/7/2015- The leader of the populist Finns Party has so far remained silent after a prominent MP called on his followers to "fight until the end" against the “nightmare called multiculturalism". Olli Immonen, member of parliament for the northern Finnish town of Oulu, posted his remarks in English on Friday night on Facebook and on the website of the nationalist organisation Suomen Sisu, of which he is the chair. The MP, an outspoken opponent of immigration who on his website describes the need to fight the “Islamification” of Finland, predicted in his post “'The ugly bubble that our enemies live in will soon enough burst into a million little pieces.” He added that “We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation.” The remarks drew widespread condemnation from other politicians, who accused him of inciting hatred. However the 29-year-old's own party leader, Timo Soini, who is also the country's foreign minister, has so far been unavailable for comment.

Personal views
The leader of the Finns Party parliamentary group, Sampo Terho, also refused to be drawn on Immonen’s remarks. “I won’t comment beyond saying that these are one member’s personal views,” he told the news service STT. Immonen's post comes a few weeks after the MP was given 'stern words' by his party superiors for posting a photograph of himself posing alongside members of a Neo-Nazi group. The silence of the party leadership over this latest incident has renewed accusations that party leader Soini is unwilling to tackle the extremist elements of his nationalist, eurosceptic party, which is the second largest in government. A number of members who have made racist or homophobic comments have in the past been allowed to continue in the party, including the Helsinki councilor Olli Sademies, whose recent call for the forced sterilisation of African immigrants was dismissed by the party’s Helsinki group chair as “nonsense”.

Timo Soini has only ejected one MP, James Hirvisaari, from the party, after he brought a neo Nazi as a guest into parliament and posed for a photo in which the guest performed a Nazi salute. Responding to Immonen’s latest comments, Åbo Akademi professor of politics Kimmo Grönlund told the news agency STT on Saturday that he finds it unbelievable that a member of parliament belonging to a governing party could be calling for a fight against multiculturalism. ”It’s strange if someone is allowed to remain in the parliamentary Finns Party while expounding these views,” Grönlund said.

Ironic choice
Immonen insisted he stands by his comments, and dismissed Grönlund’s criticism. “If he’d like limits on free speech and the silencing of political views different from his own, he could move to somewhere like Sweden,” Immonen wrote in a further Facebook post. Immonen was also recently appointed to sit on the governing council of the Finnish public broadcaster Yle, an organisation of which he has been a prominent critic, accusing it of a pro-multiculturalism bias. Some respondents to Immonen’s Facebook post pointed out the apparent irony of Immonen choosing to write his anti-multiculturalism comments in the international language of English, despite having repeatedly called for Finnish to become the country’s only national and official language.
© YLE News


How Scandinavia’s far-right has stolen the left’s ground on welfare

Far-right political parties are making huge gains across Nordic countries as new champions of a working class alienated by the cosmopolitan left.

26/7/2015- Every July, thousands of politicians, lobbyists and journalists desert Stockholm in a seasonal exodus of the well-connected. Their destination is Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, for a festival of politics that showcases the consensual virtues associated with Scandinavia. During Almedalen week, named after the park in the main town of Visby, Social Democrats rub along with Liberals, Conservatives, Socialists and Greens in the narrow medieval streets, competing for bar space, television interview slots and seats at myriad fringe meetings held throughout the day. The mood is normally convivial, as befits a political elite at play before the summer break begins. But this year there was a palpable edge. On the Wednesday evening, bodyguards in dark suits and sunglasses were prowling around a main stage, on which a sniffer dog was searching. Police vans lined a nearby road.

The crowd that began to gather was notably different from the habitual Almedalen set – poorer, older and less fashionably dressed. Middle-aged couples from the south mingled with pensioners and the occasional skinhead. This was another Sweden, overwhelmingly provincial and, in these monied surroundings, somewhat self-conscious. It had assembled to listen to Jimmie Åkesson, the latest Scandinavian leader to take his party from the far-right fringes of politics to the mainstream. Ostracised within the Swedish parliament, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats are the country’s fastest-growing political force. Before last September’s general election, one of their candidates had to withdraw when photographs appeared of her wearing a swastika armband. Such reminders of the party’s neo-fascist roots are a regular occurrence, but a substantial swathe of the Swedish electorate does not seem to care.

The SD gained 12.9% of the vote at the election, more than doubling its share and making it Sweden’s third-largest political movement. Latest opinion polls put the party above 18%, snapping at the heels of the Social Democrats, who run an enfeebled minority government. The pitch to voters was summed up by Åkesson in the runup to last autumn’s poll, when he tweeted: “The election is a choice between mass immigration and welfare. You choose.” Ragna, a policewoman from Västerås, had travelled to Visby for the day to hear Åkesson. She believes that tweet got to the heart of the matter: “Instead of taking more and more people in, we have to take better care of the people who are already here,” she says. “We have housing shortages that mean our young people are trapped living with their parents. If times are tough and the state doesn’t have money, we have to think about our own people.”

Ignoring one lone protester waving an “SD = Racist” placard, Henrik Poulstrom, a 29-year-old accountant, shrugged off the idea that he might be following an extremist party. “They’re at the centre of the spectrum. They take their policies on immigration from the right and their policies on defending the welfare state from the left.” His father chipped in: “Åkesson wants to defend the way our society is. He thinks about things from a Swedish perspective.” Åkesson joined the party in the bad old days of the mid-1990s, when its neo-Nazi associations were in plain view. The logo back then was a National Front-style flaming torch, in the colours of the Swedish flag. But when he appeared at Almedalen, wearing sharp glasses, an open-necked shirt, blue jacket and chinos, the 36-year-old Lund graduate resembled an ambitious mid-ranking company manager. Behind him was the new party emblem, introduced in 2006 – a soothing blue and yellow anemone hepatica flower, and the slogan: “Sweden’s Opposition.”

Three themes dominated the speech: the danger of Islamism, which Åkesson has described as “the Nazism of our times”; the need to stop the flow of refugees and asylum seekers – Sweden takes more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU country; and the desire to create a better society for Sweden’s children. Åkesson claimed that if the Sweden Democrats eventually claim a place in government, Swedish children would experience “the best childhood in the world”. As a taster, a more generous policy on pay for primary school teachers was unveiled. Schools and healthcare will, Åkesson stated, be a priority for any Sweden Democrats  The night included a symbolic walkout by a group of young Swedish Muslims. It ended with a promise that prompted an ovation: “Take my word for it,” said Åkesson, “We will be the largest party at the next election.”

From the packed terrace of a restaurant overlooking the park, 100 or so onlookers from the “other” Almedalen looked on in silence. Lotta Gröning, an experienced political journalist with the Expressen newspaper, said: “It feels like it’s time to start worrying.” For months the eyes of Europeans have been trained on the travails of Greece. But in these turbulent times a seismic upheaval is also taking place in the normally sedate world of Scandinavian politics. And it is one that, in its own way, is as significant as the emergence of Syriza, or the growing respectability of Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France. In Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, the populist right is on the march – and it is wearing the traditional battle armour of the Nordic left.

During the 1930s, the idea of the Folkhemmet, or people’s home, was popularised by the Swedish Social Democratic prime minister Per Albin Hansson.It became the cornerstone of the world’s first and most advanced welfare states, in which no citizen should be left behind. Described by the Swedish author and journalist Göran Rosenberg as a place “where the state assumed the role of a benevolent paterfamilias, trusted with universal welfare”, the concept of “the people’s home” was the ideological property of the social democrats. Times have changed. In an era of globalisation, open borders and hugely reduced public spending, that ownership has expired. Others are now laying claim to the title deeds of the Folkhemmet, while promising to pull down the shutters and lock the rest of the world out.

The SD’s extraordinary surge in support echoes the rise of the Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s party), which shocked Denmark by coming second in June’s general election after promising bigger increases in public spending than its rivals and a restoration of border controls. In Norway, the right-wing populists of the Progress party have been a junior partner in government with the Conservatives since 2013. The Finns party, which shares the growing taste for “welfare nationalism”, forms part of the administration in Helsinki. It is in disgruntled regions such as Jutland that the new politics is being forged. Notoriously stoic, “Jyllanders” like to say they live in “far-away Denmark”, out of sight and out of mind when it comes to the Copenhagen politicians who decide the fate of the country. While the capital recently rebranded itself “cOPENhagen”, to celebrate its role in the global economy, the curve of Jutland’s western flank has been dismissed as part of Denmark’s “rotten banana”, blighted by depopulation and unemployment.

So when a Jutland boy achieved one of the most impressive election results in living memory, local celebrations were intense and prolonged. Athletic, clean-cut and youthful, the leader of the Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, is far less outspoken than his predecessor, Pia Kjærsgaard, who once described Muslims as people who “lie and deceive, cheat and swindle”. On 19 June, when his party stunned the country by taking 21.1% of the overall vote, Dahl more or less swept the board in Jutland. The 45-year-old has a reputation for understanding small towns and small-town people’s concerns. A Liverpool supporter, he likes to return from the capital on Mondays to his home county of Vejle for an “old boys” football game. But Dahl’s triumph was not just that of a local boy made good. It was an object lesson in stealing the clothes of the traditional left.

The DPP offered a bigger increase in public spending than Helle-Thorning Schmidt’s Social Democrats. Dahl also pledged to divert resources from refugees and asylum seekers to improving the care of the elderly. One of the most popular policies, amid widespread concern over the quality of social care, was the promise of at least one bath a week for the old and infirm who were living at home. According to one recent survey, 55% of Danes believe that EU migrants come to the country to gain access to benefits. So calls for a Brussels welfare opt-out, in order to fund pension entitlements for poorer Danes, went down well. And as part of its public spending programme, the party proposed to extend eligibility for unemployment benefits from two years to four, a reversal of a cut by Thorning-Schmidt in the previous parliament, when the prime minister known to critics as “Gucci Helle” was seeking to trim costs. Unsurprisingly, the DPP now boasts a bigger proportion of working-class voters than the Social Democrats.

Mogens Madsen, editor of the Vejle Amts Folkeblad newspaper that covers Dahl’s constituency, watched the Jutland landslide take place. “A total of 741,746 people voted for the DPP and they weren’t all racists,” he says. “They got some success due to immigration, but it was mainly that they were taking up the issues that concern ordinary Joes. “In areas like Jutland, people got tired of hearing Helle Thorning-Schmidt saying that Denmark was out of the crisis, creating good jobs again. People couldn’t see those jobs around here. Maybe it’s happening in Copenhagen, but not here. It’s impossible to sell your house for a decent price because people don’t want to move here. People were sick of this dream picture from Helle.”

In Charly’s pub in the centre of Vejle, Peter Thomsen, the owner, is mildly shocked that he has become a DPP convert. “It’s a bit crazy,” he says. “Ten years ago my ex-girlfriend voted for the DPP and I was like, ‘what the fuck?’ But now I’m voting for them. When I was at school, politics was divided into left and right: the left – the social democrats – were for the poor and vulnerable, and the right were for the big businessmen. But it’s not that simple any more. Basically, our welfare state has created a beautiful society but we need to keep it that way.” Over a drink in Charly’s, Lone Lincoln Steffensen, the DPP’s regional vice-president, repeats the senti-ments of Ragna from Västerås. “We need to take care of those who are here rather than take more in. And we need better controls over our borders. Free movement of labour in the EU means that people are able to undercut pay rates. Everyone here wants David Cameron to succeed in getting his reforms.”

Steffensen’s 19-year-old daughter, Stina, has just graduated from high school and wants to study politics at university: “It would be nice if in 20 years’ time hospital care will still be free,” she says “but that’s going to be difficult to achieve. I will pay my taxes so I want to be sure that I’m will get something worth having back. When my friends say the DPP is a racist party, I tell them come and hear what is being said. It’s not all about kicking people out of Denmark.”

Back in “cOPENhagen”, the post-election inquest is still going on. According to Maja Horst, a senior academic at the capital’s business school, there is now a serious divide emerging between urban and rural Danes, between the educated and less-educated, between the cosmopolitans and the communitarians. “There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘politics of the necessary’,” says Horst. “We’re told unemployment benefits for a longer period are not possible. People must work for longer and retire later. There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘competitive state’ replacing the welfare state to compete in the global era. But in the countryside, where people are not so confident about the future, the DPP has placed itself on the side of ordinary people, on the side of ‘protecting the Denmark we know’. The trouble is that in attempting to get back that feeling that we’re all in it together, they end up hitting on the immigrants.”

The day after Åkesson’s Almedalen park speech, Mona Sahlin was also trying to explain what’s going wrong. Sahlin led the Swedish Social Democrats from 2007 to 2011 and is now the country’s official coordinator against violent extremism. She knew the Sweden Democrats leader as a young tyro in the 1990s. “If someone had told me then that I’d be sitting on the grass at Almedalen in 2015, discussing whether Jimmie Åkesson could be leading the largest party after the next election I would have just laughed,” she says.

So how has it come to pass?
“Some people might think it’s all about immigration but I don’t think that’s the whole story,” says Sahlin. “There is something lacking in mainstream politics. People like those who came to see Åkersson don’t trust politicians any more. They don’t trust Stockholm. They think things aren’t fair. They feel they aren’t listened to. They don’t listen to the same music or live in the same places as a perceived elite. There is a need to reconnect. “But mainstream politicians must have the courage to take Åkersson on. Why does no one call him out on the fact that he says he hates Islamic State, but many of the 80,000 asylum seekers Sweden is taking in are fleeing IS? What hypocrisy!” Journalist and author Lisa Bjurwald remembers covering the Sweden Democrats in 1996 as a young reporter. “There were guys throwing bottles at me shouting ‘Jew journalist’. They have now ditched the Aryan race, white nation stuff of course, because they’re cynical and power-hungry.”

The author of Europe’s Shame, a study of the rise of the European far right, Bjurwald views the journey of Åkesson into the mainstream with indignation. “They are managing to position themselves as caring and patriotic. Against ‘Islamicisation’ but pro-family and pro-welfare state. Åkersson is like a blank sheet of paper. The middle-class boy next door. A good degree, two cats, a baby son. But over half a million Swedes have voted for a party whose hardcore voters and local politicians have called Roma people swarms of locusts, and called black people apes.” In the runup to Åkersson’s Almedalen speech, older members of the audience were artfully taken back to their childhoods, as the sound system played a song from the 1971 film Emil of Lonneberga, based on the much-loved books by Astrid Lingren, who also introduced the world to Pippi Longstocking. The film, set in rural Småland where life was hard but neighbours helped each other out, is an evocation of innocent, simpler times. For a long time – longer than anywhere else in Europe – Scandinavian democracies seemed to hold on to those times. Not any more.
© The Guardian


Hungarian Gypsies struggle under tough tactics of far-right mayor

The workers wake up in the middle of the night and walk miles to get to their jobs by 6 a.m. Taking up hoes and rakes, they toil for hours with little chance of rest. Soon surveillance cameras shaped like eyeglasses will track their every move.

27/7/2015- The workers are mostly Gypsy men and women, and their boss is a new far-right mayor who is cracking down on a group his Jobbik party often casts as an enemy. David Janiczak's leaderhip in Ozd gives clues into what Hungary might feel like if the surging Jobbik managed to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Orban's conservative Fidesz party — which is slumping in popularity. Jobbik now runs about a dozen Hungarian towns and holds 12 percent of the seats in the national parliament. It is also the most popular party with young voters. If the trend continues, the party could pose a serious challenge to Fidesz in 2018 parliamentary elections. Since Janiczak won power in Ozd — whose population of 34,000 is about one-third Gypsy — members of the minority who work on city-run farmland and other public projects have seen their work conditions get much harsher. The mayor has imposed longer hours, fewer breaks and soon the introduction of surveillance cameras to ensure that they don't slack off.

Janiczak, 28, suggested that the tough work conditions were at least in part intended to drive Roma away. "Every person in Ozd has two options — they either live in order and integrity and build the city, or they destroy it," Janiczak told The Associated Press. "The majority of these destructive people are Gypsies, without whom ... it would be easier for the city to develop." With fewer Roma, Janiczak said, the city would spend less on social benefits and people would feel safer. Jobbik often uses the term "Gypsy crimes" to refer to petty thefts and other law-breaking rarely investigated by police. If efforts to integrate the "destroyers" are unsuccessful, he added, "authorities will use the full force of the law." Jobbik is using Ozd as a "laboratory of government," experimenting with policies and ideas at the municipal level as its support grows across the country, said Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute, which has been closely following Jobbik for years.

While Jobbik's electoral campaigns last year presented candidates with their families or pets — and downplayed the party's radical views — Kreko said that Ozd showed that beneath the surface Jobbik has not really changed. "The intentions and plans of Jobbik and its treatment of the public works employees clearly refute its efforts to soften its image," Kreko said. "What is functioning is a very ideological, discriminative racism." During the communist era, Ozd, 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, had a steel mill which employed some 14,000 people. After the mill and a coal mine closed in the 1990s, the unemployment rate jumped to over 20 percent and unskilled Roma were among the most affected.

Roma laborers make up the bulk of 1,300 Ozd residents taking part in a public employment program that was introduced across Hungary in late 2013 by the Orban government. After Janiczak took office last year he enforced the rules in a stricter way and implemented new ones, such as the use of surveillance cameras. Net pay for unskilled workers is around 51,000 forints ($180, 165 euros) per month, and many are glad to take it as the government has also greatly cut unemployment benefits, which are now called "work search allowances." On a recent spring day, a crew of about a dozen laborers was preparing some farmland for planting on the outskirts of town. Rakes and hoes in hand, their complaints ranged from getting only one 5-minute break an hour to a lack of drinking water and toilet facilities. Their work day now starts as much as two hours earlier than before Janiczak took over, meaning many need to walk to work because there are few public transportation options so early in the day.

Indignation was strongest over a clause in the new work contract allowing officials to take video and photos of their work performance. "This is only about intimidation," said Bela Biro, a Roma former steel mill worker who works on the city-run farming project. "We don't dare sit down for five minutes. They said we can't, even if blood is running from our nose." Janiczak said he is only carrying out existing laws. "We want nothing else but to enforce order, enforce employment regulations and educate these people to work," he said. "I think their issue is not with walking, but with ... having to do actual work instead of just showing up." As for the surveillance, Janiczak said the city had spent 340,000 forints ($1,260; 1,100 euros) on eight video cameras, including two which look like eyeglasses, not just to oversee workers but also to protect supervisors from threats and attacks.

"This is going to clear up many disputes," said the mayor. "In the developed, civilized world every workplace has cameras. Why should the public workers be exempt from this?" Those in the public employment program, he said, should "get used to being observed." Janiczak said the surveillance plan had been cleared by an official investigation, and that recordings would be made on "exceptional occasions." Human rights activists said the measures amounted to harassment. "To burden the already defenseless public works employees with the issue of surveillance is unacceptable and embitters their lives," said Mate Szabo, a director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. "It would be more justified to keep the job inspectors under surveillance instead and monitor their treatment of the workers."

Kriszta Bodis, a rights advocate who has been working with the Roma in Ozd for many years, said the mood in the community had deteriorated since Janiczak's victory. "I think the humiliation is what is much stronger now than before," Bodis said. The new mayor said he his job-creation plans would potentially draw back many of the 15,000 Ozd residents who left over the past two decades. As part of that plan, Janiczak has nominated Ozd as the location for one of several new prisons being built by the government by 2019, which could add 250 jobs. A prison "also deters criminals," the mayor said. Many of the local Roma live in dire poverty in slums where they lack running water and where the city does not come to remove their garbage. They share a communal water pump and burn garbage nearby. Bodis, who runs the Your Place foundation which mentors disadvantaged Roma students, argued for a more compassionate approach. "Discipline and order are important," Bodis said. "But it is more important to provide opportunities."
© The Associated Press


The Hungarian far-right and Islam

27/7/2015- Traditionally, Hungary’s extreme right was not openly Islamophobic. In fact, the Hungarian right-wing in general tended to differ markedly from conservative politicians in North America and much of western Europe in its support for Palestinian nationhood and its criticism of Israel. At the time of the war with Hezbollah back in 2006, I wrote a response to a piece published in Magyar Nemzet, which resulted in a brief public exchange with a prominent Hungarian publicist. I had long suspected that the Hungarian right’s attitudes towards Islam, Israel and Palestinians specifically, was more a result of inherent, knee-jerk antisemitism, rather than genuine concern for Palestinian human rights.

But times are certainly changing and the Hungarian right’s fascination with, and relative respect for, Islam is coming to an end, perhaps as a result of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France earlier this year and maybe even more so due to the large waves of Muslim refugees fleeing Syria and Afghanistan, and arriving in Hungary by the hundreds each day. Less than two years ago, in 2013, Jobbik leader Gábor Vona referred to Islam as “the last hope for humankind, in the darkness of liberalism and globalization.” He added: “A single culture tries to preserve its heritage, and this is the Islamic world.” For many years, the Hungarian right saw in Islam the antithesis of everything and everyone they hated: Jews, liberals, atheists, urbanites, Americans and westerners, in general.

Hungary’s tiny Muslim community (population: 5,579–at least according to the 2011 census) was not perceived as posing any kind of threat to Hungarian national culture. In fact, with the dearth of mosques in Hungary, Islam was little more than a piece of distant history, with the occasional Ottoman era minaret, or the Gül Baba mausoleum in the Buda hills, serving as a totally innocuous reminder of the past.

The current refugee crisis and terrorism in western Europe has changed the discourse on the Hungarian right (and not only in Jobbik, but also in Fidesz) on the subject of Islam. Suddenly, a trope has developed, where thanks to the “mistakes” of liberal western European politicians, much of the EU west of Austria is “overrun” by Muslims, national cultures face destruction and demographic doom hangs over “Christian” Europe. The other end of this dichotomy is eastern Europe, where Muslim immigration has barely made a dent and where politicians like Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have the “good judgement” to fight multiculturalism, to close off the borders and to save the region from creeping Islam and cultural diversity.

This is a major change in perceptions and narratives on the Hungarian right, and Hungarian imam Ahmed Miklós Kovács has picked up on it as well. Mr. Kovács is a leader within Budapest’s Muslim community and he published a piece on his Facebook profile a few days ago, in which he commented on this dramatic shift:
We have arrived at a turning point. A few years ago, we Muslims had no problems with the so-called radical right in Hungary, otherwise known as the national side, or the far right, and with its organizations, such as the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM), the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), Jobbik, the Hungarian Guard, etc. We thought that they were not against us, that they will leave Muslims alone. What’s more, we thought that many of them even sympathized with us. Some of them even converted to Islam and some in our own circles supported them in elections. In 2010, many of us voted for Jobbik and at the time Gábor Vona referred to Islam as the last bastion of humanity and civilization. But today, all of this has changed drastically. We have now become their main enemy. We have now replaced the Jews and the Gypsies, as prime targets of their hate.”

Mr. Kovács suggested that Hungarian Muslims feel abandoned, as the same civil rights groups that stand up for Roma rights or speak out against antisemitism, don’t seem interested in protesting Islamophobia. He then proceeded to declare than supporting Jobbik, the Hungarian Guard, HVIM or any other far right movement in Hungary is considered a “haram,” or a deeply sinful, forbidden act for all Muslims. One reader who responded to Mr. Kovács under the name Nour El Huda Boudjaoui, seemed exasperated that Jobbik, which only two years ago had been “a great Arabist” in its outlook, has changed so much. There is somewhat of a lesson to be learned in all of this. Just because a virulently racist group doesn’t attack one specific demographic (due to political considerations), does not mean that this demographic should believe that they are somehow forever immune to the hate and prejudice espoused by these extremists. Nor does it mean that just because one’s own group is not being attacked, one should not show solidarity with those who are targets, from different cultural, religious or ethnic groups.
© The Hungarian Free Press


Hungary PM: Illegal migration clearly linked with terror threat

25/7/2015- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday there was a clear link between illegal migrants heading to Europe and a rising threat of terrorism, justifying his conservative government's tough anti-immigration stance. The landlocked central European country is part of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone, making it attractive to migrants coming through the Balkans. It has registered more than 80,000 migrants so far this year, nearly double the number in all of 2014. Most are from poor or conflict-ridden countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, looking to move on to wealthier western Europe. Hungary plans to complete a four-meter-high (12 feet) fence along its border with southern neighbor Serbia by November to stem the flow of migrants. The plan has drawn criticism from Serbia as well as the United Nations' refugee agency.

"There is a clear link between illegal migrants coming to Europe and the spread of terrorism," Orban said in an annual speech in Romania, where he usually outlines his political vision for the coming years.  "It is obvious that we simply cannot filter out hostile terrorists from this enormous crowd." The issue of migration has become highly politicized in Hungary, with Orban's government mounting a billboard campaign telling migrants to respect Hungary's laws and stoking fears that foreigners could snatch the jobs of Hungarians. "Our answer is clear: we would like to preserve Europe for Europeans ... and this also requires an effort from other (countries)," Orban said. "But there is something that we would not only like but we want: to preserve Hungary for Hungarians." Illegal immigration had contributed to a rise in unemployment and crime in Western countries, he said.

Hungary's parliament has passed legislation, defying U.N. criticism, to shorten the time for screening asylum claims and to reject applications from migrants who have passed through third countries it considers safe without seeking asylum there. Orban, whose Fidesz party is losing ground to Hungary's far-right, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Jobbik party, said the "human rights fundamentalism" of the West provided moral encouragement to migrants. European Union policies were not robust enough to defend its own citizens from the threats posed by rising immigration, he said.
© Reuters


Poland: Warsaw hosts rival pro- and anti-migrant protests

25/7/2015- Two demonstrations were held in Warsaw Saturday, with participants in one welcoming migrants into their country while rival protesters chanted "no to migrants." "Today it's migrants, tomorrow it's terrorists," some 300 far-right protesters chanted, waving banners that read: "Poland does not have the means to welcome migrants." Meanwhile some 100 people carrying bread and salt -- a Polish tradition symbolising hospitality -- stood near Warsaw's central train station to welcome asylum seekers into the eastern European country. Poland has said it is ready to welcome 2,000 migrants as Europe seeks to share the burden on Italy and Greece, on whose Mediterranean coastlines scores of thousands of migrants have arrived in recent months.


UK: MPs call for 'anti-Muslim paramilitary manual' website to be investigated

Far-right Gates of Vienna website is also promoting upcoming London exhibition of Muhammad cartoons which it is feared is intended to incite Islamist violence.

27/7/2015- A group of MPs have called for an investigation into a far-right website described as a training manual for anti-Muslim paramilitaries – amid fears that an upcoming exhibition of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in London is designed to incite Islamist violence. The Gates of Vienna website has been heavily promoting the exhibition, which is understood to feature the same drawings shown in Texas in May when two gunmen attempted to storm the event and were killed by police. It has been organised by the former Ukip parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Waters and is set to take place at a location in central London on 18 September with tickets priced at £35. Organisers say among those attending will be Geert Wilders, the Dutch rightwing politician who has espoused controversial views on Islam.

In a report on the so-called British counter-jihadist movement, published on Monday, the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate called for the exhibition to be banned. Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive, said: “Our concern is that the event is intended to provoke a reaction from British Muslims. It is not about freedom of speech, it is about incitement. The authorities cannot allow this event to go ahead. Communities shouldn’t rise to their bait, we must stand together as a show of strength.” Lowles also said he had serious concerns about material published on the Gates of Vienna website. The site – the name of which refers to a 1683 battle between European forces and the Ottoman empire – contains detailed descriptions of how anti-Muslim paramilitary groups could operate during a conflict with European Muslims. One entry is a fictionalised account of a predicted race war, described as “a hard look at the near future in Britain”, with a section entitled “A guide to amateur bomb-making”. Waters is a contributor to the site and has written a lengthy post about the London exhibition.

