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Headlines 28 August, 2015

Headlines 21 August, 2015

Headlines 14 August, 2015

Headlines 28 August, 2015

Austrian found guilty of Nazi Facebook post

A 28-year-old Austrian man who called for Jews to be gassed in a Facebook post was sentenced to eight months in prison on Tuesday by Wels Provincial Court.

26/8/2015- The defendant, who was found guilty of incitement, posted a message on Facebook last September referring to the conflict in Gaza that read: “Show no photos of our dead brothers, children, women. Show only photos of their women and children...”. He is also said to have written: “Death to the Jews, I would gas them”, “Hitler showed the world that he was right, Sieg Heil!”. A second defendant, a 26-year-old man who commented on the post with the words “Sieg Heil! Adolf Hitler”, was acquitted by the court. Both men were born in Turkey but have Austrian citizenship and live in the city of Wels. They both held previous convictions for unrelated offences and neither is thought to have connections to right wing scenes. The message was posted on Facebook while the 28-year-old was living in a drug treatment clinic in Carinthia last year. Both men confessed to the postings during the investigation and the 26-year-old told the court that his comment had been “stupid” and added: “I'm sorry. I did not really mean it.”

Although the 28-year-old initially told police he had posted the “fun” statement, in court he claimed it had been written by his roommate, whom he said was a schizophrenic patient whose family followed Nazi ideology. In his closing remarks, however, the defendant said: “I would like to apologise. It doesn't matter who wrote it, I am simply sorry.” His lawyer stressed that his client suffered from “massive cognitive deficiencies” and the post was made as a result of “rashness”. The prosecutor, however, showed the court another Facebook post from the 28-year-old, which was not subject to the proceedings, that read: “The day will come when only the Aryans will be among each other. Blue eyes, blond hair, our leader is wonderful.” The sentence follows the conviction earlier in August of a 38-year-old father from Styria for making donations to a neo-Nazi website and writing posts that denied the holocaust happened and incited hate against Muslims.

The Styrian had registered on the website, which hosted different forums as well as selling Nazi memorabilia, with the name 'NS friend' and was active on the site between April 2009 and June 2012. Prosecutor Johannes Winklhofer told the accused that he had previously lied in court, in 2011. He said: “You said that you would have nothing more to do with this scene but it was not true, you made contributions to this website and were also registered on it.”
© The Local - Austria

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Croatian Army Petitioned to Adopt Fascist Slogan

President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic has immediately rejected a petition signed by 3,200 people calling for the army to start using the Croatian WWII-era fascist chant ‘Za dom spremni’.

25/8/2015- The petition urging legal changes ensuring that the Croatian Army uses the chant ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the homeland’) at military parades was sent on Monday to Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and the leader of the centre-right opposition Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ party. The ‘Za dom spremni’ slogan was introduced and used by the Nazi-aligned Independent State of Croatia during WWII, particularly by the notorious elite volunteer units of the Ustasa movement. Grabar Kitarovic immediately rejected the proposal. “The initiative is irresponsible, unacceptable and on the level of a provocation,” her office said in a statement on Tuesday. The organisers claimed that the petition was signed by some well-known public figures, academics, Catholic bishops, academics, former politicians and professional athletes.

The best-known is Australian-born Josip Simunic, a recently-retired footballer who played for the Croatian national team and chanted ‘Za dom spremni’ along with the crowd at a World Cup qualifier against Iceland in Zagreb in November 2013. Football’s world governing body FIFA gave Simunic a ten-game suspension and 24,500 euro fine in December 2013, effectively ending his international career with the Croatian team. The organisers of the petition claim however that the chant is actually an old Croatian salute and that by introducing it into the army, the country’s culture and tradition would be preserved. The idea of introducing it in the Croatian army was first initiated earlier this month on Facebook by the former commander of the wartime defence of the town of Vukovar in 1991, Branko Borkovic, alias ‘Little Hawk’.

‘Za dom spremni’ is still used by Croatian far-right groups and football fans, can also be heard on other occasions such as concerts and public protests. The chant is used along with the classic Nazi salute. The best-known example is the Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perkovic Thompson, whose popular 1990s war song ‘Cavoglave’, starts with the chant. The slogan was widely chanted when Thompson played to a packed crowd earlier this month in the town of Knin during the 20th anniversary celebrations of Croatia’s military victory in Operation Storm. Although police can file criminal or misdemeanour charges for public use of the chant, legal loopholes exist. The association representing former members of the 1990s paramilitary unit called the Croatian Defence Forces, which was later integrated into the Croatian Army, uses the slogan in its legal coat of arms, flag and seal.
© Balkan Insight

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Europe’s response to migrant crisis is not working, warns UN rights expert

25/8/2015- The European Union should establish a human rights-based, coherent and comprehensive migration policy which makes mobility its central asset, a United Nations expert today advocated, assuring is the only way in which the EU can reclaim its border, effectively combat smuggling and empower migrants. “Let's not pretend that what the EU and its member states are doing is working. Migration is here to stay,” Mr. Crépeau stressed. “Building fences, using tear gas and other forms of violence against migrants and asylum seekers, detention, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water and using threatening language or hateful speech will not stop migrants from coming or trying to come to Europe', the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, said. “Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, knowing who comes in and who leaves. It has never been about sealing the border to migration,” the expert continued. “Democratic borders are porous by nature. Providing migrants and asylum seekers with legal and safe mobility solutions will ensure such a control.”

The Special Rapporteur urged Europeans to start focusing on regaining control of their external border from the smugglers by increasing mobility solutions available to most migrants, investing in integration measures – especially through supporting the action of cities – and developing a strong public discourse on diversity and mobility as cornerstones for contemporary European societies. “If Europeans want their governments to regain control of their borders, then they must urge them to bank on mobility and offer migrants and asylum seekers official channels to enter and stay in Europe,” the human rights expert said. “Opening up the regular labour markets through smart visas allowing people to come to look for work and incentivise them to return if they don't find the job in question would allow for a much better regulated and controlled official labour market,” Mr. Crépeau noted.

However, he cautioned, such measures must be supported with sanctions against employers who exploit irregular migrants in underground labour markets. “This would considerably reduce the pull factor they exercise on irregular migrants and further reduce the market for recruiters, smugglers and exploitative employers,” the expert explained. “In addition, there is an obvious urgent need for Europe to create, jointly with other Global North countries, a massive resettlement programme for refugees like Syrians and Eritreans that could offer protection to 1.5 or 2 million of them over the next five years,” he said, highlighting that such a programme would impact the market for smugglers and allow European countries to decide who comes and make appropriate preparations.

Welcoming the positive steps taken by the EU in rescuing migrants and asylum seekers at sea so far, Mr. Crépeau however warned that rescuing people who arrive by sea and then turning a blind eye to their plight leaving them vulnerable to human rights violations is irresponsible,” the expert said. “Talking about 'flows', 'marauders', and 'swarms' is an unsubtle way of dismissing the legitimacy of the asylum seekers and migrants' claim to human rights, by creating images linking them to toxic waste or natural disasters” he noted. “We are talking about men, women, children and even babies, who have faced traumatic experiences. These are people just like you and me, and none of us have the moral high ground to say that we would never do the same if we were in their shoes.”

The UN Special Rapporteur warned that the political and popular discourse in Europe has seen a race to the bottom in the anti-migrant sentiments and use of inappropriate language which is often linked to criminalising migrants. “Migrants are human beings with rights. When we dehumanise others, we dehumanise ourselves,” he underscored. Mr. Crépeau therefore called on European political leaders “to show moral and political leadership in fighting much more vigorously racism, xenophobia and hate crime, in consolidating the common human rights culture that is now framing the evolution of all traditions, in strengthening the free movement of persons throughout the EU while developing regulated mobility solutions at its external borders, and in celebrating the diversity of cultures and religions as enrichment for everyone, citizens and foreigners alike.”
© UN News Centre

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Greece: Golden Dawn fuming over mandate snub

24/8/2015- Golden Dawn on Monday slammed a decision by the Greek President to hand the third exploratory mandate to a newly-formed SYRIZA splinter group, describing the gesture as a bid to undermine the power of Greece's neo-Nazi party. “The third exploratory mandate should be handed to Golden Dawn, not to non-existing parties that have not received a single vote from the Greek people,” MP Ilias Kasidiaris, who is also the party's press spokesman, told journalists Monday. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday invited former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, leader of the newly-established Popular Unity party, to form a new administration within three days, part of the constitutional procedure set in motion by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s resignation last week.

According to the nation's Constitution, each of the three biggest parties is, in turn, given three days to form a government. Before the emergence of Popular Unity, the third largest grouping in parliament was Golden Dawn, which holds 17 of Parliament's 300 seats. Kasidiaris said the move amounted to a “constitutional deviation.” “They are refusing us the exploratory mandate thinking they can in that way curb the power of Golden Dawn. However, at the elections, the people will give an answer to those who are destroying Greece,” he said.
© The Kathimerini.

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British Muslim drag queen braves backlash to inspire gay community

24/8/2015- Death threats are nothing new for Asif Quaraishi, but the gay Muslim hopes that a documentary about Muslim drag queens will encourage gay British Asians to come out of the closet rather than provoke a backlash against Britain's "hidden" community. The film "Muslim Drag Queens" follows the lives of Quaraishi and two other performers and explores the clandestine nature of Britain's gay Asian - or "Gaysian" - community. The police have promised to protect the drag queens and their families amid fears that the film, which airs in Britain on Monday, could fuel abuse and violence towards gay Muslims. "I am constantly worried and fearful, but we (gay British Muslims) have the right to be heard, share our stories and not be ashamed of who we are," said Quaraishi, dubbed Britain's first Muslim drag queen, who goes by the name Asifa Lahore.

There are as many as 150 Muslim drag queens across Britain, seeking to reconcile their sexuality with their faith, while challenging homophobia and taboos within Islam and attempting to gain acceptance within their communities. "I'm Pakistani, I'm British, I'm Muslim, I'm gay, and I'm a drag queen... people say these things shouldn't fit together but here I am - this is me," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Since the trailer for the film was released last week, Quaraishi said he had received hundreds of messages on social media, from young gay Muslims who were unaware of the "Gaysian" community as well as those in their fifties and sixties. "There is a whole hidden community living in Britain... now is the time to come out."

Just as drag queens led the fight for gay rights in Britain in the 1960s, Quaraishi uses his performances to campaign for "Gaysian" rights today - but his activism comes at a cost. The documentary opens with the 32-year-old, from Southall, west London, reading several abusive and threatening emails. "You call yourself a Muslim? You should be ashamed of yourself, and killed," one says. "You think I don't know where you live? You think I don't know who your mum is who your dad are? Carry on and you will be killed," another reads. But Quaraishi is unperturbed as he acts as a mentor and friend to other gay Muslim drag queens throughout the film, which culminates with him receiving the LGBT award at ceremony hosted by British magazine Attitude.

As one of the most high-profile figures and leading activists in the "Gaysian" community, Quaraishi said he wanted to speak to British Prime Minister David Cameron about issues facing gay Asians who are often ostracised by their communities. "I want to see more funding for charities that support gay Muslims and more public debates and roundtable discussions featuring faith leaders at government level," Quaraishi said.
© Reuters

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UK: Far right groups are met with boos, heckles and house music as they try to protest

Around 40 members of the Far Right Infidels and Combat 18 groups came to Manchester attempting to hold an event in the city centre

22/8/2015- Members of far right groups were met with boos, heckles and house music as they tried to protest in Manchester today. Around 40 members of the Far Right Infidels and Combat 18 groups came to Manchester attempting to hold an event in the city centre. But they were met by a counter protest of anti-fascist activists, who drowned them out with jokes and house music on the edge of Piccadilly Gardens. In what was largely a peaceful event, activists and onlookers surrounded the small group and shouted jokes like ‘Master race? You’re having a laugh.” and “You don’t live in Cheetham Hill or Moss Side - you must be from Emmerdale.” Members of the far right groups, one dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume, held flags aloft and threw bananas towards black and Asian members of the crowd, shouting ‘You’re not British anymore’.

A large police presence controlled the event and kept the two groups apart. Police horses and cordons of officers on foot were used to separate protesters, while riot vans and police dogs were kept on standby. The event, which started around 2.30pm, lasted around an hour before the far right groups were escorted onto a bus and driven out of town. As the vehicle pulled away, members of the far right groups threw pennies and other missiles at the protesters below and held up signs against the window. A crowd of around 200 anti-fascist protesters and passers-by, who had stopped to watch cheered and shouted ‘bye-bye’ as the bus drove away. The event passed off with minimal arrests. One far right protester was dragged out of the crowd and taken to a police van while an anti-fascist protester was also seen being spoken to by police.

Afterwards organisers of the anti-fascist counter-protest said they were pleased at how many people had turned out, and that shoppers and passersby who had seen what was going on had also got involved on the spur of the moment. Some campaigners had travelled to Manchester from Liverpool, where last week the far right group National Action were forced to cancel their White Man March after counter-demonstrations by anti-fascists. Emma Leyla Mohareb, 26, from Hattersley, in Hyde, from anti-austerity group The Party Protest, was one of the organisers of the counter demonstration. She said: “We don’t want them in our city. People shouldn’t feel ashamed of the colour of their skin. We are proud of our multicultural Manchester. “The atmosphere at the protest was brilliant - it was nice to see everyone say ‘no’ to racism in our city. The fascists were out numbered.”
© The Manchester Evening News.

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Dutch Man Offers $11K Bounty for Murder of 'Devilish' Jewish Neighbor

Source: JTA
24/8/2015- A Dutch man offered on Facebook to pay 10,000 euros, or about or $11,500, to anyone willing to kill his Jewish neighbor. The man posted the message 
 recently, along with anti-Semitic statements, in connection with his long quarrel with his apartment building neighbor, Gabriela Hirschberg, and her partner, The De Telegraaf daily reported. The report did not name the man. “I have one desire in my life: To tear out this nest of devils,” he wrote in reference to Hirschberg’s apartment. Naming his neighbors, he added: “Each head is worth 10,000 euros to me.”Telegraaf did not specify the anti-Semitic statements that the paper reported he attached to that message.

The neighbor also wrote: “Anyone may come along as long as I have the pleasure of punching the lights out.” Facebook followers offered to come and help find “a final solution” to the problem — language that echoes Nazi rhetoric about Jews during the Holocaust.The two neighbors have been in conflict since 2009, when Hirschberg complained to police about the neighbor for excessive noise, Telegraaf reported. They have since filed multiple complaints against each other, including for destruction of property.

Hirschberg told the paper she sometimes sleeps away from her apartment out of fear of her neighbors, adding that the conflict has cost her one job and has caused her so much stress that it is creating medical complications. The neighbor said she is “turning it around” and that he suspects she hacked his family’s email account. A police detective is investigating the Facebook message, a spokesperson told De Telegraaf.
© The Forward

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Serbian Minister Bans Anti-Migrant Protests

Civil rights groups have welcomed the Serbian government's decision to ban a planned right-wing rally against migrants set for Monday.

27/8/2015- Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia's Interior Minister, on Wednesday banned protests against refugees in Serbia after two far-right organisations, Nasi [Ours] and Srbski obraz, announced a rally next Monday. The groups denounced what they called "an EU plan" to settle 400,000 migrants in Serbia. “We will not allow the expression of intolerance and hatred to be something that is characteristic of Serbia. The Ministry of Interior will not allow any meetings against migrants and people passing through Serbia, who were forced to do so because of difficult conditions or war in their country,” Stefanovic stated. He said Serbia was proud of its traditions and would not allow “fascist manifestations”.

Milan Antonijevic, from the Belgrade NGO Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, told BIRN that the ban was a good move but urged the authorities to do more to prevent problems from arising. "The government should start a campaign to explain to citizens who the refugees are and why they come here - that they are facing terrible conditions and wars in their countries and so were forced to leave," Antonijevic said. At the same time, he added that the government should clearly remind people that hate speech is a crime and that those found responsible for it will be properly sanctioned. "The fears of refugees are irrational and I feel sorry that some organisations are trying to emerge from anonymity by mobilizing and abusing people with anti-gay propaganda and xenophobia,” Antonijevic said.

Another Belgrade NGO, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, said the planned protest against refugees would be a “shameful act.” The propagation of hatred against asylum seekers would only escalate conflict in the entire region, the NGO stated, calling for solidarity with the refugees. Brankica Jankovic, Serbia's Equality Commissioner, also urged the government to send the “clear message” it will not tolerate extremism. “Intolerance, xenophobia and racism must be broadly condemned by all relevant factors in Serbia, not only by individuals,” she said. “Most Serbian citizens have showed great willingness to help migrants, largely because they themselves understand the evil that forced these people to flee their homes,” Jankovic said.

Serbia is not the only country facing anti-migrant protests. Germany, which expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year, has seen several attacks on asylum camps lately. Serbia is among a number of countries in southern Europe that are facing a massive influx of the Middle East refugees. According to EU border agency, Frontex, some 102,000 migrants entered the EU via the "Western Balkan route" between January and July this year, versus just 8,000 for the same period in 2014. Momir Stojanovic, chairman of the Serbian parliament’s committee monitoring the security services, recently said the EU had no lasting solution to the crisis caused by the large number of migrants and might try to finance the building of a huge centre to house them in the Balkans. Serbian government officials have denied coming under any pressure from the EU to build such a centre, however.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbia Sets up Refugee Camp Near Macedonian Border

The Serbian authorities set up another temporary camp near the country's border with Macedonia following a large influx of Middle Eastern refugees over the weekend.

24/8/2015- The new camp was established in the village of Miratovac, near the southern Serbian town of Presevo, where a collective reception centre for migrants was opened in the reconstructed building of a tobacco processing company on July 8. Visiting the new site on Sunday, Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic said that about 5,000 refugees were currently in the camp and the Presevo shelter. Gasic added that large numbers of people coming from Greece and Macedonia had entered Serbia over the past 24 hours and that a similar flow was expected in the next two days. He said that the situation presented a great challenge for the Serbian budget as the state spends around 15,000 euros daily on the basic needs of the refugees alone. He said Belgrade needs help from the EU in order to accommodate the refugees.

“We have good organisation, and all state bodies are working in unison to accommodate the migrants. These people can feel Serbia's humane attitude toward them, and we have not had a single incident even with these migrant numbers," Gasic concluded. The Red Cross in Presevo announced on Sunday that between 6,000 and 8,000 refugees have applied to the new shelter over the past 24 hours. There they can get medical treatment, food and water supplies, it said. Almost all migrants leave for Belgrade on buses provided by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in order to continue their trip towards Hungary and other EU member countries. Some of Belgrade’s parks are overwhelmed with refugees who lack even the most basic provisions for hygiene. Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, promised last Wednesday that the government would build a temporary reception centre in the capital in order to help ease the migrants' situation.

The Macedonian authorities, struggling with the unprecedented influx of refugees, many of them from Syria, declared an emergency situation at the country's southern border with Greece and deployed police and troops on Thursday. However, hundreds of people broke through the police blockade at the border  to enter Macedonia. On Sunday, most of the refugees and migrants had left Macedonia on trains and buses, but more are expected to arrive from Greece. The UNHCR announced on Sunday that Greece, Macedonia and Serbia would face another massive influx of refugees in the coming days. The UNHCR has urged the Greek and Macedonian authorities to make additional efforts in order to organise better accommodation for the refugees. The UN agency also said that the EU should increase its assistance to Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.
© Balkan Insight

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Macedonia clears migrant backlog, 5,000 enter Serbia

23/8/2015- More than 5,000 migrants crossed into Serbia on Sunday, resuming a journey to western Europe after an overwhelmed Macedonia gave up its attempts to stem the flow of mainly Syrian refugees by force. Macedonia laid on buses and trains to carry them north after days of havoc caused by the closure of its southern frontier by security forces, who used stun grenades and tear gas in an attempt to keep them out. The flow was unabated, as Greece ferried refugees from inundated islands to the mainland. A record 50,000 hit Greek land by boat from Turkey in July alone, bringing ripples of Middle Eastern conflicts to Europe's shores. Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic, visiting a migrant reception center on Serbia's southern border with Macedonia, said more than 5,000 people had entered overnight as Macedonia cleared the backlog.

Huge queues formed as migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia waited for papers to legalize their transit north through Serbia, before they cross by foot into Hungary and Europe's borderless Schengen zone. Many had slept in the open on the Greek-Macedonian border with little access to food or water. "We expect the wave in the next day or two to be of a similar intensity," Gasic was quoted as saying by the Serbian state news agency, Tanjug. "Police are working in three shifts, papers are being issued around the clock." People smugglers have thrived this summer on a surge of people fleeing war and poverty which has overwhelmed authorities from the Greek islands to the French port of Calais. Many undertake dangerous journeys across sea and then cross southern Europe in order to reach wealthier nations like Germany, where officials expect a record 750,000 asylum-seekers to arrive this year.

In Greece, a car ferry carrying 2,466 migrants from Greek islands, most of them fleeing Syria, docked in Athens on Sunday morning. It left again two hours later to pick up more. Almost all will head to Macedonia. Serbia appeared better equipped than Macedonia to handle the surge in numbers, having recently opened the reception center in the southern town of Presevo. Macedonia declared a state of emergency on Thursday and sealed its southern frontier to migrants pouring in at a rate of 2,000 per day. The numbers had overwhelmed the main border railway station and the conservative government, which has a tense relationship with Greece, said enough was enough. That led to desperate scenes at the border before crowds finally tore through police lines on Saturday. "I watched the news on TV and I was astonished," said Abdullah Bilal, 41, from the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo. "I thought I would face the same when I arrive here. But it was very peaceful. The Macedonian police told us 'Welcome to Macedonia; trains and buses are waiting for you.'"

Mohannad Albayati, 35, from Damascus, traveling with his wife, two children and three brothers, said: "I passed one step but it is a long road to my destination. With Allah's help I will go to Germany." In Germany, there were scuffles between protesters and police outside a refugee shelter in the eastern town of Heidenau for a second night.
© Reuters

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Germany: Facebook to meet government on Internet hate-mongering

27/8/2015- Facebook on Thursday accepted an invitation from Germany's justice minister to discuss doing more to purge the social network of racist posts after widespread complaints from users. In a letter to Facebook's European subsidiaries, Justice Minister Heiko Maas suggested a meeting with company executives on September 14 to talk about "improving the effectiveness and transparency of your community standards". Facebook's German unit agreed to meet Maas, saying in an email sent to AFP it "takes his concerns very seriously". "We are very interested in an exchange of views with Minister Maas about what society, companies and politicians can do together against xenophobia spreading in Germany," the email said. The Internet giant "works hard every day to protect people on Facebook against abuse, hate speech and bullying", the company spokesman said.

"Racism has no place on Facebook."
As Germany faces a record influx of refugees and a backlash from the far right, social media like Facebook have seen an upsurge of hateful, xenophobic commentary. Many users say that when they complain to the company about offensive posts, Facebook often responds that after a review the post does not violate its community standards, Maas said, even in "obvious cases". And users also accuse the company of double standards for cracking down swifter and harder on nudity and sexual content than on hate-mongering. Maas said Facebook was required to delete posts in violation of German laws against incitement of racial hatred. Facebook users in Berlin and the southern state of Bavaria have been slapped with large fines this year for hate speech.

Last month Germany's most popular film star, Til Schweiger, blasted fans who left dozens of anti-immigrant comments on his Facebook page after he appealed for donations for a refugee charity. And a German TV journalist's impassioned appeal this month for an "uprising of decent people" against racism and attacks on asylum-seekers was viewed more than five million times via Facebook alone within 48 hours, drawing an outpouring of both support and scorn. Facebook said in April it would not allow the social network to be used to promote hate speech or terrorism as it unveiled a wide-ranging update of its global community standards.
© AFP

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Germany: 'Die Rechte': neo-Nazis demand attention in Dortmund

The small but relentlessly attention-seeking right-wing party "die Rechte" has managed to walk the line between legality and openly professed Nazi sympathy. Elizabeth Schumacher reports from Dortmund.

26/8/2015- While the Dortmund-based neo-Nazi group "die Rechte" or "the Right" is not Germany's largest group of right-wing extremists, they just might be the best at getting the media's attention. Last week they made the rounds on social media for a YouTube video in which they "patrol" a "gay cruising area" (a lonely-looking parking lot). The group is highly active, or at least good at making it look that way. But they are always careful to stay just inside the gray zone of legality - and can count on particularly good legal counsel from within their ranks. This is how so far they have managed to remain a recognized political party, unlike their predecessor organization NWDO ("National Resistance Dortmund"), which was banned in 2012. The symbols and actions they use may be close to the Nazi counterparts, which are banned in Germany, but they never quite cross the line.

Master media manipulators 'playing SS'
"They do something once, shoot photos, put it online, done," Birgit Miemitz of Dortmund's Coordination Center for Tolerance, Diversity, and Democracy told DW. Her office is often frustrated by the amount of attention given to these so-called "patrols" conducted by "die Rechte." For example, in the recent "gay cruising" YouTube video, or when they post picture of themselves claiming to help the elderly or kick drunks off of subway trains. Their attention-grabbing activities do not end with their social media campaigns, however. Earlier this year they led a series of weekly protests against the city for housing Syrian refugees, and terrorized the refugees' own protest camp. They managed to cause such security concerns at a political debate planned by local broadcaster WDR that the company had to shut down the live event and ask everyone to submit their questions via email. They were also barred from entering an election night event in May 2014 when, trying to celebrate a member of their party being voted to city council, they attempted to march in Nazi formation into the town hall. A few months later, they petitioned that same council for a list of all the city's Jewish citizens.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Neo-Nazis urinate on children in Berlin train

Two neo-Nazis racially abused a woman and her two children on a Berlin city train this weekend before urinating on them, police said on Monday.

24/8/2015- The woman and her two children – aged around five and 15 – were travelling on the city's ring line at around 9:45pm on Saturday when two men embarked at Landsberger Allee, reports the Berliner Zeitung. The men, aged 32 and 37, quickly began hurling racist insults at the family, who appeared to be of southeast European origin. According to multiple witnesses, the men roared "Heil Hitler" and other Nazi slogans at the family, raising their right arms in Nazi salutes. Referring to the woman and children as a "pack of asylum seekers," the men reportedly told them "we're the master race," adding "you're not Aryan." 32-year-old Christoph Sch. then exposed himself to the children before urinating on them. Horrified witnesses called the police, and officers arrested the two men at the Frankfurter Allee station. The woman and children remained on the train.

Upon being breathalyzed, the men were found to have blood alcohol levels 2.3 and 1.8, roughly equivalent to eight and six bottles of beer, respectively. Police have initiated proceedings against the pair for racist abuse and bodily harm. On Monday, the State Office of Criminal Investigations were still deciding whether or not to investigate the matter further. The two neo-Nazis – both from Berlin's Neukölln district – are already known by police to be violent right-wing criminals, reports Berliner Zeitung. They are already on police records for robbery, theft, serious bodily harm, coercion and identifying themselves as part of anti-constitutional organisations. Police investigators have appealed for the family to come forward, encouraging them to call 030/297779-0 or get in touch with any other police station.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany drops EU rules to allow in Syrian refugees

Germany has quietly stopped enforcing European Union rules under which Syrians fleeing the civil war face deportation, it has emerged, as thousands of migrants continued to pour through the Balkans towards Western Europe on Monday.

