Newsnews archives
Do You appreciate this service? HELP US to keep it going: transfer a financial contribution to:
Stichting Magenta Projects
Name and address of bank:

This page is updated almost every day with items from regular news sources.

If you have an item for the news page please send it to us at .
Your news has to be in English. If you have any relevant URL's (webaddresses) where more info about the news you send us can be found, please send those too. Don't forget to add the country where the newsitem originates. For news about Hate Crime, please visit our ICARE HATE CRIME NEWS.

Headlines 9 October, 2015

Headlines 2 October, 2015

Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 40

Headlines 25 September, 2015

Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - week 39

Headlines 9 October, 2015

Denmark buys ad saying ‘no’ to refugees. So citizens buy ad saying ‘yes.’

6/10/2015- Last month, the government of Denmark placed an advertisement in four Lebanese newspapers. Published in both Arabic and English, the message listed a number of new, more restrictive laws on refugees in the country. The advertisement had a clear message for Syrians: Don't come to Denmark, go elsewhere. The Danish government's advertisement made headlines around the world. However, not all Danes were happy with the advertisement. So, on Friday, a new advertisement was published in the same four Lebanese newspapers. While the first advertisement was funded by the Danish government, this new ad was funded by donations from Danish citizens. As People Reaching Out, the group behind the campaign, put it, the new advertisements were "replicas of the original ads, but with a twist." "Sorry for the hostility towards refugees expressed here," the new advertisement reads. "As ordinary Danes we wish to extend our sympathy and compassion to anyone fleeing war and despair."

Denmark has taken a harder stance on refugees than its neighbors, a stance that has grown stricter since the center-right Liberal Party formed a minority government in June. The government has imposed a number of laws designed to discourage migrants from coming to the country, including a severe cut to the benefits offered to refugees, and Integration Minister Inger Stojberg promised to run advertisements that would contain "sobering" information for refugees. However, when the government placed the advertisement last month, many in Denmark were outraged. “This must be the worst timing for an ad in the history of the world,” Uffe Elbaek, the leader of the left-leaning Alternative Party, wrote on Twitter.

According to Lotus Turell, a member of People Reaching Out, about 167,460 Danish Krone (around $25,000) was raised from donations to place the advertisement – less than what the Danish government spent on their advertisements, which are under investigation by Denmark's parliamentary ombudsman over allegations that they are misleading. In a news release, People Reaching Out said the government's advertisement had not reflected the "Danish tradition of humanity," and the group pointed to a recent Gallup poll that showed that 56 percent of Danes believed their country should grant more residency permits to refugees — compared with 36 percent in similar polls conducted last year.
© The Washington Post


Netherlands: Report problems with asylum seekers to us, says PVV website

6/10/2015- Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV party on Tuesday launched a new website where people can report any nuisance caused by asylum seekers in the Netherlands. The site is necessary, the PVV says, because of the ‘increasing violence in and around asylum seeker centres’. In 2012, Wilders launched a similar site for central and eastern European immigrants in the Netherlands. That site has since quietly faded away.

The PVV is currently campaigning hard against the arrival of asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Wilders said two weeks ago that the country faces an ‘asylum tsunami’ and called on the Dutch to ‘start a resistance’ against the stream of asylum seekers. For the opening of the new complaints website Wilders writes that ‘the PVV is giving Dutch citizens the chance to share their experiences with the only political party that is listening to them’. The increasing numbers of asylum seekers has seen the PVV improve its poll position. A recent poll put the party up seven seats to 34 – 11 more than the current largest party, the coalition partner VVD. However, political editor Tom van Dijk says in ‘Seven seats is only a couple of percentage points of the electorate.’
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Nationalists humiliate refugee supporter: “I hope your daughter gets raped”

5/10/2015- Protestors in favor of refugee rights were met with angry vitriol from supporters of the anti-Islam, anti-refugee politician Geert Wilders on Saturday. The PVV party leader was in Almere handing out flyers against an expansion of a refugee center in the Flevoland city. Helena Zanting spoke out on behalf of asylum seekers, holding a sign that read in English, “I see humans, but no humanity.” She is stunned by the response she received from Wilders supporters, she told newspaper AD. “I hope your daughter gets raped,” shouted one Wilders supporter, while others said things like, “Don’t whine when your head gets chopped off by some terrorist!” Wilders has spent much of the last two months calling to close the boarders against all asylum seekers. The staunch anti-EU politician said it is scandalous that the Netherlands is abiding by, and even supporting European mandates for distribution of those claiming refugee status.

Zanting, 51, found the rally at an Almere shopping center particularly disturbing. She works as a language coach at the asylum centre in Almere, and finds no problem with the proposed expansion of the shelter. She says she is ashamed that her city is always associated with xenophobia. One supporter of Wilders, Petra Busgen, resented the asylum supporters, calling their demonstration “mad.” She agrees 100 percent with closing the borders, AD reports. Busgen feels that, “Everything is at stake: our safety, freedom and future.”  Exuberant Wilders fans pushed, booed and shouted at protestors remarking that if they liked the refugees so much, they should set up centres for them in their homes. The refugee issue has propelled the PVV up to its highest level since October 2013, with support that would see them rise 21 seats to 33 if elections were held today.

Emeritus Professor of immigration studies at Erasmus University Han Entzinger showed research results regarding the opposition of asylum seekers and immigration has remained constant for decades, with 30-40 percent of the population feeling it is neither needed nor wanted. Almere has a population of over 197,300, making it the eighth largest city in the country, according to Statistics Netherlands.
© The NL Times


Netherlands/Australia: Geert Wilders' visa delay 'an assault on freedom of speech'

It appears controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders' visa to Australia has stalled, meaning he may be unable to launch a new Australian anti-Islam party later this month.

4/10/2015- The right-wing Dutch politician has applied for a visa to go to Perth to launch the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) - a party inspired by his own. But the visa is still yet to be granted and ALA president Debbie Robinson is suspicious of the delay. "I believe that they're stonewalling the visa... I believe that they are playing political games and in a way it is an assault on our freedom of speech," she said. "An advanced party from the Dutch police was here last month and we were given assurances in August that his visa would be forthcoming but I learned last week that it still has not been granted and I think it's unacceptable."

It is not the first time Mr Wilders has faced visa issues in Australia. In 2012, he was invited to give a series of speeches by the anti-Islam group the Q Society, which Ms Robinson is the president of, but that application was stalled and he ultimately had to cancel the speaking tour. After eventually securing a visa, he visited Australia in February 2013, where the idea for the Australian Liberty Alliance was formed. Ms Robinson said she was disappointed he was facing visa issues again. "I'm surprised that with the change of government, we now have a Liberal Government, that it appears that in fact nothing has changed," she said. "It's all about appeasement and political correctness."

Mr Wilders is a staunch opponent of Islam and has sparked controversy by comparing the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf, describing Islam as a retarded culture and calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile and a terrorist. Ms Robinson said she did not think his views were dangerous despite recent cases of radicalisation and the growing threat of homegrown terror. "I think it's more dangerous to invite for example and fast-track visas for people like Tareq Al-Suwaidan, who was the leader of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, Taji Mustafa who is a British spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir," she said. "These guys are allowed access to our country to deliver their message and an elected member of a democracy with no criminal record who does not incite violence is not allowed to speak. I think that's outrageous."

The 2012 delay was due to the Dutch politician being on the Movement Alert List, a database of people of concern to Australia. That meant the Department of Immigration had to do more thorough checks before granting a visa. In a statement, the Immigration Department said it did not comment on individual cases and processing times may vary.
© ABC Australia


Italy leaves gay couples waiting at the altar

5/10/2015- Rosario Murdica and Gianni Finocchietti always wanted to get married in Italy, but after 30 years together they lost hope of ever tying the knot in their home country and instead said their vows in Portugal. Italy is the last major country in the West that has not given same-sex couples any legal recognition, and was condemned this year by the European Court of Human Rights for failing to introduce long-delayed legislation. Center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised a bill allowing civil unions would be approved by year-end, after more than two decades of failed attempts by various parties. Despite only aiming to legalize civil partnerships with limited rights that fall short of full gay marriage, the bill has been held up, highlighting Italy's struggle to go against Roman Catholic teaching.

The delay also reveals frictions within Renzi's disparate coalition and raises questions about his ability to push aside powerful lobbies that have stymied reform in the past. The political shenanigans, which prompted a junior minister to go on hunger strike earlier this year in an effort to speed up the process, have angered homosexu-al couples.  "There is no difference between love. There is no difference between us and heterosexual couples. We are not asking for any special favors," said Murdica, 57, a labor market researcher. "We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens," said his partner, Finocchietti, 61, a university researcher. Finocchietti and Murdica have no legal rights as a couple in Italy, denying them tax breaks, a portion of a deceased partner's pension, automatic inheritance and the right to confidential medical briefings in case of illness.

Pulpir Power
Senator Monica Cirinna, author of the government's draft legislation for civil unions, says Italy is still stuck in the "Middle Ages." She argues that the country needs to approve her law to boost its international credibility. "We can hardly think we can go to Europe beating our drum about immigration, (or breaking) the deficit limit, and then be last in the line when it comes to human rights," Cirinna, who is a member of Renzi's Democratic Party (PD), told Reuters. Renzi's 18 month-old coalition has enacted a number of reforms, on everything from labor regulations to banking norms, but is swimming against a conservative tide over gay marriage. Italy's parliament is just a five minute drive from the Vatican, the seat of power for the Roman Catholic Church which exerts considerable sway over domestic politics, even as its power elsewhere appears to recede.

Pope Francis on Sunday defended marriage as "an indissoluble bond" between a man and a woman. "This is God's dream for his beloved creation," he said as he opened a three-week gathering of bishops that is set to formulate Catholic policy on family issues for decades to come. Influential Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini reaffirmed the church's intense opposition to the proposed civil unions legislation, telling Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday it would lead inevitably to full marriage rights. "If they follow this path, it will be hard not to have protests," Ruini said. A day earlier, the Vatican fired a senior priest after he publicly announced he was gay and acknowledged having a partner. "We live under the shadow of the Vatican dome," said Cirinna. "Catholicism here is different than in other countries. It is a presence. The pope speaks at his window every Sunday."

Staunchly Catholic Ireland voted in a referendum in May to legalize full gay marriage, following in the footsteps of other Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Portugal. The Italian bill offers only very restrictive adoption options and closes the door to assisted reproduction technology but church officials here make no bones about their objections. Paolo Gentili, director of the pastoral office for the family at the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) said affection between homosexuals could be strong, but was not a marital affection. "A homosexual who is honest with himself knows that he and his partner will never become parents together," he said.

"Drink, Drugs and Sex"
The Church has found an ally in the small New Center-Right (NCD) party that is in Renzi's coalition and is struggling to carve out a clear-cut political identity at a time when parties in Italy come and go with the seasons. Looking to claim the Catholic vote, the NCD has put up a high-profile fight against Cirinna's bill, presenting some 3,000 out of a total 4,320 amendments that were pinned to the legislation, helping to snarl its parliamentary passage. Most were ruled invalid, but a total of 1,693 amendments remain. Because of a technicality, the bill has to pass through the Senate by Oct. 15 to have a chance of full approval by year end. With the upper house locked in debate on constitutional reform it looks unlikely to meet that cut-off date.

"They won't do it this year, they won't do it next. To be frank, I don't think they will ever do it," said Massimo Porcelli, 53, an Italian advertising manager who married his partner, TV producer Salvatore Stolfi in New York in 2012. An opinion poll by the Piepoli Institute in May said 67 percent of Italians supported some form of civil unions while 51 percent backed full gay marriage. But Porcelli and Stolfi say Italians are not as open-minded as they might claim to be. "The stereotype of gays is very strong here. People think our life is full of drink, drugs and sex," said Stolfi. "I think there is an undercurrent of fear that giving us marriage rights will somehow promote and spread our imagined lifestyle."
© Reuters


Greece: Golden Dawn tried to take advantage loophole in electing Parliament VP

On Sunday, the Greek MPs voted for the Vice-Presidents of the Greek Parliament and Golden Dawn’s candidate for 5th Vice-President got 59 votes even though the neo-nazi Party only has 18 MPs.

5/10/2015- The lawmakers of the Golden Dawn party tried to take advantage of a voting loophole to place in the Vice-Presidency of the Greek Parliament their own candidate. On Sunday, the Greek MPs voted for the the Vice-Presidents of the Greek Parliament. After the votes a peculiar result came up as the Golden Dawn’s MP candidate for 5th Vice-President got 59 votes even though the neo-nazi Party only has 18 MPs. At the beginning most of the media thought that there was a dangerous leak from the rest of the Greek democratic parties in supporting the extreme-right party. However, the new President of the Greek Parliament, Nikos Voutsis, a Syriza MP, said that the result was due to a voting loophole which will be fixed.

Under the Greek Parliament regulation, in the election for the Vice-Presidents of the Greek Parliament, there were five different polls. There was one poll for the three Vice-Presidents proposed by Syriza, the ruling party and another four for the New Democracy, Golden Dawn, PASOK and KKE candidates. The loophole in the regulation lies in the fact that the MPs can vote for the same person in all five polls, regardless if each poll is for specific candidates only. Most of the Golden Dawn MPs voted in favour of their candidate, Yianni Aevatidi, in all the five polls and since there is no law in identifying the vote as invalid the votes were properly counted. As a result, even though the Neo-nazi party has 18 MPs in the 300-seat Greek Parliament, Aevatidis appeared to be supported by 59 MPs.

Voutsis promised to fix the regulation while the sub-leader of the Golden Dawn, Ilias Kasidiaris, demanded the recounting of the votes most probably to identify which Golden Dawn lawmakers didn’t vote 5 times for their candidate. Aevatidis could have been elected as Vice-President of the Greek Parliament, if he had gathered 75 votes.
© New Europe


Malta: Court throws out far-rightist Lowell’s defamation suit against newspaper

Magistrate rejects far-rightist Norman Lowell's argument in court against 2006 MaltaToday article that had blamed his adherents for an arson attack on the house of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

5/10/2015- A court of magistrates today threw out a libel case filed by far-rightist Norman Lowell against MaltaToday, over three newspaper reports that insinuated that his followers had been behind a spate of arson attacks on journalists and charities. Lowell had claimed that three articles carried in MaltaToday on 16 May 2006 had been based on untruths and were written with the intention to damage him, against the principles of freedom of expression and opinion. The night before the publication of the articles, Lowell had held a barbeque at Dwejra, not far from the residence of blogger and columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, at the time a critic of Lowell, who she described as a “neo-Nazi and a fascist”. That same night, the columnist’s home had been the target of an arson attack.

It was the latest in a series of similar attacks on critics of Lowell’s extremist beliefs, with previous victims including priest Pierre Grech Marguerat and lawyer Katrine Camilleri from the Jesuit Refugee Service. MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan was also the victim of an arson attack by extremists. A few hours after the arson attack on Caruana Galizia’s house, Lowell had posted an entry on far-right internet forum Viva Malta which read “Yes, indeed, I have drunk to the dregs and toasted the heroes in my own incorrigible ways.” The court noted that Lowell had never contested the assertion that he embraced anti-immigrant views and quoted various distasteful comments on the issue which the plaintiff had posted online.

“The complainant, as a leader of an organisation known as Imperium Europa, has harsh and hardline views on the immigration issue and whoever is involved in the defence of immigrant rights and therefore, by right, these views certainly evoke a similarly harsh reaction against him and his organisation,” it said. Lowell had originally filed the libel case against Balzan, MaltaToday editor Matthew Vella and journalist Kurt Sansone. However, proceedings against the latter were withdrawn after Sansone, now employed with the Times of Malta, had made an apology. Balzan and Vella had argued that the articles were justified by the right to freely report facts of a social and political nature, particularly in view of the “essentially racist” politics of the plaintiff and the importance of the right to “fair comment” in a democratic society.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, citing several local and European Court cases, held that, in view of Lowell’s extremist outpourings,the articles were not libellous but factual. As a political person, Lowell was subject to higher levels of public scrutiny and criticism, added the magistrate. In throwing out the libel suit, the court noted that Lowell’s behaviour and comments he had made on broadcast media were “not in any way acceptable in a democratic society, where diversity and multiculturalism form the foundations of Maltese society, as shown by the very language we speak.”
© Malta Today


Syrian refugees increasingly return to war zones in homeland

5/10/2015- Growing numbers of Syrian refugees are returning to their war-ravaged homeland from Jordan because they can't survive in exile after drastic aid cuts, can't afford to pay smugglers to sneak them into Europe or are simply homesick. The returns, along with the increasing migration to Europe, signal that conditions in regional host countries have become increasingly intolerable, the refugees and aid officials said. "We stopped getting any aid," said 47-year-old Adnan, waiting at the U.N.-run Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan to sign up his family for the return bus to the Syrian border, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. He only gave his first name for fear of repercussions from Syrian authorities. The U.N. refugee agency views the rising number of departures with concern. "It is a dangerous choice for people to make," said Andrew Harper, head of the U.N. refugee agency in Jordan. He said the return of refugees, mainly women and children, to war-torn Syria "signals a failure of the international protection regime."