Lowles said he believed the site was hosted on British servers. “If a Muslim had a similar website, which includes bomb manuals and details about assassinations and establishing paramilitary groups, then you can be sure action would be taken,” he added. The Labour MPs Ian Austin, Ruth Smeeth, Imran Hussain, Paula Sherriff, Wes Streeting and John Cryer have written to the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to consider if the site’s owners are breaching the law. The letter reads: “It is clear that these are the ideas that inspired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and as such it is deeply troubling that they are available to inspire others. We would urge you to investigate the Gates of Vienna website and take appropriate action if anyone involved is deemed to be promoting terrorism and civil disorder.”

Austin told the Guardian he would also be raising the issue with Theresa May. “I am shocked that the Gates of Vienna website can publish articles promoting a strategy for civil war,” he said. “At a time when we should all be concerned about terrorism it is imperative that the police investigate this website and those behind the calls for civil war and I’ll be raising this with the home secretary.” He added that the exhibition of Muhammad cartoons was “clearly [intended] to provoke a reaction from British Muslims and we must all ensure this does not happen”. Wilders was also present at the exhibition of the cartoons in Texas, which was run by the anti-Islam American Freedom Defense Initiative and hosted by the group’s co-founder, Pamela Geller, a US blogger and speaker who is banned from entering the UK over her anti-Muslim views.

Vive Charlie, an online magazine set up after the attacks by Islamist extremists on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris, is co-hosting the exhibition along with Waters’ website Sharia Watch and the fringe far-right party Liberty GB. The magazine, which has no connection to the French title, is calling for artwork submissions. Waters said in a statement on Sharia Watch: “It is vital, in this era of censorship and fear, that we stand together in defiance and demand our right to free expression … We will not, and cannot, succumb to violent threats. The outlook for our democracy depends on the actions we take today.” A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said an appropriate policing plan would be put in place for the event but would not comment further.
© The Guardian


UK: Holocaust denier David Irving speaks at secret neo-Nazi meeting

Historian and holocaust denier David Irving spoke at secret meeting of neo-Nazis and fascist sympathizers in London on Saturday, it has emerged.

27/7/2015- The discredited academic gave a talk at the Rembrandt Hotel in Kensington, where he was billed as the world’s “MOST respected historian” and an “expert on World War II.” Irving gave a speech titled “Saturation Bombing in World War II – who is to blame?” to an audience of a 120 right-wing sympathizers, including women and children. During his talk, Irving reportedly described the Royal Air Force (RAF) as “war criminals” for their bombing campaign over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Former Spandau prison worker Abdallah Melaouhi, who cared for Hitler’s one-time deputy Rudolf Hess during his imprisonment, was also a speaker at the event. Melaouhi has described Hess, who hanged himself in 1987 while serving a life sentence, as “a man of great vision, intelligence and compassion.” According to the Daily Mail, an invitation for the event asked those wishing to attend to call a mobile number at 8am on Saturday.

Attendees were then told to meet at South Kensington Tube station at 11am, where retired teacher and known fascist Michael Woodbridge led them to the four-star Rembrandt Hotel. The talk was held in the St James function room, which had been booked under a different name. Attendees included members of the British National Party (BNP), the far-right Greek Golden Dawn and Polish nationalist skinheads wearing camouflage. Irving is notorious for denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers and the genocide of millions of people during World War II. In 1996, the historian sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books for defamation after being called a holocaust denier. Irving lost the lawsuit, which reportedly cost him £2 million in legal fees. Irving has been barred from entering several countries due to his holocaust denial, including Austria, Germany, Italy and Canada.
Saturday’s secret meeting comes three months after a meeting of far-right figures from around the world known as the London Forum.

Gerry Gable of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said: “This conference is another piece of evidence of a growing series of closed international far-right extremist conferences.
“The core movers range from elderly Holocaust deniers to well-educated men and women who are being trained in ideologies of hate and being made ready for potential acts of terrorism.”

© RT


UK: Far-right organisation the National Front march in Wakefield

25/7/2015- Far-right organisation the National Front marched through the streets of Wakefield for the first time since 2001. The group said it had been given police permission to hold its “Stop Immigration” march of today (Saturday). Marchers assembled in the city and walked to an agreed meeting place for a rally, the National Front said.  Police officers from the Wakefield Central team said there were 96 NF demonstrators and no arrests were made. Nine attendees were served notices to leave prior to the demonstration. Officers said: “Thanks to the people of Wakefield for your dignified and peaceful response to the demonstration.”
© Pontefract & Castleford Express


Germany: Number of far-right killings since 1990 revised up

The number of murder cases with a far-right motive since 1990 is higher then previously thought, police data show. The Greens party requested a revision after the killings allegedly committed by the NSU came to light.

27/7/2015- Data released by Germany's Interior Ministry, based on findings from Germany's Federal Criminal Office (BKA) and its state counterparts (LKA) show there have been at least 15 more people murdered by right-wing perpetrators in the last 25 years than previously thought. Of the 745 cases that were re-examined, there were at least 15 more cases nationwide related to far-right violence, according to the report, which was released on Monday. In total, there were 69 far-right assaults that resulted in 75 deaths and 145 injuries since 1990. Nine of the 15 additional murder cases announced on Monday occurred in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which had already released state data at the end of June. The new analysis had been requested by the Greens party's parliamentary group after the 10 killings allegedly committed by the neo-Nazi terror cell National Socialist Underground (NSU) had come to light in 2011.

The Greens have complained about the methods used to collate the data. While Brandenburg made use of information obtained from family members and the general public, other states did not avail themselves of that option, distorting the findings, according to critics. Lawmaker Monika Lazar told the German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that the government had "crashed into a wall with its eyes open" with regard to the review. Lazar also criticized the fact that the BKA's review solely focused on identifying cases with an extremist or terrorist background, which she says would exclude many cases with a far-right motive that did not go as far as being classed as "intending to disregard or do away with the constitution." The Interior Ministry pointed out that the Federal Criminal Office mainly collated data from the individual states and that the methods used in their reviews was up to them.
© The Deutsche Welle.


German police call for ban on demonstrations near refugee centers

27/7/2015- The head of the German Police Union is calling for a ban on demonstrations within a kilometer of centers housing refugees amid a string of violent incidents. Rainer Wendt told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper Monday that "people who flee persecution have the right not to look into the faces of those throwing stones." Germany is seeing a rise in anti-foreigner attacks and vandalism amid a spike in asylum applications, which are expected to double this year. On Sunday, vandals broke half a dozen windows in a hotel in the eastern city of Dresden that is being converted to start to house refugees this week. On Friday supporters of a far-right party clashed with backers of a new camp for refugees in Dresden. Projectiles were thrown and three people were injured.
© The Associated Press


Germany: Politician's car blown up in far-right heartland

The car of a left-wing politician was blown up early on Monday morning in an east German town that has been the scene of fierce anti-refugee protests, with the politician claiming he is "top of the hit list" for the far-right.

27/7/2015- Michael Richter, chair of the Linke (Left Party) in Freital on the outskirts of Dresden, told news site MOPO24 he believed the far-right were behind the attack. “I have organized the pro-asylum seeker events in the town,” he said. “I'm right at the top of the hit list.” So far there is no concrete evidence linking far-right groups to the crime, with police only confirming the explosion took place at around 12.45am on Monday morning. Officials are currently investigating the crime scene. Richter, who had already received several death threats before the attack, was awoken in the night by the explosion in front of his house. The blast was strong enough to damage cars several meters away from Richter's Volkswagen Polo.

Freital has become synonymous in Germany with right-wing extremism in recent weeks due to anti-immigration protests which have taken place in the town. In June, 160 demonstrators tried for three days to prevent refugees from entering a hotel they are being housed in in the town. Spiegel reported that they were chanting “Criminal foreigners – out, out, out!”. In early July anti-refugee protesters took over a town hall meeting with angry locals claiming money was being wasted on asylum seekers. Freital is situated on the outskirts of Dresden which is the birthplace of the Pegida movement, a xenophobic organization which claims to be fighting against a Muslim take-over of the West. At its high point at the start of 2015, Pegida was bringing 20,000 people onto the streets for its weekly marches.

The association "Dresden without Nazis" said on its Facebook page that "Michael Richter, as one of the faces of the Organisation for Acceptance and Tolerance, has worked for months in Freital against the hegemony the Nazis have on the streets - We stand in solidarity with Richter."

Attacks on refugees in east Germany continue
Refugees suffered attacks in Brandenburg Dresden and Thuringia over the weekend, as a recent pattern of attacks on refugees and their housing in eastern Germany continued. A refugee family with two young daughters aged two and five awoke to a fire in their apartment in Brandenburg an der Havel on Saturday night. Someone had doused a newspaper in fire accelerant and thrown it at the family's front door. The 24-year-old mother first smelled something burning and woke her 27-year-old husband, who was able to put out the flames. Police said that the perpetrator must have come through the front entrance of the apartment building, which was open, and was able to escape undetected.

In Dresden, a group of 27 people attacked a refugee home with stones. Police were able to identify the suspects shortly after the attack. On Friday four Syrian asylum-seekers in the Thuringian town of Greiz were injured when, according to their account, a group of young men attacked them and started beating them up. Police arrested three people aged 18, 23 and 26. Officials said they did not rule out that the attack was motivated by xenophobia. A demonstration by the far-right National Democratic Party's (NPD) supporters also turned violent on Friday when protesters gathered to demonstrate against asylum-seekers.

State leader: send more refugees to the east
The Minister-President of the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, said in an interview on Sunday with newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he wants more refugees to be sent to less-populous regions in eastern Germany. Areas that take in more refugees could also receive some compensation, he suggested.
© The Local - Germany


German right-wing protest against refugees ends in violence

A demonstration by members of a German right-wing extremist party protesting against a tent camp for refugees in Dresden turned violent, with several people injured. But refugees have now begun to move in.

25/7/2015- Demonstrators from the German right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) who were protesting against a tent camp set up to house refugees in the eastern city of Dresden attacked counter-demonstrators on Friday evening, resulting in several injuries. Protesters set off firecrackers and threw stones and bottles. The incident involved some 200 right-wing extremists and 350 people who gathered to oppose them. A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that three people needed first-aid treatment and one protester was temporarily detained. Despite the protests, the first refugees were able to move into the tent camp, which is to provide temporary housing for up to 800 people, according to authorities. The camp was set up on Friday by the German Red Cross, which is running the facility, and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).

'Shocking attacks'
The Red Cross chairman for the state of Saxony, Rüdiger Unger, said Red Cross workers had been attacked by suspected anti-refugee protesters while putting up the tents. Unger said he was "profoundly shocked" by the incidents, adding: "I have never before experienced Red Cross workers being attacked during operations." Most of the refugees due to arrive in Dresden have fled war-torn Syria.

Housing problem
Authorities in the state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, say that the state took in 10,500 asylum seekers in the first half of the year - three times as many as in the same period last year - making it necessary to extend reception facilities. They say the some 60 tents are only a temporary measure and will be taken down again when the situation allows. In recent months, a number of refugee accommodation facilities have been set on fire in Germany in protest at the growing wave of asylum seekers coming to the country.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Czech, Polish and Slovak neo-Nazis protest migrants in Ostrava, target Roma area

25/7/2015- Two demonstrations were held in the center of Ostrava today, one in support of receiving refuguees and against xenophobia, and the other, organized by football hooligans and neo-Nazis, against receiving refugees. After both events were officially ended, some anti-immigrant demonstrators attempted to make their way into the Přívoz quarter, where many Romani people live. Police detained more than 60 right-wing extremists after the demonstrations. Starting at 14:00 today, approximately 50 people in favor of receiving refugees first gathered near the fountain at the Elektra transportation stop on Nádražní Street. The "Wake Up the Houses" (Probuď domy) initiative, in collaboration with the ProAlt initiative, organized an assembly called "Colorful Ostrava - Let's Stop Hatred" in response to the growing wave of xenophobia in Czech society. Participants in the gathering were able to taste Arabian food and listen to Arabian music.

"We believe there is a need to say an unequivocal 'NO' to the efforts of the populists and radicals to exploit the social and societal frustration of people in order to gain power and restrict our civil rights. Two years ago the pretext for their aggressive actions was a Roma-related issue, now it's refugees. The essence of these actions and the motivation of their organizers, however, remain the same," Ondřej Marek of the ProAlt branch in Opava and Ostrava explained before the demonstration got underway.  At 15:00 a mixture of Baník Ostrava and GKS Katowice football hooligans, extremists from the Slovak Solidarity party, neo-Nazis and some so-called ordinary people assembled on Masaryk Square. Speakers from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia warned against an "unmanaged invasion of immigrants." Just after 16:00, when the anti-immigrant hate demonstration was officially ended, the hardcore neo-Nazis set off in the direction of the Přívoz quarter. Local Romani residents were their target.

According to news server, some gave the Nazi salute along the way and chanted slogans like "White Bohemia" or "Bohemia for the Czechs". The neo-Nazis made it to just in front of Svatopluk Čech Square, where they attempted to flee the riot police who had been monitoring their march. Police intervened against the neo-Nazis, gradually detaining more than 60. Riot officers led them away with their hands above their heads and asked them for their identification. "Traffic was seriously disrupted and we detained 63 persons on suspicion of a misdemeanor," Regional Police spokesperson Gabriela Holčáková told news server "We have determined their identities and released most of them on the spot - two people were taken to the station."
© Romea.


Sweden right-wingers plan LGBT march through Stockholm's Muslim neighbourhoods

25/7/2015- Right-wing nationalists in Sweden are planning a gay pride event to take place in Muslim-majority neighbourhoods of Stockholm. The organisers of Järva Pride are planning a march through the districts of Tensta and Husby in the Swedish capital on 29 July, areas that are known to have large Muslim populations. On the event's Facebook page the organisers insist there will be "public kissing" and singing at the event. The march has been heavily criticised by left-wingers and some gay rights activists who see it as a provocation and have branded it "xenophobic". Other LGBT supporters have backed the march, although it has sometimes been unclear whether foreign supporters are aware of the event's political affiliations. Both sides have made their feelings known on the event's Facebook page. The man behind the march is Jan Sjunnesson, the former editor-in-chief of Samtiden, the conservative newspaper of the Swedish Democrats party. Writing on his blog Mr Sjunnesson said: "The same laws of assembly and expression should apply everywhere, regardless of the area or population." A counter-demonstration is now also scheduled to take place. The Swedish Democrats, running on anti-immigration platform, saw gains in Sweden's 2014 general election, but have remained largely isolated in the Swedish parliament.
© The Independent


Gay rights in Eastern Europe: new battleground for Russia and the West

25/7/2015- T he first time this tiny Baltic nation held a gay pride march, the minuscule crowd was pelted with rotten eggs and bottles under the copper-green spires of Riga’s medieval old city. The participants — all 40 of them — fled to safety in a church. That was a decade ago. This year’s parade drew thousands from across Europe, and the egg-throwers stayed at home. Eastern Europe, long a stronghold of virulent homophobia, is reexamining attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and the debate has become a new battleground in the conflict between Russia and the West. The Kremlin has seized the opening, warning its former satellite states that if they align with decadent Europe, moral collapse will soon follow.

Russia’s arguments have taken hold in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries outside the European Union’s high walls, where pro-Western leaders have resisted European demands for tolerance of gays and lesbians. A gay pride march in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, last month ended in fistfights and controversy. Gay rights organizers in Georgia called off public events after a 2013 march in Tbilisi was beset by Orthodox priests wielding stools and stinging nettles. But in Latvia, which long ago made a firm choice to steer away from its old Kremlin overlords, tolerance of gays and lesbians has increased markedly in the 11 years since it joined the European Union. When the foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, came out as gay last fall, he predicted “mega-hysteria” — but the reaction was barely a ripple.

“The E.U. has helped. Latvians want to fit in,” said Linda Freimane, a longtime Latvian gay rights activist who helped organize this year’s parade, which drew people spanning the width of the 28-nation European Union. “We want to be the good guys in school.” The tug-of-war over gay rights has taken on special significance after a recent string of U.S. court decisions upholding same-sex marriage. Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transition from her old life as Bruce, meanwhile, has thrown a spotlight on transgender issues and acceptance.

Moves toward acceptance
In Latvia in 2005, hundreds of furious anti-gay counterprotesters poured into Riga’s cobblestone streets on a July afternoon so drizzly that when they tried to burn a rainbow flag, they had trouble getting it to ignite. The jeering crowds far outnumbered the gay rights marchers, who were hemmed in by a thick cordon of police officers. Latvia had joined the European Union a year earlier, and membership in the club had just started to remake the nation’s socially conservative attitudes. Citizens suddenly had the right to travel and work anywhere in Europe they pleased, and they flocked westward in droves, to countries tolerant of gays and lesbians. A new generation has come of age with little or no memory of the Soviet era, when homosexuality was outlawed.

After the calm following the foreign minister’s coming out on Twitter, “people realized there wasn’t this groundswell of homophobia in society,” said Pauls Raudseps, a columnist for Latvia’s Ir newsweekly. At this year’s parade, families carried a rainbow of balloons underneath the watchful carved faces on the buildings in Riga’s Art Nouveau quarter. Mothers pushing strollers walked alongside men carrying banners promoting tolerance. The week before, the U.S. Embassy hoisted the rainbow flag alongside the Stars and Stripes, and top diplomats marched among the crowds wearing visors designed especially for the occasion.

But challenges remain. Just days before last month’s parade, Latvia’s Parliament approved a law requiring “virtuous” education in the classroom that promotes traditional marriage and family structures. The measure was sponsored by Latvia’s largest ethnic Russian party, but it was approved with support from conservative anti-Russian nationalists. “Why do we need to be like everyone else? We don’t need European culture. We don’t need global culture,” said Viktorija Petravska, 22, a gardener who drove three hours to join the several dozen counterprotesters at the Riga parade. In Ukraine and Georgia, the divisions have been far starker. Wedged between Russia and the West, neither nation has taken decisive steps to be more welcoming toward their gay citizens. Even many of the pro-European protesters who overthrew Ukraine’s Russian-friendly president consider gay rights to be radioactive. Before Ukraine signed a landmark E.U. pact, leaders won a reprieve from E.U. anti-discrimination demands, to the disappointment of the country’s gay rights advocates.

Russia has seized the opening, pushing hard to make itself the leader of the traditional values camp and warning both at home and abroad that Western values eat at family structures and society’s basic fabric. “In place of Victory Parades in Kiev there will be gay parades,” wrote Alexei Pushkov, chairman the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, as the conflict in Ukraine heated up last year. The Russian anti-gay rhetoric has promoted the idea that gay marriage is a weapon aimed straight at the Kremlin. “This issue is very tightly connected with anti-Western, anti-American ideas,” said Yury Gavrikov, a leading gay rights activist in St. Petersburg.

Clashes in Kiev
In Ukraine, a gay rights march that took place on the outskirts of Kiev last month was disrupted by far-right opponents who threw smoke bombs and scuffled with participants and the police officers protecting them. Most of the violence came from members of the Right Sector group, a ructious Ukrainian nationalist organization born of the pro-European protests that is heavily armed and has taken part in the fighting against the Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east. Right Sector is also suspected in a recent series of attacks on Kiev’s gay clubs. Even mainstream pro-European politicians such as Kiev’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, a leader of the 2013 protest movement, encouraged activists to stay home. Ukrainian attitudes are so overwhelmingly skeptical toward gay rights that advocates considered President Petro Poroshenko’s decision not to oppose their event a major win.

“For years, there was a situation where this topic wasn’t really talked about in our society,” said Denis Panin, a member of the board of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian gay rights organization. “But if you ask people’s individual attitudes, they would say they didn’t approve of gay people.” And in Georgia, opportunities for gay rights advocates seem even more dismal. The Georgian Orthodox Church — which has powerful historic ties to its Russian Orthodox counterparts — has come out swinging against any effort to promote tolerance of gays and lesbians. It succeeded in briefly tying up legislation required for E.U. visa liberalization, a popular pro-European measure, because Europe required that Georgia outlaw anti-gay discrimination. The black-clad priests who took a leading role in the violent anti-gay riot in 2013 wielded weapons against a handful of pro-tolerance protesters.

Many Latvians credit Europe for the shifting attitudes in their nation. Some hope the wave might roll into Ukraine and Georgia if those countries succeed in forging closer bonds with the West. “It’s an incredible feeling. You can’t even express it in words,” said Kaspars Zalitis, a gay rights activist who participated in Latvia’s 2005 march and was a main organizer this year. “If nobody believed we are becoming an open, democratic society, this is proof of it. We are becoming a normal European country. It’s part of being in the E.U.”
© The Washington Post


Headlines 24 July, 2015

Netherlands: Amsterdam gets ready to celebrate Gay Pride

Some 350,000 people are expected in Amsterdam over the coming week to celebrate Gay Pride. Brandon Hartley looks back at the event’s history and what you can expect during the week long 2015 edition

24/7/2015- The annual celebration of gay, lesbian, and transgender culture first took place in Amsterdam in 1996. Since then, it’s become one of the city’s most popular summertime jubilees. In its early days, the annual extravaganza was a bit smaller and a little wilder than it is now. Organisers have made efforts to tone down the amount of nudity in recent years during popular events like the colossal canal parade in order to make the celebration more family-friendly and accessible for a wider audience. Gay Pride was originally launched to help strengthen the city’s gay friendly image while also drawing attention to important issues that impact citizens in the Netherlands and other nations around the world. Today it features an extensive programme of events ranging from parties to film screenings and museum exhibitions. Over 350,000 visitors flood into the city for the celebration every year, making it one of the largest annual Gay Pride events in the world.

Not Just a Party
While many attendees go to Amsterdam Gay Pride to dance and have fun, it also serves as a reminder that there’s still much to be done for gay communities both here
and abroad. ‘In terms of LGBT rights a huge amount has been achieved,’ Peter de Ruijter, chairman of gay rights lobby group COC told ‘[Our] focus in the Netherlands is now on acceptance in daily life, in schools, sports clubs, amongst seniors and by religious groups. A lot of effort by many people, initiatives and organisations is aimed at raising awareness and improving acceptance through lectures, discussions, and organising activities around (LGBT) diversity.’

The canal parade
The crown jewel in Amsterdam Gay Pride’s annual programme is definitely the canal parade. This year’s edition is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 1 August. Tens 
 of thousands of spectators line up along the parade route to watch dozens of barges sail down the Prinsengracht and along the Amstel River. Many feature vibrant decorations and dancers in elaborate costumes, DJs, and sound systems powerful enough to shake nearby windows and set off car alarms. In prior editions, the boats have been sponsored by Dutch corporations and even local politicians sometimes hop aboard them to ‘shake their groove thing’. An increasingly diverse array have appeared in recent years. The 2013 parade included a boat sponsored by the Dutch football association and featured an appearance by the then manager Louis van Gaal. He even danced. Well, a little bit.

Can’t make it to the parade this year? You can still attend virtually via Pridestream. This innovative project will send an ‘empty’ boat down the waterways of Amster-dam but that doesn’t mean that they’re won’t be anybody on it. Thousands of people around the world will climb aboard by logging on to Pridestream’s website. The boat, which is equipped with cameras, will offer virtual attendees a 360-degree panoramic view of the celebration. Meanwhile, those along the parade route will be able to view video messages on its large screens that have been submitted by people from all around the world. For many of them, it’s not possible to celebrate Gay Pride events in their native countries. Pridestream will allow them to do so via the internet without fear of reprisals from government officials and others.

Gay Pride 2015
‘We have 160 events during the nine days of our festivals,’ AGP spokesman Danny de Vries told ‘Sports, arts & culture, debates, parties, etc. For
everyone there is something to do.’ The full lineup can be found on AGP’s official website. For those in search of an event that’s sure to be lighthearted and silly, there’s the International Drag Queen Olympics. It features events including the handbag discus and the 100 metre stiletto sprint in addition to fashion competitions. The 11th annual games will begin at 19:00 on 31 July at the Homomonument in the Westermarkt.
© The Dutch News


Czech Rep: Foreigner police detain 20 to 50 illegal migrants daily

23/7/2015- The Czech foreigner police detain 20 to 50 illegal immigrants daily, which requires the raising of the number of detention facilities since there would be no capacities for them, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said in the Senate yesterday. Sobotka spoke within a two-hour debate about the conclusions of the EU summit on migration at the end of June. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD) said a week ago the influx of immigrants has been mounting. He said the police detained 15 of them daily after the police tightened security measures earlier this summer. On Wednesday last week, however, 50 immigrants were detained and on Thursday around 30. Sobotka said the Czech Republic has the right to ask for the return of those refugees who demonstrably entered the Schengen area in another member EU country or applied for asylum in another member country to their country of origin.

If we did not place these people in a detention facility of the Interior Ministry and sent them to a family that would offer them shelter, they would not be here any more on the next day, Sobotka said. They would continue their trip to other countries such as Germany or Sweden, he said. "It is clear that we need detention facili-ties of the Interior Ministry," Sobotka said, adding that their capacity is low and some where even closed in the past. That is why the capacity must be raised. The government wants to open a new detention facility in Balkova, west Bohemia. Another facility is to be opened in Vysni Lhoty, north Moravia, in October. The government has approved the plan to accept 1500 refugees by end-2017. This year, there should be 400 of them, next year 700 and in 2017 around 400 should be accepted.

The Czech Republic is to take over around 1100 people from Italy and Greece and 400 from Middle East camps. Sobotka repeated his government's negative stance on mandatory refugee quotas that the European Commission proposed some time ago. He said the quotas would be an incentive to illegal immigrants and an excuse for the Schengen area border countries that do not fulfil their tasks in the protection of the area's border. Sobotka said, however, it would be a stupid strategy not to join the solidarity mechanism. On the other hand, it is not possible to be surprised at citizens' fears of the refugees if they can see on television how Islamic State or Al-Qaeda behave, he said. He said, however, the situation in the Czech Republic is different and that the government is capable of reacting to it and secure people's safety.
Sobotka said Europe must concentrate on putting an end to the conflicts in its immediate neighbourhood.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Austria bans 'hidden' neo-Nazi codes on car number plates

Austria is cracking down on personalised number plates used by neo-Nazis, by banning lesser-known codes with hidden far-right symbolism.

23/7/2015- Letter combinations such as HJ or NS - denoting Hitler Youth and National Socialism - have long been prohibited on personalised plates in Austria. Now transport officials have published a list of more than 30 more cryptic codes that have been banned. They include number combinations such as 88, which represents "Heil Hitler". New legislation, which came into force on Thursday, also outlaws the use of IS or ISIS on personalised number plates in a bid to stop people showing their support for the Islamic State group.

'No place in society'
"It has been forbidden to have obvious Nazi number plates since personalised plates went on sale in 1989," a spokeswoman for Austria's transport ministry told the BBC. "But then we learned that the far-right scene is moving away from the more obvious codes to more hidden ones. "So we had to change the law. Civil servants deciding if someone can choose a certain number plate now know which codes are being used by the far-right scene." Only new number plates will be affected by the change in the law. Abbreviations now outlawed include FG, which stands for "Fuehrer's Geburtstag", meaning "leader's birthday", and WP for "white power". Number combinations have not previously been included, but now codes such as 18 - meaning 'Adolf Hitler' because of where A and H come in the alphabet - are also now prohibited.

