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Headlines 1 July, 2016

Headlines 24 June, 2016


Headlines 17 June, 2016


'Brexiteer' Farage booed in rowdy EU parliament debate

28/6/2016- Leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage was booed and heckled in a raucous special session of the European Parliament on Tuesday as he accused the EU of imposing a superstate on its citizens and predicted other countries would leave the bloc like Britain. Facing Farage, who sat with a British "Union Jack" flag planted on the table in front of him, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asked: "Why are you here?" When Farage interrupted Juncker's speech to applaud the results of last week's British vote to leave the EU, the Commission chief shot back: "That is the last time you are applauding here." The exchanges underscored just how fraught ties between European officials and British politicians have become since the vote on Thursday, which left far-right anti-European parties across the bloc cheering and governments fretting about political and economic aftershocks.

It came hours before Prime Minister David Cameron met EU leaders for the first time since the referendum. The other 27 leaders will gather on Wednesday. The parliamentary session began on a friendly note, with Juncker air-kissing Farage, acknowledging sadness at the outcome of the referendum and paying tribute to Jonathan Hill, the British financial services commissioner who resigned on Saturday after campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. Hill, a popular figure among EU colleagues during his 18 months in Brussels, appeared overwhelmed by the outpouring. But the air of somber civility did not last long, as leading lawmakers accused the Leave camp of having lied their way to victory.

"Selfish Man"
In a fiery speech, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt accused British politicians of creating a "toxic climate" of uncertainty since the Brexit vote and described former London mayor Boris Johnson, a Brexit advocate and leading candidate to replace Cameron, as a "selfish man" who had put his own political ambitions above the interests of his country. German Manfred Weber, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of the biggest group in parliament, took on Farage in the packed house: "If you had an ounce of decency today, you would apologize to the British people. Shame on you." Many of the speakers appealed for unity and pressed Britain to speed its withdrawal from the EU to end uncertainty that has roiled financial markets and sparked concern about contagion to economically weak continental countries.

But Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front, hailed the Brexit vote as the most momentous event in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. "It is a cry of love by a people for their country," she said. "It is a huge victory for democracy and a slap at an EU built on fear, blackmail and lies." Speaking to reporters earlier, Farage appeared to backtrack on disputed claims by the Leave campaign that an exit would allow London to redirect 350 million pounds ($467.81 million) per week they alleged it sent to Brussels to Britain's National Health Service (NHS). Farage estimated the savings at 34 million pounds per day, significantly less than promised on a weekly basis. Experts have said the 350 million pound figure is a distortion. "If you had said this before the vote I could have congratulated you," Juncker said. "But you lied."

Farage has long used the Parliament, where UKIP has won seats much more easily than under Britain's voting system, as a platform for his campaign to get Britain out of the EU. By the time he rose to speak, hissing from other members of parliament had grown so loud that parliament president Martin Schulz was forced to admonish members. Recalling he was laughed at when he arrived in the chamber 17 years and spoke of Britain leaving the EU, Farage taunted MEPs: "You're not laughing now." He called Brexit vote a "seismic" result that offered a "beacon of hope" for democrats across Europe: "I will make one prediction this morning," said the former commodities trader. "The United Kingdom will not be the last member state to leave the European Union."
© Reuters


UK: Neo-Nazi propaganda appears in Glasgow including on war memorial

Is this who we are Glasgow? Neo-Nazi stickers have even defaced a war memorial

28/6/2016- Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in last week's referendum, neo-Nazi propaganda has been spotted popping up around Glasgow. Stickers with Nazi signs and the words 'no tolerance' have been spotted around Glasgow Green. And stickers saying 'white zone National Action' have also been seen. And there have been reports of neo-Nazi stickers on the La Pasionaria statue in Clyde Street which is a tribute to the British men who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39. The statue bears the slogan: "Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees." Anti-fascist groups have been working to remove the stickers and police are attempting to trace those responsible.
© Glasgow Live


UK: Act to Curb Xenophobic Attacks After Referendum

27/6/2016- The authorities should take strong action to curb xenophobic attacks and abuse in the United Kingdom in the wake of June 23, 2016 European Union referendum, Human Rights Watch said today. Individuals from minority ethnic and religious groups and people of other EU nationalities have reported being victims of verbal and physical abuse, and a Polish community center was daubed with threatening xenophobic graffiti. Human Rights Watch strongly encourages people to report such incidents to the police, and we call on the police to investigate them swiftly and seriously, and to take positive steps to protect people from such hate violence.

All British political leaders – particularly those who supported the campaign to leave the EU, which at times included anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric – should promptly speak out loudly, firmly, and repeatedly against xenophobic violence and abuse and the climate of xenophobia that can embolden or give legitimacy to those who would commit such crimes. The UK authorities have an obligation to ensure public safety and protect against discrimination and racism, and a failure by the authorities and political leaders to address – and be seen to address – these initial attacks risks creating a permissive climate for further attacks and exacerbating divisions within society.
© Human Rights Watch


Brexit: USA Woman Wants Brits To Wear Safety Pins To Show Solidarity With Migrants

“I wanted to do something, anything, to have some sort of positive effect,” said Allison, an American living in London, who came up with the idea

29/6/2016- Since last week’s vote to leave the EU, there have been a string of racist incidents reported in the UK. According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council there were 85 reports of hate crimes between Thursday and Sunday, compared with 54 reports over the same period last month. In one incident a Polish centre in Hammersmith, London, had racist graffiti scrawled on it. The centre is over the road from where Allison, who is American, lives with her British husband. “I was sitting in the pub with my husband, thinking, I’m not a citizen, I couldn’t vote, I couldn’t campaign. I wanted to do something, anything, to have some sort of positive effect on this. I was thinking about the ‘I’ll ride with you’ campaign,” she told BuzzFeed News, referring to the social media campaign launched after the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis. “That’s great online, but there wasn’t anything to identify you as a sympathetic person in the real world. So I thought about something that would cost nothing and had no political affiliation. Something that says, ‘I am a safe space, you can sit next to me, you can talk to me, you can ask me for a help.’”

That idea: safety pins.
@cheeahs / Via Twitter: @cheeahs
“Everyone has safety pins around the house. I just wrote the original thread on Twitter very quickly and started to tweet people to ask them if they would help it get moving,” Allison, who did not give her surname, explained. Allison said her idea started to take off when it was retweeted by Nadiya Hussain, the winner of The Great British Bake Off. “That was Sunday night. Yesterday morning it was starting to pick up speed,” she said. “It’s been shared more than 7,000 times. Magazines from the US are covering it online. I just got retweeted in German.” Allison said she thought #SafetyPin was taking off as an idea because it “taps into the inherent decency of most people”. “Most people want to help, they want to be a positive force, but they don’t know how to go about doing it in their everyday lives.

This is just a little way to signal very quietly and quickly, ‘I can see that person won’t swear at me if I’m wearing a hijab,’” she said. “Anybody can wear a safety pin regardless of how they voted in the referendum. It’s not a political allegiance, it’s just about being a decent human being.” She said people had sent her pictures of them wearing safety pins, and that people had messaged her to say even their kids were wearing them. But Allison added that for the initiative to work, people had to understand what the safety pin represents, and that people would also have to be willing to stand up and be counted. “If you wear it you need to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is,” she said. “You have a duty to step on and do what you can, whether it’s filming an incident, shouting at people, calling the police, or talking to the person targeted afterwards. You have a duty to do something. Just don’t make it an empty gesture. Put your whole heart behind it.”

The official advice when witnessing any racist incident is to call police and report the crime. True Vision is an anti-hate-crime initiative that allows you to report any potential crimes to your local police service.
© Buzzfeed News


Alarming post-Brexit racist incidents require action

27/6/2016- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is extremely concerned by numerous reports of racist speech and attacks aimed at Polish, Muslim and other Black and ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom, following the EU referendum vote for Brexit. UK leaders must strongly respond to and publicly condemn these incidents, as well as prevent a further rise in hate crimes. Xenophobic and racist discourses were part of the campaign in the run-up to the referendum. These latest incidents show that political hate speech can escalate into real life and have a very tangible and destructive effect on minority communities in the United Kingdom. Police and law enforcement authorities must adequately investigate and prosecute these incidents as hate crimes and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.

UK leaders and politicians must speak out against and challenge hatred and prejudice and the discourses that fuel them. They should ensure hate crimes are addressed. They should also take concrete measures to counter cross-community division and support such initiatives at local level. In the current divisive context, political leaders must ensure that all members of society feel worthy of security, protection and well-being. Amel Yacef, new ENAR Chair, said: “British society should not give in to revengeful racist nationalism against communities who have steadfastly contributed to the growth and sustainability of the UK economy and society. When the backlash of the Brexit vote is likely to hit the UK economy, the last thing the UK society wants is to alienate and divide its communities. Mr Cameron, it’s up to you to lead by example and take strong measures to stop this racism!”

Online reports of racist incidents can be found here
© EUropean Network Against Racism


Brexit: Jewish lecturer attacked on train for carrying ‘schlep’ bag

Natalie Pitimson was left ‘shaking and very upset’ after being verbally assaulted on board a packed commuter train

29/6/2016- A Jewish sociology lecturer carrying a book bag with the word ‘schlep’ on the side has been told to “f*** off back to Israel with the other Yids,” in what may be the first instance of anti-Semitic abuse in the wake of the Brexit vote. Natalie Pitimson, a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton, on Tuesday said the verbal assault was made on board a packed commuter train travelling through central London at rush-hour, but that no-one reacted, “despite almost certainly having heard”. Of the bag, she said: “I bought it from the Jewish Museum in North London because I liked it. The word ‘schlep’ written on the side perfectly describes my regular hour-long trek through central London… On the train I noticed a lad and his girlfriend looking at me and my bag, which was on my lap. When they spotted me looking back at them, he told me to ‘f*** off back to Israel with the other Yids.’ Nobody else in the carriage reacted.”

Pitimson added: “I got off at the next stop, not even noticing that I was several short of my destination. I was shaking and very upset. I thought about nothing else for the rest of the day. I have never been targeted in this way before but my experience, it is quickly becoming apparent, is not an isolated one in post-Brexit Britain.” In the article, posted this week, she described feeling that the abuse of ethnic minorities has arisen because politicians for the Leave campaign “dehumanised” immigrants and “mainstreamed toxic views of ‘outsiders’.” She said: “What we’re seeing is not really hate or fear. I don’t think the lad on the train was frightened of me, nor do I think he hates me. That assumes that he saw a person when he made his comment. And I don’t think he did.”
© Jewish News UK.


Racist incidents feared to be linked to Brexit result

Suspected racist graffiti at Polish cultural centre in London among incidents thought to be fuelled by vote to leave the EU

26/6/2016- People have been reporting incidents of racism believed to be fuelled by the result of the EU referendum, including alleged racist graffiti and cards reading “no more Polish vermin” posted through letterboxes. Suspected racist graffiti was found on the front entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in Hammersmith, west London, early on Sunday morning. The Metropolitan police confirmed they had been called to the cultural centre on Sunday morning and were pursuing inquiries related to “allegedly racially motivated criminal damage”. Neither POSK nor the police would confirm the content of the message, which has since been washed off.

The Polish ambassador to Britain urged politicians to condemn what had happened. Witold Sobków’s intervention came after a number of incidents involving graffiti targeting Polish nationals in the UK. Sobków, who said the issue would be discussed in talks on Monday, tweeted: I am sure British politicians, our friends, will join us in condemnation of hate motivated acts
8:32 PM - 26 Jun 2016

The Polish embassy tweeted: Thank you for solidarity with #PolesinUK following incident in Hammersmith this morning. We are in contact with @posklondon and local police
6:27 PM - 26 Jun 2016

Greg Hands, Conservative MP for Chelsea & Fulham, condemned the act on Twitter as “an unspeakable crime” and “indescribably awful”, adding: Further, let us all say it loud & clear that Poles are incredibly welcome in the UK & the word "Solidarity" never felt more appropriate.
12:22 PM - 26 Jun 2016

The incident comes as Cambridgeshire police are investigating reports of racist laminated cards being distributed in Huntingdon on Friday in the hours after the leave result was announced. According to reports from the Cambridge News, a number of cards saying “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin” in both English and Polish were found outside St Peter’s school by teaching assistants and students, including an 11-year-old Polish child, who reported they made him feel “really sad”. Cards bearing the same message were posted around a number of properties, police confirmed. Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, has warned that since the referendum result was announced people were being stopped in the street and told to leave the country.

“I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying look, we voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave,” Lady Warsi told Sky News. “And they are saying this to individuals and families who have been here for three, four, five generations. The atmosphere on the street is not good.” Warsi originally backed the leave campaign, but switched to support remain, calling the Leave campaign “divisive and xenophobic”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips announced on Twitter that she would be putting in a parliamentary question to find out the numbers of reported instances of racial hatred in the UK in the weekend following the Brexit vote, compared with last week. In Gloucester, Max Fras said he was in a Tesco supermarket on Friday night with his young son when a white man became agitated in the queue for the checkout and began yelling: “This is England now, foreigners have 48 hours to fuck right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?” Fras said the man began quizzing people in the queue about where they were from. “He pointed at another gentleman in front of him and said: ‘Where are you from, are you Spanish? Are you Italian? Are you Romanian?’ And he said ‘No, I’m English’,” said Fras.

Fras, a Polish consultant in European educational projects who lives in London, said he was concerned about what incidents like this might mean for those like him who have moved from the EU to Britain. Other reports of racist incidents believed to be fuelled by the Brexit result, were posted on social media, including one from Heaven Crawley, a research professor at Coventry University, about an incident allegedly witnessed by her daughter in Birmingham. “This evening my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw [a] group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting ‘Get out, we voted leave’,” she posted on Twitter. Welsh businesswoman and remain campaigner Shazia Awan was told by Warren Faulkner to pack her bags and go home after she expressed disappointment in the leave result. Awan, who was born in the UK, tweeted a reply that in her view the “campaign was vile and racist” and had “ruined [the] country forever”.

Earlier that day, Faulkner had celebrated the referendum result as a “major victory for the right wing, adding: “Oi Muslims pack your bags”. Many of the reports of incidents seem to show the mistaken belief that EU citizens living in the UK will be forced to leave the country as a result of the referendum result, with instances reported of a Polish woman being told to get off a bus and “get packing”, of a Polish man being told at an airport that he “shouldn’t still be here, that we had voted to be rid of people like him”, of a Polish coffee shop worker being jeered at and told “you’re going home now” and of Polish children at a primary school crying because they were scared of getting deported from Britain. In a photograph published to Twitter, one man in Romford was shown wearing a T-shirt reading: “Yes! We won! Now send them back”.

Channel 4 journalist Ciaran Jenkins said that while reporting from Barnsley on Friday in the hours after the referendum results were announced, he overheard three different people shout “send them home” in five minutes. A man wrote on Twitter that he had experienced two “racialised altercations” in the 10 hours after the referendum result, which he believed were connected to it. One alleged incident involved men chanting “Out, out, out” at Muslim women and in another he said a man at King’s Cross station “yells ‘Brexit’ in my south Asian friend’s face”.

This article was amended on 27 June 2016. Earlier versions said Sayeeda Warsi warned that since the referendum result was announced immigrants were being stopped and told to leave the country. She was referring to people born in the UK who were descendants of immigrants, not immigrants themselves.
© The Guardian.


Right-wing Brexit leaders retract false promises as racist nationalism explodes

Amid the chaos, supporters of Britain leaving the E.U. are now tring to walk back their empty vows

27/6/2016- The situation in the U.K. is nothing short of chaotic. The country voted to leave the European Union last week and has since plunged into disarray. Amid the turmoil, the right-wing leaders of the movement for a British exit from the E.U., or Brexit, have quickly begun to retract the promises they made to their supporters. Brexit advocates previously insisted leaving the E.U. would allow the country to better fund social services, strengthen the economy and control immigration. Now, they claim their promises were misunderstood, or were not even promises at all. Meanwhile, racist incidents have exploded as far-right nationalists have been empowered to threaten Britons of color, Muslims and immigrants, intimidating them and telling them to leave the country. “A lot of things were said in advance of this referendum that we might want to think about again,” former Conservative minister Liam Fox, who campaigned for the U.K. to leave the E.U., admitted in a candid moment on the BBC.

Perhaps the most disingenuous claim of Brexit leaders was that, by leaving the E.U., Britain could provide more funding to its National Health Service, or NHS, the U.K.’s very popular and successful system of socialized health care. This claim was odd from the get-go, given that many of the right-wing leaders making this promise in fact support privatization and other neoliberal economic measures, yet cynically exploited the popularity of the NHS for political gain. Perhaps uncoincidentally, then, mere hours after the successful Brexit vote, these leaders started walking back their pledge. Boris Johnson, the right-wing former London mayor who spearheaded Brexit, campaigned heavily on the promise that the £350 million the U.K. sends the E.U. every week would instead go to funding the NHS. He even traveled around the country in a bus with this promise emblazoned on it.

For starters, the £350 million figure was itself misleading. This is the gross total that the U.K. sends to the E.U.; it does not consider the amount of money the U.K. gets back from the E.U. in return. Nigel Farage, the leader of the far-right U.K. Independence Party, made even more egregious claims just weeks before the vote, nonetheless. In a BBC interview on June 9, Farage boldly declared, “Can we just get to the truth of this — £350 million a week is wrong, it’s higher than that.” He asserted the actual figure is £55 million per day day, and maintained, “We should spend that money here, in our own country, on our own people.” Yet, a few hours after the successful Brexit vote, Farage had suddenly changed his tune. He called the £350 million claim a “mistake,” and told the BBC that he can’t guarantee that any of this money would go to the NHS. Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party who pushed for the U.K. to leave the E.U., also backtracked on the promise.

Adding to this broken promise is the economic turmoil Brexit supporters insisted would not ensue. The British pound sterling has plummeted in recent days, to the lowest level against U.S. currency that has been seen in 31 years. On the night of the vote, when the results were still being counted, the currency had already tanked at least 8 percent. Brexit leaders claimed the British economy would flourish. It was only the regulations of the bureaucratic E.U. that was holding the U.K. back, they argued. Yet the neoliberal policies that led to the financial crisis in 2008 and have only persisted since then have left the global economy fragile to such sudden changes. “The shock waves are being felt across the globe at a time when economies are still fragile from the 2008 economic crisis, interest rates are close to zero and central banks have fewer tools than normal to revive demand if countries enter recession,” Reuters reported. As the New York Times put it, “With financial markets in turmoil, a big drop in the pound and the prospect of further chaos, some supporters of Brexit are backpedaling on bold pronouncements they made just a few days earlier.”

Far-right leaders have persistently blamed Europe’s economic woes on immigration, not on the neoliberal policies that led to these problems. Like Donald Trump in the U.S., politicians like UKIP’s Nigel Farage distract from how crippling austerity measures, the gutting of social services and the deregulation of powerful corporations have hurt the standards of living of millions of working people, and instead scapegoat migrants and refugees. Brexit’s staunchest advocates promised that leaving the E.U. would allow them to stop or at least drastically curtail this migration. Yet, after the successful vote, Brexit leaders now appear to have broken this promise too. The Times pointed out that “migration was the cornerstone of the Leave campaign.” Many migrants from eastern and southern states in the E.U. moved to the U.K. for work. For years, many people from South Asia, which was formerly brutally colonized by Britain, have also come to the country in search of better economic opportunities.

Boris Johnson’s campaign was predicated on the argument that the E.U. did not allow Britain to control its immigration policies. Michael Gove, the Conservative justice secretary who also campaigned for the leave camp, insisted Brexit would “bring down the numbers” of immigration by 2020. Farage fear-mongered about refugees and the possibility of Turkey joined the E.U. Yet Conservative parliamentarian Daniel Hannan, a key pro-Brexit figure, later admitted to the BBC, “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the E.U., they are going to be disappointed.” In the meantime, racist intimidation has rapidly increased. The Guardian noted that Polish immigrants have been harassed with cards reading, “Leave the E.U. No more Polish vermin.” One Polish woman was told to get off a bus and “get packing.” A Polish man at an airport was told he “shouldn’t still be here, that we had voted to be rid of people like him.” And a Polish coffee shop worker was told “you’re going home now.”

Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative Party, lamented that people of color who have lived in the country for multiple generations are being stopped in the street and told “it’s time for you to leave.” Warsi had previously supported Brexit, but later changed her mind, calling the campaign “divisive and xenophobic.” There have been wide reports of Muslim Britons being shouted at with hateful chants like “get out, we voted leave.” In another publicized incident, a white man at a grocery store shouted, “This is England now, foreigners have 48 hours to fuck right off. Who is foreign here?” A widely shared photo on social media showed a white man wearing a shirt reading, “Yes we won! Now send them back.” Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he will be resigning, and the country is preparing to have a new leader by the beginning of September. Boris Johnson, the right-wing former London mayor, is the front-runner to replace Cameron.

Many people are calling for snap elections to vote for a new prime minister. The neoliberal Blairite wing of the Labour Party has tried to oust popular leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, although he has stood strong. A petition expressing a vote of confidence in Corbyn after Brexit received more than 200,000 signatures in just a few days. Another petition calling for the British government to hold a second referendum on E.U. membership has received more than 3.5 million signatures.
© Salon


Brexit: Facebook page highlights racism after vote triggers spike in hate crimes

Critics have attempted to shut down a Facebook group which highlights racist encounters amid a spike in hate crimes after the EU referendum.

27/6/2016- Sarah Childs, 32, set up the Worrying Signs page with two university friends to show highlight a surge in xenophobic incidents since Britain voted to quit the EU. Since the group was set up yesterday it has amassed more than 7,500 members as users flood the page with stories of racist confrontations. Stories include one man who said a “Go Home” message aimed at a Romanian pupil was scrawled on a toilet wall at his daughter’s school, and chants of “Make Britain white again” on London’s Portland Street. And while thousands of people have praised attempts to highlight the fears, others have left messages criticising the page and urging Facebook to ban it.

Ms Childs, a community enterprise consultant from Sheffield, said: “The idea of putting all the stories together was that it’s easy to dismiss one story, but when you have a few hundred all together they make a bigger impression. “It’s harder to say, ‘oh, it’s just a minority of people it’s happening to, it’ll all blow over’. “Maybe it is a minority. I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s the most important point here. This is an issue that is affecting a lot of people and we can’t allow it continue.” “I’ve experienced some harassment from people who don’t like what we are doing, some people trying to get me banned from Facebook to interrupt what we’re doing.

“I have also received some messages from angry Leave voters who feel that I’m trying to paint them personally as a racist, but that isn’t what this campaign is about at all. “This is a problem that arisen in the aftermath of the referendum but it’s not really about the referendum anymore. “It’s not about Leave or Remain. We don’t think everyone who voted Leave is a racist. We just want to highlight a problem that needs to be addressed going forward.” Ms Childs called on authorities to address the growing fears of hostility towards foreign residents. She added: “While we have politicians, lawyers, and economists working on the legal and economic ramifications of leaving the EU and drawing up a plan for that, we don’t see anyone talking about a social plan.

“If we’re going to make this country a better place for all of us to live in we need to plan to heal our social divides as well, and to ensure that every person in our communities feels welcome and safe." She added: "We currently have over 7,000 members in the group and more requesting to join every minute. This is a group that has only been in existence for 26 hours. "Our initial goal was simply to draw attention to the rise in racist and xenophobic harassment and violence in the wake of the referendum. “It’s clearly something that is resonating with a lot of people. Our hope is that it becomes big enough to more than just an awareness raising initiative but an actual spur to action and leadership on this matter.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged Londoners to "stand guard" against hate crime following Britain's decision to withdraw from the European Union. The rallying cry came 24 hours after the Met confirmed it was investigating allegations of criminal damage after racist graffiti was reportedly smeared on a Polish community building in Hammersmith.
© The Evening Standard.


Brexit: German woman calls radio station in tears over xenophobic attacks

28/5/2016- A white German woman has called a radio programme on LBC in tears about recent xenophobic attacks that she has suffered since the EU referendum. The caller, identified as Karen, said she was "living in fear" after her neighbours said they no longer wanted her to live on their street and dog faeces was thrown at her door. She said she has been living in the UK since 1973 when she married a British man, but no longer feels comfortable since the 'Leave' camp won the referendum, and has not been out of the house for three days. Karen added that she has always worked and lives in a middle-class area and she cannot go back to Germany as she does not know anybody there. She said she felt very alone after being targeted by racists and also spoke about a friend's grandson who had been beaten up "because he has a foreign grandmother."


Brexit: Racist incidents has UK worried

27/6/2016- After a bruising referendum campaign in which supporters of leaving the EU were accused of stoking prejudice against immigrants, these and other incidents will intensify worries about whether a generally tolerant country is becoming less so. While politicians on both sides of the vote have urged calm and said the result does not reflect prejudice toward migrants from Europe or elsewhere, some aren't so sure. "There is no question the UK is shifting to a more racist atmosphere and policies. This is a rhetoric that's showing up in the lives of schoolchildren," said Adam Posen, a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee who now leads the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  "We're legitimising politics and politicians that play with racism in a much more dangerous way than Richard Nixon ever did."

British politics are in chaos after the vote in favour of a so-called Brexit prompted the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, spurred a rebellion against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and opened the door to a second referendum on Scottish independence. The Leave campaign's message was centred on reducing immigration, including by raising the spectre of Turkish membership in the EU - a prospect European diplomats say is remote at best. A week before the referendum, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage unveiled a billboard showing a column of hundreds of refugees walking on a road, under the heading "Breaking Point." Some incidents are occurring in the heart of the UK's cosmopolitan capital. Sebastien, a 26-year-old Frenchman, was walking in the Kensington district on Friday with a friend and her mother, who was visiting from Paris. Hearing them speaking French, a man walking his dog began shouting at them to "Leave, Leave!," Sebastien said, who declined to provide his surname for fear of retaliation.

Schoolchildren were racially abused in a west London district this week, Seema Malhotra, one of the main opposition party's team of Treasury spokespeople said on Saturday. "Someone shouted: 'Why are there only 10 white faces in this class? Why aren't we educating the English?'" she said, citing a letter from a teacher in her electoral district about an incident on Wednesday. "Another went close up to the children and said: 'You lot are taking all our jobs. You're the problem."' Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said political leaders "have a big responsibility to help our country get through what's going to be an agonising process." After a vote that largely pitted London, Scotland and a few other enclaves in favour of staying in the EU against the bulk of England and Wales, "we have a divided country but there is the possibility of bringing people back together if we are sensible about it."

Britons have taken to Facebook and Twitter to report other racist incidents. One user, Fiona Anderson, described "an older woman on the 134 bus gleefully telling a young Polish woman and her baby to get off and get packing." A professor at Coventry University, Heaven Crawley, said on Twitter on Friday that "This evening my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting 'Get out, we voted leave'."
© Bloomberg.


Brexit: Welsh Muslim told to 'pack bags and go home'

'Now start the vile tweets,' targeted businesswoman says

25/6/2016- A Welsh Muslim who campaigned to remain in the EU was told to "pack her bags and go home" soon after the vote to leave the European Union. Shazia Awan, a businesswoman brought up in Caerphilly, warned that the fallout of the divisive referendum campaign would see an increase in racist abuse.Echoing Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's view that much of the anti-EU debate had been characterised by hate, Ms Awan had written: "The campaign was racist. "Don't see how this country can heal itself. The UK is my home yet I feel alienated." But Warren Faulkner, whose Twitter handle is @foggyneiinfidel, replied: "Great can pack your bags, you're going home...BYE THEN." His Twitter thread showed other apparently abusive, Islamophobic comments.

Ms Awan, who had campaigned for Remain in Cardiff, said in the aftermath of an anti-immigration rhetoric, the "vile tweets" against ethnic minorities would start. She said she had witnessed a white man calling a woman a "n*****" in Cardiff after accusing her of voting to remain in the EU. She said the woman had not felt able to report it as a hate crime. "Every ethnic minority, every decent person, everyone who is in a mixed race relationship or from a black, Asian minority ethnic background are going to feel this now. Now start the vile tweets,” she said. During the campaign, Nigel Farage and his Ukip party were reported to the police for allegedly inciting racial hatred with a poster showing refugees "queuing" to get into Europe.

Refugees from Africa and the Middle East are fleeing brutal civil war, dictatorships and poverty. Sadiq Khan, new Mayor of London and Remain campaigner, told his predecessor Boris Johnson during one referendum debate that the Brexit camp's claims it was not simply "anti immigrant" were disingenuous. "You might start off with platitudes saying how wonderful immigration is. But your campaign hasn't been Project Fear. It's been Project Hate, as far as immigration is concerned," he told Mr Johnson.
© The Independent


Brexit: Millions call for second EU referendum as far right activist says Remain 'hijacked' his petition

The volume of signatures caused the UK petition website to crash.

26/6/2016- As a record three million Britons and counting have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, it has emerged that the man that created it was a far right pro-Brexit campaigner who feared that the Remain camp would win. Brexit supporter William Oliver Healey, a candidate for the far-right English Democrats Party, told the Evening Standard of his anger that the petition – which will now have to be debated by Britain's parliament – had been "hijacked" by those angered by the decision of British voters to leave the EU. Healey also explained why he set up the petition in a long post made on the English Democrat's Facebook page. In his post, Healey wrote: "Due to the result, the petition has been hijacked by the Remain campaign. However, since I am associated with the petition and before the press further associate me with it I felt the need to better clarify my position on the issue even if it looks bad. I am its creator, nothing more," he said.

A House of Commons spokeswoman told the BBC the parliamentary website crashed temporarily on 24 June due to the high volume of people accessing the petition page. She added that only 22 people had signed the petition at the time the referendum's result was announced. Over 16 million people voted to remain in the EU in the 23 June referendum, but were defeated 52%-48% by Leave voters, with a turnout of 72.2%. The result sent shock waves around the world and has raised concerns that the UK itself could break up, with both Scotland and Northern Ireland voting overwhelmingly to stay in the single market.

'Petition hijacked by Remain'
The second EU referendum petition is easily the most popular in the history of the parliamentary website and will be considered for debate by MPs for crossing the 100,000-signature threshold. It simply states: "We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum." However, while MPs are likely to debate the petition, they have no legal obligation to act on it. Prime Minister David Cameron announced following the referendum result that he would step down from his role in October, saying that a new prime minister will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to formally begin the Brexit process. He warned before the vote that there would be "no turning back" if the UK voted to leave the EU.

© The International Business Times - UK


Brexit was motivated by fear of foreigners. Now it'll get worse (comment)

Though Brexit, the UK's decision whether to leave the European Union, is technically quite complicated, the Leave and Remain campaigns ensured that for most voters it was very simple. Basically, we Brits had to choose which one we liked least out of immigration and committing national economic suicide.
by Abi Wilkinson

27/6/2016- As a longstanding fan of both not being broke and my friends not being deported, I found the process quite straightforward. However, 52 percent of voters disagreed with me and really wanted to reduce immigration levels — and it seems clear some also believed they were voting to repatriate existing residents, though that was never suggested by Leave campaigners. However, in cosmopolitan, multicultural London, where I live, most people voted the same way I did. During the campaign leading up to the referendum, an enormous amount of attention was devoted to the alleged threat posed by Turkey's theoretical entry into the EU. Though pro-Remain politicians denied that free movement of people between Turkey and the UK was a possibility, dark warnings were issued about the dangerous criminality of Turkish citizens.

As usual, right-wing newspapers were keen to help fan the flames. The Sunday Express published a front-page splash claiming that "12m Turks say they'll come to UK." A month later, the paper was forced to print a "clarification" admitting the story was false. Approximately a week before the vote, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage released a poster showing a queue of (mainly nonwhite) migrants and refugees. The words "breaking point" were written in red text, and below them was the slogan "we must break free from the EU and take back control." Some pro-Leave politicians attempted to distance themselves from the poster, which bore a notable similarity to a piece of Nazi propaganda. However, their objection can only have been on fairly shallow presentational grounds given that the basic message — that hordes of brown-skinned migrants pose a threat to the UK that must urgently be prevented — wasn't out of line with the rhetoric of the official Vote Leave campaign backed by most pro-Brexit MPs.

A couple of days after the poster, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot dead outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Formerly the head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam GB, she'd entered politics just a year previously and had gained a reputation as a strong advocate for refugees. She was also an enthusiastic supporter of the campaign to remain in the EU. Eyewitnesses reported that her killer shouted, "Britain first," as he carried out the attack, prompting the leader of the far-right political party Britain First to issue a statement denying involvement. A 52-year-old local man, Thomas Mair, appeared in court charged with Cox's murder. When asked to give his name, he answered, "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain."

The day of the referendum result, various far-right organizations took to the street in celebration. In Newcastle, the National Front unveiled a banner reading, "Stop immigration, start repatriation." Police in Cambridgeshire reported that they'd launched an investigation into cards reading, "Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin," which had been posted through the letterboxes. A video was posted online showing people waving St. George's Cross flags outside a mosque and intimidating passers by. Social media filled up with reports of harassment toward Muslims, nonwhite people and EU migrants — usually involving the victim being told they must "go home." This is probably where I should clarify that I don't believe everyone who has concerns about immigration is bigot. It's perfectly possible to be worried about the effects of mass migration on jobs, wages, housing stocks, and public services without harboring negative attitudes toward migrants themselves.

People in areas of economic decline who believe reducing immigration would improve their situation aren't wrong for hoping that, but they've been lied to by politicians who've failed to actually address their problems. It's a grim irony that parts of the country that currently rely on EU subsidies, like Cornwall, voted to leave. One quite plausible outcome of the referendum is a spectacular example of the power of democracy, in that it will please literally nobody except, possibly, a tiny minority of anti–European Union liberals who had different ambitions from the majority of Leave voters. As far as I can tell, we'd still be doing some significant economic self-harm, although maybe not as much as people feared, but the anti-immigration people weren't going to get their way, either. Instead, the UK would probably remain part of the EU single market, which requires continued free movement of labor. This is the option Boris Johnson, who is bookies' favorite to be the next leader, seems to be leaning toward.

If we do pull out of the single market, job losses are probable as companies relocate out of the UK: more willful destruction of our own economy. Given that EU migrants form an essential part of the UK labor force and are net tax contributors, helping us fund health and social care for our aging native population, an immigration reduction would also have been shooting ourselves in the foot. I don't know if it's just a result of extreme exhaustion and lowered expectations, but right now the actual reality of a soft Brexit seems like it could be worse. My main worry is that the Conservative government might chip away at employment rights once it's not forced to conform to EU law. From a personal perspective, I'm really hoping we keep free movement because, as a freelancer in London, it's essential for my morale that moving to Berlin remains a theoretical option.

The problem is, though, that a lot of people still think they just voted in a referendum on immigration. What's more, they think they won. When pro-Brexit politicians chose to actively stoke fear, hatred, and resentment of immigrant groups as a campaign tactic, they must have known they were causing lasting, significant harm. I think three things are probably true. First, that most people who voted to leave the EU because of concerns about immigration would not racially abuse or harass someone. Second, that the EU referendum was not a root cause of racism and xenophobia. Third, though, that the normalization of anti-immigration rhetoric has created an environment where racists feel emboldened to act. The problem isn't necessarily that 52 percent of voters agree with the far right; it's that the far right think they do.

It's hard to shake the feeling that we've opened Pandora's box. Despite having achieved its original raison d'être, there is no indication that Nigel Farage is planning to disband UKIP as a political party. On the contrary, it seems likely he'll attempt to wide the wave of referendum success to target a significant number of seats in the next general election — which will probably happen sometime this year. Given that the next Conservative leader will almost certainly be from the pro-Leave camp (if Johnson's cynical politicking doesn't clinch it for him, perhaps Justice Secretary Michael Gove), it's unlikely that he'll focus much on seats currently held by Tories. Instead, he'll be looking to the Labour heartlands: white, working-class constituencies in the Midlands, North, and Wales that have suffered industrial decline.

In the 2015 general election, UKIP came in second to Labour in 44 constituencies, all but two of which were in these traditional heartland regions. In the EU referendum, these same areas skewed heavily toward Leave. While pollsters expected that white working-class voters would lean that way, what wasn't predicted was the effect of turnout. In working-class areas where electoral participation is normally low, many people voted for the first time ever. Given that the Labour Party is currently in a state of severe crisis and civil war, it's difficult to imagine the party is going to be able to attract those voters. Instead, nationalist UKIP might make significant gains at the left's expense. With the next Conservative Party likely being from the Euroskeptic right of the party, rather than a David Cameron–style moderate, the future UK political landscape is looking incredibly bleak.
Abi Wilkinson is a freelance writer based in London.
© Vox


Brexit has given voice to racism – and too many are complicit (opinion)

Since the EU referendum I have collated more than 100 racist incidents. Politicians and the media are fuelling this fire 
By Miqdaad Versi

27/6/2016- When Shahesta Shaitly asked a cabbie in the Midlands at the weekend: “Why did you vote leave?” she was told: “To get you lot out of here.” Her case is unfortunately not unique. It is one of more than 100 reports of racist incidents since the EU referendum that I have collated for the Muslim Council of Britain. The result seems to have unleashed a Pandora’s box of bigotry and Islamophobia – one that will require strong collective action to close. While before the perpetrators were usually keyboard warriors, waging their xenophobic battle online, now more and more reports are emerging of real-life physical and verbal confrontations. Consider the Muslim schoolgirl cornered by a group of people who told her: “Get out, we voted leave,” or the eastern Europeans allegedly stopped from using the London Underground with shouts of “Go back to your own country.”