More than 4 million Syrians fled civil war in their country, now in its fifth year. Most settled in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, a majority living in urban areas. Banned from working legally, they depend on aid and odd jobs. Recent aid cuts by underfunded agencies, particularly the World Food Program, have been devastating. In Jordan, more than half a million urban refugees were hit hardest, while about 100,000 living in camps were not affected by the latest cuts. Adnan and his family fled their village in the province of Daraa on the Jordanian border — birthplace of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad — more than three years ago. They settled in Ramtha, a Jordanian town just a few miles from Daraa's provincial capital. The family of 12 lived on food vouchers, while the two oldest sons sold vegetables to cover the rent of $250. Two months ago, all income dried up. The two oldest sons, their 14-year-old brother and a sister headed to Europe — two are already in Sweden and two are still in Turkey — while the family lost all food aid. "There is no money," said Adnan, who plans to follow his children to Europe as soon as possible.

But the journey costs thousands of dollars, including $400 for a new Syrian passport that enables him to fly to Turkey without a visa, as well as a plane ticket and bribes for the smugglers. Adnan said he can't afford to pay for the rest of the family — his mother, his wife, a six-year-old son, two daughters-in-law and two granddaughters. On Thursday, he waited outside the U.N. office in Zaatari to register the women and children for return to Syria. The plan is for them to go back to their village of Seel and eventually reach Turkey overland. He shrugged when asked about the risks of travel in Syria, saying he simply had no choice. The "check-out" takes place in a complex of trailers on the edge of Zaatari. Refugees fill in Jordanian departure forms and are briefed by the U.N. refugee agency. The returnees are cautioned about the risks.

"The road to Europe is very difficult," U.N. registration officer Qusai Tanash told Adnan's wife, suggesting it would be safer for the family in Jordan until they can join the others legally in Europe. "Family reunification takes a long time," she said, adding that she would stay in Jordan if she could afford it. Another returnee, 21-year-old Khaled, said he will stay in Syria. "I miss my mother, and I miss my family," he said. Khaled said Jordanian authorities prevented his mother from entering the country. "If my mother was allowed to enter, I wouldn't think to go back to Syria," he said. In recent months, departures by far outnumbered arrivals, and the outflow is increasing. About 30 to 75 refugees enter Jordan every day, according to Hovig Etyemezian, the Zaatari camp's director.

The low figures appear linked in part to Jordanian entry procedures. Several recently arrived refugees said they waited three months in a remote desert area on the border, along with several thousand others, before being allowed in. Jordan has said security vetting of newcomers takes time, but has denied large border bottlenecks. By comparison, 3,853 refugees returned to Syria in August, compared to 1,934 in July, according to U.N. figures. Harper said August saw the highest number of returns in 18 months — the period during which multiple cross-border trips became largely impossible. He said departures fluctuated in the first half of 2015, but would not provide detailed figures. He said the number of September departures was lower than in August, but did not have the final tally. There was no bus traffic to the border for several days in September because of a major Muslim holiday.

It's not clear how many plan to stay in Syria and how many view it as a way station. Some refugees told U.N. officials they plan to sell property so they can afford the journey to Europe. Others want to stay in their homeland. Meanwhile, departures from Amman airport to Turkey, often the first leg of the journey to Europe, have increased from 45 in June to 150 in July and 480 in August, said U.N. protection officer Sophie Etzold. More than 175,000 Syrian refugees from the region took the eastern sea route from Turkey to Greece between January and August of this year, while close to 7,000 traveled from North Africa to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration. A total of close to 534,000 migrants reached Europe by sea during this period, the IOM said.

Only partial statistics about refugee movements are available from Turkey and Lebanon. About 94,000 Syrian refugees left Turkey for Syria in the past year, about half returning to Kobani after the ouster of Islamic State militants from the city in early 2015, a Turkish official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. The U.N. refugee agency said it believes most of the more than 2 million Syrians in Turkey stay put, largely because living conditions are better than in Jordan and Lebanon. In Lebanon, the number of registered refugees dropped by 140,000 since January, to 1,078,000. U.N. officials said they don't yet know their whereabouts. Hundreds of Syrians leave Lebanon daily by ship to Turkey, presumably with Europe as the final destination. Refugees in one district of Beirut said knew families that left for Europe, but none that had gone back to Syria.

A return to Syria is a one-way ticket. None of the three host countries allows multiple border crossings. Many Syrian refugees in Jordan are from the Daraa region, which has seen sporadic fighting and air raids on rebel-held communities since a failed rebel offensive in the summer. The U.N. refugee agency tries to stay in touch with returnees. News isn't always good. "A few months ago, we had a family who left from Zaatari camp to a village in Daraa that hadn't been bombed for six months,'" said Etyemezian. "A few days after, that village was bombed and they were injured."
© The Associated Press


Vatican uses monastery to ‘cure gay priests’, former clergy claim

Priests who 'show inappropriate sexual tendencies' are removed to the Venturini monastery in Trento for 'a period of training, personal reflection and enlightenment', according to the Italian press

5/10/2015- The Vatican has secretly been sending gay priests to a monastery near the Alps to be “cured” alongside paedophiles and drug addicts, it has emerged. Priests who “show inappropriate sexual tendencies” are removed to the Venturini monastery in Trento for “a period of training, personal reflection and enlightenment”, according to Italian press reports. The revelation came as hundreds of Catholic bishops, priests and laity began three weeks of deliberations in Rome over the church’s teachings on family life – including gay relationships – at a special synod. It followed a row at the weekend when a Polish theologian, 43-year-old Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, was sacked from Vatican posts within hours of declaring he was gay and had a long-term partner.

British clerical abuse victim Peter Saunders, who has been appointed to a Vatican child protection commission by Pope Francis, told The Independent that the Church was too soft on paedophile priests and their protectors, and contrasted this with their swift sacking of Msgr Charamsa. One former clergyman, Mario Bonfante, was told to go to Venturini when his superiors discovered he was gay, in order for him “to rediscover the right path” – and after he refused, he was dismissed. The all-male institute, and its order, the Priestly Heart of Jesus, was founded by Fr Mario Venturini in 1928 in a large house in Trento, in the foothills of Alps. As many as a dozen priests can stay there. Fr Gianluigi Pastò, 72, the priest in charge at Venturini, told Italian newspapers: “I can only say that here we help the priests become healthy.” The Independent was told that neither Fr Pastò nor any other staff were available for interview. A Vatican spokesman said: “There is no comment.”

In an interview with La Repubblica, Fr Pastò denied his institution was specifically for gay and paedophile priests, but did not deny that such clergy had come there in the past. “Right now we have neither priests nor gay paedophile priests. Of course, our task is to welcome everyone,” he said, adding that some priests who came to the monastery had problems with drug or alcohol abuse. He would not comment on which, if any, psychological or psychiatric treatments were used to treat residents. The monastery’s website says that “various types of therapy allow the community to host a large number of priests and religious people, offering them a relaxed and open environment in which to confront their difficulties”.

Gay rights campaigners reacted angrily to the reports. “This sort of thing is completely wrong,” said Francis DeBernardo, Director of New Ways Ministry, the US Catholic LGBT rights group. “Being gay is not a disease that needs to be cured... What needs to be cured is not homosexuality but homophobia.” Pope Francis told the synod today that the Church should not be allowed to remain just a stuffy “museum of memories” but should have the courage to change if that was what God wanted. He urged bishops to eschew conventions and prejudices. They should not “point fingers at the others to judge them”, nor feel superior to those with different ideas, he said. In a passage that appeared to be directed at unbending traditionalists, the Pope said bishops should beware the “hardening of some hearts, which despite good intentions, keep people away from God”.

But at a news conference after the first full synod session, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris warned reporters they would be “disappointed” if they expected radical changes to basic Church doctrine on family issues such as marriage.
© The Independent


Vatican sacks gay priest after highly public coming out

3/10/2015- The Vatican on Saturday dismissed a Polish priest from his Holy See job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity on the eve of a major Church meeting on the family. Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a theologian, had worked at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal arm, since 2003, and taught theology at pontifical universities in Rome, which have also dismissed him. Charamsa, 43, told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper and Polish media that he was gay and had a partner. The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual activity is, and priests, whether heterosexual or gay, take vows of celibacy. Charasma followed up his media interviews with a packed news conference with his partner and gay activists at a Rome restaurant. They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started.

The Vatican said the dismissal had nothing to do with Charasma's reflections on his personal life, which it said "merit respect". But it said his interviews and the planned demonstration was "grave and irresponsible" given their timing on the eve of a synod of bishops who will discuss family issues, including the Church's position on gays. The Vatican said his actions were aimed at subjecting the synod, which Pope Francis opens on Sunday, to "undue media pressure". He presided at prayer vigil for the synod on Saturday night before tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square. At the news conference, Charamsa said he wanted to make "an enormous noise for the good of the Church" and apply "good Christian pressure" on the synod not to forget homosexual believers. "This decision of mine to come out was a very personal one taken in a Catholic Church that is homophobic and very difficult and harsh (towards gays)," he said.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to Catholic gays, said the Vatican's move was "sadly disappointing." "It is unfortunate that Church leaders did not see Charamsa's announcement as an opportunity for further dialogue with someone they have known and trusted," DeBarnardo said. At the news conference, Charamsa suggested that a study be made of how many homosexuals work in the Vatican. "I ask the pope to be strong and to remember us, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals as children of the Church and members of humanity," Charamsa said. The issue of homosexuality and the Church has dominated the aftermath of the pope's visit to the United States last week. The Vatican has been embarrassed by a row over the pope's meeting during his U.S. trip with Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honor a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licences.
© Reuters


UK: Theresa May wants to make it harder for people to be classified as 'refugees'

Theresa May said some refugees and asylum seekers were more deserving than others

6/10/2015- The international definition of what counts as a “refugee” should be changed to make it harder for people to count as one, the Home Secretary has said. Theresa May said some refugees and asylum seekers were more deserving than others and that narrowing the scope of people allowed in could allow help to be more targeted. “In the longer term, I want to work with other countries in Europe, and the United Nations, to review the international legal definitions of asylum and refugee status,” she said. “Because there is a huge difference between a young Syrian family fleeing the tyranny of ISIL or Assad, and a student who claims asylum once he has been discovered overstaying his visa, or a foreign criminal about to be sent to a prison in his own country.” “By taking a tougher approach to those who do not need our help, we can give more support to vulnerable people who are in real and urgent need of our protection.”

The Government has faced criticism from human rights groups over its refusal to play a significant part in accepting refugees displaced by the current Syrian civil war. Britain refused to take part in an EU scheme to redistribute refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war who have come to Europe. David Cameron has said the UK will however take 4,000 refugees a year from camps near Syria, a total of 20,000 over five years. By contrast, other European countries have taken orders of magnitude more. Germany’s government expects to give refugee to a million refugees this year alone and has said it could take half a million a year for the next few years. Ms May, who is seen as a candidate for the next leader of her party, announced that she would publish a UK asylum strategy next year that would lay out details of how “abuse” could be screened out.

The Home Secretary also said the UK’s own asylum seeker process would be overhauled to reduce the numbers of people coming to Britain specifically. She claimed the current system rewarded the "wealthiest, the luckiest and the strongest" by granting asylum to those who managed to physically reach the UK. Refugee charities described the Home Secretary's speech as "chilling" “The Home Secretary’s clear intention to close Britain’s border to refugees fleeing for their lives is thoroughly chilling, as is her bitter attack on the fundamental principle enshrined in international law that people fleeing persecution should be able to claim asylum in Britain," said Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council. “The Home Secretary’s idea that the few refugees who reach Britain’s shores under their own steam are not in need of protection is fundamentally flawed. Becoming a refugee is not solely the privilege of the poor or infirm.

“Everyone would like to see the number of asylum claims in Britain go down: but only because that would mean the world had become a safer, more peaceful place. As it stands, the Home Secretary’s ambitions are simply out of step with reality: the world is facing one of the worst refugee crises we’ve ever seen. The global system of refugee protection is based on the principle that everyone has the right to claim asylum and to have that claim examined properly. “Instead of seeking to close the door on refugees reaching Britain by creating the idea they are somehow unworthy of our help, the Home Secretary should focus her efforts on reforming Britain’s asylum system so it treats people with the dignity and respect they so desperately need.”

The Overseas Development Institute, a think-tank that studies humanitarian issues, also criticised Ms May's comments on immigration. “Theresa May is wrong to say mass migration brings almost no economic or fiscal benefit. The evidence is clear that migration is good for the economy and for societies: the IFI found that Eastern European immigrants who arrived in the UK after EU enlargement in 2004 are 60% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58% less likely to live in social housing. These immigrants also make a positive contribution to public finance," Marta Foresti, director of governance, security and livelihoods at the Institute said.

“Recent studies also found that assisting refugees is a long term investment and that wages were on average positively affected by immigration. At the global level, the removal of some restrictions on people’s movement, could generate economic gains equivalent to 20 per cent of global GDP. Integrating people into our societies is not without its challenges, but the government should focus on managing it better rather than concentrating on an arbitrary target. That’s what countries like Germany have, rightly, decided to do.” Ms May was speaking on Tuesday at the Conservative annual conference in Manchester. The conference commenced on Sunday and ends on Wednesday.
© The Independent


UK: How brave Muslims are being silenced

The most vocal attacks on a group fighting Islamophobic attacks are not racist yobs but friends of the Islamist right
By Nick Cohen

4/10/2015- Tell MAMA is the only pressure group that undertakes the hard but necessary work of encouraging Muslims to report religious assaults. MAMA stands for Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks and its workers use the information it collects to persuade the police to take sectarian violence seriously. I admire Tell MAMA because it follows the cases that rarely get national attention: reports that Ulster loyalists are behind threats to Muslims in Northern Ireland or news of yobs insulting worshippers when they leave a mosque. It ensures that abuse of Muslims does not become an accepted fact of British life and offers a way into a criminal justice system, which is meant to protect their rights.

Naturally, Tell MAMA and its founder, Fiyaz Mughal, have enemies. They receive, as one might expect, racist abuse from supporters of the English Defence League. The rightwing press isn’t much better. Mughal despairs of the “there’s no such thing as Islamophobia” pieces that do the rounds. But it is not the “Tory press” that is stopping Tell MAMA from holding meetings in mosques. Nor is the EDL threatening to destroy its efforts to contain anti-Muslim violence. Those squalid victories belong to the Islamist right. “We are being targeted by charlatans who are leading Muslim communities off a cliff,” Mughal told me. “I think we have 18 months before we lose a generation of young Muslims.” If you are astonished that a charity fighting Islamophobia is being targeted by Islamists then you have no right to be surprised by the manner of the attack. Across our hysterical country, the supporters of the “new politics” seek to turn their opponents from reasonable people with ideas worth debating into the enemy, the alien, the “other”.

For Corbyn and his comrades, doubters are automatically “Tories”. They may have been Labour supporters or, indeed, Labour MPs all their adult life. They may have intelligent leftwing objections to Corbyn’s willingness to indulge every form of anti-western violence on the planet. They may even oppose Corbyn on the unimpeachably anti-Tory grounds that he is guaranteeing a decade of Tory rule. Their motives do them no good. They dissent, therefore they are “Tories” or, more often, “Tory scum”. Scottish nationalists, meanwhile, exploit their version of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. In the SNP’s mind no true Scotsman (or woman) can harbour doubts about independence. Those who do are English stooges, agents of a foreign power, who are guilty of “talking Scotland down”. Just as the only way to prove that you are not a Tory is to support the Labour leadership, so the only way to be a patriotic Scot is to support the SNP.

These are the paranoid tactics of a religious cult that holds that everyone outside the circle of true believers is tainted by the sins of the devil and all his works. The enemies of Tell MAMA, an organisation that fights Islamophobia, you will recall, hold that “no true Muslim” can support it. Renegades who do are Islamophobes. Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), an outfit that previously operated under the banner of iEngage until controversy forced a rebrand, has decided that the worst it can say about Tell MAMA, the best means it can find of turning it into a satanic organisation, is to say that it associates with gays and Jews.

I am not exaggerating. In November, MEND’s chief executive, Sufyan Gulam Ismail, announced to a Manchester mosque: “We don’t want the government to fob us off with some phony thing called Tell MAMA, which has got a pro-Zionist pretty much heading it, or in a very senior capacity, and is making all sorts of comments we might not agree with when it comes to homosexuality, to be recording Islamophobia.” Tell MAMA’s offence is to try to be consistently anti-racist. When it decided to monitor anti-Muslim hatred, it turned to the Jewish Community Security Trust for help. The trust gave it willingly. “We believe our shared experiences can help to bring communities together,” it said, and the trust’s former chief executive Richard Benson became co-chair of Tell MAMA. Peter Tatchell, who has endured anti-gay hatred throughout his life, also wanted to do what he could to fight anti-Muslim hatred and joined the board.