The new list was compiled in co-operation with the Mauthausen Committee, an organisation representing former concentration camp prisoners. Officials say it is not exhaustive. Austrian Transport Minister Alois Stoeger, who pushed for the law change, has said: "National Socialist ideology has no place in our society." More than half a million Austrians have currently personalised licence plates, according to Austria's public broadcaster, ORF. The move in Austria follows similar efforts in Germany to crack down on neo-Nazi symbols. In Germany, the law says that number plates must not offend public morals. Each state has its own list of banned combinations, and some are stricter than others. But attempts to introduce a federal solution, similar to that in Austria, have been unsuccessful so far.

Combinations no longer allowed include:
# BH - Blood and Honour
# 420 - 20 April, Hitler's birthday
# 1919 - meaning SS, as S is the 19th letter in the alphabet
# WAW - White Aryan War
# FG - Fuehrer's Geburtstag (leader's birthday)
# 88 - Heil Hitler, due to where H comes in the alphabet
© BBC News


Hungary: Budapest’s battle of the billboards(opinion)

A one-man party is taking on Viktor Orban, the authoritarian Hungarian prime minister
By Roula Khalaf

22/7/2015- Gergely Kovacs is surprised at his own success. His promises of eternal life, free beer and the building of a mountain had failed to impress his fellow Hungarians. But when the graphic artist turned fake politician launched a campaign to counter the government’s xenophobic handling of an immigrant crisis, attention and money flooded in. Armed with the contributions of 7,000 people, which amounted to 33m forints ($120,000), he declared war on the government’s anti-immigration billboard campaign. Next to the official signs warning immigrants that they couldn’t take Hungarian jobs and must respect Hungarian laws, Mr Kovacs’ satirical Two-Tailed Dog party splashed its mocking response: “Come to Hungary, we’ve got jobs in London,” says one of its billboards. “Sorry for our prime minister,” reads another.

Unlike the government billboards, which are in Hungarian and therefore not likely to be understood by immigrants, most of Mr Kovacs’ are in English. As befits his party, they are, for the most part, also amusing. “We have 900 billboards and the government has 1,000, and many of theirs are torn down,” 35-year-old Mr Kovacs proudly tells me over tea at a Budapest hotel. “A lot of people were angry that the government was spending their money to show them who to hate.” It’s true that Hungary is facing a serious immigration problem, which has received little attention when compared to those of Italy or Greece. The government is struggling to cope with the influx: more than 80,000 immigrants from as far as Afghanistan and Syria have crossed its borders this year to reach the EU.

But the response has been excessive, and not just through the billboard campaign. Viktor Orban, the increasingly authoritarian Hungarian prime minister, claims migration policies in Europe are fuelling terrorism, though there is no evidence of this. To the dismay of neighbours, refugee agencies and human rights groups, his government has started work on a 175km long fence along the border with Serbia. Under a law voted in this month, moreover, illegal immigrants are to be sent back to neighbouring countries where, according to human rights defenders, they could face abuse. Mr Kovacs says the fence is a superb idea but it should be 175km tall and 4m wide, in which case it will become a prime tourist attraction and a revenue generator. “But seriously,” he goes on, “the fence won’t work because we’re building it on the border with Serbia and the immigrants will find a way around it — they will come here through Romania and Croatia. No one wants to stay here anyway; we are a transit country.”

In any case, he’s not sure there are as many refugees as the government claims since he’s never come across them. He does admit, though, that he hasn’t visited the train station where they are said to take refuge. Mr Kovacs says the anti-immigration drive is less about asylum seekers and more about domestic politics: Mr Orban is pandering to the far right and wants to divert attention from his party’s internal troubles. If so, he’s done rather well. The poll ratings of his Fidesz party, which has been losing support to the far right Jobbik, have improved in recent weeks. So what, says Mr Kovacs. “The government wants the vote of the far right but with these campaigns it make the far right stronger,” he complains. “Hungarians go towards Jobbik because of Fidesz scandals. And Fidesz launches these anti-immigration campaigns to divert attention from the scandals.”

But pointing out the absurdity of government policy has also been effective. One donor to the Two-Tailed Dog party tells me she was appalled by what she saw as a hate campaign: “The billboards are an intellectual answer to government cynicism.” I ask Mr Kovacs what he’s planning next, given the campaign’s success and the weakness of Hungary’s liberal opposition. Not much, he says. He can’t be a real politician because he knows another “cool” party that went into parliament and became “boring”. “I started this party as a fun thing but it’s a one-man party with 30 friends who help me. Now we have 2,000 people who filled in activist forms but I don’t know what to do with them.”
© The Financial Times.


Romania officially bans Holocaust denial, fascist symbols

About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.

22/7/2015- Romania's president has signed into law legislation that punishes Holocaust denial and the promotion of the fascist Legionnaires' Movement with prison sentences of up to three years. President Klaus Iohannis signed the amendments to existing legislation, approved by Parliament last month, on Wednesday. The legislation also bans fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations and symbols, and promoting people guilty of crimes against humanity by up to three years in prison. Holocaust denial refers to refuting Romania's role in exterminating Jews and Roma between 1940 and 1944. About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu. Romania has a few right-wing fringe groups such as Noua Dreapta, which could be affected by the new law.
© The Associated Press


Ukraine: Thousands of far-right supporters rally in Kiev calling for impeachment of the President

22/7/2015- Thousands of Ukrainian far-right supporters have rallied in the Kiev's Independence Square calling for a referendum that would impeach the country's president Petro Poroshenko. The peaceful rally held by the Right Sector movement saw thousands of people converge in the centre of Kiev on 21 July, waving Right Sector and Ukrainian flags and chanting "Glory to Ukraine". The demonstration comes after a fatal gun battle in the town of Mukacheve in western Ukraine on 11 July, where armed men who claimed to be members of Right Sector faced off with police forces, leading to the killing of at least two people. The group has frequently locked horns with Ukrainian authorities over government policy and is now calling for the resignation of ministers and for a referendum impeaching President Poroshenko.

Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh said at the rally that the group was calling for a vote of no confidence to go through in the Ukrainian parliament. "Right Sector is initiating a nationwide Ukrainian referendum to answer several questions. First, a motion of no-confidence in government; second, we demand for the Russian war against Ukraine to finally be recognised as a war, and not as an antiterrorist operation. Our Ukrainian people must have their word here," he said. "Three, we demand a complete blockade of the occupied territories. Four, we ask our people to support the legalisation of the Ukrainian volunteers corps and other volunteer units according to the law," Yarosh added.

Right Sector played a prominent role in protests that toppled Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich a year ago. Members of the group's volunteer corps have been battling alongside Ukrainian forces in the east of the country against pro-Russian separatists. But the recent moves by Right Sector against President Poroshenko and his government could threaten to open up a new front in Kiev's battle to bring order to Ukraine. Close to bankruptcy and fearful of renewed conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east, the government has been criticised for being slow to reform the country's legal system, which is still described as favouring the rich and powerful.
© The International Business Times - UK


Swedish far-right politician ‘implicated in bomb raid’

An elected member of Sweden’s far-right Sweden Democrat party has been implicated in a plot to obtain large amounts of high explosives with the potential for use in terror attacks.

22/7/2015- The local politician, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was detained along with three other men over the weekend in the Swedish province of Halland. The four suspects were all arrested as part of an investigation into the discovery of large quantities of dynamite in a house belonging to one of the men. The politician was arrested by police as he attempted to leave the house in his car, in which detectives then discovered dynamite blasting caps in a plastic bag. The caps are normally used to trigger larger quantities of dynamite and plastic explosive from a distance. The man was subsequently released from custody, but is still subject to ongoing investigation by detectives. He claims that he was unaware of the presence of the caps in his car according to reports in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. At the same time as police discovered the material they also arrested a 30-year-old man, who neighbours claim had been carrying out test explosions on ground behind the property. It is understood that the second man confessed to use of the explosive in a police statement. Two other men were also detained by authorities as part of their investigations.
© The Scotsman


Ireland: Anti-racism group disrupts launch of political group

Identity Ireland wants stricter border controls and return to punt.

22/7/2015-  The launch of a political organisation advocating stricter border controls and a return to the Irish punt was interrupted by an anti-racism group in Dublin on Wednesday. Identity Ireland’s Peter O’Loughlin claimed Ireland had a “very generous” social welfare system that he said was quite easy to take advantage of. “The reason we’re called Identity Ireland is because something has to link us together in a society,” he said. “In order for a nation to exist and to function, to have a government, to have health services, to have education services, there needs to be a link because we’re so different already. “ So multi-culturalism obviously literally undermines the foundations because you’re saying identity is no longer important.” Mr O’Loughlin, a teacher, was joined at an event at a city centre hotel by the organisation’s secretary Gary Allen, and treasurer Alan Tighe.

They said the group had around 115 members and wanted to run a “handful” of candidates in the next election. Members of a group called the Anti-Racism Network Ireland objected to the event and clashed with members of Identity Ireland. Gardaí had to intervene to stop disturbances which broke out at an Identity Ireland meeting on Irish immigration policy held in Dublin in March when members of the Anti-Racism Network Ireland also protested. They said Identity Ireland had “chosen” to hold its event on the fourth anniversary of Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre on an island youth camp. Mr O’Loughlin said people had genuine concerns about immigration. He said people were afraid of being branded racist and he had seen this when canvassing.

“Immigration is fine at reasonable levels and of course people can become part of the Irish nation but it’s the mass immigration aspect,” he said. “You always have to ask yourself when do you stop?” An Oireachtas spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Allen had been in touch with the Clerk of the Dáil’s office about registering Identity Ireland as a party but said papers had yet to be lodged.
© The Irish Times.


Russian 'Miss Charming' Loses Title After Being Exposed as Neo-Nazi

After a series of vitriolic social media postings exposed the Russian Football Premier League's newly crowned “Miss Charming” as a racist and dedicated neo-Nazi, organizers of the Miss Premier League competition stripped her of her title, Russian media reported Tuesday.

21/7/2015- Every year, each of Russia's 16 football clubs picks one girl from a pool of attractive female fans to represent them in the Miss Premier League pageant. Their selections then compete against one another for the over-all title. This year, CSKA Moscow picked 21-year-old Olga Kuzkova to be their team's queen. Though she fell short of the grand prize, Kuzkova was declared the most charming of her peers. But that title was snapped away Tuesday as the young football enthusiast's controversial world view fell into the spotlight. In some ways, Kuzkova's page on popular Russian social network VKontakte is what one would expect of a pageant girl: selfies and bikini shots galore, interspersed with the occasional call to help a dog or cat in need. What sets her apart from the flock is her devout advocacy for the cause of white supremacy.

In one picture, Kuzkova gazes into the camera, her right hand extended in a Nazi salute as she stands in front of a wall bearing Nazi graffiti. Another features two photos spliced together. The first shows a Cadbury Bubbly bar — a popular candy bar made up of a series of oddly-sized chocolate spheres. The second shows a group of small African children, clad in dirty clothing, posing for a group shot in what appeared to be a remote village. Insinuating that the children and the chocolate bar looked alike, she wrote, “I love chocolate, but after this image I developed an… aversion.” Another photo features a dog chewing on a statuette of what appears to be an African-American baseball player. One meme posted by Kuzkova features a woman dressed in a French maid costume accessorized with Nazi symbols, smiling giddily in front of two large, fiery ovens. The photo was captioned with bold text calling for the burning of Jews and “khachi” — a derogatory term for natives of the Caucasus.

The beauty pageant contestant appears to have found a like-minded boyfriend. In one photo, the two of them are seen sharing a warm embrace while wearing matching T-shirts bearing skulls and celtic crosses, two symbols embraced by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In another, the two are pictured kissing beneath the phrase: “White Love.” She also posted a meme advocating sincerely for racial purity. “The Nordic spirit cannot live in the body of an Untermensch,” read the post. But once CSKA fan base caught wind of the photos, outrage promptly ensued. “Olga, how could you represent a football club whose president is a Jew after saying you want to burn [Jews] in an oven?” read a statement posted to the Facebook page of CSKA Fans Against Racism on Sunday. They went on to call for the organizers of the beauty pageant to deprive Kuzkova of her title.

They got their wish. “We do not tolerate manifestations of fascism, nationalism and racism,” said Sergei Cheban, executive director of the league, in comments carried Tuesday by Sport Express newspaper. "I will be glad if this situation will help Olga [Kuzkova] sort out her worldview." Racism has plagued Russian football for decades. In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Brazilian star forward Hulk, who plays for Zenit football club in St. Petersburg, said that he encounters racism “in almost every game.” "If [racism] happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly. Usually it happens when Russian clubs play and it doesn't come out to the world and the world doesn't know about this," he told AP through a translator. Russia is set to host the World Cup in 2018 in 11 different Russian cities.
© The Moscow Times


Russia: Could racism damage 2018 World Cup?

It was a new season but a similar story when it came to racism in Russian football last weekend.

21/7/2015- In the very first game, between FC Ufa and Spartak Moscow, Ufa's Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Frimpong (pictured above)was sent off for making an offensive gesture to the Spartak fans - triggered, Frimpong says, because he was being "racially abused for the game that I love". "I'm going to serve a sentence for being abused ... and yet we (are) going to hold a World Cup in this country," Frimpong added on Twitter. Zenit St Petersburg's Brazilian striker Hulk has now said racism happens at "almost every game" in the Russian league - and that it is a genuine threat to the 2018 World Cup. Hulk has repeatedly faced monkey chants in Russia, and the player has also accused a referee of racially abusing him. "If racism happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly," Hulk said. It is a stark warning from the man who is the subject of the highest transfer fee in Russian league history.

The Ghanaian Football Association has since said, in reference to the Frimpong incident, that it condemns the "vile racist abuse'' suffered by the former Arsenal player and called for the Russian Football Union, Uefa and Fifa to send "a strong signal'' to the perpetrators. Whether that signal will be received is another matter. After all, it is not the first time that players have spoken out about racism amongst fans in Russia. Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure has even gone so far as to suggest black players could boycott the Russia World Cup. "If we aren't confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we don't come," he said. This came after Toure was racially abused by fans of CSKA Moscow during a Champions League match against his club side Manchester City. Uefa eventually forced CSKA to play their home match behind closed doors.

A recent report by the Fare network and the Moscow-based Sova Centre for information has documented 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially motivated attacks  during the last two seasons. These figures are disputed by the Russian government. However, when asked about Hulk's comments, Alexei Sorokin - who is running the 2018 World Cup - told journalists: "We quite naturally acknowledge the problem that clearly does not exist only in Russia, but many other countries.'' And that is indisputable. To take one example: in 2011 Brazil's Roberto Carlos - then playing for Anzhi Makhachkala - had bananas thrown at him by Zenit fans. But more recently that has happened in Spain to Barcelona's Dani Alves , in Turkey to Galatasaray's Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue and in Italy to AC Milan's Kevin Constant and Nigel de Jong.

Or look at the way England's Under-21 match in Serbia in 2012 ended in a mass brawl and violence after racial abuse directed towards the England team's black players. And while Zenit fans launched an infamous "Selection 12" manifesto statement which demands an all-white team,  there are equally notorious fans of clubs in Germany and Italy. Racist chanting and violence have long been reported by correspondents covering games of the German side Energie Cottbus , for example, while some of the fans of Rome club Lazio are known for their glorification of fascism. But that did not translate into particular racism problems in the 1990 World Cup in Italy or at the tournament in 2006 in Germany. Sorokin added that it was wrong to "just take individual outbreaks in the Russian Premier League and automatically extrapo-late them on the World Cup, because the World Cup is a different atmosphere, it's a different public, if you will, so it doesn't reflect automatically on the World Cup".

The first part of that statement is perhaps rather questionable, but it is certainly true that racist crowds at World Cups are not just down to the local fans. Contentious incidents at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil included "blacked up" German fans at the Germany-Ghana game - also during which a German neo-Nazi sympathiser ran onto the pitch - homophobic chanting by Mexican fans, and racist chanting by fans of Croatia and - yes - Russia. At the time, the head of Fifa's own anti-racism taskforce, Jeffrey Webb, admitted Fifa and the local organisers should have done a "much better job" of tackling these incidents. He suggested that the next World Cup will have three officials at every game trained to spot discriminatory behaviour. However, Webb now has rather different issues to deal with - he is currently on Rolex-and-Ferrari-guaranteed bail in the US accused of bribery worth millions of dollars - so his plans to tackle racism at Russia 2018 may have to be passed to someone else.

Whoever succeeds him has a big challenge - to stop the spectre of racism blighting the tournament, whether it comes from fans from inside or outside of Russia.
© BBC News


Russia: Hulk says he encounters racism in ‘almost every game’

• ‘Almost every game I see this happening. I used to get angry’ • Brazil forward worried it will tarnish 2018 World Cup in Russia 
20/7/2015- Zenit St Petersburg’s star striker Hulk says he encounters racism in “almost every game” in Russia and the Brazil international fears it could tarnish the country when it hosts the 2018 World Cup. Hulk, the most expensive signing in Russian Premier League history, has repeatedly faced monkey chants in Russia and also accused a referee of racially abusing him. “If [racism] happens in the World Cup, it will be really gross and really ugly. Usually it happens when Russian clubs play and it doesn’t come out to the world and the world doesn’t know about this,” he said through a translator. “I must say that almost every game I see this happening. I used to get angry, but now I see this doesn’t help, so I just send a kiss to our fans and try not to get angry.”

In the first game of the new Russian league season on Friday, the Ghanaian player Emmanuel Frimpong, formerly of Arsenal, said he was racially abused by the crowd while playing for FC Ufa against Spartak Moscow. Frimpong was sent off for an offensive gesture to Spartak fans and faces a ban of between two and four games. Frimpong said on Twitter that he had been “racially abused for the game that I love.” He added: “I’m going to serve a sentence for being abused … and yet we are going to hold a World Cup in this country.” Last season, two Moscow clubs, Spartak and Torpedo, were punished after their fans abused Hulk with monkey chants. The Russian capital will host the 2018 World Cup final. 

After the Torpedo incident, the Zenit coach, André Villas-Boas, branded the abuse of Hulk a “disaster” for Russian football, adding: “The insults, the racist insults to Hulk, they go around the world, and this is the image of the Russian Premier League.” In December, Hulk alleged he was racially abused by the Russian referee Alexei Matyunin during a league game. The referee was cleared by a Russian Football Union panel, which ruled there was insufficient evidence. A report published in February by the anti-discrimination group FARE found more than 200 incidents of racist and discriminatory behaviour linked to Russian football over two seasons. The Russian government disputes the figures.
© The Associated Press


In which countries is it illegal to perform the Nazi salute?

20/7/2015- The Nazi salute is short-hand for fascism, and in a number of countries performing it can see the perpetrator end up behind bars. Following The Sun's release over the weekend of footage from the 1930s in which the Queen is seen as a child giving the Nazi salute, here are the countries where making the infamous gesture is a criminal offence.

Germany and Austria
Laws against giving the Nazi salute or displaying Nazi symbols were passed shortly after the end of the Second World War. Giving the Nazi salute in Germany could result in a six-month prison sentence. In 2011 a 30-year-old Canadian tourist was arrested after he was photographed giving the Nazi salute outside the Reichstag, the German parliament building, in Berlin. He got off with a fine and several hours in police custody. In Austria, where the anti-Nazi Prohibition Act prohibits giving the Nazi salute, police in Vienna were strongly criticised for their slow response when members of the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) apparently gave the Nazi salute at a demonstration in February this year.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic
The Nazi salute is also banned in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia having been under Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Those convicted could face up to five years in jail, but the restrictions are harder to enforce. In order to secure a conviction the authorities must prove the person giving the salute had the intention of promo-ting an extremist ideology. In 2014 a change to the law in Slovakia meant the police can now pursue a lower order offence against those giving the Nazi salute, making it easier to secure a conviction, but resulting in a fine rather than a prison sentence.

Switzerland and Sweden
There are restrictions on giving the Nazi salute in Switzerland and Sweden, where giving the gesture is classified as a hate crime. But in 2014 the Swiss supreme court ruled that making the gesture did not break the country's anti-racism law if the person giving it was only expressing their own convictions. Making the gesture in a bid to promote racist ideology to others, though, is still a criminal offence. In most cases those convicted have been handed fines rather than sentenced to time in jail.
© The Independent


Poland: No paradise for migrants

20/7/2015- A small room with a whiteboard is filled with 20 people from all over the world. Africans, Asians, South Americans are slowly repeating Polish phrases. For some many of the sounds are almost impossible to pronounce. But learning the language is a gateway to a better life. In the Foundation for Somalia, in Warsaw, there are currently seven groups of free language courses. In each group there are 20 people. More than 200 people are on the waiting list. Hamdi came to Poland a year ago with his young Polish wife whom he met in Egypt, his country of origin. They fell in love, got married and quickly decided to move to Poland, a more stable and secure option than Hamdi’s homeland. It took the Polish authorities a long time to recognise his marriage and grant him a residence permit. “I felt like I bought her on the market and forced her to marry me. I was treated with lot of suspicion,” Hamdi recalls. After half a year he managed to get a job in a travel agency, largely because he speaks Arabic. But he doesn’t feel accepted at work. “People look at me strangely like I’m bothering them. It’s because of my religion, my skin colour plus some think I’m taking away somebody else’s job,” he says with bitterness. But he wants to stay in Poland for the sake of his wife. “She wouldn’t find herself in a Arabic country. So this is our place,” he says.

Homogenous society
Poland is a relatively homogenous country. With over 38 million inhabitants, it has only 175,000 refugees. Around 5,400 of them are of African origin. For every 1,000 inhabitants, six percent are migrants. This puts the country at 17th place among the 28 EU member states. According to a 2013 study by the Centre for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, 69 percent of Poles do not want non-white people living in their country. Research commissioned by the “Africa another way” foundation, an NGO, found that over a third of Poles (36%) believe there are too many migrants – it is a view held mostly by people from large cities, the elderly and those with a lower level of education. Almost two third of respondents believe that Poland can’t afford to have migrants while every fourth interviewee thinks that immigrants do not benefit society. The attitude toward migrants is widely associated with the fear of radical Islam: Sixty percent of respondents believe that newcomers pose a terrorist threat to the society. Thirty-nine percent of those asked think that the culture and lifestyle of those of African origin is of less value than those of European origin. “The most xenophobic attitudes are strong among 11% of respondents. They all share the above-mentioned beliefs plus they would never want to see their children marrying a person of African origin. This is pure racism,” says Mamadou Diouf from “Africa another way”.

No to immigration
These attitudes have meant that Poland has been among those EU governments holding out on European Commission plans to resettle 40,000 asylum seekers based in Italy and Greece and another 20,000 refugees from outside Europe. Poland is set to take 2,000 immigrants, fewer than the 3,600 migrants the commission had slated the country to take based on criteria such as GDP and population. The number may change on Monday (20 July) when EU justice ministers are due to discuss the issue in Brussels. “The final number will depend on what other countries offer,” says Małgorzata Woźniak, a spokesperson for the interior ministry. Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, for her part, has declared her solidarity with asylum seekers but said Poland does not have enough resources to take more migrants. She also highlighted that Warsaw fears a wave of immigration from conflict-ridden Ukraine.

According to Eurostat, out of the 2,732 applications Poland received last year, 73 percent were rejected. Other EU countries – such as Hungary, Croatia, Luxembourg, Greece, France, Portugal and Latvia – have a higher rejection rate. Sweden had the most applications as a proportion of its population, with 8,432 applications for every one million inhabitants. Barbara Kudrycka, a Polish MEP, notes that Poland cannot ignore immigration. "Polish migration policy will face a major challenge,” she told this website, referring to the upward trend in migration numbers. "What is very important is how refugees are perceived and accepted by local communities. If they are rejected, they will start building their own ghettos and this will further deepen isolation and separation. "It is important that asylum seekers will develop a sense of belonging, respect for our culture and a strong will of language learning.”

Every-day racism
A group of Africa-origin people interviewed by the ‘Africa the other way’ NGO had all experienced racism, including insults and physical attacks on the street. The attitudes makes it difficult to get a job and therefore a proper foothold in society. "African immigrants in Poland are employed under two informal conditions: Either they really have rare skills that are competitive on the market – like not popular languages - or they are willing to do jobs nobody else wants,” says Magdalena Rosada, a volunteer at the Foundation for Somalia, which offers free language courses, career counselling and legal advice to migrants. "That’s why in Warsaw a majority of Cameroonians works as dish-washers in cheap bars,” she notes.

Meanwhile migrants are entitled to some benefits – but the system is not overly generous. "There are two stages of financial support for refugees - before and after receiving the asylum status," MEP Kudrycka explains. Assistance is provided for the duration of the asylum procedure (six months) and two months after its completion. Limited financial support is then offered through individual integration programmes. Refugees are, however, covered by national health insurance. "This is very little. Fortunately, many immigrants who come to Poland do not need extensive financial support," says Rosada. "In many cases they have been preparing themselves to leave their country of origin for some time so they had gathered funds to sustain themselves. This image of benefit seeking immigrants is a part of a harmful stereotype,” she adds.
© The EUobserver


France: Remains of 86 Holocaust victims used for experiments found hidden in Strasbourg lab

19/7/2015- The remains of 86 Jewish people sent to Nazi gas chambers in 1943 have been discovered at a forensic medicine institute in eastern France. The bodies of the victims were brought from German holocaust camps to the then Nazi occupied city of Strasbourg in eastern France where they were used by Nazi anatomy professor August Hirt for experiments, according to news agency AFP. Some of the bodies remain intact while others are dismembered and burnt. It was thought that the bodies had been buried in a common grave in 1946, following the liberation of the city by Allied forces two years earlier. However, historian Raphael Toledano found that some remains were still lying undiscovered in the institute 70 years on. Toledano, along with the director of the institute Jean-Sebastien Raul, identified many of the body parts including a jar of “skin fragments” from a gas chamber victim. Test tubes containing intestine and stomach were also found, according to news agency reports. 

The remains had been preserved by a forensic professor from Strasbourg’s medicine faculty, Camille Simonin, as part of an investigation into Hirt’s crimes. A letter written by Simonin in 1952 gave Toledano a clue as to the location of the remains which mentioned jars containing “samples taken in the course of judicial autopsies carried out on the Jewish victims of the Struthof gas chamber“. A statement announcing the bodies’ discovery said that labels on each piece refer to the register 107969 and “match the number tattooed at the Auschwitz camp on the forearm of Menanchem Taffel, one of the 86 victims". Local authorities are reportedly planning to return the newly discovered remains to the Jewish community of Strasbourg where they will be buried at the cemetery of Cronenbourg. Hirt was an SS-captain who served as a chairman at the Reich University in Strasbourg during World War II. During the war he worked together with other Nazi experimenters to collect human corpses from among inmates at Auschwitz in preparation for an anthropological display at the university. Hirt killed himself in 1945 before he could be tried for war crimes.
© The Independent


France: Jean-Marie Le Pen 'may stand against grand-daughter'

Le Pen family feud rages on as founder of far-Right Front National considers running against his grand-daughter in Riviera election 

18/7/2015- Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the far-Right Front National, may run against his grand-daughter, Marion Maréchal Le Pen, in a regional election, it emerged on Saturday. In the latest twist in the family feud tearing apart the political dynasty, Mr Le Pen, 87, is reportedly considering standing as a candidate in an election in the Provence-Côte d’Azur region. Ms Le Pen, 25, has already been named as the party’s chief candidate in the Riviera region where the Front National has a realistic chance of winning enough seats in the December election to dominate the regional council. The patriarch gave his blessing to her candidacy three months ago. But Mr Le Pen now wants to reassert his political domination of the party after being sidelined following his controversial remarks minimising the Holocaust in May. His anti-semitic outburst provoked a highly public split with his daughter Marine. After succeeding him as party leader in 2011, she has tried to soften its tone and broaden its appeal.