In Hammersmith, racist graffiti was daubed on a Polish cultural centre; in Birmingham, angry demonstrators shouted slogans outside a mosque; and most worryingly in Newcastle, a placard was placed urging the country to “start repatriation”. Unfortunately, these episodes are only the tip of this hateful iceberg. To claim these reports are solely due to last week’s referendum would be overly simplistic. Concerns about immigration, and in particular Muslim immigrants, have been simmering beneath the surface for some time. According to the British Social Attitudes, almost 50% of the population believe immigration has a negative impact on the British economy. Similar sentiments may also be found even within some established migrant communities, with individuals fearful that fresh waves of migrants will take their jobs or their children’s school places, as was voiced during the referendum campaign. This is despite the reality, that immigration is hugely beneficial for our nation.

The EU referendum result has perhaps emboldened racists by leading them to believe that the majority agree with their views on immigration and legitimising such public expressions of hatred. For this, the political elite must take responsibility, after stoking a divisive referendum campaign that demonised immigrants by spreading fictitious scare stories, all the while pandering to the lowest common denominator. Despite Boris Johnson once saying he was pro-immigration, his campaign focused its message on immigration, creating unrealistic and unachievable expectations of what migration figures could be. Not only did it falsely claim that Turkey was about to join the EU but it also claimed that Turks were in some way a threat to our national security, highlighting its proximity to Iraq and Syria on a poster. There are no two ways about it: such messages must either be the work of duplicitous demagogues or incompetent and irresponsible migration scaremongers.

Let’s not forget Nigel Farage’s risible anti-migrant “breaking point” poster, which was even reported to the police for allegedly inciting racial hatred. As Sayeeda Warsi told the BBC, “This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or useful in the short term but it causes long-term damage to communities” – a prediction that is unfortunately being proved correct. This scaremongering is not new. Last year prime minister David Cameron talked about the “swarm” of migrants in Europe and has failed time and time again to stop the spread of such anti-immigrant feeling. Nor did he support the next stage of the Leveson inquiry, whose recommendations are yet to be implemented on ensuring the press is more responsible in its treatment of minorities. Furthermore, he has failed to take any meaningful action to tackle the alarming rise in Islamophobia.

The free hand of the print and online media to distort facts and blame entire groups of people for the troubles of our country, with almost no recourse, plays an equally important role in this spread of hatred. Let’s be clear – they are complicit in the rise of bigotry and the consequences of discrimination. A collation of front-page scare stories about migrants from the Daily Express makes for grim reading, as does the vile Daily Mail cartoon that compares immigrants to vermin and conflates them with gun-wielding terrorists. When did journalists forget that with freedom of speech comes responsibility? We are in a precarious position. The leadership vacuum across both main parties risks legitimising the view that the forces of intolerance have won the argument. The far right has never had a better opportunity to rationalise its hate speech. To prevent the continued and unchecked growth of such bigotry, politicians and media organisations must cease fuelling religious, racial and ethnic tensions to further their petty agendas. Silence is no longer an option.
© The Guardian.


Headlines 1 July, 2016

Netherlands: Polish workers still being exploited by jobs agencies

28/6/2016- Polish migrant workers in the Netherlands still face long working days, unpaid overtime, sexual intimidation and threats, despite a series of measures taken in 2011 to improve their situation, according to new research. Because of their dependency on recruitment agencies, Polish migrant workers remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation the research by organisations FairWork and Somo says. Yet, the government, the organisation points out, relies on self-regulation of the recruitment sector. The researchers interviewed over 100 Polish migrant workers all over the Netherlands on wages, discrimination, exploitation and sexual intimidation, health and lack of insurance, social isolation and work pressure. ‘The owner of the greenhouse where I was employed introduced a competition between workers,’ one worker is quoted as saying in the report. ‘He put a list with the names of all workers on the wall. They were ranked in phases according to their productivity. When someone was in the orange phase for a couple of days he would be fired.’

‘Every year hundreds of Polish working migrants contact us because they have problems at work, ranging from being underpaid and long working days to exploitation and unjust fines,’ said FairWork director Sandra Claassen. ‘Despite the fact that they have the same rights as Dutch employees, they are often abused. Their stories are the backbone of this report, and they show that a lot needs to be improved.’ Some 150,000 Polish nationals live in the Netherlands.

Recruitment agencies should be better controlled: self-regulation of the industry is failing and Polish workers pay the price,’ said Somo spokeswoman Esther de Haan. ‘Recruitment agencies and the government should take responsibility and make working conditions for Polish migrant workers in the Netherlands better.’ The two staffing agency associations in the Netherlands, ABU and NBBU, told the broadcaster NOS that self-regulation does work. However, there are thousands of agencies which are not members of an association and stay under the radar. ‘That does not mean they are all bad but ABU would like government inspectors and the tax office to focus on companies which avoid all forms of monitoring and regulation,’ a spokesman said.
© The Dutch News


Spain’s Vote Deals Setback to Podemos, a Rising Protest Party

28/6/2016- While no party emerged with a clear mandate from Spain’s second round of national elections over the weekend, the results did demonstrate that it was possible, after all, to stop the advance of Europe’s protest parties. Podemos, a radical left-wing party, suffered its first setback since it was formed two years ago with a goal of uprooting Spain’s two-party system. It was stopped in its tracks in Sunday’s vote by the Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy, the caretaker prime minister, which won the most votes. Mr. Rajoy is now in a strong position to remain in office, probably at the helm of a minority government, after six months of deadlock. The vote in Spain was the latest test of whether a more radical generation of outsiders could unseat the political establishment, particularly after a world financial crisis that increased the wealth gap in most Western societies. A similar tussle has occurred ahead of the November election in the United States, while far-right leaders in countries like France and Austria have built their demands for political overhaul on growing fears of mass migration.

Podemos was in part inspired by the success of Syriza, a far-left party that came to power in Greece in 2015 and helped to almost wipe out the Greek Socialist party. Before Sunday’s vote, Podemos formed an alliance with United Left, another radical party, to improve its chances of leapfrogging the Socialists as Spain’s largest left-wing party. Instead of challenging Spain’s political establishment, however, Podemos and its coalition partner are now likely to face “a very serious organizational problem” and a power struggle, according to Pablo Simón, a politics professor at Carlos III University in Madrid. In response to a younger generation of leaders demanding radical change, Mr. Rajoy, 61, presented himself as a defender of Spanish unity and continuity, and an opponent of a secessionist challenge in Catalonia.

He was able to reinforce this message in the final hours of Spain’s election campaign, after the British voted to leave the European Union. The British vote not only plunged the European Union into political crisis, but also sent financial markets sliding. “These aren’t moments to fuel or add uncertainties,” Mr. Rajoy said in a televised address on Friday, shortly after the British referendum result was known. Some Spanish voters got the message. “We have just seen what kind of problems a British referendum can create for the whole of Europe, so just imagine what a populist party like Podemos could do to Spain,” said Oscar Fernández, 44, who said he switched his vote on Sunday to Mr. Rajoy, after backing Ciudadanos, another emerging party, during the first national vote in December. “I think now really wasn’t the time for any new and risky political adventure in Spain.”

Mr. Rajoy’s Popular Party got 137 of the 350 parliamentary seats, up from 123 in the December elections. The Socialists won 85 seats, down from 90 and their lowest result ever. Podemos won 71 seats, effectively unchanged from December, after forming the alliance with United Left, according to results announced Sunday. Although the election confirmed the fragmentation of Spanish politics, it also bolstered slightly the combined share of the vote of the two establishment parties, which have alternated in office since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s. Together, Mr. Rajoy’s conservatives and the Socialists won 55.7 percent of the vote, five percentage points more than six months ago. After December’s inconclusive elections, in which the Socialists edged Podemos into second place, the two parties held talks about forming a left-wing coalition to oust Mr. Rajoy. But the negotiations rapidly turned instead into an acrimonious tussle, leaving Spain in a deadlock that eventually forced King Felipe VI to convene Sunday’s elections.

In the repeat elections, Podemos sought to broaden its appeal beyond the disenchanted youth that had underpinned its meteoric rise last year. In a direct appeal to Socialist voters, Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, even labeled his party Social Democratic — with a program published in the format of a Swedish Ikea catalog to back the claim. The Podemos strategy, however, proved to be an unsuccessful balancing act between trying to garner more centrist votes while allying with United Left, a party with communist roots. Juan Carlos Monedero, one of the founders of Podemos, also questioned on Monday why the party had chosen a “sweetened campaign” in response to the claims of other parties that it would push Spain into a near-collapse like that in Venezuela. In the end, voters chose Mr. Rajoy as the “devil you know” option, Mr. Monedero told Antena 3, a television channel.

Similar fears about taking a leap into the unknown may also have affected Ciudadanos, which won 32 seats, down from 40 six months ago. After months of fruitless coalition talks, both Podemos and Ciudadanos appeared to have lost part of the momentum and novelty factor that helped them enter Spain’s Parliament for the first time last December. “If you are walking a tightrope and keep going forward, everything is fine, but the minute you stop and there is a sudden gust of wind, you tend to fall,” said Professor Simón, who still called the decline of Podemos “a big surprise,” particularly after most polls had shown that Podemos would overtake the Socialists. After Sunday’s vote, some leaders of Podemos tried to highlight instead the bright spots, including Podemos’s success in once more winning the most votes in Spain’s two separatist-minded regions, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Mr. Iglesias had pledged to allow Catalans to hold an independence vote, while emphasizing that he would want Catalonia to remain within Spain.

Going forward, Professor Simón said, “Podemos doesn’t have more rabbits to pull out of the hat.” He warned against comparing the trajectory of Podemos with that of other parties that are challenging the political establishment, particularly far-right ones like the National Front in France. Above all, migration has not become an issue in Spanish politics, as it has in Britain, where it was at the heart of the European referendum campaign. In countries like France, Germany and Austria, far-right parties are challenging the political establishment over welcoming a wave of migrants from Syria and elsewhere. “The fear factor has become very important in European politics, but it clearly doesn’t play out in the same way everywhere,” Professor Simón said.
© The New York Times


Frexit, Nexit or Oexit? Who will be next to leave the EU

After the UK backed withdrawing from the EU, politicians elsewhere are calling for referendums in their own countries

27/6/2016- Now there has been a vote for Brexit, there are calls in other countries for people to have their say on the European Union. But, though they have inherited the pithy naming formulation – from “Frexit” and “Nexit” through to “Oexit” – the proposed referendums vary depending on what they want, what they’re motivated by, and how likely they are to happen.

On Brexit morning, Nigel Farage suggested that the Netherlands might be the next country to quit the “dying” EU. “We may well be close, perhaps, to a Nexit,” he said. However, a poll published on Sunday by found a slim majority against holding a referendum (50% to 47%) but also, to Farage’s likely chagrin, a majority for staying in the EU (46% to 43%). Among voters with the lowest educational profile the appetite for Nexit was much stronger – 69% favour holding a referendum and 64% would vote leave. “If a referendum is held we would expect that, just as in Britain, the turnout among lower educated voters will be relatively high,” said poll organiser Maurice de Hond. Those voters are also more likely to support far-right leader Geert Wilders, whose Freedom party has a substantial lead in the opinion polls. Wilders pledged on Friday to make a UK-style referendum one of the key issues in the Dutch general election campaign next March. A Nexit referendum before then is very unlikely. No other Dutch political party supports such a move and the prime minister, Mark Rutte, dismissed the idea as “utterly irresponsible”. He has urged his European colleagues to work towards a settlement with Britain that prioritises stability and “reflects the friendly cooperation of the last 40 years”.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, has suggested that France could follow Britain in leaving the EU, hailing the Brexit vote as the beginning of “a movement that can’t be stopped”. Le Pen has said that if she wins the French presidential election next April, she will hold an in/out referendum on the country’s membership of the EU within six months. That, though, remains a big “if” – even though she is expected to comfortably reach the final round of the presidential runoff. To all mainstream politicians, however, the idea of a Frexit is abhorrent. François Hollande, the president, is in favour of France remaining within the EU, as are his opponents on the centre-right. Hollande said in the wake of Britain’s vote: “This is a painful choice and it is deeply regrettable both for the UK and Europe.”

For Brussels, the biggest threat from Italy comes from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which recently had candidates elected as mayors of Rome and Turin and wants a referendum on leaving the eurozone. Trouble is, no matter how much Beppe Grillo, the comedian who founded the M5S, might push the plebiscite, most Italians – 61% according to a poll in March – support remaining in the single currency. The other main Eurosceptic force in the country is the anti-immigration Northern League, whose leader, Matteo Salvini, tweeted last week: “Hurrah for the courage of free citizens! Heart, brain and pride defeated lies, threats and blackmail. THANK YOU UK, now it’s our turn.” Salvini said it was time for Italians to be allowed a referendum on the issue of EU membership and the party will start a petition calling for a referendum. But the Northern League’s support is limited – at the last general election in 2013 it scored a miserable 4% – and its calls will not be heeded. The prime minister, Matteo Renzi, is a committed, if critical, Europhile who launched an emotional plea to the UK to vote remain on the eve of last week’s referendum.

Norbert Hofer, the far-right candidate who narrowly missed out on winning the Austrian presidential election last month, has said that his country should have a referendum on EU membership if, within a year, Brussels makes any moves towards political “centralisation” and fails to refocus on its original role as an economic and trade alliance. The Austrian media have dubbed the potential vote “Auxit” or “Oexit” – a reference to Österreich, which means Austria in German. But the Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, has said there will be no referendum. Hofer, from the anti-immigration Freedom party (FPO), said in an interview on Sunday that the EU should be about economic rather than political co-operation and any moves toward centralisation should be resisted. He has gone further in his comments than the FPO leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, who has said that an Austrian referendum on the issue might become a party objective in the future. Hofer is challenging the result of the presidential election that he narrowly lost, alleging there were irregularities in the counting of postal ballots. However, even if the FPO’s challenge is successful, the president alone does not have the power to order a referendum.

The leader of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, has said he hopes that Sweden might be able to renegotiate its relationship with the EU and then hold a referendum on membership. “I see nothing negative about leaving this supranational European Union,” said Åkesson, who has repeatedly called for Sweden to “become a sovereign state again”. The Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power in Stockholm. The party attracted 12.9% of the vote in the 2014 election, but saw their support rise to about 20% last year as Sweden took in a record number of asylum seekers and tensions around immigration flared. All of Sweden’s mainstream parties, including the Social Democrat-Green government and the centre-right opposition, the Moderates, support the Scandinavian country, which joined the EU in 1995 after a 1994 referendum, continuing as a member of the EU.

Beatrix von Storch, an MEP for the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), celebrated Brexit as “Great Britain’s independence day” and has previously called for a similar referendum to be held in Germany, saying the German people “should be given a voice”. After the referendum result was announced on Friday, she also called for Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European commission, to resign. However, despite a recent growith in support for the AfD, the German people remain broadly in favour of remaining in the union, with about 40% believing a referendum on the subject should be held and less than 35% saying they would vote to leave.

The powerful far-right Danish People’s party (DPP), which hailed the Brexit vote as a “stinging slap to the whole system”, has said it wants a Danish referendum on less binding conditions of EU membership – not on membership itself. But Denmark’s centre-right prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who relies on the support of the DPP to prop up his minority administration, said there would be no such vote.
© The Guardian.


Islamophobia Set to Grow in Balkans, Experts Warn

Islamophobia is likely to increase across Balkan countries, experts say, as a result of a political and media environment that has worsened since the refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS.

27/6/2016- Islamophobia is likely to increase in the near future in the Balkans, experts noted, as a result of a political and media environment which in many countries in the region - notably Croatia and Serbia - has deteriorated in recent years due to regional phenomena like the refugee crisis of 2015 and the rise of the so called Islamic State in the Middle East. "In 2015 we saw a paradigmatic shift in the rightwing parties in Croatia," Dino Mujadzevic, a researcher from the University of Zagreb and expert of contemporary history of South-Eastern Europe, told BIRN. According to Mujadzevic, Islamophobia has not been a major issue in Croatia, but things have changed since the huge wave of refugees hit the country last year.

"For the first time, Croatian right-wing parties are exploiting the idea of a 'Muslim threat' coming to our country, imported by non-European Muslims ... and media in Croatia have started reporting extensively about crimes committed by Muslims or refugee seekers in other countries", Mujadzevic said, noting that this media environment is facilitating the growth of anti-Islamic sentiments among the population. "In case there is a new wave of refugees ... Islamophobia will become a real force in Croatia," he predicted. Mujadzevic's concerns were shared by Bojan Perovic, a researcher from the University of Hamburg and an expert on human rights from Serbia. He warned about growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Serbian media and the risk that it might obtain wider support after the last parliamentarian elections marked the return of hardcore nationalist parties to parliament.

While Perovic noted that Serbian authorities reacted promptly to the refugee crisis, he noted that anti-Islamic sentiments are present in both Serbian school books and tabloids. "In the future, and especially after nationalist parties came back to the parliament, we can expect this kind of rhetoric to become even more popular," Perovic told BIRN. Both Perovic and Mujadzevic were among the experts who participated in a panel dedicated to Islamophobia in the Balkans, organised as part of the first European Islamophobia Summit on Sunday. Other panelists stressed that Islamophobic rhetoric can be found also in countries like Kosovo and Bosnia, where Muslims represent a large part of the population.

Arber Fetiu, a researcher of the University of Montreal, from Kosovo, said that although many people in Kosovo practice Islam, negative stereotypes against "bearded men" and "veiled women" were becoming increasingly common, as an effect of the concerns over radicalisation and extremism, and because they are seen as subject to a "foreign religious influence" which might be undermining Kosovo's independence. "These peoeple are often depicted as men and women who have been paid by Arab countries, or even by Serbia - according to some conspiracy theories - to 're-Islamise' Kosovo", Feitu told the conference.

Dermana Seta, a Bosnian expert on religious studies who chairs the commission for freedom of religion inside the Bosnian Islamic Community, noted that Bosnian Muslims are often victims of hate speech and crimes in places where they are in the minority. She said that moves by Bosnian authorities to fight terrorism and radicalisation have contributed to stigmatising Muslim believers as potential threats to security. "The Bosnian strategy against terrorism specifically adopts measures against Muslim extremists ... while other extreme [Serbian and Croat] right-wing movements are not even mentioned," Seta told BIRN. "Our government is trying to impress its Western partners, but its techniques are not doing any good for our internal situation," Seta concluded.
© Balkan Insight


Over100 NGOs to EU leaders: Reject dangerous migration response plan

27/6/2016- The European Union is set to open a dark chapter in its history unless it rejects the European Commission’s proposal on migration, a coalition of more than 100 NGOs warned on Monday. Shifting towards a foreign policy that serves the single objective of curbing migration, the EU and its member states risk further undermining their credibility and authority in the defence of human rights, the organizations say. They call on European leaders to reject the Commission proposal that would cement this approach, making deterrence and return of people the main objective of the EU’s relationship with third countries.

The plan proposes using aid, trade and other funds to encourage countries to reduce the number of migrants reaching EU shores. It was put forward by the Commission at the beginning of June and will be discussed by European heads of state and government at the EU summit in Brussels this week. It is inspired by the EU-Turkey deal which has left thousands of people stranded in Greece in inhumane and degrading conditions. Children are particularly affected, with many hundreds of unaccompanied children being held in closed detention facilities or forced to sleep in police cells.

According to the coalition of 104 human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development agencies, Europe risks torpedoing its human rights foreign policy, and undermining the right to asylum internationally. There are no safeguards envisaged to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms are in place when the EU strikes deals with governments it deems useful for stopping migration to Europe. This leaves a very real risk of breach of international law which forbids pushbacks to places where people are at risk of rights violations. “Responsibility and liability for human rights violations do not end at Europe’s borders,” the statement reads.

Also, the proposal discussed ignores all the evidence that deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration are ineffective. The EU’s current approach will not only fail to ‘break the business-model’ of smugglers but will increase human suffering as people will be forced into taking more dangerous routes to reach Europe. The NGO coalition is very concerned that the proposal will result in a wholesale reorientation of Europe’s development aid towards stopping migration. “This is an unacceptable contradiction to the EU’s commitment to use development cooperation with the aim of eradicating poverty,” the statement reads.

The organisations warn that striking ‘migration management’ agreements with countries where grave human rights violations are committed will be counter-productive in the longer term. Such deals will be “undermining human rights around the globe and perpetuating the cycle of abuse and repression that causes people to flee,” they say. The NGOs call on the European leaders to reject the Commission proposal on migration. Instead, European countries should develop a sustainable long-term strategy for migration management. “The EU, a project built on the rubble of a devastating war, is about to embark on a dark chapter of its history,” the organizations warn in their joint statement.
Notes to editors:
• The joint NGO statement can be seen here, including a list of organisations that have signed up to it.


Turkey: Gay German MP 'violently arrested' at Istanbul demo

One of the most prominent members of Germany's Green party has been arrested in Turkey after attending a banned demo at the end of Gay Pride Week.

27/6/2016- According to Volker Beck, an MP for the Green Party, he was violently manhandled by Turkish police during his arrest on Sunday evening. Beck tried to stop the arrest of a gay rights activist who was attempting to give a speech in the centre of Istanbul. He was then aggressively removed from the scene by police, according to a DPA reporter who was present. Police made 29 arrests in all, according to the organizers of the demo. A colleague of Beck’s in the Green party, Terry Reintke, a member of the European Parliament, was also arrested. Shortly afterwards both politicians were released. Felix Banaszak and Max Lucks, both also members of the Green party, were held in detention for several hours but had been released by Sunday evening.

According to Beck there was no justification for the aggressive way in which the police acted. “They ripped my passport away from me and pushed me around. It was a massive and arbitrary police attack that we saw,” said Beck. Istanbul's governor had cancelled the traditional gay pride march through Turkey’s largest city on security grounds. But organizers nonetheless announced their intention to read out a speech on the Istiklal Caddesi, one of the busiest streets in the city. The speech, later published on the internet, was sharply critical of the Turkish government. Turkish police were ordered onto the streets in massive numbers to prevent the gathering from taking place. Beck said that the actions of Turkish security forces make it harder for the EU to work with Ankara. “That is simply not acceptable for a cooperation and for close friendship," he said.
© The Local - Germany


UK entering 'uncharted territory' of Islamophobia after Brexit vote

Anti-Muslim hate monitoring group Tell MAMA reports 326 per cent increase in incidents in 2015 – and warns Brexit could make it worse

27/6/2016- British Muslims are suffering an “explosion” in faith-based hatred with many women now afraid to conduct their daily lives, according to a new report which also warns of heightened racism following the vote on Brexit. The annual survey by the anti-Muslim hate monitoring group Tell MAMA found a 326 per cent rise in incidents last year, while the Muslim Council of Britain group of mosques said it had compiled a dossier of 100 hate crimes over the weekend alone. Political leaders including David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn both voiced concern in the Commons on Monday, while Labour grandee Harriet Harman said many now seemed to believe it was “open season” for racists. Poles and other minority groups have suffered several verbal attacks throughout the country in recent days, and the National Police Chiefs' Council said it had detected a 57 per cent rise in reports to a police online hate crime reporting site between Thursday and Sunday compared to the corresponding days four weeks ago. On Monday, Sima Kotecha, a reporter for Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, said on Twitter that she was in “utter shock” after having been called a “P**i, adding: “Haven’t heard that word here since the 80s.”

But Tell MAMA said its annual report showed the surge in anti-Muslim hatred, fuelled by terrorist incidents, was happening well before the EU referendum. Its survey found that while far right activists are often behind the incidents online, many attacks are happening in the real world – at schools and colleges, in restaurants and on public transport. The number of offline incidents rose 326 per cent in 2015 from 146 to 437. It said the effect on Muslim women – particularly those wearing any Islamic clothing – was now so grave that many were being prevented from conducting “day to day activities”. The group’s chair, former labour communities minister Shahid Malik, said: “We stand in unchartered territory”, adding: “The statistics paint a profoundly bleak picture of the explosion of anti-Muslim hate both online and on our streets, with visibly Muslim women being disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemongers. This exponential growth is testament to the fact that despite great efforts to fight anti-Muslim hatred, as a society we are still failing far too many of our citizens.

“With the backdrop of the Brexit vote and the spike in racist incidents that seems to be emerging, the government should be under no illusions, things could quickly become extremely unpleasant for Britain’s minorities. So today more than ever, we need our government, our political parties and of course our media to act with the utmost responsibility and help steer us towards a post-Brexit Britain where xenophobia and hatred are utterly rejected. Failure to demonstrate the necessary maturity in leadership at this delicate moment in our history could have some significant and far-reaching consequences for us all.” ts report said the greatest impact was being felt by women who were visibly Muslim and “whose ability to travel and be free from fear and intimidation is being increasingly curtailed given national and international events”.

It said 61 per cent of victims in the cases it recorded involved women and of those, 75 per cent were clearly identifiable as Muslim, for example due to their headscarves or veils. Tell MAMA said women were more likely to be attacked or abused while travelling on public transport to town and city centres or when shopping. Some 11 per cent of incidents occurred in schools and other colleges, it said, with 35 cases of abusive behaviour or physical attacks. Tell MAMA said Ofsted and the Department for Education should consider anti-Muslim bullying and hate in their evaluations of schools. Many incidents have been reported widely before. Last November, a woman who was caught on CCTV abusing a pregnant Muslim woman on a London bus – accusing her of being a supporter of Isis– was given a suspended jail sentence.

Other victims include taxi drivers. One man, Yasir Hussain, told The Independent, he had been called a “P**i bastard” on 18 June this year, after another driver pulled up alongside his minicab and hurled abuse at him. Tell MAMA said its data suggested the largest proportion of incidents involved perpetrators aged between 13 and 18. Tell MAMA said the finding “suggests some teenagers are being radicalised and are moving away from the mainstream views of their age group who are much more multicultural in their orientation”. In the Commons on Monday, Mr Cameron described incidents of racism directed at migrants in the wake of the referendum result as “despicable”, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered Scotland Yard to be “extra vigilant”.

Meanwhile, Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “As the results of the referendum became known, I called for our politicians to come together and heal the divisions that have emerged as a result of the campaign. Now we are witnessing the shocking extent of this with reports around the country of hate speech and minorities being targeted. “Our country is experiencing a political crisis which, I fear threatens the social peace.”
© The Independent


UK: Molotov cocktail thrown at Halal butcher's in Walsall

Worker struck by bottle in attack

28/6/2016- A Halal butcher’s was targeted by a thug who threw a Molotov cocktail inside the premises. A bottle containing what West Midlands Police called an “accelerant” was thrown at a worker inside the Kashmir Meat and Poultry shop in Wednesbury Road, Pleck, Walsall , at about 5.25pm on Monday. It struck the victim, causing bruising, but he was not seriously hurt. Some fire damage was caused to the shop when it burst into flames. Zahid Akhtar, who was on the scene soon after the attack, said: "The area was cordoned off and the shop was surrounded by police officers. "There were also a lot of police cars and fire engines there. "Luckily I don't think anyone was seriously hurt." The culprit was described as white, 6ft tall and wearing a blue jacket. West Midlands Police is investigating the attack by combing CCTV footage and making door-to-door enquiries in the area. Local officers will also be in the community to carry out reassurance patrols. The force could not immediately say it was being treated as a hate crime. Det Insp Greg Evans, of West Midlands Police, said: “The inquiry is at an early stage and I am keeping an open mind as to the motive. “The man was not seriously injured, but it could have been much more serious.”
© The Birmingham Mail.


UK: Outrage as school pupils given 'Islamophobic' article in English lesson

A London school has sparked outrage after a “disturbing and Islamophobic” article by a member of a far-right group was handed out to Year 8 children in an English lesson.

25/6/2016- The piece, called Ten Reasons Why Britain Should Not Accept Syrian Refugees and written by Liberty GB member George Whale, was given to pupils as part of a lesson on bias at Oaks Park High School in Ilford. Headteacher Steve Wilks has defended the material, saying it had been chosen as an example of something the pupils could “easily argue against”. But pupils’ parents and family members reacted with fury after being told of the lesson involving pupils as young as 12. The family of one child said she was left “ashamed to be a Muslim” after coming home with the article and was scared of returning to school the following day.

The 13-year-old girl's mother told the Standard she was “shocked and horrified” when the article was brought home. She said: "The question I would ask was if a pupil was to say something homophobic, or xenophobic, or anti-Semitic, the school would have to take action over it. “In this case, students were sent home with far-right and Islamophobic material, and told that their children could be terrorists too. What action is the school planning on taking over this?” She went on: “Was there no other material that could be used to teach this to 12-year-olds? Will they also be critiquing ISIS material? Our children should be safe at school." The girl’s cousin Syed Ahmad, 22, said: “She actually felt ashamed of being a Muslim afterwards. “When I went to the house to talk to them she was hiding in her room. She was actually scared of going to school the next day.”

He went on: “I asked her what was the lesson about. She didn't say propaganda, she didn’t say media bias, she said it was about why we shouldn't let Syrians come into the UK. “I think this is just a very poor choice of article to give to children as young as 12. I think it's a very poor choice given the current tide of Islamophobia.” Vaseem Ahmed, chairman of the Muslim Engagement and Development anti-Islamophobia group, called for “lessons to be learned” from the parents’ response. He said: “It’s just a very disturbing way of doing it. Why would you expose young kids to that extreme stuff?” Mr Ahmed also questioned why a far-right group had been chosen, saying: “It just seems like, to some, Muslims have become fair game. It’s not malicious intent from whoever did it but there was a lack of thought in it.”

However, since images were published on Facebook this week, some students have rushed to the school’s defence. One wrote: “As a student at this school, I'd like to make it clear that yes, our lessons were planned around this article. But it was made adamantly clear how derogatory the views of the article were by our teachers.” The school’s headteacher said in a statement: “The aim of this lesson was to teach pupils an understanding of bias by giving an example of a view that they could easily argue against. “The teachers and students read the piece together and at each stage explored the content of the article and the opinions contained within. “The views contained within the article were not endorsed or supported by the teacher, but rather quoted as part of the lesson. “This was an exercise to empower pupils to separate truth from lies in articles when doing their own reading, and the assessment objective was to write a letter to the author of the piece arguing their views. “The class were given a printed copy of the article to refer to and to use for homework, and were not directed to find this or any other articles by the same author online.”
© The Evening Standard.


Eurotunnel unveils drones ahead of 'Brexit migrant surge'

The Brexit decision could see a surge of migrants trying to enter the UK from France amid fears the Anglo-French border could end up like the Berlin Wall, the head of Eurotunnel has said.

27/6/2016- Jacques Gounon said last week's vote gave migrants a clear signal the border would become "almost impossible to overcome". The firm has unveiled two new drones to boost security on the French side. Mr Gounon said he feared increased migrant pressure this summer. "I'm afraid that any Brexit consequences could give a threat to migrants that they could be prevented from going to the UK - definitively going to the UK - in the years to come," he said. "This could generate an additional new migrant pressure, in order for such people, desperately, to reach the UK before Brexit is enforced. "So I do think and I'm afraid that we could have an increased migrant pressure during this summer, as a Brexit consequence."

'Border review'
Mr Gounon said Eurotunnel did not support the idea of moving the UK border from the current locations. Eurotunnel and cross-Channel ferry services operate at different sites, and the rights for British Border Force officials to carry out checks at Coquelles and the Port of Calais were established under different treaties. He said Eurotunnel had worked very efficiently with the UK Border Force to protect the site for 25 years and added: "I don't see what could be done more." He said the new drones would increase the speed of response, but added: "There is no interest at all, from the shuttle point of view, to have an additional border control in Folkestone, at the end of the tunnel." After Thursday's referendum, the mayor of Calais called for changes to how the Anglo-French border is run. Currently, Britain can carry out checks in Calais to stop migrants trying to reach the UK, but Ms Bouchart said the French were in a strong position to request a review. The French authorities had warned before the referendum that a vote for leaving the EU could see a camp with thousands of migrants being moved from Calais to British soil.
© BBC News


Austrian far-right figure warns of 'Auxit' vote within a year

26/6/2016- The European Union should avoid any moves towards political "centralization" or else Austria could hold a referendum on membership of the bloc within a year, a far-right candidate who almost won the country's presidential election said. Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party narrowly failed to become the European Union's first far-right head of state in Austria's presidential run-off last month. His party has, however, challenged that result and a ruling is pending. Britain's Brexit vote last week to leave the European Union has emboldened populist, anti-EU parties across the continent, including the Freedom Party (FPO) and France's National Front, which called on Friday for a "Frexit" referendum.

FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache has taken a more cautious view, saying only that an Austrian referendum on the issue might become a party objective in the future. But Hofer went further in an interview published on Sunday.  "If a course is set within a year further towards centralization instead of taking (the EU's) core values into account, then we must ask Austrians whether they want to be members," he told the tabloid newspaper Oesterreich. Hofer and his allies believe the bloc should be based on economic rather than political union. "The founding fathers (of the EU) wanted to ensure closer economic cooperation because states that cooperate economically do not wage war against each other," he said. "That worked very well until the political union was founded."

Austria's Constitutional Court is examining FPO allegations of irregularities in the counting of postal ballots during the election. It is already clear that rules on when those ballots should be counted and processed were often broken. But even if the FPO's challenge is successful and the court orders a re-run, which is one possible outcome, the president alone does not have the power to order a referendum. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said Austria will not hold a referendum on EU membership, which the country's media have dubbed an "Auxit" or "Oexit" vote, a reference to Oesterreich, which means Austria in German. But the two parties in his often-divided centrist coalition government must find a way to work together until 2018 and win over voters or face a snap parliamentary election that polls suggest the FPO would win.
© Reuters


Slovak far-right party petitions for ‘Slovexit’

25/6/2016- A far-right party in the Slovak parliament said Saturday it would petition for a vote on the country’s exit from the EU, following Britain’s historic vote to leave. “It is high time Slovakia left this sinking Titanic too,” said Marian Kotleba, head of the People’s Party Our Slovakia, in a posting on Facebook. “Therefore we will start making good on our election promise on Monday — we will start collecting signatures to call a referendum on Slovakia’s departure from the EU,” he added. Slovakia, a nation of 5.4 million people which joined the EU in 2004 and the eurozone in 2009, is due to take over the rotating EU presidency from the Netherlands on July 1. In a general election in March, Kotleba’s party won 14 seats in the 150-member parliament which is dominated by a centre-left governing coalition. Kotleba, 39, is known for his hostility to both the Roma minority and the “establishment” and for leading street marches with party members dressed in neo-Nazi black uniforms.


Headlines 24 June, 2016

Bulgaria Moves to Make Radical Islam a Crime

Preachers of radical Islam could face financial penalties and up to five years in prison in Bulgaria under changes to the penal code backed by MPs.

24/6/2016- Preachers of radical Islam in Bulgaria face up to three years in prison and fines of up to 5,000 leva [around 2500 euros], under changes to the penal code adopted on a first reading by MPs on Thursday. The proposal to criminalize radical Islamic preaching, proposed by the nationalistic coalition Patriotic Front, PF, was approved by a majority of 106 votes. Only three deputies voted against while ten abstained. MPs from the ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms party, MRF, left the plenary session before the vote. “The problem with radical Islam is already a fact in Bulgaria. Such acts and structures are funded by external factors and the penal code has to clearly define and incriminate them,” Krasimir Karakachakov, one of the leaders of PF, told journalists before the vote.

The adopted amendments stipulate six hypotheses of preaching an ideology that could be qualified as “radical”. Among them are agitating for the creation of an Islamic state or Caliphate, calling for the enforcement of Sharia law and calling for jihad against non-Muslims. Recruiting followers, agitating for or collecting funds for terror organizations, “whose ideology is based on the Islam”, will also be considered a crime if the legal changes make it past the second reading. During the debates, the MRF’s vice-chair, Aliosman Imamov, called the draft law an unsuccessful attempt to draw a line between religion and radicalization. “We are against radicalization but I... deem it profane for someone from this tribune to try to convince me that my religion creates terrorists," he said, warning that the text will “affect millions [of people]”.