The real reason for the insults Tell MAMA receives, for the accusations that it is friends with “paedophiles”, “Zionists” and what modern anti-semites coyly call the “Israeli lobby”, is more profound, however. Mughal believes that, if it is wrong to attack a Muslim for being a Muslim, then it is equally wrong to attack a gay man or a Jew for being a gay man or a Jew. Put in these terms, the Islamist campaign against an anti-Islamophobia monitoring service is less astonishing. Tell MAMA’s enemies can never accept that Muslims should find common ground. Islamist prejudice must never be questioned. If British Muslims turn into Islamic State murderers, it must be the British government’s fault and anyone who says otherwise must be an Islamophobe.

Nor is the hounding of liberal Muslims as astonishing as it should be. I have enjoyed the Guardian for decades. But too many of its contributors have lost their wits and abandoned their principles over radical Islam. They show no signs of finding either soon. As a matter of course, they publish a defence of the silencing of Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim feminist, or a piece denouncing Maajid Nawaz, the Muslim leader of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. In academia, speakers at Bath University, surely the most malign higher education institution in Britain, call ex-Muslimsnative informants”, as if the decision of free men and women to decide for themselves what they should believe is the equivalent of collaborating with a colonial oppressor. For the religious right and the political and academic left, a liberal Muslim is their trussed-up version of the enemy, the alien, the “other”.

None of the above is astonishing. It’s been going on so long that we accept it as the “new normal”. What is astonishing and frightening was the look on Mughal’s face when I finished talking to him. He looked defeated. He thinks the extremists are winning and that Britain does not begin to understand the trouble that is coming.
© Comment is free - Guardian


Czech Rep: Experts: Coexistence of Czechs, Muslim community conflict-free

5/10/2015- The coexistence of Czechs with the local Muslim community is absolutely conflict-free, since a crushing majority of the Muslims have got smoothly integra-ted in the Czech society, but the rising fear of Islam may change this, daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today, citing experts. According to sociologist Karel Černý, the number of Muslims among the 10.5-million Czech population is many times higher than what the official statistics say. About 3,000 people claimed their adherence to Islam in the last census in 2011, but there are in fact 22,000 of them in the country, Černý said. “They do not consider it necessary to present themselves as Muslims. A large part of them have integrated in the majority society so deeply that they no longer feel as Muslims. Another reason is the rising Czech Islamophobia, which has discouraged a number of active Muslims [from openly claiming their religion]. They do not want the state to know about them,” Černý said.

Muslims started coming to the Czech Republic in the early 1990s. In 1998, there were several hundreds of active Muslims in the country, said sociologist Daniel Topinka. “The number of immigrants has been growing since 1989. Islam has been imported to the Czech Republic by refugees, businesspeople, students and other migrants,” Topinka said. Černý said Muslims in Europe, including the CzechRepublic, have proved their capability of assimilation into the western society and their usefulness for it. “A typical assimilated Muslim claims his adherence to Islam, but does not pursue its religious practices, he has integrated in the Czech environment, has a job and friends here,” Černý told the paper. “To some of them, their favorite Czech soccer club is even more important than whether they are Shiites or Sunnis. On the other hand, they cling on some customs firmly. For example, they would never eat pork or a bloody steak,” Černý said.

Muslims in the Czech Republic consider the religion, family and education their top values. A number of them go to mosques and prayer rooms to practice Islam. At the same time, they have a job and friends among the majority population. They are often active in society. Their children attend quality schools, Černý said. He said this is a situation different from Western Europe, where many Muslims, whole families, live separated from the majority society. They try to ignore the environment they live in and they create their own, including “pipes and carpets.” By all their activities, including intensive prayers, they cling on the homeland they left behind, Černý said, referring to Muslims in Western Europe.

The women watch Turkish and Syrian soap operas, they permanently talk with their relatives back at home, they have no contact with the [host country's] majority population. They feel dissatisfied, separated. This is how whole neighborhoods look in France and Germany, Černý said. Another category in the West are marginalized Muslims who gave up their culture and religion but they feel ashamed for it. Moreover, they failed to establish contacts with the majority society, they feel unsuccessful and isolated and they have got radical. A typical example of this are the housing estates in northern Paris, which even the police fear to enter at night, Černý said.

Muslims in the CzechRepublic represent a rich variety of ethnicities, including people from the Arab world and the former Soviet Union, such as Chechens, Uzbeks and Kazakhs. Foreigners from the sub-Sahara Africa frequently end on the margin of society. Most often, they are rejected by both the Czech majority and Muslim minority, Černý said. Nevertheless, most Muslims have smoothly integrated in the Czech society because they studied here, learned Czech, no Muslim ghettos have ever appeared here, and the Czechs never actually paid any special attention to them. When Muslims were settling down in the Czech Republic, no Islamophobia existed, Černý said.

In the USA and Canada, Muslim immigrants are even a part of the upper middle class including lawyers, doctors and dentists. They behave like the white Protestant majority. Ethnic diversity plays a role there like in the CzechRepublic. While Algerians prevail among the Muslims in France, Turks in Germany, Pakistanis in Britain and Indonesians in the Netherlands, Muslims in the USA are spread evenly without forming segregated streets or neighborhoods with a prevailing single ethnicity, Černý said. Unlike the Czech society, the American one is formed by immigrants and is open to them, he said. The Islamophobia that recently prevailed in the Czech Republic may affect the so far smooth integration of Muslims negatively. Already now, some Muslims are starting to withdraw to isolation, they are annoyed and fed up with permanently being labelled terrorists, though the Czechs often mean it as a joke, Černý writes.

A part of Muslims are ceasing to feel safe in the Czech Republic, which, according to the latest Eurobarometer poll, is one of the most Islamophobic countries. They prefer teaching their kids at home to sending them to schools. Some are starting to withdraw to the safety of the religious and ethnic community, Černý said. He says Czechs fear Muslims now because they learn about them only from the media. In Germany, where everyone has an acquaintance, colleague or friend among Muslims, people's fear is weaker. In the Czech Republic, politicians have insufficiently explained and excessively dramatized the situation regarding the recent migration wave. Czech experts are also to blame, because they discuss the situation in expert journals only, without communicating with people through the media, Černý told MfD.
© The Prague Post


Czech Rep: Prague Roma Pride march welcomes refugees

4/10/2015- About 50 people who took part in the Roma Pride 2015 march in Prague welcomed refugees in the country and called for the removal of a Czech pig farm built on the site of a former Romany internment camp Sunday. Miroslav Broz, from the organising Konexe association, said refugees have recently replaced Romanies in the position of scapegoats of Czech society. "We want to express our solidarity with them," Broz said. The event was co-organised by the Czech Helsinki Committee group and the Christian initiative Spolecne zit v miru (Live Together in Peace). Roma Pride marches were organised by the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) in 13 European countries, from Dublin to Istanbul, as part of a campaign for the removal of pig farm from Lety, south Bohemia, Sunday. Konexe is a member of EGAM.

The marchers carried banners demanding a dignified remembrance of all Holocaust victims. Broz said Czech politicians have been promising to remove the pig farm for 23 years and no reasonable person can trust their promises anymore. "We want to attract international attention to the case and to the denial of the Romany Holocaust in the Czech Republic. To exert pressure on the Czech government so that it starts resolving this international scandal," Broz said. He recalled that more than 70 members of the European Parliament and national parliaments from 22 countries have recently signed an appeal for the pig farm's removal.

In its Romany strategy until 2020, the Czech government pledged to remove the pig farm from Lety. However, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said last year his government is not likely to find money to buy the pig farm, which is exactly what the previous governments had said. The originally labour and disciplinary camp in Lety was turned into a Gipsy one by the Nazis in August 1941. A total of 1308 Romanies passed through it until May 1943 and 327 of them died there. Another 500 were transferred to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) where most of them were murdered. Some 600 Romany prisoners returned from Nazi concentration camps after the war. It is estimated that the Nazis killed 90 percent Czech Romanies. A place of remembrance was opened in Lety in 2010.

According to estimates, 250,000 ethnic Romanies live in the Czech Republic that has 10.5 million inhabitants. One third of them live in poor ghettos and the number of these ghettos doubled over the past eight years.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Minister: Detention centres for refugees must improve

The conditions in the Czech detention centres for migrants must markedly improve as these facilities are even worse than prisons in some aspects, Justice Minister Robert Pelikan (for ANO) told public Czech Television (CT) Sunday.

4/10/2015- "The migrants do not stay in the facilities as punishment. They only committed an offence according to our law," Pelikan said. Despite this, the migrants don't know for how long they would stay in the facilities, unlike prisoners, he said. "This has horrible psychological effects (on the migrants)," Pelikan said. He pointed out that the asylum laws and reality are not in accordance. In reaction, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) warned against downplaying the problems with the migrants. "Many of them don't tell us their personal data and they don't cooperate with the authorities. We don't know whether they are a threat to the society," Chovanec told CTK. He said the Czech authorities have been respecting law. "I think that our country and its citizens have their rights as well," he added.
According to law, the migrants should be detained only to undergo the necessary procedures, Pelikan said. "In reality, however, I can see camps, in which these people are kept for many weeks. I expect this to lead to court disputes and I myself am eager to see how the disputes will end," he said. Even if several hundred of migrants filed complaints against their stays in the detention centres, it would not overburden Czech courts as such a number can be dealt with, Pelikan said. Moreover, these cases would be of the same kind and the solution to one case would be an example for all the others, he added. Chovanec said the migrants would file a lot of complaints after hearing such statements from the justice minister.

According to the foreigner police, 123 of over 2400 refugees who ended up in Czech detention centres from January to August have filed complaints. Czech courts have sided with 36 of them so far, CT said. CT reported that the Czech Bar Association started organising legal aid to the migrants. About 20 lawyers are ready to offer their services to them, CT said. Pelikan was the only member of the Czech government who did not share the negative stance on the mandatory quotas for the redistribution of refugees across Europe. The Czech Republic was one of few countries that opposed the quotas, but were outvoted. Pelikan told CT that the Czech Republic might offer the refugees on its territory to apply for asylum here, instead of bringing in refugees from Italy in a complicated way.

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) has put the EU Court of Justice a preliminary question that is to make it clear whether the detention of migrants where Czech law does not define objective criteria of "a serious danger of escape" is lawful. This concerns the foreigners who are to be relocated to another EU state to assess their asylum application. The relocation is based on Dublin directives. According to the NSS, the present Czech police practice in detaining foreigners has been predictable, it was based on the relevant law and it showed no signs of willfulness. But a Czech regional court recently decided that the Dublin directives require that individual EU countries legally define the objective criteria that would enable to assess a serious danger of escape in particular cases. Otherwise, foreigners must not be detained.

As a lot 'regular' media keep talking about refugees as 'migrants' (evidently it makes it sound more like it's their own fault that they drown) I've taken it upon myself to change the headlines when ever possible- Suzette, editor I CARE English news feed.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


German anti-Islam group vents fury at Merkel over refugee welcome

5/10/2015- Thousands of German anti-Islam protesters on Monday vented their fury at Chancellor Angela Merkel over her welcoming of refugees, accusing her of "high treason" and "crimes against the German people". With Europe's top economy expecting to take in up to a million people fleeing war and poverty this year, anger has flared among anti-foreigner groups and members of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement ("Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident"). "Merkel is guilty, commits ethnocide against the German people," read one banner at the rally in Dresden, the historic city in the former communist East where PEGIDA emerged about a year ago and, after a lull, is now looking to swell its ranks.

Waving flags, the agitated crowd cheered on co-founder Lutz Bachmann, 42, who was charged last week with inciting racial hatred by labelling asylum-seekers "animals", "trash" and "filthy rabble". "It won’t stop with 1.5 or two million" arrivals, he said. "They will have their wives come, and one, two, three children. It is an impossible task to integrate these people." One banner portrayed Merkel in a Nazi uniform, but the swastika symbol was replaced by a euro sign. "Islam is Europe's suicide" said another which carried a picture of a woman veiled in an EU flag shooting herself in the head.

"Merkel has to go -- we can do it!" they chanted, the second sentence an echo of Merkel's can-do message on managing the migrant influx. PEGIDA supporters also yelled "High treason is an offence". "When young healthy men leave a war zone to move to another country, you call them deserters, not refugees," one female protester said, without giving her name. Other placards read: "How many ISIS fighters among them 1.5 million?", picking up a new estimate of arrivals for 2015 published by Bild daily.

- 'We are the people' -
PEGIDA emerged about a year ago, with initially several hundred people showing up for "Monday strolls" in Dresden, and swelled in following months, spawning clone groups in other German towns and cities. At their peak, the xenophobic rallies attracted 25,000 marchers in Dresden, but also sparked far larger anti-fascist rallies in cities across Germany. The movement fizzled early this year following bickering among the leadership and after Bachmann sparked an uproar with his anti-foreigner slurs and Facebook selfies showing him sporting a Hitler moustache and hair-do. But the movement has again gained momentum as the influx of new arrivals has grown, drawing 10,000 to a march last week, media reports said. Police no longer provides crowd estimates.

"We are the people!" they yelled at Monday's demonstration, co-opting the slogan used by pro-democracy protesters whose demonstrations preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall. "I'm not a right-winger, but I'm scared," said Frank, 59, one of the few protesters who agreed to speak to AFP, on condition he not be fully named. "I think of my children and grandchildren," he said, voicing fears about the "Islamisation" of his country. "We fought for our freedom 25 years ago, we have to demonstrate again. "I am OK with welcoming sick and wounded refugees, but in the TV images we can see young men. Those are economic refugees," he added. Uwe Friedrich, 46, said he had been with PEGIDA since the start, and wanted Muslims to leave the country. He was waving a sign that read: "We have a right to our German homeland and German culture."

Another placard quoted Hungary's hawkish Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who recently described the refugee influx as "a German problem" -- raising the question: "Where are the life rafts for our children?" Another, more ominous sign read: "Resistance has become a duty against our country's destruction by Merkel & Co".


Germany: Migrant kids get entrance card to "Germany on wheels"

Migrant children may not attend regular day care centers and can have trouble integrating into German society. So social workers in caravans are bringing kindergartens to them. Reyhaneh Azizi reports from Gelsenkirchen.

4/10/2015- Children are running around the playground, some are playing cards with their teachers, others are doing physical exercise. This looks a lot like a regular kindergarten, but it isn't. The kids are all from migrant families and the classroom is on wheels, a "mobile kindergarten," or MoKi, that travels around Gelsenkirchen offering childcare and education. Established by the city council, MoKi sends social workers in two caravans outfitted as kindergartens to neighborhoods with high proportions of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants. When the caravans park and open their doors the children take off running, as if they had been eagerly awaiting their arrival. Each caravan is equipped with colored pencils, paper and picture books and can accommodate 25 to 30 children. Project coordinator Yvonne Bakenecker and her team of five do their best to make the children's day, especially since they only stay at each location for a few hours at a time. The MoKis go to different parts of the city on weekdays, usually visiting two different neighborhoods each day.

Multilingual playground
This afternoon, a girl and a boy are playing with cards. She hands him one and then promptly complains that he didn't thank her. "Danke schön," the boy says, to which the girl responds "bitte schön." Such small conversations in German are a gateway to integration. "The pedagogical goal is to teach the children German through simple words and short sentences," explains Kerstin Kutz, an educator and part of the MoKi staff. Although initially tailored to Romanian and Bulgarian kids in response to an influx of people from those countries last year, the MoKis have become a playground for refugee children from Syria and Iraq as well. Two members of Bakenecker's team speak Romanian, and another speaks Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish. Sometimes those children who have already learned a bit of German also help to translate for their parents.

Backup for desperate parents
Parents like four-year-old Sebastian's mother Loredana, from Romania, are pleased with the set up. "My son always asks me if he can go to MoKi when the caravans are there," she says. "He tells me what he has done, like singing a German song or doing handicraft work. Last time he gave me what he had created at MoKi." Displaced from their home countries, these families are poor, mostly illiterate, and in need of help in order to become part of German society. Parents sometimes turn to the MoKis for help when they don't know where else to go, Bakenecker says. The team also faces specific challenges in their work. Some of the children, especially those from Syria, have been traumatized by their experiences of war back home, Bakenecker explains. They may get scared when they see a toy plane, or scream and hide when real planes fly overhead.

Ultimately, the MoKis are meant to function as a bridge to regular day care centers. "The goal is that parents take the time to understand German child-care regulations before they go on with more structured institutions," says Holle Weiß, the head of Gekita, which developed the project for the Gelsenkirchen city council. And the project appears to have achieved some success: 10 children who started out in the MoKis began going to regular kindergartens this August.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Nordic states fret over migrant threat to borders

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in Copenhagen on Saturday said she feared for Europe's borderless Schengen zone and urged countries to shore up their external frontiers in the face of the migrant crisis.

3/10/2015- "The challenge for the Nordic region is not an internal one, but the fact that Schengen's outer borders have broken down," Solberg said. "We must now make sure that the outer borders work," she added as Europe struggles to cope with its worst refugee crisis since World War II. Schengen, which permits citizens of 26 states including non-EU member Norway to travel without passport formalities, is creaking under the strain of an unending flood of new arrivals with Germany, Austria and Slovakia reimposing border checks. Solberg, whose Conservative Party is in a ruling coalition with the anti-immigration Progress Party, echoed concerns over Schengen expressed by French President Francois Hollande on Thursday.