As Mr Le Pen’s relationship with his daughter soured, he initially favoured his grand-daughter, Marion Maréchal Le Pen, who is France’s youngest MP. However, Marine Le Pen soon persuaded her niece to toe the party line. A source close to the family said: “Relations between him, his daughter and his grand-daughter have continued to deteriorate. He still has a hard core of supporters in the area, where he is still a regional councillor, so why not run?” Mr Le Pen declined to say whether he will be a candidate. He has taken the party to court in a move to block the abolition of the post of honorary president, which he still holds. He has made no secret of his contempt for Marine Le Pen’s deputy, the openly gay Florian Philippot, who he believes is influencing her and distancing her from the Front National’s traditional policies.

Laurent Comas, a regional councillor who has been suspended from the Front National for branding Mr Philippot a “witch doctor” who had “cast a spell” on the party leader, said he and other dissidents were ready to back Mr Le Pen against any official party candidate. Another of the old guard faithful to Mr Le Pen, Jean-Louis Bouguereau, a former deputy leader of the Front National group in the regional council, was also suspended from the party a week ago for urging Mr Philippot to resign.
© The Telegraph


Greece overtakes Italy as top migrant entry point to Europe

Syrians and Afghans make up the bulk of migrants who have landed in Greece so far this year.

24/7/2015- The number of migrants arriving on Greek shores were up by 408 percent over the first half of 2015 compared to the same period last year, making the country the most popular European gateway for migrants. The data, compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), shows that between January 1 and July 17, about 101,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea, The Guardian reported. According to the UNHCR, nearly 60,000 of the migrants are Syrian who arrived in Greece by boat. Afghans with 20,000 arrivals, are the second most common nationality making the journey. The Guardian reports that now Greece has replaced Italy as the principal entry point to Europe.

On July 10, UNHCR reported that an average of 1,000 refugees arrive on the Greek islands on a daily basis. “The numbers of people arriving are now so high that, despite all efforts, the authorities and local communities can no longer cope," said UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler. Europe does not act in unison on the issue of migrant influx. While in the wake of turmoil in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, some countries have agreed to consider less strict immigration measures, others are pursuing deterrent plans to stop the flow of illegal migrants. In mid-July, Hungary laid out plans to construct an anti-migration fence along its border with Serbia. In Italy, northern regions have been refusing to accept more migrants. UNHCR says in some countries there are reports of border police preventing refugees from entering.

The surge in the number of refugees partly stems from the crisis in Syria. On July 9, UNHCR announced that for the first time the number of Syrian refugees exceeded four million. Hanrieta Moore, a professor at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, wrote in The Guardian that even though the Mediterranean migrant crisis has been framed as a purely political issue, climate change and business interests are also fueling the catastrophe. She explained that in the case of Syria, “the continuing destabilization of Syria appears to have a lot more to do with western-backed strategic gas pipelines in the region than any concern for democracy.” Ms. Moore went on to say that climate change has also been identified as one of the most significant drivers of human migration, adding that according to the Environmental Justice Foundation, there will be an estimated 150 million climate refugees worldwide by 2050.

“Recent research has suggested a causal link between the prolonged droughts that ravaged Syria’s farmland from 2007 to 2010 with mass internal migration – adding to tensions which contributed to the explosion of violence from 2011 onwards,” she said. Moore suggested that one way to tackle the immigration is to help the economy grow in developing nations through foreign direct investment (FDI). She explained that the investment should aspire self-development so that people don’t feel they need to escape from their societies in order to find the personal security and opportunities.
© The Christian Science Monitor


Greece: Life sours for Albanian migrants

For many Albanians, Greece was the promised land. Today, the economic crisis is not only affecting migrant workers but also hitting Albania's domestic economy. And coming home can be difficult, reports Angelina Verbica

19/7/2015- Albana Sako doesn't know where it's worse: Greece, or Albania. The single mother has lived and worked in Greece for the last 12 years. But for the last month, she's been looking for work in her old hometown of Fier, in southwest Albania. So far, her job search has turned up nothing. There aren't many job openings in Fier, and rents are high. The 32-year-old Albanian and her son are currently living with her parents. Many Albanian migrants in Greece are in the same situation. The sectors in which they earned their money have been especially hard hit by the Greek financial crisis. The construction industry, for instance, is at an absolute standstill, and the demand for household help has gone down dramatically. "Women worked mostly in private households and were uninsured," said Etmond Guri, head of the Federation of Albanian Associations in Greece. "People are desperate. They took out loans to pay for houses and cars, and now they have lost their jobs. But the loan payments keep coming."

'The job market is too small'
According to media reports, some 600,000 Albanians work in Greece. Most of them have been there since the 1990s. In Greece, they can achieve a humble existence, supporting their families back home by sending money. Records from the Center for Economic and Social Studies in Tirana show that some 180,000 migrants have now returned to Albania. Many were hoping to find work in their former home, or to build a new life with the money that they had saved working abroad. But Albania can offer them no such perspective, and seems to be totally overwhelmed with the task of reabsorbing those who are returning. "Integration is difficult, because unemployment is so high," said Odise Kote, deputy mayor of the southern Albanian city of Gjirokaster, near the Greek border. "The job market is small and overcrowded. There is simply no room to set up new businesses."

Connections are crucial
Officially, unemployment in Albania is at 14 percent. In reality, it's probably twice as high due to the prevalence of the country's shadow economy. Albania's job market only works for those who have personal connections, said Guri. "Returnees no longer have a private network, and that is the main criteria for getting a job," he told DW. Rumors that one has to pay authorities between 3,000 and 5,000 euros ($3,300-$5,5000) to get a job are not exactly encouraging either. After more than a decade as a migrant worker in Greece, Albana Sako's personal contacts have also disappeared. Her son only speaks broken Albanian, with a Greek accent. Kids his age make fun of him, which is why he doesn't want to go to school. But what discourages Sako most are the low wages and precarious labor conditions that people like her brother are forced to accept. "They work on construction sites for 250 euros ($270) a month. The boss gives them 50 euros when they start, and the rest when he finds the money," she said.

Back to Greece with a heavy heart
In light of this situation, Sako has decided to go back to Greece. "At least there I can work half days as a housemaid three times a week. I can feed myself from that," she said. In Albania, even that is impossible. Many migrants are following her example. Despite the Greek financial crisis, they still see more chances there than back home in Albania. Etmond Guri criticizes Albania's political inactivity: in spite of efforts by the new Albanian government, nothing has changed for those returning home. Kote, Gjirokaster's deputy mayor, openly admits there are problems. "Albania was unprepared when the Greek crisis struck," he said. "We don't have a detailed plan for this situation."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Italy, Germany & UK News Week 30

Italy: Rome pledges to dismantle Roma ghettos after court ruling

Italian court finds capital guilty of ethnic discrimination amid scandal over corruption in public housing for city’s most vulnerable residents.

21/7/2015- The city of Rome has pledged to dismantle state-sanctioned ghettos built specifically for Roma people after an Italian court found the capital guilty of ethnic discrimination. The office of the mayor, Ignazio Marino, said the city would not challenge the unprecedented legal decision.“There are meetings going on between the government and city officials to establish the financing for the dismantling of the so-called camps,” a spokesperson for his office said. The legal decision was announced last month, just weeks after it emerged that one of the big “camps” for the Roma, or Gypsy, families on the outskirts of the city was the subject of a land-swap proposal between the alleged criminal Salvatore Buzzi, who was already identified by prosecutors as a key player in a corruption scandal in Rome, and the French DIY company Leroy Merlin.

The story – a relatively small twist in a much larger public corruption investigation that has ensnared dozens of politicians – has exposed the intersection between corruption and public housing for Italy’s most vulnerable residents, with funds that are meant to be directed to the poor allegedly being skimmed off. Until his arrest late last year, Buzzi was the head of a cooperative that managed migrant and Romany facilities. In a telephone exchange recorded by investigators, Buzzi can be heard bragging that he had a turnover of €40m (£28m) thanks to the “Gypsies … and migrants”. “Do you have any idea how much I make on these immigrants?” he said. “Drug trafficking is not as profitable.” Although the “Mafia Capitale” scandal was first exposed last year, the investigation into the corruption of public contracts has continued, with new revelations about the breadth of wrongdoing reported in the press on a weekly basis.

About 4,000 Roma live in state-sanctioned ghettos in Rome, according to a 2013 report by Amnesty International. They are located outside the city and consist of pre-fabricated containers or mobile homes in fenced-off areas, often without adequate sanitation facilities or other basic necessities, such as clean drinking water. Inhabitants are excluded from other social housing despite many having lived in Italy for generations; a fact the tribunal in Rome cited as evidence of discrimination on ethnic grounds. Press access to the ghettos is limited, but the Guardian recently visited a facility on Via Salaria which is meant to provide temporary housing for Romany families who have been displaced or evicted from other homes. The entrance displays a list of residents who must check in and out. While Rome allegedly spent €2m on the facility in 2014, and nearly €30m on all such facilities, the living conditions are squalid.

Residents of the Via Salaria facility, which is next to a rubbish dump, built their own makeshift kitchen from appliances found on the street after fighting for permis-sion to do so. “If you take a car and take a look at the camps, you really find no evidence of such money in these places,” said Costanza Hermanin, an expert at the Open Society Foundations which campaign for greater Roma integration. Italy has been obliged to have an integration plan under EU rules since 2013, but Hermanin called it a “dead letter”. The OSF and other groups are lobbying the European commission to sanction Italy for not doing enough to integrate the minority population. “Nothing has been done,” Hermanin said. “Maybe there have been some regional consultations with Romany, but this situation of the camps has not changed, and the number of people living in them has not been reduced.”

At Via Salaria, most of the women who guardedly spoke to journalists as an imposing facility employee looked on, said their attempts to find jobs and build better lives were largely fruitless. They said they did not have adequate resident or working papers and were not given jobs because they were Roma. Petcu Madalina Denisr, 32, who has lived in the facility for three years with her son and mother, who is handicapped and confined to a bed, said she made her eight-year-old urinate and defecate in a bucket in their room because the bathrooms were so disgusting. He told her he felt Italian, not Romany, she said. “We cannot live like this. People are afraid to talk, but I’m not afraid. I am fighting, I am fighting for my son,” she said, crying. A recent study by Pew Research found that 86% of Italians had very or somewhat unfavourable views of the Roma population in Italy. This compares with 43% across Europe holding the same view.

Those views have likely been shaped by the opinions expressed by the head of the rightwing Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, who routinely blames Italy’s problems on the Roma population and regularly calls for the razing of their camps. Francesco Palermo, a senator from Alto Adige in northern Italy, who is a rare voice of support for the minority group, said the Rome court ruling was a “real breakthrough” because it showed that the segregation was “not the consequence of the ‘Roma emergency’ but rather its cause”. The decision was welcomed by Amnesty International, which said Italy should start dismantling the segregated housing. At a minimum, it said, no new camps should be planned or built. While the mayor’s office has promised reforms, activists said they had little confidence that action was imminent.

“They don’t have any concrete idea for the moment,” said Danilo Giannese, a spokesman for the activist group Associazione 21 Luglio, which helped bring the case. “They have been saying they will do it for a long time. But for the moment, only words.” According to prosecutors, the now-defunct deal quietly negotiated between Buzzi and Leroy Merlin representatives would have seen the French firm pay about €10m to relocate, rebuild, and expand the Romany facility known as La Barbuta. In exchange, Leroy Merlin – who met Buzzi to discuss the deal, according to transcripts of a wire tap prosecutors kept on him – would be given the cleared land to build a large mall. A spokeswoman for Leroy Merlin said she was not aware of the company’s link to Buzzi. She said the firm was not in the business of building facilities for Roma and declined to comment further. The proposed land swap has since been cancelled. Giuseppe Pignatone, the prosecutor leading the Mafia Capitale investiga-tions, told the Guardian: “There is no evidence that might suggest that Leroy Merlin knew anything of the crimes [allegedly] committed by Buzzi.”
© The Guardian


Italy told to recognize same-sex couple rights

The European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday that Italy must recognize the rights of same-sex couples.

21/7/2015- The court denounced the country for violating the rights of three same-sex couples after failing to recognize their unions. Italy’s Court of Cassation in February rejected gay marriage, saying that nothing existed within the Italian Constitution which stipulated extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. But the court then said that gay people have the right to a “protective law” which ensures they have the same rights as unmarried Italian couples. Although same-sex marriage and civil unions are illegal in Italy, some cities allow gay couples who wed abroad to be registered. In May, 17 gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples signed the first civil unions registered in Rome. The capital joined Naples, Milan and dozens of other towns and cities in ensuring formal recognition of the couples in their dealings with the municipal authorities and, in the case of certain companies, with their employers. A bill that would allow for civil unions nationwide is currently being studied by a committee of the Italian Senate but faces considerable opposition from centre-right allies of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The government has also faced mounting pressure to give same-sex couples more rights since Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage in late May, with Laura Boldrini, the president of Italy's parliament, arguing that it was time to legislate for civil unions.
© The Local - Italy


Italy says operation not needed for sex change

It is no longer necessary to undergo a sex change operation in order to change your gender at the civil registry office, Italy's Court of Cassation ruled on Monday.

21/7/2015- The decision comes after an appeal by the Lenford network of lawyers who work to defend lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual rights. The ruling was made at the end of an appeal on behalf of a 45-year-old transgender male, who in 1999 received permission to undergo a sex change operation but then decided not to go through with it. His decision was based on the fact that after living as a woman for 25 years and undergoing various hormonal and cosmetic procedures, he already considered himself a female, without the need for further surgery. But until now he was unable to be legally registered as a female. Courts in Piacenza and Bologna had rejected his previous attempts to legally become a woman, based on an Italian law that stated that a full sex change operation was a prerequisite for a legal gender change. The ruling in Italy's highest court sets a new precedent for those who wish to legally change their sex, but don't feel he need for surgery.

In its ruling, the court stated that the desire to unite the body and the psyche was the result of "a hard fought individual psychological battle and medical treatments". For the court, these medical treatments do not necessarily mean a full sex change operation, but can include hormonal therapy and modifications to secondary sexual organs. The ruling stated that changing sex was a complex issue and depended upon "different personality profiles and individual conditions". The president of the Lenford group, Maria Grazia Sangalli, said she was pleased with the ruling. “In many cases hormonal therapy and operations on secondary sexual organs are enough to allow a person to feel harmony between their psychological and physical nature,” she told Giornale di Sicilia. She went on to say that a full sex change brought with it "painful operations that have negative consequences in a high percentage of cases".

The ruling was welcomed by LGBT associations. Arcigay and Equality said that the ruling accepted the right of self-determination for transgender people by simplifying the sex change procedure.
© The Local - Italy


Italian judge indicts 25 far-right suspects

20/7/2015- An Italian judge has indicted 25 suspected members of the extreme-right movement Stormfront on charges of racial hatred and making threats following posts on the group's website against migrants, Jews and officials. The news agency ANSA reported Monday that the indictment stems from posts on the group's website in 2011 and 2012. A judge in Rome set the opening date of the trial for Dec. 15. Among those targeted by the group were the anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano and Mayor Giusi Nicolini of the southern Sicilian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in Africa have arrived in recent years seeking a new life in Europe.
© The Associated Press


Italy: Migrant girl dies after insulin thrown in sea

A ten-year-old diabetic girl from Syria died on a migrant boat travelling to Italy after one of the human traffickers threw a bag containing her insulin overboard.

20/7/2015- The girl then fell into a coma and died during the journey from Egypt. The shocking story was heard by the Italian coast guard on Friday when the Egyptian fishing boat carrying over 320 migrants arrived in the Sicilian port of Augusta. The boat had to be rescued after seven days on the water. The father, who recounted the story to Sicilian prosecutors, tried in vain to keep the smugglers from tossing the bag into the water. He then had to throw his daughter’s body overboard. The family had been making their way to Germany, where they hoped the girl would receive treatment. The International Organization for Migration said last week that some 150,000 migrants and refugees have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, and more than 1,900 of them have been killed.
© The Local - Italy


Italy: Rescue boat turned away in Sicily

Italian authorities prevented a rescue boat with some 700 migrants aboard from landing in Sicily because there was no room for the people in reception centres, a humanitarian group said late Friday.

18/7/2015- Despite lengthy discussions with Italian authorities the migrants on a boat operated by medical charity Doctors Without Borders, were turned away due to a "lack of capacity in the Italian (migrant) reception system," said a statement from the group. The boat then began headed for the port of Reggio Calabria on the far southern tip of Italy with hopes to land on Saturday. Italy is struggling to host more than 80,000 migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean fleeing war, persecution or poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Italian authorities gave permission Thursday for some of the migrants on the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) boat to disembark at the Sicilian town of Trapani, but the charity rejected that idea due to tensions aboard the overcrowded vessel. In the end just seven people -- all in need of urgent medical attention -- and their families were let off the boat.

The president of MSF's Italian operation, Loris De Filippi, said the "lack of preparation in the Italian system has very concrete consequences that we witness first hand." "The ministry of interior must authorise boats to disembark at the port in Sicily that is closest to them in order to allow them to return to the search-and-rescue zone as soon as possible in order save other boats," he added. The International Organization for Migration said last week that some 150,000 migrants and refugees have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, and more than 1,900 of them have been killed. On Friday Italian media reported a 10-year-old diabetic girl from Syria died during a hypoglycemic episode while making the crossing after the people smugglers tossed overboard the bag containing her insulin. The girl, her parents and sisters were among some 300 migrants on an Egyptian fishing boat that was rescued after seven days on the water, according to newspaper Giornale di Sicilia, which cited the statement the child's father made to Italian prosecutors. The father tried in vain to keep the smugglers from tossing the bag into the water. She died after falling into a coma during the crossing and her body was dumped into the sea.
© The Local - Italy


Germany: Is the Ugly German Back? Flames of Hate Haunt a Nation

24/7/2015- It's a Monday night in July and Samuel Osei is frightened to death. Two neo-Nazis have entered the concrete bloc apartment building where Osei is staying, on the edge of Greifswald, a city in eastern Germany. The two men are drunk and swearing. Osei, an asylum-seeker from Ghana, steps out on his balcony and tries to placate them. "I'm sorry," he calls out. But the right-wing extremists only grow more aggressive. They begin shouting. One of the two takes off his shirt and Osei recognizes a swastika on his chest. The men storm into the building and begin pounding on the door to Osei's apartment. They then go down to the basement and remove the fuses, cutting off the power. Osei cowers in his room in the dark. He calls a friend who in turn alerts the police. The attackers have already left by the time officers.

Osei chokes up when he talks about that evening a week and a half ago. Traces of the attack are still visible -- the door is dented and its peephole shattered. "These guys wanted to put an end to something," he says. Osei, who is 29, has been living in Germany for eight months. He's taking German lessons and earns his money by helping other refugees move. Osei likes Greifswald, which is located on the Baltic coast -- he especially likes the sea and the Old Town. He says most people in the city are friendly and helpful. At the same time, he's struggling with the animosity he has experienced at the hands of racists. One of the men involved in the attack had already cursed at him on the street. His mailbox at the apartment was also vandalized several times. The Ghanaian also has photos of the two attackers and has given a statement to the police. The state Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is responsible for monitoring extremists, including neo-Nazis, in Germany, has also opened an investigation. "It was mental torture," Osei says.

Germany these days is a nation split in two. On the one side is a populace that is showing greater solidarity with refugees than ever seen before. Initiatives have been created across the country to assist asylum-seekers in their everyday lives. The other half of the country is extremely difficult to tolerate in some places. Racist violence is on the rise. The German Interior Ministry registered 173 instances of criminal right-wing offenses against accommodations for asylum-seekers during the first six months of this year, almost three times as many as during the same period the previous year. Between January and June of 2015, racists attacked facilities providing accommodations for asylum-seekers on an almost daily basis. It's a grim statistic, but the real figures may be even higher, because many refugees are afraid to report incidents to police. "We have to assume that further crimes will be committed against accommodations for asylum-seekers," says Holger Münch, the president of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office.

German President Joachim Gauck recently condemned the attacks as "disgusting." German Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), spoke of an "attack on our society." But while these two German leaders are clearly worried about social stability in the country, other politicians seem to be fueling the tensions. Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), swaggers on about "mass abuse of the asylum system." It has long been a cliché in Germany that most xenophobic attacks take place in the states that were formerly part of East Germany. Attacks recently have indeed been increasing in the east, but they are also on the rise elsewhere. There have been arson attacks against asylum-seeker hostels in Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west, as well as calls by neo-Nazis to attack immigrants. Some of the scenes evoke the pogroms against migrants that plagued Germany during the 1990s. It begs the question: Has the "ugly German" returned?

Meissen, Saxony: In the Heart of Hatred
There had already been indications something would happen. Three weeks before refugees were supposed to move into a rental building in the historic center of Meissen, a city in the eastern state of Saxony near Dresden, unknown perpetrators posted a note on the door. In German and, just to be safe, in English, they demanded that the new arrivals leave Meissen as soon as possible. Building owner Ingolf Brumm contacted the police, but they didn't see any need to look into the matter. A short time later, the building went up in flames. The arsonist used an accelerant and the fire spread quickly. The soot covered three floors of the building right up to the ceiling. A new floor now has to be laid, and doors need to be torn out and replaced. In total, the fire caused over €200,000 ($219,530) in damage. "This was an attack with a message," says Brumm.

The attack was far from an isolated incident in Saxony, where many similar crimes have been reported. The state has become a center for racist and right-wing extremist agitators. The xenophobic National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist cell responsible for killing nine immigrants, mostly Turks, between 2000 and 2006 found shelter and support in the city of Zwickau for years. The National Democratic Party (NPD), which has been described by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as "racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist," has been elected into the state parliament several times. The party lost the last election in the state, but just barely.

Part of the reason for the loss is attributable to the fact that the right-wing populists in the new Alternative for Germany party scored close to 10 percent in the vote. This past winter, thousands of supporters of the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) movement took to the streets of Dresden on Mondays in marches against Muslims and refugees. Now Saxony's racists are gathering on a regular basis in front of an asylum-seekers hostel in the nearby town of Freital. The protesters shout epithets like "foreigners get out!" or "lying press," a term used in an effort to manipulate public opinion against the press reporting on the xenophobic developments.

Saxony's state government has given the right-wing extremists free reign for years. It was only recently that state governor Stanislaw Tillich of Merkel's CDU finally brought himself to condemn the racist actions in the state parliament. In the past, his party had repeatedly sought to exploit the volatile atmosphere for its own political gain rather than take a stance against the hate-mongering. After the first Pegida protests, state Interior Minister Markus Ulbig even announced the deployment of special police units to combat criminal asylum-seekers. In Meissen, which is world famous for its porcelain, Merkel's CDU party has trouble distancing itself from right-wing populists. Pegida co-founder Thomas Tallacker even sat on the city council under the party's banner.

It took hate-mongering Facebook posts about "half-starved Ramadan Turks" and refugees he described as an "uneducated pack" for him to have to resign. He's still a member of the party today. Meanwhile, District Administrator Arndt Steinbach believes the party needs to maintain a dialogue with supporters of the NPD. He has also suggested that prisons could be used to house refugees. On a July night three weeks after the arson attack, around 400 followers of the "Homeland Protection" citizens' group gathered for a demonstration in front of Meissen's city hall. People from all walks of life were among the protesters -- pensioners, fathers with their children in tow and even a former member of the state parliament with the NPD. They waved German flags. A cloth banner read, "Meissen rejects asylum fraud and the failure of politics."

Stephane Simon from Leipzig gave a speech at the event. The activist is well-networked in the neo-Nazi scene and made appearances at the Pegida protests this winter. Now he talks of Germany's downfall. "The arsonists aren't the people who set the refugee hostel on fire," he says later in the evening. "The arsonists are the politicians who had it built." Andreas Zick, the head of the Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld has been researching German prejudices against different groups for many years now. He's says that although there are fewer racists in Germany today than in the past, those that do exist have also become more radical. The feelings of support they experience at anti-asylum protests like the one in Freital serve to empower them to act.

The police and officials at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution so far have no proof that the arsonists and agitators are forming a nation-wide network. Investigators are operating on the assumption that the crimes against asylum accommodations are being committed by individuals and very small groups. But crossover with organized extremism is frequent.

Halle: Everyday Terror
Egged on by local residents, neo-Nazis in Silberhöhe, a neighborhood in Halle, a city in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, have been hunting down Roma for a year now, say officials at the state branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. They claim perpetrators have attacked the migrants with knives and stun guns. Hundreds of Halle residents have joined the Facebook page "Residents of Silberhöhe Are Defending Themselves." Several dozen right-wing extremists are meeting under the banner the "Halle/Saale Brigade." The group is planning protests against refugees and also maintains ties with right-wing extremist groups. The federal prosecutor in Karlsruhe has now issued an order for the Halle/Saale Brigade to be placed under observation. The brigade is also under the sights of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. One investigator warns that no one can say which "group dynamic processes" are currently being unleashed in Germany. The investigator notes that the NSU also got its start with propaganda offenses and fake bombs.

Cheikna Hamala Fadiga has been forced to come up with his own rules for daily life in Halle. The first one is: "Fear is good. It protects you." Fear is ever present when the immigrant from Mali in West Africa walks through the city center. "Am I safe here?" the 23-year-old asks. He avoids certain areas, like Silberhöhe and the football stadium. The second rule is: "When they call you the n-word and ask, 'What are you doing here?' you raise your voice. Clear and loud." Fadiga then addresses them with, "Are you talking to me?" And that's the third rule: "You have to have fear, but you can never show it -- otherwise they've won." Fadiga has lived in Halle for the past three years. He came as a refugee. Two years ago, a group of young men mobbed him at the city's train station. Following his own rules, he raised his voice so that other people passing by would hear. "Do you mean me?" he asked. Fadiga says they punched him in the face before he ran away, bleeding. He left his bicycle behind and they kicked it until it was destroyed.

Fadiga is sitting in the forecourt of the local university. The sun is shining and students can be seen playing guitars. Fadiga would like to go to college one day, but right now he is catching up and completing high school. A few months ago, he met with Reiner Hasloff, the governor of Saxony-Anhalt. The CDU politician spoke of immigration as an opportunity, Fadiga recalls, and about a welcoming culture. The latter term is being bandied about frequently in Germany these days as the number of immigrants and refugees increases. "But who can speak of a welcoming culture when we're afraid for our safety."

Mengerskirchen: Islam the Bogeyman
The anti-asylum agitators want to spread fear, foment unrest and delay the refugees' move-in dates. In their propaganda, they make use of sentiment against blacks, Roma and Muslims. Muslim asylum-seekers are accused of being associated with the Islamic State terror organization, even though many of them fled from precisely that group. Muslims were also the target of a July 1 attack in Mengerskirchen, in the central German state of Hessen. It was first noticed by newspaper deliveryman Hans-Werner Marek in the early morning, in front of a single-family home. There, Marek found half a pig head on some stairs and other pig remains spread around the building. Fifteen refugees were scheduled to move into the house. The words "go home" were written in red paint on the wall. "I was really ashamed to be German," Marek says.

Three weeks later, owner Franz Lugert welcomed the home's first residents, a Syrian-Palestinian family with five-year-old twins and a baby. Lugert didn't tell them about the attack because he didn't want to scare them. Local activists and politicians who advocate for refugees also become targets of harassment. Right-wing groups like the "Dritte Weg," or Third Way, try to disrupt asylum-related town hall meetings. A few days ago, there was an escalation at a discussion forum in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, in the Rhineland-Palatinate region, to which the president of the German Association of Cities, Eva Lohse, a lawmaker with the Christian Democrats, had been invited. Before the event began, the police reported that Dritte Weg cadres had handed out flyers protesting the "refugee hostels." Participants claim the event itself was then torpedoed by members of the extreme right, who let loose boos, laughter and insults. Refugees were vilified as criminals, their supporters screamed down. "I've never experienced anything like that," says Lohse.