Imamov protested that the draft law targets Muslims alone and not radicalization in other religious communities, accusing some of his fellow MPs of Islamophobia. He added that his party would support the legal initiative if it covered radicalization in all religious ideologies in Bulgaria, because “that would be the right approach”. In response, the second co-chair of the Patriotic Front, Valeri Simeonov backed the new law as a move to prevent an invasion of radical Islam. He also accused the MRF of being the only party in Bulgaria to exploit religion for political purposes. The criminalization of radical Islamic agitation comes just a week after MPs gave broad support to a new bill banning the wearing of garments covering the face in public, which is known as “the burqa ban”. The Muslim veil has already been banned on a local level in several other towns and cities, including Pazardjik, Sliven, Burgas and Stara Zagora.

No Bulgarian citizens are known to have joined the ISIS as foreign fighters. However, in July 2015, prosecutors charged 14 Muslims - including the controversial imam Ahmed Moussa - from Pazardjik and nearby Plovdiv, Asenovgrad and Startsevo, with inciting religious hatred through their preaching and with promoting ISIS propaganda.
© Balkan Insight


Netherlands: Turkish mosque vandalized

24/6/2016- A group of vandals attacked a Turkish mosque in Eindhoven, local television channel RTV Rijnmond reported. The station said at least 15 people attacked the mosque with iron bars and shattered the windows. Two people were slightly injured during the attack Thursday. It was unclear if the injured included worshippers. The mosque is operated by the Netherlands’ Turkish Federation. Vedat Ozdal, a senior official with the association running the mosque, labeled the attack “cowardly” and urged the community to remain calm, saying it was the responsibility of the police and local municipality to find the attackers. Piet Sleeking, deputy mayor of Dordrecht, where the mosque is located, also called on the community to remain calm. Witnesses who spoke to the television station said the attackers were linked to the PKK terrorist organization, though it was unclear how that was known. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. The group resumed its 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state last July.
© The Muslim News


Bosnia: Islamophobia Summit Opens in Capital

The first European Islamophobia Summit opens in Sarajevo on Friday, aiming to raise awareness about the growing danger that Islamophobia represents to Europe.

24/6/2016- The first European Islamophobia Summit opens on Friday in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Lasting until June 26, it will bring together European and US political, academic and civil-society leaders with the goal of finding solutions to the challenge of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes in Europe. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University, who is the academic advisor to the summit, told BIRN that Islamophobia had reached a worrying dimension in Europe. “If we look back to what happened in the refugees crisis in 2015, we see that Islamophobia is spreading also in countries where there are no Muslims, like in Eastern Europe,” Hafez said. He noted also that Islamophobia is becoming a mainstream phenomenon, no longer relegated exclusively to the fringe and to far-right parties.

Confirmed participants at the summit include former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, the French founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, Bernard Kouchner, the international media anchor, Mehdi Hassan, and the former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, amongst others. Representatives will come from 17 European nations and different faith communities. “We hope that having such high-profile participants will help spreading awareness about rising Islamophobia,” Hafez stressed. Research quoted by the European Islamophobia Forum show a sharp rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the past five years in several European countries. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Centre found that at least half of the respondents surveyed in Italy, Greece and Poland held a negative opinion about Muslims living in their country.

“Against calls by US Presidential candidate Donald Trump for a ban on Muslims entering the US and Hungary’s Prime Minister and the upcoming EU President and Slovak Prime Minister both stating Islam has no place in their countries, the need for a summit ... against Islamophobia is timelier than ever,” a press release of the European Islamophobia Forum said. Rising Islamophobia is a concern also for Bosnian Muslims, who are worried about the increasingly negative perception of Islam in Europe, BIRN reported, and whose long-standing tradition of tolerance now confronts the threat of religious extremism. According to Hafez, the decision to organise the summit in Sarajevo has major symbolic value.

“We chose to organise this summit in Sarajevo for two main reasons: first, Sarajevo has a centuries-long tradition of tolerance between different religious communities”, he told BIRN. “Besides that, Sarajevo should also be considered as a warning, considering the war [in Bosnia] during the 1990s and the fact that the worst genocide since World War II in Europe took place in Bosnia,” Hafez noted. He was referring to the killing of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia by the Bosnian Serb Army in 1995.
© Balkan Insight


European far right hails Britain's Brexit vote

Front National leader Marine Le Pen says Britain has begun a movement that cannot be stopped

24/6/2016- Europe’s far-right parties have rejoiced at the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, hailing it as a victory for their own anti-immigration and anti-EU stances and vowing to push for similar referendums in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Denmark. France’s Front National (FN) hailed Brexit as a clear boost for Marine Le Pen’s presidential bid next spring, as well as a move that gave momentum to the party’s anti-Europe and anti-immigration line. “Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries,” Le Pen wrote on Twitter. A jubilant Le Pen delivered a Brexit victory speech from her party’s headquarters outside Paris, styling the UK referendum result as just the start of an unstoppable new wave of support for parties and movements like the Front National. “The UK has begun a movement that can’t be stopped,” she said.

Le Pen swiftly changed her social media handles to the Union flag and stated her “warmest and friendliest” congratulations to “very brave” Boris Johnson and the leave campaign. Specially printed Front National Brexit posters showed hands breaking free from chains, with the caption “Now it’s France’s turn”. Le Pen, who has been calling for a French EU referendum for three years and is expected to comfortably reach the final round of the presidential election in April, had seized on the UK’s EU referendum to bolster her critical stance on the bloc and on Brexit as a new opportunity for the far right to win over new French voters. She has said that if if she wins the French presidency, she will within six months hold an in-out referendum on the country’s membership of the union and campaign for a French exit, or “Frexit”. “Europe will be at the heart of the next [French] presidential election” Le Pen said. In every country more people say that EU membership is a good thing than a bad thing.

Brexit, she said, was also about a wider resurgence of what she called “patriotic” movements across Europe. On Friday many of those movements – rightwing, far-right, and Eurosceptic parties – appeared similarly emboldened and energised by the Brexit vote. In the Netherlands, the far right and anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders called for a referendum on Dutch membership of the EU. “I think it’s historic,” he told Dutch radio. “I think it could also have huge consequences for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Now it’s our turn. I think the Dutch people must now be given the chance to have their say in a referendum.”

In Germany, Beatrix von Storch, an MEP for the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, welcomed the result. “The 23 June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day. The people were asked – and they decided. The European Union as a political union has failed,” said Storch, who was recently expelled from the Tories’ party group in the European parliament after suggesting German police might be within their rights to shoot refugees trying to cross the border. The far right Sweden Democrats, meanwhile, who hold the balance of power in Stockholm, tweeted: “Congratulations to Britain’s people on choosing independence! Now we are waiting for a #swexit!” The powerful far-right Danish People’s party congratulated the British people on their “bold” choice, which, it said, was a “stinging slap to the whole system”.

The DPP’s spokesperson Kenneth Kristensen Berth told Danish media: “These European bureaucrats have been unusually adept at avoiding any possible confrontation with the massive popular opposition to the project. The [British] signal cannot be overheard.” The DPP has said it wants a Danish referendum on less binding conditions of EU membership. But Denmark’s centre-right prime minister, who relies on the support of the DPP to prop up his minority administration, said there would be no such plebiscite. In Athens, Golden Dawn, Europe’s most violent rightwing party, rejoiced at the referendum result. Predicting it would further empower “nationalist forces” across Europe, the neo-fascist group welcomed what it described as “the brave decision of the British people” and said it hoped a similar referendum could take place in Greece.

“Golden Dawn welcomes the victory of the nationalist and patriotic forces in Great Britain against the European Union, which has been transformed into the doleful instrument of loan sharks,” said the party’s leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos. Debt-stricken Greece, the eurozone’s weakest link and until now most volatile member state, has been bailed out three times since 2010. “I hope that sometime a referendum can be held in Greece, which has been brought to its knees economically and enslaved, assigning its national sovereignty to the Europe of usurers,” the leader, an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler, added.
A majority of those questioned in Italy want a referendum on their own membership

Amid signs of growing anti-European sentiment in the country, there are fears that Golden Dawn, currently Athens’ third biggest political force, will be bolstered on the back of anger over a new round of gruelling tax increases, wage and pension cuts expected to kick in this year. In other parts of Europe the reaction even among Eurosceptics was more measured. Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which won a remarkable 25% of the vote in the 2013 national election and this month gained new momentum when its candidates were elected mayors of Rome and Turin, reacted to the Brexit vote with a lengthy critique of Brussels. The EU should change or else it would die, said the movement, which has been demanding a referendum on the single currency for years. “The Leave of the United Kingdom sets forth the failure of political communities facing austerity, and the egotism of the member states, incapable of being a community … We want a Europe which is a ‘community’ and not a union of banks and lobbies,” said the party, writing on the blog of founder Beppe Grillo.
© The Guardian.


Migrant crisis: 4,500 rescued in Mediterranean in one day

The Italian navy and coastguard say they have rescued about 4,500 migrants from dozens of small boats in the Mediterranean during the course of Thursday.

23/6/2016- A woman's body was recovered from one of the vessels. More favourable weather conditions have resulted in a major increase in the number of people leaving north Africa. Many of the unseaworthy boats were spotted about 40km (25 miles) from the Libyan coast. "We saved a total of about 4,500 people in about 40 rescue operations," a coastguard spokesman told AFP news agency. He added that the operations were continuing and the number might rise. More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to United Nations figures. An agreement between Turkey and the European Union to halt migrants from travelling to Greek islands has reduced boat arrivals by 98% during the first five months of the year, compared with the same period in 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says. But arrivals in Italy continue at about the same rate as last year, the IOM added.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
© BBC News


Greece: Fears over tensions in centers after migrant dies

23/6/2016- Concerns mounted about simmering tensions in migrant reception facilities across Greece on Thursday as more refugees arrived on islands in the Aegean from Turkey and an Egyptian man was killed in a brawl in a center on Chios. On Thursday another 72 migrants traveled by boat from Turkey to Samos, which also has a large migrant population. Another six migrants arrived on Chios, where the center is already holding more than double its capacity. A total of 2,580 migrants are living in the camp on the island compared to the 1,100 it was designed to accommodate. A 32-year-old Egyptian migrant died in hospital on Thursday following a fight at the Chios center with a fellow Egyptian who is accused of stabbing the former in the throat. The alleged attacker was arrested and police reinforcements moved to the area to prevent a new escalation of tensions.

Many of the migrants at the center have been waiting for months for their asylum applications to be processed or are in line for deportation. Questioned about the conditions at migrant reception facilities, Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas attributed the tensions to the variety of ethnic groups living in close proximity with uncertain prospects. “There are lots of different people, their money is running out and they feel trapped,” he said. The minister said that by July the government will have created space to host 500 unaccompanied minors who have reached Greece on smuggling boats from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. According to government statistics made public on Thursday, a total of 56,975 migrants are currently living in Greece in either state-run or makeshift camps. Of these, 8,556 are in camps on the islands of the eastern Aegean and 14,860 are in Attica, including 3,600 at the site of the old Athens airport in Elliniko and 1,300 in a makeshift camp in Piraeus.

As a European Union program to relocate migrants moves at a snail’s pace, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday that Brussels is ready to impose sanctions on member-states refusing to accept refugees. In comments at a business conference in Lagonissi, south of Athens, Avramopoulos condemned “populist and nationalist leaders” in European countries who have said they will not abide by the program.
© The Kathimerini.


Turkey considers referendum on whether to give up stalled EU accession bid

23/6/2016- Turkey could follow in the UK’s footsteps and hold a referendum on whether to continue its stalled EU membership bid, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, accusing the bloc of discriminating against his Muslim-majority country. Although he has often lashed out at the EU, Mr Erdogan’s speech on Wednesday marked the first time he has suggested that Turkey could cancel its accession bid. “We can stand up and ask the people just like the British are doing,” Mr Erdogan said, speaking in Istanbul on the eve of the UK’s referendum day. “We would ask, ‘do we continue the negotiations with the European Union or do we end it?’ If the people say ‘continue’, we would carry on.”

Mr Erdogan has spent years urging reluctant EU leaders to support his country’s application for membership, saying that joining the bloc was Turkey’s “most important international priority” as recently as last October. But the slow process and anti-Turkish rhetoric propagated by Europe’s ascendant far-right parties have left Turks disenchanted. In Wednesday’s speech, Mr Erdogan angrily accused the EU of Islamophobia, saying: “Hey EU! You are just not going to agree to accept us because the big majority of our people are Muslims.” He claimed that a former French foreign minister had once said to him that Turkey’s membership bid was “in vain”. “When I asked why, he said it was because we were Muslims,” Mr Erdogan added. Turkey has been angered by British politicians’ suggestions that it had no chance of joining for decades, calling David Cameron’s joke that it would not happen until the year 3,000 “shameful”.

After applying for membership in 1987, Ankara began formal negotiations in 2005, but has made little progress. Only 15 of 35 accession chapters have been opened, and just one has been closed. Next week, EU states will meet to discuss opening a new chapter on budget and finance, as had been agreed during talks in March. EU leaders promised accelerated membership talks as part of the migration deal with Turkey, but Ankara has accused the EU of not keeping its side of the bargain. Besides speeding up negotiations, Brussels offered Turks visa-free travel to the bloc’s Schengen area if Ankara met certain conditions, including narrowing the scope of its terror legislation, which is increasingly used to stifle dissent. The Turkish government, pointing to threats from Isil and Kurdish militants, has so far refused to amend its laws.

“If the deal doesn’t work out, we will hit a brick wall in Turkish-EU relations and the level of mistrust could hit a point where Turkey could call off membership negotiations,” said Senem Aydin-Düzgit, an associate professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. “I don’t think it will happen, but if there was a referendum, it would be a close call,” she added. A 2015 poll by the Pew Research Centre found 55 per cent of Turks supported joining the EU. Turkey’s prospects look increasingly dim. European leaders have warned that the country is rapidly sliding towards authoritarianism as Mr Erdogan plans to change the constitution and hold a referendum to establish a presidential system that would grant him greater powers. To reach the parliamentary majority required to hold a referendum, Mr Erdogan’s ruling AKP needs the support of right-wing, nationalist voters. Ms Aydin-Düzgit said Mr Erdogan’s speech was targeted at them rather than Europe.
© The Telegraph


Poland’s Islamophobia

By Karolina Wigura

23/6/2016- In February 2016, a cover of one of the Polish social and political weeklies went viral. On the cover was a half-naked white woman wrapped in an EU flag, defending herself from male hands of a dark complexion. The caption read “Islamic rape of Europe.” Several international newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the Independent, called the cover shocking, highlighting stereotypes used by the graphic designer and relating them to racist images of Jews and blacks from the first half of the twentieth century. The publication, wSieci, is a right-wing magazine and the fourth most popular weekly in Poland after the Catholic Goœæ Niedzielny and liberal Newsweek and Polityka. The February 2016 cover was symptomatic of the radicalization of the Polish public debate during the months of the refugee crisis, when the subject of national identity was used as a pretext in the political and rhetorical battle.

That, combined with a populist and Eurosceptic shift in Poland, explains the particular way in which the refugee crisis became instrumentalized even though the debate about the crisis took place almost amid an absence of refugees. Poland did not take up its quota of refugees under a system defined by the EU in which each member state would take in a certain number of asylum seekers commensurate with its size and other criteria. As for the Syrian refugees, they didn’t choose Poland as a destination. Radical statements by many right-wing columnists have played a paradoxical role in their rhetorical struggle with a certain image of the EU and the West. A special stress was put on Germany, described as a country that promotes values alien to Polish culture and is opposed to other countries that prefer to preserve a certain homogeneity of their societies.

The columnists criticized the willingness of the former center-right Civic Platform government to welcome a small number of refugees as a “subordination to the dictates of the West” or “Berlin’s command.” One commentator even compared sharing the quotas, to which EU member states agreed on September 17, 2015, to the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939. The refugee crisis in the Polish right-wing press was often presented as an Islamic invasion of Europe. Notions such as “raid,” “conquest,” and “penetration” were also used. At the same time, Western Europe was described as a culture dominated by leftist influence, in which values like Christianity, tradition, and family had been forgotten. One columnist wrote about a “leftist-genderist idiocracy and depravation of nations and societies,” another of “European ideological blindness.” Multiculturalism was presented as a strategy of devastating Christian culture and values, a “soft totalitarianism.”

Some commentators claimed that Poland was witnessing a war in which “Muslims will combat us, and not with terrorism, but with uteruses of their women.” Broad stereotypes about the whole variety of Muslim communities all over the world were used: “More Muslims means more rapes. If someone does not see this, he must be either blind or stupid,” one could read in the online publication Fronda. At the same time, refugees were presented as eager beneficiaries of the European welfare state. They were to perform “social jihad.” The debate on the refugee crisis would perhaps not have been so tense if it were not for the political context. From 2014 to 2016, one could observe in Poland a deepening polarization of the public debate and the hostility of two main camps taking part in it: the conservative-national camp and the liberal camp.

There are several reasons for this. One was the electoral cycle. In November 2014, local elections were held in Poland. Then, in May 2015 and October 2015 respectively, presidential and parliamentary elections took place in which the right-wing Law and Justice party was swept to power. Then there were symbolic anniversaries. One was the fifth anniversary of the 2010 Smolensk air crash, in which Poland’s then president Lech Kaczyñski and 95 other people were killed. The other was to mark a quarter century of Polish freedom and independence, which was celebrated in August 2014. The subject of the refugee crisis, which was such an important political issue before the 2015 parliamentary election, has been mostly absent since Law and Justice took over the reins of government.

What do these phenomena mean for Poland’s attitude toward the European Union?
They are symptoms of a populist and Eurosceptic turn in Poland. Somehow, after a decade of a thriving Polish economy and of infrastructure being modernized thanks to EU funds, the EU is now being seen not as benefactor but as a mechanism of oppression. But the Polish public debate also reveals other, wider crises. The highly romanticized image of the West is falling apart in other post-Communist countries, too. In addition, the Polish public debate is important because it’s a sign of a broader crisis of European solidarity. The refugee issue became a catalyst for nationalist egoism and a desperate search for identity—also in other European countries, Eastern as well as Western.
Karolina Wigura is an assistant professor at the University of Warsaw and the head of the political section of Kultura Liberalna.

© Carnegie Europe - Strategic Europe


Before they opposed Muslims, Europe's far right targeted the Roma

22/6/2016- In March, a party led by a neo-Nazi won 14 parliamentary seats in elections in Slovakia, accounting for more than 200,000 of the ballots cast and almost a quarter of first-time voters. Marian Kotleba, the mustachioed politician at the helm of the ultra-nationalist People's Party Our Slovakia, was known for his propensity to don distinctly fascist attire, his admiration for the Third Reich and his contempt for the European Union, NATO and other institutions of the West. Like other far-right politicians of the moment in Europe, Kotleba has inveighed against the supposed perils posed by immigration and seeks to ban Islam from Slovakia, where the majority of the population of 5.4 million is Catholic. But before he championed anti-Muslim sentiment, Kotleba's political success was in part anchored in the demonizing of another group of people: the Roma.

He came to prominence in regional elections in 2013, leading marches against "Gypsy criminality" and grandstanding over Bratislava's supposed coddling of the community. "We don't like the way this government deprives polite people in order to improve the position of parasites," he said at one rally. Kotleba tapped into prejudice that is widespread throughout much of Europe. The Roma, the descendants of an ancient migration from India who number about 10 million to 12 million people across the continent, still face considerable discrimination in virtually every country where they live. The bias against the Roma is both systemic and societal, stepped in centuries of distrust. Recent polls in different parts of Europe have found that huge proportions of people hold unfavorable views of the Roma.

Those attitudes have dovetailed with growing anti-Muslim sentiment. A survey published last week in Germany found attitudes hardening against differing minorities in the country. "The focus of resentment toward asylums seekers, Muslims as well as Sinti and Roma, increased," the study's authors said. It's perhaps most acute in nations where the Roma are most populous, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, despite concerted EU efforts to promote Roma inclusion. In Hungary, for example, the far-right Jobbik party has pushed the envelope for years against minorities, including the Roma. Its brand of ultra-nationalist populism has led more mainstream politicians, such as Prime Minister Viktor Orban, to also inveigh against the perils of Islam and refugees.

"The reason why Hungarians are anti-immigrant is that we live in a place where people who speak our language and share our religion have not integrated with the rest of society," Marton Gyongyosi, a Jobbik lawmaker, wrote in a 2015 op-ed that spells out the link between anti-Roma and anti-Muslim views. "It's natural that we don't want to integrate with some sub-Saharan immigrant who might be a member of a terrorist organization and could have some disease I've never even heard of before." Unlike countries to the West, Eastern and Central Europe have little experience of Muslim immigration. When warning against Syrian refugees, Orban had to resort to talking about the invasions of Ottoman armies hundreds of years ago. "Both Muslims and Roma are seen as barbarian, as non-modern," says Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist and author of "On Extremism and Democracy in Europe," which examines the present gains of the populist far right. "The threat is in the numbers rather than the individual."

Still, there are, of course, huge differences between the experience of the Roma in Europe and that of other migrants attempting to find work and asylum in its major economies. "It is highly likely that Romaphobe people are also Islamophobes, but it is a different type of sentiment," Mudde says. Anti-Muslim views are "a much more ideological argument, an argument about what a nation-state is, an argument about a clash of civilizations, a thesis which has always been popular in Eastern Europe."
© The Washington Post.


Czech Rep: Court upholds 7-year verdict for racially-motivated attack

22/6/2016- The High Court in Prague upheld yesterday the almost seven-year prison sentences for two men who committed an arson attack on a Romany dormitory in As, west Bohemia, and were found guilty of a racially motivated attempted murder and endangering of the public's safety. The lower-level courts sentenced Tomas Kopecky and Michal Polacek each to six years and nine months in prison for their attack from February 2012, when they threw Molotov cocktails to the building where 18 people including eight children were staying. Nobody's health was harmed as the inhabitants put the fire out. In his appeal, the state attorney demanded a 15-year sentence for the two perpetrators, but the Hight Court did not meet his request and upheld the previous verdict yesterday. It stated that Kopecky and Polacek committed the crime as fans of the neo-Nazi and racist organisation Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and its militant branch Combat 18 Bohemia.

Before throwing in the Molotov cocktails, they poured petrol around the entrance to the dormitory in order to thwart the inhabitants' escape. Apart from Kopecky and Polacek, another seven people were tried for neo-Nazi activities. The court stated that the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi groups was Jan Balik, who did not take part in the arson attack in As. Balik was sentenced to three years and eight months for racist and neo-Nazi activities such as the recruitment of new fans, writing of articles, launching of websites and promoting racism and neo-Nazism. He also sold T-shirts, CDs, DVDs and other items promoting neo-Nazi groups and aims. Other four men and one woman received suspended sentences for promoting radical groupings, assisting in the distribution of neo-Nazi CDs, T-shirts and other items and calling for violence against Romanies. The remaining suspect was acquitted of charges of the manufacturing of items bearing racist and Nazi symbols and motifs.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Lithuania: Vilnius Celebrated Baltic Pride 2016

On 18th June, 2016 a crowd of 3000 Lithuanian LGBT* community members and their allies participated in the March for Equality on the central avenue in the downtown of Vilnius to celebrate the Baltic Pride 2016, the most important LGBT* (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community event in the Baltic states, organized by the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.

22/6/2016- “Today, we are celebrating another democratic victory. For the first time in the history of Lithuania, the LGBT* community exercised its right to freedom of peaceful assembly without institutional barriers or tedious legal battles. We are developing and maturing into a society in which human rights are not just a catchphrase, but also a cause for real change. Thank you everyone for this celebration of tolerance,” commented Vladimir Simonko, the Executive Director of the National LGBT* rights organization LGL. The March for Equality in Vilnius city centre on Saturday afternoon took place without any serious incidents. The event began with a moment of silence honoring the victims of the terrorist attack which took place in a LGBT* community space in the United States last weekend. The route of the march from Lukiškiø Square to Bernardine Garden totaled in 2.3 kilometres. After the March for Equality the participants gathered in the Bernardine Garden.

“I am delighted that LGBT* community is becoming more visible in Lithuanian society. The Baltic Pride is gradually becoming not just the “gay parade”, but a reflection of the broad and diverse LGBT* community. It is fantastic that we can use this event as a platform for discussing pressing issues that are important to the local LGBT* community and the widespread incidence of bullying in our society,“ said Aliona Polujanova, the Board Member of LGL. In addition to the members of the local LGBT* community, participants in the march included members of the European Parliament, Lithuanian and international politicians, representatives of international organizations and residents and visitors of the Vilnius city.

After the March for Equality participants and friendly spectators were invited to the art factory “Loftas” for the Baltic Pride Park 2016 concert, featuring performances by legendary Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana International, world-famous French DJ Leomeo, drag queen LaDiva Live, Ukrainian performer Maria Sam Katseva, and Lithuanian performers Donny Montell, Ruslanas Kirilkinas and Sasha Song. The Baltic Pride 2016 festival took place in Vilnius for the third time. This year the festival was used to challenge the discriminatory application of the “anti-gay propaganda” legislation and to encourage public debate on legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Lithuania. The next Baltic Pride March for Equality will take place in Vilnius in 2019. In 2017 Baltic Pride festival will be hosted in the Estonian capital city of Tallinn.
© National LGBT Rights Association Lithuania


French authorities block British aid convoy for Calais refugees

Supporters were travelling back to London to hold a protest at the French embassy over the ban

18/6/2016- A convoy of 250 vehicles taking tonnes of aid and donations to refugees in Calais has been refused permission to cross the Channel by French authorities in a decision condemned as “shameful” by volunteers. Hundreds of people had assembled in Whitehall before driving down to Dover, with ferry tickets booked for a crossing on Saturday afternoon. But the French police, who carry out border checks on English soil as part of a bilateral treaty, refused entry to the country for unspecified security concerns. Members of the convoy were held in Dover as the ban was confirmed, holding a rally where protesters waving “refugees welcome” banners chanted: “We’ve got aid, let us through – refugees are people too.” Kent Police was sent an official notification from French authorities that entry had been refused. “No agency within the United Kingdom has any grounds to challenge this decision,” a spokesperson said. “The refusal of entry to France is a matter for the French authorities.”

A spokesperson for the Port of Dover authority said the ensuing demonstration caused “temporary disruption” from midday onwards but that services had returned to normal. It came after the port in Calais was shut down for several hours in the early hours of Saturday morning when refugees were spotted swimming in the sea, making desperate attempts to board ferries to the UK. Shipping traffic was stopped shortly after 2am as a search and rescue operation was launched, with those taken out of the water transferred to hospital. The Convoy to Calais was organised by The People’s Assembly, the Stop the War Coalition, Stand Up To Racism, trade unions and other campaign groups. John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, and shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott were among the MPs supporting the effort.

Zak Cochrane, from Stand Up to Racism, told The Independent people had paid more than £8,000 for ferry tickets to take tonnes of aid donated from across the UK to charities working in Calais. He said the convoy was separated from the rest of ferry traffic in Dover before leaders were handed a letter saying permission to cross had been denied. “At the request of charities we wanted to deliver a lot of aid, but we also wanted to send a message that a large section of the population want more to be done for refugees,” Mr Cochrane added. “Throughout the EU referendum, both sides of the debate have used refugees as a political football.” The convoy was on its way back to London on Saturday afternoon and heading for the French embassy, where supporters were planning a protest against the blockade.

A lorry carrying donations raised as part of the project was separately allowed to cross to France via the Channel Tunnel. Steve Sweeney, from the People’s Assembly, called the decision to block the convoy "shameful". “There is a desperate situation in Calais,” he told The Independent. “The French and British governments are responsible for the crisis just across the water and it’s not acceptable to sit on their hands and do nothing while people suffer.” Organisers received notification from the French prefecture of Pas-de-Calais last week saying that they would not be permitted to hold a demonstration in France. But they insisted that a rally was only scheduled on British soil and that the delivery of aid was not covered by the scope of the ban. France has been under a state of emergency since Isis militants massacred 130 people in November’s Paris attacks, while violence at the Euro 2016 football tournament it is hosting and the assassination of a police officer last week has put added pressure on the security services.

Mr Sweeney said supporters from as far away as the Shetland Islands had travelled to join the convoy and that people who had donated would be “hurt and angry” at the refusal. “It could be you or me finding ourselves in that situation (as refugees) and they are treated like animals,” he added. “It’s an embarrassment.” The donations were due to be handled by British charity Care4Calais, which had requested basic items such as warm clothing, non-perishable food, blankets and toiletries for the thousands of asylum seekers they help. Clare Moseley, a volunteer for the charity, said organisers had offered to receive the convoy 30 miles away from “The Jungle” camp to assuage any concerns but were refused. “We are desperate for donations at the moment, we are struggling to cope,” she added. “We needed this.”

Ms Moseley told The Independent that since French authorities started destroying parts of the camp earlier this year donations had fallen, because of a perception that the problem had “gone away”.She said: “There are more than 6,000 people here and more are arriving every day. “We had managed to get everyone into wooden shelters build by volunteers but then the evictions happened, then we had a fire a couple of weeks ago that destroyed even more. “Now it just feels like we’re going back to the beginning with everyone living in tents.” The French government has installed accommodation for refugee families using converted shipping containers on the site but the facility can only hold 1,400 people. A survey of refugees in Calais by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) found that more than 80 per cent were aiming to reach Britain and that more than two thirds had experienced violence, amid warnings of sexual abuse and exploitation.

An unknown number of asylum seekers have been run over, hit by trains, electrocuted in the Channel Tunnel and drowned in desperate attempts to swim to England. The number of refugees living in Calais is expected to rise over the coming months as people smugglers exploit calmer summer weather to send overcrowded boats across the Mediterranean. While arrivals to Greek islands have fallen since the EU-Turkey deal, the number of boats crossing between Libya and Italy has risen dramatically, with almost 3,000 refugees drowning in a succession of disasters so far this year.
© The Independent


Slovakia’s leader said Islam has ‘no place’ in his country

Now he’s taking a leadership role in the E.U.

21/6/2016- One of the causes driving the Brexit movement -- the desire in Britain to quit the European Union -- is fear over immigration and refugees. Backers of the Leave campaign, whose hopes may come to fruition at a referendum later this week,  claim that the freedom of movement allowed in much of the continent, as well as proposals to accommodate an influx of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere, are simply unacceptable. Ironically, that's an argument for which the leader of the country slated to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union, an upper body in the E.U.'s legislature, may feel sympathy. The job of the presidency rotates every six months among E.U. member states. Next week, Slovakia will replace the Netherlands. And its prime minister, Robert Fico, has been one of the more outspoken European leaders on the subject of Muslim immigration.

“Islam has no place in Slovakia," Fico told reporters in May. He warned that "migrants change the character of our country," and declared he wouldn't allow such change to affect his nation. Fico has made similar pronouncements over the past year, as Syria's escalating humanitarian crisis spilled over into Europe, bringing an unprecedented wave of migrants and refugees to the continent's borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel bucked popular opinion and welcomed refugees in 2015 -- with roughly 1 million migrants arriving in Germany -- but her decision fueled widespread ire, and gave momentum to her country's Euroskeptic far-right. Fico, like other politicians from Eastern and Central Europe, has argued both that his country has no obligation to house refugees and that, unlike the United States and leading Western European nations, had little experience of Muslim immigration.

"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 in January 2015. (Never mind that Slovakia's present Muslim population is a fraction of a percentage point of its population and that no Brussels policy maker expects it to accommodate a particularly large number of asylum seekers.) declared this January that he would "never make a voluntary decision that would lead to the formation of a unified Muslim community in Slovakia." He went on: "Multiculturalism is a fiction. Once you let migrants in, you can face such problems." Fico has indicated that the burden to deal with the consequences of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa lie further west and mocked Germany for treating Muslim immigrants as a “protected species.”

"I only have one question: Who bombed Libya?" Fico said in August, referring to the 2011 NATO intervention against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. "Who created problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No." A spokesman from Slovakia's Interior Ministry suggested last year that, if the country would After some Muslim migrants were implicated in a spate of attacks on women in public spaces in the German city of Cologne around New Year's Eve, Fico take in Syrian refugees, they would have to be Christian. Though a veteran center-left politician, Fico's anti-immigrant populism is in part seen as an attempt to head off far-right politics within Slovakia. But it hasn't impressed European policy-makers and officials who are still working to push through a deal that will establish mandatory quotas of asylum seekers each E.U. member state would have to accommodate.

“I don’t think anyone is very enthusiastic about the Slovak presidency,” one Brussels official told Politico Europe. “We are in the middle of a huge reform on migration, and we’re almost over. How are we going to be led by a country which will torpedo any plan on migration?”
© The Washington Post.


Germany: More than 10,000 protest against racism in several cities

19/6/2016- Thousands of Germans formed human chains against racism in several large cities on Sunday after a surge in hate crimes against foreigners following a record influx of more than a million migrants last year. Organizers said over 20,000 people joined protests in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig and Bochum while police counted more than 10,000 demonstrators. The human chains were jointly organized by church groups, trade unions and human rights organizations under the motto "Hand in hand against racism - for human rights and diversity". Reiner Hoffmann, head of the DGB trade union confederation, said the turnout showed that many Germans still supported the "Willkommenskultur" (welcoming culture) that greeted arriving migrants last year. He urged the government to not only step up efforts to integrate migrants, but also implement reforms to support low-wage earners. "We must not play them off against each other," Hoffmann warned.

Germany is on the front line of efforts to integrate migrants into Europe after more than a million arrived in the country last year alone, most of them Muslims fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The influx has increased tensions in Germany, where police registered a record surge in crimes by right-wing radicals last year. Attacks on refugee centers rose more than five-fold. The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has become a political force over the past year by branding Islam as incompatible with Germany's democratic constitution and calling for a ban on minarets and women's face veils. Human rights groups say Germany is failing to deal with the surge in hate crimes and signs of what they call "institutional racism" among law enforcement agencies.
© Reuters


Germany: How a Holocaust row threatens to split the AfD apart

Anti-Semitic comments made by a politician for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party threaten a rift among the leadership.

21/6/2016- The row started when comments made by an AfD member of the state parliament in Baden-Württemberg about the Holocaust came to light. In a book published in 2012, Wolfgang Gedeon described the Holocaust as “certain infamous actions” and Holocaust deniers as dissidents. After he won election to the state parliament in March, the comments resurfaced in the press, with newspapers describing them as a trivialization of the Holocaust and an implicit show of support for Holocaust deniers. Jörg Meuthen, who along with Frauke Petry is party head of the AfD on the national level, agreed and called on the party chapter in Baden-Württemberg, which he leads, to throw Gedeon out. If they did not chuck Gedeon out, he would leave the party himself, Meuthen warned. But the ultimatum did not go down well with co-leader Petry, who accused Meuthen of turning “a professional matter into a personal one”.

The party chapter in Baden-Württemberg were also angered, claiming Meuthen had decided upon Gedeon’s guilt before they had had a chance to properly look into the incident. With the fledgling party threatened with loosing its second leader within a year - after founder Bernd Lucke was deposed last summer - on Tuesday a compromise was agreed. After a meeting in Baden-Württemberg, Gedeon agreed to have his party membership suspended until an internal investigation came to a decision on his case in September. While his demand for Gedeon to leave the party was not met, Meuthen interpreted the decision as a victory. “I think I have clearly asserted myself,” he said. “I won’t work together with Gedeon any further in this party.” But according to Die Zeit the dispute is far from settled, with the agreement of 16 of the 23 members of the AfD in the state parliament needed to remove Gedeon from the party.

The row could be more costly for Petry than Meuthen though, writes Die Welt. Almost the entire party leadership are behind Meuthen, a fact that has as much to do with concerns over Petry's leadership style as over the specifics of the current row. “It’s touch and go now for Petry,” the conservative daily writes, noting that only one member of the party’s executive committee still supports her. In state elections in March, the AfD won 15 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg, becoming the third largest party in the state parliament. It also scored double-digit results in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, leading the media to take it seriously as a national party for the first time. The AfD has been in a series of rows over recent weeks for comments on race and homosexuality by elected officials. Most recently the party's deputy leader Alexander Gauland suggested that most Germans wouldn't want national football player Jerome Boateng, whose father is from Ghana, as a neighbour. The remark met widespread disapproval and has been used to explain a recent drop in the AfD's popularity in polling.
© The Local - Germany


Frauke Petry: the acceptable face of Germany’s new right?

The leader of Alternative für Deutschland has been called ‘Adolfina’, praised Donald Trump and criticised Germany’s Muslim international footballer Mezut Özil. Is the country’s most talked-about politician a serious contender for office?