24/8/2015- The move came as Chancellor Angela Merkel and her counterpart Francois Hollande called for an overhaul of the EU’s asylum system, following emergency talks on the migrant crisis in Berlin. An official source confirmed reports Germany has suspended deporting asylum-seekers from Syria under the EU’s controversial Dublin Regulation. Under the rule, migrants can only apply for asylum in the first EU member state they enter, and face deportation if they try to apply in another. But Germany, which has long complained that the Dublin system is failing, has now ordered its officers to process applications from Syrians even if they have made their way through other EU countries.

“Germany and France expect all member states implement fully the right of asylum,” Mrs Merkel, the German chancellor, said after meeting with the French president. “We must implement a unified asylum system,” Mr Hollande said. “There are moments in our European history when we face an exceptional situation. Today is an exceptional situation but it is an exceptional situation that will continue.” The two leaders both called for migrants to be shared more evenly between EU states. Germany has complained for some time that the Dublin rules are abused by other member states to avoid taking migrants, and campaigned for them to be scrapped. The two leaders called for a common EU list of “safe countries” in order to separate genuine refugees from economic migrants, and for new EU registration centres planned for Italy and Greece, where most migrants arrive after crossing the Mediterranean, to be set up by the end of the year. They were speaking after violent far-Right protests against a shelter for migrants in Germany left more than 30 police officers injured.

Police fought battles with protesters hurling bottles, stones and fireworks and chanting Nazi slogans for three nights running in the town of Heidenau in Saxony, close to Dresden. “It's disgusting, how right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis are trying to preach dull hate messages,” Mrs Merkel said. Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande are believed to be pushing for an EU summit on the migration crisis. But Jean Claude-Juncker, the European Commission president, said there was no need for a summit. Mr Juncker, who has struggled to win support for EU quotas to distribute 60,000 migrants through the continent, said leaders must show “courage” and take unpopular  decisions. “What we need, and what we are sadly still lacking, is the collective courage to follow through on our commitments - even when they are not easy; even when they are not popular,” he wrote in France’s Le Figaro newspaper. “Instead what I see is finger pointing - a tired blame game which might win publicity, maybe even votes, but which is not actually solving any problems," he wrote.

In the Balkans, there were scuffles between Macedonian police and migrants on the border with Greece, as they let through a trickle of people trying to head north through the Balkans to Hungary, a member of the Schengen free movement area and a major point of entry to the EU. Since the border was reopened following clashes over the weekend as police tried to keep out migrants, nearly 10,000 people have poured through the country and on into Serbia, including some pushed in wheelchairs and wheelbarrows, or moving on crutches. Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, shook hands with migrants as he visited the border, and said Greece needed to do more to control its northern border. "This is a humanitarian disaster. This is a real disaster for the whole European Union and I think there is the real need to have more focus on this problem, not only on the route through Italy but also on the route on the Western Balkans," he said.

Migrants, largely from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan, are following a route north from Greece into Macedonia and Serbia, and then onto into Hungary and richer EU countries such as Austria, Germany and Sweden. Hungary is rushing to build a fence to block the flow. In Austria, police said 37 people were injured - seven seriously - when two vans packed with as many as 90 migrants collided Monday near the Hungarian border. Dozens more migrants fled, along with the suspected smugglers. The flow of people across the Mediterranean sea continues.

Greece's coast guard was searching for at least five people missing at sea after the dinghy they were using to cross from Turkey overturned off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos. The coast guard said it had rescued six people and recovered the bodies of two men, and was searching the area for the missing. The two told authorities they had been in a boat carrying about 15 people when it overturned. The Greek coast guard said it had picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations from Friday morning to Monday morning near the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos. The figures do not include the hundreds that manage to make it to the islands themselves, mostly in inflatable dinghies.

The Greek government said its infrastructure is unable to cope with an influx, in what the EU has described it as the gravest migration crisis since the second world war. Reception centres on Lesbos are squalid, overflowing and face shortages of children’s milk and electricity, Amnesty International said. On Saturday alone, the Italian coastguard plucked 4,400 people from the Mediterranean coast off Libya in 22 different rescue operations. They included 440 people in four flimsy dinghies rescued by the Royal Navy’s survey vessel, HMS Enterprise.
© The Telegraph

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Germany: In Heidenau, bracing for more anti-refugee protests

Heidenau has become the latest flashpoint for anti-asylum seeker violence in the eastern German state of Saxony. Ben Knight reports as the small town braces itself for a fourth night of far-right protests.

24/8/2015- Anything is better than another tent city, was the rationale. So for two days a DIY store, disused for the two years, has been home to about 250 refugees - as designated by the local authorities in the small town of Heidenau. "It's a very bad camp," said Sami, from Aleppo, Syria. "The camp near Munich was much better. Five-star." He laughed. "Here, no shower, no new clothes." And no information either. Neither Sami nor his friend Gazwan (from Basra, Iraq), knew the name Heidenau - the most infamous town in Germany since the weekend - until I told them. Nor did they know how long they would be there for, or what facet of the German asylum procedure they still had to complete. "I ask everyone," said Gazwan. "They say, 'I don't know, I don't know.' " In fact, refugees in Germany rarely know where they're being taken from one day to the next, much less why. Sami said he was brought here in a bus from a camp outside the city of Chemnitz on Saturday, and four days before that he was at the central migration office, in Spandau, Berlin. And as the weekend's violence showed, in many places the local authorities don't seem to be much better prepared.

Noise at night
The noise and chanting and violence outside their temporary home at Heidenau left the two young men confused as much as frightened. "They hate us, I don't know why," said Gazwan. The private security guards at the gate advised them not to go out alone, or after dark, but otherwise there was little in the way of help except for a leaflet in Arabic that explained Germany's asylum process. A policewoman standing outside only said, "They don't speak German, so what can we do?" Now Gazwan and Sami have found themselves in the middle of what is considered the stronghold of Germany's political far-right. Dresden and the small towns surrounding it - Freital, Meissen, and now Heidenau - have become synonymous with a new and increasingly unashamed far-right movement. The violence on Friday and Saturday was a new low, and on Monday there was still some tension in the little car park outside the tarpaulin-covered fence.

In the day time, however, a couple of neo-Nazis confined themselves to driving past and shouting slogans, or swearing at the scattered journalists. The locals, meanwhile, even if they did not define themselves as far-right, also seemed to be confused and misinformed as much as racist. "Why do they always send young men? We wouldn't mind if it was families," they asked, even though there are many families among the 250 people coming in and out of the shelter. But those people aren't all there is to Saxony. Dirk Mende, a mechanic wearing a bright yellow "Refugees Welcome" T-shirt, came out of the local mall with some extra shopping - three sunflowers. On his way to drop them off at the camp, he explained his reasoning: "One for the refugees, to say welcome, one for the police, because they do all the work, and one for the skinheads who are coming tonight. Because we all come from the same planet."

Then there's Lars, a Heidenau resident who has rolled up on his bike to chat to the refugees. After Freital, he said, he knew there was going to be trouble in his home town. "Even my friends say things like, 'You wait till your sister gets raped.' Stupid prejudices. They just didn't pay attention in history class." By this time, with the evening closing in, it has become considerably more busy. The police have set up extra fences, while a cluster of leftists has gathered around the refugees. Meanwhile, a handful of neo-Nazis are looking out over a bush across the road from the camp. They are shouting and giving the finger to anyone who happens to look at them. "I didn't come to the protests," said Lars, deliberately keeping his back to them. "I wouldn't trust myself not to wade in, and I can't handle them all on my own." Lars doesn't just blame the locals though. "The politicians have failed completely. All the parties. They haven't offered any explanation to the people, no effort. And it's the same here. Why don't they give the people here German lessons? None of them speak German. They're just sitting around with nothing to do."

More than a subculture
There has been plenty of criticism of the political reaction to what many German leaders and newspapers still call "asylum critics." Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which governs Saxony, did not react until after the second night of riots, when State Premier Stanislaw Tillich said, "A minority here is violating the values and laws of Germany. This is not our Saxony." But conservative politicians in the state know this is not quite true. According to the local "Sächsische Zeitung" newspaper, the far-right has long since become more than a subculture here, and center-right politicians have to measure how strongly they can criticize clear xenophobia. If they condemn too hard, will they lose voters to the extremists? The CDU's interior policy spokesman Christian Hartmann released a statement on Sunday that began in a typically stern tone: "The violent clashes in Heidenau are unjustifiable and must be condemned in the toughest possible way," he said, only then to add, "anyone who has questions about the accommodation of refugees or asylum seekers can and must ask them."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German police suspect arson attack on refugee center

25/8/2015- A gym intended as an emergency shelter for refugees burned to the ground outside Berlin early Tuesday, police said. Brandenburg state police said the fire in Nauen — about 9 miles west of Germany's capital — was probably deliberately started. There were no reports of injuries. The sports facility was due to house about 100 refugees from early next month. Police said a technical fault was unlikely to be the cause of the fire, but have not identified any suspects. Germany is the European Union's largest recipient of asylum applications and the country has seen a surge in economic and political refugee arrivals this year.  By the end of 2015, German officials predict that as many as 800,000 people could arrive in the country. That's more than double original forecasts and four times as many as last year. Thomas de Maizière, Germany's interior minister, described this as "the largest influx in the country’s post-war history."

Protesters linked to far-right and extremist groups have repeatedly demonstrated against the arrival of asylum-seekers in Nauen. Heidenau, a town in east Germany near Dresden, has also in recent days seen violent protests take place outside a shelter for asylum seekers. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned that violence during which rocks and fireworks were hurled at police officers, saying the actions taken by far-right groups and their supporters were "shameful." "I condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent outbursts," Merkel said. "There was an aggressive mood against foreigners there that isn't acceptable in any way." She also criticized Heidenau residents who apparently stood by as extremists attacked police who were trying to ensure refugees arrived at the shelter safely. "It's repulsive how far-right extremists and neo-Nazis are spreading their hollow message, but it's equally shameful how citizens — even families with children — support this by marching along," she said.

Arson has also not been ruled out after an empty building that was due to be converted to a shelter for refugees was destroyed by fire Monday in Weissach, a town in southwestern Germany. Many of the people coming to Germany are fleeing poverty, violence and war in Africa and the Middle East, but sizable numbers — around half, according to some estimates — are also arriving from Balkan countries such as Albania and Serbia. Nationals arriving from countries in the former Yugoslavia are almost always immediately deported because Germany considers these nations to be "safe" countries of origin because its citizens are not fleeing conflict or political persecution. Activists dispute that label. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are pushing for an EU-wide policy on the right to asylum.
© USA Today

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Germany: Clashes at Heidenau asylum centre alarm government

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has visited an asylum seekers' shelter where dozens of police were hurt in clashes with right-wing demonstrators.

24/8/2015- Security was increased at the newly-opened centre in Heidenau near Dresden on Sunday after two nights of protests.  Left-wing activists staged a counter-demonstration in the town in Saxony on Sunday evening and clashed with the right-wing protesters. Germany says it expects up to 800,000 to seek asylum by the end of 2015. Mr Gabriel said right-wing extremists "shouldn't be given a millimetre of space". He praised the town's mayor for his courage in speaking out against the violence.
Mr Gabriel was also due to speak to the refugees on Monday and tour the building where they are being lodged, which is in a former DIY store. About 300 asylum seekers have already arrived at the reception centre, which is due to take 600 people. German media report that a police "control zone" introduced in the area immediately around the centre on Saturday appears to be working. The violence between left and right-wing groups on Saturday and Sunday nights took place outside this zone. Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has promised to use "the full force of the law" against those who carry out anti-refugee violence.
© BBC News

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Germany vows to fight xenophobia after attacks on refugee home

24/8/2015- Germany's interior minister led calls on Sunday for a crackdown on right-wing militants and racists after a second night of scuffles between protesters and police outside a refugee shelter in an eastern German town near Dresden. Just a day after 31 police officers were hurt in violent protests against the asylum seekers, a Reuters photographer on Saturday night saw some 200 mostly drunk militants in Heidenau throwing fireworks and bottles at police. Some shouted "Heil Hitler". Amid fears of a recurrence, police on Sunday started to set up a security zone around the shelter, an empty hardware store. The situation remained tense on Sunday evening when police used tear gas to break up isolated scuffles between right-wing radicals and far-left protesters, German media reported. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel will visit the town on Monday.

As Europe struggles with an influx of migrants fleeing war in countries such as Syria and Iraq, German politicians are worried about the financial and social effects on their country, the EU's biggest recipient of refugees. Germany, which has relatively liberal asylum laws, expects the number of refugees to quadruple this year to 800,000. Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is the biggest issue the EU faces, tougher even than the Greek debt crisis. Interior Minster Thomas de Maiziere condemned the attacks. "At the same time as we see a wave of people wanting to help, we have a rise in hate, insults and violence against asylum seekers. That is obscene and unworthy of our country," de Maiziere told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "Anyone who acts like that faces the full force of the law."

Justice Minister Heiko Maas responded to the Heidenau riot by saying there was zero tolerance for xenophobia or racism. Many politicians have warned about a rise in hostility towards foreigners and in the first half of the year alone, some 150 arson or other attacks were recorded on refugee shelters. Some of Merkel's conservatives want to curb benefits for asylum seekers and for other EU states to take up more of the burden. De Maiziere said the EU had to agree on a list of countries of "safe origin" to make it easier to deport refugees, including nations trying to join the bloc and some African states. More than one third of asylum seekers in Germany are from southeastern European countries such as Albania and Serbia.

Gabriel said the EU's passport-free Schengen zone could be at risk if the impression arose that only Sweden, Austria and Germany accept large numbers of refugees. Some lawmakers have demanded more money for localities to spend on housing, care and education for refugees. Others want faster processing of applications from an average eight months.
© Reuters

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Germany: Riot over refugees in eastern German town leaves 31 police hurt

At least 31 German police officers were hurt in scuffles with about 600 protesters, many hurling bottles and stones, angry about the arrival of asylum seekers in an eastern German town in the early hours of Saturday, police said.

22/8/2015- In one of the country's biggest demonstrations against the influx of refugees, police in Heidenau, near Dresden, used pepper spray on right-wing demonstra-tors who were trying to stop busloads of asylum seekers reach their accommodation. The outbreak of violence by right-wing radicals followed a peaceful demonstration of some 1,000 people against the roughly 250 refugees, said police. "In the end, the police brought the situation under control. The buses with the asylum seekers were led to the ... shelter," Dresden police said in a statement. Media reported that the violence erupted after far-right radicals, many belonging to the National Democratic Party (NPD), who are inspired by Hitler's Nazis, took over the demonstration. Television pictures showed people carrying banners with the slogan "Stop the asylum flood!" and shouting "Foreigners out!".

Politicians quickly condemned the violence. "Sometimes you don't want to be a foreigner in our country. But neither do you want to be a German. I am ashamed of these racists in Heidenau," deputy foreign minister Michael Roth said. Responding to the riot, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said: "There is zero tolerance for xenophobia or racism." Germany is struggling to cope with a surge in the number of asylum seekers and politicians have warned about growing xenophobia amid a spate of arson attacks. In the first half of the year alone, 150 shelters were attacked. The area around Dresden, also home to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration PEGIDA movement, has been a hotspot. Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the wave of asylum seekers is the biggest problem Europe faces.

Germany expects the number of asylum seekers arriving to quadruple this year to 800,000 from last year. Cities are struggling to find accommodation and want more money to cope. Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat (SPD) said in a podcast on Saturday that it was unacceptable for a country like Germany to let 'tent cities' spring up and to fail to provide decent medical care. Germany, which has relatively liberal asylum laws, is taking in more refugees than any other European country, many from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq. More than a third come from south-eastern European countries like Albania and Serbia.
© Reuters

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German police disperse far-right protesters blocking access to refugee center in Saxony

German police have used pepper spray to break up a protest by dozens of far-right demonstrators near a building being used as a refugee center southeast of Dresden. The National Democratic Party organized the protest.

22/8/2015- Demonstrators blocked the road in Heidenau, southeast of Dresden, which leads to the building intended for the refugees who were arriving later on Friday. The protestors threw stones, bottles and firecrackers. Police quickly cleared the demonstrators using pepper spray. The building, a former hardware store, is to be the temporary home for several hundred asylum seekers. A bus with the first of about 250 refugees arrived at the building shortly after midnight on Friday. According to police, a security service is being provided to ensure safety in and around the building. Earlier in the day, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, Steffen Seibert said: "Germany's asylum law, which is a basic right to asylum against political persecution, is certainly one of the best achievements of our constitution."

Arson attacks
Earlier on Friday police in Berlin said they had arrested two men and a woman in connection with a failed arson attack on a home for asylum seekers. A watchman at the temporary housing unit said a group of people threw burning wood into the compound just before midnight on Thursday. A resident was able to put the fire out. Police in Bavaria said they were investigating an arson attack on a refugee home in Neustadt an der Waldnaab. There were no injuries. The government has spoken out strongly against the attacks. Chancellor Angela Merkel said there could be "no justification" for them. Some 800,000 refugees are expected to apply for asylum in Germany this year - the highest number in the European Union.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany to Return Asylum Seekers to Serbia

Tens of thousands of Serbian citizens who have sought asylum in Germany face being returned to Serbia, prompting suggestions that Belgrade should do more to prevent people from leaving.

22/8/2015- Thousands of the around 200,000 Serbian citizens who sought asylum or stay in Germany without proper residence permits potentially face demands to leave the country and return to Serbia, the Belgrade-based daily Politika reported on Friday. About 24,000 were already urged to leave Germany this year. The daily cited German Interior Ministry spokesperson Lisa Hager as saying that by May, 1,311 Serbian citizens had already been sent back to Serbia in accordance with the agreement on readmission between the two countries. She said that Germany has classified Serbia as a country of safe origin so that Serbian citizens have almost no chance to obtain asylum there. Germany has a similar policy to asylum applicants from other Balkan countries. More than 2,300 people from Serbia asked for asylum in Germany in July.

According to German officials, 90 per cent are Roma motivated mainly by economic factors. The number of asylum seekers from the Balkans increases every summer and autumn because it is believed they want to spend the winter in Germany. The German authorities provide them with shelters, food and monthly financial support of around 140 euros while they are in the country. The whole asylum procedure often takes months. Hager also said Germany is satisfied with the level of cooperation with Belgrade but the Serbian government should work on “improving the living conditions of the Roma and other people” that are returned home. Serbian Minister of Labour Aleksandar Vulin recently said that Serbia respected the readmission agreement with Germany. "In the agreement, there are rights and obligations for both the countries that expel and the countries which receive back the asylum seekers. Let's see who these people are, whether they are our citizens and how they can be connected to Serbia," he said.

Aleksandar Popov, from a Novi Sad-based NGO, the Center for Regionalism, said Serbia faces a “complex problem” with the asylum seekers and should take action to prevent them from leaving the country in larger numbers. “Serbia should start giving people a chance to see their prosperity in the region that produces most asylum seekers, which is the southern part… the government should also launch a direct campaign to explain to the people that most asylum seekers will be sent back,” Popov told BIRN. People need to be given a chance to live good lives there, especially the younger population, he added. Rados Djurovic, from Belgrade-based NGO Asylum Protection Centar, agrees that the prevention campaign is needed. Serbia would not face major problems once the asylum seekers are returned to Serbia, he added.

“Germany will return people to Serbia in stages so it should not cause problems for the Serbian authorities,” Djurovic told BIRN. According to German reports, in 2015 the country could face a total influx of around 800,000 refugees mainly from the Middle East and Africa, which would make a record year for asylum applications in Germany. It is estimated that Germany could spend up to ten billion euros on asylum seekers. Thomas de Maiziere, German Interior Minister has urged EU partners to do more to help. “Germany cannot, on a permanent basis, take on 40 percent of all refugees that arrive in Europe”, he said.
© Balkan Insight

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Czech Rep: Charles University opens doors to asylum seekers

Charles University in Prague has decided to open up to migrants who are seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. Four of the university’s faculties have offered to provide free tuition and accommodation to refugees who have been granted asylum and residence permits in the country and who have passed the entrance exam. I spoke to Jan Konvalinka, Vice rector of research at Charles University, and I first asked him about the reasons behind the project.

25/8/2015- “Charles University is aware of the humanitarian tragedy of immigrants seeking asylum in European countries. And in this situation, where a number of political forces are trying to misuse the situation, Charles University wants to show some positive action to help people in need. We are trying to help by what we are best in, which is education.”

Who is the project intended for? Who can take part in it?
“The project is intended for asylum seekers who have already been granted asylum in the Czech Republic and will get a residence permit, which is a lengthy process, so we don’t expect an immediate influx of applicants. “Those who will be eligible and will pass the examinations to the university will be provided with a scholar fee for their studies at the Charles University and will be provided with accommodation at the student’s dormitories.”

How many people do you expect to take part in the programme?
“Unfortunately we are talking about very low numbers because unfortunately, and it is really bad news in this situation, there are not many people who are actually seeking asylum in this country. They are leaving, as you know, to Germany, and Sweden and other European. “At present we are ready to help approximately ten students but the situation is very dynamic. I have just attended talks on the government level this morning, and I am sure that the government will come up with some broader initiative concerning more Czech universities. So at the end the numbers will be higher.”

Who will be covering the costs of their studies?
“For those people that I was talking about, for those first ten, Charles University is going to waive the scholar fees so we are going to pay for it, in a way, and I am sure that the government, or the ministry of education, will provide some financial help as well.”

When exactly will you launch the project?
“The programme has already been launched, but once again, we have to wait for people to actually get the asylum and residence permit, and that will take several months.”

As far as I know, Charles University is considering other forms of help to refugees? What are they?
“We will try to educate the people, we will try to provide courses, we might, in case of emergency, offer accommodation at the dormitories of Charles University, but these things have not been decided yet, this is just a discussion that we are currently leading.”
© Radio Prague

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Czech Rep: Prague to host conference on threats of Islamism

24/8/2015- Radicalisation of European Muslim and Islamist terrorism linked to Islamic State (IS) will be among the issues on the agenda of an international conference to be held in Prague next week, Radko Hokovsky told journalists on behalf of the organisers from the European Values think-tank Monday. The internal security of Europe is becoming crucial for the future of European integration and for the character of Europe's liberal democratic regimes, Hokovsky said. He said it is the existence of IS that contributes to the radicalisation of Muslims in Europe and encourages the activities of Islamist terrorists. According to Hokovsky, IS is unlikely to be defeated by force in the years to come. "The regional players who are capable of intervening against IS are not motivated enough," he said. Even if IS were destroyed, its ideology would continue to influence Muslims in Europe, mainly young ones, he said.

Central Europe does not face the problem of the radicalisation of Muslisms for the time being, Hokovsky continued. The Muslim communities in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are small, but they should be monitored, including the influences exerted on them from abroad. The Czech Republic, too, may face a terrorist attack sooner or later, Hokovsky said. The conference will be held in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday, September 3. The speakers will include Europol head Rob Wainwright, anti-terrorism coordinator of the Council of EU Gilles de Kerchove and Haras Rafiq, executive director of an influential British anti-extremist think-tank.  Seminars focusing on IS and the causes of radicalisation in Europe are scheduled for September 4-5. Next year, European Values plans to stage a similar conference focusing on the immigration crisis.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Russia: White supremacist gathering underscores nationalist trend

22/8/2015- The protesters, several thousand strong and surrounded by hundreds of armed police, chanted nationalist slogans and racial slurs, occasionally raising their right hands in a Nazi salute. It was the 10th annual gathering of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and far-right nationalists, held in Moscow in November. "Nationalism has a bright future in Russia," said co-organizer Dmitri Demushkin, 36, a former skinhead and ex-leader of the Slavic Union, a banned group whose Russian initials, SS, intentionally mimic those of the Nazi paramilitaries. "We will either win or the Russian people will die." The very existence of homebred neo-Nazis and racists, made graphically clear each year in what is known as the Russian March, is still shocking to many in Russia, a multiethnic country that once professed to be building an internationalist, communist utopia and still prides itself on the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Yet Russia's far right isn't limited to a few marginal figures. It is a vortex of militant gangs, movements and political parties that enlist tens of thousands of members who are also among those most loudly applauding President Vladimir Putin and his strong-arm policies against Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. The Kremlin cracked down on right-wing radicals who emerged after the 1991 Soviet collapse and mushroomed in the 2000s in response to Islamist terrorism attacks and the influx of millions of migrants from Central Asia and Russia's mostly Muslim Caucasus region, where two wars in Chechnya fueled racism and unrest. In 2006, a neo-Nazi group organized seven bombings across Moscow, one of which killed 14 people at an outdoor market, including two children. Most of the victims were foreign labor migrants.
At the peak of racially motivated violence in 2008, at least 110 people were killed and 487 wounded, according to Sova, a Moscow-based hate crimes watchdog organization. Such crimes have declined sharply since a crackdown on ultranationalists began about five years ago. In the first half of this year, four people died and 37 were wounded in racial violence, Sova reports. But even as the Kremlin sought to rein in the violent right, it also incorporated elements of the nationalist agenda as part of its anti-Western and isolationist ideology that praises the "unique Russian civilization" devoid of "decadent" liberalism. Officially tolerated expressions of racism such as the Russian March have nurtured the growing xenophobia and intolerance gripping Russia today. Some 54% of Russians support the idea of "Russia for ethnic Russians," and more than a third would welcome the expulsion of Caucasus and Central Asian Muslims, according to the latest poll on the matter, a July 2014 survey by the independent Levada Center.

"The current government partially declares the imperial slogans we declared almost 25 years ago," said Eduard Limonov, a novelist and leader of the now-banned National Bolshevik party. In the 1990s, the National Bolsheviks — whose red flag is modeled on a Nazi banner with a hammer and a sickle replacing the swastika — advocated armed revolts to carve out regions of Ukraine, Latvia and Kazakhstan that are largely populated by ethnic Russians. That scenario has played out in eastern Ukraine for the last 14 months, with Moscow-backed separatists occupying the predominantly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Far-right nationalists have been polarized in the Ukraine conflict, with some fighting on each side, Sova reports. "They all are doing military training, all of them. It has become very trendy," Sova director Alexander Vekhovsky said. "All the time, trainings, musters, camps. And this is very concerning, because it's not going to end well."