Many right-wing groups use the Internet to whip up antipathy. Facebook pages like "German patriotic resistance" or "Freital resists" are used to spread inhuman hate. Christiane Schneider, leader of the political extremism department of the public youth protection watchdog, says the number of Internet pages with racist content has grown drastically in the past few months. "There is a country-wide network of these kinds of pages," Schneider says. Many of them exist on the "thin line between legal expression of opinion and incitement of the people." The racism is also frequently overt. A shaved-headed man from the Allgäu, in southern Germany, rants on Facebook: "Because the shitty pack of Jews and Muslim slobber are taking more and more away from us, it is we who have no future in our country. It's time to take up arms or whatever weapons you can get your hands on. Use them and defend yourselves. We need to annihilate the maggots!"

A man from Waldenburg in Saxony writes: "HEY YOU PARASITE ... I'll be in Freital next Sunday ... I'll get you, you deviant swine!!!! If the police won't act, I'LL act. I'll get you, you swine." And a woman argues: "According to the media, refugees are to be housed in Buchenwald ... all they have to do is turn the gas back on." Many of them posted their hateful tirades openly onto the Web with their full names, says youth protection worker Schneider. "The whole thing has reached a kind of degree of normality."

Tegernsee: Middle Class Protest
Racism isn't limited to the neo-Nazi scene, to the prefab estates of the former East or to people with little education. There is also resentment against the refugees in the middle class, among the wealthy and the very wealthy. The inhabitants of Tegernsee, in the Bavarian region of Oberbayern, are largely upper middle class. Businesspeople, lawyers and doctors live here, amidst turquoise-blue water and green mountains. Some local citizens regularly met in the Waakirchen community gymnasium to bowl, often multiple times per month. The bowlers allowed the tenant of the Kegelstüberl, Stefan Heufelder, to earn decent income. But since the authorities began housing 21 refugees in the basement of the gymnasium in late April, the customers have stayed away.

Instead, Heufelder got calls from upset customers. They complained that they didn't want to stand shoulder to shoulder with "blacks" at the urinal, or run into them during their smoke breaks at the tavern. Heufelder was horrified by his customers' reactions. "These are people from well-to-do circles," he says. "You wouldn't expect something like that." Rumors are spreading locally: The refugee applicants from Syria, Eritrea, Mali and Senegal are reportedly bringing in disease. The parents of primary-school children asked the community to separate the school's yard from the gymnasium with a fence and privacy screen, purportedly to protect the privacy of the refugees in the basement. Waakirchen's mayor, Sepp Hartl, tried to defuse the anger. "The refugees may have differently colored skin, but they are people with a heart and soul," he told the public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. Now he's receiving threatening letters.

Because Hartl wants to set up containers for refugees in the town, people protested a meeting he attended in May. Owners are afraid that homes in the area will lose value. According to Bielefeld conflict researcher Andreas Zick, German politicians and society are too tolerant of anti-refugee sentiment. He argues that the state has pushed back sexism and homophobia, but too little has been done to combat stereotypes about asylum-seekers. Members of the educated classes, of all people, tend to view refugees as economically worthless, Zick says. Only a small number of people with anti-refugee sentiments have ever come into contact with refugees. They know very little about the experiences of those looking for safe haven, or about their often extremely perilous odyssey to Germany. That ignorance makes it easier for them to demonize refugees as dangerous.

Hilda: Refugee Stigma
The worst, Osman says, is the waiting. "The waiting makes us sick." For seven months, Osman, a 32-year-old IT expert from Syria, has been living in a refugee shelter in Hilden, a suburb of Düsseldorf. He shares a small room with three other men, and can't wait for the authorities to make a decision about his refugee status. Individual communities like nearby Leverkusen or Wuppertal house the majority of their refugees in apartments. But the authorities usually place them in so-called collective housing -- in schools, gymnasiums or containers at the edge of the city. The refugees often feel isolated from society in the camps. The people living in Hilden's shelters claim they were bullied by employees of the immigration office. A female refugee says helpers from the city were banned from donating a washing machine. The office disputes this.

Osman speaks perfect English. He would like to work and make money for his family, which has been stuck in Lebanon ever since they fled from Syria. But the law makes it more difficult for refugees to search for work. Although asylum-seekers are allowed to find a job three months after they arrive, in most cases employers need to prove that they couldn't find any qualified German or EU applicants before they can hire an asylum-seeker. Politicians ask Germans to have more solidarity with migrants, but the country's public institutions themselves play a role in the establishment of racist fears. People of color are more often stopped at train stations and in trains. The United Nations has described this practice as a form of "racial profiling."

In early July, just a few days after the refugee home in Meissen caught fire, the federal parliament, the Bundestag, agreed to toughen Germany's refugee law. In the future, refugees coming to Germany with the help of smugglers and those circumventing border controls could lose their passport, and asylum-seekers making false statements to authorities could be arrested. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière of the CDU said that the tough approach to the new arrivals is necessary in order to secure public "approval for immigration and the entry of people in need of protection in Germany," as if Germans were somehow more likely to approve of asylum policies if some of the refugees were detained.

Remchingen: The End of an Illusion
The frame of the roof truss is visible from afar, the black beams rising up like a memorial in the blue summer sky. From close up, visitors can spot evidence of the fire's power -- broken roof tiles on the ground, soot covering the facade above the window openings. Refugees were supposed to move into the building in Remchingen, near Karlsruhe, shortly. The people responsible have yet to be caught -- it remains unclear what caused the fire, but the Karlsruhe Criminal Police believe it was likely arson. The fire, which took place in the night of the Saturday before last, didn't merely destroy the building, it also destroyed an illusion: that right-wing attacks take place in the former East, not in West German neighborhoods.

The state government of Baden-Württemberg had done lots of things right when it came to refugee policy. The state has an Integration Ministry at its disposal and State Governor Winfried Kretschmann, a member of the Green Party, organizes refugee summits that bring together representatives from society and the municipalities, with the goal of strengthening solidarity. But that only makes the shock about the Remchingen fire bigger. Kretschmann describes it as a "vile arson attack." The district administrator says, "We are ashamed that something like that could happen here." Remchingen's mayor, Luca Prayon, sits perplexed in his office a few days after the event. He looks exhausted. What went wrong?

Prayon talks about the things that are going well in his community. A week before the fire, locals and refugees celebrated a farm festival together. This Sunday, the local council has invited people to join a rally for a "cosmopolitan and pluralistic county." There is also to be a minute of silence. But it was likely no coincidence that the fire took place in Remchingen. The region has been considered a right-wing hotspot for years. Homeowners who wanted to sell their buildings to the community so they could be used as refugee homes received threatening letters. Shortly after the fire, the members of Die Rechte Enzkreis, a right-wing group, put flyers in mailboxes. "Fraud has many faces," they said. And "why the expensive integration courses?" In a neighboring community, people formed an anti-refugee initiative hoping to use a public petition to block the opening of a refugee hostel. It didn't take long for them to find the supporters they needed for the petition.
© The Spiegel


Germany: Neo-Nazi suspect Beate Zschäpe presses charges against lawyers

Beate Zschäpe, the lead suspect in Munich's ongoing neo-Nazi trial, has pressed charges against all three of her initial defense attorneys. The move follows months of arguing among the murder suspect and her lawyers.

24/7/2015- The long-running dispute among Zschäpe and her three attorneys, Wolfgang Stahl, Wolfgang Heer und Anja Sturm, came to a head on Friday. A spokesperson for Munich's public prosecution department said Zschäpe had accused the three defense attorney's of "violating the lawyer's duty of confidentiality." The claims will now be investigated. The 40-year-old defendant has attempted to fire her legal team multiple times over the last year. Her applications, however, have been repeatedly denied by the court. A fourth attorney, Mathias Grasel, with whom Zschäpe seems to coordinate most closely, was appointed several weeks ago. All three lawyers also previously asked to be withdrawn from the case, but the court rejected their application on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Murder suspect
Zschäpe is the only known surviving member of an alleged killer trio called the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which prosecutors have blamed for 10 murders between 2000 and 2007. The victims were all residents in Germany - eight men of Turkish origin, a Greek migrant, and a German policewoman. The gang's two other members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, died in 2011 in an apparent murder-suicide while hiding in a camper van after a bank robbery.

Police investigation a 'fiasco'
The case has generated heated debate in Germany, primarily because the NSU cell went undetected for over a decade despite authorities having dozens of informants in the country's right-wing extremist scene. The trial has also raised questions of institutional bias within the German police and media, which insisted until 2011 that the murder spree was carried out by migrant crime gangs instead of a xenophobic far-right group. A state parliamentary committee examining the police investigation of the far-right terror group labeled it a "fiasco."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Neo-Nazi trial nears collapse as defence revolts

Beate Zschäpe accused of link to longest serial killing campaign in post-war Germany

20/7/2015- After more than two years and 200 days of hearings, Germany’s most high-profile neo-Nazi trial is heading into uncertain waters and an even more uncertain verdict. A Munich judge has refused an application by three public defenders to be released from their duties representing Beate Zschäpe, the surviving member of the extreme-right National Socialist Underground (NSU). The 40-year-old is standing trial for murder over alleged involvement in a terrorist campaign behind the deaths of eight Turkish-born immigrants, a Greek national and a German policewoman. Only in 2011, four years after the last killing, were the crimes – carried out all over Germany – linked as the work of the previously unknown NSU. The group’s other two members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, died in an apparent murder-suicide after a botched bank robbery, through which they financed their campaign.

Ms Zschäpe blew up their last hideout and tried to escape but was arrested and has been in custody since 2011. She has stayed silent since her high-profile trial began in May 2013 under tight security in Munich. In recent months Ms Zschäpe has complained to the court that she has no confidence in her trio of court-appointed lawyers and filed an application with the court for them to be replaced. She accused them of only going through the motions to defend her in court and of leaking sensitive documents to the media. The court refused her request but appointed a fourth lawyer to the defence team. On Monday the original three court-appointed lawyers – Wolfgang Heer, Wolfgang Stahl and Anja Sturm – filed their own application to leave the trial. In recent weeks trial attendees say the lawyers and their client are no longer speaking to each other.

The Munich court adjourned proceedings on Monday to consider the request before issuing a refusal, saying it could see no formal reason to grant the release. Legal experts say it was unclear whether the case could continue with new defence lawyers or whether granting the application would force a mistrial. “It could also mean that, if the trial continues with the current defence, that the defendant has a reason at the end for appeal,” said one of the defence lawyers, Mr Stahl, ahead of the ruling, “by saying she was not defended adequately, at least not in the last phase when we said we couldn’t defend her properly”. A collapse of the trial would be a further disaster for German authorities who have vowed to do everything in their power to investigate the NSU campaign, the longest serial killing campaign in post-war German history.

An 18-month parliamentary inquiry into the NSU affair blamed institutional incompetence “without parallel” for allowing the organisation to operate without detection for more than a decade. The inquiry’s 1,000-page report said overlapping police structures and institutional rivalry between investigators in various federal states meant that crucial information was not shared – in particular that the same gun was used in all 10 murders.
© The Irish Times.


Germany: Dies Irae campaign takes aim at neo-Nazis in Freital

The anonymous artist collective Dies Irae has made a spectacular statement in Freital by plastering anti-Nazi slogans everywhere. The town became infamous after a string of demos outside a home for asylum seekers.

24/7/2015- One member of Dies Irae (Latin for "day of wrath") snuck around the small town outside Dresden on Wednesday night and replaced advertising billboards with self-designed posters carrying slogans like "Nazis secretly eat falafel," "Turn on your brain, turn off racism," and "No human is illegal." "I did this one alone," the anonymous Dies Irae member told DW. "You probably saw all the news reports from Freital - all the talk about so-called concerned citizens who are against the home and took part in a demo with a lot of horrible far-right slogans. It was so disturbing that Freital became the target of this new action." Freital, with a population of barely 40,000, made headlines in June after local authorities announced plans to house 280 refugees in a disused hotel where 100 people had already found shelter. Locals mounted a series of increasingly angry protests, with many chanting racist slogans. That culminated in a toxic town hall meeting on July 6, when protesters clashed with local politicians and scuffles broke out.

Not complicated
"The point was to reoccupy public space to send a message," the Dies Irae member said of his nocturnal operation. "Of course, you could say, well the Nazis could do that, too; they could put swastikas in the display cases or something. Well, yes, but a lot of people would get upset very quickly, and would replace them straight away. People should be able to form public spaces, and that's what we wanted to achieve." A representative for Deutsche Plakatwerbung, the advertising firm that rents out the display cases, told the news site "MOPO24" that the company had informed police of the action and sent workers to take down all the posters on Thursday afternoon. Now, the company will investigate how the display cases had been unlocked. That shouldn't take long. "You can open them with one of those universal keys that most people have at home if they have a bike," according to Dies Irae. "Anyone can do it."

Police spokeswoman Ilka Rosenkranz said that even though the content of the posters was not actionable, there was a possibility that a charge of property damage could be investigated. "That's garbage of course - no property was damaged," the artist told DW. "The police even saw me during the action, they drove past me slowly, but I looked professional enough that they probably thought it was my job."

Reclaiming public space
The Freital action represents a minor diversion for Dies Irae, who usually specialize in "adbusting" campaigns aimed at altering public billboards they consider sexist or promoting unhealthy body images. They have also put up posters highlighting working conditions at the factories of major clothing stores such as Primark. But their main enemy is the concept of outside adverting and its effect on society. "There are all these display cases and billboards and their only purpose is to make us buy idiotic products. They have no function that serves society at all," Dies Irae said. "If you have a lot of money you can alter a lot of public space." "We think it'd be much cooler if we could use this space ourselves," the artist said. "It could be with art, or information on the local youth club's summer program, or tips on how to save taxes for all I care - some information that serves society, but not bullshit ads that hammer in all day that I have to buy a new H&M top, or that I'm too fat, or that I should eat a McDonald's burger."

The Freital action represents Dies Irae's most recent attempt to repurpose public advertising surfaces. But it also comes in the middle of an increasingly toxic anti-refugee climate throughout Germany. On Thursday, the Interior Ministry announced that attacks on homes for asylum-seekers had surged in the first half of 2015, with 202 attacks between January and the end of June. That means the number has already surpassed the 198 counted in the whole of 2014. The ministry reported that although most attacks were carried out by people with known far-right sympathies, they were also recording an increasing number of attacks by people with no direct links to neo-Nazi circles.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Ominous rise in racism against refugees, top filmmaker says

Too many people in Germany are openly espousing fascist views about the half million refugees expected to arrive this year and more need to stand up and oppose racism, the country's leading filmmaker said in an interview with Reuters.

24/7/2015- Til Schweiger, an actor, director and producer who is best known internationally for his role in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds", became a lightning rod for racist comments on social media this week after he endorsed a charity drive for refugees. "It was a shock for me to see that there are obviously more people in Germany with fascist opinions than I thought there would be," he said. Schweiger said politicians, law enforcement officials and celebrities were not doing enough to thwart racism as the country of 82 million struggles to cope with the record influx of people fleeing conflict and famine. Some 150 newly erected shelters have been attacked, damaged or destroyed this year - often by arsonists trying to keep refugees from being sheltered in their towns.

Schweiger, who made the country's top film in 2014, "Honig im Kopf", which sold 7 million tickets, generated considerable public discussion across Germany this week after a bitter online exchange about refugees. "Oh, man, I was afraid that would happen," Schweiger wrote on a social media page after some followers called the incomers "parasites" and "vampires". "You people make me want to vomit. Get away from my page, you pitiless pack. You make me sick."  Excerpts of the exchange, including a long selection of anti-refugee comments, were printed in newspapers across the country. "They come out of the woodwork because they don't have anything to fear because there are no consequences against racism," Schweiger said during a break in filming outside Berlin. "There should be consequences for those who openly voice racist and fascist opinions. Our politicians should stand up way more, our justice system should stand up way more and punish these people harder than they ever did before."

Growing anti-refugee sentiment has tarnished the image of Germany, a country that has done much to atone for its Nazi past. It has also eclipsed the work of those who are helping to support displaced people and the many Germans who are sympathetic to their plight, he said. "I'm sure they're in the majority," he said. "But there are many on the other side who attack you openly, showing their profile pictures - Nazi faces and skinheads who write this unbelievable stuff and threaten you and say they're going to get you." About 450,000 refugees, or more than double the 200,000 that came in 2014, are expected in Germany this year.  "A lot of people are thanking me for standing up but I don't want to be the only one standing up," Schweiger said. "Our political leaders are important. But I don't see anyone hunting down these guys setting refugee camps on fire or sending them to jail."

Schweiger, who also appeared in Hollywood hits such as "Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life" and "Driven", said what was most discouraging is that some conservative politicians are tacitly encouraging the far-right attacks on refugee shelters. "There are politicians who make it all legit - they say things like 'we can't handle this flood of refugees'," he said.
© Reuters


Germany: Far-right extremists turn to social media to spread their ideas

20/7/2015- Neo-Nazis and far-right groups are rebranding themselves to appeal to a digital generation of potential sympathizers. @dwnews explores how extreme ideas are being shared via memes, hashtags and even online cooking shows.

Large online presence
Right-wing extremists in Germany are increasingly using social media to spread their ideas. In fact, according to a German youth protection agency, there are some 5,507 websites controlled by right-wing groups. About 70 percent of them are on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr.

Social media messaging
Social media is becoming the most popular way for Germany’s far right to reach out to potential new sympathizers. But the content shared on many of these accounts isn’t what you might expect. There are no pictures of Adolf Hitler, no Swastikas and no overt violence. Instead, many of these accounts are taking a more subtle approach, camouflaging extreme ideas with sexy pictures, memes or funny videos. 

Extreme memes
Social media gives anyone - even neo-Nazi organizations - the opportunity to share their message far and wide. But it can be dificult to make outwardly hateful content go viral. So how do these groups spread their extreme views to the general public? One way is by masking them in memes. Nationalistic, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic ideas are being repackaged into memes (images that have made their way into popular culture) and distributed on social media. The toned-down messages and familiar images make these "extreme memes" more acceptable for an average social media user to share.

Hijacking hashtags
Social media is no stranger to discussions of controversial topics with strong opinions on both left and right. And often these discussions take the form of a Twitter hashtag, a way of organizing many different tweets related to the same topic. Well, it seems far-right groups have begun hijacking hashtags and overwhelming the discussion with far-right views. Take the anti-racism hashtag #schauhin for example. "Schau hin" essentially means "look closely." The hashtag and the Twitter account above are meant to raise awareness about everyday racism in Germany. But a far right group created their own Twitter account with a similar name and logo. They then encouraged their followers to use that same #schauhin hashtag to discuss the "overwhelming infiltration of immigrants" into Germany. 

Targeting young people
Social media is an effective way to spread extreme messages and it’s also a great way to target young people. Platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter tend to have plenty of young users. And now with the rise of smartphones, kids can easily access social media without adult supervision. Germany’s extreme right-wing groups have figured this out and are now directing their messages directly at young people. One group even created a Twitter account featuring the Sesame Street character "Cookie Monster" (Krümelmonster in Germany) to attract young people to the right-wing scene. The account is linked to various extreme right-wing groups and tweets in support of right-wing activities. For exam-ple, praising PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), a group that at its peak earlier this year marched every Monday against the perceived "Islamization of Germany."

The "Cookie Monster" even took his recruitment efforts offline. A man who was later identified as a neo-Nazi was arrested at a school in eastern Germany last year after being caught handing out flyers to kids wearing a cookie monster outfit. The flyers contained far-right material. Pictures of the "right-wing muppet" pamphleting another school were posted on the account last month. And there are similar online videos too. This comes from the Krümelmonster Twitter account and shows the "Cookie Monster" mocking news reports, warning the public about it. Germany's far-right political parties have big online followings. Despite their lack of success in Germany's parliament, the country's two most popular right-wing parties have huge online followings. The AfD (Alternative for Germany) party, which advocates for Germany's exit from the European Union, and the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) currently have no seats in the German Bundestag. However, the two parties have far and away more Facebook followers than any other German political party.


By now most of us have heard of "hipsters." But what's a "nipster?" It's a combination between a Nazi and a hipster and these young and "cool" neo-Nazis have a prominent online presence. This photo comes from a far-right group called Balaclava Küche (küche means kitchen and a balaclava is the black face mask) Images like these combine elements that are popular with Germany's youth. Club Mate is an energy drink that hipsters in Berlin love to drink. And veganism is a calling card of many young German activists. So seeing young people with far-right ideas but who eat, drink and dress in a cool way can send a powerful message. Balaclava Küche even has its own vegan cooking program on YouTube. In this episope the cooks are mocking FEMEN, a radical feminist group.

Experts weigh-in
Christina Dinar is an expert on Germany's extreme right. Her work with helps educate young people about the far right's online activities. Dinar says the extreme right wing in Germany uses many of the same social media techniques as everyone else to get their message out.

Sex Appeal
As the saying goes, "sex sells." And it seems Germany's far-right extremist groups have figured that out too. Rather than sharing frightening or intimidating images on social media (think Swastikas or Adolf Hitler tributes) now they are frequently using sex appeal. Anti-immigrant and pro-Europe messages have been repackaged. At first glance, they resemble shampoo advertisements.

Does online activity have offline consequences?
Memes, tweets and Facebook pages might help recruit new people to far-right circles but it's hard to link them to any offline violence. However, a Google map that surfaced last week suggests that extreme groups might be using the Internet to encourage action against asylum seekers in Germany. The map, which has since been taken down, showed the locations of hundreds of shelters for asylum seekers in Germany. The map's title? "No refugee center in my backyard." It appeared to have been created by a German neo-Nazi group called "The Third Way." There were no explicit calls for violence but the map gave exact addresses of many of the asylum centers, which could be used to plan attacks.

Attacks on refugee housing
There has been a string of arson attacks on refugee housing in Germany this year - at least 13 so far - an average of nearly two per month. The fires were mostly set to empty buildings being prepared to house refugees but the attacks have taken place all over the country. In the first half of this year nearly 180,000 people applied for asylum in Germany while anti-immigration sentiments are on the rise.

Finding and reporting extreme content
So what should you do if you find extreme content on social media? Well, the first challenge is correctly identifying it, which can be difficult given how skilled far right groups have become at disguising their messages. If you do encounter racist, violent or offensive content, our experts say: report it. Christina Dinar from told us there are established methods for asking Twitter or Facebook for removing content.

© The Deutsche Welle.


UK: Gypsy police officers band together to beat prejudice in the force

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Police Association formed a year ago works to offer support to fellow officers and challenge stereotypes.

21/7/2015- When the words Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and police feature in the same sentence, it is usually in reference to some confrontation. The news last week that the Metropolitan police is conducting an investigation into allegations that officers used a secret online forum to air racist views about members of those communities is just the latest example of the depth of the problem. Now, an organisation of GRT police officers is hoping to challenge public perceptions and provide a network for fellow officers, who have often felt isolated in their job. This month sees the first anniversary of the formation of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA). Formed by a handful of officers, it now has a membership of 105 police staff across 23 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, and Scotland. Members range from a young Romany dog-handler in Kent to an experienced sergeant in Humberside.

“There is an old Romany saying – Gel on pukker nixes – which means ‘move on and say nothing’,” says Jim Davies, a police constable at Thames Valley police and executive director and driving force behind the GRTPA. “That worked for many centuries as a survival strategy, but not any more.” Davies, who joined the police in 1994, grew up on a caravan site near Banbury in Oxfordshire where his father had a successful tarmac business. But Davies was conscious at an early age that his parents tried to distance him from the community. “It was a protective mechanism,” he says, sitting in the Banbury police station canteen. “Parents will go to quite some lengths to almost ‘de-Gypsify’ their children. You grow up knowing that people will regard you differently, particularly if you live on a site. “Growing up, I knew that there was an issue between the Gypsy and Traveller community and the police without really understanding why,” he says.

Nevertheless, he joined Thames Valley police, after finding himself unfulfilled by work in a bank and in car sales. Initially, he was conscious of the casual attitudes towards Gypsies and Travellers among some officers, whether in the use of derogatory terms like “pikey” or “gyppo” or the general perception of them as criminals. He eventually raised the issue with his senior management, and this led – with the backing of the Police Federation – to an employment tribunal last year at which he claimed he had been subject to racial discrimination through the behaviour of fellow officers. A non-financial settlement was reached, which neither side is allowed to discuss in detail. But it resulted in an independent review of how Thames Valley police engages with GRT communities, and is due to be published shortly.

A year earlier, Davies had decided to seek out other serving officers from his community in the police force. “You can think you’re the only Gypsy Traveller police officer,” he says. A sergeant who had done a lot of work in the area told him he was aware of seven in Surrey. “They had all told him there was no way he was allowed to ‘out’ them.” In late 2013, a meeting under the auspices of what was then the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) – now the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) – examined the issue of police relations with the community. There Davies met Petr Torak, an officer with Cambridgeshire police, who had come to Britain as a teenager with his family as refugees from the Czech Republic at a time , in 1999, when Roma there were being attacked by skinheads and far-right groups.

Torak, who had always wanted to be a police officer, spoke little English when he arrived but was encouraged by his father to seek a job in the police. He joined in 2006. “My life mission is promoting the police as a career [to the GRT community],” says Torak, who has just been awarded an MBE for his work with the GRT community in Peterborough. “We have to deal with a very negative media which suggests that all Roma are beggars and thieves.” At this gathering, the idea was born to “start our own association and challenge that stereotype that sees us as criminals”, says Davies. The official launch in parliament was hosted by Labour MP Andy Slaughter, now shadow justice minister. Full membership is open to all from those backgrounds, honorary membership being available to supporters within the police service.

An email was sent to all police forces. Many of those who got in touch were reluctant to be identified. Davies likens their situation to that of gay officers 20 years ago, when he first joined the police. Since those days, and the formation of gay police organisations, gay police officers have marched in uniform on gay pride marches and reached the rank of chief constable. “You have two groups who, on the surface, aren’t visible,” he says. “When I joined, it was still unusual to be openly gay in the police, and I heard stories from a few years earlier of physical attacks on gay officers. What they have achieved has given me a lot of heart. I’m not saying the police is perfect now in the way it treats gay people, but there has been a huge improvement in quite a short period of time. I don’t see why the same can’t be achieved for us.”

He hopes that more and more colleagues will feel free to be open about their backgrounds. “You can sense a nervousness about admitting it publicly. People will say, ‘My dad was a Gypsy, that’s why I’m interested’ – and I’ll say, ‘That makes you a Gypsy then!’ You can understand it. If you go back hundreds of years, being recognised as a Gypsy meant death.” Even today, many in the community are reluctant to identify themselves as such. In the 2011 census, 58,000 people identified themselves as Gypsy or Irish Traveller, although the true figure is thought to be many times that number. Prejudice is still common, says Davies, whether it is being followed round a store by security staff or being barred from a pub. He shows me a photo of a sign at a Worcestershire caravan site that says: “No loud music, no Travellers, all dogs must be kept on leads.”