Speaking to AFP, Hollande said Schengen was "in danger" due to the absence of registration centres to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants as EU states seek to share out some 120,000 asylum seekers, most fleeing the war in Syria. Hollande said if there were no controls at the EU's external borders, states would feel obliged to restore national borders and controls "and it will be the end of Schengen." Solberg was speaking after a joint meeting with colleagues from fellow Nordic states hosted by Denmark. Norway controls an external EU frontier with Russia, a border which has been crossed by more than 250 Syrian refugees so far this year.

Sweden's Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said "all those who have the right to asylum should be given it. Those who do not have the right should be sent back." And Danish counterpart Lars Løkke Rasmussen agreed, saying: "Those who do not need protection should be sent back as quickly as possible." The crisis has sparked some disagreement between the Nordic states with Stockholm criticising Copenhagen for waving through some migrants to Sweden to make asylum claims. Finland then criticised Sweden for doing the same in allowing a group of mainly Iraqi migrants to cross the border to make their own claims.
© The Local - Denmark


Swedish taxi drivers 'ripping off refugees'

An investigation by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has discovered that many Swedish taxi drivers are charging refugees up to 15 times more than the standard fare for some journeys.

3/10/2015- While there were some drivers who offered free trips to refugees, many have been charging excessive fares. A trip that would usually cost 65 kronor in central Malmö has been costing up to 1,000 kronor. “I had to pay 400 kronor from the central station to Kontrapunkt social centre. First, we agreed on a price of 250, and then he wanted more when we arrived. I paid because I was afraid,” Hani Hamid, 30, an Iraqi refugee told Aftonbladet. “It is terrible to be exploiting this situation. I have heard that the refugees had to pay between 500 and 1,000 kronor to come to us. It must be stopped,” said Johanna Nilsson, coordinator of the Kontrapunkt social centre, which has been providing up to 300 refugees a day with food and somewhere to sleep.

Aftonbladet talked to five refugees who had taken a taxi to Kontrapunkt - all paid double rate or more. Some refugees reported that drivers had convinced them to accept the inflated prices by telling them that it was forbidden for refugees to stay out on the street. 31-year-old Amir who arrived with his wife and child from Syria, said his taxi driver took his last money. The driver had offered him a ride to Kontrapukt - although Amir had told him several times that he could not afford it. “He said we could go anyway. When we arrived, he demanded that I pay him. He threatened to take my bag if I did not pay. I got scared and gave him all my Turkish money - the equivalent of 200 kronor.” Some drivers have also been massively overcharging for trips from Malmö to Gothenburg, according to the newspaper.

“There is a big problem with the drivers that use refugees. Last night 22 people came by taxi from Malmö. They had all overpaid,” Katarina Gauffin, coordinator of Refugees Welcome Gothenburg told Aftonbladet. “They were charging 400 euros per person for a car with three or four refugees,” she said. According to official statistics quoted by the TT news agency, 73,000 people had applied for asylum in Sweden by the end of September, close to the 74,000 expected in the country in the whole of 2015. Last month alone, 24,306 people sought asylum in Sweden, a historically high figure that included 1,300 people on one single day.
© The Local - Sweden


Austria: Thousands Rally for Refugees in Vienna Amid Surge in Xenophobia

Austria’s far-right has been exploiting the influx of war refugees ahead of municipal elections.

3/10/M2015- ore than 20,000 people marched in the Austrian capital of Vienna Saturday to express solidarity with war refugees entering the country. The march doubled as a protest against Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, led by parliamentarian Heinz-Christian Strache, which has seen a boost in popularity due to its hardline stance against immigration. "We're very worried about Strache doing well in the Vienna election," a 28-year-old protester named Christof, who works for the city administration, told Reuters, sporting a badge with leader of the Freedom Party’s face crossed out.

Strache has vowed to protect what he calls Austria's “Christian” and “Western” identity from predominantly Muslim refugees. He is running for mayor of Vienna in the election set for October 11. He has called for a fence to be built around Austria to stop the flow of refugees. Protesters, including students and families with their children, marched towards parliament, holding up posters reading, "In with the refugees, out with the FPO," and "No walls around Europe.” More than 200,000 people, mostly from Syria, have entered Austria in the past few months. However, only 9,000 people have sought asylum in the country, with many more preferring to settle in the more welcoming environment of Germany.

The country's current centrist government has thus far expressed a positive attitude towards the refugees. Prime Minister Juha Sipila has even offered his own home to asylum-seekers. Meanwhile, in northern Europe, protesters in Finland were demanding the government crack down on refugees. "We want the state to take care of its own," Junes Lokka, one of about 400 protesters in the city of Tornio, told Reuters. "Instead of taking the asylum-seekers who come (through) Sweden, we should turn them back.” The government of Finland said on Friday that it expects to receive around 50,000 asylum-seekers this year, compared to 3,600 in 2014.
© Telesur TV


EU states urged to probe hate crimes, racism

European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has urged all EU member states to prosecute and investigate racism and hate crimes.

3/10/2015- "[The] Internet knows no borders; we clearly need better and [more] serious recording of hate crimes," Jourova said in Brussels on Thursday, the second day of a seminar on anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred. "It is unacceptable to hear that when a victim reports an assault, their case is dropped; how can we expect victims to trust in police forces?" she asked. Jourova’s comments are part of European Commission’s framework which wants EU member states to penalize hate speech, as verbal and physical violence against Muslims continues to rise in Europe. A Eurobarometer public opinion survey reported on Thursday that Muslims suffer from the lowest levels of social acceptance among all religious groups. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews also showed a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, with 73 percent of respondents saying they felt anti-Semitism online has become worse over the last five years.
© The Turkish Weekly


Headlines 2 October, 2015

Sweden's liberal reputation tarnished as race attacks rise

Perceived tolerant, amicable nature of Scandinavian nation fading as instances of discrimination and violence rise, according to UN study.

1/10/2015- Kyle James, a black New Yorker with a top job in banking, had been warned to expect problems in bars and nightclubs in Stockholm when he visited the city in July. But nothing prepared him for what happened when he entered a well-known bar with two black friends. After he had bought a drink, bouncers told him to leave; when he asked why, they dragged him outside, pepper-sprayed his eyes and pinned him to the ground. Police then handcuffed him and his friends. James, 32, was made to strip naked and spent the night without clothes in a cell. Laughing, police accused him of punching a bouncer, although there were many witnesses who said that he did not. “It was one of the most demeaning experiences of my life,” says James. “I always had the perception that people were forward-thinking and liberal in Scandinavia, but not even an animal should be treated in that way.” He tried to seek justice through the courts but after police dropped the case against him Swedish lawyers advised him not to press charges.

James’s experience may be more than an unfortunate but isolated incident, according to a recent report by the United Nations, which concludes that a rising level of racist violence and “Afrophobic” hate crimes in Sweden are “an extensive social problem”. “There continues to be a general Swedish self-perception of being a tolerant and humane society, which makes it difficult to accept that there could be structural and institutional racism faced by people of African descent,” says the report, which was presented to the UN human rights council on Monday. The country’s official philosophy of equality and respect for human rights “blinds” it to the racism faced by African-Swedes, it says. Hate crimes against the 200,000 or so black people of African origin in Sweden increased by more than 40% between 2008 and 2014, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, or BRÅ, with more than a fifth of incidents last year involving violence.

But broader attitudes to black people have also come under scrutiny after high-profile incidents, such as the occasion in 2012, when the then culture minister laughingly cut into the genital area of a cake depicting a stereotypical black woman connected to an artist’s grotesquely blacked-up face. Last month the mayor of Lidköping in central Sweden, a member of the ruling Social Democrat party, publicly defended the traditional name of “negroballs” to describe a popular chocolate cake. Swe-den’s official liberalism seems a paradox alongside high levels of discrimination, according to Tobias Hübinette, associate professor in intercultural studies at Karlstad University. “The welfare state takes care of you if you are inside the system, but access to the system is largely through work and partly through the residential market, which are highly segregated.”

Surveys suggest Swedish people’s attitudes are laudable, says Kitimbwa Sabuni of the National Association for African-Swedes. “But the problem is anti-racist values and practices are not the same thing. When it comes to anti-racist practices Sweden is so far behind.”  While Sweden has done much to address its past connections to the Third Reich and race biology, it has not begun to debate its involvement in the slave trade and the dehumanising ideology that made that possible, says Christer Mattsson, acting director of the Segerstedt Institute, Sweden’s new anti-extremism unit at Gothenburg University. “When you are unaware that this was a part of your past you do not present any strategies for redeeming yourself,” Mattson said. However, Adam Cwejman, author of Well-meaning Racism: How Anti-racism Makes People Victims, questions the impact of racism and stereotyping on ethnic groups’ varying levels of achievement. “We have a strong public consensus that we are trying to root out derogatory attitudes,” he says. “It would be better if we admitted that Sweden is one of the most tolerant nations in the world.”

This article was amended on 2 October 2015. An earlier version made a reference to “niggerballs”, which has been deleted. Both that term and “negroballs” are used and both are equally offensive. However, the latter is a more literal translation of the Swedish word.
© The Guardian


Czech Rep: Abuse of fear of migrants and Muslims is dangerous, says minister Dienstbier

2/10/2015- Abusing people's fear of migrants and Muslims in the political struggle is very dangerous mainly for mainstream parties most of which are moderate, Jiri Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD), Czech human rights and equal opportunities minister, told Czech journalists Friday. He said such procedure only plays into the hands of extremist groupings and it consequently turns against the mainstream parties. Dienstbier is in Brussels taking part in a round-table discussion on the prevention of anti-Semite and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe.

Dienstbier singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her courage. He said she has taken a principled stance on the issue, applying the humanitarian point of view. She has only "earned" a 3 percent decline in support for her approach. "She said it is a huge test, a huge burden, but we will have to manage it. She spoke for the Germans, but I would extend this to us, to all people in Europe," Dienstbier said.

He said he ascribes the Czechs' big fears of the arrival of the migrants, many of whom are Muslims, to the homogeneity of Czech society in many past decades. "People had few opportunities to get to learn people with a different cultural background," Dienstbier said. He said an estimated 10,000 Muslims live in the Czech Republic. "It is a deception to believe that lots of Islamists are flocking here. The people who are fleeing are doing so out of despair and they are fleeing precisely from the Islamists," Dienstbier said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Slovak far-right politician Kotleba blocks anti-extremist project

Banská Bystrica regional governor refuses to sign over funds to a local theater

1/10/2015- Banská Bystrica Region's Governor Marian Kotleba, leader of the small far-right People's Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), has rejected to sign an approved subsidy of about €7,000 granted to a cultural project against extremism in Slovak society. Kotleba, who surprisingly won the regional governor's post in 2013, is a supporter of the Nazi-sponsored wartime Slovak state. He organized protests against immigrants in reaction to the refugee crisis this year, and he organized marches against Romanies in the previous years. The Slovak Culture Ministry granted the subsidy to the puppet theater at the Crossroads (Na Rázcestí) from Banská Bystrica, central Slovakia, for a project promoting human rights and fighting xenophobia and racism. The project focuses on secondary school students and the Amnesty International organization participates in it. The theater cannot get the subsidy without Kotleba's consent.

Milan Uhrík, head of the regional office, said political training organised by foreign NGOs at schools and elsewhere should not be financially subsidized by the region. "The performances would be co-organized by the Amnesty International organization that repeatedly wilfully marked Slovaks as extremists over alleged discrimination against gypsies," Uhrík said. The Crossroads theater announced that it wants to carry out the project anyway and it started a fundraising campaign for its support. Along with other artist groups from central Slovakia, the theater issued a written statement labeling the steps taken by the regional authorities headed by Kotleba a new phenome-non of censorship. This summer, Kotleba's office refused to provide a subsidy to a festival organised by a local dance theater. After being appointed the governor, Kotle-ba removed from the regional office building the EU flag, which he called "an occupational blue rag." He labeled NATO a terrorist organization.
© The Prague Post


Opening remarks of Frans Timmermans at the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights

1/10/2015- Thank you very much. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that you are all here. This for me is already at the beginning a highlight in my career as a member of the European Commission. It is something that I have worked for for a year, and now that you are all here, I hope we can have a fruitful couple of days. I am very honoured by your presence at the first annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, and I strongly believe that we chose a topic that is of, I would almost say, existential importance to the future of Europe. This Colloquium is the first but it is not a one off. Fundamental rights is a responsibility I attach the highest importance to within my portfolio. I announced the Colloquium in the European Parliament a year ago, and I want to bring together once a year and around the same table, politicians, practitioners, institutions, NGOs, to build together a clear understanding of the situation of fundamental rights in Europe today.

Taking time to listen, to confront our experiences, is equally vital to every one of us in helping us deal with the difficult issues we all grapple with separately. And I think it is hugely symbolic that we have decided to devote this first Colloquium to antisemitism and anti-Muslim hated. I feel very strongly about both issues. We decided on this theme at the beginning of the year against the backdrop of devastating terrorist attacks, the ghastly rise of antisemitism it exemplified, the fear of a backlash it released, the general malaise in our society it revealed but also the wave of civic mobilisation that it sparked across Europe.

It was a crucial topic then and today, as hundreds of thousands in need of refuge are arriving on our shores and the capacity of our society for tolerance and inclusion is put to the test like never before. There couldn’t be a more burning issue. Europe is going through a period of crisis and turmoil, which is challenging the very values on which it was built. It is challenging the very fabric of European society and therefore the very fabric of European cooperation. The rise of antisemitism, the rise of Islamophobia, each in their own way are symptoms.

I know very well, ladies and gentlemen, that our decision to address both issues in the context of this Colloquium was a controversial one. Each is complex. Each is a unique phenomenon with its own roots, its own forms, its own impact. And each, yes, would deserve a Colloquium in its own right. We are not lumping them together. I know perfectly well that they are different phenomena with different histories, with different backgrounds, with different manifestations, with different levels of violence seen, etc etc. I know that very well. But what these phenomena do have in common is that they affect communities which are, each in their own way, seen as different from the majority, and which therefore risk being exposed and targeted when scapegoats are sought. But through their extreme nature and the difficult discussions they trigger, antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred are emblematic of other forms of hatred.

At the bottom of all forms of hatred, is the fact that you are targeted purely for who you are. No matter what you do, or what you say, you are targeted for who you are, something you can do nothing about. It’s just who you are. Whether it’s being scared of wearing your headscarf in public places, or covering your kippa with a baseball cap. Not being able to go about your daily business without a knot in your stomach, knowing the casual insults, the jokes, the abuse won’t go away. The fear that your child’s school, your local supermarket might be targeted by people who hate you for who you are.

About a year ago I started losing sleep over the headlines about Aliya: Europeans leaving Europe, today’s Europe, because they no longer see, as Jews, a future for themselves here. Without our Jewish community, Europe would cease to exist. Europe would simply cease to exist. When you know about European history, you know that the darker, uglier forces in our societies always turn first against minorities. Always turn first against Jews. And when you know anything about European history, you know that antisemitism is a triple red line, never, ever to be crossed, for our collective sanity. Antisemitism is not just terrible for the Jewish community, it is like a fever in an infected body; it points at a much wider problem. Antisemitism left unchallenged will create a much, much bigger problem in any society, that is what European history teaches us. So tackling antisemitism is an essential operation to save what we cherish in our society.

The fact that today, in Europe, antisemitism is still a reality, and that it is in fact on the rise – old antisemitism that we have known for centuries, and new antisemitism, that sometimes tries to hide itself behind anti-Zionism – is something we need to confront. I don’t want European children to grow up with police at their school gates; it is a dark, dark stain on our collective conscience.

There is a book by one of my favourite German authors, Erich Maria Remarque. It’s called ‘Liebe deinen Nächsten’ – I think the title in English is ‘Flotsam’. He wrote it in 1939, and it tells the story of three Jewish exiles drifting across Europe. Their daily fears. The grim reality of exile. It’s been with me every day these past few weeks. Now that we see the waves of refugees reaching our continent – and these refugees are actually going through exactly the same experience as the Jewish refugees were from Germany in the 1930s, sometimes deeply traumatised by what they experienced back home, like the characters in Remarque’s books. Sometimes met with extreme forms of deep humanity by the people in the countries where they arrive, but also met with racism, violence, discrimination in the countries where they arrive.

So we never learn. We never learn. It is no different. The only thing that is different is that the refugees today come from somewhere else and have a different background. In the past weeks, we have seen tremendous solidarity in some of our Member States. But we have also seen the dark side of society. We have seen the homes of asylum seekers set on fire. And we have heard political leaders declare that their countries would not accept refugees if they were Muslim. Anti-Muslims incidents are multiplying across Europe. We’re seeing a huge spike of attacks. Verbal insinuations, closed-mindedness, prejudice, discrimination.

The rise of islamophobia is the one of the biggest challenges in Europe. It is a challenge to our vital values, to the core of who we are. Never has our societies’ capacity for openness, for tolerance, for inclusion been more tested than it is today. Diversity is now in some parts of Europe seen as a threat. Diversity comes with challenges. But diversity is humanity’s destiny. There is not going to be, even in the remotest places of this planet, a nation that will not see diversity in its future. That’s where humanity is heading. And those politicians trying to sell to their electorates a society that is exclusively composed of people from one culture, are trying to portray a future based on a past that never existed, therefore that future will never be.