19/6/2016- Frauke Petry is, unusually for her, a little flustered. The 41-year-old politician has turned up for a television interview very late, wearing a checked shirt, a no-go for the camera, she quickly realises. Swiftly changing into a cream jacket borrowed from the TV presenter, she pleads for the camera not to show her scuffed boots. “It was all a bit of a dash this morning,” she admits afterwards. Two of her four children are at home sick – “on the sofa, headache, stomach ache” – and she didn’t want to leave them until she knew they would be OK on their own. But this, she insists, is how she wants it to remain, with family as her number one priority, despite her swift rise up the political ladder since becoming leader of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). After dramatic gains in March’s regional elections, it is now the most threatening challenger to Angela Merkel’s coalition government, and she is the most talked-about female German politician after the chancellor.

“It’s not a problem as such, being a woman in politics – in fact, it’s easy to move up precisely because you’re in a minority,” she says. “The problem has to do with actually managing to still see your children and to look after them.” Time management, she says, has become even more crucial since she recently separated from her husband, a Lutheran pastor, and formed a romantic attachment with the AfD’s representative in the European parliament, Marcus Pretzell, himself a father of four, who has advocated forming closer ties with France’s Front National. “Before last summer I left family almost completely to my husband, but since the autumn we have separate times with the children. So I’m forced to organise my appointments so I can have breakfast with them, take them to school, read the goodnight story, all that normal stuff.”

It’s hard to reconcile this woman – affable, intelligent, quoting philosophy and making references to classical music – with the cold, hardboiled image she has projected since she became the party’s de facto leader last year. AfD has a strong profile in the former communist east of Germany but a growing following in western parts as well. She calls the party “liberal-conservative”, rejecting labels such as rightwing populist, far right, anti-immigrant… “The idea of the party is embodied in its name, ‘Alternatives’,” she says, a response to Merkel’s repeated insistence that her policy on the euro was “alternativlos” (“without alternative”). “Basically we are a very necessary corrective in German and European politics.” She predicts that, like the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ) in neighbouring Austria, the AfD will benefit from “a breakdown of the big parties”.

But any attempts she makes to dismiss the far-right labels might seem hollow after the party’s recent announcement of a European alliance with the FPÖ. “True, our meeting with the FPÖ could be seen as moving the party to the right, but on the other hand the FPÖ is something you just cannot ignore from a German point of view because it’s so near in terms of language and political structure – it would be stupid not to talk to each other. We found similar characteristics with other parties, whether the Danish People’s party, the Swiss People’s party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Finns, also the Front National,” she says. The growing cosiness between the parties found no better expression than when Petry and Pretzell joined the FPÖ for beer and goulash under the linden trees at their election celebrations in Vienna earlier this month, with “Pretzy” – the name given to the couple by the German media – clearly in awe of the FPÖ’s success after its candidate, Norbert Hofer, narrowly missed being elected Europe’s first far‑right president.

Petry took to the helm at AfD after the ousting of founding member Bernd Lücke, who complained that the party had become too xenophobic and pro-Russian. Formed in 2013, the party was originally focused on its opposition to the euro but gained real prominence through fears triggered by last year’s influx of refugees, which saw an estimated 1.1 million newcomers arriving in Germany. “The migration crisis was the catalyst for our success,” Petry admits, although she angrily rejects the phrase used by Alexander Gauland, the party’s leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, who called it “a gift from heaven”. She also rejects the idea that her party is opposed to Germany having welcomed refugees. “Not the real refugees,” she says, arguing that many of the arrivals are not genuinely in need. “There is enough space for refugees in Germany but the problem is that we don’t distinguish any more between migrants and asylum seekers.”

Now that new arrivals have largely ceased – due to the closure of the Balkans route, the erection of fences and sealing of borders around Europe – the AfD has markedly shifted its campaign agenda to one of stopping the “Islamification” of Germany. Among Petry’s concerns are separate swimming classes in schools for boys and girls, the rise in sexual harassment, which she puts down to migrants (she quotes a website she follows daily that collects new data from police reports), and the destruction of Christian prayer rooms in asylum-seeker homes. Meanwhile, Petry complains, her party’s other policies get little media attention. They want to see more balance between the state and the individual (“at the moment the state interferes in everything”). They want to improve state television (“a regimen of football, telenovelas and American movies with no sign of its legal obligation to inform and educate”). And they oppose plans to introduce sex education to toddlers (“How can you possibly teach three-year-olds about masturbation?”).

Such issues have been buried, she says, while headlines are made by the party’s frequent confrontations with religious, cultural and political figureheads and its more “colourful” controversial remarks. There was outrage from liberal Germans when AfD’s Thuringia chief, Björn Höcke, who is on the right of the party’s nationalist faction, claimed that Europe’s readiness to accept refugees would only encourage Africans to reproduce. In a lecture, he referred to an “African life-affirming propagation type” which had led to the “overpopulation” of Africa, insisting “as long as we are prepared to take on this population surplus, Africans’ reproductive habits will not alter”. Then there were Petry’s remarks in an interview – repeating comments made by Pretzell some months before – that, according to German law, border police were allowed to “use firearms if necessary” in their attempts to control the refugees.

The reporter suggested she had used the term “order to shoot” – to German ears, a chilling reference to the orders East German guards had to shoot anyone trying to escape illegally from the GDR. Petry denied having used the term, insisting no policeman “wants to shoot a refugee, and I don’t want that either. Armed force is the last resort.” Newspapers widely reported that Petry had advocated firing on refugees. Even the party’s unofficial organ, Compact, said Petry had not tried to withdraw the statement “perhaps because she recognises that 25% of Germans are in favour of deploying firearms, even on unarmed refugees”. For two days she failed to respond to her critics. Deputy AfD head and MEP Beatrix von Storch then added fuel to the fire by answering “yes” to a question on Facebook as to whether firearms should be used against women and children trying to cross the German border.

Von Storch – whose real title is Duchess Beatrix Amelie Ehrengard Eilika of Oldenburg, and whose grandfather served as finance minister under Hitler – later suggested her computer mouse had slipped. Petry is at pains to address the controversies. “The [storm] about the ‘order to shoot’ was a clear case of people wanting to purposefully misapprehend me,” she said. “What I said is that the use of armed force if necessary is in line with German law, even though it’s not something I would personally ever want.” As to Höcke, she appears to find it hard to contain her rage towards him or her desire to see him thrown out of the party. “Björn Höcke is a very difficult figure, to be honest,” she says, lowering her voice as if someone might be listening in. “He’s sometimes just beyond the line. When he talked about Africans and Europeans, putting a genetic argument to it – well, having studied genetics myself at university for a couple of years, I can distinguish very clearly between fairytales and facts.”

She talks about the intentions of some within the AfD to try to shift the party further to the right by saying things that are outrageous, or what she repeatedly refers to as “beyond the line”. Is it not the case that therein lies the AfD’s key strategy for gaining social acceptance and respectability? To put a message out that is then withdrawn, but as it’s already in the public realm – on social media, and perhaps most crucially at the Stammtisch (the German term for a regulars’ reserved table in the pub) – it usefully sticks and cannot be properly recalled? “Well, sometimes, I don’t deny, we think we have to use provocative arguments in order to be heard,” Petry says. “Because we tried very hard at the beginning of 2013 to be heard with lots of very sensible thinking and arguments, and we simply couldn’t get through to anyone. So what do you do? You put forward a provocative argument, and sometimes you are given the chance to explain what you meant. I know it’s a difficult choice to make but sometimes, for us, it feels like the only way.”

She was at it again at the start of June when she appeared to criticise one of Germany’s biggest heroes, Arsenal midfielder and member of the national football team Mesut Özil, after he posted a picture of himself on Facebook, standing outside the Kaaba, the Muslim shrine in Mecca, just days after other party members had condemned the visit as an “anti-patriotic signal”. “Was it necessary to present it to the whole world?” Petry asked in an interview. “One could ask Özil whether he intended to make a political statement with this confession of faith.” She went on to suggest that the way he lived his life “contravened sharia law” because “the women with whom he appears in public certainly don’t wear headscarves”.

The party’s relationship with the Dresden-based hardline protest movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), which thinks nothing of demonstrating with mock-up models of Merkel in a noose, has come under much scrutiny, with the AfD often referred to as the group’s political arm, “which it never was,” Petry swiftly insists. But the overlaps are undeniable. Not only are the complaints of Pegida and AfD supporters very similar (everything from anti-Muslim sentiments to opposition to Russian sanctions, and even to Germany’s high television licence fee), many at the demonstrations who are often disillusioned Christian Democrats, desperately negative in their outlook, call the AfD their natural home.

“You’re totally right about the overlap,” Petry says. “Pegida started as a small group of friends demonstrating against German weapons deliveries to the [Kurdish] PKK and then morphed into a movement critical of asylum and immigration laws. They were simply expressing that something is wrong in society, and expressed it on the streets. I think that’s fine, as long as it’s peaceful.” Patriotism and the fear of “Islamisation” are as central to the AfD’s raison d’etre as they are to Pegida’s. In its new manifesto, the party recently called for a ban on minarets, Muslim calls to prayer, headscarves and halal slaughter.

Petry says she sees a direct connection between the rise of radical Islam and the often allergic reaction in Germany – as a response to the country’s past – to showing national pride. “Germans are always apologising for their own identity, especially politicians, but the country has to find its balance again. For many leftists, the answer has been to dissolve ourselves into Europe, which I think is not good.” It has led to an unquestioning acceptance of Islam in every form, from moderate to radical, she argues. “We have Qur’an schools in Germany teaching young children that the ultimate goal is to get rid of Judaism and Christianity. So when we say Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, we don’t mean those who have fully integrated here over decades, who are completely fine living in Germany as Germans. It’s a reaction to those politicians who stated: ‘Islam belongs to Germany’ without allowing any discussion on the topic.”

Petry was born in Dresden in the days of the communist east. The experience taught her a lot about free speech and freedom of the individual. “I couldn’t speak freely in school,” she says. “You could not even say the word Germany but had to say German Democratic Republic [for the east] or Federal Republic of Germany [for the west] or else risk the teacher’s wrath. They even tried to find out from kids whether their parents were secretly watching West German television, by asking what the clock on the evening news looked like, because it was different in east and west.”

Petry left for the west at 14 – just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall – after her father, who had spent a decade trying to plot the family’s escape, managed to obtain an official tourist visa for himself, and then got permission for his wife and two daughters to follow. “I never expected the paradise in West Germany that some easterners dreamed of,” Petry recalls. “I had family in the west, and the cold war situation was a constant topic of conversation at the kitchen table. Of course, there were disappointments when we got there [they moved to North Rhine-Westphalia], such as in school, where the level of education in maths and science was not as high as in the east.” What disturbed her most, she says, was how westerners looked down on the girl from the east, “which is why I decided at the age of 14 or 15 to abolish all signs of an accent or dialect, speaking only high German, so that I wouldn’t stick out”.

It was that experience that gave her the thick skin that lets her appear to laugh off the criticism she regularly receives in Germany, she says. She is rarely out of the headlines. Recently she walked out of a meeting with the Central Council for Muslims, saying that it had refused to withdraw its comparison between the AfD’s manifesto and the policies of the Third Reich. Aiman Mazyek, the council’s president, countered by saying that talks broke down because Petry “wants to go further along the path of populism, defamation and above all prejudice”. Petry also appeared to praise Donald Trump in an interview, calling him a “refreshingly alternative apparition”, who represented a new style of politics. “That wasn’t even authorised,” she says, referring to the common practice among German print journalists to allow leading figures to authorise interviews before publication. “Sometimes I don’t find what he has to say very attractive, particularly about women. But he is refreshing in a way that shows how [similar] the others are.”

She was lampooned for the original remarks by German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who drew a mischievous sketch of Trump with one hand on the shoulder of his wife, Melania, and the other on Petry’s. “Mrs Petry,” he says, “you see my beautiful wife, and you’ll surely understand that I can’t be at all interested in you as a woman, but politically, your ideas are very pleasing to me.” Shrugging it off, she says: “I just have to accept this as a side effect of deciding to be a public person and heading this party.” It’s for such treatment, though, that she often refers to the media as “Pinocchio press”, and sees herself as a victim of its attempt to “put us into the brown [Nazi] camp right from the start”. That includes a cover story in the news magazine Spiegel which, she says, “gave me the dubious honour of depicting me as Adolfina, with a Leni Riefenstahl look”.

More distressing than the media attacks, she says, were criticisms from two of her former teachers, in particular the man who taught her chemistry – a subject in which she excelled – who said that while she was intelligent he could certainly not call her wise. Heinrich Peuckmann wrote on his Facebook page: “Wisdom is linked to morality, and I can’t recognise that in her any more.” “It was very hurtful,” she says. “They think it’s unacceptable to be so provocative. But that just shows me that the idea of controversy as a normal element of free society has got lost, and the fight between the political left and right is always being defined as a fight between the morally good and morally bad. I find that appalling.”

Her own party has done its utmost to cash in on her image as a youthful breath of fresh air in contrast to Merkel’s stodgier persona. The party’s unofficial organ, Compact, is full of articles praising her, and describes in almost erotic terms the allure of her smile, how the “corners of her mouth reach her ears, puckering at the ends, her eyes twinkle mischievously, her chin lifts with restrained arrogance”. “Who,” editor-in-chief Jürgen Elsässer goes on to ask, “is not reminded of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” In the same piece, Elsässer argues that Petry would be “the better chancellor” and is far more deserving of the epithet “Mutti” (Mummy), the popular nickname for Merkel. “In contrast to ‘Mutti’, she really does have children, no less than four of them – without having lost her fresh youthfulness,” he writes.

What she has in common with Merkel, apart from her East German heritage, is her science background. Petry did a chemistry degree at Reading University, spending three years in the city – “not a pretty place”, but a happy time “where I found good friends”. It’s also where she learned her impeccable English, which she speaks fast and almost without an accent. Like Merkel, she gave up her scientific career to pursue politics, relinquishing control of the Leipzig company she set up nine years ago to manufacture environmentally friendly polyurethanes, for which she holds a joint patent with her mother. The time she spent in Britain also taught her a lot about the fundamental differences between British and German attitudes to Europe. “When Britons talk about Europe, it never seems to include Britain,” she laughs, whereas talking about Europe in Germany can only mean inclusion of Germany.”

While AfD is critical of Europe and supportive of lots of the Brexit arguments (Petry says she agrees with many of the ideas put forward by Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and chair of the Vote Leave campaign), it does not share Ukip’s desire to leave the union. Her partner Pretzell’s invitation to Nigel Farage to discuss his views with the party caused an internal bust-up. “What we need,” she says, “is to start with a white piece of paper to decide what Europe should be for all of us. If we don’t do it, I think that Europe will break apart anyway.” She worries that if Britain leaves, not only would Germany have to shoulder more of the costs of the EU, “but we’d also lose the motivation for reform which Britain provides”.

It is in her effort to steer away from the “Adolfina” depictions, as she puts it, and with an eye on entering the Bundestag following the 2017 election, and government the one after that (in around 2021), that she’s now on an offensive to project a different image of herself in the media, embracing the very forces she has frequently condemned for what she perceives as their false portrayals of her. “It’s not a strategy as such, but I think it’s necessary for people to get to know our human side,” she says. The apogee of this was a three-page article in the gossip magazine Bunte in which Petry and Pretzell (pronounced, by the way with the stress on the last syllable, so as not to mistake him for the knotted bread roll of the same name) posed, apparently at home, in jeans and open‑necked shirts. They were asked questions such as “who wears the trousers?” as well as those addressing her “shooting at refugees” remarks.

She was described as “girlish and tender”, he as a “provocateur”. They gave details of the holiday they had taken with the eight children they have between them. When asked to describe his new love, Pretzell called her “devilishly beautiful”. “[But] if I was just a nice face,” says Petry, “there would be much more conflict between the base of the party and myself than there is. I’m one of the few who can bring us the stability we need.” The waitress of the Leipzig restaurant in which the interview takes place orders Petry a taxi, but when she pops to the toilet, the waitress returns with a request from the owner to please not mention its name in the newspaper. “He does not want bad publicity,” she says. As Petry returns and switches her phone on again, it buzzes with an SMS. “Oh it’s Markus – his divorce has just come through. We plan to get married as soon as possible,” she smiles, quickly adding: “For ourselves, not for the party.”
© The Guardian.


Moldova: Should Reject ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law

Bill to ‘Protect’ Children Would Violate Their Rights

21/6/2016- The Moldovan parliament should reject a bill to introduce discriminatory anti-gay “propaganda” clauses in national law, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to lawmakers. The bill is similar to those proposed in other countries in recent years that have been roundly criticized by regional and international human rights bodies. “Moldovan legislators should put the need to protect people from bias, as well as the country’s constitution, and international law ahead of their personal views,” said Boris Dittrichlesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “By rejecting this bill, Moldova can demonstrate to its citizens and international partners that there is no place for prejudice in its laws.”

The draft legislation pending in parliament would amend two national laws. It would add a paragraph to Article 21 of the Law on the Rights of a Child that reads: “The state ensures protection of a child from the propaganda of homosexuality for any purpose and under any form.” It would also amend Article 88 of the Code of Administrative Offenses to define “propaganda of homosexuality” as: “Propaganda of homosexual relations among minors by means of assemblies, mass media, Internet, brochures, booklets, images, audio-video clips, films and/or audio-video recordings, via sound recording, amplifiers or other means of sound amplification.” The bill would impose fines for individuals and organizations found in violation, and would be primarily enforced by the police.

The provisions of the bill would violate the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as create an environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, Human Rights Watch said. This would include discrimination against LGBT children, by restricting their access to information necessary for them to make critical decisions about their lives and health. Moldova’s parliament has previously amended national laws to include other clauses similar to those currently under debate. In 2013, parliament passed a bill to amend the Code of Administrative Offenses featuring language that activists felt could be interpreted as a prohibition on the dissemination of information about sexual orientation and gender identity, namely: “propagation of any other relations than those related to marriage or family.” Three months after it was passed, in October 2013, parliament annulled the bill, removing the discriminatory clauses.

In May 2016, representatives from Moldova’s Education Ministry attended UNESCO’s inter-ministerial conference in Paris. Moldova was one of 27 countries there to publicly call for an end to school-based violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “Rhetoric about ‘protecting children’ around this ill-conceived bill, cynically misuses children’s rights to perpetuate the falsehood that to be gay or lesbian is to be a danger to children,” Dittrich said. “This way of thinking ignores the rights and needs of children themselves, including LGBT children, to access information about themselves – and indeed that positive, affirming information about sexual orientation and gender identity can be life-saving.”
© Human Rights Watch


Roma still at Europe's margins

18/6/2016- In a corner of eastern Slovakia, a middle-aged nun steps from a bus in the spring sunlight and heads across the gravel yard past a row of crumbling tenements, as the bell from the nearby church summons local residents to morning Mass. When Sr. Atanazia Holubova joined the Greek Catholic Order of Basil the Great in the early 1970s, her country was under communist rule and religious orders were banned. She was also highly unusual, as one of very few would-be nuns from Eastern Europe's large Roma, or Gypsy, minority. More than four decades after completing her Basilian novitiate in secret while working as a hospital nurse, she's helped build a school and culture center for her fellow Roma at Bardejov, Slovakia, and provided much-needed pastoral care for poor Gypsy families. While conditions have improved in some areas, however, they've remained much the same in others.

"It's hard to generalize -- we're still working and making small steps, but life is hard here," Holubova told NCR. "There are a few priests and nuns from the Roma community now, and some seminarians in training. But spiritual conditions reflect the economic situation, and most Roma settlements are still just as poor and downtrodden as ever." Gypsies reached Europe from India in the Middle Ages after fleeing Islamic invaders, and are known by various group names, the commonest being Roma and Sinti. They were hunted as outlaws in some countries during the 17th and 18th centuries. In World War II, up to half of all Roma were killed by the Nazis in the Porraijmos, or Roma Holocaust, an atrocity not officially commemorated until the 1990s. Today, Europe's 10 million Roma still comprise a third of the world's total. But they remain the continent's least organized and represented minority, with high infant mortality, unemployment averaging 80 percent, and life expectancy at 15 years below the average.

In April, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences marked International Roma Day by deploring the Roma's continued mistreatment and urging Christians to do more to ease their plight. "Roma are among the most deprived and marginalized people, facing daily discrimination and often denied access to basic schooling, housing and health care," the Swiss-based council said in a joint statement with the non-Catholic Conference of European Churches. "The Roma have a centuries-old sense of shared European identity and free movement across political, cultural, and religious boundaries. They are one of the indigenous European nations, however, without an equal standing in terms of respect and honor among them. More than 600 years after their migration to Europe, their full reception remains incomplete." However, some observers fear the attention of governments and institutions is now diverted by the refugee crisis, consuming resources that might otherwise have been available to Europe's Roma.

"Some Roma communities look similar to the segregated camps occupied by refugees from Iraq and Syria, with no identity cards or decent facilities," said Thierry Bonaventura, spokesman for the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. "Although Roma problems are still acute everywhere, media interest has moved away, while the politicians are preoccupied elsewhere. Many Europeans still have trouble considering Roma as real citizens. Even in the churches, we need a great cultural effort to help people understand who they are." Both the European Union and United Nations have criticized European states for denying equal rights to Gypsies, while human rights organizations have condemned their forced eviction from unofficial settlements, including the bidonvilles, or shantytowns, of France, and warned that anti-Roma declarations by right-wing politicians could fuel violent attacks.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum, set up in 2004 under guidance of the Council of Europe with elected delegates from some 40 countries, has also issued regular reports, documenting "discrimination, aggression, intimidation, eviction, deportation and hate speech" in countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden and France. In a "Charter on the Rights of the Roma," adopted in 2009, the forum noted how Roma had been deprived of recognition as a national minority and "treated as a social fringe group" with "disciplinary measures and state repression."  It also deplored how the fate of Roma had been "determined by self-appointed experts and specialists," leaving them to be viewed by much of society, with government and media encouragement, as "a criminal and unwanted menace." While many Roma belong to charismatic and Pentecostalist sects, which began actively recruiting them in the 1960s, many are also devout Catholics. Yet Europe's Catholic church has been slow in responding to their needs.

In 1965, the Vatican hosted the first Gypsy pilgrimage and recognized a pastoral mission at the initiative of local Catholic clergy, while Pope Paul VI visited a Roma settlement near Rome. However, it took until 2006 for a pontifical council to issue the church's first "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies," and until 2007 to organize the first World Meeting of Gypsy Priests, Deacons and Religious Men and Women, with 40 participants. Over the past two years, Pope Francis has shown a lead. In June 2014, he addressed a five-day Vatican pastoral conference, hitting out at anti-Roma prejudice and suspicion, and calling on Europe's governments to help integrate those "at the margins of society." He also recalled the scorn for Gypsies he'd personally encountered on Rome buses and deplored how Roma were still often driven toward "new forms of slavery," such as forced begging.

Last October, Francis returned to the theme, greeting 7,000 Roma pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. "The time has come to uproot secular prejudice, preconceived ideas and the reciprocal diffidence that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia," he said. "No one must feel isolated … and no one is entitled to trample on the dignity and the rights of others." Catholic leaders have responded by urging the EU to improve Gypsy access to education, health care, employment and housing, while calling for European schoolchildren to be given classes in Roma culture and history. Meanwhile, several bishops' conferences have set up Roma missions and pastorates, including those of the Czech Republic and Poland. The Polish church also organizes an annual Gypsy pilgrimage to the southern Marian shrine of Limanowa.

In Hungary, where Roma make up 7 percent of the 10-million-strong population, the church is running special social and educational facilities. Yet here, too, Catholic leaders have been urged to do more. "The current political system is doing too little to counter the marginalization of Roma," Bishop Miklos Beer of Vac, Hungary, told the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation in January. He warned that most Roma remain, even today, "foreigners in their own country," at a time when public attention was focused on refugees and asylum-seekers, and said aid efforts were being hampered by the "self-righteousness of the successful." "As long as there are poor and disadvantaged among us, it's an illusion to think we're secure," Beer added, "and to relax in our comfortable apartments, smart cars and holiday homes." It was at Hungary's primatial see of Esztergom that an unofficial International Catholic Committee for Gypsies gathered in April, attended by 140 priests, nuns and lay Catholics specializing in Roma pastoral work.

In their joint declaration the same month, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Conference of European Churches recalled the "long history" of anti-Gypsy prejudice, noting how Roma minorities have nevertheless preserved their culture, and should be brought into a "meaningful dialogue" that respects their identity. The two groups urged Europe's Christians to acknowledge their own historical responsibility for forms of mistreatment that were "a disgrace to all European countries," and to recognize how Roma, "with their unique traditions, faith and culture," could "bring values to European society as responsible citizens." "For centuries, Roma have been enslaved, tortured and murdered, their families broken apart -- they suffered legal persecution, were segregated from society and denied basic civil rights," the two church organizations added. "Their inclusion now is a necessary indication of our commitment to a shared European identity, and to the free movement of people, commerce and ideas."

Bonaventura, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences spokesman, welcomes the unity being shown by all churches on Roma issues. However, with material conditions still varying widely around the 28 countries of the EU, he agrees the hardships and injustices facing Roma are a long way from being resolved. Catholics like him hope Francis will continue defending the cause of the Roma and recall their historic mistreatment this June when he visits the former Nazi-run Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than 20,000 Gypsies were killed. "While steps have been taken to help the Roma, the truth is that not much has really changed in their situation -- while many of their problems have now been overshadowed by the more general economic crisis," Bonaventura told NCR. "Much more needs to be done to highlight best practices which have had some impact, while efforts continue to change the cultural conditions which have so greatly worked against them."

Back in Slovakia, Sr. Atanazia Holubova, now 63, recently retired from her teaching work after preparing hundreds of local Roma children over the years for first Communion. But she remains a familiar figure among Bardejov's 1,600-strong Roma community, while also sitting on the Slovak church's Roma pastoral council and helping organize Gypsy pilgrimages to the sanctuaries of Gaboltov and Lutina. Some three dozen Roma priests and nuns are now at work in the Catholic church across Europe, including nine in Slovakia. In 1997, thousands of Gypsy Catholics attended the beatification of a Roma, Ceferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936), martyred during the Spanish Civil War. Holubova returned to Rome for the anniversary of Ceferino's martyrdom in June 2011, and was shown in the world's media being personally greeted by Pope Benedict XVI. Yet she admits the problems are vast.

Although the EU unveiled a strategy five years ago to ensure the social integration of Roma by 2020, she says, local administrators often divert funds intended for Gypsies to other uses, while Roma social and cultural facilities are crowded and overused. While Gypsies could become the majority in Slovakia by 2050, according to some forecasts, most young Roma still drop out of school and remain isolated from the majority population, and the country still has just a single Roma minister of parliament. "For most Roma communities, the prospects will depend on individuals with will and energy -- and the possibilities they create by finding opportunities for themselves and others," Holubova told NCR. "But no one really wants to help, and there's been no significant change in public attitudes. This is why the church's pastoral care can't be confined to conducting services, but has to broaden out to other areas as well."


UK: Neo nazi flyers cleaned off Runcorn tourist information board

'Offensive' designs featuring swastikas and far right slogans removed

22/6/2016- Stickers purportedly affiliated to a neo-Nazi group have been removed from a canalside information board in Runcorn. A picture of the flyers accompanied by the sarcastic message ‘I live in such a lovely area’ and a disappointed ‘Really Runcorn?’ were tweeted by Twitter user Skott/@naturestemper. The flyers had been stuck to a Runcorn historic walks tourism information board by the Bridgewater Canal near Halton Road. Imagery on the stickers combined featured swastikas, a figure with the lower part of their face obscured by a snood and doing a fascist salute, the slogan ‘White Zone: National Action’ and signs depicting bans on cannabis, heroin, gay sex, and Communism. Another had the slogan ‘anti-pederast action’, in reference to child sexual abuse committed against boys.

The stickers were scraped off by the resident who found them, and Halton councillor Andrea Wall reported the matter to the local authority’s open spaces division, which dispatched a team to clean them up the following day. There were also reports on Twitter of the designs being spotted on the Silver Jubilee Bridge and in Widnes. It was not clear whether more than one person had fixed the flyers in place. The stickers appeared to be affiliated to the group National Action, which made headlines in August last year when it cancelled an attempted ‘White Man March’ in Liverpool due to counter-demonstrations from anti-fascists, leading to the neo-nazi members being locked in a lost luggage depot for their safety as police separated opposing groups. In 2014, police found National Action flags at the home of a 21-year-old man jailed for sending an anti-semitic tweet to Wavertree MP Luciana Berger.

Cllr Wall, Labour, said she was not aware of any substantial National Action presence in Runcorn or Widnes. She said the stickers were ‘absolutely disgusting’ and ‘offensive’. She said: “I reported it to our open spaces division and the information I got is they were removed the day after. “The council isn’t responsible but due to the severe offensive nature of the stickers they went out the next morning. “People shouldn’t be having to see offensive, nasty fascist messages.” She added: “I’m not aware of any National Action group in Halton whatsoever, let’s hope it stays like that.”
© The Liverpool Echo


UK: How far-Right extremists draw vulnerable people into their poisonous delusions

By Dr Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

21/6/2016- Far-Right terrorism in Britain rarely receives the attention it deserves, and since the turn of the century it has been overshadowed by the global jihadist threat. This makes it easy for many to forget that there is a long history of neo-Nazism in Britain, which does sometimes explode into violence. It's important, then, that we understand what this threat looks like and how it works. Neo-Nazi groups have their own particular methods. They frequently call on supporters to commit what the media have come to call "lone wolf" attacks – in fact, neo-Nazis coined the term. Such attacks are carried out by individuals disconnected from hierarchical terrorist networks and are therefore very difficult for authorities to track and prevent.

This call has always found a receptive audience among a minority of British white working class men who feel marginalised by a society and state which they see as having prioritised the needs of immigrants and other non-whites above their own. Neo-Nazi ideology pushes a narrative which not only feeds off of this sense of alienation, but also adds to it a deeper conspiracy, presenting the problems of the white working classes as the result of an alliance of Jews, liberals, minorities and immigrants working together to destroy the so-called white race and white British culture. For neo-Nazis, a "civil war" is already taking place within America and Europe; whites are being systematically pushed aside, out-bred and exterminated. If they are to ensure their survival, they have no choice now but to stand up and fight as “soldiers of the white race”.

It's true that people who commit these kinds of violent acts often show signs of mental illness. But when assessing motivations for terrorism, violent ideologies and mental illness should not necessarily be seen as mutually exclusive. Indeed, in their lone actor recruitment strategies, both neo-Nazis and global jihadist groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Isil) have specifically targeted people who find themselves on the fringes of society, often for reasons of mental health. Through their ideologies, they are able to identify both a target group for these potential recruits to blame and a framework for how they can respond with violence in order to improve their situation. These groups are then able to pin themselves to the subsequent attacks which assists them in their ongoing propaganda efforts.

Until recently, the most well-known case of neo-Nazi terrorism in Britain was that of David Copeland who in 1999 killed three people in a campaign targeting homosexuals and minorities in London. But there is evidence that the far Right's target selection is changing. This ongoing threat is taken seriously by British authorities, who have ensured the inclusion of far-Right extremism in the government’s Prevent strategy, which seeks to counter radicalisation of various types. Of course many have raised concerns about Prevent's impact on free speech. It is important that those with concerns about immigration, race, culture, or the perceived marginalisation of the white working class, be able to speak, however much others may disagree with them. Indeed, it is unfair and childish to claim that those who articulate these concerns in more moderate and less conspiratorial ways are directly responsible for neo-Nazi violence.

But that doesn't mean we should ignore the consequences of negative political campaigns which exaggerate the threats we face. Unstable people who are already adherents to a violent xenophobic ideology may react to this in very extreme and violent ways. Fear of an impending disaster for a specific group of people coupled with conspiracy theory serves as the basis of most violent, extremist ideologies. For the neo-Nazis’ jihadist counterparts in Isil, Muslims and Islam are facing an existential threat emanating from an alliance of secular states and Jews (again) which aims to destroy the faith and oppress Muslims. Such conspiratorial doomsday messages have always succeeded in coaxing dangerous people out of the woodwork. That will continue for some time yet.
Dr Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is head of research at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), and a lecturer at King’s College London.
© The Telegraph


UK: Far right group stages protest at Howe Barracks in Canterbury

18/6/2016- Demonstrators gathered at the Howe Barracks in Canterbury today (June 18) to protest against the former military base's conversion to housing for London families. People living nearby joined members of a group calling themselves the South East Alliance to pin up flags of St George on its perimeter fence . The alliance describes itself as angry, white and proud, and as a "non-political community based street movement that will seek to act as a unity platform for the right". Kent Police officers reportedly attended but it was described as peaceful. Howe Barracks hit the headlines last month after it was revealed Redbridge Council had outbid Canterbury for the use of the base to house up to 150 families from London. The prospective tenants are currently in temporary accommodation, leading to fears their arrival will place a strain on local services. Canterbury currently has 2,500 people awaiting homes. The decision sparked anger, and a petition, 'Stop the take over of Howe Barracks by the London Borough of Redbridge', was set up at the start of the month by James McCrossan. It has since gained more than 2,800 signatures.
© The Canterbury Times


UK: Muslim school accuses Ofsted of racism after 'acts of devil' leaflets row

A Muslim faith school has accused Ofsted of racist conduct after the watchdog expressed concern at the discovery of leaflets branding music and dancing as "acts of devil".

18/6/2016- The Darul Uloom Islamic High School said the leaflets - described by Ofsted as evidence of safeguarding weakness - were not found on its premises but at the rear door of an adjacent mosque. The independent school in Small Heath, Birmingham, has alleged that an Ofsted inspector angrily refused to take off their shoes during a recent inspection, and was "extremely belligerent" throughout the visit. Ofsted said a large number of copies of the leaflet were found in May in areas shared by the mosque and school and used by pupils. Darul Uloom was subjected to a full Ofsted inspection last October when its overall effectiveness was rated as inadequate. It then drew up an improvement action plan which was evaluated by inspectors in February.

The latest Ofsted report, published this week, said: "Leaders and staff have had training in preventing extremism and radicalisation, and been given the latest Government safeguarding guidance. "However, the impact of this work has not rectified safeguarding weaknesses. "A large number of copies of a leaflet containing highly concerning and extremist views, such as 'Music, dancing and singing are acts of devil and prohibited', were discovered during the inspection. "The leaflets were found in areas shared by the school and adjoining mosque which are used by leaders and in areas used by the pupils from the school." Inspectors were also critical of Darul Uloom - which caters for boys aged 11 to 16 - for failing to provide pupil progress information.

In a statement issued after Ofsted's latest findings were published, the school, which has a music curriculum, said the leaflets had no association with the mosque or the school and had been "dumped" by a member of the public. The school statement added: "These leaflets were not on the display board or anywhere near the display board. "They were clearly dumped by a member of the public, ironically next to the sign where it is clearly signposted 'Strictly no posters or leaflets'. "Furthermore in regards to the inspection in question, the conduct of the Ofsted inspectors during this inspection were unacceptable and racist." As well as claiming that an Ofsted official refused to take off their shoes when visiting the mosque, the school alleges that its equality statement was dismissed as being "just a piece of paper".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "These leaflets should have no place in any school - and we will not hesitate to take strong action when schools focus on ideological indoctrination rather than a high-quality education. "We are urgently investigating the concerning allegations about this school and as part of this we commissioned Ofsted to do an unannounced inspection. "Extremism has no place in our society and when we find schools promoting twisted ideologies we will not hesitate to take action, including closing the school or working with the police if necessary." An Ofsted spokesperson said in response to the school's allegations: "We do not confirm or comment on individual complaints received. "However, Ofsted takes complaints very seriously, investigates them thoroughly and deals with them as quickly as possible."
© Yhe Daily Echo


Swedish crackdown targets migrant families

Sweden’s parliament passed a restrictive asylum law on Tuesday (21 June) that critics said could put more children at risk.

22/6/2016- A broad majority backed the government’s proposal, which aims to sharply reduce the number of asylum seekers over a three-year period during which Sweden is to improve its capacity for reception and integration of migrants. The law makes it harder for people who get asylum, but who are not classified as refugees, to bring in family members. It also replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, which must be renewed every 13 months. The Social Democratic-Green coalition government said its goal was to bring Sweden in line with the EU’s minimal conditions for asylum rights. Justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, told MPs on Monday that Sweden had done more than any other country for the world’s refugees. ”But we can’t help everyone”, he said.

One hundred and sixty thousand people applied for asylum in Sweden last year, with 114,000 of them lodging claims in just a four-month period in autumn. Johansson said Sweden had managed to deal with the unprecedented situation and praised the national migration agency and civil society for their efforts. ”But we cannot underestimate the political effects of the situation,” he said. ”Many Swedes felt the authorities were losing control of the situation. That could have been exploited by far-right forces”, he added. The law comes despite a sharp drop in the number of asylum seekers in the country. So far this year, fewer than 14,000 have applied. The Swedish bill was said to have deep flaws by all 36 organisations that the government consulted in the legislative process. The Council on Legislation, the Swedish equivalent of a constitutional court, was also critical, but finally gave its lukewarm approval.