One of the biggest recent clashes involving police and Travellers came in 2011 at Dale Farm in Essex. There were violent exchanges around the eviction of families from the site, which led to 34 arrests. “Things like that don’t help because the coverage of it tends not to go into the fact that there are many families who are homeless, and local councils are loth to provide adequate accommodation because of the feeling of their constituents and the fuss that it will cause.” The police service in general and Thames Valley in particular have been very supportive of the association, says Davies. The Police Federation is helping to organise the GRTPA’s first national conference in November. Mark Watson, a former police inspector who liaises between the NPCC and GRTPA, says that the police nationally were very appreciative of the new association.

“Trevor Phillips, when he was the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that prejudice against the community was ‘the last acceptable form of racism’ and, sadly, that’s probably still the case – so I don’t blame people for being reluctant to identify themselves,” Watson says. “We want to try and change that.” The associa-tion has also been welcomed by the community from which it sprung. Matt Brindley, policy and research manager of the Traveller Movement, which aims to involve the GRT community in decision-making processes at a national policy level, says the association’s existence has already “dramatically improved how Thames Valley, Cheshire and Humberside police – to name but a few” engage with the wider community. Police officers can now be seen as “role models challenging the negative stereotypes too often seen in the media”, he says.

For Davies, Torak and the growing number of colleagues, like dog-handler Kate West in Kent and police sergeant Tracey Chaney in Humberside, the time when they felt they had to “move on and say nothing” has clearly passed. “In 26 years in the police I never thought I would see the day when there was an organisation like this, so I’m very proud to be a member,” saysChaney, who is a director of the association. “I didn’t feel able to tell colleagues about my background until about two or three years ago. I’m visible, but I know there are others in the organisation and in the police who don’t feel able to be yet.” The GRTPA website carries testimonials from serving officers recounting their experiences.

Here are two, the first from a former decorated soldier:
1. “The month I left the military I visited my grandparents who had stopped at a site, taking with me my prized medals along with the union flag I had brought in a charity raffle held for a friend who died in service. Leaving my grandfather’s site I was stopped by the police, they searched my car and upon finding the medal asked me: ‘Who have you stolen this from?’ My reply, ‘Her Majesty’, reflected the attitude of the officers. Needless to say they appeared rather embarrassed when they found my military ID card and compared that to my name engraved on the side of the medal. Ironic as within less than a week I was about to swap that military ID card for a police warrant card. The examples of racism towards GRT people and communities during my time in the police have been frequent, offensive and unchallenged, much to my shame. After eight years of silence, I decided to join another constabulary and be proactive in promoting my heritage. I can honestly say that the people who are aware I am a Gypsy have made no derogatory remarks in front of me.”

2. “Control room calls up, a shoplifting in progress, two female shoplifters, any units free? Silence. Repeat, shoplifting in progress, any units free to deal, shop staff believe they are Travellers. Suddenly, four units are available and all sorts of people offering ‘backup’ for two unnamed/unconfirmed women!”
© The Guardian


UK: Islamic Network charity website called for the slaughter of gay people

Islamic Network, a Muslim charity, leant its name to articles calling for the murder of homosexuals and encouraging the killing of Muslims, an inquiry has found.

20/7/2015- An investigation by the Charity Commission has found posts on the Islamic Network's website "encouraged violence and denigrated particular faiths". The Charity Commission has said in a statement on its findings:"The charity's website had hosted historic material from 2004 that legitimised the killing of gay people and encouraged the killing of Muslims in certain circumstances." The investigation concluded it was inappropriate for the charity to host the information in its name on the website, although Islamic Network's current trustees had "acted quickly to take the website offline when the material in question came to their attention". The current heads of the charity were not in place when the information was published. The domain name which hosted the articles was inherited by the charity. The inquiry focused on two articles, one called "The prohibition of the blood of a Muslim and the reasons for shedding it" and the other "Homosexuality".

The former made reference to the circumstances when under an interpretation of Islamic law it was permissible to "spill the blood of a Muslim". The instances included adultery, murder and apostacy. The article "Homosexuality" claimed that homosexuality was a "perverted sexual behaviour", a "sick disease" and an "evil and filthy practice". It advocated that gay people should be "destroyed by fire", "executed by being thrown from a great height" and "stoned to death". Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "Trustees carry ultimate responsibility for the operation and activities of the charity, including for the content of their charity's website and social media. "Trustees are responsible for ensuring steps are taken to remove clearly inappropriate content posted on their website straight away. In cases of illegality such as hate crime or terrorist-related material, they must report the matter to the police," she added.

Islamic Network's aims include increasing awareness of the tenets of the Islamic faith among Muslims and non-Muslims through educational media and seminars. The charity has said in a statement to IBTimes UK that "As previously stated this was an historical website we had inherited over a decade ago with thousands of articles which, like the ones in question, had been posted by unknown third parties overseas without our knowledge. "We accept we had not completed the process of reviewing the articles as quickly as we should have done. However as soon as we were made aware of the existence of those articles the trustees removed the website with immediate effect. "The trustees recognized these articles were offensive and hateful, and did not reflect our views and were against our own anti-extremism policies."
© The International Business Times - UK


UK: Racism row over ‘blacking-up’ for Scots gay awards

A new awards ceremony to celebrate the contribution of gay and lesbian people to Scottish life has been caught up in a race row after the organisers used models in black make-up to promote the event.

19/7/2015- Anti-racism campaigners have criticised the organisers of the Icon Awards, saying that “blacking-up” is unacceptable, and one of the ceremony’s supporters, the American underwear company Andrew Christian, has withdrawn from the event. Andrew Christian had agreed to provide underwear for the final awards ­ceremony on 9 October in the Crowne Plaza Glasgow. Having seen pictures of the models, the ­Californian-based company has said it no longer ­wanted to be associated with the event. The ceremony organised by the Glasgow-based company Paramount Creative aims to showcase the achievements of the LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Among the awards are ones for LBGT role model, outstanding services to the community, politician and employer of the year and broadcast journalist of the year. Pictures of the models were part of the ceremony’s marketing strategy and were prominent at the official launch of the event this month.

Yesterday a spokesman for Andrew Christian said the company would not be providing its goods at October’s ceremony. “When we saw the pictures we realised that was not something we would like to support and we are not ­going to contribute in the ­future,” he said. Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP and gay rights campaigner, tweeted: “I’m not involved, but I am amazed that it seems not to have occurred to the organisers that ‘blacking-up’ is not OK.” Yesterday Harvie added: “I don’t think anybody suggests there is racist intent, but really people should have the good sense to avoid this kind of imagery.” A statement from the Edinburgh University Student Association’s Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group said: “The use of blackface (the act of using theatrical make-up to darken a performer’s skin, ­usually in order to portray a black character) has long been recognised as an insidious form of racial hatred and ignorance. The use of this despicable practice is incredibly damaging and actively perpetuates the oppression of black communities.”

A statement from event manager Michael Macfarlane said he was “saddened” that the images had been seen as negative and apologised “to anyone who has taken offence”. He added: “We had no derogatory or negative intention with the models in question, and the gold and black body art was solely used to symbolise luxury not colour or creed.”
© The Scotsman


UK: Police face racism probe after secret online FB page is discovered

Britain’s largest police force has launched an investigation into allegations that its officers used a “secret” Facebook group to air racist views about ethnic minorities.

19/7/2015- The Metropolitan Police is examining allegations that serving officers used a closed group on the social network to post racist comments about Gypsies and Travellers. Both groups are officially recognised as ethnic minorities, and discriminating against them is illegal. Police officers could be prosecuted if they are found to have broken the law, and will also face professional misconduct inquiries, Scotland Yard said. But the force was urged to launch a wider review amid claims that racism against both groups has become “endemic” and “part of police culture”. The Met was first alerted to the Facebook group in April after concerns were raised by one of its members. Named “I’ve Met the Met”, it has around 3,000 participants, and serves as an unofficial online forum for serving and retired officers, but is managed on an invite-only basis and cannot be viewed by the public.

Some of the comments were made during a discussion in March about the BBC Trust’s decision to clear Jeremy Clarkson and other Top Gear presenters of wrongdoing for their use of the word “pikey”, a derogatory term for Travellers. Others dated back further. “I never knew a pikey could be offended,” read one comment. “I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts … just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.” Another said: “There is not a small minority of criminals from the GT [Gypsy and Traveller] community – to all intents and purposes they all depend on crime.” The comments suggest that a “canteen culture of racism towards Gypsies and Travellers” exists within the Met, according to a formal complaint sent to Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe by the Traveller Movement charity at the end of last month.

It also claimed that some police forces “categorise Gypsies and Travellers as criminals”, and that entire operations were sometimes conducted based purely on “ethnic and family name profiling”. The allegations will come as a blow for the Met, which has been working to repair its reputation since Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence found that it was institutionally racist. In a statement, the force confirmed that officials at its internal watchdog, the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), had been investigating comments made on the Facebook group for three months. It urged members of the public to come forward if they had concerns about the online behaviour of any officers. “We can confirm that concerns were raised in April 2015 with the DPS regarding comments made by some members of a group on Facebook,” it said. “The group administrators have set the privacy settings as ‘secret’ but we understand it to include former and serving MPS officers among its members.

“DPS is assessing the information to determine whether any serving MPS officer or staff may have committed any acts of misconduct and will also look to see if any criminal offences may have been committed. Should either be disclosed they will be fully investigated.” A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Government’s human rights watchdog, said it had received a similar complaint about the Facebook group and was “in discussion” with the Met over what action to take. If it believes there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it has the power to order a full investigation into racism within the British police service.

Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement, said the Facebook comments were “shocking”. She added: “The fact that they are potentially made by serving and retired police officers gives us no confidence at all in the Metropolitan Police’s ability to both police these communities and to attract and protect its own staff who are from Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds. “We believe that the Met must set up an internal review to look into the all too common assumptions that all Gypsies and Travellers are criminals, and they do not deserve the same quality of service and policing as any other member of our society.” Jim Davies, chair of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA), said the allegations were a “sad indictment of the police service”, adding that racism against both groups was prevalent in forces across the country, not just in London.

“Racism towards Gypsies and Travellers is endemic and is part of police culture,” he said. “It has been allowed to fester and spread unchallenged for years and the effect on the lives of Gypsies and Travellers in the police service is disastrous. “Members of the GRTPA report having to endure this sort of behaviour on a regular basis, and in order to survive such a hostile environment develop coping mechanisms which include hiding their ethnicity to all but their most trusted friends.”

What the posts say:
# “I never knew a pikey could be offended. I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts … just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.”
# “I fucking hate Pikeys.”
# “The Policing Diversity book reliably informed us we should ‘remove your footwear when entering a travellers caravan …’
[Reply]: “Ha ha ha that’s only so they can nick them easier.”
# “Pikey is just a word used by many to refer to the low life gypsies in this world. Using it does not mean that you hate all gypsies. Same applies to the ‘n’ word, Paki etc etc”
# “If you don’t live in a caravan, claim dole, have four aliases, convictions for theft of scrap metal, and are an artisan driveway landscaper then sorry chap, you’re not proper Pikey no matter how many teas you’ve had from a baked bean can.”
© The Independent


Headlines 17 July, 2015

Italian protesters torch beds to try block migrant arrivals

17/7/2015- Residents in a chic Rome suburb and a northern Italian village staged angry anti-immigrant protests on Friday, with villagers setting mattresses ablaze in a bid to stop authorities from housing migrants. Authorities in the village of Quito plan to accommodate 101 immigrants in empty apartments, but several residents broke into one of the buildings, removed camp beds, mattresses and televisions intended for the newcomers and set them on fire outside. The protesters then put up tents, with the Corriere della Sera newspaper quoting them as saying: "We aren't going home until they leave - this is an invasion." Italy is currently hosting more than 80 000 migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean fleeing war, persecution or poverty in the Middle East and Africa. The arrivals include many Africans, particularly Eritreans, as well as Syrians.

Luca Zaia, the president of Italy's northern Veneto region and a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, told Italian television he agreed with the protesters, and complained about the "Africanisation" of his own region. "This is a declaration of war for those who don't understand what it means to put [migrants] alongside families with young children," he said. But Treviso prefect Maria Augusta Marrosu said: "They are staying, because they don't have the choice." Graffiti sprayed on the side of a building in Quinto said in large red letters: "Prefect Marrosu, take them home." A near-simultaneous protest in Casale San Nicola, a well-heeled suburb north of Rome, saw police face off against a hundred locals protesting the arrival of about 20 migrants.

The protesters, who included members of an extreme-right group, shouted "You can't bring them here" and "We are afraid for our daughters" as several women formed a human chain to try block the migrants' bus. Clashes erupted between the demonstrators and police, who escorted the migrants into a former school that has been turned into a reception centre. Two demonstrators were arrested over the incident, in which 14 officers were slightly injured, the police said. Rome authorities condemned the protests and noted the location of the centre was carefully chosen in accordance with the law.

Italy's resources are being severely stretched by the influx of migrants. The interior ministry wants to share the burden across regions, but in many cases local governments do not have adequate facilities to host them, particularly in the north. Lombardy, Italy's richest region, is hosting nine percent of the migrants, while Veneto is hosting four percent and Liguria 2%. All three regions are in the country's north. Sicily is currently accommodating 22% of the arrivals, according to official figures released in June.


Italy: Violent clashes break out in Rome as opposition to migrants increases

As well as clashes between protesters and police, locals force the evacuation of 100 migrants by burning mattresses and furniture in northern Italy.

17/7/2015- Violent protests against refugees broke out in Rome on Friday, hours after locals in the northern city of Treviso forced the evacuation of a group of migrants by burning mattresses and furniture. Protesters clashed with truncheon-wielding riot police in the suburb of Casale San Nicola on the outskirts of Rome as a group of 19 refugees were driven under police escort to a former school that has been converted into a migrant reception centre. At least 14 police officers were hurt in the clashes, which came amid a growing backlash against the 84,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Italy this year after crossing the Mediterranean in boats and dinghies operated by people smugglers based in Libya. That is on top of the 170,000 who reached Italian shores last year.

Demonstrators, some of them from a far-Right group called Casapound, hurled stones and water bottles at the bus carrying the refugees, prompting police to charge at them with shields and truncheons. Protesters also burned rubbish skips and bales of hay and tried to block a road. Clutching Italian flags, they said they wanted their suburb to remain “Italian” and claimed they did not have adequate infrastructure to deal with the migrants. The ugly scenes came just hours after the authorities in Treviso, in the Veneto region of northern Italy, were forced to move 101 mainly African migrants from two empty apartment buildings in which they had been housed. Residents in the town of Quinto di Treviso, outside Treviso, set mattresses, television sets and furniture on fire in protest at the resettlement, saying they did not want the migrants living nearby. They had seized the objects after breaking into the buildings, protesting against what they said was “an invasion”. The migrants had to be transferred to a local army barracks for their own safety.

Luca Zaia, the governor of Veneto, voiced support for the protesters, saying that his region was being “Africanised” by the arrival of so many migrants. “The Veneto is in danger of becoming an outpost of Africa,” he said. Mr Zaia is a prominent member of the Northern League, a centre-Right political party which has seen its popularity rise on an anti-immigration platform. “There are families living there, many of them with small children, and the local authority, without warning anyone, sends 101 refugees. Residents are just claiming the right to live in peace,” he told La Stampa newspaper, without identifying what threat, if any, the migrants posed. He said that “two out of every three” of the refugees were economic migrants and did not have the right to claim asylum in Italy, calling for the international community to set up processing centres in North Africa where genuine asylum seekers could be distinguished from economic migrants. “In my region we have 517,000 immigrants, 42,000 of them without jobs. We have no more room for them - enough,” he said.

Matteo Salvini, the head of the Northern League, criticised the police response and said local authorities should stop “coddling” migrants. His remarks were condemned by the governing, centre-Left Democratic Party. "Salvini's instigation of violence is shameful. Trying to pick up votes on people's misfortune is disgusting," said the party’s Khalid Chaouki, one of Italy’s few ethnic minority MPs. Maria Augusta Marrosu, the local prefect in Treviso, said residents who had set fire to property would be prosecuted. “It’s the Italians who are behaving badly, not the foreigners,” he said.

© The Telegraph

Netherlands: Immigrants from western countries are most likely to leave

17/7/2015- Half of the immigrants who came to the Netherlands in 2003 had left the country 10 years later, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. In particular, immigrants from Japan, Canada and the US tended to stay for short periods, the CBS said. Over 80% of those who arrived in 2003 have now left, as have 60% of people from the Antillean islands. By contrast, 30% of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Suriname have moved on. Those who stay are less likely to have a paid job than other immigrants, particularly those from western countries. In 2003, 107,000 newcomers came to the Netherlands. The CBS says most immigrants from western countries come to the Netherlands to work or to study but not to make the country their permanent home. Most people who came to the Netherlands as refugees also still live here.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Social security benefit, student loan ban looms for Dutch jihadis

15/7/2015- Ministers have finalised legislation which will stop people who join terrorist organisations in Iraq or Syria being given social security benefits and student loans, the Telegraaf says on Wednesday. Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher hopes the move will remove a potential source of income for jihadis and make youngsters think twice about joining terrorist organisations, the paper says. The new law, which introduces an immediate ban on payments, will also affect women who travel to Syria and Iraq to marry jihadis. Current rules to stop payments take too long to apply, the Telegraaf says. Returnees will be entitled to claim benefits, which Asscher hopes will improve their reintegration into normal society. The draft legislation will be sent to the Council of State advisory body this autumn and will then be discussed in parliament. The Telegraaf does not say how many of the 190 people who have left the Netherlands for Iraq or Syria were claiming benefits or were officially classed as students.
© The Dutch News


Czech Rep: Prague City Hall bans demonstration in support of refugees

15/7/2015- The Prague City Hall has banned a Saturday meeting in support of refugees since the same place on Wenceslas Square in the centre was reserved earlier for a rally of immigration opponents, organised by the extremist National Democracy (ND), the City Hall has announced. Three events in the Prague centre are scheduled for Saturday. At 14:00, the people opposed to hateful signs and spread of fear of the refugees will meet at the lower part of Wenceslas square. At 15:00, a rally of those who do not want migrants in the Czech Republic is to be held at St Wenceslas statue on the square. At 17:00, a "popular camp" of the groupings and extremists who demand immediate closure of the borders and the Czech Republic's withdrawal from the EU will start at the bottom of Wenceslas Square. The fourth event to express solidarity with refugees was to be staged at the same place from 16:00. Its organisers announced it to the City Hall on July 9.

"However, on July 2, the City Hall received an announcement about a meeting against immigration, against quotas and for departure from the EU convoked by the National Democracy," the City Hall said. The opponents of immigration refused to share the area with its supporters. A previous anti-immigration rally was held on July 1, attended by a crowd of about 700. The demonstrators warned of the "hordes of horny blacks" and put up fake gallows for "traitors." As the police did not intervene, they were then criticised by the authorities. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD) said such signs of xenophobia and racism could not be tolerated. Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD) and Deputy PM Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) also condemned it. Organisers of one of the Saturday rallies from the extra-parliamentary National Democracy say "carrying dummy gallows is an absolutely appropriate expression of the disagreement with the government." The government recently agreed to accept 1,500 refugees by the end of 2017.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czechs want to supervise choice of refugees

15/7/2015- Czechs will oppose the redistribution of migrants within the EU if it does have not a say in the supervision of the choice of the refugees that are to be moved from Italy and Greece to the Czech Republic, Tomas Haisman, director of the Interior Ministry asylum and migration policy section, told journalists yesterday.
He said he did not expect an agreement on the exact number of the refugees destined for redistribution to be concluded soon. Last week, the Czech government agreed to accept 1,500 refugees by 2017. "It does not make sense to discuss anything before there is an agreement on the relocation numbers and an agreement on the relocation conditions," Haisman said. "We are ready to work on it as of September, but we will not elaborate before there are finished agreements now lying on a table in Brussels," he added. He said he did not expect the final agreements to be reached by the interior ministers who were scheduled to meet in Brussels on July 20.

Along with the definition of exact figures, the Czech Republic also wants to have clear rules of the process, Haisman said. "We have a single interest. We only want to relocate people from the countries in which we will be able to send our own people," he added. He said EU members should supervise the execution of the asylum and immigration procedures in Italy and Greece. "If this is not linked, the Czech Republic will be against the relocation," Haisman said. In the two years to come, EU countries are to redistribute roughly 40,000 refugees from Italy and Greece. They should also accept 20,000 displaced people now staying in the refugee camps outside Europe.
Earlier yesterday, Amnesty International passed a petition to Haisman. Over half a million Europeans asked their leaders to deal with the situation of the refugees and migrants on the European borders rapidly. The petition, also signed by about 1,500 Czechs, demands that European politicians should ensure access to the proceedings on international protection to the refugees who will get into Europe and to end the cooperation limiting migration flows to the EU with the third countries with a low level of human rights protection.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Far-right reaches for new extremes

15/7/2015- Right-wing extremists recently held a demonstration on Wenceslas Square in the centre of Prague, Czech Republic to protest against immigration into the country. They waved gallows and nooses and called for them to be used on “all traitors of the nation”. Those traitors, in their eyes, are the defenders of immigrants and the Czech government for pursuing what they see as pro-immigration policies. Czech police did not act against the demonstrators carrying the gallows and nooses. They did, though, arrest six left-wing dissidents protesting against the demonstration. This is probably the first time such extreme symbols have been used in a protest in the Czech Republic, which generally has a reputation for relative racial tolerance. The Czech police issued a statement saying the presence of the gallows and nooses was “a new phenomenon” and suggested that the law had not been broken. When criticised by the Czech Social Democratic home secretary Milan Chovanec, the police said that they would ask for expert legal advice “to analyse the problem”.

Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka took a stronger line. He said the arrest of the left-wing demonstrators was ”absurd” and warned that the police must not tolerate intimidation of this kind. Sobotka added that he would not be intimidated and would press on with plans to take in several hundred refugees. Independent Czech lawyers later expressed the view that carrying gallows and nooses at a demonstration is indeed illegal under Czech law and that the police should have acted. Yet still no-one has been charged. In the meantime, two more large demonstrations are due to be held in Prague on July 18 – one for and one against immigration.

Intolerance in the mainstream
These protests come against a backdrop of creeping Islamophobia in Czech politics. Martin Konvička, a biologist at the University of South Bohemia, has founded a political party called The Anti-Islamic Bloc, and plans to stand candidates in next year’s regional elections. Whether they will do well remains unclear, but for the time being, the party is capitalising on fear about immigration to attract support. Czech president Miloš Zeman has publicly expressed similar views, stating that he too, is against Islam in the Czech Republic. Zeman won the direct presidential election in 2013, having run as a left-wing candidate who was highly critical of the then right-of-centre government. However, since his election he has made ever more controversial and ever more right wing, often very populist, public statements.

Recent international political developments, such as the war in Ukraine and the perceived danger of a wave of illegal immigrants threatening to swamp Europe, have caused considerable confusion among Czech voters. As a result, the division between right-wing and left-wing attitudes have become increasingly blurred. Many left-wing activists in the Czech Republic now openly sympathise with the right-wing regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia, and many disaffected Czech citizens who would have considered themselves as left wing have now openly assumed a strongly anti-immigration attitude. According to a government opinion poll published June, 83% Czechs are seriously worried about the possible influx of refugees into the Czech Republic – even though the government has agreed to accept only a few hundred.

This shift in public attitude has been encouraged by popular media and social networks, which have normalised and legitimised racism and xenophobia. Many Czechs are experiencing disillusionment. After decades of being excluded from the stable and affluent West, they have finally been able to join, just as it seems to be destabilising in front of their very eyes. At the same time, there seems to be very little informed, factual and rational debate to explain contemporary political and economic issues to the public and dispel their fears about immigration. That, in turn, enables scenes like those that took place in Prague to go ahead without sanction.
© The Conversation


Romanian Mufti Eases Concerns Over Huge Mosque in Bucharest

Folllowing claims that a new Turkish-built mosque in Bucharest will attract Islamic extremists, Mufti says the community has a right to a place of worship in the capital

15/7/2015- “Our plan is to build a mosque with a capacity to hold 1,000 people, a small park for kids, a fountain, a place for ablution and a small summer school for the study of the Koran. Nothing more,” Mufti Iusuf Murat, head of the Islamic community in Romania, said on Tuesday. His defensive statement follows a sharp debate in recent days in Romania over Turkey’s plans to finance construction of a huge new mosque in Bucharest. At the end of May, the government approved the allocation of 13,000 square metres in one of the central districts of Bucharest for the mosque, one of the largest in Eastern Europe. In exchange, Romania is to build a church in Istanbul. Media reports said the mosque will be built with money from Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs, DIB, an organisation that has aided the construction of more than 100 mosques around the world, with construction ongoing in 38 different locations. But the plan has drawn many adverse comments from public figures who say it will attract Islamists.

Former president Traian Basescu said the mosque posed a risk to national security as it would lure thousands of Muslims to Romania. He said that “6,000 Muslim students would come to Romania to study Islam” as a result. The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania, MCA, said the mosque risked being used by Islamic fundamentalist groups as a centre for supporting terrorism and promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Christian attitudes. Mufti Iusuf Murat on Tuesday denied these allegations and said Muslims had a right to a place of worship in the capital. "It is our constitutional right to ask for a place of worship for our community. In Bucharest there is no purpose-built mosque but only several places of Muslim worship," he said. "We wanted Turkey to finance the construction, but if Romanian people and officials are opposing that idea, we will ask for money from the Romanian state. It is our right,” the Mufti added.

The estimated costs for building the mosque is some 1 million euro. Muslims are few in number in Romania. Official statistics say there are only 64,000 out of a population of 19.5 million. Most are ethnic Turks and Tatars living in the Dobrogea region of eastern Romania. About 10,000 to 20,000 are more recent immigrants. Romania is a secular state but around 86 per cent of the population belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church and most of the rest are Catholics and members of other Christian groups. A total of 15 other religious communities are officially recognised, including the Islamic community, which entitles them to government funding and limited tax exemption. Romania’s largest mosque can hold 800 people but is nowhere near Bucharest. Located in the port of Constanta, it is in the east of the country, near the Black Sea. This area was for centuries part of the Ottoman Empire and is still home to a significant Turkish community. The building, known as the King’s Mosque, was built up with money from Carol I, the first King of Romania, as a sign of his respect for the Muslim community in the country.
© Balkan Insight


OSCE Urges Bulgarian Authorities to Halt Evictions of Roma

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has called on Bulgaria to immediately stop evictions of Roma and address the problem of anti-Roma rhetoric.

14/7/2015- The media statement of the OSCE was issued several days after the European Court of Human Rights demanded the suspension of the demolition of two illegal buildings in the village of Garmen. Responding to a motion submitted by Bulgarian human rights NGOs, on July 10 the Strasbourg-based court urged the Bulgarian government to halt the house demolitions until alternative housing was secured for the vulnerable claimants. The appeal submitted by the Bulgarian NGOs drew attention to the fact that a number of minors, including children with severe disabilities, and a pregnant woman, would end up homeless after the demolition for July 13.

In a media statement issued on July 13, Michael Georg Link, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on Bulgarian authorities to immediately address interethnic tension and halt evictions in Roma communities. “Roma families in the municipality of Garmen were forcefully evicted from their homes on 29 June and there are reports that evictions will continue this week. The evictions have taken place in response to a series of anti-Roma protests in Garmen, and in an atmosphere of strong anti-Roma rhetoric by some political parties,” he declared. “Bulgarian authorities should halt any further evictions that put Roma at risk of becoming homeless,” Link said. “Such actions must comply with international standards and provide for adequate housing for those evicted.”