Europe will be diverse, like all other parts of the world will be diverse. The only question is, how do we deal with that diversity? And my answer to that is, by ensuring that our values determine how we deal with diversity and not giving up our values to refuse diversity. That will bring us down as a society. If we don’t get this right, I truly believe Europe will not remain the Europe we built. Europe will not remain a place of peace and freedom, for very long. Ladies and gentlemen, we are all here to listen. I am here to listen. And I want to encourage you to share your experiences, but above all your ideas on very concrete ways in which we can fight back against hatred and intolerance in Europe. Think about the things we could do in education; create meeting places where people can come together. Look how we can tackle hate speech on the Internet and in other places.

Together, we will take stock of the main challenges faced by the Jewish and Muslim Communities in Europe today. And together, we will explore solutions, from the fight against hate crime and hate speech to the role of civil society, education and local authorities to policies promoting non-discrimination and inclusion. This round table is not just symbolic. This table, around it, we have an enormous wealth of experience and insight which can help us find new ideas and solutions. Together with Commissioner Jourova, we would like each and every one of us to leave tomorrow with a to-do list of very concrete points, of very concrete commitments. The importance we attach to fighting antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred also means that we do not just want to listen to you and your concerns today.

It means that we remain there to listen and help also when this Colloquium is over. For this reason, Commissioner Jourova and I have decided that we will designate, within the Commission, two coordinators with specific responsibility for following issues relating to one, antisemitism and the other, Islamophobia. So one coordinator responsible to be your contact point on issues relating to antisemitism, another coordinator responsible as your point of contact for issues related to Islamophobia. And these two persons within our services will have direct access to me. So whatever you say to them lands on my desk immediately. I want to be in direct control of this I will be your envoy if you want to call it that. I will have two people in my services whose task it will be one, to make sure that the issue of antisemitism is her or his main activity, and the other, Islamophobia, and that they report to me directly so I know what I need to do when there is an issue at hand.

I look forward to your exchanges – and have no doubt that they will be lively. You know, what makes us Europeans is not just the capacity to express ourselves and to be understood, but more than that it is the capacity to listen to others even if we don’t agree with what they have to say. Thank you very, very much for your attention.

The above press release was issued by the European Commission on October 1, 2015 4:22 pm.

© New Europe

Commission holds Colloquium as survey shows 50% of Europeans believe religious discrimination is widespread

On 1-2 October, the European Commission hosts the first Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, in Brussels.

1/10/2015- First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Věra Jourová will lead discussions on how to fight antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe and foster tolerance and respect in our societies. The challenge is highlighted by data from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights on antisemitic offences, published yesterday, and by a new Eurobarometer survey on discrimination, published today.

Statistics published in the Eurobarometer survey on discrimination show that:
@ 50% of Europeans believe discrimination based on religion or beliefs is widespread (up from 39% in 2012);
@ 33% believe that expressing a religious belief can be a disadvantage when applying for a job (up from 23% in 2012);
@ Muslims suffer from the lowest levels of social acceptance among religious groups, with only 61% of respondents stating that they would be fully comfortable with a colleague at work being Muslim, and only 43% being fully comfortable if their adult children had a relationship with a Muslim person.
@ The EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews shows rising antisemitism in Europe; 73% of respondents felt that antisemitism online has become worse over the last five years.

Looking ahead to the Colloquium, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "European society is going through a period of turmoil and crisis which is challenging the very values on which our Union is built. The horrific events in Paris and Copenhagen at the beginning of this year have made clear the need for urgent action. In these times of crisis, the capacity of our society for tolerance and inclusion is put to the test. Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, although very different in history, origins and impact, are both manifestations of this challenge. Our collective responsibility to live together in tolerance and respect is particularly important at a time when we have a moral obligation to give refuge to people of various religions and cultures who arrive on our shores. Diversity must never be seen as a threat. It is our common responsibility to create and nurture an inclusive society."

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová added: "Every victim of hate crime or discrimination is one victim too many. One in five people in the EU from a religious minority say they have experienced discrimination or harassment on the grounds of religion or beliefs in the past 12 months. This is unacceptable. I call upon Member States to properly apply European legislation and take action against racist and xenophobic hate speech and hate crime. This Colloquium is about sharing concrete experiences and ideas from across the EU, and deciding how we will move forward together. Hate speech has no place in our society – whether physically or online. I will be working hard with national governments, EU institutions and the private sector, including IT companies, to counter online hate speech."

The European Union is based on the fundamental value of equality. This implies freedom from discrimination on any grounds, including discrimination on grounds of religion. The principle of non-discrimination is translated into the legislative framework through several instruments which are directly applicable in Member States or which require national implementation. The Colloquium will review the state of play of the legislative body, and also look at other policy options and supporting actions to fight antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate crime and hate speech online, fight discrimination and foster tolerance and respect. Participants at the Colloquium will include members of the Jewish and Muslim communities, national and local authorities, NGOs, companies, media representatives and individuals. They will exchange best practices on the fight against antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred and discuss steps for further action.

The Colloquium will draw on input from a public consultation carried out in April and May ahead of the event. Respondents highlighted the different origins of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, the need for both holistic and tailored responses, calls for better application of existing legislation, and efforts to promote better education and dialogue between communities. Participants will focus on preventing antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crime, tackling hate speech online, the role of local authorities, education and grassroots projects, and the current state of non-discrimination policies.
© The EUropean Commission


European Commission wants EU states to fight hate speech

-New research points to rising level of anti-Muslim prejudice and anti-Semitism in Europe

1/10/2015– The European Commission wants EU member states to penalize hate speech, as verbal and physical violence against Muslims are on the rise in Europe. A Eurobarometer public opinion survey reported on Thursday that Muslims suffer from the lowest levels of social acceptance among all religious groups. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews also showed a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, with 73 percent of respondents saying they felt anti-Semitism online has become worse over the last five years. Speaking at the first seminar on combatting anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Brussels on Thursday, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The horrific events in Paris and Copenhagen at the beginning of this year have made clear the need for urgent action.” “In these times of crisis, the capacity of our society for tolerance and inclusion is put to the test,” he said. “Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred, although very different in history, origins and impact, are both manifestations of this challenge.”

According to Eurobarometer, 50 percent of Europeans believe discrimination based on religion is widespread; this figure is up from 39 percent in 2012. This report comes as European governments have failed to agree on how to distribute thousands of incoming refugees – mostly from the Middle East – across the 28-nation bloc. The European Commission said in a statement on Thursday the “current refugee crisis has seen a great deal of negative language and hate speech resurfacing about those arriving, with far-right movements and populist discourses exploiting the situation”. “Worrying verbal and physical attacks, including online hate speech targeting asylum seekers and refugees have been reported in a number of countries,” it added. While Slovakia has made clear it will only accept Christian refugees and not Muslims. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has described the influx of refugees as a threat to Europe’s “Christian roots”.

European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said during Thursday’s seminar that penalizing hate speech should not exempt politicians. “The law must be valid for everybody and if a politician himself does something like this and incites hatred through what he says, the law must be applied to such a person. “I must say that we expect member states to take action when there will be appearance of such a crime,” she said.
© News Fulton County


Georgia: Two Nigerians beaten in Tbilisi, two suspects detained

Police in Georgia Sunday detained two Georgian for beating two Nigerians in Tbilisi.

29/9/2015- The attacked happened on September 19 when one Georgian citizen and his two Nigerian friends were walking on Rustaveli Avenue in the capital. They were attacked by two Georgians, who beat and insulted the two Nigerians and later disappeared, according to the Interior Ministry. After being detained, both attackers pleaded guilty, the ministry said. An investigation has been launched for conspiracy to commit hate crime based on race. On September 21, before the police responded to the incident, a video was posted on the Facebook page of the so-called group Georgian Ultras. It showed a group of people, who would call themselves Bergman, attacking foreigners in the street. The video was likely posted by them under the name “Bergman against niggers”. It was later deleted but re-uploaded by journalists. The group targets victims on the basis of race or ethnic background.
© Democracy & Freedom Watch


Prevent and combat anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred focus of EU's Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights

Preventing and combating anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe’’ will be the topic of this week’s annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in the EU organized by the European Commission in Brussels.

28/9/2015- ‘’A steady rise in anti-Semitic incidents observed in recent years, culminating in fatal terrorist attacks in several EU countries, has added to the mounting fear and security concerns of European Jews,’’ the Commission said. This situation has added to the unease felt by many European Jews. Jewish institutions are placed under increasing military or police protection and an increasing number of Jews in Europe are considering emigrating due to security concerns. ‘’Worrying trends have also been observed with regard to anti-Muslim hatred, with growing evidence of an increase in verbal and physical violence,’’ the Commission noted. While the two phenomena differ in origins, history, manifestations and impacts, both exemplify a worrisome increase in hate incidents in Europe.

The Brussels Colloquium will look at trends and underlying reasons for anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the European Union, their impact on people's lives and rights and will explore ways to counter indifference in society at large. It will also explore the most relevant avenues to address these phenomena, and examine to what extent they require specific or common responses. Focus will be placed on projects, policies and legislation designed to combat hate crime, online hate speech and discrimination. ‘’This Colloquium meets in the form of a round table which will allow key stakeholders to discuss on an equal footing and in an interactive manner the role of EU and international institutions, Member States, local authorities, civil society, community and religious leaders, the media, education and the world of employment in developing a culture of inclusive tolerance and respect in the European Union.’’

The Colloquim, on 1-2 October will be hosted by European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. European Parliament President Martin Schulz will address the opening session together with Timmermans and Felix Braz, Justice Minister of Luxembourg, the country which currently chairs the European Union. A panel discussion on specific challenges linked to anti-Semitism will feature European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, Jane Braden-Golay, from the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and Rabbi Albert Guigui, Chief Rabbi of Brussels. According to the EJC, Kantor will provide ‘’practical steps that can be taken at the European and national state level to increase protection, both legal and law enforcement, which will provide the Jewish community with a greater sense of security in Europe.’’
© EJP News


Netherlands: Utrecht primary schools dump Zwarte Piet

30/9/2015- Utrecht primary schools will hold Sinterklaas festivities without the controversial character of Zwarte Piet, the primary education association SPO announced on Wednesday. The decision was taken by the SPO and school heads and is based on the basic assumption that everyone is equal, the SPO said. ‘This means that in the 33 SPO Utrecht schools there is no discrimination on any grounds whatsoever, and the character of Zwarte Piet has racist aspects,’ an SPO spokesman said.

The SPO said it does not want children to be upset or offended by the education offered at their schools and had looked for a respectful way of celebrating Sinterklaas. ‘This is why Zwarte Piet has been scrapped from the celebrations at our schools,’ the association said. It is up to each individual school to decide what sort of festivities will be held during this year’s Sinterklaas celebration.

Primary schools in The Hague said earlier this month that the classic blackface character of Zwarte Piet is no longer welcome. All school heads in the city agreed to make changes which will see Piet lose his red lips, curly hair, earrings and black skin. Nor will he appear as a servant, the AD reported. In Amsterdam and Utrecht some schools have ditched the traditional Piet character on a voluntary basis. And in August, the Bijenkorf department store group said it is replacing the traditional automated climbing Piets which decorate its main halls every Sinterklaas with golden versions. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said in a new report on the Netherlands that even a ‘deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices and stereotypes’.
© The Dutch News


Italian police clear migrant tent camp on French border

Italian police have cleared a makeshift migrant encampment near the French border. The camp in Ventimiglia was formed after France in June set up border checks to prevent onward movement of migrants.

30/9/2015- The camp was cleared early Wednesday as some migrants gathered along the seaside and protested, with one banner reading "We want freedom to cross the border." Some 50 migrants - mostly from Africa - and activists remained by the time the police arrived. Many others in the camp that holds up to 250 people had left following a police warning on Tuesday. "They have to move, I'm not sure at the moment where they'll be taken... but this situation could not go on. We understand why they are protesting but the camp was illegal," Ventimiglia Mayor Enrico Ioculano told Italian media. A police spokesperson said the camp was being cleared because the migrants were using electricity and water without paying.

Border restrictions
The sprawling tent camp became the center of a row between France and Italy earlier this summer. Paris heightened border checks between the two Schengen zone countries in June to prevent the migrants from entering its territory. The Schengen zone allows for passport-free travel between member states. France did not want to let the migrants cross the border because the EU's so-called Dublin rules require the country where migrants first entered the EU to register and process asylum applications. Many migrants, not wanting to register in Italy where job prospects are weak, attempt to enter richer northern European countries before applying for refuge. Italy has been accused of letting the migrants head north to avoid the financial burden of handling asylum cases.

Both Italy and Greece as well as Balkan and central European countries have been at the forefront of a wave of migrants trying to flee economic hardship and conflict in Africa and the Middle East. Out of nearly 500,000 migrants who have arrived in Europe this year, at least 130,000 have arrived on Italy's shores after braving the dangerous sea journey across the Mediterranean. Last week, the EU agreed to a contentious plan to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers to ease the burden on Italy and Greece. The plan will also set up "hotspots," or reception centers in countries where migrants first enter the EU to determine whether they are economic migrants to be deported or asylum seekers in need of protection.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Croatia: Belgrade-Zagreb Row Unsettles Croatian Serb Minority

Representatives of the Serb community in Croatia said that the ongoing dispute between Belgrade and Zagreb over the increased flow of refugees could have worrying consequences for the minority.

28/9/2015- Deteriorating relations between Belgrade and Zagreb over the influx of refugees, which saw politicians employing hardline rhetoric and a temporary closure of the two countries’ mutual border, has seriously worried Croatian Serbs, Sasa Milosevic from the Serbian National Council in Croatia told BIRN. “Experience tells us that the very first victims of deteriorating relations between Croatia and Serbia are minorities. So it is rational to expect problems,” Milosevic said. No incidents have been reported during last week’s heightened tensions over the border closure. But according to a report published this summer by the Serbian National Council, violence ncreased significantly 2014. The report linked the increase to an ethnically divisive campaign led by war veterans protesting against the introduction of bilingual signs in Croatian Latin and Serb Cyrillic on official buildings in the wartime flashpoint town of Vukovar.

This year has seen Zagreb and Belgrade trade accusations over Croatia’s 20th anniversary celebrations of its victory over Serb forces in ‘Operation Storm’, and further tensions caused by the release of Serbian nationalist leader and war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj from custody in The Hague. This led to politicians and media reviving nationalist rhetoric that brought back memories of the 1990s. Nenad Djurdjevic from the Belgrade-based Forum for Ethnic Relations NGO said that both politicians and media “contribute to stereotypes, xenophobia and the continuation of the 1990s war in a verbal way”. “It will be very bad if this situation continues and if the rhetoric has consequences for the minorities [in Croatia],” Djurdjevic told BIRN. Zarko Puhovksi, a Zagreb-based political analyst, argued that the core of the current dispute between Croatia and Serbia lies in the fact that Croatia is now an EU member state. “It has brought Croatia into such a dominant position that it was logical to expect that one of the politicians would eventually start using it,” Puhovski told BIRN. “What is certain is that this all influences the relations between the two countries and their reconciliation process very negatively,” he said.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO on Friday organised protest events in both Zagreb and Belgrade under the banner ‘Ne igrajte se devedesetih’ (‘Don’t Play Games with the 1990s’). It also sent a letter to Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, calling for an end to divisive rhetoric. “It is still not too late for you to choose cooperation instead of conflict. Therefore we ask you to stop playing games with the 1990s. We all remember vividly how dearly we paid for the 1990s conflicts in lives, property and insecurity. It is clear that we know better than you it is not a game,” the letter said. According to the 2011 census, there are 186,633 Serbs in Croatia - 4.4 per cent of the population. Since the last census in the former Yugoslavia in 1991, their numbers have fallen by around 400,000.
© Balkan Insight


Austrian vice chancellor threatens to quit coalition government

30/9/2015- Austria's vice chancellor and leader of the Conservative Party threatened to quit the coalition government on Wednesday if his Social Democrat partners do not toughen their policies on migrants and shrink the welfare state. Reinhold Mitterlehner's conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) suffered an election blow on Sunday, losing votes in provincial elections to the far-right, anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO). On the national level, the FPO has scored around 30 percent in recent opinion polls, overtaking both the Social Democrats and Conservatives who have traditionally ruled Austria in coalitions since World War Two. "I say it honestly: I am not prepared to be a passive traveler on a fateful path after the election in (the province of) Upper Austria," Mitterlehner, who is also Economy Minister, told newspaper Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten.

Mitterlehner said the government needed to shrink the state and be firm in its selection of migrants who received protection in order to win back votes. "We will sharpen these points... If we don't clearly prove in the near future, I mean in the coming months, that we want to, and can, govern, then there is no sense in muddling through in the long term," he was quoted as saying in the interview posted on the newspaper's website. "I am not available for such a thing." Austria, wedged between Hungary and Germany, has been a center of the migration crisis unfolding across Europe as tens of thousands of people, many of them fleeing war and poverty in countries like Syria, try to reach northern Europe. In September alone about 170,000 migrants, most dropped at the Hungarian-Austrian border by Hungarian authorities, arrived in Austria, a nation of 8.5 million, according to Chancellor Werner Faymann.