The conservative and immensely powerful Russian Orthodox Church, resurgent czarist-era paramilitary Cossacks, and right-wing parties represent the largest players in the field of official, Kremlin-sanctioned nationalism. Its superstar is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a veteran politician who served as a deputy speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, and heads the LDPR party that holds 56 of the 450 Duma seats. The flamboyant 69-year-old ran for president five times, campaigning on promises to expel non-Russians, install barbed wire around Chechnya and Dagestan, Russia's violence-plagued Muslim provinces, and "return" Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states to the Russian empire. But his pledges and party are widely seen as pseudo-opposition, a Kremlin tool to "sterilize nationalist voices," says Andrey Kolesnikov, a political analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank.

"Just because the state wants to preserve its monopoly on nationalism — and this is one of the most important political aims because such ideology is popular and it, among other [factors], keeps Putin's ratings high — it responds very harshly to any manifestations of nationalist extremism," Kolesnikov said. The two sides of Russian nationalism — banned and co-opted — often converge. Half a dozen pro-Kremlin youth movements emerged after the 2005 pro-West "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine. Created to counter opposition street rallies in Russia, they recruited racist soccer fans and ultranationalists and used their slogans, according to rights groups, anti-Nazi bloggers and Russian media. The founder of a brutal neo-Nazi gang recently claimed to have "cooperated" with two such groups. Ilya Goryachev was sentenced to life to prison in Russia in late July after a jury found him guilty of establishing BORN, or the Military Organization of Russian Nationalists.

Unlike other neo-Nazi gangs that preyed on dark-skinned non-Russians, the group mostly targeted "traitors of race," or ethnic Russians who stood up to the far-right ideology, and planned to seize power to turn Russia into a neo-Nazi "Fourth Reich." From 2008 to 2010, BORN militants killed 10 people, including a federal judge who had sentenced several ultranationalists to jail, a human rights lawyer, a journalist and three anti-Nazi activists. Its militants also killed a Muay Thai world champion and a Tajik man whose severed head was planted in a government office with a note promising more killings. Several BORN activists have already been sentenced to lengthy jail terms or life. Goryachev testified against them, pleading not guilty at his own trial and claiming he was merely a publicist. He told the court last month, "I was talking about the things that are now broadcast on the Russia television channel," a state-run national network.
© The Los Angeles Times

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Headlines 21 August, 2015

Croatia bans own fans for Euro qualifiers over racism fears

21/8/2015- Croatia have banned their own fans from the team's Euro 2016 away qualifiers fearing racist incidents could get them thrown out of the competition, the Balkan country's Football Association (HNS) said on Friday. "There will be no organised section for Croatian fans in games at Azerbaijan on Sept. 3, Norway on Sept. 6 and Malta on Oct. 13," the HNS said on its website (www.hns-cff.hr). "UEFA's punishment (for recent racist incidents) and their explanation shows in no uncertain terms that any future racist-related offence could mean Croatia's expulsion from the European Championship. "It was a difficult decision (to ban supporters) but and we truly regret that decent fans have to put up with it, but it was a sacrifice required to fight hooliganism and make sure millions of Croatian supporters get to cheer us in the Euro 2016 finals."

Croatia are top of Group H with 13 points from six games, having had one point deducted for a racist incident in a 1-1 home draw with Italy in June. A  swastika was imprinted on the pitch in Split's Poljud stadium days before the fixture and a chemical agent was used so that it became visible during the match, played behind closed doors for a previous offence. Croatia were handed the crowd ban for racist chants by their fans during a 5-1 home win over Norway in March. Following the swastika incident, UEFA deducted one point from Croatia's tally, fined them 100,000 euros ($113,690.00) and ordered them to play their next two home games in UEFA competition behind closed doors. It means Croatia will not have any supporters for the rest of their qualifying campaign, as their home match against Bulgaria on Oct 10. is sandwiched between the three away games.

"UEFA's decision amounts to something of a second yellow card without the red one being brandished, hence it is clear there will be no more leniency," said HNS executive director Damir Vrbanovic. "We banned our fans reluctantly and after a long debate, but we are as motivated as we've ever been to win this battle and protect our national team." The top two in each of the nine groups qualify automatically for the tournament in France and they will be joined by the four playoff winners contested by the eight best third-placed teams. Hosts France also qualify automatically.
© Reuters

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Macedonia Police Fires Tear Gas at Refugees

Macedonian police on Friday fired stun grenades at refugees trying to enter the country, a day after declaring a crisis situation on the border - after which clashes later took place.

21/8/2015- Macedonian police fired stun grenades at crowds of refugees on the Greek border on Friday, to deter them from trying to enter the country. Video footage showed at least several refugees being injured in chaotic scenes as asylum seekers fled the plumes of smoke and loud bangs. At around 4pm, meanwhile, clashes occurred with police after a group of about 200 people, made up of women, children and elderly, was let through the border and boarded a train to Tabanovce, at the Serbian border. As the group was about to be let through, witnesses said other refugees tried to break through the police cordon. Police pushed them back by force, causing what was described as as stampede, with women screaming and some people passing out. "It was horrific, people collapsing, dehydrated, stuck there without food or water and not allowed passage," one journalist told BIRN. The state news agency MIA quoted army representatives as saying that another group would be allowed in the country after 7pm.

On Thursday, the Macedonian government declared a state of emergency on its southern and northern border following an unprecedented influx of refugees. The Interior Ministry said it was deploying troops on the border with Greece in a last-ditch move to stem to flow of refugees into and across the country. The aim was to enhance control of the border area, Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, explained on Thursday. In the last two months, 41,414 foreign nationals have entered Macedonia on their way to Western Europe. On Friday, the rights organisation Amnesty International condemned what it called the use of paramilitary measures to deter refugees. Amnesty also said that reports that an anti-terrorism police unit deployed to the border used beatings and riot-control agents and even fired in the air to prevent people from crossing into Macedonia was worrying.

“Every country has the power to patrol its own borders, but this kind of para-military response is an unacceptable push-back in violation of international law," said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty. "Macedonian authorities are responding as if they were dealing with rioters rather than refugees who have fled conflict and persecution,” he added. “If the reports of beatings and firearm use by the security forces are true, this would mark a very dangerous escalation of an already tense situation," he continued. “All countries have a duty to protect those fleeing conflict and persecution, and Macedonia is no exception. When the system cannot cope, you improve the system – you don’t just stop people from coming in.” The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, criticised the closure of the border. Chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: "These are refugees in search of protection and must not be stopped from doing so." However, she also said that both Macedonia and Serbia were overstretched and "cannot be left alone with this number of refugees".

The EU has neither approved nor condemned Macedonian's new tough tactics on the border. Macedonia has the right under international law to monitor people who wish to enter its territory and prohibit entry to those who do not meet the criteria, the office of EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn noted on Friday. “The Commission knows about the government's decision to declare an emergency situation in areas along the southern and northern borders. The Commission is ready to continue giving humanitarian assistance to Macedonia,” it added. Macedonia's Ministry for Interior meanwhile sought to clarify whether it was still allowing in migrants or not. It said that some vulnerable groups of refugees are still allowed to cross from Greece to Macedonia. “Limited entrance of illegal migrants is allowed, mostly from vulnerable categories that can be cared and treated properly in accordance with the capacities of the country”, the statement said.

Over the last 24 hours, far fewer certificates have been issued to asylum seekers. From Thursday till Friday morning, 181 foreign nationals were issued certificates, of whom 148 were from Syria.
© Balkan Insight

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Canada: Racist comments appear on website for Winnipeg's anti-racism summit

One day after Mayor Brian Bowman announced details for an anti-racism summit in Winnipeg, racist comments appeared on a website dedicated to the announcement.
19/8/2015- “Young aboriginals need to be discouraged from having children until they are secure (educated & employed),” reads one anonymous comment on 1winnipeg.ca. “I get frustrated over seeing intoxicated aboriginals stumbling around downtown ... It is not justified to say I am racist.”  “I have lived in Wpg. all my life and have not felt the racism against the white people like you get from the Pilipino people (sic),” reads another. “We welcomed them to our country with open arms and they refuse to speak the English language even the ones born here.”  Bowman announced the summit, slated to happen September 17-18, at the CMHR on Tuesday, and acknowledged the site would likely attract these kinds of comments. “But that’s why (the summit) is important, to start this discussion.” Plenty of ideas have also popped up on the site.

One aboriginal man suggested a day a few times a year where people of all races could gather to talk about their backgrounds. “It would be a day where you could bring your family and friends to get to know people of all other ethnic groups and learn about their way of life.” “A small thing we can teach our children, both at home and at school, is not to laugh at racist jokes,” reads another. “I would raise awareness by adding culturally based advertising, which is rarely seen in our city, holding a Pro-Acceptance forum, and staging a One Winnipeg convention annually,” said a third.
© Metro News Canada

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France: Jean-Marie Le Pen excluded from French extreme-right party

The co-founder of the French extreme-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was excluded from this party following a disciplinary hearing for belittling the Holocaust and insulting party leaders.

21/8/2015- The decision to exclude the father of current party leader Marine Le Pen came in a statement hours after the end of a three-hour hearing by the party's executive bureau which listed 15 complaints, all consisting of public statements considered a liability to the new image of the party, including those in which he downplayed Nazi gas chambers as a "detail in the history" of World War II. Marine Le Pen has been trying for months to oust her father, who held the title of honorary president for life. A statement said the executive bureau "deliberated and decided the exclusion of Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen as member of the National Front." Le Pen said the decision by six members of the eight-member executive bureau was carried out by an "execution squad" on orders of his daughter and her deputy, Florian Philippot, whom father Le Pen openly distrusts.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted several times in French courts of racism and anti-Semitism. He named his daughter as his successor in 2010, and she has since chalked up electoral victories for the National Front, with polls suggesting she could become a leading contender in the French presidential race in 2017 — her ultimate goal. Since taking over the party, Marine Le Pen has tried to create a wider appeal and shake off its reputation for anti-Semitism, positioning the party as an anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic force offering protectionist economic policies.
© EJP News

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France: Jean-Marie Le Pen demands Front National expulsion take place in public

Historic French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen faces expulsion from the party he cofounded on Thursday at a special executive meeting of the Front National (FN). In his latest gesture of defiance to allies of his daughter Marine, who now leads the party, he has demanded that the hearing take place in public.

19/8/2015- "We demand that the debate be made public and that the executive committee meeting be open to the press and the public," an unnamed ally of the veteran right-winger told Le Monde newspaper, adding that the move would be in the interests of "transparency". Supporters of the veteran Eurosceptic are citing rulings of the European Court of Human Rights that judgements must be passed in public as jurisprudence, with the implicit threat of further legal action if they do not get their way. The 87-year-old former FN president managed to persuade a court to overrule his suspension at a meeting, which he boycotted, in May. And last month a court stopped a vote of members that would have scrapped the honorary presidency, a post invented for him when Marine took over and set about trying to clean up the party's image. Jean-Marie Le Pen will attend today's meeting "with the intention of teaching a lesson and not receiving one", he said earlier. But Marine Le Pen and party vice-president  Florian Philippot will not be there, although they They do not want to be accused of being both judge and jury, they say, since Le Pen is accused of launching personal attacks on them, as well as bringing the party into disrepute with remarks on the Holocaust and World War II.
© RFI

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UN: Too much racism in Norway

Norway's authorities are doing too little to combat the threat of racism and far-right extremist violence, a damning new report from the UN has concluded.

19/8/2015- The report, published by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, argues that Norway has failed to taking the connection between right-wing extremist violence and hate speech seriously enough. The report concludes: "Norway should take right-wing extremist violence seriously, investigate it as a hate crime rather than portray [instances of] it as unrelated and sporadic incidents, and maintain continuous vigilance against hate speech, including on the Internet." The report make a strong connection between the terrorist attacks on 22 July 2011, when 77 people were killed by the right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, and the "extremely violent and hateful ideology" circulating on the internet in Norwegian. Norway is also criticised for failing to produce any statistics on hate crimes, an issue the committee also criticised Norway for in its previous report in 2011.

As well as the report, Solveig Horne, Norway's Minister for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, was questioned by a UN panel in Geneva on Tuesday over how her government was improving the way it tackles hate crimes and other forms of discrimination. According to Norway's Aftenposten newspaper, Horne at one point had to ask for a break in the proceedings because the questions from the committee had become too heated. "A member of the committee asked a critical question where he asked us to take action against racism in the political debate," Horne told Aftenposten. "I asked for a couple of minutes so that the Norwegian delegation could coordinate a response."
© The Local - Norway

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Norway grilled over hate crimes

Just as three Norwegian and British men went on trial Tuesday, accused of hate crimes against two Muslim men in Oslo, Norwegian government minister Solveig Horne was being grilled by a UN committee in Geneva over the country’s failure to better combat such crimes and racism. The trial itself is a result of Norway’s efforts to take hate crimes and discrimination more seriously, but UN officials aren’t satisfied.

19/8/2015- The trial had to be moved to a larger courtroom because of a lack of space in the city court, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The case has attracted media attention, after the three white defendants allegedly launched an unprovoked attack on two men from the Middle East late one night last winter. The three men denied they are neo-Nazis, even though police found Nazi greetings and swastikas on the mobile phone of one of them. The attack occurred as the two Kurdish victims were walking down the main street running between Norway’s National Theater and Parliament building, Stortingsgata, on February 18. When they passed the three defendants, aged 52, 33 and 28, “they began to yell and swear at us, completely out of the blue,” one of the victims told newspaper Aftenposten in a detailed account of the incident last week. “Before we had a chance to react, they started beating and kicking both of us.”

Threw things, too
The three white men continued to verbally attack the two Kurdish men as well, repeatedly using vulgarities and screaming that that the “(epithet deleted) Muslims” didn’t “have anything to do here (in Norway)” and labelling them as “terrorists,” clearly choosing to overlook the facts that one of the three attackers was himself a foreign citizen in Norway and that the terrorist attack against Norway four years ago was carried out by an ultra-right-wing white Norwegian man, not by Muslims. The two Kurdish men reported the attack to police, resulting in the arrests and the trial now underway in which the three men are charged with hate crimes. The defendants deny the attack was unprovoked, with the 33-year-old testifying that the two plaintiffs had made offensive remarks “to the girls who were with us,” and it led to a brawl “where both parts were fighting.”

The 33-year-old is also charged, meanwhile, with beating a woman who earlier was a leader of the white supremacist Norwegian Defence League but since has cut ties to the organization, and he was convicted of unprovoked violence in 2003. Both he and the 28-year-old said all the Nazi greetings and photos of people posing with flags bearing swastikas and other white supremacist symbols found by police were merely a result of “internal humour” and not intended to signify ties with neo-Nazis. NRK reported their 52-year-old British co-defendant did not appear in court.

‘Eye-opener’
“This episode really opened my eyes,” one of the victims, who has lived in Norway since 1998, told Aftenposten last week. “Until that day, I would never have believed such things could happen here. I’ve heard about it, but thought it must have been taken out of context. Now I understand that this can actually happen in Norway today.” Police also understand that, and say they’re trying to crack down on hate crime. Last fall, the Oslo Police District formed the country’s first hate-crime group specifically charged with handling complaints and addressing cases that initially weren’t registered as hate crimes. Aftenposten reported that as of July 27, Oslo police had registered 69 cases so far this year, as many as in all of 2014.

The newspaper has also reported on how hateful comments, mostly against Muslims, also swirl around the Internet, and that both verbal and written attacks against Muslims are more common than racially motivated violence. Aftenposten itself is logging hateful comments and threats that come in to its own online channels. The most alarming are reported to the police. Monica Lillebakken, head of the Oslo Police’s new group tackling hate crimes, thinks the real numbers are much higher, fearing that many such crimes go unreported. Asked whether police have taken hate crimes seriously enough, she told Aftenposten, “no, we need to acknowledge that we haven’t taken these cases seriously enough. It’s all about focusing on them and making them a priority, and we’re doing that now.”

Government forced to defend itself
The government minister questioned by a UN panel in Geneva on Tuesday had to answer for how Norway is tackling hate crimes and other forms of discrimination. Norway is usually viewed as a star in the UN system, but in this case, UN officials are not satisfied with how Norwegian authorities are fighting racism. Norwegian authorities have been criticized in the past by the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, also during the former Labour-led government, for not better addressing hatred. Now it’s Solveig Horne’s job to respond to criticism from 2011, when the Norwegian government was charged with not compiling statistics over hate crime, not defining the issue and failing to address how expressions of racism are damaging.

Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Horne, from the conservative Progress Party that’s known for its skepticism towards immigration, asked for a “time-out” when asked what measures Norway has taken to counter racism, and why the government has no action plan against ethnic discrimination. Horne said later that she merely needed “a few minutes … so the Norwegian delegation could coordinate its answer.” Horne claimed she found the UN committee’s questioning to be “constructive” and thought she and her Norwegian colleagues “answered well and comprehensively.” The head of Oslo’s anti-racism center was less positive, suggesting Horne did not answer in detail. In the ministry’s version of events, however, Horne highlighted the Oslo police’s new group that’s handling hate crimes and stressed the govern-ment’s efforts against radicalization and violent extremism and in favour of integration.

“During the hearing in Geneva, Norway was praised for the work being done, but the UN committee also addressed the challenges we have in Norway today,” Horne stated. “Norway is delivering well on many points in the UN’s convention against racial discrimination, but there are still areas where we can be better.” The UN later concluded that Norwegian officials, Horne included, need to acknowledge that racism exists in Norway, that it needs to be called for what it is (not simply “discrimination”) and that Norway needs the UN’s help to combat it. Horne insisted that the government’s own work in fighting racism had high priority.

Party under pressure
Her party, meanwhile, has been under pressure just recently after local Progress Party politician Roald Bentzen wrote on the Facebook page of the party’s senior citizens’ group in Vestfold that the deputy leader of the Labour Party and former government minister Hadia Tajik “has a mission from Allah to ‘Muslimize’ Norway,” and that “all (Muslims) who come (to Norway) have the same assignment, young and old, with and without weapons.” That set off protests and the party distanced itself from Bentzen’s remarks. Local newspaper Gjengangeren could later report, however, that the party’s candidate for mayor of Horten in Vestfold, Freddy Martinsen, merely asked Bentzen to make such comments anonymously instead of identifying himself as a Progress Party politician.

“He’s been told he should think twice, because when he comments under his full name, he will be associated with the party,” Martinsen said. “We have suggested he should get himself a nickname.” Newspaper Dagsavisen editorialized that Martinsen thus was suggesting that “it isn’t wrong to spread hatred, but it’s stupid to be caught doing it.” Horne’s own party, the paper claimed, “needs its own clear rules about this. It’s OK to be critical of immigration, but it’s not OK to spread hate, anonymously or otherwise.”
© Views and News from Norway

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The Netherlands promises UN an acceptable Zwarte Piet

19/8/2015- The Dutch government has promised to make Zwarte Piet a globally acceptable figure. The promise was made during a meeting to discuss the Netherlands’ racial discrimination policy at the United Nations. All member states which have signed the racial discrimination treaty must justify their policies once every four years. Controversial The figure of Zwarte Piet, who accompanies Sint Nicolaas during processions on December 5, has been controversial for years, and was one of the main subjects under discussion at the UN. Dutch delegation leader Afke van Rijn told the UN commission that social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher is organising a ’round table dialogue’ with various organisations with the aim of adapting Zwarte Piet. ‘Banning Zwarte Piet is not a solution,’ the NRC quotes her as saying.

During a press conference on Wednesday morning she said: ‘Violating human rights cannot be justified by citing cultural traditions.’ Action plan She also touched on other subjects under discussion, such as ethnic profiling by the police, compulsory integration courses for immigrants, housing for asylum seekers and the tone of the public debate. Van Rijn said the Dutch government is working on a new action plan against discrimination which will be ready this autumn. This will cover all the subjects raised by the UN and include steps to prevent discrimination. The UN will issue its final report on the Netherlands on August 28.
© The Dutch News

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Slovakia will take in 200 Syrian refugees, but they have to be Christian

Here's a stark illustration of Europe's migration crisis: The Slovakian government recently announced that it would help share the burden of the influx of tens of thousands of migrants into Europe by taking in 200 Syrian refugees. That's a small number, but it was made all the more glaring by another stipulation — these refugees had to be Christian.

19/8/2015- "In Slovakia, we don’t have mosques," an Interior Ministry spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. Therefore, the official said, "we only want to choose the Christians." International organizations and humanitarian groups have in recent months sounded a warning on the gravity of the refugee crisis. Last month, the United Nations announced that the Syrian civil war had forced more than 4 million Syrians to flee their country. Hundreds of thousands have attempted to find sanctuary in Europe, many braving perilous crossings over the Mediterranean. On Tuesday, the European Union's border agency reported that 107,500 migrants had crossed into the E.U. in July, a record figure that was triple the number of crossings reported in July 2014. One of the major havens for these refugees is Austria, which has the highest number of asylum-seekers per capita in Europe. It is projected to see 80,000 migrants arrive this year alone.

Neighboring Slovakia has been pressured by European Union officials in Brussels to help share the burden, but its government, like those of other Central and Eastern European states, has bristled at the demands. From Estonia to Hungary to the Czech Republic, politicians, particularly from right-wing parties, have voiced opposition to accommodating the influx. "Left-wing policies have led to illegal immigrants flooding Europe, threatening European countries with an unprecedented social, economic, cultural and security conflict," said a statement last week from the ruling conservative, nationalist party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban's government plans to build a vast barrier along its border with Serbia to better keep migrants out.

The cultural complaint — that, unlike societies in Western and Northern Europe, these nations are less able to adjust to multiculturalism — is most common. In the Czech Republic, a group called the Bloc Against Islam collected 145,000 signatures for a petition against Muslim immigrants, according to the German DPA news agency. Although Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the population of many of these Eastern European states, the paranoia over their presence has led to a spike in protests and bigoted rhetoric. Earlier this year, a leading far-right Czech politician encouraged his countrymen to breed piglets and walk the animals near mosques.  Czech President Milos Zeman was more moderate in his rhetoric, but the subtext was clear. "Refugees from a completely different cultural background would not be in a good position in the Czech Republic," he was recently quoted as saying by a spokesman.

As the Journal reports, Zeman's Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, has made similar noises. When explaining to an Austrian newspaper last week why the number of migrants his country would take in was far fewer than the 1,100 requested by Brussels, he said it wasn't Slovakia's responsibility to welcome the refugees of conflicts his country had no role in fighting. "I only have one question: Who bombed Libya?" said Fico, referring to the 2011 NATO intervention against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. "Who created problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No." That argument is reinforced by public opinion. A Slovak village near the capital, Bratislava, recently held a referendum on whether to temporarily house 500 asylum-seekers in a nearby facility. Ninety-seven percent voted no. It's clear that cultural concerns underlie this opposition. They were voiced by Fico himself in January.

"Since Slovakia is a Christian country, we cannot tolerate an influx of 300,000-400,000 Muslim immigrants who would like to start building mosques all over our land and trying to change the nature, culture and values ​​of the state," he said.
© The Washington Post

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Bulgaria tries to stem rising migrant influx at its borders

Bulgaria has beefed up its border police, installed cameras and motion censors, and is extending a security fence that will cover 160 km (100 miles) of its border with Turkey, and yet more and more migrants keep arriving.

19/8/2015- About 25,000 people have applied for refugee status in Bulgaria in the past two years, official data shows, as many as in the previous two decades combined. From Syria or Afghanistan, many are fleeing conflict and poverty and hope to use the Balkan country as a gateway to a more prosperous life elsewhere in Europe. One day in August, a long queue of trucks waited under the scorching sun at a checkpoint in Lesovo, which lies on the border with Turkey. Police searched each truck for stowaways using cameras, oxygen and heart beat detectors. "We have detained some 750 illegal migrants, hidden in trucks since the start of the year," said Nikolai Dimitrov, senior inspector at the checkpoint. Though not on the frontline of the migrant crisis like neighbouring Greece and Hungary, Bulgaria, the poorest member of the European Union, is growing anxious as the flow of arrivals keeps rising.

At Lesovo, there were no scenes of migrants scrambling onto trucks or scuffling with police, the likes of which were seen in France or on some Greek islands this year. The number of migrants arriving in Bulgaria is still comparatively small. New data the EU's border control agency showed 21,000 refugees landed on Greek shores last week alone. Nearly 340,000 migrants arrived in the EU so far this year, a 175 percent rise on the same period last year. However, for many in Bulgaria, with its population of 7.2 million, there are fears the country will be unable to cope with more migrants, even if most of them do not want to stay but will try to make it to richer countries such as Germany or Sweden.

Bulgaria depends on EU financial support to receive and provide shelter, medical care and food for over 3,500 refugees housed in camps, and has already used 80 percent of the 4.2 million euros it received to that end. "Every weekend one village enters Bulgaria -- about 200-300 people. And this is every week," said Dimitrov.

"Desperate Situation"
Bulgaria already dispatched hundreds of additional police officers to guard the border and erected a 30 km fence to deter people smugglers. The fence is being extended by another 130 km. But attempts to cross into Bulgaria are on the rise. The authorities detained over 4,400 people who crossed illegally into its territory in the first six months of this year, two and half times more than in the same period a year ago, according to the interior ministry. Human rights groups and the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR have criticised the border fence, saying that barriers will not stop the refugee inflows. Hungary is also building a security fence on its border with Serbia. "The barriers, not only in Bulgaria, are only increasing the risks to the people in a desperate situation, fleeing from war - but force them to put their lives in danger in the hands of smugglers and human traffickers," said Boris Cheshirkov, spokesman for the Bulgarian office of UNHCR.
© Reuters

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Spanish inquisition: Outcry after festival bans Jewish musician

A Jewish American rapper has been banned from performing at a Spanish music festival after refusing to be "coerced" into making political statements on Israel.

19/8/2015- The Spanish government issued a statement 'condemning' the decision to drop Matisyahu, a US-born Jewish rapper, from the music festival after the move provoked a storm of critism from both Israel and the United States. Organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicàssim, on Spain’s east coast, disinvited the American hip hop artist from performing on Saturday after he refused to make a statement on Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel. The move came after pressure from Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS), a campaign organisation started in 2005, for the rapper to state his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Matisyahu, who is an American citizen and does not hold an Israeli passport, refused to issue a statement on his views, writing on his Facebook page:
"I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process."

According to Matisyahu, real name Matthew Paul Miller, the festival organizers "kept insisting I clarify my personal views; which I felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda". "Honestly it was appalling and offensive," the rapper wrote on Facebook, "that as the only publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements." Matisyahu wrote that he felt he was being singled out by the BDS País Valencià movement, who had not requested that any other performers make a similar public statement on the politics of Israel. The pro- Palestine group celebrated the decision to drop Matisyahu from the bill as a "victory for Palestine, solidarity and dignity". The actions of the organizers of the event - which receives public funds - have been condemned by the Spanish government, which has been trying to make amends for Spain’s historical maltreatment of its Jewish communities.