“Protests confirm the persistence of deeply-rooted prejudice and racism against Roma and Sinti in our societies. In Bulgaria, this is especially relevant in the light of violent anti-Roma protests in 2011,” Link declared, drawing attention to the serious problem of continued hate speech, extremism and violence against Roma across Europe. “Politicians should lead by example and refrain from anti-Roma rhetoric to gain support from the electorate,” Link continued. “This is not in line with Bulgaria’s commitments to combat discrimination and promote equal opportunities for all citizens.” In end-May, anti-Roma unrest erupted in the southwestern municipality of Garmen, with protesters demanding the swift demolition of illegal buildings housing Roma families. The tensions escalated after a mass brawl over loud music.
© Novinite


Hungary: HRFs Tad Stahnke: Don't be duped by Orbán's charm offensive! (opinion)

Tad Stahnke is the vice president of a Washington, D.C.-based organization called Human Rights First, which has launched campaigns advocating for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, as well as for LGBT rights in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and for anti-human trafficking initiatives. This time, the group is speaking out forcefully against a major visit to Washington D.C. by Hungary’s far right Jobbik party. They have issued an excellent Fact Sheet on the background of far right extremism in Hungary. But in this piece, Mr. Stahnke argues that the overarching problem is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s decision to tolerate the far right and to build an increasingly authoritarian state in the heart of Europe. The author calls on lawmakers in Washington not to be “duped” by the current Fidesz government, no matter how colourful its “charm offensive.”

Guess who’s coming to Washington? If your answer happens to be Europe’s most powerful ultra-rightist, antisemitic party, you’re right.
By Tad Stahnke

15/7/2015- Parliamentarians from Hungary’s three largest parties are in Washington, and the second largest is Jobbik, a neo-fascist party that won 20 percent of the vote in a recent national election. A shadowy lobbying group has arranged the visit, which is cloaked in mystery, but the fact alone that Jobbik is trying to build ties in Washington should be cause for alarm. Jobbik is cultivating extremism both in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán grows evermore authoritarian, and in the European Parliament, where extremist, far-right parties have formed a bloc. Across the continent, a resurgence of ultra-nationalism and neo-fascism threatens the rights and safety of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Along with Greece’s Golden Dawn, Jobbik is the bloody tip of Europe’s far-right spear.

Jobbik has ascended largely on the strength of its vicious anti-immigrant, anti-Roma agenda. Its leader, Gábor Vona, recently criticized Fidesz, Orbán’s ruling party, for ignoring the “problem” of Roma living together with the mainstream population. The parliamentarian who will represent Jobbik in DC helped found the now banned Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary group that used to storm through villages inciting violence against Roma as it recruited members for Jobbik. Antisemitism is also inherent to Jobbik, which is thriving in a country where, according to a 2013 poll, 50 percent of Jews have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe. A few examples of Jobbik’s anti-semitism: A Jobbik mayor claimed Jews controlled the country and called for the execution of several liberal politicians; a Jobbik parliamen-tarian, in the name of national security, called for the creation of a list of Jews serving in the government; the head of Jobbik’s youth arm recently complained about a mandatory class on the Holocaust at a Hungarian Catholic University.

Despite declaring a “no tolerance” policy on anti-semitism, Prime Minister Orbán generally hasn’t challenged the extremism of Jobbik; on the contrary, he’s co-opted many components of its agenda, exploiting the very hatreds on which Jobbik subsists. The policy research outfit Political Capital compiled a list of ten Jobbik proposals that Fidesz implemented at least in part. These include efforts to whitewash Hungary’s role in the Holocaust, crack down on immigrants, reinstate the death penalty, and strengthen ties to authoritarian regimes. Orbán’s embrace of Jobbik’s policies is part of a broad increase in repression under his rule. He’s changed the constitution to increase his power and restricted the ability of civil society activists and independent journalists to operate freely. He’s not coy about his intentions; he’s declared his desire to create an “illiberal state” within the Russian sphere of influence, and he’s well on his way, as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest earlier this year and a massive energy deal with Russia.

Hungary is an important ally for the United States, and in the past year senior U.S. officials from President Obama on down have expressed their concerns about Orbán’s leadership. They should continue to do so. They shouldn’t allow a charm offensive from Hungarian politicians to soften their support for human rights and Hungarian democracy. Hungarians deserve better. As Jobbik gains power both in Hungary and the EU, Mr. Vona has been trying to give his party a makeover, downplaying its racism in favor of an anti-corruption message. But policy makers in Washington, whose validation Jobbik seeks, shouldn’t be fooled. Policymakers shouldn’t meet with a member of this extremist, antisemitic party. There’s no place for antisemitism in Europe, and there’s no place for it in Congress. And if they meet with the Fidesz parliamentarian, they should grill him on his party’s Jobbik-lite policies. They should ask: if you rub off the ugly stain of Jobbik’s blatant racism, is there a significant difference between Jobbik and Fidesz?
Tad Stahnke
© The Hungarian Free Press


Hungary Starts Building Fence On Serbian Border

Hungary has started to build short stretches of four-metre-high fencing on the border with Serbia as a test - before deciding whether to fence off the entire frontier with its neighbour.

14/7/2015- The Hungarian Army on Monday started to prepare the terrain near Morahalom, a small southern border town of about 6,000 people, for the erection of a four-metre-high fence designed to stop illegal migrants. The authorities are only erecting an “experimental” fence, here however, no more than 150 metres long. Similar short stretches of fences are to be built at ten locations in all, where the Hungarian authorities say they are "most exposed to the pressures of migrants". Building a fence along the entire 175-km-long border with Serbia will cost about 20 million euros, it is estimated. After a period of three weeks to a month, the Hungarian government will decide whether to continue building the rest of the fence or not.

"Every day we catch 500 people," Zoltan, a 24-year-old local border official overseeing the Morahalamom part of the border, said. "They have been coming early in the morning every day for months. People from [nearby] Assathalom are very upset because of this situation. They want to live peacefully," he said. Over 70,000 illegal migrants from Afganistan, Africa and Syria have arrived in Hungary since the beginning of this year, a sharp increase on the figures for 2014 and 2013. The arrivals reach Hungary on a route that leads from Turkey through Serbia and Macedonia. Most are heading for Western Europe, Germany above all. Germany received a record 180,000 asylum applications in the first half of this year. Morahalom is a small town about 20 km from the Hungarian city of Szeged and about 40 km from the northern Serbian border town of Subotica.

Last week, police from Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany agreed to conduct more joint actions to stop illegal migrants and target the cross-border migrant smugglers. Karol Papp, director of police in Hungary, said joint patrols of Hungarian and Serbian police were already yielding significant results in preventing illegal border crossings. “We are ready to provide all necessary assistance to the Serbian police and it is very important that the two police cooperate well,” Papp said. He said he was not sure when Hungary will start to build a fence on the border with Serbia because “it is now in the planning stage”. Locals in Assathalom generally support the idea of a fence, although some local officials wonder whether building only a short stretch of fence has much point to it. "I don’t know whether is it going to have any effect. A 100-metre fence will not help us, as the illegal migrants will just cross the border at different points that are not fenced off," Veronika Dobo, Assathalom's assistant mayor, said.

Hungary said it was considering building a fence along the entire border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants in mid-June. Serbian officials initially condemned the plan and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that it was “not the solution” to control the flow of illegal immigrants, adding that “Serbia is not the one to blame” for illegal migration flows. However, at a joint meeting of the two governments in Budapest on July 1, Hungary said the new border fence is not directed against Serbia - a point that Vucic appeared to accept.
© Balkan Insight


European far-Right parties 'seeking anti-Islam coalition with Jewish groups'

Right-wing European political parties are seeking to sow religious discord in Europe by approaching Jewish organisations in a bid to form an anti-Islamic alliance.

14/7/2015- Speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, a senior figure in one of Europe's largest Jewish organisations has revealed that their group has been approached in the past year by MEPs, including members of the Austrian Freedom Party, seeking to create a coalition to combat the rise of Islam in Europe. They emphasized that all approaches had been flatly refused. Last week, Marine Le Pen and other far-Right politicians met with Vadim Rabinovich, the chairman of the European Jewish Parliament (EJP), prompting criticism from European Jewish leaders. Now the source says that far-Right's rapprochement with Jewish groups is far from new as politicians from various parties have attempted to court their group, offering to "be friends with Jews" if Jewish groups "help us in our fight against Muslims". "One of the arguments they used is to say: 'You know, those who try to fight you [Jews], they are the exact same people that we try to fight against, so you have to understand our fight and join us and together we will hate them'. But we have nothing against Muslims," says the Jewish source.

The senior Jewish figure says that far-Right parties are seeking "a certificate of honesty" for their Islamophobic campaigns by attempting to get Jewish organisations on board. Representatives from the Austrian Freedom Party were unavailable to comment on the allegations. In a meeting chaired by Le Pen last Wednesday, Rabinovich met with 10 representatives of the Europe of Nations and Freedom, a bloc of nationalist parties in the European Parliament formed in June. The bloc includes the Austrian Freedom Party, whose current leader Heinz-Christian Strache was criticised for posting a cartoon perceived as anti-Semitic on his Facebook page. The party's former leader, Jörg Haider, who died in a car crash in 2008, previously described the Nazi concentration camps as "penal camps" and referred to SS officers as "upstanding men of character".

Along with the Front National and former Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson, the bloc also includes Italy's Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini has vehemently opposed the building of more mosques in the country, despite there being only a handful of places of worship for the country's 1.5 million Muslims, and the Party for Freedom, a Dutch right-wing party led by Geert Wilders, who said earlier this year that Europe is "at war" with Islam after terrorist attacks in Paris killed 17 people. The meeting drew criticism from prominent Jewish leaders and led to one member of the EJP, French rabbi Levi Matusof, resigning after the meeting which he called "opportunistic and inappropriate". The European Jewish Association, which claims to be the biggest federation of Jewish organisations in Europe, said that the EJP risked "magnifying the problem" of anti-Semitism by "giving a platform to those seeking to spread messages of hate".

Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said he was shocked that the EJP met with "fig leaf racists and anti-Semites" and added: "It goes without saying that these people [the EJP] are as unrepresentative of the vast majority of European Jews as this collective of Le Pen's MEPs is of the vast majority of European citizens." In a statement on the EJP's website, Rabinovich said he was "very surprised" by the negative reaction from other Jewish groups. "The meeting with the [Europe of Nations and Freedom] opens the new dialogue, which, in our firm conviction is what Europe needs today - a dialogue of everybody with everyone, in order to preserve peace and tolerance and combat anti-Semitism in Europe," said Rabinovich. He added that a joint statement with Le Pen had condemned anti-Semitism as "the cancer of Europe".

The EJP was founded in 2011 by Rabinovich and another Ukrainian Jewish billionaire, Igor Kolomoisky. Upon its foundation, it was criticised for including famous persons such as David Beckham and Stella McCartney in its original batch of election candidates. The elections were announced online without many candidates being informed. Newsweek contacted Janice Atkinson, an independent MEP formerly of Ukip and the vice-president of the Europe of Nations and Freedom, for details about last week's meeting, specifically whether the topic of Islam was discussed, but received no reply.
© Newsweek Europe


Why Spain has resisted the rise of the far right

Country's history of dictatorship and emigration may be stopping rise of the xenophobes.

13/7/2015- They came in droves, attracted by a booming economy. More than five million immigrants arrived in Spain between 1995 and 2005, changing the face of the country overnight and initially raising concerns of a possible xenophobic backlash or a rise of far-right political parties, as was the case in other European countries. But it didn’t happen. Then, in 2008, the financial crisis hit and the Spanish economy went bust. Finding themselves out of a job, hundreds of thousands of migrants decided to return home. But many others have stayed in a country where almost a quarter of the workforce is idle and where competition for scarce subsidies and jobs is fierce. Spain is very much the exception in Europe: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and the countries of the former eastern bloc have all witnessed the growth of anti-immigration parties. So why not Spain?

To start with, say the experts, the majority of migrants who came here did so during a construction boom, and they came to work. Migrants were well received because they fed the boom. What’s more, unlike in other European countries, those who came (mainly from Latin America and Romania) shared many cultural and religious traits with Spaniards. Another reason is that Spaniards are able to identify with the immigrant’s position, probably much more so than say, a German or a Finn. In the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Spaniards went abroad in search of work, and now, the children of those men and women are repeating the process. Esteban Ibarra, the president of the Movement Against Intolerance, says that Spain’s reliance on tourism has also made people here more open to foreigners. “A country that receives 65 million visitors a year has little choice but to be open and diverse,” he says.

But Ibarra says that perhaps more important are this country’s policies on integrating new arrivals. “We haven’t fallen into the French trap of assimilation, nor in the communitarian model of the United Kingdom, where each community lives in its own little world," he says. "In Spain, we have gone for multiculturalism. People live together, there have been a lot of mixed marriages, and that has been a good thing.” This country’s live-and-let-live attitude was forcefully demonstrated in the aftermath of the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, which killed nearly 200 people. The perpetrators were mainly Moroccans resident in Spain. But contrary to fears at the time, there were no major outbreaks of racism in the weeks and months that followed.

José Ignacio Torreblanca, who heads the European Council on Foreign Relations’ office in Madrid, agrees that Spain is the exception in the European context, noting that unlike in countries such as France or Sweden, there haven’t been any problems with integration. “In Spain, there is no discontent with immigration, and no electoral incentives for political parties, as there are in other countries.” Torreblanca explains why the Spanish electoral system doesn’t favor anti-immigration parties: “There are certainly opponents of immigration in Spain, but the political parties are not competing with each other to represent these views. An anti-immigration party would have a hard time attracting votes. This could be due to the way the Spanish right is largely grouped in a single party [the Popular Party], as well as an electoral system that punishes new parties. In countries with proportional election it is easier for these kinds of parties to appear.”

He cites the case of Vox, which emerged a couple of years ago with the aim of representing voters to the right of the PP, but which did not manage to win a single seat in the European Parliament. The emergence of two new parties, Podemos on the left, and Ciudadanos on the center-right, makes it even less likely that an anti-immigration party could find any space in the Spanish political spectrum, given that these two new forces have largely captured disgruntled voters. Rafael Ripoll, a councilor in the Madrid dormitory town of Alcalá de Henares for España 2000, an anti-immigration party that hopes to become Spain’s answer to France’s National Front, knows too well the difficulties he faces. “At present, Podemos and Ciudadanos dominate the political scene. The idea of ‘Spaniards first’ has been totally pushed aside,” he accepts. In his opinion, parties like his have failed to capture votes because “the average Spaniard is unaware that immigrants are taking away our constitutional rights. It could be a question of our national character, or it could be because of our recent history.”

Ripoll mentions what may arguably be the main reason Spaniards are not interested in the far right: the 40-year military dictatorship that followed a devastating civil war. This is especially true among the older generations. That said, things can change, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of General Francisco Franco. As the economic crisis slowly draws to an end, the fight for jobs and subsidies is intensifying, and it might be that just when it seems this country has left the worst behind it, the fragility of the Spanish miracle is exposed.
© El País in English


Slovakia: Romani pharmacy student attacked, her father claims it was racism

16/7/2015- An unidentified assailant used a wooden stick to attack Tereza Berkyová, a young Romani woman who is a gifted violinist and pharmacy student, after she performed with a folklore ensemble at a festival last weekend in the town of Detva. Her father told the Slovak TV station Markíza that he believes the attack was racially motivated. The 20-year-old was hospitalized after the assault. "Her jaw is broken in two places," a physician at the hospital in the town of Martin told Markíza. The young woman has since undergone an operation. The attack took place as she was on the way to the restroom. Her father, Roman Berky, who is a famous violinist and teacher at an arts school, said the assailant apparently struck his daughter several blows to the head. "They say he had a shaved head and shouted something about refugees during the attack," he said. "In my opinion this had a racial subtext," Berky told Markíza. Mária Faltániová, spokesperson for the Banská Bystrica Police, confirmed that "Police in Detva have received a criminal report of suspected assault."
© Romea.


Slovakia: Anti-migrant protest had also an anti-protest in Žilina

A protest against migrants was organised on July 11 in Žilina, but another anti-protest gathering was organised for the same time in another square of Žilina.

13/7/2015- While organisers of the first protest officially announced to city authorities that they expected about 100 participants, on social networks about 1,300 people confirmed their plans to attend. A reaction by some Žilina inhabitants has been a public money collection aimed at helping migrants. They gathered also on the afternoon of July 11, in Marian Square (while the anti-migrant gathering took place in Hlinka Square). They promised to give a certain amount for every participant of the neo-Nazi protest, and thus their number will impact the final sum donated to migrants. The money will go to the Marginal civic association that helps asylum-seekers to integrate into society, the Sme daily wrote. In this way, they hope to cut the number of participants. About 300 people gathered in Marian Square, with also some participants from the Pohoda music festival arriving.

The original, anti-migrant gathering, organised by citizens surrounding the Banská Bystrica regional governor Marian Kotleba and rightist extremists, also attracted about 300 people, slamming immigrants, Islam, and the European Union, however, in compliance with the right of assembly. After about an hour, both groups started to disperse, with no violent incidents taking place – unlike in Bratislava on June 20, the SITA newswire wrote. The police only dealt with one skirmish at the Andrej Hlinka Square where people were signing a petition against migrants, Sme wrote. The July 11 protest in Žilina against Slovakia's poor migrant policy may only further promote the policy and political ambitions of far-right extremists, as shown by the recent, similar protest in Bratislava, the Pravda daily quoted experts. A potential high-turnout could have meant that there is a movement emerging which leans towards radicalisation. But as it looks, the protest was not that attractive, after all, as the turnout was not impressive, according to Sme.
© The Slovak Spectator.


Ukraine: Tensions rising as far-right militia's boobytraps injure two police

Booby-trap explosions have injured two police officers in western Ukraine, further raising tensions in the region after a shootout with nationalists at the weekend left two men dead.

14/7/2015- The continued violence in the area, which borders the European Union and is rife with smuggling, highlights Kiev’s struggles with both endemic corruption and armed nationalist groups who have helped it fight pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. On Monday Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered the security services and police to disarm “illegal groups” and root out corruption and smuggling. Two police officers in Lviv were taken to hospital on Tuesday after mysterious bombings that the interior ministry said were connected with “events in the Zakarpattia region”, referring to the shootout in the city of Mukacheve on Saturday that killed two men. The gunfight began after police responded to the arrival of heavily armed Right Sector members at a sports complex controlled by an MP, Mikhail Lano, who openly opposes the group. Right Sector said its men had been trying to stop a smuggling operation, but others called it a fight over contraband.

Video footage showed Right Sector men shooting at a police car with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a heavy machine gun mounted on a pickup truck. The interior ministry said the far-right group had shot first. The first blast in Lviv, which is north of Mukacheve, occurred at about 9am when a lieutenant opened a neighbourhood police station, setting off an explosion. The 24-year-old man was in hospital in critical condition with multiple shrapnel wounds to his head and body. A second explosion went off about an hour later at another neighbourhood police station, injuring a 31-year-old female officer. The interior ministry said the station entrances had been booby-trapped and a safety clip from a grenade had been found at one site. Security forces detained two members of Right Sector late on Monday who it said were involved in the Mukacheve shootout. After the gunfight, government forces had surrounded Right Sector members in a wooded area near Mukacheve as well as a base in the Lviv region.

Right Sector grew in popularity after it played a lead role in the tumultuous mass protests that overthrew president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, and the group has joined other volunteer battalions, many of them also with far-right views, to fight pro-Russia rebels in the east. Kiev has been cautiously trying to integrate these irregular units into the military. Its troops surrounded a Right Sector base in eastern Ukraine in April after it refused to be broken up among different military units. The military eventually appointed Right Sector’s leader, MP Dmytro Yarosh as an adviser to the chief of staff, Viktor Muzhenko, in an apparent compromise. But Saturday’s clash showed that the process of subordinating Right Sector, which has claimed to have 10,000 fighters, is far from complete. On Monday, Poroshenko took armed groups to task without mentioning Right Sector by name. “No political force should have, and will not have, any kind of armed cells. No political organisation has the right to establish … criminal groups,” he told Ukraine’s security council.

Poroshenko added that the flow of weapons from the conflict in the east had raised the risk of crime around the country. Right Sector and other volunteer battalions have been accused of criminal activity and human rights violations, including torture and kidnapping. Speaking to the national security council on Monday, Poroshenko called for an investigation into everyone involved in the Mukacheve incident, which he blamed on the redirection of smuggling flows, and demanded “searches, arrests and direct criminal liability”. “We must untangle the knot of old problems requiring an immediate solution. I am talking about clans, smuggling, corruption and so on,” Poroshenko said, according to his press service. “The picture of what is happening there now is not black and white, it is simply shockingly black.” On Tuesday, Ukraine’s parliament created a temporary investigative commission to look into the circumstances of the Mukacheve conflict. Meanwhile, customs agents in Zakarpattia confiscated a cache of 2,000 cigarettes hidden in a rail wagon full of iron ore.
© The Guardian


Ukraine: Far right group challenges Ukraine government after shootout

12/7/2015- A Ukrainian far right group demanded the resignation of the interior minister and said it would block roads around Kiev on Sunday in a standoff over a fatal gun battle that challenges the authority of the government. Kiev has called on Right Sector, which played a prominent role in protests that toppled Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich a year ago, to lay down their weapons after a shootout on Saturday in the town of Mukacheve killed at least two people. The cause of the violence is not clear. The sides have different versions of events but Right Sector's response underlines the problems Kiev has keeping order while trying to carry out reforms and crush a rebellion in its east.

Close to bankruptcy and fearful of renewed conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east, Kiev has been criticized for being slow to reform the country's legal system, which is still described as favoring the rich and powerful. Right Sector presented its battle in Mukacheve as one to root out corruption, saying they had been lured to a sports club in Mukacheve on Saturday by a local politician they had accused of smuggling. It said their members were set upon by local police, who killed two of their members. Dozens of supporters of Right Sector, which is in turn hailed or blamed for injecting violence into last year's Maidan protests, also protested in Kiev and other major cities to demand Interior Minister Arsen Avakov be sacked.

In Kiev, the Interior Ministry said Right Sector opened fire first, killing one civilian, and Avakov said on his Facebook page three police officers and four civilians had been wounded in grenade attacks. Some officials suggested the violence was a turf war between groups keen to control smuggling routes from Mukacheve, which borders Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. On Sunday, the two sides were locked in a standoff, with Right Sector members refusing to give up their arms. Kiev sent more police to the region to try to persuade them to do so and President Petro Poroshenko ordered the police to disarm and arrest those responsible for the shooting.

Plan to Block Roads
Oleksiy Byk, a spokesman for Right Sector, said the group would set up as many checkpoints as needed to stop the flow of police reinforcements. "We will block the roads which the police can use to send more forces to surround our comrades," he told a news conference. "These checkpoints are not to stop civilian cars but to stop the police or any other force which is being sent to reinforce ... Mukacheve." One checkpoint outside Kiev had been set up next to a police checkpoint and was manned by two unarmed Right Sector members. They told local television they would not stop police cars. Right Sector also said they would send their men to Kiev if Avakov was not sacked.

Analysts said the moves were a direct challenge to Poroshenko and his government, and could threaten to open up a new front in Kiev's battle to bring order to Ukraine. "What happened in Mukacheve - this is a serious signal to the state. They must speed up moves to establish order - there must be no illegal armed groups," said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at Kiev's independent Penta political research center. "What happened in Mukacheve is a settling of scores between criminals. It is a conflict between clans, one of which calls themselves patriots ... This is challenge to stability."
© Reuters


France: No more Muhammad comics, says Charlie Hebdo editor

"Charlie Hebdo" editor Laurent Sourisseau has told "Stern" magazine he will no longer draw cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Souriseau's statement comes six months after a deadly attack on the magazine's offices

16/7/2015- During an interview with the Hamburg-based news magazine "Stern," editor of the French weekly "Charlie Hebdo" said he would no longer draw comics of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. "We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever they want. It is a bit strange though: we are expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to," Sourisseau told "Stern." The editor said that the magazine had done what it set out to do. "We've done our job. We have defended the right to caricature," Sourisseau said. "We still believe that we have the right to criticize all religions," the editor said, adding that he did not want to believe that the magazine "was possessed by Islam." "The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions," Sourisseau noted.

Sourisseau, who owns 40 percent of the company's shares, survived the deadly terrorist attack on the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" on January 7 by playing dead. He recounted the tragic event to "Stern," stating that "when it was over, there was no sound. No complaints. No whining. That is when I understood that most were dead." The victims included the magazine's late editor Stephane Charbonnier, nicknamed "Charb." The deadly campaign led by the militant Kouachi brothers in January left 16 dead after they raided the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" and took hostages at a kosher supermarket on the outskirts of Paris.
© The Deutsche Welle.


France: Anti-Semitic attacks climbed 84% after kosher shop killings

The number of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in France during the first quarter of 2015 increased by 84 percent over the corresponding period last year, a watchdog group said.

13/7/2015- The SPCJ security service of France’s Jewish communities released the figures Monday in a quarterly report that counted 508 anti-Semitic acts recorded between January and May. In the first four months of 2014, SPCJ recorded 276 incidents between January and May out of a total of 851 that year, making 2014 second only to the 974 incidents recorded in 2004 by the service. In all of 2013, SPCJ documented 423 incidents. The worst of the attacks this year occurred on Jan. 9, when an Islamist killed four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket. Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the first quarter this year, 121, or 23 percent, were classified by SPCJ as violent. The proportion of violent attacks was slightly higher in the first quarter of 2014, with 27 percent of the total, or 76 attacks. Death threats accounted for 387 incidents out of the total in the first four months of 2015, slightly more than three-quarters of the incidents. In 2012, the slaying of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse by a jihadist spurred a spike in anti-Semitic incidents throughout France, possibly by those inspired by the attack to target Jews, SPCJ reported at the time. SPCJ documented more than 90 anti-Semitic incidents in the 10 days that followed the shooting.
© JTA News


Germany: Attacks on refugee centers soar

17/7/2015- The latest in a string of attacks on buildings housing refugees in Germany occurred in the early hours of yesterday morning when a former hotel in the village of Reichertshofen, near Munich that was intended for 67 asylum seekers was gutted by fire. No one was staying in the building at the time. The incident - which followed a petition signed by 1,200 residents against housing new refugees - is just the latest in a worrying string of attacks on buildings intended to house those seeking asylum. Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, the Bundeskriminalamt, told Newsweek that there were 71 attacks on buildings housing refugees in the first three months of this year alone. That compares to 150 for the whole of 2014, 58 for 2013, and 24 for 2012. The German government expects the number of people seeking asylum to more than double this year to 450,000. This would be a record number for the country.

Andreas Hieronymus of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), says that from what he reads in the German media, these sorts of attacks on empty buildings are happening three or four times a week. "Everyday something is happening here in relation to asylum seekers homes", he says. He explains that reception centres in Hamburg, for instance, are now receiving 200-300 asylum seekers on a daily basis, and the local administration has run out of resources, resorting to providing tents and sports halls for housing, which is fuelling tensions. News of the latest attack followed reports that a Google map on the service's 'My Maps' feature that reveals the location of refugee centres around Germany has been circulated online by neo-Nazi groups. The map, titled "No refugee centre in my backyard", shows Germany covered in dots indicating refugee accommodation, despite it making no distinction between centres housing hundreds of refugees, or those just housing a few.

According to Deutsche Welle, the map, which gives out addresses of refugee centres as well as requesting users to provide more information, was produced by a German neo-Nazi group which goes by the name 'The Third Way'. Google confirmed to Newsweek that they have now removed the map from their service, explaining in a statement: "We're firm believers in access to information and freedom of expression. Where content is illegal or breaks our content policies or terms of service, including promotion of hatred or harm, we remove it from our products." Hieronymus thinks the map is a particularly ominous sign, and could have been used as a mobilisation tool, and a "new way of agitating". "It's worrying because [anyone] can look and find an asylum seeker home close to him or her, and think: can I make an arson attack or demolish it, or do something else to prevent asylum seekers coming to my area?' It gives people the opportunity to be active," he says.
© Newsweek.