FPO national leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who is running to become Vienna's mayor next month, wants to give preferential treatment to Christian migrants over Muslims to protect what he calls Austria's western character. The OVP holds 51 seats in Austria's 183-seat parliament, or National Council, one less than the Social Democrats (SPO). The next national election is scheduled for 2018.
© Reuters


Austria: Rise of Right Lengthens Shadow of Nazi Era

29/9/2015- As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister. Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish man cleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget. Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?

Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment. But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent. Riding a wave of anxiety over the tens of thousands of migrants entering Austria this month, the Freedom Party finished second, with just over 30 percent of the vote, in regional elections in northern Austria on Sunday.

The Freedom Party’s strident anti-Islam message seems to have struck a chord in a city whose palaces speak of the bygone glory of a multiethnic European empire, and whose public spaces now attest to increasing diversity and a Muslim population of some 12 percent. “We don’t want an Islamization of Europe,” the party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, told Austria’s public broadcaster as he began his campaign to be Vienna’s mayor. “We don’t want our Christian-Western culture to perish.” In Germany, such sentiments exist on the fringe of politics. In Austria, which never underwent denazification programs after 1945, the Freedom Party has morphed from its roots in groups of former Nazis to a xenophobic message that it blends with concern for the little guy. It is a message that the party’s charismatic leader, Jörg Haider, rode briefly into national government, and it has thrived beyond his death in a car crash in 2008.

In the last Vienna elections, in 2010, the Freedom Party vaulted to more than 25 percent of the vote, a gain of over 10 percentage points. By this summer, opinion polls suggested, the far-right party had pulled almost level with the Social Democrats, who got 44 percent in 2010. Both now hover just above 30 percent. The causes are manifold, including unemployment that has risen to more than 10 percent and dissatisfaction with the longtime mayor, Michael Häupl. His working-class base is eroding; others fault him for failing to end cozy patronage systems that favor the powerful over the poor. What everyone is wondering now is what effect the migrants will have. Thousands of Viennese have greeted tens of thousands of refugees arriving from Hungary this month. The national government, which had long flailed on the issue, found a firm voice and strongly criticized Budapest for putting refugees on trains that led them not west to Austria, but to a camp in Hungary. This, said Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, “brings up memories of our Continent’s darkest period.”

Like Germany, Austria loudly advocates asylum for refugees. Its projected total of applicants, many from the Middle East, is 80,000 this year, meaning that, like Germany’s, its population may grow by 1 percent. But its image as a caretaker for waves of refugees over decades — Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, East Germans and former Yugoslavs escaping Communism or war — suffered this summer. Its main refugee center at Traiskirchen was found to be squalid, with inadequate medical care and more than 1,000 people sleeping in the open. When the authorities refused to admit a group from Doctors Without Borders, leftists seethed. When a reporter visited the camp in late August, conditions had improved, although tents still provided shelter for 1,200 of the 3,000 people there. Austrians shocked by the conditions had brought so many clothes, toys and other goods that containers overflowed with rejects.

Opponents of the far right hope events — the greeting of the migrants and the discovery of 71 corpses in a truck abandoned by smugglers — have turned the tables on Mr. Strache. “These are experiences which will not be forgotten so quickly,” said Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof, a columnist for the center-left weekly Profil. Indeed, Austria’s tabloids switched from headlines about the chaos brought by refugees to images of warm welcomes, although the arrival of tens of thousands may strain slender resources. Not everyone is optimistic. “The people are ready to help,” said Hans Rauscher, a columnist for the Vienna newspaper Der Standard. “But don’t kid yourself. You only have to listen to the gossip in the bars” to know that anti-Muslim feeling runs high.

Far-right supporters are often reticent around foreigners, and Freedom Party leaders generally shun what they view as critical news outlets. But a Vienna activist took a reporter to a “Speakers’ Corner” in a district where the Freedom Party vote has grown steadily. To judge by this gathering of about 30 of the party faithful, the left has little to fear. The microphone and speakers’ platform never showed up; the event was a washout. It did, however, provide a rare opportunity to talk to just over a half-dozen people in their 20s about why they support the far right. They railed against corruption, poor city transportation and the fears of older adults who, they said, could not venture out at night. They kept a disciplined focus on local affairs. “That’s national level,” said Stephan Promont, 20, when asked about the refugees.

The only national figure present, Harald Stefan, a Freedom Party deputy in Parliament, made clear his sympathy for Hungary’s tough stance. “The Germans were to blame,” he said of the refugee surge that followed a message on Twitter from a German official widely read as saying all Syrians could enter. “You can’t blame Hungary for that.”  The Freedom Party’s campaign, titled “October Revolution,” preserves the jingoism the party has made its own. “Vienna should not become Chicago” was a favorite slogan back in the 1990s. This year, one motto is “Respect for our culture instead of false tolerance” for anything un-Austrian. Some immigrants are acceptable: For Mr. Strache, “the Serbian Christian Orthodox” — about 100,000 people here — “are his allies against the Turks,” Mr. Rauscher said.

To counter Mr. Strache, the Social Democrats compiled a “Blue Book” of his deeds and speeches. In the introduction, Mayor Häupl writes: “History books tell us enough about where things can lead if demagogues get power. We want to make sure that no new chapters have to be written. That is why the coming elections in Vienna are decisive, and not just for our city.”
© The New York Times


People in NI less welcoming to minorities than before - report

Author of University of Manchester study says intolerance also linked to sectarianism

28/9/2015- People living in Northern Ireland are less welcoming to its ethnic minority population than in previous years, according to a new report. A study by the University of Manchester on Changing Attitudes in the North shows that between 2010 and 2013, people became less willing to accept Eastern Europeans, Muslims and others in their communities. The report - Love thy Neighbour? Exploring Prejudice against Ethnic Minority Groups in a Divided Society: the Case of Northern Ireland - reveals that in 2010, 76 per cent would have accepted an Eastern European as a relative by marriage, but by 2013 this had fallen to 53 per cent. The corresponding figures for Muslims indicated a fall from 51 per cent to 40 per cent. Muslims are said to be the least accepted group at all levels of closeness, even as tourists, with almost 50 per cent of those surveyed reporting never having contact with Muslims.

Frequent contact
The study suggests there is most frequent contact with Eastern Europeans, almost 20 per cent having daily contact, and that Catholics tend to accept this group even if they have little contact with them. Intolerance is also linked to sectarianism, according to the report’s author, Rebecca McKee. “Those who are most hostile to mixed marriages between Protestants and Catholics are least accepting of ethnic minorities,” she said. Economic self-interest, such as fears about competition for jobs, was said to play a role. “Those whose situation is most precarious are least accepting of Eastern Europeans, but this has no effect on their views of Muslims,” the study noted. “While Catholics are more accepting than Protestants of ethnic minorities overall, the greatest differences are with regard to Muslims.”
Enhance engagement

Patrick Yu from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) said more must be done to enhance engagement between communities and to tackle sectarianism and racism in the North. “During economic downturns, migrants and minorities are an easy scapegoat,” he said. “The government and civil society need to be clear on the difference between fact and fiction. There are a lot of misconceptions about migrants taking social housing and jobs.” Earlier this year, annual PSNI statistics indicated increases across all but one of the six hate crime types recorded in 2014/15 compared with the previous year. The number of racist incidents increased by 374 from 982, to 1,356, while racist crimes increased by 230 from 691, to 921.
© The Irish Times.


German reunification 25 years. Why are former East Germans responsible for so much xenophobic violence?

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of German reunification. And since the radical reunion of East and West at the end of the Cold War, Germany has become Europe’s undisputed leader.

By Brandon Tensley

2/10/2015- Yet beneath Germany’s success runs an ongoing undertow of xenophobia, flaring up in incidents ranging from mob rage to murder sprees. Moreover, a disproportionate amount of this violence has taken place either in the East or by former East Germans. In fact, Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior estimates that, in 2014, 47 percent of 130 anti-foreigner crimes nationwide took place in the East, where only 17 percent of the population lives. Why is xenophobic violence over-represented in Germany’s formerly communist east, given that it was there that a supposedly international-minded government ruled for four decades? Following other scholars who have studied East Germany (including Robert Rohrschneider, Lee Ann Banaszak  and Sarah Glatte and Catherine de Vries), I used unified Germany as a sort of natural laboratory to see if an explanation for its present-day xenophobia might lie in its communist past. Indeed, the creation of two Germanys in 1949 and their sudden reunification some 40 years later has presented scholars with a novel way to compare individuals within a newly democratized state to similar individuals who were socialized in older political regimes.

And what I learned is that socialization matters more than we think. To dive into socialization’s effects on attitudes, I used the 2006 German General Social Survey to split former East and West Germans into four birth cohorts, based on which of the following periods they grew up in: Nazi Germany (cohort 1), before the Berlin Wall was built (cohort 2), after the Berlin Wall was built (cohort 3), or in the waning days of communism (cohort 4). The figure below shows that, all else being equal, successive generations of West Germans became significantly less xenophobic immediately after World War II (or, in academic jargon, their predicted probability of being anti-foreigner dropped about 25 percent). The same wasn’t true for their East German cousins, whose attitudes were far more steadily xenophobic. For additional evidence, I trawled through archival documents, from Cold War-era newspaper clippings to personal memoirs, to unearth the subtle and unsubtle ways that the East German government might have supported, and even built, a hierarchy, always with foreigners at the bottom.

Take the large presence of Mozambicans and Vietnamese in East Germany. By the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, there were some 15,000 Mozambicans and 60,000 Vietnamese in Germany’s eastern parts. These mostly male foreigners went as contract workers to fill the country’s gnawing postwar demand for cheap labor. However, the East German government used a sprawling system of administrative controls to limit foreigners’ contact with the rest of civil society. For instance, workers were often siloed away in buildings on the peripheries of cities. Workers who broke regulations faced having their contracts terminated and being sent home. And for female contract workers who became pregnant, there were only two options: abort or go home. In part, as a result of these policies, about 60 percent of East Germans stated that they had no contact with foreigners and knew little about them.

Some did, of course, and even wrote about these interactions. Anetta Kahane, who was born into a Jewish family in East Berlin, is one of Germany’s most prominent voices for minority rights. In 1998, she founded the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, an anti-discrimination organization named after an Angolan contract worker who was killed by skinheads in the East just a month after reunification. She describes East Germany’s simmering xenophobia in her autobiography Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst (“I see what you don’t see”), in which she writes that foreigners
spoke of . . . how the doors of streetcars would be closed in their noses. . . . They spoke of the more or less blatant racism of their children’s teachers, of the atmosphere against foreigners in various businesses and shops, of attacks against sailors from North Africa, and of the particular way in which people with children would avoid them in public.

The East German government’s failure to promote a culture of tolerance stemmed, at least in part, from its exceptionally flawed political posturing. The West German government inherited the status of Nazi Germany’s successor state, and in doing so, it was confronted with hard questions of National Socialism’s bruising legacy. Indeed, Hitler’s regime was, in a way, the original sin of West German national identity. The East German government, however, decided that East Germany wasn’t merely a new state, but also an anti-fascist one, and there clearly couldn’t be xenophobic hate in an anti-fascist state, which was thereby freed from having to deal with the rattling bones of history.

Of course, not everyone from the former East Germany harbors anti-foreigner beliefs. German Chancellor Angela Merkel hails from the East, and she’s been explicitly welcoming to the thousands of refugees currently spilling across Germany’s borders. A violent minority, animated by xenophobic impulses, clearly hasn’t been able to sink the country, and Merkel has been the only leader to tackle the crisis with equal parts empathy and pragmatism. What’s more, West Germany hardly had a spotless reckoning with its Nazi past. The country was silent in the 1950s about the atrocities borne out of National Socialism. When asked if her family had ever thought about moving to the West, Kahane said, "That was never an alternative for my family. My father would never have wanted to go to West Germany, where almost every higher-standing civil servant was a former Nazi. This really turned him off". Still, it’s important to emphasize that xenophobia in East Germany didn’t begin with reunification, in contrast to the many contemporary myths that blame reunification’s dark alchemy of economic hardship and increased foreigner visibility.

The xenophobia constructed and propped up by the East German government continues to have crucial implications today. Especially for non-white foreigners, East Germany had rigid boundaries around identity that determined who was a part of society and who was relegated to its fringes. There was little political push to change this narrative after reunification. Under Helmut Kohl, Germany’s chancellor until 1998, Germany wasn’t a country of immigration. Rather than ending the ethno-national divisions of the Cold War, reunification merely displaced them. There continues to be a very specific image of what it means to be (or, more exactly, to look) German. But triggered most recently by the refugee crisis, former East and West Germans alike are being called on to challenge this decades-old notion of belonging.

Brandon Tensley is a 2015-2016 Luce Scholar in Thailand, where he writes on democratic transitions and minority rights in Southeast Asia. He was a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar in Germany and is a graduate of the University of Oxford.
© The Washington Post - World Blogs


Germany: Lawyer admits to 'fake' client in Munich neo-Nazi trial

A lawyer in the trial against the far-right group NSU has said a client he represented in the case may not have existed. The client - a woman - was supposed to be a victim of a 2004 bomb attack in Cologne.

2/10/2015- Lawyer Ralph Willms had been representing the client, Meral K. since the beginning of the trial against the NSU (National Socialist Underground) in May 2013, German "Der Spiegel" reported on Friday. According to the German magazine, Willms is believed to have filed a report regarding the matter and withdrawn from the case. "Der Spiegel" tweeted the news with the comment "A purported joint plaintiff in the NSU trial apparently does not exist." However, the regional court in Munich, which is hearing the case, declined to comment, saying it had not received any communication from Willms. The issue came to light earlier this week when presiding Judge Manfred Götzl demanded that Willms reveal his client's whereabouts. The lawyer's efforts to present Meral K. in court had proven fruitless.

Fraudster at large
In a message through his legal assistants, Willms said he had been cheated by another purported victim of the attack. This man is supposed to have presented the non-existent Meral K. as a client to Willms, but the two were never able to meet in person due to the client's living in Turkey and poor health. According to "Spiegel," Willms had also presented the court with medical certificate issued to Meral K. by a doctor in 2004. An identical document was apparently used by the same person who brought Meral K.'s case to Willms. Willm's message also said this person showed the lawyer a picture of Meral K. and acted as a broker in return for a commission. Recently however, the man tried to cheat another lawyer into representing the woman, showing him the same picture but under a different name.

In his defense, Willms said he came to know of this person's "deceitful" ploy "incidentally" and only recently. Twenty-two people were severely injured in a bomb attack in Cologne's Keupstrasse in 2004. The bombing was blamed on two members of the neo-Nazi NSU, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who later killed themselves in 2011 as police closed in on their terror cell. Beate Zschäpe , the only known remaining member of the NSU, is now charged with the 10 murders orchestrated by the far-right group and is standing trial in Munich.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Missing papers overshadow neo-Nazi trial

29/9/2015- The 232nd hearing of a trial on a neo-Nazi gang accused of racially motivated murders in Germany has stirred up a new controversy. German media reported chief judge Manfred Götzl announced in yesterday's trial that confidential documents regarding the trial were found on a sidewalk in Cologne. Götzl asked all lawyers in the trial about the owner of the documents though he could not get the answer in the latest embarrassment involving the trial of Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU) members. The judge also lambasted prosecutors for a witness not showing up, though she was repeatedly summoned, and ordered an investigation.

The documents reportedly include information and correspondences regarding evidence supplied by witnesses, security agencies and others, and were handed to lawyers for victims by the court. The trial, which started in May 2013, was entangled with a series of disputes and suspicious incidents. Beate Zschaepe, the sole surviving member of the NSU, had engaged in a dispute with her defense team and attempted to fire them, prolonging the legal process. Later, lawyers for Zschaepe who have remained silent in the hearings since the trial began had asked the court to relieve them of their duties after a disagreement with Zschaepe - a request the court rejected. In March, Melisa M., 20, a witness in the trial, was found dead in her home. The young woman was the ex-girlfriend of a witness with ties to the NSU, who himself died under mysterious circumstances two years ago. Her death sparked suspicions over a possible cover-up in the case, especially after media reports and statements by the victims' lawyers pointed to the involvement of the German intelligence agency with the gang.

Melisa M. was the third witness to die since the trial began. In 2014, Thomas R., another witness, died of a previously undiagnosed diabetes. Thomas R. was reportedly an informant for German intelligence. The NSU, which is composed of two men and a woman, is accused of killing 10 people including eight German citizens of Turkish origin, a Greek man and a policewoman, as well as conducting bombs and bank robberies between 2000 and 2007. Zschaepe stands trial as the only surviving gang member while four others are tried on charges of aiding and abetting the gang members. Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, other members of the gang, were found dead in an apparent suicide in a trailer in which they were hiding in 2011. Zschaepe, 40, had turned herself in after setting a house the gang stayed at for some time on fire, allegedly to destroy evidence.