Save the Children, an international charity, said the law went against the UN declaration on the rights of the child, which is on its way to becoming legally binding in Swedish law. ”Family reunion is one of the few legal ways for coming to Sweden today,” Save the Children said. ”The new law can drive more families to set out on life-threatening journeys as parents don’t want to risk never seeing their family members again. More children risk to drown in the Mediterranean”, it added. The charity said the law is counter-productive as people who left their families in a war zone would not be psychologically equipped to lead a productive life in Sweden.
© The EUobserver


Sweden's plan to stop migrant children disappearances

The Swedish government is set to react to fears that unaccompanied migrant children who are disappearing during the asylum process may be suffering from sexual abuse and human trafficking.

22/6/2016- As a result of the disappearances, the Swedish government agency tasked with representing the rights of minors could now be given a mandate to carry out in-depth interviews with children who return after going missing. The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden ('Barnombudsmannen') is an agency charged with representing children regarding their rights and interests on the basis of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The goal of their proposed interviews is to analyze what children have experienced, and try to work out how their disappearances can be prevented in the future. It is part of a 23-point program with which authorities and other bodies hope to protect children from crime and social deprivation in Sweden. The Swedish government will make a final decision on the mandate during a meeting on Wednesday.

On Monday, local radio station P4 Blekinge reported on the poor conditions that six unaccompanied refugee children in the southern Swedish province were living in. The children claimed that all six had shared the same basement at a foster home, that they were not given sufficient food and that their toilet usage was restricted. In June, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized Sweden’s treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, highlighting the long waiting periods for asylum processing as well as a lack of adequate psychological care for those in need. According to Human Rights Watch figures, more than 35,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden in 2015, a significant increase from around 7000 in 2014.
© The Local - Sweden


Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests

Sweden is to carry out controversial age tests on as many as 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children, estimating that as many as 70 percent lie about their age.

18/6/2016- “This is not just about asylum procedure, it’s about the safety of the accommodation,“ Sweden’s Justice and Migration minister Morgan Johansson told Swedish Radio. “Adults should live with adults and children should live with children, which is why this should be done as early as possible in the procedure.” According to the Swedish Migration Agency, more than 18,000 of the young men and women might warrant medical age tests this year and next year. Sweden's migration law gives strong incentives for asylum seekers aged 18 or over to claim to be minors, and the Agency believes there is reason to doubt the claims of as many as 70 percent of asylum applicants who say they are between the ages of 15 and 17. The tests are controversial in Sweden, however, with doctors arguing that there is as yet no method of reliably determining a person’s age.  In April, the National Board of Health and Welfare judged that MRI scans of asylum seekers’ knees provided the most reliable currently available age tests. At the end of last month, the government gave The National Board of Forensic Medicine responsibility for carrying out the new tests. It has now launched an inquiry into how best to carry them out, which is due to report in November. Ann Lemne, project manager at the organisation, underlined the shortcomings of existing methods in a press release sent out in May. “There is no method for medical age assessment can be safely determine an exact age,” she said. “With all methods, the result is produced as an age span.”
© The Local - Sweden


Euro 2016: Spanish far-right fans to be kicked out of France

The public prosecutor in Nice ruled that 11 Spanish fans should be expelled from France for troublemaking.

21/6/2016- The public prosecutor in the southern French city of Nice has ruled that 11 Spanish fans arrested prior to last Friday's win by Spain over Turkey in Nice should be expelled. Six Spanish police working alongside French counterparts identified the 11, some of whom bore tattooed portraits of Hitler and Goebbels and Nazi insignia, as troublemakers. Four of the group are accused of stealing from and assaulting a supermarket owner in Nice after he refused to sell them alcohol before the game, in line with a tournament ban. Their expulsion came as two Hungarian Foreign Legion members were found guilty of offensive acts against police during unrest in Stade Velodrome in Marseille before Hungary's game against Iceland on Saturday. They were given suspended two-month jail terms. The two were drunk and said to have spat on police struggling to hold back Hungarian fans who crossed security barriers to get into the same section of the stadium, forcing riot police to intervene. A 25-year-old Hungarian filmed taking part in attacks on police during the brawl was given a six-month custodial sentence

'Perfect hooligan kit'
A fourth Hungarian caught in Marseille's city centre with a bag containing flares, a ski mask and a gum shield was given a suspended 15-day jail term. Prosecutor Olivier Sabine called it "the perfect hooligan kit." A Hungarian and Slovak man who tried to smuggle flares into the stadium were also given suspended 15-day sentences. Meanwhile, a French-Albanian man who hid a banned flare in his rectum to smuggle it into a fan zone was due to appear in court in Nice. Two people were hurt when the flare was set off, prosecutors said. Pat-down searches at the Nice fan zone before last Wednesday's match between France and Albania failed to find the 18 centimetre (seven-inch) by four centimetre (1.6-inch) flare which was reportedly hidden in a condom. The 18-year-old set off the flare in the fan zone causing burns to two people as well as himself, prosecutors said.
© The Local - Spain


Euro 2016: Far-right Russian fan leader arrested in France two days after deportation

Alexander Shprygin was among 20 Russian fans expelled in connection with violence at the beginning of the Euro 2016 tournament

20/6/2016- French police have arrested the leader of Russian football fans who attacked England fans two days after he was deported from France. Alexander Shprygin, who has far-right affiliations and is president of the Russian Supporters Union, was among 20 Russian fans expelled in connection with violence at the beginning of the Euro 2016 tournament. It was not immediately clear how he reentered France. A message on his twitter account said he had taken an unconventional route, and included a photo of a jet belonging to Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling Airlines. Another post on his Twitter account showed a short video filmed inside the stadium ahead of Russia's match against Wales. Shprygin previously warned all of the group would return to France to attend the Wales game if their visas were not cancelled. After being detained at the time, he said: “We are to be expelled. I would like to stress, not deported but expelled. "They are not deporting us with no right of further entry to the country, they are going to expel us. It means we will keep our visas.”
© The Independent


Euro 2016: Meet the Carpathian Brigade: the far-right Hungarian supporters group

18/6/2016- The official supporters' group of the Hungarian national team, known as Carpathian Brigade, again caused trouble in the match against Iceland at Stade Velodrome despite being warned by FARE [Football Against Racism in Europe] for their behaviour in their Euro 2016 opener versus Austria. Several independent radical groups form the Carpathian Brigade, including the fearsome Green Monsters, who support Ferencvaros in club competitions. This group is well-known in Europe for their violent history and the racist, anti-Semitic chants they sing at Groupama Arena. The Green Monsters define themselves as far-right Hungary patriots and organise large fights against rival groups.

Founded in the 1990s, their extreme violence has been a source of pride, and they have been known to engage in beatings and stabbings whenever their team loses. Racist chants directed towards the black, Gypsy and Jewish communities are popular among their members, while a large number of these hooligans are martial arts professionals and enjoy showing off their muscles in the stands. Even though UEFA has repeatedly warned and sanctioned the Hungarian football federation for the Carpathian Brigade's well-documented disturbances, the Magyar radicals have struck again, and threaten to do so at the final group-stage match.
© Marca, international football news


Euro 2016: UEFA Charges Croatia Soccer Body for Fan Disorder, Racism

18/6/2016- After Croatia was once more the focus of racist behavior and fan disorder at a European Championship match, UEFA formally opened a disciplinary case against the country's national soccer federation on Saturday. The federation apologized for the incidents during Croatia's 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic on Friday, while also blaming its national government for not identifying and punishing hooligans in recent years. "The Saint-Etienne incident is the product of the passivity of the Croatian state, and today we have all become hostages of a group of hooligans," the Croatian federation said in a statement. Play was stopped for several minutes late in the match when firecrackers and lit flares were thrown on the field from one end of the stadium where its fans were sitting. Croatia fans then fought among themselves as players appealed for calm.

UEFA's anti-discrimination monitors said Saturday they also reported hearing fans singing far-right songs and displaying offensive banners at the stadium. UEFA said the charges against Croatia related to racist behavior, crowd disturbances, throwing objects on the field and setting off fireworks. The Croatian federation faces at least a five-figure fine when UEFA's disciplinary panel judges the case on Monday. It is the second round of charges involving Croatia fans in France. UEFA charged the federation over flares being lit and a fan running on the field to celebrate a goal with Croatia players in a 1-0 win over Turkey last Sunday. That case will be judged on July 21. Croatia has a track record of disruptive fans, including at each game it played at Euro 2012. The federation claimed it "warned UEFA and French police about the hooligans' intentions to interrupt the match."

The national team has a faction of fans with far-right views, and also groups who are protesting against the widely unpopular soccer body, which is based in Zagreb and led by former Croatia great Davor Suker. "This deserves zero tolerance," Suker said in an earlier statement on the federation's website. "Croatian Football Federation is doing its job, and I call upon government institutions to do theirs. We'll ask French police for help." Many believe the repeated disorder is an attempt to provoke UEFA and FIFA to act in order to shame Suker and other officials linked to Dinamo Zagreb. Four years ago, all three Croatia games in Poland were also delayed because of flares and fireworks being thrown on the field. Then, UEFA fined the federation a total of 135,000 euros ($170,000) for a series of incidents including racial insults aimed at Italy forward Mario Balotelli, a fan running on the field, and fans' offensive chants and banners.

UEFA already deducted a point from Croatia in Euro 2016 qualifying when fans created a swastika image on the field before a home qualifying match in Split. The Italy game, and a subsequent qualifier against Bulgaria, were played in empty stadiums as punishment from UEFA for fans using far-right chants and banners. An earlier qualifier against Italy, in Milan, was also stopped in each half because of flares thrown on the field from a section of Croatia fans. In separate cases, FIFA has already barred fans from attending the first two of Croatia's five 2018 World Cup home qualifying matches in Zagreb in September and November. On Saturday, the Croatian federation apologized to "the spectators at Saint-Etienne, to the television audience, and the Czech Republic national football team."
© ABC News



France/UK: Mayor of Calais calls for migrant camps to be moved to Britain

24/6/2016- Migrants living in the jungle refugee camp in Paris have praised the Brexit vote claiming French authorities will no longer block their passage to Britain. French politicians reacted angrily to the referendum result, with the Mayor of Calais seeking the removal of the controversial refugee camp claiming the British government should deal with the situation. Asylum seekers make nightly attempts to sneak on board trucks looking to cross the Channel, but are often intercepted by French police. One Afghan asylum seeker told the Mirror: 'Everything is very tough now, they don’t let people go to the UK. But if the UK is out of the EU, France is going to say, "Bye bye, you are out, now take your refugees".' Currently border checks are conducted on the French side of the Channel with many migrants living in the infamous Jungle camp.

But now the the understanding, known as the Touquet agreement, between France and the UK has been called into question following Britain's vote to leave the European Union. And mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart says she will be pressing for the agreement to be suspended. She told French broadcaster BFM TV: 'The British must take on the consequen-ces of their choice. 'We are in a strong position to push, to press this request for a review and we are asking the President to bring his weight (to the issue). 'We must put everything on the table and there must be an element of division, of sharing.' This echoed calls from Xavier Bertrand, the centre-right president of the Hauts-de-France region, who tweeted: 'The English wanted to take back their freedom, they must take back their border.' Prior to the referendum, a French government minister had warned a vote for Brexit could see migrant camps being moved from Calais to Britain.

Finance minister Emmanuel Macron said in February that the treaty, which was signed in 2003, could be scuppered, telling reporters: 'The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais.'  There are currently around 7,000 migrants camped in Calais and Dunkirk, many of whom make regular attempts to get into the Channel Tunnel or board a ferry. Ending the agreement would mean cars and lorries would not be checked for migrants until they reach the British side of the Channel. However, previously Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Interior Minister, rubbished suggestions the border with Britain could be opened. 'Calling for the border with the English to be opened is not a responsible solution,' Mr Cazeneuve said. 'It would send a signal to people smugglers and would lead migrants to flow to Calais in far greater numbers. 'A humanitarian disaster would ensue. It is a foolhardy path, and one the government will not pursue. 'On the contrary, we're going to make the border even more watertight to dissuade smugglers and migrants, respect international rules and reduce the pressure on Calais.'

Britain and France signed the Le Touquet treaty in 2003 amid tensions over the number of people in camps at Calais.
The deal was the latest in a series that allowed Britain to carry out border checks on the French side of the Channel - meaning papers were checked there and vehicles inspected. British officials are based on the French side of the channel and cooperation around the eurotunnel terminal was stepped up last summer as the numbers trying to break into the tunnel grew. Scrapping the deal could see British border checks brought back to the English side of the Channel - potentially allowing people to reach the Kent shore to set up camp while awaiting processing. There are currently around 7,000 people at the camps with 'roads' handed British-styled names such as Queen Elizabeth II Street.
© The Daily Mail.


Brexit: Emotions run high as Britain votes to leave EU

The Leave campaign claimed a shock victory in the UK's EU referendum, but as Samira Shackle reports from London, results show a deeply divided public.

24/6/2016- The British public woke up to uncharted political waters this morning, after delivering a shock vote to leave the European Union. The value of sterling tanked, down to its lowest level since 1985, and France overtook Britain as the world's fifth-largest economy. Continuing the morning's shockwaves, Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned to Remain, announced that he will stand down in October. His most likely successor is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson, though home secretary Theresa May and chancellor George Osborne are also likely to throw their hats into the ring. "I never thought I'd say this - I've never voted Tory in my life - but I wish that Cameron hadn't announced his resignation," says Clare Gillingham, a charity worker. "In the current chaos I don't want to see a clown like Boris Johnson take over. I am furious with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership for failing to make a decisive case for Remain. I feel we've woken up in a nightmare," she told DW.

Questions have also been raised about the future of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who fought half-heartedly on the Remain side, at one point saying he was "7.5 out of 10" in favor of remaining in the EU. "I think you will find Labour figures later this morning calling for Jeremy Corbyn to consider his position because of the lacklustre campaign he fought," says Norman Smith, assistant political editor at the BBC. "We could end up with a situation where Cameron is gone, where Corbyn is gone. You could almost end up with a reshaping of politics at Westminster. And on the back of that we may even have a general election sooner rather than later."

Divided public
The vote was incredibly tight, and showed clear divisions in the British population. Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and other big English cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Leeds, overwhelmingly voted to remain, while Wales and almost the entirety of northern England voted to leave. The vote also split along age lines, with the over-65s heavily voting to leave and the younger generation to remain. As Britain reels from the shock result, emotions are running high on both sides: "This is a victory for stupidity, selfishness, and xenophobia - after a campaign dominated by lies," says Ellie Kirkham, who works in advertising and voted to remain. "I'm sick of hearing politicians like Farage say that this is a victory for 'ordinary people' - what about the 48.1 percent who voted to remain? That's a hefty chunk of the population. They are not all out-of-touch elites. I am terrified about what this means for the future of our beautiful, multicultural country," she told DW.

Yet others urge unity in the face of seismic change: "I have no sympathy with the 'Little England' xenophobia of Farage and his cohort, and I disliked how that dominated the campaign," says Chris McIntosh, a community activist who voted to leave. "But I see this as a victory for integrity and democracy. It's patronising to suggest that 52 percent of the population didn't know what they were doing. We have voted against the undemocratic and neoliberal institutions of the EU. If nothing else, the vote shows a groundswell of anti-establishment feeling that I hope will be harnessed into a progressive movement of some sort. The worst thing the left could do now would be to disengage in anger."

What next?
The often-vitriolic campaign was littered with incorrect statistics and misleading information, a barrage of noise that left many voters angry. Several of the Leave campaign's key claims have already been rowed back from. The campaign claimed on leaflets and posters that £350 million (435 million euros, $480 million) would be freed up to spend on the National Health Service, a claim which Nigel Farage now says was "a mistake." While concern about immigration controls was a cornerstone of the leave campaign, out campaigner Daniel Hannan said this morning that people who voted out in order to see immigration fall would be disappointed. "I am already tired of seeing a Doomsday scenario predicted on the news, on social media, and amongst my friends," says James Garthwaite, a civil servant who voted to leave.

"I don't deny that this is a period of immense change - I would have liked to see Cameron stay in office longer, and the immediate impact on sterling is dramatic. But ultimately we remain one of the largest economies in the world with a strong tradition of economic growth and stable democracy. It's insulting to Britain to say that we can't fend for ourselves." While the Bank of England scrambles to shore up the economy and politicians attempt to navigate the unchartered territory ahead, the one thing everyone can agree on is that this is a huge change. "Who knows, perhaps the worst effects can be avoided altogether," says Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland. "But we should not be under any illusions. This is not the country it was yesterday. That place has gone for ever."
© The Deutsche Welle.


UK: Xenophobia has become the new normal (opinion)

Who now dares to make the positive case for immigration? In calling this referendum, and underestimating the depths to which his opponents would sink, David Cameron has opened a Pandora’s Box of anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation rhetoric
By Charlie Cooper

22/6/2016- Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s referendum, one thing is already certain. We are all dancing to Ukip’s tune now. To appreciate how far the centre-ground in the immigration debate has moved, think back to October, and the outcry that followed a Theresa May speech, in which the Home Secretary said there was “no case” for immigration on the scale we have seen and warned that it was “impossible” to build a cohesive society with such high levels of immigration. The speech was rightly criticised on the left and right for ignoring the clear economic benefits that migration – particularly from the EU – has brought to the UK. Some pointed out that in those communities with highest migration, the inevitable pressures on public services and the understandable frustrations they bring could have been alleviated by the kind of migrant impact fund that the Coalition quietly scrapped. Others invited Ms May to look at our great cities and ask whether they were or were not “cohesive” societies.

But I suspect that if she had made the speech now, the reaction would be quite different. Who now dares to make the positive case for immigration? In calling this referendum, and underestimating the depths to which his opponents would sink, David Cameron has opened a Pandora’s Box of anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation rhetoric that he – or whoever follows him – may find impossible to close, whatever the result. Vote Leave used to say they didn’t need to play the immigration card. Their leaders are not stupid. They know that immigration is good, if not essential for this country to prosper. They planned to be intellectually honest and argue for Brexit on the grounds of sovereignty and with a vision for Britain as a nation that could set its own trade agenda.

But very quickly it became apparent that they had lost the economic argument. So they broke the emergency glass labelled "immigration". In doing so they have inflamed community tensions, appealed to people’s worst instincts and given credence to a misguided anger against immigration, to which Labour and the Conservatives will now feel enormous pressure to pander. This shift in the centre-ground on immigration was already underway before the referendum – most memorably demonstrated by Labour’s confused pledge of "controls on immigration" at last year’s general election. But the referendum has turned a gradual process into a sudden lurch. Already, senior Labour figures have begun to lay the ground for a potentially tougher line on immigration (although Jeremy Corbyn, to his credit, has refused to compromise on what he knows to be true – immigration is good for Britain).

Meanwhile, the Conservatives under a potential Boris Johnson leadership post-Brexit would be under pressure to deliver on the anti-immigration promise of Vote Leave. Nigel Farage has already said Ukip will remain an electoral force, and can be expected to howl in populist anguish at any sign of the Government loosening its control of the immigration figures. And if we vote to Remain, the strength of feeling against immigration will not go away. If anything, Ukip will feel they had been robbed of a victory, and will become even more vocal and, if their "Breaking Point" poster is anything to go by, more venomous than before. There is genuine and understandable concern about immigration in Britain. It is not racist to be concerned about immigration. But immigration is good for Britain and it is the job of politicians to lead. Rather than allowing themselves to be borne on the tide of anti-migrant sentiment, they must make a stand and explain why migration is, on the whole, a good thing.

Where it is a problem, it is a practical one of resources for public services. A sensible, compassionate response from the Government would be to back Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the migrant impact funds – targeted support for public services in areas most affected by migrant population increases. While delivering practical solutions, our leaders must stand firm against those political forces who sew unfounded fear around immigration. They must tell a story about how, we, as an ageing population, need the migrant worker to pay the taxes that will pay for our NHS, our schools and our elderly care. They must not let this debate be dictated, as it as in recent weeks, by those forces of division that "want our country back" from some imagined other, who in reality is already in our midst, and who – surprise, surprise – tends to be a good neighbour, a hard worker and an honest taxpayer.
This is a dangerous time for politics in Britain. In the wake of this referendum, we will need the leaders of the Conservatives and Labour to remind us how we used to think about immigration in calmer, more rational times. Otherwise, the sinister forces that Vote Leave and Ukip have unleashed could dominate our politics for many years to come.
© The Independent -Voices


Daily Mail Brexit coverage sees 40,000 sign petition for editor’s dismissal

22/6/2016- A petition calling for the editor of the Daily Mail to be fired has accrued more than 40,000 signatures in a direct address to the tabloid paper’s owner Lord Rothermere. The campaign, started by civic organisation Avaaz, describes Paul Dacre as the “Nigel Farage of newspapers” and accuses the Mail of “adding to a climate where rage and xenophobia flourish” under his leadership. Central to the complaint is the paper’s obsessive coverage of, and mistruths about, immigration, particularly in the run-up to the EU referendum. Last week the paper was forced to issue a correction on its front page story due to its reliance on inaccurate copy and the false impression that illegal immigrants found in a van came from Europe. “The Daily Mail has spread lies and hate and a steady diet of Leave messaging for the duration of this referendum campaign, while offering virtually no space for the Remain perspective,” said Avaaz campaign director Iain Keith. “Paul Dacre claims to be a champion for press freedom, but this betrays the principles of journalism to an ugly political agenda. Paul Dacre is the Nigel Farage of newspapers and it’s time Lord Rothermere either reins him in or cuts him loose.”

That the petition has accumulated 40,000 signatures in just one day may turn heads but is highly unlikely to trouble Dacre who has been at the helm of the Mail as editor since 1992, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful newspapermen of his generation. Under his leadership the paper has seen daily circulation hit a steady average of roughly two million and been awarded Newspaper of the Year six times. Dacre has his finger on the pulse of middle England unlike any of his contemporaries and is a staunch defender of his strategy of placing sensationalism, fear and anger above facts, railing against the biases he perceives in the ‘objective’ journalism of the BBC and its ilk. After years of stoking fear and loathing over the EU, the paper finally came out with an official endorsement of Brexit on June 21, conveniently neglecting to mention that Dacre himself has pocketed to the tune of £460,000 in EU subsidies over five years to bolster his luxurious Highlands estate.
© Euro Weekly News


UK: One of Vote Leave's biggest donors is a former BNP member

Gladys Bramall has given £600,000 to Leave in recent weeks. She has reportedly confirmed she was a BNP member under Nick Griffin's leadership - but says her husband signed her up.

21/6/2016- One of the Leave campaign’s biggest individual donors is a former member of the far-right BNP, it has been reported. Gladys Bramall, an 88-year-old woman from Birmingham, has made two cash donations to Vote Leave Limited of £500,000 and £100,000, making her the campaign’s third-largest financial backer, Electoral Commission filings show. And Ms Bramall is also named on the database of then-members of the BNP that was published by WikiLeaks in November 2008, when Nick Griffin was still its leader. The link was first reported by BuzzFeed News, and Ms Bramall told the website that she must have been signed up to the far-right group by her husband – who is also named on the leaked list. She nonetheless confirmed her membership, saying: “My husband joined, he obviously enrolled me at the same time. It wasn’t with my knowledge.”

The BNP membership database was published three times before the party expelled Mr Griffin in 2014 for “trying to cause disunity by deliberately fabricating a state of crisis”. The party, which campaigns on an anti-immigrant message and tried to restrict membership to “indigenous British” people until it was legally barred from doing so, received fewer than two thousands votes in total at the last general election. Asked why she had donated £600,000 to support Leave, Ms Bramall told BuzzFeed News: “Just that I want to come out of Europe. I’m very anxious that we come out of Europe. I did what I could by giving money.” The link will be embarrassing for the Vote Leave campaign, which has sought to distance itself from accusations of racism among its more extreme elements. Michael Gove, the most senior politician in the mainstream of the campaign, said he “shuddered” to see a poster unveiled by Nigel Farage showing a line of refugees under the title “Breaking Point”.

Ms Bramall was not available to comment when contacted by The Independent. Vote Leave has declined to comment on the link, but when asked about the donations during an LBC interview Mr Gove promised money from "tainted sources" would play no part in the campaign. Asked whether he welcomed the donation, Mr Gove told LBC: "Absolutely not," adding that he was "not aware of that beforehand". "I'd obviously like to investigate myself who this lady is and what the history behind it is," he said. "But if this money comes from someone whose views are objectionable then of course we will do everything we can to make sure that money that comes from any tainted source is returned and plays no part in the campaign."

Conservative minister and Remain campaigner Sam Gyimah said the revelation was particularly worrying in the wake of the resignation of Vote Leave board member Arabella Arkwright for sharing anti-Muslim material on social media. Mr Gyimah said: "It's extremely concerning that Vote Leave have received so much money from a former member of the BNP an abhorrent organisation. "By accepting this money they risk associating themselves with these views, especially following the resignation of one of their board members after she re-tweeted far-right material. They must now return the donation immediately."
© The Independent


UK: Vote Leave board member quits over anti-Muslim retweets

Businesswoman Arabella Arkwright resigns after Guardian asked her about activity on her social media account

20/6/2016- A Vote Leave board member has resigned after it emerged that she promoted anti-Muslim material on social media, including an image of a white girl in the middle of a group of people wearing burqas saying: “Britain 2050: why didn’t you stop them Grandad?” Arabella Arkwright, a businesswoman who sat on the board and finance committee of Vote Leave, stepped down after the Guardian asked her about a series of tweets and retweets from her account. Other retweets included a link from Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League, suggesting UK Muslims were trying to build an Islamic state in Britain. Another retweet came in response to a Twitter user saying they would never eat tikka masala again if it “got seventh-century barbaric savagery” out of Britain. A reply from Arkwright’s account said: “No to sharia law. By by [sic] tikka masala .”

A further retweeted picture has a “Stop Islam” badge in the corner and asks people to compare photographs of Yazidi women and Syrian men fleeing Isis. Labour MP Emma Reynolds said some of the material was racist and the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, called on Vote Leave to take action to stop stoking divisions. According to her biography for Vote Leave, Arkwright is a businesswoman who runs health clinics. She is also the partner in a visitor attraction and pub in Warwickshire. Her name has already been removed from the Vote Leave website. After being approached by the Guardian, Arkwright denied the retweets represented her view and said she abhorred racism in every form. She has apologised for any offence caused and said she was stepping down so as not to affect the last three days of the Vote Leave campaign led by leading Tory Brexiters Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

She said her retweets did not imply that she was endorsing the content of the tweets. “I am absolutely appalled that there should be any underlying suggestion that I have any racist tendencies,” she said. “I would like to make it absolutely clear that my RTs and forwarding do not mean that I endorse in any way the content of them. I RT a wide variety of different views on issues related to the referendum with which I do not agree in order that others can see the breadth of opinion on these matters. Is there anything wrong in that? “You will note that my RTs are seldom accompanied by comments from me except Syrian Christians, who it was being widely reported at the time were being tortured for their faith. I am not a political animal and maybe am guilty of being naive, but I reject all prejudice and am deeply sorry for any offence that may have been caused. Moreover, perhaps I can be clear, I ABHOR ANY FORM OF RACISM.”

Reynolds, a member of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to remain in the EU, said xenophobia and nasty divisiveness from members of the leave campaign should not be tolerated. “The fact that a member of their board has tweeted and retweeted racist material, including from the founder of the English Defence League, demonstrates the levels to which the leave campaign has stooped,” she said. “Vote Leave have already lost the economic argument, and are now focusing solely on running a nasty campaign scaremongering about immigration.” A Vote Leave spokesperson said: “As soon as we were made aware of these tweets we asked Arabella to hand in her resignation, which she has done with immediate effect. These tweets do not reflect the views of the Vote Leave campaign.”

Farron said it was “deeply worrying” and called on the leave campaign to stop “stoking division in our society and start responding to the overwhelming evidence showing we’re better off in the EU”. Meanwhile, Vote Leave has been trying to distance itself from a Ukip poster that has been compared to Nazi propaganda. Leading Vote Leave figures have stressed in recent days that they are completely separate from Ukip and strongly pro-immigration, while wanting to take back control of Britain’s borders. Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, even repeated his old call for an amnesty for people who entered the country illegally more than 12 years ago, in an apparent attempt to neutralise accusations the Brexit campaign is anti-immigrant. The remain campaign has been trying to frame the choice in the referendum as a choice between an open, liberal Britain and the Britain of Farage.

The controversial Ukip poster shows a queue of migrants crossing a border, with the slogan Breaking Point and a call to leave the EU. Politicians from George Osborne to Nicola Sturgeon have called it vile and divisive. However, Farage has defended it and claimed to be a “victim of hate” himself, while accusing David Cameron and other remain campaigners of exploiting the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox for their own political ends.
© The Guardian.


US/UK: Here’s How Islamists and the Far Right Feed Off Each Other (opinion)

Whether it's the horror of Orlando or the murder of British MP Jo Cox, our attempts to understand tragedy fall prey to our own prejudices and political constructs.
By Maajid Nawaz

20/6/2016- While the world was still reeling from the self-starter jihadist atrocity in Orlando, and as people everywhere were still trying to process one of America’s worst-ever mass shootings, a far-right extremist accosted, shot and stabbed British Member of Parliament Jo Cox, who tragically succumbed to her wounds later that same day. Jo Cox was a mother of two, a tireless campaigner for refugees, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group “Friends of Syria,” and the former head of policy at Oxfam. In other words, she cared a great deal about vulnerable people. One of Parliament’s brightest lights has just been extinguished by nothing but hate. Her suspected killer, whose name is Tommy Mair, has been arrested, swiftly charged and put on trial in one of London’s highest courts. Mair had been a supporter of various far-right extremist groups. Eyewitness accounts state that the suspect shouted “Britain First”—the name of a far-right direct action group in Britain—as he attacked Jo Cox.

He had also been a longstanding member of the white-supremacist group, White Rhino, and according to documents obtained by the U.S. far-right extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, Mair was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi group, National Alliance. In 1999, Mair bought a homemade weapons manual from the National Alliance, and in total sent $620 to their publishing arm for titles including “Incendiaries,” “Chemistry of Powder and Explosives,” “Improvised Munitions Handbook” and Ich Kampfe, published by Hitler’s Nazi party. On Saturday, Thomas Mair was asked to confirm his name in court for the charge. He replied only to say “Death to Traitors, freedom for Britain.” Not much more can be said of this man, for a trial is ongoing, but what has already been reported appears to suffice.

It has been a terrible travesty of a week. But what the two cases—the attack on Orlando and the attack on Jo Cox—come to symbolize is what worries me more. The 1930s have returned. The world seems to be sliding into a repeat of that grim decade before World War II: a decade that beheld the ascendance of Italian Fascism, Soviet Communism and German Nazism; a decade in which “the establishment” was to blame for everything, the status quo was rejected and radical change was demanded. It was the age of identity politics, conspiracy theories, dehumanizing rhetoric and total solutions— the age of populist demagogues and competing extremes. And while nationalist populism hasn’t gone away, the ideological project of Communism has given way to the theocratic project of Islamism, supported today by the regressive left. The one common ingredient that all of these “total solutions” require is for their partisans and recruits to identify themselves primarily as “victims.”

The feeling of “victimhood” is one of the most blinding, counter-productive, human soul-destroying and degenerative conditions to afflict society, and all political discourses. Once it has consumed its host, “victimhood” immediately renders anyone outside of its group as the aggressor. It leaves no room for human empathy for the “other,” because that “other” is seen to be locked in a competition for rights with the “victim.” And by definition, there can only be one “victim.” This is why “victimhood” demands a “special status,” and whispers to its host that hers is a “special people.” The Nazi Aryan race, the Communist international proletariat, the Islamist global ummah, none of these “special” people, requiring a “unique” state for which they must agitate through a “historic” revolution would thrive if not for first and foremost seeing themselves as “victims”. The duplicitous response by today’s populist right, Islamists, and the regressive left to last week’s atrocity in Orlando and to the murder of Jo Cox showcases the problem well.

Let us begin with Orlando. Immediately, ideological talking points became the predictable standard response from both sides to the tragedy. For Islamists, the regressive left and some of their supporters among liberals, Omar Mateen was judged a madman, a loner, a traumatized Afghan angered about American foreign policy in his ancestral home, a confused and a closeted gay man in denial. Of course, they insist that he also should not have had such a ready access to guns. Many also focused on the fact that Mateen did not appear devout in the traditional religious sense, thus arguing the slaughter had nothing to do with Islam. As well as resting on a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of radicalization, this approach contained serious logical errors. We liberals cannot simultaneously oppose profiling as I do then say Mateen couldn’t be radicalized because he "didn’t fit the profile.”

Likewise, we can’t also claim that jihadism has “nothing to do with Islam” if suspects must be devout for us to consider them jihadists in the first instance. It was, for this camp, anything but a problem of Islamist radicalization, of religious fundamentalist shame around gay sex, and of deeply entrenched cultural intolerance. To dare suggest such a thing would be seen to be aiding the narrative of the opposing conservative camp, and that would be akin to scoring liberal and Muslim own-goals against our “victim” scorecard. President Barack Obama even entered the fray, making remarks to reassert why he would not be naming the ideology Islamism. And for the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and some of their populist-right supporters among conservatives, the problem in Orlando was not mental health, the problem was not the very same homophobia promoted for years by some within their own ranks, and the problem was certainly not gun laws. No, Omar Mateen was nothing but a Muslim terrorist and to suggest anything else was to apologize for jihadist terror.

Neither camp stepped back from their own dogma to consider that mental health, poor social integration, closeted homophobia, Islamist radicalization and the ability of civilian extremists with all the above problems to access assault rifles after they are already suspected of links to terrorism, are not mutually exclusive. Far from it. Individual radicalization cannot be boxed into neat fitting ideological categories. It was probably always a mixture of all those reasons. But to concede such a thing would be to concede some points to the “other,”and a “victim” must never do that, for it lets the side down. It betrays the tribe. Orlando would have been sufficient to make the point. But by serving as its mirror opposite, the brutal killing of Jo Cox in Britain hammered the same lesson home in a way that is too poignant to ignore.

Here, Islamists, the regressive left and their liberal sympathizers, in an eerie and Orwellian backflip, traded places with the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and their populist-right supporters. Suddenly, the same group among Muslims and the Left who had argued so vociferously that Omar Mateen had been nothing but a loner with mental health problems, were arguing that Thomas Mair was a neo-Nazi ideologue and pointing to why the ideology of white supremacism must be challenged wherever it is found. Talk of mental health problems and foreign policy grievances gave way to pious pronouncements about the scourge of racism and xenophobia, and questions around why “white people” are never deemed terrorists by mainstream media, as if our entire history of Irish Republican terrorism and many other such examples, hadn’t happened at all.

Not to be outdone, in the case of Thomas Mair the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and many of their populist-right supporters developed overnight a newly discovered yet profound awareness of mental health problems, social isolation and the economic grievance narrative around jobs being lost “to foreigners.” For them, it was anything but white supremacist ideology. Of course, as in the case of Omar Mateen, the truth probably lies in a mixture of all of these factors. As I’ve been arguing for years, radicalization occurs due to a combination of perceived grievances, an identity crisis, charismatic recruiters and an ideology, and in all cases probably involves mental trauma. There is a negative symbiosis between Islamist and far right extremism.

It is no revelation that jihadist terrorists use far-right posters in their own propaganda to prove that the world is at war with Islam. And it is no surprise that the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik cited al-Qaeda writings in his own manifesto to validate his murder of 77 innocent people. Each faction relies on the other to exist. Each needs the “other”—the enemy—to point to as the cause of all its ills. But the world of politics has become—quite horrifically—like a football game. Each of us cheers for our own tribe and disparages the opposing team even when they have a reasonable point to make. We are always the "victims”; they are always our oppressors.

People are playing politics with evil while human lives are lost to hate. We must take stock, and recognize that by raising our political pompoms every time an event appears to confirm our narrative, and by playing up our own victimhood, we are only feeding into the recruitment narratives of all terrorist groups. The first stage to the emancipation of any community is to shed this perpetual state of victimhood, and begin to take responsibility for our own actions, and our own advancement. We have reentered an era of competing extremes. The 1930s never looked so close, from so far. It didn’t have to be like this. Islamists and far-right extremists, a plague on both your houses.
© The Daily Beast


UK: Far-right groups incite social media hate in wake of Jo Cox’s murder

20/6/2016- Police are being urged to investigate extreme right-wing groups in Britain and their incitement activities after a series of hateful messages were published on social media in the wake of Jo Cox’s murder. Nationalist groups have been accused of glorifying Thomas Mair, Mrs Cox’s accused killer, crowing about the attack and making excuses for it. It comes amid concern about the rise of the far right in pockets of the UK, notably in Yorkshire, with violence at anti-immigration marches and increasing anti-Muslim hate crimes. In the days since Mrs Cox’s death scores of members of far-right organisations have taken to social media to make threats to other MPs and to crow about the fate of the 41-year-old mother, who was a prominent campaigner for remaining in the EU.