In June lawmakers corrected an "historical mistake" by approving a law to allow the descendants of Spanish Jews expelled during the Spanish inquisition to claim dual citizenship. The move has provoked a strong reaction from the international press, with Time magazine writing about "the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe" and the Times of Israel citing a 2014 University of Tel Aviv report which found that "the rate of anti-Semitism in Spain is one of the highest in Europe". Spain's foreign ministry released an official statement on Tuesday evening, condemning the actions of festival organizers which "called into question the principle of anti-discrimination that is at the heart of diverse societies." The move has also been "strongly condemned" by the Israeli Embassy in Spain while the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain is considering legal action against the festival.

The US embassy in Madrid labeled the entire episode "troubling". "Freedom of expression is enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the policy of the United States Government to promote and defend the protection of these fundamental freedoms," the embassy said in a statement released on Wednesday. "Reports regarding the cancellation of Matthew Miller’s (Matisyahu’s) performance at the Benicassim Rototom Festival are therefore troubling. We welcome the statement issued by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and vigorously defend the right of all individuals to freely express their views." Festival organisers took to Facebook, denying that they had cowed to the boycott movement. "We did not say no to Matisyahu because he has Hebrew roots or as a Zionist, but we just simply considered inappropriate organising something that would certainly generate a conflict," they said.
© The Local - Spain

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Russia: Pride to be released despite anti-gay laws

The film will be distributed throughout the country – but must be given an ‘explicit’ rating.

18/8/2015- Last year’s breakout hit Pride will finally be released in Russia – despite the country’s controversial anti-gay laws. Indie film distributor Arthouse – known for releasing independent and foreign films – has taken on the British comedy, which premièred at last year’s Cannes film festival to critical acclaim. Arthouse was founded last March by Sam Klebanov, following the financial collapse of his previous company, Cinema Without Frontiers, which also distributed lesbian film Blue Is the Warmest Colour. Pride tells the story of an alliance between an LGBT support group and coalminers during the strike of 1984. It was a critical and commercial hit and picked up a series of accolades after its release. In celebration of the news, artwork for the film was later released on social media. Ironically, the film opens and closes with scenes set at London’s annual Pride parade – whereas in Russia, Moscow Pride was banned for the tenth year in a row back in May.

Russia has been widely criticised for its infringement on gay rights, since Vladmir Putin passed a law that prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors in 2013. Madonna last week stated that shewill never perform in Russia again,” saying that she can no longer “perform in places where being homosexual is tantamount to a crime.”
© Pink News

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Hungary mobilizes extra 'border hunters' amid migrant influx

An unprecedented number of migrants crossing from Serbia into the EU state has overwhelmed authorities in Hungary. Budapest is vowing to increase aggressive enforcement along its frontier

18/8/2015- Hungary will send extra police officers to reinforce its border with Serbia, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday. Special police units of "border hunters" would be organized to step up efforts against the influx of the more than a thousand migrants crossing daily, Janos Lazar, the prime minister's chief of staff told reporters. "Several thousand police officers will be deployed to the Serbian border whose task will be to defend this border section," Lazar told a news conference during a break in a cabinet meeting. As part of the European Union and the Schengen zone of passport-free travel, Hungary is attractive to migrants seeking to join families and friends already established within the EU. Hungary has registered more than 100,000 migrants so far this year, compared with 43,000 in all 2014. Most migrants are from poor or conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and are fleeing civil war and strife.

Hungary erecting border fence 
Hungarian police have been detaining an average of 1,500 migrants a day for the past several weeks, including 2,087 on Sunday, the highest figure recorded to date. In response, Hungary's cabinet plans to amend the penal code to make illegal border crossings and cutting through the 4-meter (13-foot) high fence being built on the 174 kilometer (109 mile) long border with Serbia punishable by several years in prison. A special parliamentary session to approve the amendments could be held before the end of the month, Lazar said. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-wing populist, has defended the strict measures by associating immigration with terrorism, increased crime and unemployment. His government was forced to act as the EU as a whole offers no solution, he has argued.

Frontex warns of ‘emergency situation'
This comes as Frontex - the EU's border agency - said Tuesday that the number of migrants entering the EU in July numbered more than 107,500, a new record with the majority Syrians and Afghans entering Greece from Turkey. Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri called the developments "an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in."vLeggeri has urged the EU's 28 nations to provide more help for members Greece and Hungary, which have born the brunt of the influx. Nearly 340,000 migrants were spotted at EU borders up to July, compared to 280,000 for all of last year. The influx has come at a human cost with drownings occuring regularly. Almost 2,350 people have died at sea while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Austria: Neo-Nazi handed 20 month sentence

A man from east Styria has appeared in court for a third time on charges of incitement and for neo-Nazi offences. He received a 20 month conditional sentence and must serve three months in prison.

19/8/2015- The 38-year-old father confessed in the Graz regional court to making donations to a neo-Nazi website. Prosecutor Johannes Winklhofer told the accused that he had previously lied in court, in 2011. “You said that you would have nothing more to do with this scene but it was not true, you made contributions to this website and were also registered on it.” The website hosted different forums as well as selling Nazi memorabilia. The Styrian registered with the name “NS friend” and was active on the site between April 2009 and June 2012. He was charged with denying that the holocaust happened and inciting hate against Muslims, who he wrote, needed to be “singled out and exterminated". He signed his online postings with “Greetings 88”, or “Thanks 88” (88 stands for Heil Hitler). He said that his role models were Rudolf Hess and Adolf Hitler. He made a donation of €120 to the site's managers and so became a “supporting member” with access to special forums.

The 38-year-old confessed to the charges and said that he had occasionally visited the website and had slipped back into his old ways. However, he said the entries were three to five years old and that he had now changed his ways. He works as a foreman and told the judge that he often comes into contact with people of different nationalities. “We never have any problems and I’m not interested in the neo-Nazi scene any more,” he said, adding that it had taken him some time to reconsider his beliefs. The prosecutor said that his defence had been very similar in two previous court cases and questioned his credibility. The jury found him guilty. In addition to a 20 month conditional sentence his probation period from previous sentences has been extended and he has been assigned a probation officer.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Angry backlash to new asylum law

The leader of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, has reacted angrily to the news that the coalition government has reached agreement with the Greens on new legislation that would make communities across the country obliged to take in asylum seekers.

18/8/2015- The SPÖ and the ÖVP have been struggling to respond to the number of asylum requests, which rose above 28,300 between January and June alone - as many as for the whole of 2014. Officials expect the total to reach 80,000 this year. The federal government has struggled to provide accommodation for people as many local authorities have refused to accept any refugees. The draft law means communities who haven’t yet taken in any asylum seekers will now be obliged to - with the quota set to up to 1.5 percent of the local population. The coalition had needed the support of the Greens as the legislation requires a change to the constitution, and therefore needs a two thirds majority in parliament.

Heinz Christian-Strache voiced his anger at the quotas on Tuesday, saying that they have been imposed on the Austrian people in an undemocratic manner. “It’s monstrous to try and simply push this law which is hostile to the population through parliament,” he said. He is now calling for a petition (Volksbegehren) to be held on the matter. The draft law still needs to be passed by parliament but is expected to come into force in October. Human rights lawyer Georg Bürstmayr told the ORF that the legislation is necessary as the federal government is made responsible for human rights issues by European law and "it is not up to the provinces to make decisions about human rights in a democracy".

Amnesty International recently called conditions at Austria's main refugee camp a "disgraceful" violation of human rights. The Traiskirchen camp, 20 kilometres south of Vienna, has had to stop accepting new arrivals because of disastrous sanitary conditions and hopeless overcrowding. Built to house 1,800 people, the camp and an adjacent government building are currently home to 4,000 men, women and children.
© The Local - Austria

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Germany: Arson committed in refugee camp for Azerbaijanis

The issue regarding arson in refugee camp settled by Azerbaijanis in Germany is in the focus of attention of Azerbaijani Embassy in Germany, head of Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry's press service Hikmet Hajiyev told APA.

21/8/2015- According to him, the Embassy is investigating the issue jointly with the state bodies of Germany.  Arson was committed in a refugee camp settled by Azerbaijanis in Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bavaria, Germany, APA reports citing br.de website. The police office reported that non of 19 refugees was injured. Interior Minister of Bavaria Joachim Herrmann did not exclude the factor of xenophobia. Mayor Rupert Troppmann called the arson terrible event. Commenting on the factor of xenophobia, Troppman said the event should be investigated by police. The information about the arson was received yesterday at 3.20a.m. A part of furniture in an old restaurant in Neustadt an der Waldnaab burned. Spread of fire was prevented. Witnesses of camp witnessed two persons left first floor at the night. One more person was waiting for them near the port. The police is currently investigating the event. 19 Azerbaijanis, including 3 children, were settled in that camp. First floor of the old restaurant was for children to play games. The restaurant has been settling by refugees for two years.
© APA.

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German court begins hearing migrant 'torture' case

A trial has opended in the west German city of Essen, where security guards are accused of torturing asylum seekers in a refugee home. DW's Manasi Gopalakrishnan reports from the courtroom.

20/8/2015- Five accused guards sit on one side of the court with their lawyers. The Essen public prosecutor's office accuses the men of brutally beating refugees who asked for coffee or food outside normal mealtimes. They are also charged with maltreating a group of refugees to break up a meeting in one of the dormitories. "My client was ordered to stay away from the dormitory because he had smoked in his room, but then he decided to go to his friend's room," Christina Worm, the lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs, Fouad B., at the court in Essen, told DW about the specific complaint being addressed in the trial. "The boys heard a sound outside the door and thought someone was trying to play a prank on them. At this point the security guards came in and used extreme violence while taking them outside." As judges rain questions on the accused, the guards repeatedly deny having acted violently against the inmates, accusing them instead of throwing "chairs and stones" at them and of calling them "fascists and racists." They were only protecting themselves, the guards say.

The first in a series of migrant trials
The case against the five security officers in Essen is one in several cases of maltreatment of migrants reported last year in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Police released shocking pictures showing a security guard with his foot on a refugee's neck. "These are pictures that most of us would associate with Guantanamo Bay," the police chief in nearby Hagen said at the time. The Burbach images caused widespread uproar among rights activists in Germany, resulting in an investigation of similar complaints in other homes for asylum seekers. The plight of Fouad B., an 18-year-old Moroccan, was revealed when Anabel Jujol of the Essen city council visited the home for migrants. "At that time there was a meeting where we were told that the migrants were complaining," Jojol said. "In English, they said 'They beat us and don't give us food.' We organized a formal visit to the home, but honestly, it seemed like they had staged it all," she said. Jujol went the next day with clothes and toys for children and asked the residents to freely talk about their problems. That was when Fouad came to her and said, "I have never been treated like this, like a mangy dog," Jojol said.

A crisis situation for Germany - and Europe
The EU's border agency Frontex says more than 107,000 migrants made it into the EU illegally in July. The organization's director has called it an "emergency situation for Europe" requiring all EU member states to help countries receiving migrants at their borders. European countries have consequently had to set up new migrant camps to manage the crowds. Overcrowding within homes has also led to problems between migrants themselves. For example, an asylum camp in Suhl in the central German state of Thuringia witnessed violence on Wednesday night after a group of migrants got into a fight when an inmate tore pages from the Koran.

Migrants as a threat?
Residents in Frintrop, near Essen, also expressed anger after a migrant was accused of sexually molesting a local girl. But Olaf Swillus, an anti-racism campaigner, dismissed concerns that hate groups expressed in the media: "The reasons are unnecessary. There will always be reasons against accepting refugees." The majority of Essen's population has been welcoming migrants. "There is a lot of willingness to help," said Gabriele Laguidi of Ant-Rassismus Telefon, an organization that gauges public feeling towards racism and monitors racist incidents in Essen. Laguidi said there are different hate groups targeting different sections of the population. The ever-increasing flow of refugees coming to Europe, the constant demand for more refugee homes and the influx of foreign culture is being seen as a threat by many locals here. Laguidi said not to worry: "There will be problems every time people come together." The trial is set to continue until September 3, after which the judges are expected to come to a conclusion.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Where racism and xenophobia are manifest

Official statistics show that most racist crimes in Germany last year occurred in the country's eastern-most states and Berlin. A civil society expert says that's no surprise.

18/8/2015- Nearly one out of two violent racist crimes was committed in the former East Germany and Berlin in 2014, according to official statistics quoted in a German daily newspaper on Tuesday. The five states which used to be in the German Democratic Republic, plus the capital Berlin, only account for 17 percent of the entire country's population, but last year, 47 percent of all racist violence was reported there, the "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung" reported. The figures cited were provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to an inquiry by the Green party. Of 130 nationwide violent racist crimes reported, 61 occurred in the east - a whopping 40 percent increase from 2013. The figures are alarming but they don't come as a surprise, said Robert Lüdecke, a spokesman for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. The Berlin-based organization describes itself as an initiative for "civic empowerment and a democratic culture."

Disproportionately high
Attacks on refugees have been on the rise for the past two years, Lüdecke pointed out, and it's most probably due to the large anti-immigrant PEGIDA marches mainly in East Germany last year that more racist crimes were recorded there. "Racist violence increases in places where there is a corresponding mood," he told DW.

The German Interior Ministry differentiates between racist crimes - aimed at foreigners - and crimes "motivated by far-right extremism," which for instance could also include neo-Nazi attacks on non-migrant Germans who get involved in helping refugees and asylum-seekers, and thus become targets. In 2014, the Interior Ministry recorded 1,029 violent crimes "motivated by far-right extremism." This time, the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) was at the top of the list with 370 acts of far-right violence, followed by Berlin, Saxony and Brandenburg. NRW in particular has for years had a very strong neo-Nazi movement, Lüdecke said, adding that the inner circle of that movement is known not to shy away from violence. But these figures should be taken with a grain of salt, Lüdecke warned.

Reported violence
After reunification, the government invested heavily in building up structures in the east, including nongovernmental helplines and information centers for victims of extremist violence - unlike in Germany's old western federal states, many of which have no such structures at all. "Right-wing extremism was always seen by the western states as a problem of the eastern states," Lüdecke said. North Rhine-Westphalia is the country's most populous state, and while it has a strong far-right scene, Lüdecke said, NRW is one of the western states that also happens to offer helplines for victims of extremist violence. That might explain the higher number of such crimes reported there, he added. But the number of unreported far-right crimes is bound to be much higher nationwide, he said - a problem the authorities need to address. Compared to 64 percent of all violent crimes, the report said, only 45 percent of the far-right motivated crimes were solved nationwide in 2014.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Neo-Nazis film 'sting' video posing as city guard in gay cruising area

Members of Die Rechte also police the streets and public transport for ''illegal activity' by 'non-German citizens'

17/8/2015- ‘Are you gay? Do you have illegal sex here?’ – these are the questions that a neo-Nazi group in Germany are asking gay cruisers in the woods. ‘We’re from the city guard, and we’re maintaining security, law and order.’ In a six minute video, filmed at dusk and posted to YouTube by a group of right-wing party members, shows four men in yellow t-shirts. They call themselves the ‘Stadtschutz Dortmund’ (city guard in Dortmund), the self-proclaimed ‘police’ stopping ‘illegal activity’. ‘It’s common knowledge, even beyond the borders of Dortmund, that every night – especially in this summer weather – homosexuals meet here to pursue their activities,’ one of the men explains in the short film. ‘That constitutes indecent behavior.’ Before entering the woods, one of the men puts on a pair of gloves in case someone attacks him ‘and because I have no desire for any infections.’

On their walk, they film several men waiting or walking away from the group; they also directly confront some of them. The group approach several men, trying to intimidate them and informing them about alleged crimes before demanding they stop using the area to cruise as it is public property; many of the men ask them to stop filming, which the group ignore. They target the motorway rest area in Dortmund-Kirchlinde, along the A45 connecting Dortmund and Frankfurt – a popular and well-known cruising spot. Oliver Peiler, spokesperson for Dortmund Police, told Gay Star News while it’s hard to press charges – the group toe the line between legal and illegal on several occasions – police are monitoring every post, video and event by the group.

Queer.de called the video ‘reminiscent of those posted on social networks, in which Russian neo-Nazis show up, humiliate or even torture’ LGBTI teens and young men. The Stadtschutz, which is not an official body but are affiliated with right-wing splinter party Die Rechte, has been active for just over a year; they have made headlines for policing the streets to warn people of ‘suspicious’ migrants, asylum seekers or foreign-looking citizens.
© Gay Star News

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Denmark: Ex-MP fined for equating Muslims with Hitler

Danish People’s Party (DF) member Mogens Camre was convicted of racism on Tuesday for a tweet that compared Muslims to Hitler.

18/8/2015- A Glostrup court found Mogens Camre, a 79-year-old former MP and MEP for the Danish People’s Party and current member of the Gladsaxe city council, guilty of racism on Tuesday and slapped him with an 8,000 kroner fine. The conviction was for a tweet Camre wrote in in July 2014 that compared Muslims to Adolf Hitler. "Regarding the Jews' situation in Europe: The Muslims are continuing where Hitler left off. Only the same treatment Hitler received will change the situation." Two separate individuals filed racism charges against Camre after his tweet garnered national attention. Camre immediately filed an appeal against the decision and said that his controversial tweet was due to the popular social media platform’s 140-character limit. “I can only say that to express myself in a precise way would have taken more than 140 keystrokes. That is the problem,” he said in court, according to broadcaster DR.

Camre said that he has since quit using Twitter, and as of Tuesday he hadn’t tweeted since February 2nd. His controversial tweet has not been deleted, nor has its follow-up, which called for “forces in the Islamic world who threaten non-Muslims should be fought like Saddam Hessein, Bin Laden and Gadaffi were”. This was hardly the first time that Camre’s comments made waves in Denmark, nor was it the first time he compared Muslims to Nazis. In 2009, he told a Dutch TV channel that modern day Muslims in Denmark were a worse presence than occupying Nazis in World War II. “The German soldiers in our streets behaved better than the Muslim boys – much better, they were well disciplined,” he said in a clip. In 2003, Camre was charged with racism for saying that all Western countries have been infiltrated by Muslims planning to take over, and in 2005 he was reported to police for blaming Denmark’s low birth rate on the “immigrant burden” and for saying that “immigrants in Denmark as a whole do not contribute anything at all to society.”

In October, Camre was forced to backpedal on a comment made about the then integration minister, Manu Sareen, and DR host Erkan Özden. “I had a strange feeling when I watched DR’s news broadcast here this evening. A journalist, who looks like he comes from the Middle East, interview an integration minister who is an Indian. They discussed how migrations can best fit into Denmark. Their indicators are conventions that are approved by people in foreign countries without Danes’ voices being heard. People from foreign countries decide what should happen with this country. The role of the Danes is to work and pay taxes,” Camre wrote in a now-deleted update. He later said that he “takes back” his “incorrectly formulated” remarks.
© The Local - Denmark

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Denmark violated rights of stateless residents

For nearly two decades, Denmark violated international law by denying the citizenship applications of stateless residents a long-awaited report concluded on Monday.

17/8/2015- Between the period of 1991 to 2010, Denmark wrongfully denied citizenship to stateless residents in violation of their rights and the nation’s international obligations, the so-called Stateless Commission said on Monday. The commission concluded that the denial of citizenship to stateless applicants – primarily stateless Palestinians born in Denmark – went against UN conventions on the rights of stateless individuals. According to the commission, the denials that occurred through 2007 were the result of “negligence” for which no one will be held personally responsible. However, the wrongful denial of citizenship to 36 stateless individuals between 2008 and 2010 was pinned on two civil servants in the Immigration Ministry. The officials were immediately relieved of their duties on Monday and may face further repercussions. “The commission has uncovered that in the period from 1991 to 2010 there were a long line of mistakes made in handling the applications for stateless individuals born in Denmark,” Justice Minister Søren Pind said in a statement.

With the commission’s conclusions, former Immigration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech escaped personal responsible for the mistakes made under her command. Hornbech was forced to resign as minister in 2011 after it was revealed that her ministry continued to deny citizenship to stateless applicants despite learning in 2008 that Denmark was not living up to its international obligations as laid out in the 1961 UN Convention on Statelessness and the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The commission said that even though Hornbech was required to inform parliament that stateless residents born in Denmark were not being included in the annual citizenship bills as they should have been, she was not given “sufficient advice” by the ombudsmen. “The commission did not take a position on the question of ministerial responsibility, since it is parliament that has authority to raise those kinds of cases. But in my opinion, there is no foundation in the report for holding Birthe Rønn Hornbech responsible,” Pind said. The nine-volume report released on Monday was the result of a four-year investigation that saw the commission pour through more than 60,000 documents and question some 50 witnesses.
© The Local - Denmark

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Dane arrested for praising arson attack

A Danish Facebook group has been shut down by the social media site on the grounds of "glorifying" Sunday's arson attack against the Islamic Society centre in Copenhagen, leading to one of its members being arrested while others are currently under investigation.

19/8/2015- The Danish Facebook group ‘No to mosques – sincerely’ (Nej til moskéer – oprigtigt) was closed down by Facebook on Tuesday, and a man affiliated with the group has since been arrested on charges of inciting crime. Shortly after the recent arson attack on an Islamic centre, many of the group’s fans posted comments on the page that “glorified” the act, according to the social media site. “An arson attack against a mosque is a despicable crime, and comments glorifying it do not belong on Facebook,” the company’s regional director for public policy, Thomas Myrup Kristensen, told TV2. Besides reporting the comments to Facebook, a number of people also took screenshots of them before the page was shut down. “I’m happy to donate a can of gasoline,” wrote one commenter. “Good. Respect. Burn down that camel shit,” wrote another commenter, who has since been charged by the police for inciting crime.

The man was also interviewed by Radio24syv, where he told the station that he intended to “go to Poland and pick up my Kalashnikov and shoot all the Muslims.” The people behind the group have also been reported to the police. The group was already back on Facebook on Wednesday however, writing in a post that “We welcome you back after a minor bump on the road towards a Fatherland free of mosques and Islam.” Another Facebook group is currently organizing a so-called “peace ring” event, inviting people to an event on Saturday to join hands and form a circle around the Copenhagen mosque located on Dorotheavej in what is intended to be a call for unity. “I was very affected by all the hateful comments I read on Facebook following the arson attack,” Rosa Naghizadeh, one of the organizers, told Politiken.

1,100 people have already confirmed that they will attend the event, which is set to take place on Saturday August 22.  Shortly after the arson attack on Sunday, a 34-year old man voluntarily turned himself into custody. The man, who suffers from schizophrenia, is reported to be from the same Nordvest district as the Islamic Society’s complex.  He is expected to appear in court once his mental state allows it. Although he willingly turned himself in, prosecutors said that he turned violent while in the psychiatric unit and is now being held against his will. The suspect attempted to set fire to a building belonging to the Islamic Society at a time when some 40 people, including children, were inside. The complex also includes a mosque where society members worship.

Since February, when Omar El-Hussein, a young Dane of Palestinian origin, shot dead a filmmaker and an unarmed Jewish security guard outside a synagogue, Denmark's Muslim community has feared being viewed with suspicion. Those concerns were amplified after more than 50 graves were destroyed at the Muslim cemetery in the Copenhagen suburb of Brøndby in June. Out of Denmark's population of 5.7 million, nine percent are foreign-born, of whom some 296,000 originate from "non-Western" countries, official statistics show.
© The Local - Denmark

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Denmark: Islamic centre arson suspect in psych ward

The man suspected of attempting to set fire to a Muslim centre in Copenhagen's Nordvest district suffers from schizophrenia and has been committed until he can stand trial

17/8/2015- The 35-year-old male suspect in Sunday’s arson attack against the Islamic Society in Denmark (Det Islamiske Trossamfund) will be held in remand at the psychiatric unit of Bispebjerg Hospital for four weeks, a Frederiksberg court decided on Monday.  The suspect was not present in court, having voluntarily turned himself in on Sunday and admitted to the psychiatric ward. According to the prosecuting attorney in the case, the man suffers from schizophrenia and was previously determined unfit to serve a prison sentence in connection with a previous vandalism conviction. “You can’t have a man who goes around setting fire to faith societies’ buildings walking around free,” prosecutor Erik Hjelm said in court according to TV2.

The man, who is reported to be from the same Nordvest district as the Islamic Society’s complex, is expected to appear in court once his mental state allows it. Although he willingly turned himself in, prosecutors said that he turned violent while in the psychiatric unit and is now being held against his will. The suspect attempted to set fire to a building belonging to the Islamic Society at a time when some 40 people, including children, were inside. The complex also includes a mosque where society members worship. In a statement, the Islamic Society denounced the fire as "an act of terrorism" on its website. This act "was likely the result of political and religious motives... As tragic at it is, it unfortunately does not surprise us," the centre said.
© The Local - Denmark

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Denmark: Man arrested for setting fire to Islamic centre in Copenhagen

A 35-year-old man was arrested on Sunday for allegedly attempting to set fire to a building used by the Islamic Society in Denmark.

16/8/2015- Danish police said Sunday they had arrested a man on suspicion of torching an Islamic centre in Copenhagen's Nordvest district earlier in the day. "At 11.31am, the police were informed that a man had started a fire by throwing a flammable liquid ... at the Muslim centre," a police statement said. The fire, which caused only superficial damage to the outside of the building, was quickly contained, police said. Some 40 people were inside the building at the time. The suspect, who was born in 1980, will appear in court on Monday. Police said that the suspect has been previously convicted on charges that include vandalism. The building complex belongs to the Islamic Society in Denmark (Det Islamiske Trossamfund), whose members also worship at an adjoining mosque. The group denounced the fire as "an act of terrorism" on its website. This act "was likely the result of political and religious motives... As tragic at it is, it unfortunately does not surprise us," the centre said. Since February, when Omar El-Hussein, a young Dane of Palestinian origin, shot dead a filmmaker and an unarmed Jewish security guard outside a synagogue, Denmark's Muslim community has feared being viewed with suspicion. Those concerns were amplified after more than 50 graves were destroyed at the Muslim cemetery in the Copenhagen suburb of Brøndby in June. Out of Denmark's population of 5.7 million, nine percent are foreign-born, of whom some 296,000 originate from "non-Western" countries, official statistics show.
© The Local - Denmark

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Sweden: Climate of Racism Makes 'Nazi' Party Most Popular

The party is known for demonizing minority groups, including refugees, Jews, Muslims and Black people.

21/8/2015- In Sweden a far-right anti-immigrant party, historically rooted in Nazism, has become the most popular party, according to a recent opinion poll. A YouGov poll suggests the popularity of the Sweden Democrats has almost doubled since last September's parliamentary elections with 25.5 percent, beating the Social Democrats currently in government. The controversial party is known for being outspoken against Sweden’s acceptance of asylum-seekers, mostly Syrians fleeing violence at home, which have increased in recent years. The party has advocated for reducing the entry of refugees and cancelling people's residency once the conflict is over. The Sweden Democrats have been accused of racism for an advertizing campaign vilifying panhandlers and homeless people, saying Jewish people are not Swedish unless they abandon their ethnic identity, and that Black Africans are genetically programed to rape women and children.