After the discovery of the NSU, it was revealed in the trial that the gang had connections to informants recruited by the German intelligence agency, which raised the question of whether the intelligence officials had knowledge of the gang's activities and deliberately ignored it. Lawyers for the Turkish victims of attacks had complained earlier that the German state failed to shed light on the gang's "connections" to German intelligence services. Now, the German parliament will establish a new inquiry committee about the case. Eva Högl, a member of the parliamentary committee investigating the case, had told a German daily in August that the new committee will try to find answers to questions regarding the gang, adding that she did not believe the NSU acted alone in its crimes and it had a wide network of support inside and outside Germany.

In yesterday's hearing, the court heard forensics expert Dr. Oliver Peschel. Peschel had examined victims of a grocery store robbery in 1998 and a nail bomb attack in Cologne in 2004, both blamed on the NSU. A new timetable released in August had revealed that the trial will continue until at least September 2016. The timetable provided by the court in Munich looking into the case shows it will take months before the testimony of eyewitnesses concludes.
© The Daily Sabah


Latvia: Islamic Culture Center worried about growing Islamophobia

29/9/2015- The Islamic Culture Center of Latvia is worried about the growing Islamophobia in Latvia, and invites mass media to pay more attention to the way how Islam-related information is presented to the public, as the center's spokesman Ahmeds Roberts Klimovics informed LETA. He believes that Islamophobia can be clearly observed in Latvia. This is evidenced by a recent case of vandalism that took place on the night to September 27, when the Riga Mosque on Brivibas Street was sprayed with graffiti, a scrawl in English that said: "Your Allah – your problem! Go home!", which in the center's opinion is an "openly hateful and aggressive" message. Muslims believe that media are in part responsible for Islamophobia in society, said Klimovics. This is why the Islamic Culture Center of Latvia urges mass media to pay attention to the said event, a well as the way how information about Islam is presented.
© The Baltic Course


Malta: Migrant woman dies as police raid her home

30/9/2015- It was with immense sadness that we were informed that on Saturday, 26th of September 2015, another young migrant from Philippines, Mrs. L.H., lost her life in an attempt to avoid an arrest by the Immigration Office during police raid in her house. According to information featuring in the media and based on our own information, Mrs. L.H. was killed in an attempt to leave the apartment where she lived, when the police entered by force during an investigation for undocumented migrants. Specifically, Mrs. L.H. tried to avoid the control using the window on the back side of the building and as a result, to fall into the void and be killed.

KISA, Action for Equality, Support, Anti-racism, denounces publicly the actions of the police to enter the apartment with violence and without relevant warrant, fact that, in combination with their subsequent behavior, seems to have contributed to the decision of Mrs. L.H. to escape her place of residence in such way, resulting in her death. Furthermore, questions have been raised in relation to the reaction of a private clinic in Nicosia where Mrs. L.H. was transferred, refusing to provide her medical care or calling an ambulance. Mrs. L.H. was in Cyprus since 2009 and for four consecutive years she was working as a domestic worker. In 2013 her four-year residence and work permit expired and the competent authorities refused to renew it, in accordance with their policy at the time. As a result, Mrs. L.H. remained in Cyprus without legal residence status during the last two years.

According to KISA’s information, on the evening of September 25, at around 8:30, the partner of the young migrant, Mr. F.K., heard violent knocks on the door of the apartment and at the same time he saw Mrs. L.H. leaving terrified the kitchen and going to the bedroom. Then he realized that three police officers were out of the apartment knocking on the door and shouting to open to them. Before Mr. F.K. realized what was happening, one of the officers entered the apartment through the window and after immobilizing the man; he opened the door to his colleagues. Then, while Mr. F.K. was immobilized on the ground, two of the officers inspected the other rooms of the apartment. When they realized that the bedroom door was locked, they tried to enter it again by force, pushing and tapping the door, but did not succeed. Then they asked Mr. F.K. to open it, claiming that there was noise coming out of the bedroom. But the door was locked from the inside and thus, Mr. F.K. could not open it. The police officers remained in the apartment for about half an hour and after having ascertained that Mr. F.K. has a legal residence status in Cyprus, they left the apartment.

When the officers left, Mr. F.K. called Mrs. L.H. to come out of the bedroom, but with no response. Then, terrified, he broke the door and was surprised to discover that Mrs. L.H. was not there. Immediately he called upon for help from familiar people residing in the area to find her. Approximately 45 minutes after the entry of the police into the apartment, they found her covered in blood in the basement of the building. Mr. F.K. immediately transferred Mrs. L.H. to a private clinic in a private vehicle, but the hospital staff refused to handle the case saying that they did not have such capacity at the time. Then, Mr. F.K. transferred her in a private vehicle to another clinic. There, the doctors examined her and, having realized how serious her situation was, they called an ambulance in order to transfer her to Nicosia General Hospital. After about half an hour Mrs. L.H. was transferred by ambulance to Nicosia General Hospital, where, despite the care provided, she died.

In light of the above, KISA calls:
@ The appointment of a criminal investigator for a full investigation of the circumstances under which Mrs. L.H. died, including the attitude of the police officers who carried out the investigation in her home.
@ The Ministry of Health and to investigate the attitude and handling of the incident by the private clinic where Ms. L.H. was initially transferred, that in violation of the law and medical ethics, it refused to provide medical services.
@ The government to make policy legalization of undocumented migrants through dialogue with the migrant communities, as well as with the concerned stakeholders.
@ The police to terminate the present control policy of the migrants’ residence status, where migrants are subject to mandatory control without their consent, even by violent raids in their homes and violations of private and family asylum and with methods of racial profiling.
@ The government to undertake a reassessment and redesign of the migration policy through consultation with migrant communities and all the concerned stakeholders, in a way that will comply with the obligations of the Republic stemming from the European law and human rights. The new migration policy should allow the continuation of the legal residence of the migrants who are already employed and provide them the possibility to obtain long-term residence status.


Malta: Ignorance and racism span the social spectrum (opinion)

By Daphne Caruana Galizia 

27/9/2015- When I wrote this column yesterday evening, beneath my Thursday column there were 450 comments and the discussion was still ongoing. The subject was not actually racism, but how – when there is a surge in racist sentiment that allows racists to feel justified in their views because “everyone feels like us” – this is the trigger for violence. The overriding sentiment I picked up from the comments posted by racists and members of hate-groups (including Imperium Europa’s treasurer and fund-raiser) beneath that column – other than the fact that they actually don’t think they are racists at all – is how they lack the courage of their convictions. Accusing them of racism is like winding up a noisy clockwork monkey and throwing it into a crowded chicken-coop. Suddenly, they are all aflutter, squawking and protesting that of course they are not racists, but they have genuine concerns about defending Malta from Muslim invaders and from people with a different culture who are “not like us”.

You try telling them that this is the dictionary definition of xenophobia, from which racism stems, and they round on you and say that you hate your own country and are racist with your fellow citizens. Logic was never a racist’s strong suit. Racism is irrational, and it therefore follows that racists are irrational, that they espouse their racist views because they were irrational to begin with. It is not their racism which has made them irrational, but their irrationality which has made them racist. If racists had the courage of their convictions, they would not say “I’m not a racist, but…”. They would say, “I’m a racist, and…”. They are passionate in their racism, but cannot confront it in themselves because they don’t like what it says about them. Confronting the personal truth about themselves would shatter their self-image as decent and honourable citizens of an island (l’ombelico del mondo) that owes its Christianity to St Paul and donates lots of money to missionaries to convert the heathen and build schools and hospitals for the heathens’ piccaninnies.

Interestingly, some of those reacting to my article and my comments beneath it appear convinced – such is their touchiness and inferiority complex – that I have called them hamalli and said that racists are hamalli. I have never said that all racists are hamalli or, for that matter, that all hamalli are racists. On the contrary, I am very clear on the matter that many, if not most, people of my own social background are among Malta’s worst and most ignorant racists. The racist and ignorant views which were expressed in my presence by some people of my acquaintance – even a few who I might have called friends – have changed my opinion of them profoundly and permanently. Racist opinions are not just any old opinion; they are not like an opinion about food or travel or art or the film you saw last night. Racist views are an intrinsic part of the person who espouses them. They tell you who that person is at a fundamental level. The sudden discovery that somebody I know is a racist affects my perception of them negatively, profoundly and permanently.

Malta’s worst racists, fascinatingly, appear to be at the extreme ends of the social spectrum: the underclass and what the old French used to call the gratin (the thin and crispy layer at the top). The fact that the dreadful racists of the gratin wouldn’t be seen dead at a racist (anti-immigrant) demonstration alongside the members of the underclass who enjoy going to that sort of thing does not mean that they don’t share their views. They do share their views. They simply express them in more articulate language, and know when to keep quiet so as to maintain appearances when necessary. Both ignorance and racist views span the entire social spectrum in Malta, but the ignorance of the gratin is disguised by greater eloquence (after a fashion), better manners and more knowledge about the veneer of things.

Yet some of the most ignorant people I have ever had the misfortune to contend with share my social background. They left formal education at 15 or 16, several decades ago, and have never bothered to read anything except Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey (and even those were a struggle) since then. They get all their information and news from Facebook or over coffee after tennis and cards. They have no interest in current affairs, absolutely no understanding of the fact that people from a certain kind of background, everywhere else in Europe, are expected to know about X, Y and Z and make informed conversation about them – conversation that does not contain truisms and old chestnuts picked up in the classroom circa 1975 – and have no general knowledge whatsoever. Such ignorance is the perfect breeding-ground of fear and racial prejudice. Some of their conversations and pronouncements are beyond embarrassing.

So no, social background has nothing to do with it. Education does, by which I do not mean university degrees. The fact remains that Malta is teeming with racists. They live in villas, in nice old houses in St Julian’s and Sliema, in flats in Fgura and in council housing in Bormla. Maltese people are trained from early infancy to be irrational – in the home, at school and especially in religious doctrine classes – and racism is the product of irrational thought.
© The Malta Independent


Malta: Are they coming to take us away?(opinion)

By Fr Joe Borg

27/9/2015- Last Sunday around 200 self-styled Patri­jotti Maltin shamed us by airing their xenophobia on the streets of Valletta. They looked like a motley crew of angry, (mostly) old men and women. They shouted that Malta is for the Maltese and not for foreigners. What foreigners were they referring to? Perhaps the 14,000 who were granted resi­dency permits last year partly thanks to rampant corruption? This figure is higher than the number of black people who came to Malta over the past decade. In all probability, the Patrijotti are only irked by the latter. Those who eat babies and rape women, the Patrijotti’s collective IQ makes them believe. But these boat people hardly ever come to our island nowadays. A quid pro quo (©¤okkli dari u n©¤okklok tieghek, in common parlance) agreement with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi took care of that.

But this is not enough for these Patrijotti. They still hollered their indignation at the top of their voices at the sheer audacity of this ‘invasion’ by dark ‘barbarians’ who want to take us away; as those horrible Turkish Muslims did to the Gozitans centuries ago. Some things never change, the Patrijotti believe. Other Maltese, however, preferred to go to Mass, listening to the voice of Jesus telling them that “whoever receives one child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me”. Jesus’s words are not in a time warp but must be transposed to every epoch and culture in the here and now. During my homily I projected a number of slides of Syrian, Ukrainian, Iraqi, Afghan and Ivorian refugee children, saying that the words of Jesus apply also to these children who are begging us to welcome them and their parents. Pope Francis told us to welcome them. Several parishes, ours included, have committed them­selves to hosting a refugee family.

I am certain that the parish priest will be accosted by enthu­siastic do-gooders and Bible thumpers objecting to hosting a Muslim family. The Islamo­phobia among some of these is incredible. It is true that Christ himself would not tolerate the shunning of a Muslim family in need but Bible thumpers pro­bably believe it is high time that someone puts some sense into Jesus’s mind so he would stop making a fool of himself by telling us to welcome and love all foreigners. That such fundamentalists believe that Syrian refugees are Islamic State terrorists in camouflage is bad enough. But that a member of the Maltese diplomatic corps posts racist propaganda on his Facebook page stating the same thing is the pits.

This gentleman, who because of his rank expects people to call him ‘Excellency’, posted a photo alleged­ly showing refugees, recently welcomed in Germany, bran­dishing the IS flag and fighting police. This is a lie. The three-year-old picture just shows a small group of Muslims making a counter-protest to a hate-demonstration by Germany’s neo Nazis. How could a diplomat post such rubbish on his Facebook page? Why do political appointees con­tinuously embarrass our country because of their lack of dignity and gravitas? No decent government minister should allow such venom on Facebook by senior officials. Our civil service is being dragged to new lows thanks to these political appointees.

The political xenophobic right have embarked on a campaign of lies and misinformation on Facebook. The ultimate ‘proof’ of IS infiltration of the refugees fleeing Syria was the posting of a before-and-after photo of a refugee in Europe who is allegedly a member of Islamic State. The BBC showed that this man was not an IS militant but a former com­mander in the Free Syrian Army who had fought against Islamic State. Last month he was the subject of a profile by the Associated Press news agency. The xenophobic right can only base its campaign on fear and lies as they have no argument of sub­stance. I am not saying we are not witnessing a very serious humanitarian crisis. My point is that this crisis can be alleviated only through courageous decisions, not fear. It is positive that European leaders took concrete steps last Wednesday. A continent with a population of 500 million boasting to be the crème de la crème of civilisation can handle this crisis.

Christian politicians of vision such as Angela Merkel showed the way. Besides opening borders to refugees, the German Chancellor also said that instead of fearing that taking in Muslim refugees would lead to the Islamisation, German Christians should confess and practise their faith. On Wednesday, Pope Francis encouraged American bishops to recognise that migrants “also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them”. “Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart,” he said. “I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.” On Thursday, Francis told the US Congress that “we must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as people, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal”. The same applies to Europe. This is good counsel to Maltese Christians as well.

Our actions should not be based on fear. Since there is no substance in the irrational fear that Malta or Europe is being invaded or that ‘they’ – whoever this ‘they’ are – are coming to take us away, I don’t feel threatened or under siege. This is why the title of this commentary is a spoof of They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!, the 1966 hit by Jerry Samuels, but recorded under the name Napoleon XIV. But to the Patrijotti Maltin I would spoof the title of the sequel recorded by a female performer billed as Josephine XV, the name of a spouse of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “I’m happy if they take you away, ha-haaa!”
© The Times of Malta


Varieties of ‘Islamophobia’ and its targets (opinion)

The presence of growing Muslim populations in Europe at the same time as the rise of political Islam and the inception of Israel, was largely a legacy of twentieth century colonial history.
By Sami Zubaida, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London and a Fellow of Birkbeck College. He is also Research Associate of the London Middle East Institute and Professorial Research Associate of the Food Studies Centre, both at SOAS.

29/9/2015- ‘Islamophobia’ – fear, hostility or negative sentiments with regard to Islam and Muslims – comes in different forms and contexts. In this article, I identify two distinct paradigms: the racist and the secular-liberal, and implicit combinations of the two. The targets of ‘Islamophobia’ – Muslims – offer a range of public discourses and sentiments which interact with these paradigms. I shall attempt to sketch an ‘ideal type’ of what I call ‘Umma nationalism’, a discourse which enters into various sentiments and utterances of diverse actors in various situations, and in relation to pertinent contests. I will start with the historical background, which plays a part in shaping some Muslim attitudes and discourses about Islam and the ‘West’.

Muslims and Europe
The historical presence of Muslims in Europe was, for the most part, as rulers: first in Iberia and Sicily and later during the Ottoman rule of the Balkans and much of south-eastern Europe. The states in question were conceived in terms of religious confrontation: Islam versus Christianity. There were, in fact, many Christian and Jewish subjects of the Muslim states, who were formally protected as subordinate subjects on payment of additional taxes. In reality, their conditions and treatment varied over time and place, among different groups and classes, with instances of persecution as well as periods of calm. However, they were mostly better off than Jews and Muslims living in Christian Europe.

This history plays an important part in Muslim pride in past glories. In particular, a romanticised picture of al-Andalus, Muslim Spain, is held up as the apex of Muslim civilisation in Europe, far superior to its Christian neighbours. At a later juncture, European colonial empires ruled over Muslim populations in Asia and Africa, notably India and the Maghreb, then the Mandates following World War One, in Iraq and the Arab Levant. Anti-colonial struggles were variously viewed in combinations of national and religious terms, as Arabs and Muslims versus imperial powers (which were conceived by some as Christian). The presence of many Christians and Jews in anti-colonial movements in some countries complicated the picture. The inception of Israel was the culmination of what is perceived as colonial rule, this time Jewish, which coincided later in the twentieth century with the rise of political Islam. The presence of growing Muslim populations in Europe at the same time was largely a legacy of this period of colonial history.