The northeast unit of National Action, which has campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, tweeted: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. #JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans.”
#VoteLeave, don't let this man's sacrifice go in vain.#JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!
— National Action NE (@NANorthEast_) June 16, 2016

The police northeast counter-terrorism unit confirmed it was probing a number of “offensive messages on social media and extreme social media content”. A spokesman said: “We are conducting checks on this material to establish whether or not any criminal offences have been committed.” There have been numerous other disturbing messages from far-right supporters in other areas of the country, resulting in calls for police to monitor and investigate online hatred. A member of the English Defence League, another far-right group, posted on Facebook: “Many of us have been saying for years that sooner or later “SOMEONE” was going to get killed. No one thought it was going to be one of “them” (left-wing) who was going to be the first victim of the coming civil unrest heading towards Europe ... BUT he had reached his breaking point (like many of us) and snapped.”

One Twitter user described Mrs Cox as a “traitor” while another said she was a “threat to the UK” and described Mr Mair as an “Aryan warrior”. Another group, calling itself the Notts Casual Infidels, linked to a news story of Mrs Cox’s murder and posted on Facebook: “We knew it was only a matter of time before we take it to the next level. We have been mugged off for too long.” A man associated with Pegida UK, an anti-Islam group, posted on Facebook: “From today the game changed as a good friend said have a look at today’s date 16/06/2016. Next time the government must listen to its people.”

Matthew Collins, head of research at Hope not Hate, a charity that seeks to defeat the politics of extremism within British communities, said he was concerned that “there are a number of tiny, right-wing organisations that are taking great glory and satisfaction from Jo’s death”. He added: “I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division.” Mr Collins said that although there were many people who did not agree with or vote for Mrs Cox, “they had the decency to recognise the contribution she made to wider society”. Referring to hateful messages posted on social media, he said: “These people are so on the margins of society that they no longer have any sense of moral decency or moral codes. I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division and are well aware of what such words have led to. These people are engaged in a whole network of tearing down the moral fabric of society.”

Stephen Kinnock, the MP who shared an office with Mrs Cox, was subjected to “particularly venomous” online abuse last week after an article about his family’s support for the Remain campaign. One email threatened violence and has been reported to the police, he said. Mr Kinnock said the far right were a “shady bunch” who had many of their “views legitimised by the referendum and the choice of the Leave campaign to go hard on immigration”. “I get the sense that a lot of rhetoric around the Leave campaign would have been classified as far right only five years ago but now it’s more mainstream. “There seems to have been a drum beat over the years for venomous rhetoric. A lot of this referendum would have been classified as pretty extreme. “Many MPs have a siege mentality because of the abuse, so I do think something needs to be done about it, but the question is what. You’ve got to get a balance between free speech and protecting people’s security. The last thing we’d want to do is never hold surgeries, then the bad guys have won.”
© The Times


UK: Jo Cox 'was ready to launch report on far-right nationalists'

Jo Cox was planning to launch a report in Parliament on the dangers of nationalist radicals, according to reports.

20/6/2016- Jo Cox was planning to launch a report in Parliament on the dangers of nationalist radicals, according to reports. The Labour MP for Batley and Spen, who died after being shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency surgery on Thursday, had also recorded a video about preventing Islamophobia, according to The Times. The report by Tell Mama, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim incidents, warns of rising aggression by far-right nationalists and an increase in Islamophobia in the last year. Mrs Cox was known for her commitment to causes such as the plight of Syrian refugees. The Times reports that on June 29 she planned to launch the report and play the video. It shows her saying she had spoken to Tell Mama about preventing Islamophobia and discussing the problem that in her constituency "many of our young women don't feel safe when they're out on the street".

The director of Tell Mama, Fiyaz Mughal, told the newspaper there were significant clusters of far-right activity in Yorkshire and that the charity's annual report would detail an increase in anti-Muslim activity in the UK last year. Mr Mughal said: "In the last 18 months South Yorkshire is one of the leading areas in the country (for Islamophobic incidents)." Thomas Mair, 52, from Birstall, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday charged with murdering Mrs Cox, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of a knife.
© The Press Association


UK: Former far right politician to run for slain Jo Cox's seat

A former member of far right party the BNP is to contest the by-election which decides Jo Cox's successor.

19/6/2016- Jack Busby (23) says the Labour Party has “blood on its hands” over the politician’s death. Mrs Cox, who represented the Yorkshire area Batley and Spen, died earlier this week after being shot and stabbed at a constituency surgery she was holding at a local library. A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. All major political parties have said they do not intend to contest the upcoming by-election to elect an MP to the seat following the tragedy, out of respect for Ms Cox’s family and colleagues. However, Jack Buckby has announced he will be contesting the seat for far-right political party Liberty GB, which lists as its main aims; "halting the Islamisation of Britain" and "promoting British values and assimilation rather than multiculturalism".

Mr Buckby was formerly tipped to be a leading figure in the BNP while a member of its youth wing 'the BNP Crusaders' and has been described as an "heir apparent to Nick Griffin", the former party leader. However, Mr Buckby left the BNP, citing concerns that the party’s views had become “racist”. In a statement announcing his decision to stand, he wrote: “While the murder of Jo Cox is tragic, we must not let this tragedy blur the fact that the Labour Party is responsible for the demographic and cultural assault on Britain which has already done great damage in areas of Yorkshire. ”Too much is at stake to allow Labour to retake Batley and Spen unchallenged. The constituency is part of a region that has been turned upside down by mass immigration, with mosques sprouting like triffids, Islamic extremism proliferating, child-rape gangs still on the loose, and long-standing English communities under threat of demographic eradication.

“The Labour Party has blood on its hands. And by shutting down debate and labelling working class people concerned about their communities as racists, they risk driving desperate, disenfranchised people to further horrendous acts like this.” Announcing his campaign on social media, he also said he supported capital punishment for the person responsible for Ms Cox’s death. He wrote: “Liberty GB calls for a referendum on the restoration of capital punishment. I support it, and I say we hang the Jo Cox killer.” He also criticised the decision of many members of the public to donate to the charity ‘Hope Not Hate’ to honour the Labour MP who worked to improve community relations in her West Yorkshire constituency. He wrote: “Nasty ‘Hope Not Hate’ being given tens of thousands of pounds from the Jo Cox fundraising. And they moan about people ‘politicising’ the killing.”
© The Irish Independent


UK: Pro-EU Bristol councillor has car vandalised with far-right graffiti

19/6/2016- A Bristol Labour councillor says she has been left "shaken" after discovering her car had been vandalised by suspected far-right sympathisers. Ruth Pickersgill, who represents Easton, woke on Friday morning to find the letters 'NF' - short for National Front, an extreme right-wing organisation - scratched into the bonnet of her car. A makeshift attempt at an England flag had also been scratched into the red car's paintwork. The pro-EU councillor, who is also a refugee rights activist, had left Remain campaign leaflets visible in the back of the vehicle, as she had been planning to deliver them that afternoon.
© The Bristol Post


UK: Brexit could see the rise of racists across Europe

By David Hirsh, Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

20/6/2016- Brexit would cause an immediate recession and the poor would pay. The pound, wages, consumption and GDP would plummet; cuts in welfare, pension, health and education would follow. In the long-term, the economy would continue to suffer as we find ourselves locked out of the European market and global trade deals. But this is about more than money. It would be expensive, the Brexit argument concedes, but we would be buying something priceless. Actually, the freedom, peace and democracy that we already have is priceless and the Brexiteers are risking everything for a mirage.

Europeans were once seduced by totalitarianism; and we Brits remember that the willingness of Americans to kill and die for us was decisive in the maintenance of our freedom. As Europe emerged, it built the EU to set in stone its renewed liberty and peace. Southern Europe embraced human rights and joined the European community; later, Eastern Europe grasped democracy and the EU. As Yugoslavia emerges from genocide it, too, reaches towards the EU. The EU is a machine for cementing former slave peoples into democratic Europe.

With modernity, buying and selling became a dominant way for strangers to relate to each other. It’s no accident that freedom of movement, freedom to work where you choose and freedom of trade are linked to the rule of law and human rights. But we know it is necessary to regulate markets to prevent monopolies and to protect the vulnerable. EU regulation prevents Vodafone stinging you because you cross a border; it prevents British Airways restricting air travel to the wealthy; it stops McDonald’s competing over the length of the working week or the annual holiday.

If there is trade, there must be rules. How do we agree rules? It is not true that unelected commissioners make decisions. Elected governments negotiate within the Council of Ministers and come to consensus. If we were outside the EU, we would still have to obey the rules to trade and we would still have to pay, but we would have no say. Democracy is not sufficient. Democratic peoples have to deal with injustice, inequality, loneliness, homelessness, illness, meanness, addiction, everything. But democracy is necessary. In the USA, too, voters are itching to smash it

all up. There, too, people are thrilled by the big mouth blaming foreigners and blaspheming against civilised values. This bout of fury with the Beltway, Brussels, or last year with Westminster, is infantilising. On the British left, the childish fury is directed against Israel, and the Jews and the grown-ups who look on, with fear in their eyes. Remember when some students peeled off a demonstration and surrounded Charles and Camilla’s car? One participant was so angry that the police did not stop them. He’d experienced himself slipping over the line between teenage protest and something irreversible. If you run with Trump or Brexit or boycotters, you are putting something into motion that might become unstoppable. You are the grown-up now.

We live in a time where democratic states and democratic culture are under threat and, ironically, this threat is often articulated using the appropriated language of democracy. Our grandparents knew the difference between totalitarianism and democracy, as do the people risking all to get to the free world on rafts. But we have won battles too. Racism, sexism and homophobia are now violations of our laws and of our cultures. Official buildings flew the rainbow last week. But still we have trouble valuing what we have built, what we have won.

Imagine Trump in the White House and Islamism threatening democratic movements and minorities across the Middle East. Now is the time for Europe to stand strong and united in peace and in democracy. Some, in a faux inverse nationalism underestimate the importance of Britain. Brexit could collapse the whole European project and it could lead to the rise of the racist and protectionist right across Europe. The walls could come up, people designated as foreigners could more and more be swept back and forth across frontiers and totalitarian movements could rise promising order in the chaos.

If you want to be naughty, have an affair, start smoking again or buy a Harley. Don’t run with Trump, Brexit or boycotters. It may be Europe’s turn to lead the free world for a time.
© Jewish News UK.


If the UK walks away, the continent's far right will step into the EU vacuum (opinion)

By Fidelma Cook

18/6/2016- Within a few days the outcome will be known and another referendum result will leave only bitterness and anger in its wake. Only a fool would attempt a prediction at this late stage as polls swing widely, and bloodshot-eyed politicians lay their increasingly tarnished wares before us. There seems, at this moment, to have been a surge for Brexit but I wonder how many of those ‘surging’ have actually registered to vote? Indeed, how many will even bother to vote: For we live in a strange world of parallels where life is often more real on Twitter or Facebook than in action. It is also a false world where one gains impressions of great passion and power in the rhetoric spewed out every milli-second.

We are truly on the edge of The Matrix where the great question is: "What is real?" Or: "What is true?" Had I been an undecided perhaps I would, like many, have found myself pulled and pushed from all sides with appeals to prejudice, self-interest and self-protection. But I have never, ever, doubted that our interests and our safety lie within a united Europe, however flawed the present set up may be. So there is no argument that would sway me otherwise. I am not open. As I’ve written before here, I was schooled, in both languages and hope, towards the common good of, initially, a Common Market, and later a European Union. Schooled to look outwards and not look back at the confines of one’s own small country.

Yes, also taught to have immense pride in my country and its struggles, but not to be tethered, or have my wings clipped, by its hold. Taught by a generation who had grown up during or in the aftermath of the Second World War. As they said after the First World War, never again, but this time there was a burning desire to ensure the words had real meaning. All that schooling meant that I could end up in La France Profonde, often shocked at my audacity and bewildered at how it had happened, but never questioning my right to be here. Indeed, living now in a country so brutally decimated by both world wars, hardens my belief that we somehow need to be in a fluid, yet united whole, to prevent it happening again.

If anything I feel a vulnerability being in an ever-stretching land mass and not gripped within an island’s shores. But history has shown us that even islands are open to conquest. As an immigrant, an economic immigrant, I identify with those Farage holds up as a reason for the UK to walk away. There is little difference between us in our separate countries, apart from our colour and religion, and there, however much dressed up, is the truth in the core of the Brexit argument. Writing this, I’m stopping to check online newspapers and yes, Twitter.

Fifty people are known to have been murdered in a lesbian and gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That figure will undoubtedly rise. The killings have edged the shocking scenes of the thugs – English, French, and Russian – who opened the Euro 2016 with such appalling violence – down the news schedule. We’ve reeled from disgust on one hand to incomprehension on the other as yet again, one individual unleashes hell. It’s as if a terrible bloodlust has come upon the world; a furious anger that can only be assuaged in cruelty and brutality. Already with breathtaking opportunism there are those seizing on these events to further their case for shrinking back into a perverse form of nationalism. Make no mistake – if the UK walks away, the EU is unlikely to ultimately hold and a vacuum will form as other countries assert their claims. And into that vacuum will swarm the far right of France, Greece, Italy and Germany, pounding out their dark, dangerous, xenophobic tunes to an audience always willing to dance.

Smiling from the outer reaches will be the Russian bear – Putin, whose goals can only be achieved with European disarray. Oh such déja vu. If that sounds bleak, it is because I believe we are living in the most dangerous times since the 1930s. I had intended to write this column using cold statistics and accepted facts, on both sides, to bolster my argument that to remain is the only option. I still could, but see little point, as I do think most of us knew where we stood from the start. And many, frankly, don’t care – willing to be tossed and turned whichever way the tide runs. France has already signaled that if Britain walks away, it will move fast to ensure that the divorce will be swift and with no concessions.

Britain will be an anti-EU party by its actions so can accept no quarter in any trade deals or treaties. Whichever way we jump – and yes here in France I’ve voted too – we are facing a frightening future. But there is not one single doubt it my mind that the only way to face it, is together, as a European Union. Right, my solo party political broadcast is now over. As they say these days….see you on the other side.
© The Herald Scotland


UK: Nigel Farage accused of resorting to xenophobia

18/6/2016- Nigel Farage has been accused of resorting to xenophobic fear tactics after unveiling what Nicola Sturgeon branded a "disgusting" Brexit poster, showing a huge queue of non-white migrants on the borders of the European Union. Politicians from across the political spectrum joined forces to condemn the campaign tactic, which they said exploited the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the "most dishonest and immoral way". But the Ukip leader brushed aside suggestions the poster was racist and insisted very few people who came into Europe last year would qualify as genuine refugees. However, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party MPs attacked Mr Farage for resorting to "small-minded fear tactics". The First Minister claimed the poster, which showed people crossing between Croatia and Slovenia to a refugee camp, under a warning that the EU was at "breaking point", was "disgusting".

Labour's Yvette Cooper said: "Just when you thought Leave campaigners couldn't stoop any lower, they are now exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way. "Europe didn't cause the Syrian refugee crisis and pulling out of the EU won't stop people fleeing conflict and persecution by Isis and the Assad regime." Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "Using the innocent victims of a human tragedy for political propaganda is utterly disgusting. Farage is engaging in the politics of the gutter. "The refugee crisis has not been caused by the EU. It is a common challenge that all countries must deal with effectively and humanely - and that is far more possible inside the EU than out," she added. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake said: "It's a shame that instead of engaging on the issues, Farage and his cronies have resorted to small-minded fear tactics and xenophobia."

Conservative MP Neil Carmichael said: "Distasteful propaganda like this can only make our immigration challenges worse, not better, and damage community cohesion in Britain." Mr Farage launched the poster with a battle-bus tour through Westminster, followed by 10 vans plastered with the image. He claimed so-called Islamic State was exploiting the migrant crisis to flood the continent with terrorists. "But, frankly, as you can see from this picture, most of the people coming are young males and, yes, they may be coming from countries that are not in a very happy state, they may be coming from places that are poorer than us, but the EU has made a fundamental error that risks the security of everybody," declared the Ukip leader. When it was pointed out the people in the posters were refugees, Mr Farage replied: "You don't know that; they are coming from all over the world. If you get back to the Geneva Convention definition, you will find very few people that came into Europe last year would actually qualify as genuine refugees." He added: "When IS say they will use the migrant crisis to flood the continent with their jihadi terrorists, they probably mean it."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon brands Ukip Leave campaign's Breaking Point poster 'disgusting'
Read more: How an English majority to leave EU could be over-ridden by pro-Remain vote of other home nations
Read more: Focus on EU membership as key to resolving immigration issues misplaced
© The Herald Scotland


UK: Far-right hijacks MP murder to campaign for Brexit

18/6/2016- A far-right group has tried to hijack the killing of British parliamentarian Jo Cox and link it to the campaign for Brexit. National Action posted a picture of murder suspect Thomas Mair with a caption reading: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!” It was one of several offensive posts about the killing that have appeared on the Twitter feed of the group’s regional northeast branch. They came to light as the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen appeared to try to explain away Cox’s killing. “People resort to violence because they are sneered at by Brussels elites,” tweeted the leader of the National Front in France. National Action is barely 100 strong, according to the Hope Not Hate organisation, which monitors far-right activity in Britain.

However, the Nazi group is dangerous despite its small size because of the impact its propaganda can have on young men, a spokesman for Hope Not Hate said. Zack Davies, a white supremacist, told police he was a supporter of the group when he was arrested over the attempted murder of a Sikh dentist in a supermarket. Davies, who was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years, shouted “white power” during the machete attack last year. “National Action is a vile, publicity-seeking group which seeks to revel in notoriety, as with its pathetic attempt to claim that Jo Cox’s murder was about the killer’s ‘sacrifice’ for Vote Leave,” the Hope Not Hate spokesman said. “The danger lies not so much in the group itself, but in those who would believe its message — and take it to its violent and logical extreme.” Police are believed to be investigating the Twitter feed.

The “leave” campaign has been dogged by far-right groups attempting to associate themselves with the campaign. This weekend Cox’s murder has put the spotlight back on their attempts to infiltrate the Brexit camp. Mair, who has been arrested and charged over the killing, was named as a supporter of the Springbok Club, an organisation that has defended the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa. His name was mentioned in the group’s online newsletter from 10 years ago. A recent edition from April urges supporters to get in touch with the conservative Bruges Group “in order to assist with the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. “All help and support in advancing the campaign at this centre is of course encouraged,” the Springbok Cyber Newsletter said. The Bruges Group, which was inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 anti-EU speech, had contacted another fringe right-wing organisation, the Swinton Circle, for help, the newsletter said.

That claim was hotly rejected by Robert Oulds, director of the mainstream Bruges Group, who said his organisation had not sought contact and did not want anything to do with the other two groups. “We have no links with them. We have nothing to do with them whatsoever - there is no involvement with our campaign, with our work or anything at all,” he said. “I wonder what is going on here.” The Sunday Times revealed last month how the unofficial Leave.EU group headed by the Ukip leader Nigel Farage had courted far-right sympathisers with targeted advertisements on Facebook. The Brexit campaign used the social media site to direct adverts at users who had shown an interest in the British National party, the National Front, Britain First and English Defence League (EDL). A spokesman for Leave.EU said an advertising agency hired by the group had targeted “all parties and none” when it was looking to become the official Brexit campaign but had “stopped promoting to far-right groups instantly” when it learnt what had been happening.

Dozens of far-right extremists have sought to attach themselves to the Brexit movement. Andrew Edge, a prominent member of EDL, posed with a “We want our country back: vote to leave” banner produced by Ukip beside the gravestone of the gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray , and has also been photographed with Farage.
© The Sunday Times - UK


UK: Why the far right has made West Yorkshire a home

In the wake of Jo Cox’s death, attention has turned to Britain First and the many other ultra-nationalist groups that have established a foothold in the area

18/6/2016- In late January, a column of demonstrators marched in driving sleet through the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, chanting: “Britain First, fighting back.” Although the group has amassed more than 1.4m Facebook likes, greater than any other UK political party, the number of actual boots on the ground for Britain First, a relative newcomer on the far-right scene, was not that impressive. Just 120 supporters assembled to march from the train station to the town hall, escorted by many police and jeered by many residents. Yesterday Thomas Mair from the West Yorkshire town of Batley, a mile north of Dewsbury, appeared at Westminster magistrates court and was charged with the murder of MP Jo Cox. There has been considerable speculation that the 52-year-old may have had links to far-right groups. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that an extreme right-wing element has established a disturbing foothold in the post-industrial social landscape of West Yorkshire.

© The Guardian.

UK: Leader of US neo-Nazi group says Jo Cox ‘put a target on her back’ by supporting Syria

18/6/2016- The leader of a US neo-Nazi group ‘supported’ by Jo Cox’s accused killer last night launched a sickening attack on the murdered MP saying: ‘She put a target on her back.’ In a vile, hate-filled outburst Will Williams said he felt ‘no guilt’ about the killing. Williams, 69, is the leader of the white-supremacist National Alliance, from which Thomas Mair bought £430 worth of books in 1999 and 2003, including texts on how to build homemade guns and explosives. Williams said: ‘I hear that she loves the idea of bringing a bunch of Muslim refugees from Syria or wherever. ‘You can see how people would be opposed to that. So she put a target on her back. He [Mair] is the effect. ‘The cause is clear to him and he’s reacting. That’s how I look at it.’ The National Alliance was founded by William Pierce in 1974. Pierce’s book The Turner Diaries is said to have inspired US terrorist Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, killing 168 people. Pages torn from Pierce’s book were found in McVeigh’s truck.
© The Daily Mail.


UK: Jo Cox’s husband speaks out about mainstream politicians' far-right rhetoric

Brendan Cox says politicians all too often accepted the framing of the populist right wing on immigration

18/6/2016- Mainstream politicians are legitimising extremist anti-immigrant views by “aping” far-right rhetoric, the bereaved husband of killed MP Jo Cox has said. Ms Cox was stabbed and shot to death outside her constituency surgery in West Yorkshire on Thursday by a man eyewitnesses said shouted “Britain first”. Investigations suggest that the man arrested by police over her death, Thomas Mair, appears to have had links to white supremacist and far-right groups. Brendan Cox wrote a paper on the subject of anti-immigration sentiment a few weeks before his wife’s death and has circulated it after her killing. He argued that mainstream politicians had reinforced the frame of right-wing populists on immigration and had been “fanning the flames of resentment”.

“Petrified by the rise of the populists they try to neuter them by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric,” he said. “Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise their views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremes (Sarkozy and the continuing rise of Front National is a case in point).” He added: “They obsess over numbers (to most people 10,000 sounds as scary as 100,000), when they should focus on reinforcing frames of fairness and order. “The UK government policy is a masterclass in how to get the crisis wrong; set an unrealistic target, miss it, report on it quarterly and in doing so show a complete lack of control heightening concern and fanning the flames of resentment.”

David Cameron was criticised last year for describing refugees coming from Syria to Europe as a “swarm”, using rhetoric critics said was dehumanising. Labour too attracted ire at the last general election for putting the campaign slogan “controls on immigration” on a mug. Ukip's leader Nigel Farage has gone further and spoken on television of immigrants and refugees as carriers of infectious diseases like HIV. The campaign to leave the European Union has also focused with laser-like intensity on immigration and immigrants in recent weeks. On the day of Ms Cox’s killing Ukip leader Nigel Farage unveiled a poster featuring refugees that was likened by many onf social media to “Nazi propaganda”. After Ms Cox’s killing Mr Cox said: “[Jo] would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.”
© The Independent


UK: Suspected killer of British lawmaker is neo-Nazi — but media blamed mental illness

The brutal attack on Labor MP Jo Cox comes 1 year after fellow neo-Nazi Dylann Roof killed 9 people in Charleston

17/6/2016- The man suspected of brutally killing a left-wing British lawmaker on Thursday was a longtime supporter of a neo-Nazi group, a hate group watchdog says, although media reports have misleadingly portrayed the white shooter as a “crazed loner.” This attack comes one year after fellow neo-Nazi Dylann Roof massacred nine black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in another attack media outlets deceptively blamed on mental illness. Labour Party MP Jo Cox was attacked outside of a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire on Thursday. She was shot three times and stabbed several times. Multiple witnesses say the alleged killer repeatedly shouted “Britain first!” as he attacked her. This phrase could be a reference to Britain First, a far-right, anti-immigrant party. The party, however, strongly denies any involvement and says the shooter could have been shouting “It’s time to put Britain first!”

The vicious attack came mere days before the U.K. votes on whether or not to leave the European Union. Cox was known for her outspoken support for refugees. She also strongly opposed Brexit, a British exit from the E.U. Far-right parties like Britain First and the U.K. Independence Party want to leave the E.U., which they hope will allow them to cut down on immigration. Authorities arrested 52-year-old Thomas Mair as the suspected shooter. British media outlets described Mair simply as a “loner” with a “history of mental illness,” mplying that his alleged attack was not politically motivated. The leading monitor of hate groups, on the other hand, says Mair was not a mere loner. Rather, he had “a long history with white nationalism” and “was a dedicated supporter” of a neo-Nazi group, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported. The watchdog group obtained records that show that, for decades, Mair supported the National Alliance, “the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States.”

Mair sent more than $620 to the neo-Nazi group, buying periodicals and manuals with instructions on how to build guns and make explosives. Among the items on Mair’s receipts was “Ich Kämpfe,” an illustrated handbook issued in 1942 to members of the Nazi Party. The National Alliance’s founder, William Pierce, was most well-known for writing white supremacist novels, including “The Turner Diaries,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center noted may have been an inspiration for Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing extremist who bombed an Oklahoma City federal government building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring at least 600 more. Police also found “Nazi regalia and far-right literature” at the home of the suspected shooter Thomas Mair, The Guardian reported. “Sources say that the suspected killer was lucid when first questioned,” The Guardian added, further suggesting earlier claims that the attack was a product of mental illness are misleading.

“A picture is now emerging of a deliberately targeted attack in which Mair lay in wait for the MP as she emerged from her constituency meeting on Thursday,” the prominent British newspaper wrote. Media reports also revealed that Mair was a longtime subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a pro-apartheid South African magazine. The racist publication, which says it opposes “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam,”described Mair in 2006 as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.” Media outlets have long been criticized for blaming attacks carried out by non-Muslim white people on mental illness. In reality, scientific research shows that mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators. This same misleading media response, in fact, was exemplified one year before the killing of MP Cox.

On June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof massacred nine black Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Media outlets immediately blamed the attack on mental illness. They insisted that Roof was a “white loner” who “has a history of severe mental health issues that have either gone untreated or undiagnosed.” News outlets also reported that Roof was a “really sweet,” “quiet,” “normal” kid with only “a few friends” — including even some black ones. Yet he “was raised in a home destroyed by domestic violence” and was a product of “internet evil,” they claimed. When anti-fascist activists dug deeper, they discovered Roof’s website, which contained his white supremacist manifesto, along with 60 photos of the Charleston killer posing with neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbols. In his manifesto, Roof made it clear that his attack was politically motivated; by slaughtering black civilians, he hoped to instigate a race war.

Mainstream journalists actively depoliticized the killing. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal went so far as to claim that racism is dead and that Roof’s shooting was “a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity.” Meanwhile, avowed communists did real reporting. “As a communist, it is my duty and obligation to spend at least $49 to help ruin this guy’s insanity plea,” said one of the sleuths after unearthing Roof’s neo-Nazi website. One year later, media outlets continue to depoliticize these murderous attacks by right-wing extremists, which are on the rise throughout the West. It appears few lessons have been learned.
© Salon


UK: Alleged killer of MP longtime supporter of neo-Nazi National Alliance

Thomas Mair, alleged killer of British MP Jo Cox, was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

16/6/2016- Jo Cox, a member of the Labour Party in the British Parliament, died Thursday after an attack by a lone man who shot and stabbed her in West Yorkshire following a regular public meeting she held with constituents. Her alleged killer is Thomas Mair, 52. According to eyewitness accounts, which are still under investigation, Mair was armed with a knife and a gun, either antique or homemade, and may have shouted “Britain First” when he attacked Cox, a possible reference to the far right Britain First party, whose leader, Paul Golding, is a former member of the white nationalist British National Party. The Daily Telegraph reported that Mair’s brother claimed Mair has a “history of mental illness,” and neighbors called him a “loner,” but he also has a long history with white nationalism. According to records obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center Mair was for decades a dedicated supporter of the National Alliance (NA), the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States. Mair purchased a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.

Mair, who resides in what is described as a semi-detached house on the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall, sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s publishing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint, and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook." Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store. The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The Daily Telegraph also reported that Mair was a subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a South African magazine published by White Rhino Club, a pro-apartheid group. The club describes that magazine’s editorial stance as opposed to “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam.” According to the Daily Telegraph, a January 2006 blog post attributed to the group described Mair as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.”

Cox, 41, known as a rising star in the Labour Party, was an advocate for Syrian refugees. She had worked as an aid worker in developing countries and went on to become head of policy at Oxfam. She had also worked as an advisor to Sarah Brown, wife of the former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in women’s and children’s health campaigns. Cox was elected to Parliament in 2015 and quickly gained a reputation for taking on her own party’s leadership. She supported staying in the European Union in the face of the upcoming so-called “Brexit” referendum, which will determine whether the UK leaves the European Union.
© Southern Poverty Law Center


Britain First: The far-right group with a massive Facebook following

16/6/2016- The Leader of Britain First has distanced the far-right group  from the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, despite several witnesses confirming that the killer shouted "Britain First" three times during the attack in Leeds on Thursday. "At the moment that claim hasn't been confirmed - it's all hearsay, Paul Golding said. "Jo Cox is obviously an MP campaigning to keep Britain in the EU so if it was shouted by the attacker it could have been a slogan rather than a reference to our party - we just don't know. "Obviously an attack on an MP is an attack on British diplomacy - MPs are sacrosanct. We're just as shocked as everyone else. Britain First obviously is NOT involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort. "As an MP and a mother, we pray that Jo Cox makes a full recovery." In a video on the party’s website he said the media had “an axe to grind”. He added: “We hope that this person is strung up by the neck on the nearest lamppost, that’s the way we view justice.”

What we know about the group
Formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, Britain First has grown rapidly to become the most prominent far-right group in the country. While it insists it is not a racist party, it campaigns on a familiar anti-immigration platform, while calling for the return of “traditional British values” and the end of “Islamisation”. The party says on its website: “Britain First is opposed to all mass immigration, regardless of where it comes from – the colour of your skin doesn’t come into it – Britain is full up.” Although it claims to have just 6,000 members, Britain First has managed to build an army of online fans, mainly by using social media to campaign for innocuous causes such as stopping animal cruelty, or wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day, and appealing for users to “like” its messages.

It now has more than 1.4 million “likes” on Facebook, more than any other British political party. In a bid to garner newspaper coverage, the group has carried out mosque invasions and so-called “Christian patrols”. A march in January targeted Dewsbury, near Jo Cox’s Batley and Spen constituency, and featured 120 Britain First members carrying crucifixes and Union Jacks through the town. Mrs Cox wrote on Twitter at the time: “Very proud of the people of Dewsbury and Batley today - who faced down the racism and fascism of the extreme right with calm unity.” Britain First’s current leader, Paul Golding, stood against Sadiq Khan in the London mayoral election earlier this year. After Khan’s victory, the group announced that it would take up “militant direct action” against elected Muslim officials. In a chilling warning on its website, the group said: “Our intelligence led operations will focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives and official functions, including where they live, work, pray and so on.” The party has a vigilante wing, the Britain First Defence Force, and last weekend carried out its first “activist training camp” in Snowdonia, at which a dozen members were given “self defence training”.
© The Telegraph


UK: Cox murder leaves UK in shock, ugly EU campaign blamed

17/6/2026- The killing of an opposition Labour MP on Thursday (16 June) has left British politics in shock and prompted world tributes to the late, pro-immigration and pro-EU Jo Cox. "We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart," British prime minister David Cameron said. Finance minister George Osborne commended Cox's humanitarian work: "Jo fought to help the refugees from the Syrian civil war - she gave a voice to those whose cry for help she felt was not being heard." German chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack "terrible and dramatic", but she added she did not want to connect the incident with the UK's vote next week on EU membership. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the murder “a violent act of political intolerance”.

Jo Cox, the 41 year-old Labour MP for Batley and Spen in northern England, was killed after being stabbed and shot in the street outside a library. On Friday, the British Union Jack was lowered to half-mast at Buckingham Palace across from Whitehall, the UK government headquarters. Campaigns for the Leave and Remain camps were both suspended until the weekend at least ahead of the 23 June ballot. An improvised vigil was also held at Westminster Abbey on Thursday night for Cox, the first British politician to be murdered since the Irish troubles. "Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Who is to blame?
The suspect, named as Thomas Mair, remains under police arrest. Witnesses said he shouted "Britain first" as he attacked Cox. Neighbours described Mair, who is known to have had mental health problems, as "quiet and helpful”. But he also had ties with hard-right nationalist groups, British media reported. While the motives of the 52 year-old suspect remain unclear, commentators and politicians across the UK blamed the political atmosphere of the EU referendum campaign. On the day of her murder, staunch anti-EU MEP Nigel Farage unveiled a poster saying "The EU has failed us”, with a picture a long line of marching migrants that also said: "Breaking point".

A column in the British conservative magazine, Spectator said in the wake of Cox's murder: "When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either." The Guardian, a British daily, called the attack on Cox "an attack on humanity, idealism and democracy". Cox had received death threats before for her pro-immigrant stance.

In her first speech as an MP last year in parliament she praised the benefits of immigration. “Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir”, she said. She also backed a campaign to accept more unaccompanied children to the UK. It remains unclear how the murder will affect the referendum outcome. Some analysts speculated it could boost the pro-EU "Remain" campaign, which has fallen behind according to recent polls. The markets seemed to agree with this analysis, as Britain's sterling currency rose against the dollar after news of the attack.
© The EUobserver


Headlines 17 June, 2016

Turkey: Istanbul authorities ban transgender and gay pride marches

Parades banned after ultra-nationalist youth group Alperen Hearths calls them immoral and threatens violence

17/6/2016- Authorities in Istanbul have banned transgender and gay pride marches this month, citing security concerns after ultra-nationalists warned they would not allow the events to take place on Turkish soil. A march in support of transgender people was planned for Sunday in the city centre, while an annual gay pride parade – described previously as the biggest in the Muslim world – had been due to take place a week later on 26 June. The Istanbul governor’s office said on Friday the marches had been banned amid concern for public order. Security in the city remains tight after a series of bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants in recent months. The ban also follows a warning from an ultra-nationalist youth group, the Alperen Hearths, that it would not allow the marches, calling them immoral and threatening violence.

“To our state officials: do not make us deal with this. Either do what is needed or we will do it. We will take any risks, we will directly prevent the march,” the group’s Istanbul provincial head, Kürþat Mican, told journalists on Wednesday. “Degenerates will not be allowed to carry out their fantasies on this land … We’re not responsible for what will happen after this point,” he said, citing a Turkish proverb: “If you’re not taught by experience, you’re taught by a beating”. While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, unlike many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread. Critics say the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, and the Islamist-rooted AK party he founded have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

There had already been concerns about the security of the planned marches after last weekend’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida of 49 people by a gunman who had expressed sympathy for a variety of Islamist militant groups. Yeni Akit, a religiously conservative newspaper loyal to the Turkish government, published a headline the next day saying “50 pervert gays killed in a bar”. Historically the gay pride parade in Istanbul – a city seen as a relative haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East – has been a peaceful event. But last year police used teargas and water cannon to disperse participants, after organisers said they had been refused permission because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it does again this year.
© The Guardian


Malta wanted "more ambitious" EU defence of LGBTI community

17/6/2016- Malta has joined seven other EU member states in calling for a stronger effort to provide equal rights to everyone and ensure LGBTI persons are free from discrimination. The joint statement, signed by Malta, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal, comes hot on the heels of an Employment and Social Policy Council meeting in Luxembourg, during which EU ministers adopted Council Conclusions on a new start for a strong social dialogue. In a statement, the Civil Liberties ministry said that Malta was hoping for a "more ambitious and stronger message concerning the...human rights of LGBTI persons" to emerge from the Council Conclusions.

Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli remarked that member states had to send a strong political message, in the wake of a massacre of 49 people inside an Orlando gay nightclub. Last May, Hungary vetoed a draft agreement calling on the European Commission to tackle homophobic and transphobic discrimination, promote measures to advance LGBTI equality, and step up efforts to collect data on the treatment of LGBTI citizens. The joint statement signed by Malta and the seven other member states calls for a stronger concerted effort from all to work within and outside the EU for equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and to ensure that cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination.
© The Times of Malta


Spain rejects more asylum seekers than most other EU countries

17/6/2016- Contained in the 2016 report of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) issued on June 16, the organisation highlighted the fact that more people than ever had applied for refuge in Europe in 2015, yet more draconian measures adopted by European countries have made it more difficult for genuine refugees to find safety. The number of asylum seekers in Europe doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year, reaching 1,321,600, but of these only just over 300,000 applications were accepted. The decision to close land routes encouraged more people to attempt to enter Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in 3,700 deaths. The actual process of application for asylum was quite erratic, with Germany receiving nearly half a million, while Spain, despite the increase in refugees, only received just under 15,000 applications (around 1 per cent of the total) which was the highest it had ever received.

The Commission criticised the manner in which many members of the EU were loath to extend the hand of welcome to asylum seekers yet were very quick to vote to return illegal entrants to Turkey in exchange for certain concessions. It went on to say that the nationalities of the main applicants for asylum in Spain were from Syria, Ukraine and Palestine but only 3,200 applications were completed in the year and of those, 69 per cent were rejected, a much higher figure than the EU average of 50 per cent. Apart from the very few people allowed to settle in Spain, there was also criticism with the way in which applicants from the Ukraine and Mali were put on hold as it appeared that hostilities in those countries were coming to end. Finally, the Commission also drew attention to the fact that it was difficult for immigrants to understand asylum procedures and equally important, little was done to help those in Ceuta and Melilla.
© Euro Weekly News


Bulgaria: Fears Grow of Clashes at Pride March

Pro-gay activists are dismayed that the Mayor of Sofia has given the go-ahead for ultra-nationalists to rally at the same time and place as the ninth Sofia Pride march.

17/6/2016- Tensions have grown ahead of the Sofia Pride in support of LGBTI people on Saturday, after the municipality gave the go-ahead for ultra-nationalists to stage a counter-protest at the same time in the centre of the capital. The routes of the two marches will even meet at one location, which worries the organizers of the Pride in terms of the safety of their supporters. “One month after we notified the municipality [about the Pride parade] we were aghast to learn that the route of the traditional counter demonstration against the march is going to coincide with some parts of the route of the Pride,” Radoslav Stoyanov, member of the organizational committee of Sofia Pride, told BIRN on Friday.

Earlier on Tuesday, organizers of the LGBTI march sent an open letter to Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and to Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, saying that allowing the two opposing demonstration to collide is either “intentional” or a result of “serious neglect”. They called on the authorities to cancel the counter-protest or at least to take all the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of demonstrators. Among them will be representatives of nine diplomatic missions to Bulgaria, visitors from the Swedish police and, traditionally, many families with their young children. In response, the Sofia authorities on Wednesday urged the organizers of the two marches to change their starting points. Activists behind the Pride march have refused to make any concessions, however, as this would affect the program and the attendance of the event.

In the shadow of the Orlando mass shooting terrorist attack on June 12, the annual Sofia Pride is focusing on mobilizing the support of the heterosexual friends and families for their LGBTI close ones. “Every time that we are asked why we organize Pride, the answer is Orlando,” the organizers said on Facebook. Opposition to the gay rights demonstration has become something of a tradition in Bulgaria, where hate rhetoric against LGBTI people remains a problem. Every year, the so-called “anti-gay” parade is organized by an ultra-nationalist group, led by Blagovest Asenov – a radical linked to the international neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor, which is banned in Germany, Italy and Russia.

In 2013, together with other radical groups, Asenov’s “National Resistance” tried to register a Bulgarian Nationalist Party, but the prosecution blocked the registration of the party on the grounds of its anti-democratic ideology. Among other opponents of Sofia Pride are two more mainstream far-rights parties, represented in parliament and on Sofia’s municipal council, VMRO and ATAKA. They have demanded that the Mayor cancel the demonstration, deeming it against the interests of citizens who do not want “sexuality and perversion imposed on them”. “The Pride is a political march with political demands and holding it is an assault on traditional Bulgarian values and morals and a provocation against the family,” Carlos Contrera, a municipal counselor from VMRO, said on June 8.

Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church has also endorsed anti-pride attitudes. On Thursday, Patriarch Neophyte said in a statement that: “Once more, our capital will witness open, intrusive propaganda and public demonstration of homosexualism as a way of life". He particularly opposed the date of the event, which coincides with the All Souls Day, when the Orthodox Church commemorates the souls of the dead.

Bulgaria, where hate rhetoric against LGBTI people remains a problem. - See more at:

© Balkan Insight

Women refugees at high risk of being victims of gender-based violence

Women and girls fleeing from persecution or turmoil in their home countries are particularly at risk of physical, sexual and psychological violence when seeking sanctuary, in transit and when they arrive in the EU. In advance of World Refugee Day on 20 June, FRA’s latest summary report of migration-related fundamental rights concerns, throws the spotlight on the plight of female refugees at reception and accommodation centres. This issue will also feature during discussions on improving refugee protection as part of FRA’s 4-day Fundamental Rights Forum which also opens that day. Access the monthly data collection highlights and gender-based violence

17/6/2016- The report identifies a number of issues in relation to preventing, identifying and addressing victims of gender-based violence, including the alarming lack of data from Member States on violence against women and girls that are newly arrived or need international protection. It points to the shared use of bathrooms and showers in reception and accommodation centres particularly in the evenings or at night that are not separated for men and women. Sometimes such facilities are accessible via unlit corridors and doors that cannot be locked. Such issues expose women and girls to greater risks, and leave them feeling unsafe.

Victims rarely report their attacks. This is often due to fear about the repercussions on the victim’s asylum claim or from the perpetrator (especially when it comes to domestic violence), and the lack of information about what can be done. In some Member States, if they flee the centre without permission because of fear or because they have been attacked then they may also be judged as having committed an offence.

Various EU and national laws and policies take gender-based violence into consideration when it comes to granting asylum and when receiving asylum seekers. However, drawing on data from the nine Member States most affected by the migration flows, FRA has identified challenges in identifying, reporting and protecting female refugees which Member States should tackle. These include:

No Member State collects data on reported incidents of gender-based violence towards female refugees that have just arrived or need international protection.

# Information on gender-based violence, how to report it and where to seek help is not usually available in reception centres.
# Victims are reluctant to report to reception centre authorities or the police. Most Member States are taking steps to address this. These include: asylum interviews with women in private rooms by trained staff and interpreters of the same sex separated from the husband; information material and sessions; and ‘women-only’ spaces.
# Nearly half of the Member States have guidelines or procedures to identify and deal with victims. However, they are not always effective and training is often lacking.
# All Member States offer some form of prevention of gender-based violence and protection for victims. Most commonly this includes separate accommodation for newly-arrived unaccompanied migrant women and access to women’s shelters for victims. Sometimes victims can receive medical and psycho-social support, and report incidents of violence but protective and preventative measures are rarely comprehensive and seldom coordinated.
# Most Member States have no special procedures for children who are victims of violence.
# Some Member States lack legal support or adequate interpretation for victims of gender-based violence in reception centres.

To better protect female refugees the European Parliament has also recently called for new gender guidelines. In addition, the European Commission has suggested that the EU ratifies the Council of Europe’s violence against women convention (the Istanbul Convention) which also covers migration and asylum. It would then join the 14 Member States that have already ratified the Convention (all 28 have signed it) which provides a solid legal basis for addressing violence against all women. The European Commission asked FRA to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States, particularly affected by large migration movements. The countries covered are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. Each overview covers different issues including:
# initial registration and asylum applications;
# criminal proceedings initiated for offences related to irregular border crossing;
# child protection;
# reception conditions for new arrivals;
# access to healthcare;
# public response such as rallies of support, humanitarian assistance or voluntary work;
# racist incidents such as demonstrations, online hate speech or hate crime.

While this month has a section looking specifically at gender-based violence, last month’s focus was on trafficking and smuggling. Next month will be on local communities.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency


Greece sidelines officials who blocked expulsion of refugees to Turkey

Under pressure from Europe, Greek MPs vote to change composition of committees that held up planned deportations

17/6/2016- The Greek government has sidelined members of an independent authority that had blocked the deportation of Syrian refugees, following sustained pressure from other European countries. Greek MPs voted on Thursday to change the composition of the country’s asylum appeals board, in an attempt to sideline officials who had objected on legal grounds to the expulsion of Syrians listed for deportation to Turkey. The appeals board had jeopardised the EU-Turkey migration deal, the agreement enacted in March that is meant to see all asylum seekers landing on the Greek islands detained in Greece – and then deported. While Greek police had enacted the first part of the plan, Greek appeals committees have largely held up the planned deportations – potentially giving Syrians greater incentive to reach Greece. The appeals committees argued that Turkey does not uphold refugee law, and is therefore not a safe country for refugees.

Currently the three-person appeals committees consist of one government-appointed official, and two appointed independently by the UN refugee agency and Greece’s national committee for human rights. After pressure from European politicians who feared a new surge in arrivals to Greece, Greek MPs have voted to create new committees formed of two administrative judges and one person appointed by the UN, meaning that state officials will now outnumber independent ones on the committees. An independent appeals committee member interviewed by the Guardian in the run-up to the law change said it was a political move designed to bend an independent judicial process to the will of the executive. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the change was “a serious blow to the independence of the committee. We think like legal scientists. We have a specific view that is based on legal analysis. If we lose our [places on the committee] then the cases will be handled the way that politicians want.”

The migration minister, Yannis Mouzalas, conversely said the change would in fact make the boards more independent. “Having been enlightened by my colleagues in Europe, we are introducing an amendment to the way the appeal committees are formed which ensures their independence, introducing two judges who are evidently independent,” Mouzalas said in a speech to parliament. The change caused internal divisions within Syriza, the governing party in Greece. In an internal letter leaked to the media, five Syriza MPs asked Mouzalas to withdraw his amendment. “This amendment is on the border of what is constitutional and not consistent with our common [Syriza] position regarding human rights. It doesn’t have our support because its goes against our fundamental political positions,” they wrote.

The Greek government, as well as the EU and many of its members, believe that Turkey is a safe country for refugees because it offers them a basic level of protection. But rights groups say this is not enough, and that Turkey does not offer them the higher protection refugees are owed under the terms of the 1951 UN refugee convention. Despite recent legislative changes, Turkey does not in practice offer most Syrians the right to work. While Syrian children nominally also have access to education, over 300,000 school-age children are not in school, and many are instead working in factories or farms. Turkey denies deporting Syrians back to Syria, or firing on them at the border – but rights groups have documented hundreds of expulsions to Syria, and there are multiple reports of Syrians being shot as they try to reach safety on Turkish soil. In related news on Friday, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières said it would no longer accept funding from EU members such as Britain and Greece, in protest at the continent’s response to the refugee crisis.
© The Guardian.


DW Global Media Forum on how the press failed refugees

Despite the gravity of the story, journalists have failed to present an objective picture of the refugee crisis. Resolving this problem was in focus at the international media conference.

15/6/2016- With Germany at the forefront of Europe‘s unprecedented influx of refugees, it was imperative that the 2016 Global Media Forum take a critical look at the political, journalistic, and societal responsibilities in handling the crisis. One common thread united all the discussions: How time and time again, the media had failed both their audiences and the refugees in how the situation was covered. With the public reaching a saturation point on the subject, it seemed that, over and over, fear-mongering and sensationalism were the order of the day, focusing on incidents of violence and big numbers rather than the human element of the story. "Don't talk about refugees, talk to them…Go to them, live with them, be part of their life – don't just sit in an office, give them a voice," said Jaafar Abdul-Karim, contributor to Der Spiegel and host of DW's "Shababtalk."

Journalist failings 'unforgiveable'
"We don't have many refugees, but we have a lot of hysteria," said Milan Nic, director of the GLOBSEC think tank, about central Europe – highlighting the drastic difference between public perception and reality in the panel "Migrants versus Natives." It's not only misrepresenting the number of migrants as a threat, added journalist Caroline de Gruyter, but the language used by the media as well. "We don't have policy anymore, we have values," she said, referring to the change of rhetoric from political solutions to the fear-mongering of identity politics inherent in the repeated use of the phrase "European values." Western media is far from the solitary offender, said Kadri Gürsel – a Turkish journalist whose determination to question the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already cost him a job at the Milliyet newspaper.

Turkey has a special responsibility, Gürsel explained, being on the border with Syria and hosting so many refugees, yet "it's underreported, the Turkish media has not done its duty." It's not only the government censorship, the Al-Monitor columnist said, though the crackdown on the free press has made journalistic integrity difficult, but self-censorship on the part of media organizations as well. "It's unforgivable," said Gürsel, that despite having more refugees in the past four years than in the past seven decades combined, the media's hesitance to stand up to Erdogan has left most people in Turkey completely unaware of how so many people inside their borders are living, that the southeastern part of their country is beginning to resemble Syria in terms of destruction and the number of displaced people. Gürsel admitted, however, that on that front the media and the government were not the only ones to blame for the missing facts and information: "Lack of interest is another paradoxical problem."

Beyond the hype
"You've heard lots of rhetoric. Lots of hype," said Michael Myer, a writer and journalist who also served as a speechwriter for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Myer, who moderated the panel "Migration: A story of two worlds," seemed to sum up the importance at the Global Media Forum of hearing not only Western, analytic voices speaking from on high but also hearing about the refugee crisis from the point of view of those who risked their lives to come to Europe. "I am not an economic migrant. My life was in danger," said Afghan journalist Suhrab Balkhi, who fled his home country after he was threatened not only by the Taliban, but by government agents after he spoke out about the influence jihadis have on administration in Kabul. Throughout the talk, Balkhi was determined to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding refugees – that they come to Europe to take resources and give nothing back. Balkhi was desperate to work and integrate in his country of arrival, Austria, but he was not allowed to – despite offering proof that his life had been threatened in Afghanistan, he languished for four years with uncertain residency status, unable to work and barred from taking a German course.

'There isn't anything special in Europe'
Asked if he would recommend Europe to other Aghans, Balkhi replied flatly: "No. I would say, don't leave your country, there isn't anything special in Europe." Prince Wale Sonyiki, who fled Nigeria after his town was attacked by Boko Haram, spoke highly of European culture and society but echoed Balkhi's sentiments. "I would tell Africans, if you are safe in your own country, don't come," he said, before detailing the mix of welcoming locals and racist abuse he has experience while seeking asylum in Croatia. Sonyiki laughed at the thought of refugees being economic migrants: "Why then would I stay in a country that gives refugees ten euros a month? But the media wants to sell their papers," so stories of violence and attempts to game the system take precedence, he added. Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, the first female Editor-in-Chief of Austria's daily Der Standard newspaper, offered a solution. Austrians didn't know, for example, that refugees were not allowed to work – a problem of underreporting that promoted the vicious cycle of xenophobia. "It's important to tell readers personal stories," and humanize migration, she said, "but we also have to report the negative aspects…we are journalists, not activists." The important thing, she said, was to remain balanced and objective alongside the human face of the refugee crisis, even in the face of negative backlash.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Migrant Group Says 3,400 Dead or Missing So Far This Year

15/6/2016- More than 3,400 migrants died or were recorded as missing as they tried to cross borders around the globe in the first five months of the year — over 80 percent of them trying to reach Europe by sea, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday. The number is 12 percent above the 2,780 deaths or disappearances recorded during the same period in 2015. Over the whole of last year, the IOM estimated Wednesday that 5,400 migrants died or were reported missing worldwide. Frank Laczko, director of the IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre in Berlin that tracks missing migrants, said the Central Mediterranean route between Northern Africa and Italy has become the world's most dangerous passage for migrants. In the last week of April, some 1,100 migrants died or went missing off Libya in nine separate incidents.

The IOM said its new data analysis center receives information on a daily basis from its 400 offices all over the world and from various international organizations to help collect information on missing migrants. Laczko pointed out that available data is often shaky and vague and that the identification of dead migrants is being neglected in many countries. Often bodies washed to the shores are simply buried in anonymous mass graves. "What happens to those who die? Who are their families and will they ever know what happened?" Laczko said. "Caught between grief and hope, their search can take years, even a lifetime."

The IOM called on governments to do more to help trace the missing and identify the bodies of the dead — especially to assist the distressed families. "For every migrant who dies, there are probably 20 people affected," said IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, adding that family members are not only distressed by the loss, but also were hoping the migrant would financially support them financially. Currently, a majority of migrant bodies are never found, and of those that are, many are never identified, the IOM said. In the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, bodies for fewer than half of those thought to have died were recovered. The organization also reported that over 60,000 migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing on sea and land routes worldwide in the last 20 years.
© ABC News


Netherlands landlord offers tenants €100 rent cut for helping refugees

Trudo housing corporation residents to get monthly discount if they guide new arrivals through Dutch customs and rules

16/6/2016- A social landlord in the Netherlands is offering to cut rents by €100 (£80) a month if tenants help refugees integrate into society. The Trudo housing corporation, based in Eindhoven, says residents will receive the discount if they agree to spend 10 hours a week helping new migrants navigate Dutch bureaucracy and guiding them through their host country’s rules and customs. “We expect them to do two things,” said the managing director, Thom Aussems. “First, they should help them settle into their new home, get to know their neighbours, and learn things like when to take the bins out. “Secondly, they can act as a kind of liaison officer when they’re dealing with institutions in areas like learning the language, education, work and social security, so they can highlight any problems quickly.”

Social landlords, which own and manage around 30% of all housing in the Netherlands, are obliged to accommodate “status holders” - refugees who have gained the legal right to stay in the country. Aussems’ organisation has 85 refugees on its books this year and expects to take in twice as many next year. The initiative is one of scores across Europe in which ordinary people are seeking to help refugees adjust, integrate and even find work. Trudo operates in some of the most deprived districts of Eindhoven. Aussems says the average monthly rent is around €435, so a €100 discount is a fair-sized carrot for tenants on low incomes. The housing corporation is funding the €250,000 scheme from its own resources, as part of a five-year €430m investment programme.

The idea came from a 2007 project in which young tenants were given a similar discount in return for helping local schoolchildren with their homework. “We wanted to prevent another lost generation,” said Aussems. “Within four years we had helped 350 children. It was a fantastic result. “So then we went looking other areas where we could adopt the same strategy. We identified seven or eight, one of which was helping refugees settle.” The refugee issue has caused social unrest in parts of the Netherlands, where asylum applications doubled in 2015 to 59,000. Pigs’ heads have been dumped beside fields where asylum seekers’ centres were due to be built and police had to break up a riot outside a council meeting to outline a proposed centre for 1,500 refugees.

Geert Wilders, leader of the populist rightwing Freedom party, which is leading Dutch opinion polls, called for all male refugees to be locked up in the wake of the new year sex attacks in Cologne. Aussems said his incentive was designed to defuse tensions between local residents and refugees before they reached crisis point. “Tensions occur when people don’t know each other, can’t understand each other or can’t communicate,” he said. “If you give people the opportunity to connect with each other and work together, it’s a lot more effective and efficient than doing it via the bureaucratic route.”
© The Guardian.


Netherlands: Racism, says Sylvana Simons, is like being touched up

Television presenter Sylvana Simons caused a media storm when she announced she was getting involved in politics. She talks to Senay Boztas about why people would rather see her dance than hear about the dark side of colonial history, and why she believes the Netherlands is suffering a crisis of racism.

15/6/2016- ‘Somebody touches you as a woman. You say, “oh, I don’t like that”, and the guy says, “I was just trying to be nice”. People deal with racism in the Netherlands in the same way. Because they say they mean well, you’re not supposed to be offended.’ The 45-year-old television presenter has launched her own offensive now, against xenophobia in the Netherlands. She first announced that she will stand for the new ‘tolerance’ party Denk in the general election next year. Then she went to a police station in The Hague to report the worst of 40,000 instances of racist insults that followed. Simons lives in Amsterdam and was born in ‘one part of Holland’ known as Suriname before moving as a baby to ‘another part of Holland’ known as Hoorn. When some people tell her – as they do – to go back home, she points out that she was born in a former Dutch colony, and this is home.

Colonial past
The problem, she says, is that the Netherlands has not come to terms with its colonial past, conveniently forgetting the nasty bits, and expecting non-Western immigrants to assimilate by leaving other cultures behind. ‘In Holland, integration has become assimilation,’ she says over the telephone to ‘It’s a utopian sense of ever reaching true integration. For me, I could never wash off my colour, so it doesn’t matter how Dutch I become, I will always be a black woman.’ Simons believes the Netherlands is experiencing a crisis of xenophobia, intolerance and denial – the kind of thing that led to race riots in America and 1980s Britain. ‘I think it has become very politically correct to be politically incorrect,’ she says, matter-of-factly. ‘Over the past 15 years, racism has been more and more accepted, and inequality along ethnic and racial lines. It’s becoming dangerous. ‘We have seen the rise of some political parties that have made it their number one issue to polarise to gain power. In particular, of course, the PVV.’

Free speech
Geert Wilders, party leader, will stand trial in October, for alleged hate speech in a 2014 rally where right-wing PVV supporters called for ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ Moroccan people in the Netherlands: and Simons believes the accompanying free speech debate is the most important result. ‘There’s nothing wrong with speaking your mind,’ she begins, in classic Dutch fashion. ‘There is something wrong with being racist and a xenophobe, dehumanising and criminalising people and putting fear into people based on ethnicity and race.’ This isn’t a popular message, adds the TV presenter who began her career as a VJ at TMF music channel, was runner-up on the Dutch Strictly Come Dancing and now works across various channels. She says, with increasing passion. ‘In my case, there was nothing wrong with me until I started speaking up about certain social issues. Everybody was like: “She can dance, she can present, she’s an entertainer, we don’t have a problem with that. But please do not interfere, even though you are paying taxes. Let us run the country. You just be happy that we allow you to be here and just be an entertainer.”’

Racist incidents
Simons believes the first step is to measure the problem, which is why she has reported the worst of 40,000 online and offline racist incidents to the police, and is encouraging other Dutch people to do the same. ‘I hope more and more people will report what happens to them because one of the things people hear when they do speak up is the numbers don’t reflect that, and this is just you being super-sensitive,’ she says. ‘I’m encouraging people so we can get the numbers and I’m trying to find out what happens once you go to the police. Where do we draw the line of freedom of speech, the right to insult?’ Zwarte Piet, the controversial blacked-up helper to Sinterklaas, symbolises the problem for her – not least, a widespread amnesia about the Netherlands’ leading role in the slave trade. ‘You have to understand that when you make the comparison, for instance, to the United States, there is a conscious awareness of what slavery was and why [blacking-up] is not appropriate. ‘We never went through that process of emancipation in the Netherlands. The Dutch seem to believe that slavery is something that happened on the other side of the world, but we were great slave traders. We’ve accepted a cultural archive that simply doesn’t deal with this.’

This is something she said she grew up with in Hoorn, home of the V.O.C trading company that flourished in the Dutch 17th century Golden Age. ‘Zwarte Piet has become a symbol, not just to the ones who are against it. A symbol of colonialism and racism, but on the other side a symbol of “this is ours” in a time where people are scared for their livelihood. We are all looking for something to hold on to.’ Although Simons talks about ‘the Dutch’ who don’t want to think about this, then takes offence at being thought of as anything other than Dutch herself, she says there’s no contradiction. ‘I’m talking about us, really, I am. I really understand the sentiments that go along with Zwarte Piet and the whole Sinterklaas thing. I’m not trying to say them versus us. I’m trying to come to a point where we can make Zwarte Piet a symbol that’s acceptable, welcoming and loving to all children, all people in this country.’

Prime minister
She has no truck with the lack of political leadership on the subject either. ‘Our prime minister [Mark Rutte] made it very clear that he personally doesn’t have a problem with Zwarte Piet. He spoke to his friends in the Dutch Antilles and they are so happy they don’t have to put anything on their face because they are black. They are lucky because he’s always spending days washing this shit off. I was appalled by that comment.’ It’s also time, she says in perfect English, to get rid of words like ‘allochtoon’, describing people with one parent born elsewhere, but often used pejoratively. ‘My parents were born in the Netherlands. My children were born in Amsterdam. How many more generations before we really can be Dutch? It seems there’s a ceiling to your Dutchness, and we need to fix that.

The word allochtoon means you’re different, you can’t really have an opinion about important social issues, you can’t really be included.’ She’s not calling for riots, although social media might get bloody. And she bats away criticism of Denk as being overly sympathetic to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as ‘dehumanising, criminalising, based on absolutely nothing’. Instead she wants people in the Netherlands to have a good think about themselves. ‘The Dutch are very proud of the Golden Age, the era in which they conquered the world, killing people, raping people, enslaving people and doing a lot of bad. The Dutch have this lack of responsibility and no self-reflection about being able to be hurtful. They have this sense of “we’re good people”.’ And, her implication is, good people don’t harass anyone else, even if they’re just trying to be nice.
© The Dutch News


Europe Can't Outsource Its Migrant Crisis (Op-Ed)

By Editorial Board

14/6/2016- Europe’s latest plan to stem the flow of migrants to its shores raises awkward questions. The situation is urgent, and the need for bold action is indisputable -- but the new proposals are both troubling and inadequate. In effect, the European Commission’s new “Partnership Framework” tells migrants’ home countries they’ll be rewarded with trade and aid for curbing the outflow, and punished if they fail to. As it stands, this plan is unlikely to work; to the extent it does work, it may put refugees in danger. Last year, some 1 million people came to the EU seeking sanctuary and better lives. Nearly 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean this year. Most migrants embark from Libya and, increasingly, Egypt. More and more of them are unaccompanied minors. Criminal syndicates have turned migrant smuggling to Europe into an estimated $6 billion business.

So it’s understandable that the EU wants to replicate the initial success of its arrangement with Turkey, which agreed to let Greece send back “all new irregular migrants” in exchange for 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and the right for its citizens to travel to Europe without visas. The deal cut arrivals through Greece by 90 percent, and considerably reduced the flow to Europe overall. But arrivals through Italy are undiminished. Under the new proposal, the EU will spend 8 billion euros ($9.1 billion) over five years on aid for more than a dozen countries in Africa and the Middle East. In return, they must cooperate in accepting the return of more arrivals to their countries of origin or transit, cracking down on smugglers, and generally improving migration management. Over the longer term, the EU also hopes to raise about 60 billion euros of mostly private money for invest-ment to address the root causes of migration.

The EU says it will use its trade, aid and visa policies to reward countries that cooperate, and that “there must be consequences for those who do not cooperate on readmission and return.” What’s the problem with this? Simply that many of the would-be partner governments are much less competent than Turkey’s (think Mali or Niger), or corrupt and unjust (think Eritrea or Sudan). Without close oversight and effective accountability, they can’t be trusted to properly discharge their partnership responsibilities -- and they shouldn’t be encouraged, in effect, to stop migration by any means necessary. There’s another drawback: Linking aid to stopping migration opens the EU up to blackmail. After the EU did its deal with Turkey, Niger demanded an extra 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in aid to curb the outflow. Kenya has threatened to close the Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest.

The Commission is right, though, to offer more money for helping refugees in place. It’s proposing more support for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, which have borne a huge burden, but the commitment still isn’t adequate. The new Government of National Accord in Libya, the point of departure for migrants headed across the Mediterranean, also needs more of this kind of support. Joining efforts to crack down on smuggling gangs is a win-win proposition for both the EU and the weak states it wants to assist. And well-targeted development aid can help keep people at home by easing or averting humanitarian emergencies. There’s no quick or easy fix for this problem. Balancing humane (and lawful) treatment of refugees with what Europe’s citizens are willing to accept is an enormous challenge, and likely will be for years to come. Europe will doubtless need to spend more money -- but it can’t meet all its obligations in this matter just by paying other governments to take care of it.
© Bloomberg.


Euro 2016: Six Spanish fans arrested for neo-Nazi banners, flares

17/6/2016- Three Spanish "ultras" fans were arrested in the southern city of Nice for carrying neo-Nazi banners and another three for trying to bring flares into the stadium ahead of Spain's Euro 2016 match against Turkey, regional police said on Friday. French authorities have been cracking down on more radical fan groups after clashes in Marseille last week marred the start of the month-long European Championship soccer tournament. Tournament organiser UEFA has also imposed a strict ban on all flares entering stadiums, although at several games fans have managed to get them inside.
© Reuters UK.


Euro 2016: Videos show English fans throwing coins and jeering at migrant children

16/6/2016- Videos have been posted online of English football fans taunting and throwing coins at migrant children in France. The English fans are in Lens today for their team’s game against Wales, but many were staying in nearby Lille yesterday. Videos of a group of fans outside a bar in the city show a group throwing coins to young boys identified as migrants before jeering as they fight over the money. A second video filmed from the first-person perspective shows a person offering a child a coin before throwing it away. The fan who took the video said on Twitter that the children had been trying to steal his wallet. Lille has been the scene of clashes between Russian and English fans in the last 24 hours. Clashes erupted but were quickly quelled by riot squads behind shields, who fired tear gas and flash bombs. Thirty-six people were arrested and 16 hospitalised with injuries. English supporters belted out anti-Russian and anti-European songs and kicked footballs over the heads of watching riot police through the day. Russian fans occasionally squared up to rivals but there was none of the mass fighting that darkened football’s reputation in Marseille.
© The Journal Ireland


Euro 2016: far-right activist at tournament with Russian delegation

• Alexander Shprygin photographed giving a Nazi salute • Shprygin considered a leading light in network of extreme-right ultra groups

13/6/2016- A notorious far-right activist who has been photographed giving a Nazi salute is travelling with the official Russian FA delegation at Euro 2016 and was in Marseille at the weekend as clashes erupted between Russian and English fans. Anti-racism groups have raised serious concerns over the fact that Alexander Shprygin apparently holds official accreditation with the Russia team’s entourage at the tournament. He also joined a Russian delegation that toured France’s host cities in March. Amid the fallout from the weekend’s violence in Marseille, which has led to Russia and England being warned they could be kicked out of the tournament, the organisation employed by Uefa to monitor racism within stadiums has identified Shprygin as one of the leading figures in introducing neo-Nazi views and practices to the Russian supporter scene since the late 1990s.

Shprygin is considered by the Fare network, which provides official observers at matches for Uefa and Fifa, to be a leading light in Russia’s network of extreme-right ultra fan groups. Piara Powar, the network’s executive director, said that the presence of Shprygin within the official party raised wider concerns about “the apparent nexus of high-level politicians, far-right leaders and extreme nationalism” in Russian football ahead of the 2018 World Cup that will be hosted in the country. Shprygin has been photographed performing a Nazi salute with a singer from a notorious Russian far-right rock band, Korrozia Metalla, some of whose songs are banned and included in the federal list of extremist materials in Russia for inciting inter-ethnic hatred.

Since forming the Russian Supporters Union in 2007, Shprygin has appeared to tone down his rhetoric. But he outraged many when he recently said he wanted to “see only Slavic faces in the Russian national team” and suggested there was “something wrong” with a team photo posted on Twitter by France player Mathieu Valbuena because it contained “very many” black faces. He said in the same interview: “Of course, when in 2018 the team will play at home in the World Cup, and before the start of the match, our national anthem will play, and 11 fellows will be proud to stand and sing along and tears will roll down their cheek, causing a feeling of patriotism, I would like these players to have Slavic faces.” A Dynamo Moscow fan, Shprygin works as an assistant to the politician Igor Lebedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s parliament, who also attracted controversy for a series of tweets on Sunday in which he offered support to the Russian fans.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting,” he wrote. “Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!” Lebedev added: “I don’t understand those politicians and officials who are criticising our fans. We should defend them and then we can sort it out when they come home. “In nine out of 10 cases football fans go to games to fight, and that’s normal. The lads defended the honour of their country and did not let English fans desecrate our motherland. “What happened in Marseille and in other French towns is not the fault of fans but about the inability of police to organise this kind of event properly.” Russian reports said Shprygin was “congratulated” by a Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, after the England game. “As for the fight, we didn’t speak about that at all. Mutko just congratulated us on the victory and didn’t even mention it,” Shprygin is quoted as saying.

Mutko sits on the Fifa council and is pivotal in delivering the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The minister, who was filmed applauding Russian fans after the match and after the incident in which England fans fled the stands in panic, initially appeared to play down the clashes but later admitted that some fans had brought “shame on the country”. Another notorious figure who was identified at the match was Alexander Rumyantsev, known as Makasin. It is not clear whether he also had official accreditation. Rumyantsev was the former leader of the Zenit Landskrona, the fans’ group that released the notorious Manifesto 12 in 2012 in which they demanded that no black or gay players be signed by the club Zenit St Petersburg. Shprygin did not endorse the “manifesto” openly but in an interview called it “an ideal case image”.

On Sunday night Shprygin claimed in a tweet that the Russian supporters union’s hotel had been raided and that 40 armed French police had stormed their rooms, taken their passport details and photographed everyone. It is believed that Fare made representations to Uefa in May when it became clear that Shprygin was likely to be officially accredited. Fare believes Fifa also has questions to answer, given that Shprygin sits on the local organising committee for the World Cup in Moscow. Uefa said: “All accreditation applications are screened by the police but we can’t comment on individual cases for data protection reasons.” A senior source insisted that Shprygin had not been accredited through Uefa. Others in Marseille said they had received multiple reports of Russians with official accreditation handing out tickets to apparent ultras before the match.

Shprygin is reported to have organised a charter flight from Moscow for members of the RSU, with six of those onboard being refused entry to France. Shprygin had joined an official tour of host cities in March. Delegations from Toulouse and Marseille refused to meet him after he and his associates had met officials from Lille, from which he tweeted pictures of his meeting with police chiefs. “Shrypgin’s involvement and recognition as a fan leader speaks volumes about the positioning and influence of the far-right within the Russian fan scene,” said Powar. “But it just isn’t acceptable with all of the challenges that European football faces to have people like him holding office and influence in a country that will host the World Cup in two years.” There are fears over the potential for fresh violence, with Russia fans heading for Lille before the match with Slovakia on Wednesday and England fans without tickets for their match with Wales on Thursday officially advised to go to the city and watch in the fanzone.

Brice Robin, the chief Marseille prosecutor, told reporters that no Russian fans had been arrested in connection with the violence. He said about 150 Russian hooligans had been involved in the trouble. But only two Russian fans had been arrested, both for pitch invasion, he said. Six England fans had been charged over the trouble, including a 16-year-old accused of throwing bottles during chaotic scenes in which fans clashed with locals and police. About 150 Russian fans attacked England supporters in the old port area on Saturday before kick-off. Inside the Stade Vélodrome there were chaotic scenes after the final whistle when Russian fans charged at the England contingent, causing them to flee.
© The Guardian.


Crusaders in the crowd: Fighting Poland's right-wing football ultras

As Euro 2012 co-hosts, Poland took steps to curb fan violence and racism. Four years later, the situation is fundamentally different. What are the results of those efforts ahead of Poland's match against Germany tonight?

15/6/2016- A crusader defending Europe with a sword while threatening to capsize a refugee boat on the Mediterranean in the fight against the "Islamization" of Poland: that was the image the Slask Wroclaw ultras depicted in a pre-match display last Autumn. This season, UEFA asked clubs to donate a portion of ticket proceeds from European matches to help ease the refugee crisis. Fans of Lech Poznan called for a boycott of the campaign. Just 8,000 instead of the regular 20,000 attended the next home match. At a Legia Warsaw game, fans chanted: "Lost sheep. Welcome to hell." "A scary shift to the right is taking place in Poland," says Rafal Pankowski, a Polish professor and expert on extremism, who has been studying the country's fan scene for more than two decades. Through anti-Muslim banners, songs and street protests, the hostile attitude towards refugees is clearly visible in almost all fan groups. "Most ultras are reinforcing the national conservative climate," says Pankowski. "Unfortunately there is almost no protest against it in football. So the overall picture does not look as bright as we had hoped it would four years ago."

FA chief campaigns against anti-racist activists
Rafal Pankowski conducts his research at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw. He was one of the founders of the "Nigdy Wiecej," or "Never Again," initiative in 1996. With the Euro 2012 tournament in mind, the organization launched one of the most extensive programs in European football, with support from UEFA and the network FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe). The program consisted of workshops, events, tournaments and training for teachers, coaches and security personnel. In the four years since Euro 2012, support for prevention programs from politicians, UEFA and the media has continued to diminish, says Pankowski. "Unfortunately the Polish FA has hindered rather than helped the work." FA head Zbigniew Boniek, one the most successful Polish players of all time, cheered the right wing populist Law and Justice party's recent election victory. He posted a photo on Twitter of Jacek Purski, one of the leading figures of the "Never Again" initiative. Boniek then made reference to a right-wing magazine. What followed were insults and threats directed at Purski.