According to one of the party's managers, Tommy Nilsson, the polls reveils that some Swedish people are “starting to realize that this is a serious problem for Sweden.” “There’s too much immigration and too many beggars from Eastern Europe,” he told the Telegraph. The controverisal party has tried to distance itself from its historical ties with Nazi groups, but has proven unsuccessful when a photo of a municipal candidate was leaked to the press in 2014 showing her with a Nazi swastika wrapped around her arm. Sweden has traditionally presented itself as progressive country where racism does not take root, but a U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

reported a different reality


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reported a different reality after its visit to the country in 2014. "It is our view that the Swedish philosophy of equality and its public and self-image as a country with non-discrimination and liberal democracy, blinds it to the racism faced by Afro-Swedes and Africans in its midst. No country is free of racism and Sweden is not an exception," the report concluded.
© Telesur TV
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Sweden: Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats become country’s largest party

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has become the largest party in Sweden according to one opinion poll that underscores the rise of nationalist groups across the traditional Nordic stronghold of social democracy.

20/8/2015- The Sweden Democrats received 25.2 per cent in the YouGov poll for August, almost double their score in last September’s parliamentary elections and ahead of the governing Social Democrats on 23.4 per cent and the leading centre-right Moderates on 21 per cent. The surge in support reflects growing worries over immigration and integration in Sweden, which has taken more asylum seekers in recent years than any other European country relative to the size of its population. It also comes after two people were stabbed to death in an Ikea store in Sweden, with the main suspect being an asylum seeker on the verge of being deported. “This is a historic day . . . It is obvious that it feels a little surreal. We are many who have fought for years to reach this point and now we are here,” a Sweden Democrat spokesman told local media.

The poll is the latest indication of how populist, anti-immigration parties are on the march in the Nordics. The Danish People’s party was the second biggest in June’s elections as were the True Finns in Finland’s April vote. Both the True Finns and the Progress party in Norway joined coalition governments for the first time in the last election. But that option has not been open until now to the Sweden Democrats, which because of its roots in the neo-Nazi movement has been ostracised by all the other parties. Political scientists cite that isolation as one of the biggest explanations for the surge in support for the Sweden Democrats as the party represents, for some, the only credible opposition. It follows a December deal on the budget between six of the eight parties in parliament, including all the main centre-left and centre-right groups.

YouGov’s methods are questioned by other polling companies as it uses self-recruited internet panels. But other polling companies have also vastly underestimated the strength of anti-immigration parties across Europe, including in Sweden’s elections last year. YouGov’s poll for July already showed the Sweden Democrats on 22.1 per cent, within 1 percentage point of being the largest party. The growing refugee crisis in Europe led Germany on Wednesday to say it expected to receive a record 800,000 asylum seekers this year, more than all of the EU combined received in 2014. By contrast, Swedish authorities recently cut their forecasts on how many asylum seekers would arrive this year from 90,000 to 74,000. But a number of violent incidents — including shootings and hand grenade attacks, especially in the southern city of Malmö — have led to questions about the segregation and integration of the large number of immigrants already in Sweden.

Nicholas Aylott, a political scientist at Södertörn University, said the establishment parties were close to panic. “They will be feeling: we can’t have a situation in which this pariah party is growing without limits,” he said. He argues that in the short term the biggest pressure will be faced by the centre-right parties, which in recent months have suggested a few small restrictions on immigration but nothing close to the 90 per cent reduction the populist Swedish Democrats propose. “It is putting enormous pressure, particularly on the centre-right parties. The policy of no contact, no negotiations with the Sweden Democrats must be coming under huge strain,” Mr Aylott said.

However, the rise of the Sweden Democrats may be even more uncomfortable for the centre-left in the long term. The Social Democrats could find themselves excluded from government if the centre-right decides it can govern with the help of the Sweden Democrats, a similar situation to Denmark where the Danish People’s party props up a centre-right administration. Mr Aylott said that a growing sense of helplessness surrounds the government of Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, who has been all but silent on the big topics of the summer — the increase in violence and begging on the streets of Swedish cities. “They seem to be unable to formulate any kind of response, threatening the centre-left’s reputation as competent governors. Most important, perhaps, is that the violence in Swedish cities is getting completely out of control,” Mr Aylott said.
© The Financial Times.

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Sweden: Two arson attempts on refugee centres

The asylum centre in Arboga, where two men linked to the Ikea murders lived, was evacuated early on Saturday morning when two bags of flammable liquid were found nearby. The same night a centre for unaccompanied refugee children and young people in Värnamo was the target of an arson attack.

16/8/2015- Following a tip-off, police found two unknown objects in the vicinity of the Arboga accommodation. “Late on Friday night they found the first object and the second some time after midnight,” said Thomas Gustafsson, police spokesman in Västmanland. A large area was cordoned off and bomb technicians from Stockholm were called. “As a precaution it was decided that the accommodation would be evacuated,” Gustafsson told the Swedish TT news agency. Staff from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and Arboga municipality removed the 83 residents and took them to a local church. Bomb technicians found that the objects consisted of two sacks of flammable liquid. Police have launched a preliminary investigation.

Passers-by managed to extinguish the fire at a separate centre in Värnamo before the emergency services arrived. Twenty children and young people, between the ages of 15 to 21, were living there. Nobody was hurt. “It was a resourceful intervention by passers-by that ensured the fire was stopped early,” said a police spokesman. “We have undertaken an investigation and can conclude that the fire was not an accident. It has been classified as arson although we do not yet have any suspects.” The attacks come just five days after a mother and her adult son were stabbed to death at an Ikea store in the central town of Västerås. Two men from Eritrea were arrested with one admitting the attack and another denying all involvement.

Earlier this month two EU migrants were injured and four caravans burned when a camping site in Gothenburg was attacked. Violence against ethnic minorities is growing in Sweden with other high profile cases in recent months including shots fired at two homeless EU migrants sleeping in a car in Boden in northern Sweden and two migrants assaulted in central Stockholm by a passerby who threw acid at them.
© The Local - Sweden

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UK: Call for peace ahead of planned protest by far-right North West Infidels group in Manchester

Police chiefs and the Bishop of Manchester have spoken out over the planned demonstration by the group which claims it wants to oppose ‘radical Islam, Zionism, Communism, Irish Republicanism and the militant left'

21/8/2015- A far-right group preparing to march this Saturday have been warned they are ‘not welcome’ in Manchester. A police boss and the Bishop of Manchester have spoken out over a planned demonstration by the North West Infidels, a group widely seen as being racist which claims it wants to oppose ‘radical Islam, Zionism, Communism, Irish Republicanism and the militant left'. Members of group say they are to hold a ‘White, British and Proud’ gathering in Albert Square from 2pm tomorrow. Police are expecting a counter-demonstration from anti-fascist protesters and have made a call to keep the event peaceful. But in a joint statement, the city’s Anglican bishop and Police and Crime Commissioner urged ordinary Mancunians to ‘turn their back’ on the far-right group. Speaking out, the Rt Revd Dr David Walker urged: “We are a city that celebrates our common heritage of peaceful protest in the name of social progress and justice, gaining strength from the diversity of communities across Greater Manchester.

“But we must stand together in the true spirit of hope not hate. This is my message to those who intend to whip up intolerance, violence and hatred. They are not welcome in our city which has built its foundations upon respect and tolerance. “Whilst I urge people to turn their backs on these people, I recognise those who wish to express their opposition to hatred and intolerance by counter-demonstrating and I urge that this is done peacefully.” Tony Lloyd, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “This city has a proud tradition of embracing and celebrating diversity and difference, respecting people’s right to peacefully protest – a place where people can make their voice heard. “But the hatred and division peddled by right-wing groups like the so-called ‘White Pride’, flies in the face of what Manchester and its citizens stand for. That’s why I want to make it clear that they are not welcome in Manchester.

“I urge all Mancunians to turn their backs and ignore this small minority who try to divide us when we are determined to stand together. Those who choose to demonstrate against them, we ask them to conduct themselves within the law and peacefully, in the best traditions of Greater Manchester.” Greater Manchester Police is preparing for the gathering. Chief Spt John O’Hare said: “Everyone has the right to free speech, but with this comes a high degree of personal responsibility and we will take positive action against anybody who abuses such an important privilege.” Manchester council deputy leader Sue Murphy said the town hall would ‘much rather the event wasn’t happening at all’. “But we would encourage everyone to ignore it and treat the day just as they would treat any other in our thriving city centre,” she added. The group describes itself as standing against ‘radical Islam, Zionism, Communism, Irish Republicanism and the militant left’. A post on its Facebook page says: “All decent white nationalists and patriots welcome. Bring your friends, family and flags and come and join in this celebration.” Their last Manchester demonstration earlier this year saw members clash with police in Piccadilly Gardens.
© The Manchester Evening News.

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UK: Exhibition of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohamed cancelled amid security fears

19/8/2015- An exhibition of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in London has been cancelled after its organiser, a former Ukip candidate who runs Sharia Watch UK, decided it was too dangerous. The exhibition had been due to be addressed by Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who has previously described Mohamed as “the devil” and claimed the Koran is a “fascist book” that should be banned. Depicting images of the Prophet is insulting to many Muslims and this has been used as a justification for violence by extreme Islamists in the past. In January, 11 people were killed when two men armed with assault rifles attacked the office of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. However, an anti-Islamophobia group said that Mr Wilders’ invitation to speak at the exhibition, which was planned for September, showed it was more about inflaming tension than defending free speech.

Writing on Sharia Watch UK’s website, the exhibition’s organiser Anne Marie Waters said that she had decided there was a “very real possibility that people could be hurt or killed – before, during, and after the event”. “Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with both Scotland Yard and counter-terror detectives. My conclusion? That the risk of running this exhibition is simply too high,” she said. “When setting out to do something like this, one has to be prepared for the possibility of threats, or even violence, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact such things will have on the people around you.” She also said that the venue for the exhibition – which had been kept secret – had pulled out “citing security and insurance concerns”. “Given the fear that people were feeling generally, the only responsible thing to do was to pull back and try to learn some lessons,” Ms Waters said. “I have not learnt lessons as much as I have had my suspicions confirmed.

Mr Wilders was banned from entering the UK in 2009 with the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith labelling him an “undesirable person” following his comments about Islam. Despite that he flew to Heathrow, but was deported back to the Netherlands. The ban was overturned later in the year.

Speaking to The Independent last month, Fiyaz Mughal, director of the anti-Islamophobia group Tell Mama, said the exhibition was “not about free speech” as billed, but was simply designed to “irritate and inflame”. “Inviting a man who is currently awaiting trial for racial hatred after vowing to make sure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in Holland is hardly the poster boy any sane or reasonable campaign wants to have as their keynote speaker,” he said. “Let us not be fooled that this is about testing the boundaries of free speech. If they wanted that, they would do it without people like Wilders and that says it all.” Ms Waters stood as the Ukip candidate in Lewisham East in May’s general election, coming third with 9.1 per cent of the vote.








© The Independent

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UK: Liverpool said no to Neo-Nazi march

National Action had planned a “White Man March” through Liverpool, but their presence in the city centre sparked two counter protests.

16/8/2015- Neo-Nazi protest group National Action were forced to cancel their march through Liverpool city centre on Saturday following a huge backlash by anti-fascist campaigners. Hundreds of protesters surrounded suspected members of the white supremacist group inside Lime Street Station and pelted them with water bottles, eggs and bananas - leading them to be locked inside a lost baggage facility at one point. Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson spoke of his pride that National Action were forced to cancel their “White Man March” through the city centre. He said the reaction the activists received suggested Liverpool would not be bullied or intimidated by the group, whose attempt to demonstrate sparked two separate counter marches. Photos of the incident have been widely shared on social media.
© The Liverpool Echo

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UK: Six arrests as far-right group and anti-fascists clash

15/8/2015- Six people have been arrested after a far-right group and two anti-fascist movements gathered in Liverpool city centre. National Action cancelled its “White Man March” following two earlier counter-protests by the Anti-Fascist Network and Unite Against Fascism. Police said there was disruption to traffic and some “minor disorder” in the Lime Street area, with one man treated for facial injuries. Chief Inspector Chris Gibson, of Merseyside Police, said: “We worked with partners to ensure minimum disruption to businesses and residents and we’d like to thank the public for their patience while these marches were ongoing in the city. “The force recognises the right of people to demonstrate peacefully and express their views but the force will not tolerate disorder anti-social behaviour during any demonstrations in Merseyside.” National Action staged a “White Man March” in Newcastle city centre in March which also attracted a counter-demonstration.
© Breaking News

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UK: EDL protest at Walsall sees nine arrests but day passes off without major trouble

15/8/2015- Nine people were arrested during an English Defence League protest in Walsall town centre, but the day passed off without serious disorder. Around 160 members of the far-right group attended the rally, far fewer than the 500 predicted by the group on social media. There were no serious outbreaks of trouble or reported injuries, but seven people were arrested for low level public order offences. A further two were held by police after a car was damaged during an altercation between the driver and a large group of protesters near to the town’s Tesco store. Hundreds of officers were drafted in to deal with the rally after the EDL’s last visit to the town, in 2012, was marred by violence. 

Walsall Chief Inspector Martin Hurcomb, said: “We have been planning the policing operation for months. The collective effort of police, Walsall Council, partners agencies and community groups have helped ensure the protest passed off without major incident. “We were confident the rally would be peaceful. Our negotiations with EDL organisers were very positive and they stressed their intentions to express their views without resorting to disorder. “The disruption to the town centre was kept to a minimum and, though a handful of pubs chose to shut and some retailers boarded windows as a precaution, most of the town centre was open for business as usual.”

EDL members made the short walk from the Oak Inn pub, Green Lane, at 1pm around the Townend Street roundabout and past Park Street before turning into the protest site in gallery square. At the same time there was a celebration of diversity event organised by a collective of local people and community groups called ‘We Are Walsall’ outside St Paul’s church. A man, aged 30, from Palfrey was arrested at 11.20am in Wolverhampton Road and a 33-year-old woman from Tyne & Wear was arrested in Stafford Street for public order matters. A 59-year-old Tipton man was detained for being drunk and disorderly.

Four other local males – two aged 17 and men aged 18 and 20 – were arrested in Stafford Road to prevent a breach of the peace and were not part of the EDL protest. Two men were also arrested after a car was damaged. West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “The police have done a professional job keeping the people of Walsall safe and maintaining normality as much as possible.” Walsall Leader, Councillor Mike Bird, added: “I’m pleased to say that, by and large, the demonstration passed by without much incident and without too much disruption to the town thanks to the coordinated efforts of the police and our staff. “I’d like to thank everybody for their efforts. We have a strong, vibrant town built on the hard work of our diverse community. Walsall will not be divided by these events.”
© The Birmingham Mail.

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UK: The exploitation of migrants has become our way of life (opinion)

The British right pretends to be tough on immigration but promotes a business model that depends on it
By Felicity Lawrence 

17/8/2015- When the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, talked of the threat to the UK from “marauding migrants” at Calais last week, I decided to review the stories of the hundreds of foreign-born workers I have met in more than a decade of writing about their lives in the UK: those working for the mainstream economy, albeit hidden in the shadows of its long subcontracted supply chains, whether in food production, construction, care work, cleaning or catering.

What becomes immediately clear is the deep dishonesty at the heart of much of the rhetoric on this issue. The right claims to be tough on immigration, but it is the opposite of tough on the causes of immigration. It promotes a business model that depends on a constant churn of workers to carry out jobs that are underpaid and insecure at best, and all too often dirty, dangerous, and degrading. It requires not just immigration, but immigration without end, since only the newly arrived, the desperate and the vulnerable will tolerate the conditions that have been created, as the roll call of migrant workers I have met, with its constantly changing nationalities, shows.

In 2002, there were the factory workers living on the south coast putting in long shifts as chicken processors for high street names in Sussex. They were a mix of refugees who had fled war in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and economic migrants here legally from the poorer parts of the European Union including Spain – and illegally, from countries beyond the EU’s borders, such as Ukraine and Russia. By 2004, I was meeting frightened debt-bonded South African migrants, with legitimate Commonwealth working visas, living in squalor while packing pears for a Tesco supplier near Spalding; they got out soon after. Then there were the cheerful, educated Iraqi Kurds in illegal employment, processing supermarket vegetable orders near Boston while living in Peterborough and waiting for their asylum cases to be heard.

After them I found large numbers of recent Portuguese migrants intimidated and paid less than the minimum wage in and around the Norfolk town of Thetford – birthplace of Tom Paine, the 18th century radical and revolutionary proponent of the Rights of Man. They were accompanied in the mid-2000s by Brazilian migrants pretending to be Portuguese in nearby Brandon, and, surreally, their Portuguese friends who pretended to be Brazilians pretending to be Portuguese, because their gangmasters actually preferred taking on people who were working illegally and could therefore be exploited more thoroughly. 

In Herefordshire, and going back to Thetford a few years on, I met lots of Polish workers. They had replaced the Portuguese in the fields and the packhouses as the former group settled and moved up into better lives. The Poles had worked illegally at first in the worst jobs and then, after Poland’s accession to the EU, moved through agencies into long-term factory positions in a large meat plant, where they had joined the union. They were being made redundant along with English colleagues as cheaper casual agency staff made up of newer arrivals were brought, in and part of the company was relocated to Cornwall to cut costs.

In the past few years the casual migrant workers I have met in the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors, such as car washing, have mostly been from Lithuania or Latvia, and the poorer areas of the former Soviet bloc. Office for National Statistics figures released last week show that almost three-quarters of employment growth in the past year was accounted for by non-UK citizens, with more than 250,000 new jobs going to EU and other migrants, suggesting the pattern continues. Last week we reported on a group of 30 or so Lithuanian workers who were being severely abused and exploited while working as chicken catchers, rounding up hens on the UK’s largest poultry farms. They were part of the supply chain producing eggs for most of the UK’s largest retailers. The conditions – typically weeks of more than 120 hours, continuously on the move, charged for squalid tied housing, with allegations of pay withheld, threats of violence and actual assault – were intolerable.

Whereas field work and packing and processing were once given to local workers with reasonable family-friendly hours and the chance to top up pay with voluntary overtime at weekends, now it is 24/7 rolling 12-hour shifts confirmed only at short notice, theoretically for the national minimum wage. The zero-hours agency habits pioneered in the food and agriculture sector have spread across the economy. In the south-east, Ukrainian and Chinese workers are the predominant nationality on the domestic building sites I have seen, providing cheap hard labour to dig out new underground floors for affluent renovations by hand. We have created jobs that are inhuman, and incompatible with any normal settled existence.

Instead of regulating these sectors properly, taxpayers’ money has been used to augment inadequate pay in the form of tax credits to low-paid UK and EU workers – introduced by Labour – subsidising profitable businesses with corporate welfare. The Conservatives have trumpeted their intention to move from tax credits to a living wage. But enforcement of the national minimum wage, never mind a living wage, has been feeble and inadequate under successive administrations, including theirs. The government’s migration advisory committee calculated in 2014 that that a business might statistically expect a visit from one of just 142 national minimum wage inspectors once every 250 years. The government has increased the team this year to 230, hardly enough to make employers quake. A sustained assault on union rights has seen the steep decline of recognition and collective bargaining that might take on the asymmetries of power in the work place. The Conservatives have announced yet more anti-union legislation.

Equally dishonest is the myth that migration can be controlled, if only we had sharper razor wire, or more border dogs, or more deportations of illegal immigrants. As the Ministry of Defence’s strategic trends programme makes clear, today’s large-scale migrations are a historic force, just as those from rural areas to emerging cities were in the industrial revolution. They will increase in coming years as the global population grows, as the tectonic plates of superpower relations continue to shift, as the world’s resources come under increasing pressure from our patterns of consumption – and as more and more people flee war, climate change and poverty. Our failure to curb emissions will bring the victims of our footprint to our door.

We are all interdependent. We have enjoyed the growth globalisation has brought to advanced economies, but we cannot escape its flip side. The Dover-Calais route, with its queues of holiday-makers and freight lorries is the perfect symbol of the contradictions inherent in the anti-immigration view. It wants the free movement of goods and capital, the ability for its own to come and go as they please, but it wants fortress Britain for everyone else. There has been a lack of honesty on the left too. The flexible workforce was a mantra of the Labour years. While insisting that migration has been of overall benefit to the economy, Labour was slow to acknowledge that the benefit has flowed mostly to capital and the rich, and far too slow to articulate that at the microeconomic level some British groups have clearly have lost out. But to imagine now that the solution to these new global realities can be found by tacking to the right, or by turning back to the answers of the 1970s pre-globalisation is deluded.

Tory tilting at windmills comes as no surprise. But there are expectations of Labour and rightly so, for the Labour movement itself was born of the struggle to address the structural inequalities of the economy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If it cannot address the losses felt by both local and migrating communities today, I’m not sure I understand the point of it anymore.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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Czech Rep: Far-right group leads march against women's abuse in Islam

19/8/2015- About 50 people took part in a march against persecution and maltreatment of women in Islam that was organised by the We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic and the Bloc Against Islam groups in Prague's centre this afternoon. The organisers said they want to point out the allegedly subordinate position of women in Islamic countries. Members of the Young Greens group carrying banners with faces of Muslim women who fight for gender equality in Islamic countries protested against the march. Their Prague spokesman Filip Schneider said the Young Greens support the idea of the struggle for women's rights but they fear that the organisers of the march wanted to use the issue of women's maltreatment as a pretext for spreading hatred against Islam.

Beatrice Radosa, from the Bloc Against Islam, who was one of the speakers at the event along with Martin Konvicka and Pavlina Bitterova, rejected this allegation.
Radosa said general freedom was at variance with Islam. Schneider disagreed with this. "Islam as a religion is not the problem. We know of a lot of Muslim men and women who support the modern concept of women's rights, who fight for it and are often persecuted because of it," he said. The marchers released butterflies as a symbol of freedom and they sang Czech folk songs. Several events against Islam have recently been organised in the country in reaction to fears of Islamic militants and refugees from the Middle East. The police consider the We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic group a far-right initiative.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Hate Free Culture project working to combat xenophobia

19/8/2015- On Tuesday, around thirty members of various religious denominations – including Muslims, Jews and Christians – sat down for a joint breakfast event in Studio Alta in Prague’s Holešovice district. The event, attended by community representatives, the South African and Kuwaiti ambassadors to the Czech Republic, and many ordinary members of the public, was organized by the Hate Free Culture Project. The breakfast is part of a wider effort by this organisation to foster greater understanding in the Czech Republic amidst heightened tensions over the current migrant crisis. I spoke with project coordinator Lukáš Houdek and began by asking him to describe Hate Free Culture’s work:

“It’s actually a part of the Office of the Government’s Social Exclusion agency. So we are all employees of the government. And it is 80 percent funded via Norwegian Grants [Norway Grants – EEA Grants].”

Has it taken on new momentum in recent months because of the migrant crisis?
“Certainly, because the project was designed a few years ago to mostly fight hatred targeted against the Roma population. But last year it changed into mostly fear and hate against Muslims, and now in recent months it has changed in the direction of migrants and refugees.”

Your most recent event was a harmony breakfast held in Prague. So are these the kind of events that your organization uses to foster harmony, understanding – what is the overall intention?
“We are undertaking many activities. We are proving hoaxes false – this is something we are doing quite intensively right now – but we also organize events including stand-up comedy, or the event you mentioned inviting different religious and ethnic groups to show that we can sit down, eat together and understand each other. But we also try to communicate the issue of human rights, or specifically combating hate and intolerance, in different ways. One example is through arts. Right now there are several exhibitions all over public spaces across the Czech Republic. We have posters that deal with the topics of our campaigns. So we are trying to utilize different media to communicate certain issues. We also want to ensure we are active not just in Prague but also in regions across the country.”

You mentioned that you dispel hoaxes. I noticed your website was just dealing with one regarding Czech Muslims supposedly being against the recent Prague Pride festival. You also have another section on the site which discusses the conflict in Teplice regarding Arab visitors supposedly making a mess in parks and lashing out at local dogs. Do you believe that there are major levels of misunderstanding between Czechs and Czech Muslims or Muslim migrants?
“It’s really hard in this kind of a situation when people are afraid – let’s say logically so, because something is coming that they have little experience of, as we aren’t very used to different cultural groups in the Czech Republic. So it is very easy for people to believe hoaxes or everything they read in social media. And there are so many hoaxes, or news articles that are ultimately untrue. We think it is very important to have a critical eye towards what they read and see and not simply believe everything. And of course it is also caused by a lack of information, because the discussion about refugees and Muslims in the Czech Republic is led by people who are not experts in this subject, but rather ‘instant experts’ that have just appeared in recent months.”
© Radio Prague

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Czech Rep: Muslims, Christians, Jews manifest harmony at breakfast in Prague

18/8/2015- Thirty Muslims, Christians, Jews and members of various minorities met at a joint breakfast in Prague yesterday to show that people with different roots, religion and culture can understand each other, the event's coordinator Lukas Houdek told the media. The meeting was held within the Hate Free Culture project that the government initiated in reaction to the recent sharp debate about migration and Islam in the Czech Republic. "We wanted to react to the growing hysteria and show that we can meet each other and have a breakfast together even though each of us comes from different conditions," Houdek said. The meals were brought to the breakfast by the participants themselves, who included the ambassador of South Africa and Kuwait, among others. Young Czech Muslims said they are unhappy about hateful attacks against immigrants and Islam that appear on social networks.

"The Czech Republic respects the value of freedom that enables everyone to say what they want, irrespective of whether their views are positive or negative. It is important to preserve this. However, it [people's comments] should be decent," said Ondrej Adamik, one of the Muslim representatives at the meeting, said. Lenka Ahmed Balicka, a young woman wearing a Muslim scarf, said the worst hateful reactions appear on Facebook, while people react more mildly face to face with Muslims.
Nevertheless, hostile faces are no exception among the Czech majority population, Ahmed Balicka said. She said the Czechs know little about Islam. "They share the widespread opinion that every Arab is a Muslim and every Muslim is automatically an Arab," Ahmed Balicka said. She said it seems to her that the hostile atmosphere is starting to change slowly. "The more tense the situation is, the more frequently I register people's positive reactions...People are starting to change," she said. Adamik, too, said that the number of people who are really interested in Islam is growing. In addition, "a conversion wave" is arising, he said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Military calling up reservists over migrant wave

18/8/2015- The Czech military is secretly calling up reservists who could help professional soldiers protect the border from the rising number of refugees attempting to cross it illegally, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday. In the past few days, commanders of some infantry companies of active reserves were asked to find out how many members of their units would be willing and able to take part in an extraordinary military exercise near the border by the end of the year, LN says.
However, the General Staff wants to keep this activity secret so far, LN adds, referring to information from one of the addressed reservists. The reservists whose employers would release them, would complete the units of professional soldiers. If the government approved it, they would help the police protect the border from the influx of refugees.