Germany: Controversial map displaying refugee homes causes a stir

Activists fear an online map apparently created by a neo-Nazi group and which shows the locations of refugee homes and planned shelters across Germany could lead to more attacks against asylum seekers.

16/7/2015- Every red dot on the map represents a shelter for asylum seekers - and there are red dots all over Germany. A quick look at the online map, whose title translates roughly to "No refugee center in my backyard", suggests there is little space left in Germany that isn't already home to an asylum center or refugee shelter. Dots on the map are of equal size regardless of whether an address houses a single refugee or over a hundred. A click on a dot offers more information - often, it's a full address with a street name and number. Sometimes the extra information spells out how many refugees currently live at a shelter or details how many people will reside at a center currently under construction. The former British military base in Niederkrüchten, for example, is expected to house "up to 1,000 asylum seekers," the map said. In other instances, it's pointed out how refugees are "taking over" - a former medical clinic will be turned into a home for asylum seekers, just like a former school gym or a parish hall.

Map linked to neo-Nazi group
The creators of the map, which uses the Google Map service, have requested help filling in details about the refugee homes' locations and sizes from people willing to send addresses to an email address that appears to be affiliated with German neo-Nazi group "The Third Way." The group has published guidelines with the same title as the map and gives detailed information on how to prevent shelters for asylum seekers. The group also provides a guide on how to organize anti-asylum demonstrations, mobilize people against the construction of refugee accommodation and put pressure on local politicians so that the shelters are not built to avoid what the group calls the "flood of asylum seekers."

Stirring up hate
Activists have called on Google to delete the map, arguing that it stirs up hate and promotes violence against asylum seekers. Google is currently investigating the matter, Google Germany spokesperson Lena Heuermann told DW: "MyMaps is a neutral platform that [people] can use to publish geographical information. We will of course remove every map that violates our guidelines and we are currently reviewing if that is the case." Google was unable to comment on how many users had sent in requests to take down the map or when the map was first created. The map does not explicitly call on people to attack refugee homes. Instead it says it wants to prevent abuse of German asylum laws by people who do not require legal protection. Text accompanying the map says that just 2 percent of asylum requests are approved by German authorities.

Statistics from the German Interior Ministry for 2014, however, show that while 1.8 percent of applicants received asylum status, another 24 percent of people applying for shelter in Germany were recognized as refugees deserving protection. There, is, however little that can be done in terms of legal prosecution when it comes to the map, said Robert Lüdecke of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which works to eliminate neo-Nazism and right-wing extremism. The foundation is one of the groups that have urged Google to take down the map. "We realize, of course, that [deleting the map] is not the solution that will solve all problems, but it's important to send a message to operators such as Google to say that we don't tolerate such a thing," Lüdecke told DW.

Refugees at risk
Revealing the addresses posed a threat to asylum seekers, he added. That's also the case with shelters that have yet to be built or converted to housing. "As soon as I say this is going to be housing for asylum seekers, there is the fear and risk as we've seen in the past months and years that right-wing extremists mobilize early on to prevent such housing projects," he added. "This, unfortunately, seems to be a tactic that's working." Figures from Germany's Interior Ministry published last month show that 990 right-wing attacks took place in 2014, an increase of 24 percent compared to 2013. Of last year's violent incidents, 512 of the cases were xenophobic attacks. In the early hours of Thursday, a building in the southern German state of Bavaria that was slated to house refugees was set ablaze. Last weekend, a shelter in Saxony in Germany's east was shot at two nights in a row, bursting windows and scaring residents. "They don't just want to document addresses, they also want to visualize this 'wave' of asylum seekers they always talk about," Lüdecke said. "They don't just want to reach the potential violent criminals and racists, but also those who might voice their displeasure with refugees and tell them: 'Look, in every German state there are refugees now and it's time to act.' "I really fear that this map could provide a travel route for right-wing extremists," Lüdecke said.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Arsonists set another refugee facility on fire, shooting also reported

16/7/2015- Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that unidentified arsonists in Germany have set yet another building on fire that had been prepared to accommodate refugees. Last night arsonists attacked the still-empty complex in the Bavarian town of Reichertshofen. "We have not yet ruled out the possibility that the motivation was xenophobic," police spokesperson Hans-Peter Kammerer said. Several demonstrations had previously been held in the small town against the planned accommodations for refugees. The former guesthouse was turned into a residential hotel for refugees that was supposed to open in September. The arsonists set two entrances ablaze and the flames spread into a hall which has been completely destroyed. The damages are estimated at EUR 150 000 at least. In recent months several arson attacks on future residential hotels for refugees have been reported in several German states. Police are also investigating the case of a shooting at a residental hotel in the town of Böhlen near Leipzig in Saxony, which already hosts approximately 160 refugees. Unidentified assailants there fired weapons at the building two nights in a row last weekend. No one was physically injured by the incidents. The cladding of the building's facade was damaged.


German state failures: parallels between Gröning and neo-Nazi trials

Mehmet Daimagüler represented an Auschwitz survivor in the Gröning trial and relatives of NSU murder victims in the ongoing trial of Beate Zschäpe. He told DW about Germany's persistent blindness to Nazism

15/7/2015- Many people question whether it's still necessary to put on trial the 94-year-old Oskar Gröning, a self-professed "small cog" in the Auschwitz murder machine that was stopped 70 years ago. For Mehmet Daimagüler, "It is more necessary now than ever." The Berlin lawyer is representing co-plaintiffs in both the trial against the former Nazi officer, who was convicted Wednesday on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder in 1944, and the ongoing trial of Beate Zschäpe, a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground group. Zschäpe is accused of helping murder at least 10 people in a series of attacks between 2000 and 2006. 

In Gröning's trial in Lüneburg on Tuesday, Daimagüler was the last of a long line of plaintiffs' lawyers to offer a closing argument, but he was one of the few to put the Holocaust trial in the context of neo-Nazi atrocities happening in Germany today. "In Munich there are anti-Semites in the dock who both in word and deed propagated murder fantasies about Jews and immigrants, and at the same time bluster about the 'Auschwitz lie,'" he told the court. "Friends and acquaintances of the accused appear as witnesses and have a similar attitude. Let's not have any illusions: these are not just individual tragic cases." Every year, he added, thousands of people take to the streets of Dresden to condemn what they call the "bomb Holocaust" that destroyed the city during the war: "What are they doing but trivializing the Holocaust?"

Failures of the state
Outside the court in Lüneburg, just after Judge Franz Kompisch had delivered his verdict to Gröning, Daimagüler said he had reservations about the judge's closing statement. "I was pleased about many things, but for my taste the judge should have been more frank when it comes to the failure of German justice in the past 40, 50, 60 years," Daimagüler said. "Putting a 94-year-old man on trial who is not going to spend a single day in jail - this is really missing something. We should speak very clear and very loud - this is the last trial of its kind. I think he missed a chance to talk about the failure in German politics and German justice in post-war history."

In the NSU trial, Daimagüler is representing relatives of Abdurrahim Özüdogru, a factory worker killed in Nuremberg in 2001, and Ismail Yasar, a kebab shop owner killed in the same city in 2005. As with the other murders attributed to the NSU, the police failed to solve the crimes partly because they did not attribute them to neo-Nazis. As the trial and several parliamentary inquiries have shown, authorities wasted years chasing non-existent connections between victims and the Turkish mafia and put surviving relatives under surveillance for no reason.

'A kind of blindness'
That is part of the reason why Daimagüler said he sees more parallels between the trials than just the ideology of the defendants. "There is the question of the failure of the government, of the state," he said. "In the Munich trial, we have to say that many of the victims would be alive if the authorities had acted in the proper way. "And when it comes to this trial here in Lüneburg, we have to deal with the obvious fact that for decades, the German justice system failed to prosecute Nazis properly," he said. "There are always two aspects - the behavior of the defendant, and the behavior of the authorities." Daimagüler's colleague Cornelius Nestler, who represented 49 Holocaust survivors in the Gröning trial, was more cautious about drawing connections between the cases but agreed that the German judiciary's historical failure to prosecute Holocaust crimes is also a symptom of the state's unwillingness to face Nazism. "There is still not enough awareness among the German authorities of the importance of really fighting crimes of anti-Semitism," Nestler said. "It's a kind of blindness."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: 'Auschwitz book-keeper' Oskar Groening sentenced to four years

A German court has convicted a 94-year-old former guard at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz of being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews.

15/7/2015- Oskar Groening, known as the "book-keeper of Auschwitz", was sentenced to four years in prison. He was responsible for counting the belongings confiscated from prisoners and had admitted "moral guilt". His lawyers said he did not facilitate genocide, but prosecutors argued that he had helped the camp run smoothly. Many observers have questioned whether Groening will ultimately be sent to jail, given his advanced age. He is expected to be one of the last Nazis to face a courtroom. Defence lawyer Hans Holtermann was quoted as saying that he would review the verdict before deciding whether to appeal.

In the courtroom
Oskar Groening joked with his lawyers as the court waited for the judge to arrive to deliver his verdict. Watching him carefully was a small elderly man with bright eyes. Leon Schwarzbaum was 22 when he was transported to Auschwitz. He told me he is now 94 - the same age as Groening. He pointed to the tattooed numbers on his arm. "When they punched this on my arm they told me no-one lasts long in Auschwitz." After the verdict, I saw him again; four years is the right sentence, he said, after all he's an old man. Can he forgive Oskar Groening, I asked? "No," he replied. "I lost 30 members of my family in Auschwitz."

Delivering the verdict, Judge Franz Kompisch said Groening had willingly taken a "safe desk job" in a system that was "inhumane and all but unbearable for the human psyche". The trial in the northern German city of Lueneburg, which began earlier this year, heard evidence from several people who had survived the death camp. One of the survivors, Eva Kor, said she forgave Groening, and a picture of her shaking his hand was tweeted earlier this year. Judith Kalman, whose sister died at Auschwitz, said that as a child she "formed a strange myth to explain the baffling circumstances of my existence". "Early on, through my father's stories and my mother's startling revelations of horror, I absorbed the knowledge that innocent children could be murdered and whole families and communities eradicated by forces beyond their control," she added.

A statement from a group of Holocaust survivors and victims' relatives said the pain of losing families at Auschwitz could not be alleviated by criminal proceedings or the words of the accused. "But it gives us satisfaction that now the perpetrators cannot evade prosecution as long as they live," the statement said. The case revolved around the question of whether people who had played a minor role in the Nazi-ordered genocide but had not actively killed any Jews could still be guilty of a crime. Cornelius Nestler, a lawyer for a group of plaintiffs, said the case demonstrated that Auschwitz as a whole was "a murder machinery". "Everyone who participated in it has to take responsibility for it," he told Reuters news agency.

Who is Oskar Groening?
Oskar Groening described "orderly" scenes as trainloads of Jews were taken to the gas chambers
# Born in 1921 in Lower Saxony, Germany
# Joined the Hitler Youth and then the Waffen SS
# Worked at Auschwitz from 1942, counting money confiscated from prisoners
# Expressed regret and spoke openly of Auschwitz experiences, saying he wanted to counter Holocaust deniers
# 'Book-keeper of Auschwitz'

'A four-year sentence for 300,000 lives sounds slightly ridiculous'
Groening had publicly discussed his role at Auschwitz, making him unusual among former Nazis brought to trial. He said he was speaking out in order to silence those who deny the Holocaust took place. "I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria," he told the BBC in the 2005 documentary Auschwitz: the Nazis and the "Final Solution". "I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place." More than one million people, most of them European Jews, died between 1940 and 1945 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
# Construction began in 1940 on site that grew to 40 sq km (15 sq miles)
# About one million Jews were killed at the camp
# Other victims included Roma (Gypsies), disabled people, homosexuals, dissidents, non-Jewish Poles and Soviet prisoners
© BBC News


East Germany is becoming reacquainted with its dark past

12/7/2015- Once a model Social Democrat community where the poor in Germany’s Weimar Republic found help and support, the small town of Freital, just south of Dresden, has become a byword for German racism and intolerance. Its target is Hotel Leonardo, or rather, the 300 or so asylum-seekers who are now virtual prisoners in the former conference hotel. Thanks to local hostility the building is under a round-the-clock police guard and surrounded by a 10ft-high wire fence. Police patrol cars have blocked off access roads.Twenty nine-year-old Ibrahim Alalelayan, a medical student who arrived in Germany a fortnight ago after fleeing Deraa, his war-torn home town in southern Syria, says he does not try to go into Freital. “I prefer not to leave the safety of this place,” Mr Alalelayan told The Independent as he stood in the hostel lobby with other frightened refugees 9 July. “When we go out, the people from around here stare at us in a bad way. They shout things at us in German. If we go out at all we go out in groups because we are afraid,” he says.

His anxiety is justified. Since March this year the hotel has been the scene of angry anti-foreigner protests in which the rule of the lynch mob has held sway. Up to 1,200 Freital residents and neo-Nazi hangers-on have gathered outside the hostel on weekday evenings chanting slogans such as “Filth out” and “This is no place to flee to”. The often-intoxicated mob threw eggs and shot fireworks at the hostel claiming that Freital was “defending itself”. The small groups of local refugee supporters who tried to show sympathy with the asylum-seekers had to be protected by riot police. On 6 July, local xenophobic fury erupted again at a meeting held by the regional authorities in Freital which had been designed to defuse anger and open a reconciliation process. The meeting was abruptly brought to an end as Markus Ulbig, the region’s conservative Interior Minister, was shouted down and mob rule took control. “They are all illegals,” shouted one woman resident. “We will burn down the hostel,” screamed another. Since then an uneasy cessation of hostilities has prevailed outside Hotel Leonardo.

Freital’s abortive meeting and the mass anti-foreigner protests outside the hostel, were merely the latest outbursts of xenophobia violence to have erupted in Germany as the country struggles to accommodate an expected 400,000 refugees this year. The figure is almost double the quota Germany took in during 2014. Accommodation marked out for asylum-seekers has been set ablaze across Germany since late last year. The most recent arson attack was carried out at a future hostel in the east German city of Meissen last week. Attacks against foreigners, predominantly in eastern Germany, have doubled since last year. In Freital alone there have been a number of incidents including an assault on an asylum-seeker, and an attempt to firebomb refugee accommodation. Germany’s mounting xenophobia has been condemned by all political parties. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of all religious organisations have denounced the phenomenon. Last week Joachim Gauck, the German President, departed from his prearranged text during a speech to a conference in Berlin and described violence as “repugnant”. He warned that “xenophobic attitudes” had hardened.

In Freital, where many say the rise of Communism in East Germany and the disenchantment that followed sparked today’s right-wing backlash, anti-foreigner feeling has been encouraged by members of the region’s Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against Islamification of the West) movement. The group has staged mass demonstrations attracting up to 20,000 people in Dresden earlier this year. Lutz Bachmann, the Pegida leader who posed on Facebook wearing an Adolf Hitler moustache, lives nearby. Sociologists have pointed out that before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, the only foreigners seen in the region were contract workers from fellow Communist countries such as Vietnam who were forced to live apart from Germans in special hostels. The protests against Freital’s Hotel Leonardo began when a resident called Mario Wagner launched a “No to the Home” campaign and attracted the support of more than 2,000 residents who signed his petition. The movement spread rapidly and since then copycat “No to the Home” groups have started throughout the region.

Mr Wagner lives in one of the three East German Communist-era blocks that stand opposite Hotel Leonardo. Last week groups of residents sat outside swigging beer. “They are all here to take our money. The sooner the scum clears out the better,” said one, who declined to give his name. Ines Kummer, one of Freital’s few Green Party city councillors, said she had been threatened and shouted at by residents for showing support for the asylum-seekers. “Right-wing nationalism and anti- foreigner attitudes have taken root in this part of Germany,” she told The Independent. “Around here the established parties, like Ms Merkel’s ruling conservatives, have not condemned the prevalent racism; they chose to brush it aside. Now it’s too late.”
© The Independent


Not so gay times in Russia

The launch of an anti-gay flag and calls to ban the rainbow-colored gay flag in Russia is yet another example of a bureaucracy gone mad, as Fiona Clark writes from Moscow.
By Fiona Clark

12/7/2015- Summer is a great time for picnics. It's a point not lost on the pro-Putin party, United Russia. It chose this week to launch its 'straight pride' flag at a picnic for "real families" in a Moscow city park. The flag, a modified version of one produced by a French organization, shows a male and female couple with three children. It comes in three colors, based on the Russian flag, red, blue and white, with the family members holding hands and the slogan #Íŕńňî˙ůŕ˙Cĺěü˙ or #realfamily underneath them. Alexey Lisovenko, United Russia's deputy head in Moscow, said the flag would form part of a social media campaign promoting traditional family values. "This is our answer to same sex marriages. The meaning of 'family' is being tortured. We must stop the gay fever in our country and support traditional values," Lisovenko told the media.

More than 1,000 people were invited to attend the picnic but even with United Russia's well-versed ability to bus-in-a-crowd, photos of the event suggest far fewer ‘real families' showed up, even with the lure of celebrity singers and traditional Russian music to revel in, not to mention the opportunity for happy families to have their photo taken in the ‘arch of love'. What the event has done though is to throw the spotlight, once more, on Russia's now galloping conservatism and allow the critics - yes there are still some - to have a field day. Commentators asked how much this was going to cost the budget during an economic crisis and labelled the organisers as 'homophobes.'

An opinion piece in, an online news service, noted that the waist line on the woman on the Russian version was a little larger than her French counterpart. It also questioned the make-up of the family asking questions like 'what if I'm in a wheel chair' or 'what if I don't have a mother?' Those scenarios certainly didn't match the 'real family,' it noted. In a country that has the highest divorce rate in the world according to the United Nations with 54 percent of married couples going their separate ways in 2012, it's more likely than not that a child will be raised by a single parent and therefore by United Russia's definition, will no longer be part of a real family.

The real reasons for divorce
Even the president is divorced and rumors about his affair with a former Olympic gymnast have circulated for years along with speculation that he has had not one, but two, 'love-children' with her. Nothing like leading from the top. And when you look at the main reasons for divorce a survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center shows the main cause is infidelity (24 percent). Poverty (21 percent), and an inability to compromise, misunderstanding, selfishness and conflict (19 percent) are next, and the only surprise here is that alcoholism and drug abuse comes in in 4th place with 16 percent citing it as a reason. Lisovenko also told the press he wanted to get the well-known rainbow flag banned on the territory of Russia. He wanted it put in the same bag as the swastika and if it were used in print or online for propaganda purposes the offending publishers should be prosecuted.

Ban the Rainbow Flag
To even suggest putting these two symbols in the same bag shows once more just how out of touch to the point of madness the members of United Russia are. This suggestion follows others like banning nylon underwear, canvas shoes, ballet flats and high heels because they're bad for your health. And if these suggestions are the ones that get put up as a real possibility, imagine the ones that don't make it? Mind-boggling. Surely in a time of economic crisis they could find some more important things to focus on - like alleviating poverty - the reason why 1/5th of marriages fail. In light of that the portrayal of three children is an optimistic one. The government has been encouraging families to have more than one child to reverse the declining population but in this economic uncertainty it's more than likely any gains there will be short-lived.

If they really want to preserve family values they should start by providing good sex education in schools so girls don't get pregnant and end up married at 19 and divorced by 24 and making some serious moves to redistribute wealth and end the poverty that 18 million people or 13 percent of the population live in. Those two moves will support traditional family values far more than focusing on a so-called gay fever. That's one fever that's not contagious. Incidentally, the French organization whose flag United Russia modified is not impressed. It says its aim is the protection of families and has nothing to do with homophobia.

Fiona Clark is an Australian journalist currently living in Russia. She started her career with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as a TV news reporter in the mid-1980’s. She has spent the past 10 years working on publications such as The Lancet and Australian Doctor and consumer health websites. This is her second stint in Moscow, having worked there from 1990-92. What was to be a two-year posting is still continuing.
© The Deutsche Welle.


UK: Ex-EDL leader Robinson recalled to prison 18 months after being jailed for mortgage fraud

Ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has been recalled to prison.

15/7/2015- A message to the former far-right boss's 101,000 Twitter followers declared it would be 'the last for a while' after he was taken to HMP Peterborough. It added his licence was just a week from expiring, but he could be charged with a fresh offence of breaching his terms. It's understood he'll serve the final days of his sentence behind bars. The 32-year-old, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed last January for conspiring with others to obtain a mortgage by misrepresentation from Abbey and Halifax. He was released in June last year under licence and his 18-month sentence is believed to run until this month.

The Twitter message said: "This will be the last message on Twitter for a while. Tommy has been recalled to Prison, HMP Peterborough. We aren't sure yet for how long. "His Licence ends next week but they could add a charge on for breaching his terms.When I know I'll let u know,u can contact me on FB/twitter." It's the second time the activist, who with the EDL led street protests against the so-called 'Islamification' of Britain, has been recalled to jail. In October he was recalled days before a speech to the Oxford Union - which his Twitter profile claimed had stopped him from revealing 'police persecution'. When he was jailed last January his Twitter profile declared: "This is a complete stitch-up".

Robinson quit the EDL in October 2013, claiming he had concerns over far-right extremism. He then tried to re-invent himself as a teacher of ‘tolerance’ working with the Quillam Foundation - a counter terrorism think tank. But after the Mirror exposed his plans, the head teacher at the first school on a nationwide tour banned him. He and the Quillam Foundation have since parted ways. The Ministry of Justice would not answer questions on why Robinson has been returned to jail. A spokesman said: "Public protection is our priority. Offenders on licence are subject to strict conditions and are liable to be recalled to custody if they breach them." "We do not comment on individuals."
© The Mirror


UK: How is this Not Inflammatory? Posts on Britain First's Facebook Page

12/7/2015- How many times has the extremist group Britain First skirted right to the edge of the legal limit? How many times have its ‘supporters’ and those anti-Muslim bigots gone over the line and made assertions of violence against Islamic institutions. The link between extremist propaganda and violent ‘calls for action’ can be best summarised here:

Extremist group, Britain First post this article on their Facebook page. The resultant responses are akin to incitement and will be reported to the relevant police authority:

Roger Dyer: “Never mind the noise,can you imagine the stench coming from it? the obvious solution is a bonfire.”

Jason Bailey, from Well, Somerset: It’s made of wood. Petrol + matches = no more noise.”

Graham Martin: “Napalm it.”

Cain Pinnock, (from London): “petrol station near by is there”

Grant Hawley, from Milton, Cambridgeshire: “50p on a box of matches. A sound investment.”

John and Vicky McNeil, who works in Senior Sales in Debenhams: “Torch it.”

Mark Whale said: “About time it was blown up (and lists lots of flames).”

Roy Holmes from Walthamstow: “Set it alight while they are all inside praying. B.b.q muslim!”

© Tell Mama

Greek debt crisis providing fuel for the country's neo-Nazi movement Golden Dawn

The latest EU bailout deal for Greece offers so little in the way of economic relief for the average Greek citizen that it risks emboldening a growing neo-Nazi movement that is casting its gangs of thugs as saviours of the poor.
By Nick Apoifis

15/7/2015- As supporters of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party set up "Greeks only" food banks to help feed the unemployed, the leftist coalition government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras​ is facing an uphill battle to sell yet another version of austerity to an already traumatised nation. Tsipras' Syriza Party and their coalition allies came to power riding a wave of nationalistic revolt over EU-imposed austerity measures, buoyed by heady, if unrealistic, popular expectations for change. Syriza's capitulation to EU negotiators this week leaves the deep-seated resentment and frustration that austerity, poverty and widespread unemployment have stoked casting around for alternative avenues of political expression. With a weak political centre that supports the EU bailout, the anti-austerity mantle and all the emotion it carries could swiftly default to the political far right. Golden Dawn, which opposed the EU package, is flexing its muscles in the wings. 

The Greek neo-Nazi movement, however, is a dark and dangerous beast despite its various charity fronts. It uses violence to advance its aims and actively promotes racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic sentiment, homophobia and social division, particularly by assaulting and demonising immigrants as scapegoats for the nation's woes. Today's Greek neo-Nazis found their political voice in the form of Golden Dawn as youth unemployment hit 50 per cent, and overall joblessness about 25 per cent, once austerity measures began to bite. The stresses of the economic contraction within Greek communities are palpable; even the rates of stillbirths have increased because many women can no longer afford neo-natal screening or care.

Against this backdrop of declining living standards and acute uncertainty about the future, Greece is also facing relentless waves of immigrant arrivals by sea. In the first four months of this year alone over 21,000 people arrived by boat, mainly fleeing Syria, compared to about 33,000 people for all of 2014. Unfortunately, this confluence of factors adds up to a textbook scenario for the rise of political extremism. Golden Dawn took to the national political stage in 2012, winning 21 seats to enter the Hellenic Parliament for the first time. In national elections earlier this year it won more than 6 per cent of the primary vote, even though its leadership had been jailed under anti-gang laws.

More ominous than the popular vote, perhaps, is its considerable support within the Greek security forces. About half the Greek police voted for Golden Dawn in 2012. The chief of the Hellenic Police, Nikos Papagiannopoulos, has since been reported as telling his officers to make the lives of immigrants "unbearable" and members of the Greek coastguard unit have been accused of beating migrants and dumping them at sea in Turkish territorial waters and of carrying out "mock" waterboardings. The neo-Nazi presence in Parliament has given oxygen to overt racism. On the streets, such sentiment is playing out in violent attacks on immigrants and street battles between far left groups and Golden Dawn-aligned gangs. In my own research I uncovered countless incidents in which fascists and neo-Nazis were protected by the riot police during clashes, or even had the use of a riot police van to hide their rocks, bricks and baseball bats.

At the same time, the movement is seeking to bolster its popular appeal with food banks, as part of a larger charity effort, albeit one that only assists Greeks. In 2014, Australian Greeks from Melbourne unwittingly contributed to Golden Dawn's largesse, by donating goods that were handed out from crates stamped with Golden Dawn's Nazi symbols. Certainly, Greece's recent history must limit the popular appeal of the neo-Nazi right. The Greeks suffered under a brutal military junta between 1967 and 1974 and still have pride in the people's movement that overthrew the colonels. Extreme right-wing movements, however, less interested in popularity than in stoking the kind of civil unrest that might offer the security forces a pretext to step up or step in. Few would argue that Prime Minister Tsipras had any real choice in negotiations with the EU, despite his brinkmanship. Austerity might be bad, but being cut loose from the EU looked even worse. But, now no matter what his government does, the new EU package will trigger new, incendiary domestic political stresses. While the world crunches the numbers of the Greek bailout mark III it is critical this delicate, and potentially dangerous, political balancing act isn't overlooked.
Dr Nick Apoifis is a lecturer in International Relations at UNSW. His book on radical political movements in Greece is due out later this year.
© The Sydney Morning Herald


Greece: Far-right Golden Dawn says will not back proposals sent to Greece's creditors

11/7/2015- Greece's third largest political force, the far-right Golden Dawn party, said early on Saturday it will not back government proposals submitted to the country's creditors in a race to reach a cash-for-reforms deal and avert bankruptcy. "We say 'no'. We won't give you the authorisation for this deal," leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos told lawmakers during a parliamentary session. The country's leftist government is seeking lawmakers' approval to negotiate a series of tax hikes and spending cuts which it will hope will unlock 53.5 billion euros in aid over the next three years from international creditors.
© Reuters


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