Fan projects are only the beginning
In the current climate, no Polish fan groups have taken a stand against right-wing politics. Instead, they are stirring up controversy. Poznan fans, for example, displayed a poster with the words: "The Pila Legion - The Blood of our Race." The words come from the right-wing extremist band "Konkwista88". The majority of the stadium reacted indifferently to the rhetoric, likely out of fear of the ultras. "We would like to support the strong personalities in the fan scene," says Dariusz Lapinski. "So that the younger fans in the future can guide them and improve the situation." Lapinski attended university in Frankfurt an der Oder, just over the Polish border in Germany. He studied nationalism and has been researching the fan scene in Germany for many years. With Euro 2012 in mind, he returned to Poland to set up socio-educational fan projects based on the German model. Since then, the projects have expanded to 12 different places around the country, with more expected to follow. Lapinski works for the Polish FA, and is known around Europe as a fan expert. It is his job to win the trust of the supporters and the backing of the community and to make sure there are enough social workers for the various projects.

Digs at Lewandowski
Clubs in Poland are frequently hit with fines and crowd bans in stadiums. Lapinski has also keeping tabs on how the country's shift to the right is playing out in fan groups. For a long time, the Law and Justice party has had friendly words for the "patriotic messages" of the ultras. Taking it a step further, the Euroskeptic parliamentarian Krystyna Pawlowicz questioned the "national loyalty" of national team captain and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. He was one of the few leading Polish athletes who spoke out in support of alleviating the plight of refugees coming to Europe. His agent is in close contact with the "Never Again" initiative. "The fans do not want to be dictated by party policy," says Darius Lapinski. "They have had too many bad experiences." Still, many fans attend protests against refugees - similar to the far-right Pegida and Legida rallies in Dresden and Leipzig respectively, where right-wing supporters of Dynamo Dresden and Lokomotive Leipzig play a significant role.

"The risk of tragic incidents"
What impact do these developments have on the Euros in France, where Poland plays Germany on Thursday and Ukraine on Monday? "I do not think many right-wing extremist fans will travel, but a few will go certainly," says Rafal Pankowski. "We are not assuming there will be riots in the stadiums, but a lot of people with African and Arab roots live in France and will be around the stadiums. I hope that there will be no tragic incidents, but the risk is there." In France, 19 of the 24 participating countries have set up mobile liaison offices - organized by fans for fans to create a friendly atmosphere. That includes countries like Russia, Ukraine and Hungary, where many violent and nationalist fans play a prominent role. There is no Polish fan liaison office. Dariusz Lapinski lobbied long and hard for exactly such a project, but there was not enough interest.
© The Deutsche Welle.


European extremism rears its ugly head at Euro 2016 (comment)

By Pantelis Boukalas

14/6/2018- Only romantics and incurable optimists believe soccer is a celebration of the athletic spirit, which brings nations closer. And only people who are comfortable with lies will say that politics has no relation to the tensions that arise from the sport. As well as being a big business, soccer is also a ritualistic form of extreme competition, one of the biggest in the world. In addition, it provides setting of semi-sanctioned aggression: physical on the pitch, verbal in the stands and no-holds-barred away from the stadium.

As we see from the European Championship currently taking place in France, soccer marches comprise symbolic wars between nations that started long before the referee’s whistle and do not end after 90 or 120 minutes. These teams are not random assemblies of players. Instead, those with blind faith would have us believe, they bring together and showcase the traits of the nation they represent. Not just the physical traits, but also the intellectual and spiritual. This is why the most fanatic of fans – who tend to grow in number at times of increased nationalist sentiment, such as at the present – cannot accept defeat. They do not view it as a mere athletic failure that can be explained in many different ways and possibly even reversed. They see it as an insult to their nation, as a disgrace.

The displays calling for divine intervention that are so prolific on and off the pitch are not simple superstition but are linked to the belief of every nation, passed down through the generations, that a higher power is rooting for it and protecting its interests, even when it comes to soccer. Here in Greece, many still believe that God is Greek and some even claim that this explains the country’s hat-trick victory at the Euro 2004, even though it does not explain why we failed to make the cut this year. Similar religious chauvinism prevails in other countries too, both Christian and Muslim.

It is this kind of blind belief that allowed ISIS-style extremism to appear in France without a single jihadist having to move from the Middle East. The start was made by English fans who crossed the Channel not to watch a game but to chant in drunken arrogance “ISIS, where are you?” – thus delivering the most brutal and callous of insults to the French, whom they perceive as their eternal enemy. They were followed by German neo-Nazis, who arrived in France waving Nazi banners and chanting, appallingly, “We’re invading again.” Their ideological allies – though rivals on the pitch – the mayhem-causing Russian fascists, are not missing either. So Europe has its own form of ISIS, its neo-Nazis, who share the same “values:” hate, blood, annihilation of the other.
© The Kathimerini.


Austria: Far-right leader caught up in online racism scandal

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) was caught up in yet another scandal this week after his supporters posted racist comments about Austria's football team on his Facebook page.

16/6/2016- Many of Heinz-Christian Strache’s Facebook followers started posting anti-immigrant hate speech after Austria lost their first Euro 2016 game to Hungary 2-0 on Tuesday. The comments were published underneath a post from Strache wishing the Austrian team luck with their debut game. After they lost he suggested that people keep their spirits up and that the referee was partly to blame for Austria’s loss. Some of his followers disagreed, however, arguing that having players whose families have an immigrant background on the Austrian team might be why the Austrian team lost. One poster described the Austrian team as “the amazing national team with two coal sacks”, likely referring to David Alaba and Rubin Okotie, who have a Nigerian-Filipino and Nigerian background respectively. Another user said he “could puke” when he sees “what is sold as Austria”.

Germans writing online had similar complaints about their own team. One commentator said that his team should no longer be called the German team but just “the team”, suggesting that because some of the German players' parents have immigrant backgrounds they are not true Germans. A member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party recently also faced criticism for saying that the German team was “no longer German”, the Local Germany reported. It is not the first time that Strache has been caught up in a scandal involving comments left on his Facebook page. Only a few days ago, his followers posted death threats to Chancellor Christian Kern from the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). The Freedom Party leader has had to ask his followers to be more moderate with their postings. The FPÖ have deemed these comments unacceptable but have also often said that they could not check each one, as there were so many posted everyday.
© The Local - Austria


Denmark bans Muslim prayers at school

Students in a school have been banned from performing their prayers including in their own time during recess

16/6/2016- Muslim students studying at a Denmark school have been banned from praying during school hours by officials. Mia Victoria Lunderød Hansen -a student of SOPU Hillerrød-shared a picture on Facebook of her fellow student holding a sign which read: "New from the director. May one pray at SOPU Hillerrød? The answer is NO!" Inger Margrethe Jensen, the schools director, confirmed the decision, saying: “We have reminded our students about it and reprinted our code of conduct because we have had some incidents that required that we brush up on things,” Danish newspaper BT ported. “Some [students] wanted to establish a prayer room on school property and the Muslims’ prayers have become far more visible because in some cases and they have used the hallways to pray. Religion and education don’t belong together – it belongs to the private life. “We’ve been asked why they can’t pray at specific times because there are some Islamic directions that one should pray at specific times and it is unfortunate because it just adds more fuel to the fire on Islamism.” Jensen, has banned the prayers for Muslims has also said that they have banned the students from prayer during recess With many students including Christian students against the ban, the students have begun to collect signatures to present to the board. With a population of 5.6 million in Denmark, there are more than 200,000 Muslims residing in the country.
© World Bulletin


Denmark: MP: 'Only thing worse than a devout Muslim is a convert'

A debate spurred by Muslim student’s complaint that she is not allowed to pray in school has resulted in a racism complaint against a Danish People’s Party MP.

13/6/2016- Alex Ahrendtsen of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) will formally be reported to police for racism on Monday over remarks he made about Muslims on Friday night. Speaking to TV2, Ahrendtsen gave his full support to a suburban Copenhagen school that has told its Muslim students not to pray and accused Muslim converts of “boasting” about their faith. “There is only one thing worse than devout Muslims and that is converts,” Ahrendtsen said. “They want to absolutely show how good they are as Muslims, and that should happen in full public view and as often as possible. On the floor, everywhere,” he added. “They want to boast, they want to flaunt their new-found Muslim faith.” Ahrendtsen also directed his comments toward devout Muslims in general. “Devout Muslims damage democracy and therefore we need to crack down on them. And converts are particularly extreme – in fact, they are the worst,” the DFer said.

The organisation AnmeldHad (Report Hate) said over the weekend that it would file a formal complaint against Ahrendtsen on Monday, contending that his remarks violate article 266b of Denmark's penal code, best known as “the racism paragraph”. “We were contacted by numerous people who were offended by the remarks Alex Ahrendtsen made on Friday night,” the organization’s chairman, Qasam Ijaz, told TV2. “They were deeply offensive comments and when a member of parliament speaks in that way, it become acceptable for normal Danes to express themselves in the same way,” Ijaz added. Ahrendtsen said he wasn’t particularly worried about the complaint leading to a criminal charge. “People use the [racism] paragraph as a tool to shut the mouths of politicians and it is always rejected by the police,” he told TV2 on Sunday. He stood by his comments and said “it is a fact” that Muslim converts “are often more extreme”.

“They want to show that they belong to the religion and have adopted all of the religious rules,” he said. Ahrendtsen also clarified that when he talked about “devout Muslims” he meant those who “oppose Danish society and encourage deception, fraud and violence against women”. “I’m not thinking about all Muslims in Denmark, because the majority of Muslims try to find a balance between religion and society,” he said. Ahrendtsen is no stranger to controversial statements. In August 2015, he lashed out against what he called “pizza Danish”,  referring to the sort of Danish that is often spoken at pizzerias, where words and phrases from Middle Eastern languages are often utilized due to the ethnic backgrounds of the staff. Two months before that, he proposed a tax on the use of English words in advertising. He later told The Local in an interview that too many in Denmark suffer from “language anxiety”.
© The Local - Denmark


Germany: One in 10 wants country to be led by 'Führer'

A new study by the University of Leipzig sheds a worrying light on the depth of racist and authoritarian beliefs in German society.

15/5/2016- One in every ten Germans wants their country to be led by a 'Führer' (dictator) who applies a firm hand for the common good. Eleven percent of respondents say that Jews have too much influence in society. Twelve percent think Germans are by nature superior to other people. Four in ten people think Muslims should be prohibited from immigrating to the country. These are just some of the more hair-raising findings of the study, which the University of Leipzig has been carrying out at regular intervals since 2002.

Islamophobia on the rise
Hostility to Islam has shown a particularly marked increase since the last report in 2014, when 36.6 percent of people didn't want more Muslims migrating to Germany. Half of respondents in the most recent survey of 2,240 people also said they feel like "foreigners in their own country" because there are too many Muslims. That result marked a seven percentage point rise from the 2014 poll. Overall, three in ten complained that Germany had been "infiltrated by too many foreigners in a dangerous way", added the survey, which was carried out after a year in which Germany opened its doors to a record 1.1 million asylum seekers. Skepticism appears to be running high against migrants, with three in five Germans saying that most asylum seekers "are not really at risk of any persecution in their home country".

'More sympathy with violence'
“There has been no increase in extreme right attitudes, but in comparison with our study from two years ago people who have far-right attitudes are more prepared to use violence to achieve their aims,” Dr. Oliver Decker, one of the report’s authors, notes on the university website. The report also claims to have found ”a clear polarisation and radicalisation” in German society, with more respondents also likely to completely reject violence this time around. “The two groups exist next to each other. We have people who actively engage to help refugees and there are people who actively reject refugees,” said Decker. Titled “the uninhibited middle”, the study argues that extremist ideology has become more acceptable in mainstream German society, leading to the increased popularity of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"Most AfD voters have a hostile attitude to the world," report co-author Dr. Elmar Brähler said. Racist attitudes are also highly prevalent among people who up until this point have not voted, the study shows, with almost 30 percent likely to harbour xenophobic opinions. “The potential for extreme right or populist right-wing parties is still higher than what electoral results have yet shown,” Brähler stated. The survey noted an increase in negative attitudes towards Roma or Sinti communities, with half of respondents saying people from such groups should be banned from city centres. Homophobia also appears to be on the rise: 40 percent of people said they found it disgusting when gay people kissed in public, an increase from 25 percent in 2011.
© The Local - Germany


German Man Takes Aim At Refugee Shelter, Shoots 2 Children

13/6/2016- A man fired shots with an air rifle at a refugee shelter in western Germany, leaving a five-year-old girl and an 18-year-old lightly wounded, police said today. The 21-year-old man targeted the shelter from his third-floor apartment just 40 metres away in the shooting on yesterday, police said in a statement. The mother of the Macedonian girl had noticed that her child was hurt in the leg but initially thought someone had thrown stones or sand at her. But shortly after, a witness saw the suspect shooting from his apartment, wounding an 18-year-old Syrian in the leg. Police searched the man's apartment and removed an air rifle and munition. The suspect was however not detained as "there were no grounds for arrest", a police spokesman told AFP. "It is unclear if the act was politically motivated," added police, adding that investigations were ongoing. Hate crimes and attacks against migrants have exploded since arrivals spiked to 1.1 million in 2015, mostly from the Middle East and Africa. Germany recorded nearly 1,000 far-right offences targeting refugee shelters last year, a five-fold annual rise. Some 923 offences against refugees and refugee facilities were recorded in 2015, against 175 the previous year, according to Interior Ministry statistics on political crime in Germany.


German national team make fools of far-right populists

German coach Joachim Löw couldn't resist a dig at the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after the national team won their opening Euro 2016 game against Ukraine.

13/6/2016- “It’s good when you have a neighbour like Jerome Boateng in defence,” Löw said directly after the game of the Berlin-born defender, whose father is Ghanaian. The Germany coach was having a none-too-subtle dig at Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the far-right AfD, who said recently that most Germans wouldn’t want Boateng as their neighbour. In the first half of the match, which Germany eventually won 2-0, Boateng spectacularly cleared the ball from the German goal line, while falling over backwards. At that stage Germany were only winning by a single goal and Ukraine were putting ever more pressure on the world champions. Many people on Twitter also mocked separate comments by Gauland, who said last week that the national team was no longer German "in the classical sense.” Commenters noted that the player who scored the first goal of the game was Shkodran Mustafi, who was born to Albanian parents.

“If Gauland had his way, it would still be 0-0," tweeted Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-leader for the Green Party in the German parliament. And with Mesut Özil - another national team player criticized by the AfD for a recent pilgrimage to Mecca - setting Bastian Schweinsteiger up for the killer goal in the dying minutes, there wasn’t much to smile about for the traditionalists on the right of German politics.

German hooligans cause trouble in Lille
Despite the ethnic diversity of the national team, they appear to remain an attraction for far-right thugs. German police stopped 21 hooligans, who were attempting to travel to France, before they crossed the border, broadcaster N-tv reports. Some of the men, all of whom are on a national watch list, obtained tickets through false names. Balaclavas and face masks were found in one of the cars. Nonetheless, more than 50 German hooligans attacked Ukraine fans before the match in the streets of Lille, where the match was held. Witnesses spoke of seeing bottles, chairs and smoke bombs being thrown. Some of the hooligans were also heard chanting far-right slogans. Representatives of the German police who were present in Lille said that the situation was not comparable to scenes witnessed in Marseilles recently where Russian and English fans fought street battles over several days.
© The Local - Germany


German MPs targeted by Turkish nationalists

13/6/2016- A German MP has called for an entry ban to Germany for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan after 11 MPs including her were placed under police protection following death threats from Turkish nationalists. Sevim Dagdelen, from the Left Party, told Bild newspaper that "anyone in Turkey who calls for violence against members of the German parliament should get an entry ban" to Germany. "This includes president Erdogan," she said in an interview on Sunday (12 June). Dagdelen and 10 other MPs, all of Turkish origins, received the threats in a backlash to the vote by the German Parliament, on 2 June, on a resolution saying the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 was a genocide. The 11 MPs were singled out by Erdogan, who said they were a "mouthpiece of terrorist organisations", that their blood was "impure" and should be "tested in a laboratory".

"What kind of Turks are they?" Erdogan asked about the German members of parliament.

Ankara's mayor Ibrahim Melih Gokcek, a close Erdogan ally, tweeted a photo of the 11 MPs with a caption saying they had "stabbed [Turkey] in the back" and a hashtag calling them traitors who should be deprived of their citizenship. Turkish activists have used social networks to attack and threaten the MPs. The German foreign affairs ministry advised the MPs against going to Turkey because their security could not be guaranteed. Another targeted MP is Green Party co-chairman Cem Oezdemir, who initiated the genocide bill. Last week he said that although "insults and threats have started to become normal", the new flurry had "taken things to a new level". On Monday, he ruled out any Turkish EU membership as long as Erdogan ruled the country. "There will be for sure no EU membership under Erdogan," Oezdemir told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "But in the long term, we have an interest in a democratic Turkey in Europe," he said.

With the escalation of the row between the German MPs and Turkey, chancellor Merkel could be obliged to criticise Erdogan, with whom she has tried to keep good relations in order to manage the refugee crisis. After Turkey's angry reaction to the Bundestag vote, she said last week that "accusations and statements which have been made by the Turkish side [were] incomprehensible". She added that cooperation between Berlin and Ankara remained "broad and strong", however.
© The EUobserver


Ukraine: Thousands attend first major LGBT Pride event despite far-right threats

Ukraine has held its first major LGBT Pride event in Kiev, despite threats from far-right thugs that they would ensure that “rivers of blood” would run through the streets.

12/6/2016- More than a thousand people turned up for the Pride event in Kiev on Sunday. Several thousand police officers lined the streets following threats from far-right groups that they would attack the event, as has happened in preivious years when demonstrations have been attempted. “The road to equality in Ukraine is difficult as well as dangerous,” Bohdan Hloba, one of the rally’s organizers, said. “We have been threatened with a ‘bloodbath’ but every step of this march gives us hope.” Among slogans written on placards were “love has no gender” as well as rainbow flags. But counter-protesters did take to the streets, carrying signs reading “Ukraine is no Sodom”. One father of 12, Serhiy Hashchenko, 56, told ABC News: “I’m against gay propaganda that these sick people have organized here in collusion with authorities.” In previous years, Pride has been called off in Kiev as authorities refused to police the event, and far-right thugs have attempted to interrupt other events. For the second time in a row, a Pride March is scheduled to take place in Kiev this Sunday.

From the European Parliament, Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup Sophie in ‘t Veld, and members Ana Gomes and Rebecca Harms announced that they would march along for equality and human rights. In 2015, far-right hooligans attacked the event, and several police officers were injured. This year, Neo-Nazis threatened to create a “bloodbath” at the event which takes place on Sunday. Over the last year, Ukraine has made significant progress on the rights of LGBTI people. It included provisions in the Labour Code which outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at the work floor. A National Strategy on Human Rights was also adopted which included provisions seeking to advance the rights of LGBTI people. However, homophobia and transphobia remain severe problems. Back in March an LGBTI festival in Lviv in the West of Ukraine, was cancelled following local authorities’ failure to protect the festival from far-right activists. Thugs surrounded a venue of the LGBT festival and chanted “kill”, while hurling blunt objects at those inside.
© The Pink News


Spain’s far-right seeks to break beyond political fringe

Nationalists fail to capitalise on EU anti-immigrant sentiment

12/6/2016- In a half-deserted building near the centre of Madrid, dozens of people clutch their empty trolleys and patiently wait their turn, a silent assembly of tired faces and haggard looks. Every Sunday, they are drawn here by the promise of free food. The handouts offered are basic — a loaf of bread, sausages, rice, pasta, beans, biscuits, oil and milk — but gratefully received. Even three years after the end of Spain’s recession, there is nothing unusual about such scenes, as the deep economic crisis has created demand for soup kitchens and food charities up and down the country. What makes this particular programme remarkable is the politics that underpins it. Run by a group called the Hogar Social Madrid (HSM), it is one of the rare expressions of far-right political activity in Spain.

HSM and its members advocate a strict Spaniards-first policy, and have launched a string of demonstrations and stunts to publicise their cause. The group wants refugees out of Spain, and Spain out of the EU. Their food aid is available to Spanish nationals only. “Our main concern is the sheer number of migrants living in Spain now and the huge social benefits they receive,” says Melisa Ruiz, the 27-year old spokeswoman for HSM, who also presides over the food handout. “For Spaniards who are going through hard times, this is a massive injustice.” It is a political pitch that has entered conversations — and parliaments — across much of the EU. In Spain, however, anti-European and anti-immigration parties remain barely visible. There are none in Spain’s national parliament or any of its regional assemblies. This month’s general election will once again be fought without a far-right party in serious contention.

Spain’s political spectrum may have splintered in the centre and on the left — but on the right it ends, as before, with the conservative Popular party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Ms Ruiz and other activists are determined to change that — but they admit they have a mountain to climb. She points to the historical legacy of Spain’s civil war and four decades of rightwing dictatorship that lasted until the late 1970s. “This has left behind a revanchist mindset. The politically correct and socially acceptable thing in Spain is to be on the left,” she claims. Political scientists agree that Spain’s fraught history is a big obstacle to any movement hoping to repeat the successes of France’s National Front or the Freedom party in Austria. But this is not the only hurdle — in other European countries, the far right has flourished partly due to popular anger with the EU and over migration, but in Spain these two issues have so far caused little controversy.

Even at the height of Spain’s recent economic crisis — and despite an influx of migrants during the boom years — the country did not experience an anti-immigration backlash. “The blame for the crisis fell on the economic elites, on the banks, the IMF, the Troika and on the austerity measures. But not on migrants and foreigners,” says Sergi Pardos-Prado, a political scientist at the University of Oxford. It helped that a high proportion of the migrants who arrived in Spain before the crash were from Latin America — people who were foreigners by passport but who spoke the same language and worshipped at the same church as the locals. “The experience of ethnic diversity for the average Spaniard has not been the same as for the French and British. It was less shocking,” says Mr Pardos-Prado.

Spanish support for the EU has declined sharply as a result of the economic crisis — but only a fringe favours leaving the bloc altogether. Whatever misgivings Spaniards have about the European Commission in Brussels, they seem to mistrust their own political elite even more. Earlier attempts to forge a nationalist political platform failed partly because they were based on Franco-era nostalgia, says Rafael Ripoll, the leader of the far-right España 2000 movement, and a local councillor in the town of Alcalá de Henares. “We were more concerned with reviving the past than with building the future. I think it is time for patriots in Spain to open a new chapter,” he says. Mr Ripoll also presides over a newly formed far-right platform that hopes to run in the 2019 European Parliament elections. “Our path will be long and arduous, but in 10-15 years I think we can establish ourselves as an organisation that is strong enough to influence the destiny of our nation,” he says.

Back in Madrid, Ms Ruiz sees her movement as an even longer-term project, arguing that it is too early to think about elections and parties. “For a political party to exist we have to build a social movement first,” she says. With her bleached blonde hair, extensive tattoos and oversized neon ear studs, she presents — visually if not ideologically — an obvious break with the crusty image of Spain’s old-school far-right. Her blend of social work and in-your-face protests, alongside her opposition to mass migration, economic liberalism and what she defines as “radical feminism”, make for an idiosyncratic political mix. Ms Ruiz points to Greece’s ultra-right Golden Dawn movement as a model, but she is quick to acknowledge that Spain remains a political outlier in Europe, at least for now. Spanish society, she says, “does not yet see us as a political alternative”.
© The Financial Times.


Britain First sends activists to ISIS and Ultras-style training camps in mountain

Britain First has taken a group of activists to a remote mountainside to sharpen their knives and martial arts skills as it trains up a Far Right army.

15/6/2016- The anti-immigration political party appears to be mirroring Russia's brutal Ultras – seen . It's a method employed by terror cult ISIS – which regularly flies its jihadis out to Syria to begin training at its HQ. Pictures of the "activist training camp" showing the men in military garb and holding British flags in the Welsh countryside have emerged online. Describing a knife class, the group said: "Knife defence and self defence is crucial to keeping our activists safe. Knives are prevalent in our society. We never want trouble but we refuse to leave our activists exposed." The group – known for posting Islamaphobic slurs on its Facebook page and sparking violent clashes during anti-immigration protests throughout the country – has been recruiting for its own league of defenders.

It called on supporters with a military background to form part of its army and began recruiting a general earlier this year through a secret Facebook group. The timing of its trip coincides with countless clips of utter brutality showing thugs squaring up to England supporters leaving pubs in France as the Euros rolls on. Videos posted to Twitter showed chairs being thrown at the English and Welsh in Lille as the hooligans unleashed utter carnage on the streets. The Russian team has since been served with a one-strike-and-you're out threat of disqualification from Euro 2016 over their fan's behaviour. Party leader .
© The Daily Star UK


UK: Another Hate Crime Attack in Rotherham.

14/6/2016- Sadly, we have received another report of a violent assault against an Afghan taxi driver in Rotherham. We were notified just within the last hour of this assault on a 28 year old taxi driver in the Swinton area of Rotherham, which took place today on Tuesday the 14th of June 2016. The attack took place in the early hours of the morning at 12:40 am and the victim was racially abused, and attacked for what he says, “was being a Muslim”. The perpetrators, whilst assaulting him also allegedly said, “when you come to our country, do what we say.” The assault took place in the vehicle of the taxi driver and he was found unconscious on the road. He was assisted by the local community who called the police. His injuries are not life threatening though he suffered both head and body injuries. Police have also arrested 2 people, a 50 year old and a 25 year old in relation to the incident. Rotherham continues to be a flashpoint for anti-Muslim incidents and Tell MAMA will be working with South Yorkshire Police to ensure that where possible, we can highlight the need for local communities to report in such hate incidents.
© Tell Mama


UK: Man stabbed during Bootle race hate attack by gang of youths

Police were called to Hawthorne Road entrance to South Park in Bootle after the stabbing

12/6/2016- A man suffered facial injuries and was stabbed in the buttocks during a racist attack in Bootle. The 24-year-old man was walking with friends on a pathway in South Park near to Hawthorne Road at around 11pm on Saturday when the attack took place. He was racially abused verbally and attacked by a “large number of youths”, police said. He managed to escape from the park before dialing 999 for an ambulance. Detectives said he was taken to hospital where he is being treated for facial injuries and what is though to be a stab wound to the buttocks - his condition is not thought to be life threatening. Merseyside Police’s specialist SIGMA hate crime team will be running the investigation. It comes a month after a 16-year-old boy was stabbed in the park.

Detective Inspector Paul Nilsen said: “The investigation is at an early stage but this would appear to be a completely unprovoked attack on a man just going about his business. “We are carrying out extensive enquiries in the area - a number of scenes have been established for forensic examination, CCTV is being sought and enquiries carried out with witnesses. “While this incident took place late at night we are particularly keen to speak with anyone who was in the park, maybe even earlier that evening, who saw a large group of youths, to get in contact. “This incident is being investigated by specialist detectives from our SIGMA hate crime team and I’m sure the local community would agree that violence and racism have no place in our communities and those responsible for this attack need to be brought to justice.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact Sefton CID on 0151 777 3835, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the Stop Hate UK charity on 0800 138 1625 where they can also receive advice and support.
© The Liverpool Echo


Austria: Security tells 'not sexy' lesbians to stop kissing

The University of Vienna are investigating after a lesbian couple claimed a security guard told them to stop kissing because it "is not very sexy".

16/6/2016- One of the couple - using the fake name Moni - told Vice magazine that she had met her girlfriend in the entrance to the university and they had greeted one another with a kiss and a hug. After sitting on the steps and kissing and comforting her girlfriend, who was going through a stressful time, she said they were then approached by a security guard. Thinking she was going to tell them to stop sitting on the steps, Moni asked if everything was OK and the guard reportedly replied: “No, actually not. This is a public space and what [you] are doing is not actually very sexy.” The woman then apparently told them that the other security guards did not want to see that any more. The incident was first tweeted about by Twitter user Lena (@lenrustotalus) who wrote: “Were two kissing women told to stop by a guard because ‘it does not look sexy’?”

A spokesperson for the university told Vice that they were investigating the incident but reaffirmed the pro-LGBT position of the university, referring to the rainbow flags hung outside the university. “If this incident really happened, it is definitely an isolated case,” they said. It comes as Vienna celebrates a week of gay pride ahead of the Rainbow Parade taking place this Saturday. Although Vienna is generally celebrated for its openness and tolerance towards LGBT groups, the city has not been without some controversy when it comes to gay and lesbian kisses. In 2015 thousands protested in Vienna after a lesbian couple were told to stop kissing in the city’s popular Cafe Prückel by a waiter who then refused to serve them. According to the couple, the cafe manager Christl Sedlar barred them, reportedly saying "diversity such as this belongs in a brothel, not in a traditional coffee house". The manager later said the cafe’s reaction had been “excessive” but argued that the couple were "canoodling".

In March 2016, a gay couple were attacked by a taxi driver after they kissed while sitting on the back seat. The driver had reportedly said: "I don't want anything gay like that in my car.” When one of the men pointed out that he needed to be a bit more open in his view of the world, he had then shouted: "People like you need to be shot." He then punched the 27-year-old in the face, and only stopped his verbal and physical attack when police arrived. He is now being investigated for assault.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Far-right file case against media for 'Nazi' claim

A right-wing xenophobic group who clashed with left-wing demonstrators at a protest in Vienna on Saturday are bringing a case against Austrian media after they described them as ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘extremists’.

14/6/2016- The Austrian branch of the Identitarian movement - Identitäre Bewegung Österreich - took to the streets at the weekend in protest against refugees and immigrants, chanting slogans such as ‘Our Flag, Our Country’. Between 800 and 1000 right-wing protesters from Austria, France, Germany and Italy clashed with a similar number of counter-protesters from anti-fascist and left-wing groups. Before the march Identitäre had posted rules online for the participants to follow, including banning the showing of right-wing extremist tattoos and clothing. Now the group say they are bringing a case against the ORF’s main evening news broadcast Zeit im Bild for describing them as right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis. “Patriots faced violence and murder attempts while exercising their democratic rights, to only then be insulted by politicians and media as neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists,” said their spokesperson Patrick Lenart.

Following the march, one member of the right-wing group was arrested for alleged neo-Nazi propaganda activity. Thirteen people were injured during the clashes between left and right-wingers, including four police. Seven of the left-wing protesters - who started throwing rocks, fireworks and bottles - were arrested for a variety of public order offences. The march was the latest in a run of protests organised by the right-wing group. A few days earlier the Carinthian branch of the group had stormed into a lecture on asylum at a university in Klagenfurt dressed up in burkas and middle-ages costumes. The group then proceeded to carrying out a pretend ‘stoning’ on a member who they said was dressed to represent an Austrian patriot. Previous attacks have included throwing fake blood onto an audience watching a play performed by refugees, interrupting the play by unfurling a banner saying “multiculturalism kills”.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: 13 injured in left-right clashes in Vienna

Clashes between right-wing activists and left-wing protestors led to violence, with 13 people injured in Vienna on Saturday, including four police.

12/6/2016- According to a police spokesman, the original protest by the right-wing xenophobic Identitären movement of around 800-1,000 marchers was intercepted by a similar number of far-left socialist counter-protestors, who were determined to disrupt the right-wing group's peaceful protest. Police were forced to intercede when the left-wingers began throwing rocks, fireworks and bottles at the right-wing supporters, and some began attacking them with iron rods. Seven of the left-wing protestors were arrested for a variety of public order offenses, while one member of the right-wing group was arrested for alleged neo-Nazi propaganda activity. Within the group of right-wing protestors were visitors from France, Germany and Italy.

Among the injured were four police officers. Around 1,000 police were deployed to keep the two groups from clashing. According to news reports, at least one of the injured remains in a coma. A police spokesman said that they had to use force to protect the rights of both groups to have freedom of assembly, while ensuring that the two groups were unable to engage in direct clashes. An official police tweet allegedly shows one of the large rocks which was hurled by one of the protestors at a police officer. "We are often, especially now, between politically opposite interest groups. Above all, one thing is clear -- the police are committed to protect neither 'right' nor 'left', but rather to protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly," said a spokesman.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Swimming lessons for refugee children cause storm

Swimming lessons for refugee children have whipped up a storm in Austria, with a lifeguard's car window smashed and a newspaper on Friday filing charges against a woman who said the migrants should drown.

11/6/2016- Local newspapers reported this week that the southern state of Carinthia was offering the courses free of charge for unaccompanied minors in order to prevent accidents in lakes and swimming pools this summer. This provoked a torrent of what local politician called Heinz Kernjak called "ignorant and offensive" online comments, while an unknown assailant smashed the window of a van belonging to lifeguards in the town of Wolfsberg. When national daily Kurier reported the story on Thursday, it provoked complaints -- alongside messages of support -- about the costs of the lessons to the taxpayer and how the courses would only encourage more immigration. One woman even commented on Facebook that the migrants "should drown", prompting the Kurier on Friday to file charges with the authorities, the first time it has done so for a comment on an article on the social media website. "Because of the growing number of hate posts, Kurier will from now on be more rigorous in its efforts against hate posts and in bringing charges," the daily said.

Austria last year received some 90,000 asylum requests, the second highest per capita in the European Union, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of racist attacks, although it lags well behind neighbouring Germany. Last week police said that a fire that burned to the ground a recently completed but still empty refugee centre was likely caused by arsonists. In May a suspected neo-Nazi was arrested and weapons were recovered at his home after telling friends he wanted to massacre migrants. The influx has also boosted support for the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe), which on May 22 came close to winning presidential elections and which this week filed a legal challenge against the result. FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Frauke Petry, head of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), on Friday held talks on the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, to discuss increased cooperation. Marine Le Pen, the head of France's National Front who will run for president in 2017, is due to meet Strache outside Vienna next Friday for an event dubbed by the FPOe the "Patriotic Spring".


Czech president warns of neo-Nazism threat

11/6/2016- At a memorial ceremony on Saturday that commemorating the 74th year of extermination of the Lidice village which was obliterated by the Nazis in 1942, Czech President Milos Zeman warned that neo-Nazism is starting to threaten inconspicuously the Czech society. Zeman said that Lidice tragedy binds people not only to remember the past but also to actively fight against neo-Nazism, which has been spreading in the country under various pretexts. This ideology is based on racial hatred, rejection of pluralism and forcing physical and opinion uniform upon people, said the president. Zeman said that neo-Nazis also benefit from the reluctance of democratic politicians who are incapable of facing current problems. He said if someone adores war criminal and mass murderer in the World War II, he objectively becomes a neo-Nazi.

Bans are no effective solution, said Zeman. "Let's promise right here, in the village of Lidice, we will not only remember the past, because it is not enough. We will also actively act against those who are in our territory again beginning to spread neo-Nazism under various pretexts," Zeman was quoted as saying. Officials, ambassadors, representatives of regional and town governments, churches and civic associations, witnesses and other guests at Lidice commemorated the 74th anniversary of the day when the Nazis burned this Central Bohemian village down in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi Deputy Reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak paratroopers. All the man in the village were shot dead, women sent to a concentration camp, most of the children were sent to the gas chambers and several of them were sent for re-education in Germany.
© Xinhua News Agency.


Finland: Police ponder probe into Soldiers of Odin secret Facebook group

Police say they are considering a criminal investigation into racist messages exchanged in a secret Facebook group by leaders of the Nazi-linked Soldiers of Odin. Police chief Seppo Kolehmainen confirmed to Yle that police will try to determine whether or not any of the group’s messages are criminal in nature.

11/6/2016- In March this year, Yle obtained screenshots of a secret Facebook group maintained by leaders of the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin, which was founded by Kemi-based neo-Nazi Mika Ranta late last year. Among one of the regular greetings used by members of the group is the salutation, "Morning racists." The posts also feature members showing Nazi salutes and include images of Nazi symbols. As reported earlier this week by Yle, leaders also suggested patrolling without insignia so as to be able to engage in attacks more freely, urging members to have "unmarked patrols and zero tolerance for dark skin" and to "hammer anyone who even leans to the left". Police commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen told Yle that officers will be looking into the group’s posts to see if they bear the hallmarks of criminal activity. "We are now evaluating the content of the messages to see whether or not they can be considered criminal. The National Bureau of Investigation is now responsible for the evaluation and on that basis we will determine whether or not to begin an investigation into some message or individual," Kolehmainen said.

Fresh assault conviction
Finnish news agency STT first reported on law enforcement’s intention to investigate the group and its messages. Soldiers of Odin founder Mika Ranta was convicted of aggravated assault in May. He had previously been convicted of racially-motivated attacks on two immigrants in 2005. Ranta, who was previously a member of the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement, said he founded Soldiers of Odin, ostensibly to protect nationals following the arrival of asylum seekers in the northern town of Kemi.
© YLE News.


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