Several deputies from the lower house defence committee know about the survey among the reservists. However, the military command refused to confirm it, LN says. "The government would have to decide about the call-up of active reserves to a special exercise," Jan Sulc, spokesman for the General Staff, told LN. This may be the reason why generals do not want to officially comment on it. If the government called up reservists, but their employers did not allow their participation in an exercise, it would be a shame, LN writes, adding that employers are not obliged to release reservists under the current law and they get no compensation if they do so either. "This is why the General Staff wants to silently check first how many reservists out of the total 1,300 it can expect to participate in the border protection," a warrant officer from a regional command told LN.

The paper also says the military command is addressing only the reservists who have not yet participated in an annual obligatory exercise this year, that is about 400. The remaining 900 could not be deployed most probably as their employers would hardly let them take part in another two-week exercise in the same year. A new law, which the Chamber of Deputies is to debate in October, is to prevent similar problems. It introduces a financial compensation for the employers of the reservists if they are called up. Apart from it, the reservists' monthly remuneration will rise from 500 to 1000 crowns and they will be entitled to a 20,000-crown contribution for their outfit and equipment as well, LN says. The Defence Ministry expects these measures to attract more people to active reserves. It would like to raise their number to 3,000-5,000, which would considerably ease the service of professional soldiers. In the case of strong migration waves and the closure of the Schengen border, reservists could be deployed to patrol the border along with the police, while the professional military could focus on more complicated tasks, such as NATO commitments, LN writes.
($1=24.339 crowns)
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Zeman's spokesman against scientists' solidarity with refugees

18/8/2015- President Milos Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek criticised yesterday a call by hundreds of Czech scientists for toleration of immigrants, saying it deepens the gap between Czech society and the elites. Researcher Pavel Jungwirth told CTK in reaction to Ovcacek's words that the call should bridge the gaps, on the contrary. The call "Scientists against Fear and Indifference" has been signed by more than 1500 personalities, the authors say on their web page. Besides scientists, the call has been backed by hundreds of peoples of other professions. Earlier yesterday, it was backed by Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, Slovak sociologist and former dissident Fedor Gal, writer Ota Filip, psychologist Dalibor Spok and other personalities. Helena Illnerova, former chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences (AV), said the call was the most decent expression of how the Czech society should behave towards foreigners that is to perceive them as people with their own dignity. This is a general call for humanity and solidarity, she told CTK.

The public can also sign the scientists' appeal. "I will formulate my personal opinion with the permission of the president," Ovcacek said. "This activity only deepens the gap between the 'elites' and Czech society," Ovcacek said. The best reaction to the petition is paraphrasing its content. "Security and decent treatment should be ensured for all those who live in Europe," he said. Jungwirth said it seemed as if Ovcacek "followed his personal agenda" by his statement. The aim of the call is to make people think rationally and solve problems accordingly and not succumb to emotions as the president did, Jungwirth said. He recalled that Zeman recently expressed regret that the government had failed to find finances to cover the operation of Klokanek, indebted facilities for children in need, although the sums spent on aid to immigrants would be much higher. "This is exactly what is dividing society and the president is dividing it. On the contrary, we are trying to unite it around a rational goal and way of thinking," Jungwirth said.

In the petition, hundreds of scientists, university professors and employees came out against the mounting xenophobic moods in Czech society. They wrote that they are anxious about the activities of extremist groups to which there exists no sufficient counterweight in the country. The scientists called on politicians to take into consideration real possibilities in accepting refugees, not the erratic public moods. They also wrote that politicians should not abuse others' misfortune for scoring cheap political points. The scientists called on the media to carry truthful information and not to spread false scoops and panic. The public should be cautious in making any judgements and not allow itself be manipulated. The signatories include Helena Illnerova, former chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences, theologist Tomas Halik, literary historian Martin C. Putna and philosopher Jan Sokol. An opinion poll conducted by the CVVM institute in June showed that over 70 percent of Czechs do not want to accept refugees.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Academics warning of growing xenophobia

17/8/2015- Over 740 Czech academics and other staff of scientific and research institutions have signed a petition Academics against Fear and Indifference to face the increasingly xenophobic atmosphere in Czech society that was posted online yesterday. They feel alarmed at the activities of extremist groups that are not contained enough, the petition said. Radicalisation of society by fear is one of the biggest dangers threatening Czechs in connection with the immigration crisis, it added. The appeal does not want to play down the real risks arising from immigration or to campaign for specific steps relating to the refugees, the petition said. However, it resolutely protests against the way ethnic and religious intolerance is being fomented and generally tolerated in the Czech Republic, it added. The immigrants are labelled as vermin or parasites flooding the Czech Republic in order to drain its welfare system and to murder and rape at will, while Muslims are being tarred with the same brush as terrorists irrespective of their real views, the petition said.

"I believe absolute hysteria is gaining ground here, reacting to the alternative of a tremendous influx of refugees," Helena Illnerova, a former president of Czech Academy of Sciences, told CTK. "There has been no evidence of this. I think that we should first take into account the element of solidarity. When Czechs were emigrating en masse after the 1968 occupation by the Soviet Army, they were also accepted abroad," Illnerova said. The signatories include several university professors - theologist Tomas Halik, Oriental studies expert Lubos Kropacek, IT expert Jiri Zlatuska, historian Jaroslav Miller, literary historian Martin C. Putna and philosopher Jan Sokol. The petition was also signed by the director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Vaclav Horejsi. "I really resent what is going on here, the escalated hysteria against refugees and Muslims. I almost feel ashamed of the nation succumbing to this so much," Horejsi said.

The academics have called on politicians to take into account real alternatives, not the erratic public opinion, when accepting the refugees, the petition said. The misfortune of other people should not be abused to obtain popularity among voters, it added. They have asked the media to provide truthful information and not to spread false scoops and panic. The petition has asked the public to be cautious in its judgement and of manipulation. "We can see how much space is given to extremists who were on the margins of society until recently," said one of the petition's organisers, Lukas Novak from the Faculty of Science of Charles University.
He said it is a shame that a scientist, entomologist Martin Konvicka, heads the group We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic. Novak said Konvicka seems to be spreading fabricated information only to win popularity.

An opinion poll conducted by the CVVM institute in June showed that over 70 percent of Czechs do not want to accept refugees from the south in their country.
The Czech police have introduced stricter checks focusing on migration since June. From January to June, 3018 migrants were detained, which is a marked increase compared with the first six months of last year. The whole of Europe has been facing an influx of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: More than 10,000 people take part in part Prague Pride march

15/8/2015- More than 10,000 people took part in a Prague Pride march of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals through the city centre Saturday, drawing protest from a handful of homosexuality opponents. Mayor of Prague Adriana Krnacova (ANO) and several celebrities supported the march with their participation. The colourful march, with some participants riding on 15 allegoric floats, dancing to the tunes of reproduced music, went from Wenceslas Square, crossed the Vltava River and went up the Letna plain where a music programme was prepared. The police estimate the number of participants at 15,000 maximally, the Gay Initiative chairman, Jiri Hromada, said 18,000 left Wenceslas Square and their number gradually rose to 35,000. Most of them carried rainbow flags, the symbol of the homosexual community, or used other rainbow symbols.

Krnacova and the celebrities were joined by U.S. nun Jeannine Gramick, whose appearance on Catholic soil during this week's Prague Pride festival, was banned by Cardinal Dominik Duka. The 120-strong London Gay Men's Chorus entertained the participants with popular songs and original choreographies. "I think it is an integral part of Prague just as the Prague Marathon and I hope that it will be so in the future, too," Krnacova, who came to the march for the fifth time, told CTK. "This is no demonstration, but normal human joy at being different," Hromada said. Before the march set out on its track, around 30 homosexuality opponents staged a protest against it in the upper part of Wenceslas Square. They defended the traditional family and Christian values. The protest was convoked by Pavel Matejny, who in the past organised anti-Romany marches in various towns and who dismissed the Prague Pride festival on Facebook as "absolutely disgusting and tasteless" and called for "national defence."

About 100 people took part in the March for the Family, staged by the Young Christian Democrats organisation in Prague centre. It was held under the aegis of Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), Duka and Prague city councillor for culture Jan Wolf (KDU-CSL).
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Headlines 14 August, 2015

Norway: Neo-Nazi criminals infiltrate football fan club

A criminal neo-Nazi gang has infiltrated the fan club of of Vålerenga, the legendary Oslo team that has won the Norwegian Football Cup no fewer than four times.

14/8/2015- According to Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper, the team's passionate supporters club -- known as “the Klan” -- has recently seen a faction develop which calls itself Isko Boys, and which has ties to the Bandidos motorcycle club. “There’s been a shift among the supporters at Vålerenga,” Einar Was, an inspector for the Oslo Police District, told the newspaper. “We can confirm that there’s now an unfortunate connection to crime and criminal groups.” In a recent case in Oslo District court, a man who is a member of Isko Boys as well as several neo-nazi groups, was accused of a violent attack on three Muslim men. In July, a Vålerenga supporter was beaten by members of Isko Boys because he tried to stop a fight between members of the faction and a women who worked for the Vålerenga supporters club. Våleregna supporters are not yet ready to officially exclude the group from it’s ranks. “All football clubs from capital cities have hooligans. It’s not something Våleregna wishes, but it is the case," Espen Knutsen of the Våleregna supporters' club told Aftenposten. "We will not exclude certain groups, but we condemn violence, threats and discrimination. Everyone who breaks our rules is met with sanctions. But, everyone who is not excluded is warmly welcomed." According to Isko Boys own Facebook page, the group has been active since 1999.
© The Local - Norway

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Scotland: Yousaf bombarded with anti-Muslim comments shortly after radio debate

Humza Yousaf was yesterday “bombarded” with anti-Muslim abuse just minutes after discussing Islamophobia on live radio.

14/8/2015- The Europe and International Development Minister was a guest on the BBC Asian Network when host Nihal Arthanayake questioned him about issues including identity and prejudice. Following the show, which was broadcast live from the Edinburgh Festival, he tweeted: “Literally less than 10 minutes after posting about tackling extremism I get bombarded by these Islamophobic trolls.” Moments before coming off air, Yousaf, from Glasgow, had been asked about anti-Muslim sentiment in Scotland, answering: “I would never look at Scotland through rose-tinted spectacles. “Islamophobia exists as much in Scotland just as I think it exists in parts of England. “I would saw that we are certainly more tolerant than some parts but there is certainly Islamophobia here in Scotland and I wouldn’t try to say otherwise.” He added: “Let’s not pretend Scotland is some kind of utopia. It’s not, there are problems.

“I have lived here all my life, I have been the victim of some of that.” Abuse yesterday included personal attacks on the MSP, branding him “chief Islamist worm among many” in Scottish politics. Other messages denigrated migrants at Calais, another topic raised in the show. Addressing the issue, Yousaf said “the voices of government” at Westminster had contributed to prejudice, saying: “The Scottish Government’s language has been very different. It has been a lot more inclusive, even if it is the debate around immigration for example. “A lot of the debate around immigration whether it is [migrants in] Calais or those crossing the Mediterranean, it’s all warped into that discussion about extremism.” Yousaf retweeted some of the messages yesterday in an effort to highlight the abuse.

He has also reported the slurs to Twitter and to Police Scotland. However, the episode is just the latest example of abuse targeted against Scotland’s most high-profile Muslim politician. He told The National: “I think it’s important to note whenever these incidents happen that the voices we get and the views of tolerance will often outweigh the negative, racist, bigoted voices. “I always try to put it in that perspective. “All that being said, it is still quite hurtful whether this has happened for the first time or the hundredth time if somebody picks on your identity. “It reminds you that there is a challenge to change negative perceptions.” Turning to the comments about the current migrant crisis, he said: “Politicians have a really important job to ensure the language they use doesn’t inflame and doesn’t give any momentum to racists, to bigots. “I would encourage anyone who has suffered any kind of online abuse, whether it’s racist or homophobic, to report it. “I do it all the time.”

Responding to Yousaf’s online comment, Tory leader Ruth Davidson called the trolling “totally unacceptable”. She said: “When will folk recognise that Twitter isn’t a special case. What is wrong in real life is wrong online too.” The controversy comes ahead of a planned one-day conference on Islamophobia in Glasgow. Organisers Amina, the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, aim to bring members of the public together with representatives from across Scottish society to discuss the topic in a landmark summit in October. Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, director of prisoner advocacy group Cage, is among those billed to be speaking at the event, which is still in the planning stages. Amina MWRC director Smina Akhtar told The National: “Nobody knows the extent of the problem because there is so much under-reporting. “It is time to try and find out what the real picture is.”
© The National - Scotland

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Ukraine: No Lessons Learned: Odesa Court bans LGBT March

The Odesa District Administrative Court has allowed an application from the Odesa City Council and banned the Equality March planned by the LGBT community for Aug 15. The grounds presented and accepted by the court were that disturbances were likely and the authorities could not guarantee law and order.

14/8/2015- The application, heard on Aug 12, was supported by the Odesa Police. Kirill Bodelan, Press Secretary for the Odesa Pride 2015 Festival told Dumskaya that the authorities had tried to get all Festival events from Aug 13-15 banned. They wanted to prohibit even the organizers from gathering in groups of more than 3. The court hearing apparently went on until 2 a.m. “After long arguments only the march was banned”, Bodelan says. Interfax Ukraine reports that the applicants claimed that there was a negative attitude among the public to the Festival, and a high likelihood of violence to participants in the march and disruption of public order. The court also noted that football matches were scheduled for Aug 14 and 16, and ultimately concluded that the march could present a real danger and threat to public order, and to the safety both of participants and other members of the public. The organizers say that over 200 people, including foreigners, have registered for the Festival and they are adamant that it will take place. They have, however, encountered other disturbing problems with people refusing to rent out venues for the events.

Mob rule?
There are a number of right-wing organizations, especially Right Sector, who have not only expressed antagonism to the LGBT community, but have threatened members with violence. They are almost certainly to blame, together with VO Svoboda thugs, for the violence in Kyiv during and after the May Equality March. Their homophobia is not a valid excuse for restricting citizens’ rights. This was in fact affirmed by President Petro Poroshenko on the eve of the Kyiv Equality March. He was responding after Right Sector came out with anti-LGBT and anti-western statements identical to those regularly heard in Russia. Right Sector also issued an appeal to the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klichko asking that the march be banned. The authors of this opus claimed, without providing any evidence, that “the public are very negative in their attitude to such LGBT actions. Most Kyiv residents are believers and against such a phenomenon.” More details of the ‘arguments’ presented: United in Homophobic Bigotry: Right Sector echoes Russian anti-LGBT line.

 The Kyiv March did take place with a very large contingent of police brought in to maintain order.  Five police officers were injured during the march, one very seriously.  The Gay Alliance and other civic activists initiated a collection for the injured officer who has thankfully recovered. 10 participants were attacked by masked thugs, presumed to have been from the same far-right parties , after they dispersed. While commending the efforts of the police and National Guard, Amnesty International in Ukraine was still critical, saying that the authorities should have taken better measures to ensure the marchers’ safety after the event.

Odesa’s different path
It may be understandable, but it is also disturbing that it should be Odesa which has now decided to ban an analogous march. This is the city which on May 2, 2014, saw violent disturbances and the tragic fire in the Trade Union House, with the loss of 48 lives. One of the reasons why the events got out of control lies with the police. 15 months later there is frustratingly little progress in establishing who was to blame for the failure to implement an action plan. This had been drawn up specifically to prevent disturbances that day before, during and after a planned pro-unity demonstration and football match  (See:  Odesa May 2 Investigation: A Failed Test for Ukrainian Justice as well as some limited progress here).

There were well-founded reasons to anticipate trouble back in April-May 2014, with Odesa seeming the obvious next target for Russia’s aggression after Donbas.  The uses the Russia’s propaganda machine has made of the tragedy of May 2, 2014 have only heightened concerns, as have the string of terrorist attacks and separatist fakes. There may well be grounds for concern now, but these are only heightened when the authorities, police and court are all willing to restrict people’s rights, claiming that they cannot protect them from homophobic thugs.
© the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

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Finland: Police may have to return racist banner

Police are investigating whether a racist banner seized Thursday at a site near a highway in the Tampere region constitutes a prosecutable offense. If it is not determined to be violation of the law, they may have to return it. The City of Tampere says that if the banner reappears, it will be removed.

14/8/2015- The neo-Nazi “Finnish Resistance Movement” claim they put up the banner which describes people on the other side of the Mediterranean as “animals”. Although far enough off the road not to contravene traffic regulations, police removed the banner on Thursday, which it turns out was set up without permission on land owned by the City of Tampere and without the knowledge of city officials. Central Finland Police are now investigating whether the racist message constituted grounds for prosecution. According to Inspector Juha Myllymäki, police are looking at how to deal with the incident. "The police made the decision to remove the banner and now it is being determined if it constitutes a criminal offense. We are examining what offense it may constitute and we will possibly be cooperating with the public prosecutor," Myllymäki told Yle. If it is determined that no crime was committed, the police will have to return the banner to the site where it was found. If this happens, the City of Tampere has pledged to remove it if it goes back up. Vesa Puuronen, a researcher in racism at the Univeristy of Oulu, told the Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti that even though the message on the banner is racist, he does not believe that it crossed the threshold to being a prosecutable offense.
© YLE News.

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Finland: Police take down racist roadside banner after three days

Officers remove sign describing people on other side of the Mediterranean as “animals” in apparent reversal of earlier claim that they had no power to intervene. Meanwhile neo-Nazi “Finnish Resistance Movement” claim they were the ones who erected the banner.

13/8/2015- Police have removed a roadside banner containing a racist message, despite earlier insisting that they had no power to take down the sign because it was too far from the road. Officers took down the banner, which describes people on the other side of the Mediterranean as “animals”, on Thursday afternoon, three days after it was reported by drivers on the road between Ylöjärvi and Nokia in the Tampere region. Chief Inspector Ilkka Laasanen from Central Finland Police told the newspaper Aamulehti the banner was removed because it caused offence. This appeared to contradict previous statements from the police, who on Wednesday had defended their inaction saying to Yle that they could remove the sign only if it were closer to the road and contravened traffic regulations, or if they received an official criminal complaint. On Thursday Central Finland Police said they are investigating whether the racist message constituted grounds for prosecution.

Neo-Nazi 'humour month'
Meanwhile the neo-Nazi group the Finnish Resistance Movement claimed responsibility for the message on their website, claiming the banner was part of its “humour month”. The group’s website claims that during the summer it has put up similar banners across the Tampere region, and said it has been distributing flyers and business cards on a weekly basis to increase awareness of its activities. It insisted that its slogan “did not specify which side of the Mediterranean the animals were on”. The Finnish Resistance Movement most recently made news headlines when several members were arrested on assault and rioting charges following a march in Jyväskylä on August 1.
© YLE News.

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Malta: Striking at the roots of racism (opinion)

By Michael Grech

13/8/2015- I was outraged by the attack suffered by Jack Daboma, though I was neither surprised nor shocked. I experienced a greater shock a year ago, when, together with others, we took a Maltese friend who lives in Brazil to a restaurant in Mġarr. The occasion coincided with a football match between Algeria and Belgium. The owner of the restaurant, whom none of us knew, came up to us and told us that, hopefully, Belgium would win, since the Algerians are Africans and “we” hate Africans. This person, who, I later learned is, in many ways, a very decent person, not merely harboured such thoughts but felt confident enough to think that perfect strangers would share his views and applaud them. He assumed that, being Maltese, we would consent. Any past experiences he had had must have confirmed this.

Explicit or implicit racism in Malta is rife and accepted, despite many who live in denial regarding this or the myth and outright lies perpetuated by many (from schools to Xarabank) regarding our Christianity, hospitality and generosity. As Daboma rightly noted, what hurt mostly in his incident was the people’s applause; ordinary people waiting for a bus ticket. People thought to be Africans, Arabs, immigrants or Muslims (many fail to grasp the difference between these) are frequently classified in ad hoc categories as “they”. Those who fall into this category have a greater onus to prove their respectability than others. Even when individuals belonging to this ad hoc category prove their worth, they are frequently judged to be good or respectable people “despite being...”

Given the widespread prejudices, it is obvious that incidents like the one involving Daboma will occur, that one who feels like committing such a mishap will be emboldened to do so. It is also obvious that the racist public will be willing to tolerate and excuse any possibly excessive or ill-directed use of force by law enforcement officers or failure by these to defend the rights of individuals belonging to hated groups. In all such cases it will be the victim who will have to prove her- or himself innocent. Minister Helena Dalli rightly made a public apology. I am afraid, however, that, despite her genuine intentions, her initiative will end up being just a damage-limitation exercise.

Racism is not eradicated by gestures, beautiful as they may be. Nor is it eliminated by condemning the persons who commit vile acts. (In this regard, if the woman involved in Daboma’s incident is found guilty, a sentence like community service in an open centre would be much more adequate than a fine or imprisonment). Having independent bodies assessing the modus operandi of the police and the armed forces would help and not merely with regard to possible abuse relating to ethnic and religious minorities. Still, it would not be enough. Racism needs to be eradicated from the minds and guts of people. We need to debunk the myths, ignorance and assumptions that sustain it.

Some years ago, together with Colin Calleja and Bernard Cauchi, we jotted down some suggestions regarding how to tackle prejudice in formal education (‘Education and ethnic minorities in Malta’, 2007). Still, focusing on schools is not enough. Myths and assumptions need to be revisited in informal educational sites. (In this regard, old myths like the one about us being fundamentally European or the fable regarding Malta saving Europe twice and the assumption that nothing can come from outside of Europe except threats, have proved highly recalcitrant. I focus on one key player in this area; the media. Admittedly, there are isolated individuals doing sterling work. I cannot not mention the fantastic work by Mark Micallef and Victor Vella, among others, or refer to reports like the one recently carried in this paper by Kim Dalli (July 7) in which the causes that induce immigrants to flee and the suffering they undergo in their journeys are clearly illustrated. (Daboma was not an immigrant but towards him were directed the spite and anger we have towards these victims.)

More articles of this kind might induce us to see “them” primarily as fellow sisters and brothers who might be victims of injustice, not bums, barranin or law-breakers. Yet, such initiatives are exceptional. It is still common to come across in the media, particularly in relation to crime, phrases like “dark-skinned individual” (no white person is called “light-skinned individual”) or “a person of African nationality” (as though Africa were a nation, not a continent), if not outright imbalance in the reporting concerning certain categories. “Official versions” given by sectors that have an interest in the marginalisation of certain groups are still accepted by many journalists without these questioning the consistency of official accounts.

Locations outside Europe are generally presented by most local media as at best exotic. It is always implicitly assumed that the only benchmarks we may have are European and North American, which, in the mind of many locals, means ‘white’. Even programmes aimed at raising awareness on the Third World often appeal to pity and present the parties in question as victims of misfortune rather than injustice.
© Times of Malta

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Austria: Hungarian neo-Nazis take Austrian mini-break

A day trip to Vienna by members of a Hungarian offshoot of the neo-Nazi group Blood & Honour has passed without serious incident, after the group of seven was escorted by police throughout the day.

13/8/2015- Police said that six adults and one child arrived in Vienna by bus on Wednesday. They parked on the Getreidemarkt and then walked through the city centre, accompanied by police. They had planned to visit the Academy of Fine Arts on Schillerplatz, where Adolf Hitler had applied to study but was rejected. The rector of the art school said that he was against the planned visit and the main entrance was kept locked until the early afternoon, to prevent the neo-Nazis from entering. Police have not released the identities of the members of the group. Austria’s Office for State Protection and Counter Terrorism said that it knew of the group’s planned visit in advance but was not able to prevent it as it was not a demonstration or gathering.

On Thursday the group plans to visit a military museum in Sonntagberg in the north east of Austria and also plans to visit Hitler's birthplace in Braunau, Upper Austria. Police said that the neo-Nazis plan to spend the night there and then continue on to Bavaria in Germany. The anti neo-Nazi group 'braunau gegen rechts' called on the authorities to prevent the Hungarians from continuing their journey, calling them members of a "particularly dangerous neo-Nazi network which has long been banned in Germany”. “Members of the Blood & Honour network are responsible for murders, attacks and raids. They even have an armed group called Combat 18,” braunau gegen rechts spokesman Raphael Schöberl said. Blood & Honour was founded in the UK in 1987, taking its name from the motto of the Hitler Youth; ‘Blut und Ehre’. It has been outlawed in Germany, Spain and Russia.
© The Local - Austria

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Spain: Case dropped against police who beat migrant

A human rights group vowed Wednesday to appeal after a Spanish court dismissed a case against eight police who beat a migrant trying to illegally enter Spain's north African territory of Melilla.

13/8/2015- Footage of the incident, which took place in October 2014, sparked outrage in Spain but on Tuesday, a court in Melilla decided to drop the case for lack of evidence. Rights group Prodein that filmed the violence and submitted the evidence to court, vowed to fight back. "We are going to appeal," spokesman Jose Palazon told AFP. The footage shows eight Civil Guard police officers trying to force a group of migrants off the top of a six-metre (20-foot) high fence separating Melilla from Morocco. As a migrant nears a ladder provided by police and attempts to descend, he is repeatedly hit by policemen with batons and falls to the ground. The footage then shows him carried to the Moroccan side of the fence without receiving any medical attention. A judge in Melilla on Tuesday dropped the case against the eight police officers citing lack of evidence, saying the victim had not been identified.

Although the images showed officers using a "disproportionate" level of force, the judge found that "the evidence was limited to the video footage and statements from police and some witnesses". But Palazon rejected his argument, saying that not enough effort had been made to locate the victim. "All sorts of efforts could have been done to identify the victim in Morocco," he told AFP. Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave on Morocco's northern coast, form the only land border between Europe and Africa. Each year, thousands of migrants risk their lives trying to enter the two territories to try to find a better life in Europe.
© The Local - Spain

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German rappers side with asylum-seekers

Europeans are wealthy, but not willing to share with refugees, carp German rappers. Pro-refugee rap is a growing niche genre that may not keep boats from sinking in the Mediterranean - but is still stirring things up.

14/8/2015- "Do you think the refugees got onto party boats with dreams of selling drugs in park?" raps Tarek in a mixture of rage and bewilderment. The musician doesn't take kindly to anti-refugee sentiments. He is part of Berlin-based rap group K.I.Z., which has recently released its fifth album, "Hurray the World Is Doomed," to public and critical acclaim. It's an album that takes a decided stand for refugees heading to Germany.

In a song entitled "What Would Manny Marc Do?" the group raps in first-person about the harrowing experiences of an asylum-seeker traveling across the sea and arriving at his destination, only to fear for his life:
Dad died in war, my mom and sister drowned at sea
The smuggler was sick of their thirsty cries
I'd be next if I didn't stop crying
I haven't cried since then, but still see him in my dreams
Sharing my bed with three strangers, and don't know where I am
There are no more soldiers, but we still need protection
How am I supposed to learn your language when I hear the same words every day:
'Piss off to where you come from!
'

Germany faces wave of anti-refugee sentiment
These lines come at a time of rising protests against the massive influx of asylum-seekers that have been seeking refuge in Germany in recent weeks. Since late last year, cases of arson targeting makeshift refugee accommodations have been on the rise. In the first half of 2015, there were more attacks than in all of 2014, according to Germany's Interior Ministry. Some observers even worry that Germany may be sliding back into a xenophobic climate similar to the 1990s which culminated in several racially motivated murders. But others are confident that Germany is evolving into a different country. "If I compare this situation to the 1990s, then I get the feeling that most Germans are accepting of refugees," says Tobias Rapp, a music journalist at "Der Spiegel," adding that a small but vocal minority is responsible for the anti-refugee sentiments that have been making headlines. And such attitudes have not been left unchallenged - in the rap scene, of all places.

Rappers show no mercy with xenophobes
Not only have K.I.Z. taken a stand, but also Berlin-based rapper duo Zugezogen Maskulin. In the song "Oranienplatz," named after the central square in Berlin's bohemian district of Kreuzberg, they allude to a makeshift refugee camp that was erected there in 2013. Over a growling instrumental accentuating their rage, the two rail against the clearing of the camp a year later and the societal apathy that accompanied it. They poignantly contrast first-world problems against those faced by the refugees:
You can tan in the desert
Pipelines, bands of mercenaries, shots fired from helicopters
Should I buy shoes from Nike or Adidas?
Such questions torment me while you enjoy a pleasant boat journey
.
Zugezogen Maskulin's climaxes their criticism of European apathy in the sarcastic chorus, declaring that "We are far too wealthy to share anything with you."

Taking German apathy to task
While K.I.Z. and Zugezogen Maskulin channel their support for refugees into bursts of rage and irony, rap groups like Antilopen Gang go a step further. They told Cologne's daily newspaper "Kölner Stadtanzeiger" what motivates them to make music: "We want people to be able to move freely all over the world, regardless where they're from," adding that this must apply particularly to those fleeing poverty and war. This conviction becomes most apparent on their song "Beate Zschäpe Listens to U2," which is named after the primary suspect in the ongoing trial against a neo-Nazi group believed to be responsible for numerous racially motivated murders between 2000 and 2007. In the song, they take an uncompromising swipe at wide parts of German society for perpetuating or trivializing anti-refugee sentiments.

Without mincing words, Antilopen Gang diss those denouncing asylum-seekers as criminals who threaten the national way of life. The song's chorus makes explicit reference to the torching of asylum-seekers' homes, and then cynically praises Germany for being such a "thorough" and "hard-working" country. Yet the most astonishing contribution originates from another Berlin-based rapper by the name of Matondo. The musician, whose Congolese parents fled to Germany in the 1990s, began making songs about social issues when he was just a teen. In his song "Nobody Is Illegal," he responds explicitly to anti-refugee prejudices. Matondo urges listeners to feel compassion for the asylum-seekers arriving in Germany and demands that they be granted the right to work. Like a demonstration chant, he declares that "Nobody is illegal" and calls for Europe to open its borders and grant right of residence to all those fleeing persecution and war.

Rappers to the rescue?
Such socially conscious rap brings German rap back to its roots, after a period of focusing on glorified consumerism and an archaic form of masculinity, or on reveling in light-hearted wordplay and humor. Bushido featuring Shindy on "Panamera Flow" and McFitti with "30 Grad" spring to mind. "When German rap music started in the 1990s, it talked about political issues and about feeling ostracized from society," recalls Tobias Rapp. Groups like Freundeskreis, for example, did not shy away from addressing controversial issues like the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the 1973 CIA coup in Chile. Now, it seems, some artists are rediscovering the critical, concerned foundation of German rap.

Marcus Staiger, who over the past years has played a pivotal role in popularizing German-language hip hop as a music journalist and founder of now-defunct label Royal Bunker, concurs. But he also points out that "there are still too few groups addressing the refugee issue." Staiger says that hip hop is particularly apt at describing social injustices - but he is also wary of musicians trying to offer quick solutions. While music cannot replace practical solutions, at the very least it's making a few people rethink the current refugee debate.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: NSU prosecutors suspect false testimony in neo-Nazi trial

The revelation comes after criticism from the plaintiffs that extremist witnesses could not be trusted. The German government also reported that hundreds of crimes across the country are linked to the terrorist group.

14/8/2015- Media in Germany reported on Friday that the Munich Public Prosecutor's office was suspicious that several witnesses in the trial against the far-right terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) may have lied to police. According to a spokesman quoted by the "Thüringer Allgemeine" newspaper, in five cases pertaining to the preliminary investigation, officials were give false statements. Though the statements were not made under oath, it echoes criticisms made by the co-plaintiffs that witnesses from the far-right scene would obviously not tell the truth in court, said news agency AFP. Many other authorities involved in the case, including representatives of the Federal Prosecutor's Office, have voiced concerns over the possible consequences of false statements made in cases involving 10 murders.

Hundreds of NSU-related crimes
German media also said on Friday that a total of 259 crimes could be connected to the NSU. In answer to a request submitted by Left Party parliamentarian Martina Renner, German news agency DPA reported the federal government revealed that, among other things, there were 120 incidents of NSU-linked propaganda offenses. In Düren in 2013, for example, someone wrote on a building used by the local Muslim community: "The NSU lives on and you will be the next victims." The NSU was a right-wing terrorist group that allegedly carried out a series of murders against foreigners and one policewoman between 2000 and 2007. They are also accused of a series of bombings and bank robberies. The only living member, Beate Zschäpe, is currently on trial in Munich.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Neo-Nazi football team Ostelbien to be kicked out of local league

The German football league has finally moved to get rid of one of its most infamous members. FC Ostelbien Dornburg, founded in the far-right scene, has become renowned for assaulting opposing players and referees.

13/8/2015- It has long been public knowledge that FC Ostelbien Dornburg was a predominantly neo-Nazi outfit, but the Saxony-Anhalt Football Federation (FSA) has now bowed to media pressure and applied to have the team thrown out of its league - the eastern German state's local Kreisliga, or the tenth tier of Germany's football league system. The club represents a district of barely 270 inhabitants in a small town called Gommern, outside Magdeburg, but the violence of its 18 squad members - 15 of whom are recognized by the state intelligence agency as neo-Nazis - has made national headlines for several months. Club captain Dennis Wesemann has faced charges of assault, disturbing the peace, and showing symbols of banned organizations, while four local clubs have refused to play against Ostelbien, and 59 of 65 local referees are refusing to officiate their games. The FSA's action seems to be the culmination of increased media coverage, especially by the "Taz" newspaper, who reported an incident where a Kosovo Albanian player was spat on and attacked by Ostelbien's Wesemann during a game.

Better late than never
"In the FSA's opinion, the club ... has repeatedly and grossly violated the statutory clauses of the LSB [state sports federation]. In 2015 there has been an accumulation of violations of fair play as well as gross unsportsmanlike behavior and discrimination," the FSA said in a statement, before going on to allege that the club clearly condoned the actions of its players. In July, regional state TV network MDR aired a report that included footage of a post-match brawl following Ostelbien's defeat in a relegation play-off. It also painted a frightening portrait of the nearby village of Stresow, where Wesemann sits on the local council and appears to rule locals with a constant threat of violence. The camera team were attacked by Wesemann himself during the filming, and many people were shown clearly too scared to talk to the journalists, who were eventually escorted out of the village by police.

LSB President Lutz Bengsch, who promised a decision by August 31, was optimistic that the club would be shut out of the league. "We will work very intensively, and I think we're not without a chance," he told the "Taz." The new sense of urgency is partly down to the efforts of Sebastian Striegel, a Green party representative in the Saxony-Anhalt parliament, who began a new initiative against the club on reading the "Taz" report in April. Striegel was initially disappointed with the FSA's apparent indifference to the issue, and welcomed this week's news: "I think it's good that the Saxony Anhalt football federation has now reacted," he said. "I regret it didn't happen sooner. The assessments of the club and the reports of far-right incidents during games, as well as the backgrounds of its far-right players, have been known for years."

Toxic history
The LSB originally tried to ban FC Ostelbien Dornburg at its foundation in 2011, but was thwarted by a court ruling on the grounds that the club could not be banned unless it was overtly political - even though the players and coaches were recruited from among a neo-Nazi collective that called itself "Blue White Street Elite," of which Wesemann was a founding member. "After consulting with the German Olympic Sports Confederation, we decided not to appeal the decision, so as not to give them a bigger platform," said FSA Erwin Bugar. He might now regret that, given the media attention the club has since attracted. Either way, the club seems determined to keep its players on the pitch. "We see any exclusion procedure as unjustified and inappropriate," an anonymous club spokesman told the local "Magdeburg Volkstimme" newspaper last week. "In such a case we will use the legal paths we are entitled to."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German regional soccer association requests 'neo-Nazi club' suspension

11/8/2015- The Saxony-Anhalt soccer association from eastern Germany officially requested on Tuesday that FC Ostelbien Dornburg be suspended from the regional league given that several of its staff are self-proclaimed neo-Nazis. The decision, issued in Saxony-Anhalt capitol of Magdeburg, follows a series of assaults against match referees, which eventually led to their refusal to referee any match for the team in question. All sorts of attacks against players from visiting teams in Dornburg have also been denounced. According to media reports, at least nine players from FC Ostelbien Dornburg have admitted to being far-right extremists and to belonging to neo-Nazi organizations. The regional soccer association has accused the club officials of failing to act against the numerous cases of attacks, and of tolerating the presence of far-right extremists in the club's squad. The club's management also faced charges of "proximity" with such groups, which means that the sanctions or a move to exclude the team may lead to further precautionary measures by regional authorities, to the extent of imposing bans. This measure is based on successive reports by the German media concerning the strong presence of neo-Nazi supporters, whether among the spectators or players in lower flight leagues in eastern Germany or elsewhere in the country.
© La Prensa

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German far-right legislators push to 'inspect' a refugee center

The German far-right NPD party has taken legal action in efforts to visit a refugee hostel, after authorities denied them access. The visit by NPD legislators would disturb "peaceful coexistence," officials said.

13/8/2015- The anti-migrant politicians wanted to meet refugees housed in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, German mass-circulation newspaper "Bild" reported on Thursday. The visit was requested by the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) lawmakers in the state parliament, who cited their "right to inspect the doings of the government." The officials, however, denied their request to inspect the Nostorf/Horst facility, claiming that the party wanted to "make policy at the expense of the refugees." "It is unbearable that the people who incite others against asylum-seekers day after day, now want to visit our accommodation centers," state Interior Minister Lorenz Caffier told "Bild." Such a visit could disturb the "peaceful coexistence" of people at the Nostorf/Horst refugee center and lead to violent incidents, according to the officials.

'Ghastliness'
Despite the official decision, the NPD decided to push on with their request to "talk to the accepted refugees and asylum seekers." The party has filed for an injunction to force the government to allow them the visit, according to spokesman for the state's constitutional court, Sven Nickels. The court could decide on the issue as early as next week, Nickels said Thursday. The NPD representatives claim to have a right to be informed, in their capacity as lawmakers. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the only German state with the NPD represented in the parliament; the party has no seats on the federal level. State minister Caffier called for the party to be banned "in order to end this ghastliness," according to the "Bild" article.

Attacks on the rise
Attacks on German refugee centers have been on the rise during recent months, as authorities struggle to cope with immigrant arrivals. The recent jump has seen the Nostorf/Horst home, an old military barracks in northern Germany, house more than its recommended capacity of 650 refugees. Migration officials estimate that some half a million people would request asylum in Germany this year.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Far-Right Opponents' Barn Burns Down

13/8/2015- A barn belonging to a couple in a northern German village who have been outspoken opponents of local neo-Nazis has burned down in what police say appears to be a case of arson. Police said Thursday that the fire in the village of Jamel broke out shortly after midnight, and the thatched building burned down completely. Jamel, in the sparsely populated state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, is known as a far-right stronghold. Horst and Birgit Lohmeyer, owners of the barn, have vociferously opposed neo-Nazis, holding their own music festival to promote democracy and tolerance. Horst Lohmeyer said in a statement that the couple suspect the fire was laid in reaction to a recent announcement that they were being awarded a prominent prize for moral courage.
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Guests drive neo-Nazi from Munich beer garden

The presence of a neo-Nazi did not sit well with some guests at a beer garden, who decided he didn’t belong among the other customers.

12/8/2015- Neo-Nazi Philip Hasselbach was sitting with friends at Königlicher Hirschgarten in Munich over the weekend when fellow patrons started to get agitated about him being there. A video posted on tabloid Bild’s website shows a man shouting angrily at the neo-Nazi. "I am extremely bothered and furious to see neo-Nazis sitting in this beer garden," the man bellows in the video. The man in the video was head of entertainment venue Backstage in Munich, Hans-Georg Stocker. "I saw this neo-Nazi guy and I decided to try to throw him out," Stocker told The Local. "It was a very emotional action." Hasselbach, 27, has been an active member of various neo-Nazi groups in southern Germany and has served time for crimes including assault on a police officer. In 2009, photos of Hasselbach surfaced, showing him making the Nazi salute in front of a swastika. Last year, on Adolf Hitler’s 125th birthday, he established a Munich branch of the extreme right-wing party Die Rechte (The right-wingers).

Stocker told The Local that when he recognized Hasselbach at the beer garden, he became very angry and confronted him. Stocker said he personally had been attacked as a teenager by neo-Nazis for condemning their ideas. When Hasselbach did not leave, Stocker said he asked the Königlicher Hirschgarten manager if he would do something, but he declined, saying he did not know who Hasselbach was. The Königlicher Hirschgarten declined to comment when contacted by The Local. Finally Hasselbach left, which Stocker attributed to complaints by guests. In response to media reports of the incident, the website for Die Rechte’s branch in Munich wrote that Hasselbach had not left because of the altercation with Stocker and had gone home of his own accord. “Hans-Georg Stocker is again trying to distinguish himself publicly,” Hasselbach said in the Die Rechte post.

Stocker said he hopes the story of what happened in the beer garden will motivate others to do the same. "We need to encourage people to say ‘we don’t want Nazis here'," Stocker said. "I hope that in the future, others will react and say they won’t accept neo-Nazis in their restaurants, beer gardens, and so on. "What is important is to stand up for what is right." German media also reported this week that Die Rechte neo-Nazis in Dortmund have started patrolling the streets as a sort of vigilante group. Dressed in matching yellow T-Shirts declaring themselves “Dortmund city protection”, the right-wing vigilantes have been looking for criminals on buses and metro lines. Though the group’s blog says they have been offering a helping hand to public transit riders for things like buying a ticket, the blog also notes that the group was started after an alleged crime by a group of immigrants, and discusses how the vigilantes “made a group of black Africans nervous”. Both local police and public transportation officials have condemned the vigilante group, saying they are working to ban them, according to broadcaster N-TV.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Roma: Discriminated in Serbia, unwanted in Germany

Germany regards Balkan states, like Serbia, as "safe countries of origin." It makes no difference that the Roma live on the fringes of society and are discriminated against.
Roma children


10/8/2015- These past weeks, it's all about Dragan. The media report about people like him - and politicians express disgust - because Dragan and the likes of him allegedly take advantage of the generosity of Germany's welfare system. Seated on a bench in front of the reception facility for asylum seekers in the leafy Bonn neighborhood of Muffendorf, the young Roma from Sabac in Serbia says "problems" took him so far from home. "I heard you can get asylum here, and get your life back on track."

Bleak prospects
Dragan, who asked not to see his real name in print, came to Germany with his wife and three children. He's waiting for a hearing with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), where he will be granted a few hours to explain why he is seeking refuge in Germany. Dragan will speak of hardship in his native country, suspicious glances when he is seeking work and the provocation and abuse he suffers daily. "I will tell the truth, and then we'll see," he says. The outcome is not likely to be what Dragan is hoping for. He comes from a so-called safe country of origin, and he is young and healthy. Germany only grants people from the Balkans temporary shelter if they are seriously ill, BAMF President Manfred Schmidt told DW. Only one or two of 1,000 applicants are granted asylum status.

The Berlin government argues that political persecution doesn't exist in Serbia, Macedonian and Bosnia, just like in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, which are about to be added to the list of safe countries of origin. Not everyone agrees. It's true, you can't charge these countries with politically persecuting the Roma, says law professor Norman Paech. "But the accumulated sordid situations these people experience does add up to cumulative persecution," Paech told DW. Germany, he says, disregards EU guidelines that define persecution more broadly than just an act by the state.

Discrimination, racism
More than 90 percent of all asylum seekers from Serbia are Roma - a sad record for the region. According to official figures, 155,000 Roma live in Serbia. But the figure is misleading. The Roma National Council says many hush up their nationality for fear of discrimination. According to estimates, as many as 500,000 Roma live in Serbia. Many live in slums, often without running water, electricity or health care. Their children rarely go to school, and less than one percent of Roma in Serbia have an academic degree. Those are facts shown in official Serb documents, and recognized by critics in the NGOs. "The Roma in Serbia are seen as and treated like an inferior race," says Serb sociologist Dario Hajric, adding that Roma are described as filthy and dumb, as rapists and pedophiles. "Most people don't want Roma neigbors, friends, colleagues or family members," Hajric says. This attitude, he explains occasionally leads to attacks on the Roma or their ramshackle communities. There are plenty of examples of this kind of racism. DW editors have deleted user comments on DW's Serbian-language page because the posts unabashadly called Roma "gypsy" scum and liars who produce countless children to get more social welfare.

"Professional false asylum-seekers"
The Belgrade government supplies ammunition for such racist remarks, Hajric points out. The powers that be aim for a pro-European image, but call thousands of citizens "professional false asylum-seekers." The Roma just "want German money," Serb Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic recently told Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview. Asked why the Roma of all people have such a hard time, Vucic said: "For historic reasons, Roma are traditionally very poor." German politicians also do their bit to add to the mood, says Lina Hüffelmann, who advises asylum seekers for the city of Cologne's refugee council. With their statements, democratically-elected politicians make anti-Roma sentiments socially acceptable, she says. "This is not just about the Christian Social Union (CSU); people on the far right fringes and increasingly from the middle of society are raising their voices to join in," she says. All of this has an influence on the decisions taken by BAMF staff members, Hüffelmann warns, and recounts cases where even before the applicant's asylum hearing had taken place, officials had on their desks fully completed rejections.

Does Dragan know what German politicians think about him, about the Roma?
The young man smiles nervously and nods. In Germany, his family will receive 143 euros ($157) per month per person - but he says that's not why he came. "Perhaps some people come because of the money, but many flee from actual problems." He gives the impression of a man who knows that he will not be granted asylum. In three or four months, Dragan will be back in Sabac. While politicians are working on speeding things up, that's currently how long average asylum procedures take for applicants from safe countries of origin.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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France’s Right Wing Wants to Deny Pork-Free School Meals to Muslims and Jews

In the land of liberté, égalité, and fraternité, pork-free meals are apparently not guaranteed.

12/8/2015- Or at least that’s the case in the riverside town of Chalon-sur-Saone, near Dijon, where Mayor Gilles Platret announced in March that Jewish and Muslim pupils did not deserve the right to school meals made without pork. Although pork-free meals have been offered for 31 years in the Burgundy town, Platret wrote in a letter to parents that school canteens … should revert to neutral spaces.” Shortly after the Platret issued his pork or nothing policy, the Muslim Judicial Defence League filed a legal complaint, claiming that “a child would be extremely traumatised if a pork cutlet was served to him and he was obliged to eat it after he has been repeatedly told from a young age that it’s forbidden food.” This week, a French court will rule on the legality of the ban, according to the AFP. Platret is not the only French politician to have made a move priding pork over religious observance recently.

In December, the mayor of the little town of Sargé-lès-Le Mans announced that students who did not eat pork would not receive a substitute meal. According to TheLocal, the move affected 15 Muslim pupils in the school, but the school was not believed to have any Jewish students. “The mayor is not required to provide meals that respond to religious requirements,” Mayor Marcel Mortreau said at the time. “This is the principle of secularism.” That echoes the words of Platret’s attorney, who recently said that France’s authorities were not required to “provide everyone what they need to exercise their religion.” That unflagging commitment to “secularism” is increasingly common in France, one of only two countries in the world to have an enacted a nationwide ban on the wearing of burqas in public. France is also home to the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe.

Tensions over Islam have remained high in the country in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January, and the ISIS-related beheading of a man in June. Earlier this summer, French recipe site Marmiton decided to post a series of Ramadan recipes, only to be met with racist trolls. As the AFP notes, moves like Platret’s are viewed by many “as pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment at a time of heightened tensions over jihadist attacks.” But the right’s xenophobic crusade predates the violence at Charlie Hebdo. In April of last year, far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen led her own charge against halal and kosher meals, telling a French radio station, “We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus … There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.”
© Munchies- The Vice

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France: Jean-Marie Le Pen slams daughter Marine as 'unfit' for President

The family feud between the far-right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, and her father, Jean-Marie, deepend this weekend, with the latter saying his daughter is 'neither ethically nor politically' qualified to run for the presidency in 2017.

10/8/2015- In an interview published in Sunday paper Journal du Dimanche, Jean-Marie Le Pen threw a fresh punch at his daughter Marine, saying she was "sawing off the branch on which she's sitting." That branch is of course the National Front party he founded in 1972, and which he says his daughter is destroying, through her attempts to clean up the party's image. The far-right patriarch, 87, was suspended from the FN in April over inflammatory comments he made belittling the Holocaust and lauding the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime. On Sunday, he spoke of his "betrayal" at Marine Le Pen's rejection of the party's fundamental values and said "if she contines down the same route, he will not vote for her in two year's time." He left open the possibility that he might lead a dissident far-right campaign in the south of France in regional elections in December. Le Pen senior, still honorary president of the far right party, will have to go before the executive bureau on August 20, which will decide on his possible exclusion.

It comes after his suspension last month was overturned following a legal challenge. He also successfully opposed through the courts an attempt by his daughter, 47, to abolish his status as honorary President. Le Pen initially protested that it was “scandalous” that he should be ordered to break his August holidays to appear before the executive bureau. Now he says, however, that he will go along to force Marine Le Pen and the other bureau members to “look (him) in the eyes.” Jean-Marie Le Pen has been very critical of the party's management since his daughter started the process of "de-demonising" the National Front, with the help of her number two, Florian Philippot. She is “neither ethically nor politically” qualified to run for the presidency in 2017, he was quoted as saying. Le Pen holds Philippot-who he's made no secrecy of disliking- responsible for his daughter's misguidance, saying the “evil genius” was keeping her “prisoner.”
© RFI

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Bosnia/Serbia: Attack on Bosnian Muslims Raises Tensions in Prijedor

Apparently unprovoked assault of four Bosniaks in north-western town aggravates ethnic tensions in region that has seen a spate of such incidents recently.

13/8/2015- Another in a series of ethnic-related incidents has increased tension in the Prijedor region of northwest Bosnia, in the Republika Srpska, only two days after local authorities and members of religious communities met to calm the situation. The incident took place in front of a bakery early on Wednesday when four Serbs approached four Bosniaks and attacked them without reason, two of the victims told the media. "They asked us where are we coming from ... and then the question followed: 'Are you Balije (a derogatory term for Bosniaks)?" one of the victims told the media. "I did not want to fall for this provocation, I even offered him my hand ....I turned around, there were no indications that something might happen... At that moment I was hit in the left side of my face and lower lip, and then the second blow brought me down and I hit the floor," he said.

One of the Bosniaks was living and working in France and another in Sweden. Both of them came to Prijedor to visit friends and families during summer holidays.  Police said they were still investigating the incident.  "There was a disturbance of public order and peace by eight people. Two groups of four people each participated. Until all the facts are not established we cannot say anything else," Marija Matic, Prijedor police spokeswoman, said.  "One [group] say one thing and another, something else. We will have more information tomorrow," she concluded.  This attack follows similar incidents in the last few months in Prijedor, where a fragile ethnic coexistence has only slowly been re-established since the 1992-5 war in Bosnia.

At the beginning of the war, Bosnian Serbs forced 60,000 non-Serbs - half of Prijedor's total 120,000 inhabitants - to flee. During this "ethnic cleansing", some 4,200 Bosniaks and Croats were killed. Since the war, some 23,000 non-Serbs - predominately Bosniaks - have returned. Others established new lives abroad, but many have kept their houses and apartments in Prijedor and still visit them, especially during summer. In recent years, Prijedor and the surrounding area has seen more than 20,000 mainly Bosniak visitors over the summer period. Over the years Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs have learned to live again next to each other and the number of ethnic incidents has dwindled. But incidents have increased again over the past few months around the 20th anniversaries of the Srebrenica massacre last month and Croatia’s Operation Storm.

These tensions led to an attack on Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at the 20th anniversary Srebrenica commemoration, but also to several attacks on Bosniaks in Republika Srpska, Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity. In the last months, two Bosniak weddings were marred by verbal altercations and fist fights between wedding guests and local Serbs, angered by the sight of Bosnian state flags flown in the motorcade. In addition, two young Bosniaks who had temporarily returned from Switzerland were attacked by local Serbs in a café in Prijedor because one of them was wearing a T-shirt with Bosnia’s flag on it. Several cars, most of them owned by Bosniak returnees, were also set on fire in the Prijedor area recently. Town officials told BIRN that it was clear that the number of incidents in the last few months has exceeded the total number in the past few years. For this reason, Prijedor mayor Marko Pavic held an urgent meeting on Monday with representatives of different religious communities to discuss the security situation.

The meeting apparently failed to calm down tensions. Following the incident on Wednesday, the chief imam of one of Prijedor's mosques, Omer Redzic, wrote on social networks that he had requested both Serb and Bosniak politicians in Prijedor to "finally start doing their job. "Mr. Mayor... the time has come for you to punish these thugs," Redzic said. "This has become unbearable." The incident has also caused anger among Bosniaks that is visible on all social networks and local web portals, including comments amounting to open warmongering and demands for revenge.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbian Officials Deny Migrant Centre Rumours

A senior Serbian politician claimed that the EU could finance a huge centre to house migrants from the Middle East in Serbia, but government officials denied this
 
10/8/2015-  Momir Stojanovic, the chairman of the Serbian parliament’s committee for security services control, said on Monday that the EU had no solution for the large number of migrants entering its territory so it could finance the building of a huge centre to house them in the Balkans. “There is speculation that the EU wants such a centre in the Balkans, and that there is a large chance that the centre will be located in Serbia. There are also rumours that the centre could be located somewhere in southern Serbia,” Stojanovic told Belgrade-based newspaper Blic. He added that Serbian government should not agree to any such proposal. “I hope that the EU will not pressure Serbia about the construction of the centre because if only 20 per cent of those people decide to stay in Serbia, it could be a major economic and security problem,” Stojanovic said.

But Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that there was no pressure from the EU on Belgrade to build such a centre. “Serbia has no capacities for such a centre and does not want to launch that project… Serbia is not building any permanent shelter centres for migrants and will not build them,” Vulin told Blic on Monday. Nikola Jovanovic, programme director at the Belgrade-based Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, said that the EU apparently gave up its own policy towards Middle East. “Fearing of the consequences of the new conflicts in the Middle East, Europe is politically and physically distancing itself from the Balkans and trying to protect its ‘soft underbelly’ – the central European plain,” Jovanovic told Belgrade-based newspaper Politika on Monday. He added that the EU “sooner or later” is going to realise that building fences, like the one Hungary is constructing on the Serbian border, will not solve the problem.

Until that happens, he said, Serbia should improve its relations with Balkan Muslims, establish close ties with Macedonia and Greece, which are also struggling with the influx of migrants and have a humane attitude towards the refugees from the Middle East. Around 66,500 refugees, mostly from the Middle East, have arrived in Serbia this year, but very few want to stay in the country permanently, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Migrants mostly see Serbia as a transit country on the way to the EU and only 484 of have started applying for asylum in Serbia, while 14 have been granted refugee status. Serbia established a reception centre for migrants in southern town of Presevo earlier this year. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic recently warned that Serbia is spending around 15,000 euros a day because of the migrant crisis and that the state budget cannot withstand that for a long period so it needs help from the EU.
© Balkan Insight

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Cyprus: Far right group disrupts memorial service

10/8/2015- Members of far right party ELAM disrupted a memorial service held in Paralimni on Sunday, after they heckled and hurled water bottles at two government ministers. The ministers were attending a memorial service for Tasos Isaak and Solomos Solomou, who were killed in Famagusta in 1996 while demonstrating against Turkish occupation. When the ministers of energy and agriculture appeared in the cemetery, a group of around 30 members of ELAM started to heckle them and shout abuse. Water bottles were also thrown at the ministers while some of the black-clad nationalists tried to move against them. They were removed from the immediate area but the heckling continued forcing the parents of Isaak and Solomou to ask the group to respect their children’s memory. The abuse resumed when Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis laid a wreath on behalf of the president. The group shouted slogans against a federal solution, calling those who supported it traitors. DISY and AKEL party officials were also jeered.

Kouyialis called on the people and the political leadership to support the president in his efforts to find a peaceful and fair solution to the Cyprus problem. He also warned that “no one will prevent the government and the state from honouring the memory of these two heroes no matter what they do or say.” Kouyialis said people had every right to express their view as long as it was done within the legal limits. Famagusta Bishop Vassilios questioned whether the cemetery service should be held. “I will talk with the authorities and the families to find some other way to honour our martyrs and not this way,” he said. Acting president Yiannakis Omirou condemned the incident. “Undermining democracy, bigotry, and fascist behaviour, led to the treason and 1974 tragedy,” Omirou said in a written statement. Isaak was killed on August 11, 1996 during an anti-occupation demonstration in Dherynia

During the demonstration inside the buffer zone, Greek Cypriot protesters were confronted by Turkish nationalists known as Grey Wolves. At some point Isaak got trapped in the barbed wire and it was not long before a mob, which included uniformed Turkish Cypriot security forces, assaulted and beat him to death. Solomou, Isaak’s cousin, was shot and killed three days later in the same area. The incident followed Isaak’s funeral. Demonstrators went back to the area and Solomou, cigarette in mouth, climbed a flagpole to remove the Turkish flag. Included in the shooters, who were identified later on, was Kenan Akin, Turkish Cypriot ‘agriculture minister’ at the time.
© The Cyprus Mail

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Netherlands: Bijenkorf stores to replace Zwarte Piet with golden ones

10/8/2015- The Bijenkorf department store group is replacing the traditional automated climbing ‘Zwarte Piets’ which decorate its main halls every Sinterklaas with golden Piets. The store group said it is making the change because because the new golden Piets fit better with the Bijenkorf’s upmarket image and not because of the ongoing debate about the future of Sinterklaas’ helper. ‘We are making the change because of our luxury premium experience strategy,’ a spokeswoman told DutchNews.nl. The company has invested considerably in updating its stores and in Amsterdam focuses heavily on the luxury tourist market. ‘The choice of a golden climbing Piet underlines the development towards a luxury shopping experience,’ the statement said. The character of Zwarte Piet, or Black Piet, is the subject of heated discussion in the Netherlands. Opponents argue that Piet is a racist stereotype while supporters say he is a harmless children’s friend. There were calls for a boycott of Dutch high street retail group Hema last year following reports it was to phase out Sinterklaas’s controversial helper from gift packaging and displays.
© The Dutch News

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Polish FA chief Boniek enters racism row defending Lech Poznan

10/8/2015- Zbigniew Boniek, the president of the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and former Polish international with spells at Roma and Juventus, has spurred controversy with a string of negative tweets criticising Never Again (Nigdy Wiecej), a Polish anti-racist association which cooperates with the anti-discrimination group FARE. The incident came shortly after Polish side Lech Poznan was fined by UEFA following a Champions League qualifier match against FK Sarajevo and the display of a banner denounced as racist by UEFA. On his twitter account, which has close to 300,000 followers, Boniek pasted links to articles on Never Again and one of its members, Jacek Purski. One of the articles called Purski a "red nit and a Communist agent."

UEFA had sanctioned the Polish club following a banner reading 'The Pi³a Legion - the blood of our race' was displayed at the qualifier. A UEFA statement said: "The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has ordered KKS Lech Poznań to play its next (1) UEFA competition match as host club behind closed doors. The Polish club has also been fined €50,000." The PZPN has protested against the fine, and released its own statement saying that "it fully accepts the zero tolerance policy regarding racism and nazism," but that it should be "emphasised that, according to [Lech Poznan], its supporters and observers, the banner did not display racist contents". Moreover, "in the past, the banner had been displayed at other European cup matches played by Lech Poznan," the PZPN said.
© Inside World Football.

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Czech football fans hang up Islamophobic banner during match, team later apologizes

14/8/2015- During a football match on 2 August between the Bohemians 1905 and FK Jablonec teams, fans from Jablonec nad Nisou hung up a banner in the stands that insulted Muslims. The provocative caricature depicted a Nordic female carrying a shield inscribed with "Europe" and kicking a pig wearing a turban, who is dropping a copy of the Koran as a result. FK Jablonec has distanced itself from the banner. "We would like to apologize to all minorities whom that image might have incensed for the undignified behavior of some of our fans," club spokesperson Štģpán Hanuš told news server iDNES.cz. Police are already investigating the event and the fans are suspected of having committed the crime of inciting hatred against a group of persons and suppressing their rights and freedoms. The banner was originally made for the European League match against Copenhagen, but in an abbreviated, different form. A UEFA delegate rejected the abbreviated banner just before the European League match began. For the Bohemians-Jablonec match the banner was approved in its original form, but when the fans hung it up, they had modified it in the interim to its fuller and most offensive form. Some Bohemians 1905 fans, for their part, brought a small sign reading Refugees Welcome (in English) to the match. The Barflies United Facebook community published a photograph of them holding that sign to its own profile.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Real estate agent must apologise to Roma for discrimination

14/8/2015- Czech real estate agent Eliska Noskova must apologise to Romany Lenka Balogova for discrimination since Noskova's agency refused to rent a flat to her over her ethnicity, a district court ruled Friday. However, the court rejected a 100,000-crown compensation that Balogova had demanded. Neither Balogova nor her lawyer attended the court proceedings when verdict was issued. Balogova pretended being interested in a flat, but a representative of the real estate agency rejected her because the owner did not wish Romany tenants. Judge Jiri Slapal said the recording of an interview between Balogova and the real estate agent proved that Balogova was discriminated against.

Noskova must apologise within three days as soon as the verdict takes effect. The court also gave her the exact text of the apology. Noskova told reporters that she was satisfied with the verdict, though she did not rule out an appeal. "I suppose that an apology has been offered twice in a phone conversation," she said. The verdict will influence her work. "We must be careful or simply adapt to the circumstances to prevent a similar situation from repeating," Noskova added. The dispute dates back to 2013 when the Ombudsman's Office was testing the willingness of North Bohemian real estate agencies to mediate flats rental to Romanies.

The Ombudsman's Office cooperated with the Counselling Centre for Citizenship, Civil and Human Rights that was checking the approach of real estate agencies to Romanies on the basis of a contract with the ombudsman. Then ombudsman Pavel Varvarovsky wanted to look into the case of real estate agents who refused to mediate rental housing to Romanies saying the flat owners did not wish it. The court did not agree with the demanded financial compensation due to the form of testing. "The complainant could on reasonable grounds expect a discriminatory reaction by some of the real estate agencies since it was a field research... It was actually an order for a state body," judge Slapal explained to CTK, adding that the decision-making in this case was not easy.
($1=24.322 crowns)
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech politicians ‘hypocritical’ on refugees

Czechs apply unfair criteria on refugees, often depict supporters as traitors.

10/8/2015- Czechs tend to apply unfair criteria to the refugees coming to the country, and the approach of Czech political elites to them is hypocritical, Jan Ku˛vart writes in daily Hospodáųské noviny (HN). When discussing the refugee wave, the Czechs demand the equality before law for themselves and the refugees. They want the same criteria and approach to be applied to all, Ku˛vart writes. However, a problem emerges when people adopt the role of infallible “social surveyors,” he says. The Islamobphobic movements warn that Muslim refugees will prevail over Czechs and strip them of the freedom of speech one day. At the same time, however, they suggest that refugees be verbally supported by no one but the people who have accommodated them in their homes. On the other hand, the criticism of refugees is allowed to everyone, by which the balance of people’s equal right to the freedom of speech is questioned, Ku˛vart writes.

Refugees are often portrayed as inferior humans who could destroy “our life style,” he continues. “However, an indivisible part of our life style is democracy, which we are dismantling by ourselves in advance by waving [model] gallows at [anti-migration demonstrations in] town squares and calling for ‘traitors’ to be stripped of civil rights,” Ku˛vart writes. Even a bigger problem is that the state, too, fails to observe single rules of the game, he continues. Martin Rozumek, a lawyer and head of the Organization for Aid to Refugees, wrote on the A2larm server on August 3 that the Czech authorities’ way of treating refugees in fact disrespects the international law, the EU directives and Czech court verdicts, Ku˛vart writes. For example, the state does not ensure free legal aid to the refugees, nor does it ensure legal representation for the people deprived of the freedom of movement, though it should do so, Ku˛vart writes.

In addition, a hypocritical approach has been taken by Czech elites. President Miloš Zeman wants the refugees to respect the rules that are valid in the Czech Republic, which is a rightful demand, Ku˛vart writes. However, Zeman simultaneously says he “does not want Islam” in the CzechRepublic. This goes counter to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms that is a part of the Czech constitution and that explicitly guarantees people’s freedom of religion, Ku˛vart points out. In view of the inconsistence of Zeman’s positions, it probably surprises no one that Zeman vowed to fight “neo-Nazi groups” in his presidential inauguration speech in early 2013, but a couple of years later he publicly supported the We Don’s Want Islam in the Czech Republic group that the Interior Ministry describes as an extremist platform with rhetorics, demands and methods identical with the ultra-right camps’, Ku˛vart writes.

Most shamefully, the Czech society applies different criteria to the strong and the weak, he continues. Bowing to the EU, Prague approved its own “voluntary” refugee quotas after rejecting, for the sake of appearances, the quotas proposed by Brussels, he writes. However, the number of refugees in the CzechRepublic is low and only few Czechs have seen a Muslim with their own eyes. As a result, Czechs dare to warn against and incite hatred towards minorities, Ku˛vart says. The maneuvering by Czechs between the defeatism towards the strong and pogroms against the weak is nothing new, but now they are trying to do both simultaneously, Ku˛vart writes. The Czechs should try to apply single criteria to all. Moral integrity is not to be sneezed at, he concludes.
© The Prague Post

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UK: Mayor of Liverpool calls for free speech curbs ahead of racist White Man March

The mayor believes the right to protest should end if there is an intent to “threaten, intimidate and hurt the community

14/8/2015- Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is calling for new curbs to free speech to prevent neo-Nazi rallies like the one being staged in the city centre tomorrow. Mayor Anderson says the right to protest should end if there is an intent to “threaten, intimidate and hurt the community”. His comments come 24 hours before the so-called White Man March, organised by far-right pressure group National Action, is due to take place in Liverpool city centre. Speaking of National Action in a blog post on the Liverpool Labour Party’s website, Mayor Anderson wrote: “This organisation is not on the wing of any normal political ideology – they have actually fallen off the edge. “Their views are so extreme that they challenge us all as a society – can we turn a blind eye to their venom and hatred because of their right to freedom of speech?”

He continued: “The time has come to stand up and change the rules to reflect a better balance between people’s rights to freedom of speech and our responsibility towards each other. “New ideas and opinions must be heard. Unless they clearly have only one aim – to threaten, intimidate and hurt the community we live in across the UK. “Free speech comes with a responsibility not to incite hatred, racial or otherwise.” Mayor Anderson went on to propose a new system that grants city leaders, such as himself, the power to ban extremist marches – a power that currently only lies with Home Secretary Theresa May. He said: “We need to reverse the current situation where I, as the highest-ranking democratically elected official in my city, have no power to represent my community and take steps to safeguard my communities – only the Home Secretary does.” The Anti-Fascist Network (AFN), Britain’s largest anti-fascist organisation, also plans to march through Liverpool tomorrow to protest against National Action’s rally.
© The Liverpool Echo

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UK: 'Ginger Pride' festival to be held in city hit by anti-redhead hate crime

A British city is holding the country’s first ever ‘Ginger Pride’ festival - after police revealed details of crimes committed against redheads.

14/8/2015- Officers in Plymouth have published crime figures following a Freedom of Information request revealing a series of incidents where victims have been targeted solely because of their hair colour. The incidents include a serious assault and other reports of harassment against people with ginger locks. Now the city - which lists famous redhead Sir Francis Drake among its former residents - will host a unique festival expected to draw gingers from across the country. The event is being organised by Stuart Parry, 43, who has been trying to arrange a mass get-together with his fellow flamed-haired men and women for several years. His idea started as a backlash to the cartoon series South Park, which featured an episode based on a Kick a Ginger Day and which was later blamed for a series of copycat attacks in Britain.

EastEnders actress Patsy Palmer later revealed she had been bullied so badly at school for having red hair that she had to undergo therapy. This has been reflected in the crime statistics released by Devon and Cornwall Police which highlight incidents in which the victim's hair colour was a factor. The force revealed that in January 2013, a red-headed person was assaulted and suffered actual bodily harm, with the offender given a caution. In February last year there was a record of a ginger person being threatened and suffering abusive, insulting words or behaviour and being caused harrasment, alarm or distress. That crime is still under investigation. In a third incident in Plymouth, police investigated a similar report but found no suspect. Police have previously revealed that attacks against people with red hair do not meet the legal definition of a hate crime - which only includes mentions of race or religion.

Some have argued that England has a particularly strong history of anti-Ginger sentiment linked to anti-Celtic, anti-Irish and anti-Scots prejudice. However, Stuart says the gingers are now fighting back and he puts the resurgence down to the rise of celebrities such as actors Eddie Redmayne and Damian Lewis, singer Ed Sheeran and model Lily Cole. Prince Harry has brought a royal touch to the movement while Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame has also been a popular member of the famous ginger club. Stuart is determined to press ahead with the festival due to what he perceives as a significant recent improvement in the way “his kind” are now treated by the public. He said: “We want to celebrate the fact that we are little bit different, but not too different. “The only thing we have in common is our hair colour, but that gives us shared experiences.”

The event, which he is calling Gingers: The Gathering, is expected to include ginger-themed food and drink and a carrot cake contest. Stuart, a pizza delivery driver, has set a provisional date for the festival next summer. He said: “It’s going to be a celebrating for people to see we’re not quite as weird as you all thought. It’s not going to be a ‘we’re gingers, we’re different’ event, we already know that, it’s just a celebration. “The place in mind has a capacity of about 150/200, which seems like a reasonable ambition for our first go. “We sent a tentative time for summer 2016 which gives us plenty of time to make plans and to promote the event. “We do have a local celebrity who is going to judge a gingerbread decorating competition, and we’re hoping to have live music too. "The daughter of one the people at the meeting is going to create a display on the science of redheads. “We’ve obviously hit on something here.”
© The Mirror

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UK: 'Marauding' migrants threaten standard of living, says foreign secretary

Senior Labour figures accuse Philip Hammond of scaremongering after he claims Europe ‘can’t protect itself’ if forced to take millions of migrants.

10/8/2015- The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has weighed in to the debate over migration with some of the government’s strongest language yet, claiming millions of marauding African migrants pose a threat to the EU’s standard of living and social structure. Senior Labour figures responded by accusing Hammond of scaremongering after he claimed Europe “can’t protect itself” if it has to take in millions of migrants from Africa. Speaking to the BBC while visiting Singapore on Sunday, Hammond said: “The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe.” He said: “So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel security. We’ve got to resolve this problem ultimately by being able to return those who are not entitled to claim asylum back to their countries of origin.”

Hammond said EU laws meant migrants could be “pretty confident” that after setting foot on EU soil they would not be returned to their country of origin. “Now that is not a sustainable situation because Europe can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa.” Three of the candidates to be Labour’s next leader condemned Hammond’s use of language. Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, described it as “alarmist and unhelpful”, and Liz Kendall said there should be no place for dehumanising language in the debate. Jeremy Corbyn said Hammond’s comments were part of a pattern of language designed to whip up prejudice and hostility. Hammond’s intervention is the latest evidence that the government is heightening its anti-immigration rhetoric in response to the migrant crisis in Calais, but its use of language surrounding the issue has already led ministers into controversy.

In July, rights groups and politicians rounded on David Cameron when he told ITV news that there was a “swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean” to seek a better life in Britain. Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham criticised the prime minister’s phrasing, tweeting: “Cameron calling Calais migrants a ‘swarm’ is nothing short of disgraceful. Confirms there’s no dog-whistle these Bullingdon Boys won’t blow.”
© The Guardian

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UK: Bradford 14-year-old given 11 years for racist attack on teacher

10/8/2015- A 14-year-old boy who stabbed his black teacher in a racially motivated attack has been given an 11-year sentence, with six years in custody and five years on licence. The pupil at Dixons Kings academy in Bradford used a racially offensive insult against supply teacher Vincent Uzomah and then stabbed him in the stomach. The court heard that the boy, who can’t be named, had frequently used racist language in regards to Mr Uzomah. He had taken a knife to school, discussing plans with other students to stab a teacher. Following an argument with Mr Uzomah over a mobile phone, the boy sat at his desk muttering racist insults, then approached the teacher and stabbed him. The boy then fled the school, while the prosecution said Mr Uzomah believed he was going to die. The boy later posted on Facebook, boasting about the attack.
© Euronews

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UK: Nobody attended the neo-Nazi demo against Jews in Finchley today

Total number of neo-Nazis demonstrating against Jews in Finchley today 0

8/8/2015- We have been watching for a month as the two dozen neo-Nazis we stopped from demonstrating in Golders Green in July tried to organise another demonstration against Jews in Finchley. We have been in contact with the police throughout, but this time we did not have to take action to stop the neo-Nazis. They were defeated by lack of support from other neo-Nazis. After the last demonstration, the neo-Nazis complained about “massive, negative and wholly untrue publicity” and the way that their “truthful opposition” had been “stifled”. Instead of looking like heroes, they looked like fools. By standing firm instead of heeding calls to ignore the neo-Nazis we showed them that we are not an easy target, and we also showed the police that we will accept nothing less than zero tolerance. It is possible that the neo-Nazis will try again. We are working with lawyers on means of crippling future attempts and also pursuing police complaints against two of their leaders. Meanwhile, we continue our work against Islamist and far-left antisemitism as well as far-right antisemitism.
© The Campaign Against Antisemitism

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UK: Neo-Nazis threaten race riots if Mayor Joe Anderson cancels city centre march

National Action sent a sinister letter to Liverpool Mayor which says the city "will go up in flames"

9/8/2015- Far-right neo-Nazis threatened to cause race riots in Liverpool in a sinister letter to Mayor Joe Anderson. White supremacist group National Action has threatened that the city “will go up in flames” if a racist march through its streets is banned. In the letter directly addressed to the Liverpool Mayor, and seen by the ECHO, the group promises violent retribution if their planned ‘White Man March’ next Saturday is not allowed to go ahead. The hate-filled letter states: “God help you and your Liverpool vision if you interfere with our God given right of public expression and freedom of speech. “We look forward to a National Action-packed weekend of ethnically-enriched chaos and mayhem. We may even pay you a visit if things are played against us. It’s in your hands.” The letter ends: “Only Bullets Will Stop Us!”

Last night, outraged Mr Anderson reacted furiously to the group’s threats and called for a change in the law to allow him to cancel their event. Currently, Home Secretary Theresa May is the only person with the powers to veto lawful democratic protests on Britain’s streets. She is understood to be aware of the group’s threats and is consulting urgently with Merseyside police. Speaking to the Sunday Mirror Mayor Anderson said: “These people are trying to blackmail me and the people of Liverpool into allowing them to stage a racist march which no-one here wants. "We are proud of our diverse racial mix and I am appalled by this group. I will defend the right to freedom of speech until the day I die, but there is no place for anyone who seeks to incite racial hatred and violence. “I have asked the police to halt the march and I am calling on the Home Secretary to allow me to forbid it before it even starts.

"The power to do so should lie with me. She doesn’t know this city as well as I do and cannot begin to fully understand what the people of Liverpool think about this group and their ideas.” A rally in Liverpool last year provoked angry barracking from members of the public and police were forced to break it up. Group members then handed out National Action leaflets which read: “Cleanse Britain of parasites. The white man is on the march - white power.” It claims 150 supporters - some allegedly coming from Russia, France and Germany - will be at next Saturday’s march which will pass directly though the main shopping area. A year ago the Mirror exposed the ugly face of National Action and published photographs of its leaders spouting racist bile in front of shoppers and families in Liverpool city centre. Days later its leader, student Alex Davies, 19, was expelled from Warwick University. The probe revealed him proudly describing the group as “like the BNP but more radical.”

The group has demonstrated at Nelson Mandela’s statue in London, draped a banner with the slogan “Anti-Racist is a Codeword for Anti-White” over a bridge in Birmingham, and held a placard-waving “flash mob” in Coventry.
© The Liverpool Echo

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Sweden’s tolerant image compromised by attacks on Roma

Beggars from poor EU states are splitting Swedish society and fuelling extremism.

9/8/2015- After begging through the night outside bars and nightclubs, Gheorghe Rancu, a homeless migrant from Romania, was asleep one morning this summer in a Stockholm park when he woke with a start and felt a sharp pain on his face. “I could feel the skin peeling. I jumped up. I closed my eyes,” he said, pointing to the park location where someone doused him with a corrosive fluid that the police suspect contained chlorine. “I thought I was going to die.” With hospital treatment, Rancu managed to avoid scarring. But the assault, for which there is no suspect, has left a different kind of mark. “When I come to this park I am shaking,” said Rancu, who looks older than his 27 years and who says he wants to return to Romania as soon as he has money.

Tolerant reputation
The attack, in Berzelii Park, was one of a growing number on Roma migrants here, a trend that challenges Sweden’s reputation as one of Europe’s most tolerant and welcoming nations. It also speaks to a wrinkle in the debate over the waves of migration that are posing political, economic and social challenges across Europe. Unlike refugees from Syria, Africa and other war-torn and impoverished places who arrive in Europe illegally, citizens of European Union nations like Romania are free to travel wherever they wish within the bloc. But while refugees from outside Europe who gain asylum become eligible for basic social welfare benefits, poor European migrants who lack jobs – most notably the transient Roma beggars – typically get little or no help from the government safety net.

Sweden granted 31,220 asylum applications last year from refugees coming from outside the European Union. But now it is also struggling with an influx of migrants from poorer southern European nations like Romania who have become a flashpoint in the conflict over the limits of European generosity. “The issue is being discussed in every town and city in Sweden,” said Sven Hovmoller, a professor of chemistry at Stockholm University and vice-chairman of an organisation created to support homeless migrants, called HEM, or “foreningen for hemlosa EU-migranter”. “Anywhere in the country, as long as there is a food store, there will be someone sitting outside it begging,” he added. That is partly because, as he put it, “poor people have noticed that they, too, can move around Europe to try to find a better future”.

Poverty in Romania makes that country a significant point of origin for such migrants, especially for Roma people, also known as Gypsies, many of whom also face prejudice; according to Eurostat, Romania has one of the lowest wealth levels in the entire bloc. In Sweden, the issue has helped fuel the rise of a right-wing, populist, anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, which won 13 per cent of the vote in last year’s national elections. There have been similar political reactions in Denmark, France and Britain, with concerns about the influx of EU workers fuelling a debate over whether Britain should quit the union.

Populist parties
“It is the biggest change in decades,” said Andreas Johansson Heino, publishing director of Timbro, a research institute, referring to the rise of the Sweden Democrats. “In Sweden, the lack of an anti-immigrant party was part of Swedish identity. We thought that here, we don’t have such populist parties.” Begging is not illegal in Sweden, but the Sweden Democrats want to criminalise it – at least in what the party calls its “organised” form. The police here say there are some 4,000 beggars in Sweden, of which 1,000 to 1,500 are in Stockholm. Linda Staaf, head of the intelligence division at the Swedish police department of national operations, said attacks against the Roma had increased, and opinion among Swedes was polarised between those hostile to begging and those who see beggars as people in need of help.

But the visibility of beggars – often carrying their possessions in the familiar large blue plastic bags from Ikea, one of Sweden’s best-known brands – has undoubtedly disconcerted many Swedes. In their well-ordered, affluent society, begging has been rare, according to Anna-Sophia Quensel, a researcher for Expo, an organisation set up by the late writer Stieg Larsson to combat right-wing extremism. “It’s splitting society into two,” she said, adding that beggars force Swedes to choose between engaging with, or ignoring, poor people who were rarely visible before. Charity workers say that while some Roma commit petty crimes, they are on the receiving end of much worse. From media reports, Expo has counted 77 attacks against beggars in the last 18 months, though charities expect the real figure is greater as such crimes tend to be underreported.

Camp burned
The attacks include one in Malmo where tents in a Roma camp were set on fire; another in Boras, where a beggar was run over by a moped; and one in Skara, where at least one migrant was hit by a pellet from an air rifle. Some internet pages highlight complaints against beggars, often referred to here as “European Union migrants”, and activists say the police give low priority to attacks on the beggars – an assertion the authorities deny. Faced with growing problems, the government has appointed a national co-ordinator, Martin Valfridsson, for vulnerable EU citizens. He describes hate crimes against the Roma as “evil”. In recent months, he says, Sweden has struck an agreement with Romania’s government to encourage co-operation between the countries’ health and social workers. Valfridsson favours legal changes to help prosecute migrants who control begging sites and extort a portion of the proceeds from the actual beggars. But he also wants to make it simpler for landowners to evict beggars from makeshift camps. “The message must be that you cannot simply live in the woods,” he said. “If you come to Sweden you have to make sure that you make enough money for a simple camp, or bed and breakfast.”
© The Irish Times.

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