The nationalist and anti-colonial movements in the Middle East and North Africa in the middle decades of the twentieth century were, for the most part, articulated to leftist and Third Worldist ideologies, such as that of Nasirism and the Ba’th, and of Arab socialism. Religion played, for the most part, a subordinate role in the definition of identities and conflicts, though it may have been a more potent factor at a popular level. Islamic identity may have been more central to the politics of Pakistan, given the raison d’etre of its separation from India and continuing hostile attitudes to their more powerful neighbour. The collapse of Nasirism after the 1967 war with Israel and the evolution of the Ba’th in power into family dynasties in Iraq and Syria, as well as the weakening of the left, opened the field to ethnic and religious politics in the region.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 gave a powerful impetus to this sacralisation of politics. The Iran-Iraq war that followed added a sectarian dimension. With political Islam as a major ideological component in power and in opposition, religious definitions of identities of self and adversary became prevalent. The antagonists were not just capitalists/imperialists, but also Christians, Jews and Hindus. Geopolitics was conceived in terms of antagonistic religious communities, or of an atheist West against the true faith. In this perspective, the confrontation was also seen as cultural and civilisational, in continuity with a long history of conflict and rivalry. The occurrence of 9/11 and the following ‘war on terror’ amplified these sentiments and affiliations.

These definitions and sentiments were by no means universal to Muslims. There is, of course, a diversity of perceptions and affiliations among Muslims, including conservative piety, as well as degrees of secularity and liberal/cosmopolitan orientations, alongside a large measure of indifference. It may be useful to outline an ‘ideal type’ of what may be called ‘Umma nationalism’, to which various Muslims may subscribe to a greater or lesser degree, depending on their situation and the issue in question.

Umma nationalism
Umma identification resembles nationalism in that it draws on historical constructions of past glories and ascendancy, current grievances in relation to a historical adversary and programmes for revival and renewed ascendancy. On the civilisational front, there is an assertion of cultural and moral superiority over western civilisation, especially in its secular and libertarian forms. The Umma is conceived as a unity, confronting assaults from antagonists – the West, Israel and India. There is also an increasingly prominent sectarian dimension to this imagination of the Umma, which I shall not pursue here.

I repeat that I am not suggesting this notion in its consistent entirety to be generally held by the plurality of Muslims, but as a floating discourse, which feeds into various beliefs and declarations by different actors under various circumstances. It is held in its most consistent and vociferous forms by militant groups, Jihadis and Salafis, drawn upon in intellectual and cultural productions of history and current affairs. Common statements, such as the US is ‘killing Muslims’ – whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or Africa – is the product of the supposition of Umma unity in victimhood in opposition to the West. It ignores or sidelines the geopolitical, economic and strategic contexts in favour of the religious identity of victims. It ignores the close symbiosis of the US with many Muslims, states and groups. Crucially, it ignores the fact that most Muslim victims are killed by other Muslims.

To re-iterate: 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ added greatly to the power and consistency of this narrative, to both Muslims and their antagonists. It is further amplified by the expansion and power of non-state Jihadi actors, from al-Qaida to ISIS, and their wide appeal in sentiment and affiliation to large numbers of Muslims all over the world, but, crucially, to those living in the west.

Most Muslims in the west and elsewhere may not subscribe to this nationalism in discourse or action, but adopt elements of it occasionally. Some in the west may reject it explicitly in favour of a view of common citizenship for Muslims in their countries of residence. There is, however, a trend for non-religious but communal Muslims to view politics and society in terms of the Muslim community and its struggle for recognition and rights, with some degree of subscription to the victimhood elements of the Umma paradigm. This group may be called ‘Muslimist’, as opposed to ‘Islamist’. This characterisation would apply to some middle class professionals, such as lawyers, journalists or academics, who are secular or cultural Muslims in their own lives, but identify with Muslim communities and are often active on issues affecting Muslim rights.

EDL march in Birmingham,2014. EDL march in Birmingham,2014. Demotix/Nathan Cleary.All rights reserved.There are two contrasting paradigms within what is called Islamophobia in the west. The first is straightforward racism, which we see in rightist expressions depicting Muslims as dangerous immigrants. This is in keeping with the racism of previous decades, which was directed against Asian, African and Eastern European communities, which shifted from ‘Pakis’ to Muslims after the 1980s and the increasing assertion of Muslim rather than ethnic identities.

Muslim identification presented an enhanced target for racist attacks, enriched by demands and assertions in some Muslim quarters, regarding, for instance, the superiority and necessity of Shari’a law, the support for Jihadist violence and war, and religious claims for education and cultural production. While the political right directed its attacks against all ‘immigrants’ and immigration, it singled out Muslims as dangerous infiltrators threatening to swamp ‘our’ society and culture and introduce Shari’a law. Liberal secularists, meanwhile, are far from being racist and are, in fact, historically anti-racist activists. They are generally not against the Muslim presence, but fear and oppose Muslim claims on public spaces and institutions and on cultural production, notably censorship through violence. This started with actions surrounding the publication of The Satanic Verses after 1989 and culminated with the Charlie Hebdo events, with many other episodes in between.

It is important to note that these fears have a historical dimension, not against Islam, but against authoritarian and violent religious controls in Europe and elsewhere. The liberties of the modern west, as liberal secularists see it, were achieved as a result of historical struggles and revolutions, in which the churches and religious authorities were prominent protagonists. Freedom of expression, women’s rights, sexual liberty, secular education, were all recent achievements in the history of modernity. It is important to note that these fears have a historical dimension, not against Islam, but against authoritarian and violent religious controls in Europe and elsewhere. The liberties of the modern west, as liberal secularists see it, were achieved as a result of historical struggles and revolutions, in which the churches and religious authorities were prominent protagonists.

The demands and incursions made from certain Muslim quarters, with a large degree of communal support, are seen as a threat to liberties so recently gained, which were the outcome of conflicts and struggles. Some religious authorities, such as the Catholic church, continue to fight rearguard campaigns on some of these issues, notably abortion. Meanwhile, evangelical churches in the USA are vociferous in their denunciations. The historical achievements of social and sexual liberalism in much of the west remain in place for the time being. But many fear conservative backlash campaigns and Muslim advocates in these debates are perceived as a particular danger, especially when backed by the threat of violence.

These two paradigms may be consistently held by their key protagonists, racists versus liberals. Different combinations of them, however, not always coherent, appear in public space, the media and popular sentiment. One such combination is the occasional adoption of liberal rhetoric by racist protagonists. Another is the cultural essentialism of the ‘clash of civilizations’ variants, asserting that enlightenment, liberalism and democracy are uniquely western, in contrast to Islam and other ‘civilizations’. It is within this discourse that the Muslim presence in the west is presented as a threat to ‘our values’.

The global picture
The rise of the Islamic State and ‘caliphate’, and the spate of other Jihadist violence in Africa, Libya and Yemen, has sharpened and polarised sentiments and public discourses on all sides. The ISIS narrative is a clear and extreme statement of the Umma paradigm and it has found a favourable response among many Muslims, especially the young. Thousands of volunteers have joined from many parts of the world, including the well publicised young men and women from the west. The motives are complex, conditioned by feelings of alienation and hostility, of past glories and current victimhood, as well as a desire for excitement. The seeming success of ISIS in establishing an ascendant Muslim force against the West and other enemies has a great appeal in the Umma narrative. Do these active volunteers indicate more widespread, if passive, sentiments among other Muslims?

There are many speculations about the sentiments and motives for the support for ISIS by western Muslim youth. I favour the ‘anomie’ scenario, the contradictions between aspirations and reality. We should first note that it is not an issue of ‘integration’ into British/European society and culture, as trumpeted by politicians. By all accounts, those radical young men and women are culturally integrated, with reasonable scholastic achievement, involved in the typical youth cultures of football, fashion and even music. Yet, what is held up as the liberties, goals and rewards of liberal, capitalist society are out of reach for many, without the props of family, wealth and social capital.

This dilemma is not peculiar to Muslim youth and includes many others. However, the problem is heightened for Muslims by many factors. First, the incongruence between their family and community background and ‘mainstream’ society, and the confused identities and orientations that result. Second, and more important, is the hostility and suspicion emanating from various social, political and security quarters, which reinforce their sense of separate identity as Muslims and alienation from mainstream society. Islamist politics and identification presents a realm of moral certainty and ascendancy, as against the ambiguity of ‘normal’ life. It also promises, for jihadist volunteers, excitement, heroism and sex, away from the humdrum life of work, education and family.

On the other side anti-Muslim sentiments, pronouncements and actions have multiplied in the west as a result of events and high profile attacks, such as those in Paris and Brussels. These provided a boost for anti-Islam, rightist and racist groups, but also led to a general sense of revulsion and fear among many. Sensible voices on both sides try to provide a different perspective and exonerate Islam and Muslims in general from association with the violence. No doubt, they have had some success, but how much?

The ongoing conflict of Israel/Palestine is of particular pertinence to the issues raised here. In interpretations which assign identity to religious community and consider political allegiance accordingly, Israel is identified with Judaism. This identification, implicit or explicit, is pushed by both sides – Zionist and Islamic nationalist. Media and public discourses in the Islamic world have readily adopted the old European antisemitic tropes, notably The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Equally, essentialist and racist characterisations of Arabs and Muslims feature in some Zionist pronouncements, leading to mutual demonisation and denigration. Inevitably, these ideas and sentiments are present among Muslim populations in the west and feed into anti-Jewish manifestations, which are violent at the extremes. This, in turn, feeds into the anti-Muslim platforms of both the Zionists and the European extreme right. It is interesting to note that some old antisemites and their ideological descendants, especially in eastern Europe, are now supporting Israel because it is bashing Muslims.

We should note, however, that current Muslim anti-Jewish manifestations are distinct from the old European antisemitism, the tropes of which they adopt. To the Europeans, Jews were neighbours and associates, persecuted for their alleged insidious maleficence. In the Muslim world, the Jews are not a presence, but an idea, part of a world politics shaped in accordance with universal religious communities – and Israel is the Jewish side. Of course, sane and wise voices on both sides attempt to dispel these myths, but how successfully?
© Open Democracy


UK: Fear of Muslims tearing British society apart - Welby

Tensions have ‘seeped into our society in a way that is new to me in my lifetime’, warns Archbishop of Canterbury.

2/10/2015- Fear of Muslims has stirred up division between neighbours in Britain in a way not seen in living memory, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. The Most Rev Justin Welby said tensions had “seeped into our society” threatening to fracture multiculturalism by widening “cracks” between different communities into seemingly insurmountable barriers. Britain, he said, is now “living in a time of time of tension and fear” in which extremists try to marginalise the mainstream while secularists wish to turn religion itself into an activity like sex, which should be “between consenting adults in private”. He told a gathering organised by Muslim leaders in Cardiff that mainstream elements in all major religions must make their message more “exciting and beautiful” to drown out extremists. It is not enough, he said, simply to condemn hate preachers who seek to radicalise vulnerable young people without putting forward a powerful alternative message.

And while emphasising parallels between Christianity and Islam – including remarking that they share strikingly similar beliefs about the justification for war – he said it was important not to “gloss over” fundamental differences. He insisted that many faiths, not just Islam, have a problem with radicalisation. And, significantly, he said Christians should not deny “accountability” for the role of their faith in “many atrocities” over the centuries including recent decades. His remarks came in an address to an interfaith dinner at Cardiff City Hall hosted by the Muslim Council of Wales. Among the guests were the heads of the Anglican churches of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the first time all four primates of the British Isles had met in one place.

Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, described terrorism as a “cancer” which must be addressed but added said Muslims felt like they are effectively living under siege. “The Muslims I meet in Mosques and across Wales generally are concerned about the environment where they are raising their children,” he said. “[It is] an environment in which to be a Muslim is to be treated with suspicion; an environment in which far right groups increasingly protest against Muslims; an environment in which there are arson attacks against mosques; an environment in which a Muslim woman walking down the street is likely to be … spat at or abused. “Call it Islamophobia, call it anti-Muslim prejudice, call it racism, but whatever you call it is wrong and it is sadly becoming a norm.”

The Archbishop echoed Mr Kidwai’s remarks telling the audience: “We are living in a time of tension and fear. “That fear has seeped into our society in a way that is new to me in my lifetime and begins to work at the cracks between us in our diversity, deepening them into barriers between us. “The answer to fear is truth and love not force, truth about each other and confidence in each other.” Insisting it is essential not to ignore differences, he touched on central tenets of the Christian faith which Muslims fundamentally reject including the belief that Jesus was the incarnation of God. “There has to be more honesty a willingness to take responsibility for those in our own faith traditions who interpret our texts differently and resort to violence,” he added. “I cannot stand here and say to you that those who professed Christ and committed the atrocity of Srebrenica were not Christians I can only say they acted in a way contrary to all the teaching of Christ.

“But I must not deny the accountability of the Christian faith over the centuries for miscellaneous and many atrocities.” He went on: “We have unequivocally to condemn those who misuse our own scriptures for their own ends but condemnation, a negative, is never enough. “It is not the common good simply to condemn, it does not show anyone anything of the goodness of God. “The mainstreams of our faith are not at the mercy of the radicalisers who seek in all the major faith traditions of the world – I could quote examples [involvong] other traditions as well as Christianity and Islam – to radicalise and marginalise the mainstream. "That is the aim of the radicalisers, they want to marginalise the great traditions of their deferent faiths. “The mainstream faiths ought to generate a positive, not just condemnatory, a positive counter-narrative that acknowledges our differences and commits to resource and support one another in defiance of those who wish to divide us. “The counter-narrative must be so exciting and so beautiful that it defeats the radicalisers with their message of hate, despair and destruction.”
© The Telegraph


UK: Far-right anger at ‘Muslim’ ad campaign

1/10/2015- Reaction to a British retailer’s advertising campaign showing a woman wearing a hijab has sparked fears of creeping Islamophobia in the country. The campaign launched last week by clothing giant H&M features Mariah Idrissi, a 23-year-old beautician from London, alongside other models. Idrissi, who has Pakistani and Moroccan parents, is shown in billboards wearing a checked brown-and-white hijab, long coat and sunglasses. She appeared as part of a campaign promoting H&M’s new denim collection. “[H&M] asked how much in terms of neck I could show, but to be honest they were very respectful,” Idrissi told Fusion magazine about the shoot. But the far-right organization Britain First warned in a news item on its website: “As the number of Muslims in Britain increases, so will their prominence in the media.”

Supporters used social media to comment on the news item. One Facebook user, Natalie Jessie, wrote “More bowing to Islam. Do NOT shop there”, while Martin Hanks commented: “Too much skin, off with her head.” Others said they would boycott H&M over the decision. Kath Gibson posted: “Disgrace totally. If i see one in a [H&M] store i will tell them. I would like to shop in your store but unfortunately you display of model wearing hijab offends me” Britain First describes itself as a “patriotic organization” campaigning against mass immigration and what it perceives as the Islamization of the U.K. Its leader Paul Golding says in a video on YouTube they are not violent a group but want to stop Muslim “grooming gangs”, which he claims exploit young Christian girls. But the group has also staged invasions of mosques and distributed anti-Muslim leaflets in the U.K.
© World Bulletin


UK Christian Leaders Denounce Far-Right, Anti-Islam Political Party

They disapprove of the group's planned march to protest a new mosque.

29/9/2015- Britain First have vented their fury after a group of Church of England Clergy penned an open letter slamming them over their attitude to Islam. The far-right pseudo-political group are planning to march on October 17th against a proposed mosque to be built in the town of Burton, Staffordshire. In response, 13 members of the clergy have raised their concerns about the event as well as reiterating their support for the local Muslim community. The letter to the Burton Mail reads:

"Thirteen of us Church of England Clergy in the Deanery of Tutbury, had one of our regular meetings on September 9. "We were disturbed by the intention, reported in the day's Burton Mail, of the organisation Britain First, to march in town on Saturday, October 17, in protest against plans for construction of a new mosque in Uxbridge Street. "We support, under the law, freedom of worship and religious assembly. We support, under the law, building for that purpose. "We also support the right to legal civil protest. "What disturbs us is the implication that 'Britishness' and Islam should be seen as incompatible. "We hope the people of Burton will not let the good community relations be damaged by a confrontation with a considerable level of participation from outside our area. "We offer good wishes to our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community."

The party expressed its anger in a Facebook post on Sept. 27 that read in all caps: "So called 'Christians' siding with Islam against Christians! Burton Mail now calling Britain First a 'fascist group'! They are all running scared and they know we have support for our march!" Britain First also announced this weekend that their leader, Paul Golding, is to stand in the London Mayoral election and hope to win by hanging their opponents.
© The Huffington Post - UK


UK: Traveller people forced to 'prove' ethnicity under new planning rules

28/9/2015- Any attempt to subsume diverse groups under one label is going to be fraught with tension – and this is certainly true in terms of the word “Traveller”. Used as an umbrella term, “Traveller” encompasses an array of people and groups, among them Romani Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers living in the UK. The launch of the Decade of Inclusion in 2005 established an opportunity to promote the health and well-being of all Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people living across Europe. It required all member states to adopt a clear and proactive approach to ensure that these communities are not excluded from society. Now that the decade is coming to a close, it’s hard to find any improvement in the lives of the UK’s Gypsy and Traveller communities. In fact, recent actions by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) seem to indicate things are getting worse.

The DCLG has introduced new planning rules which directly affect the health and well-being of Gypsy and Traveller people. According to the housing minister, Brandon Lewis, these are essential to address the “blight” and “misery” caused by unauthorised sites and ensure that planning rules “apply fairly to every community”. But to the human rights charity Traveller Movement, these new planning rules just open up new opportunities for exclusion, instead of the inclusion required by the EU. Traveller Movement argues that by making it harder for Gypsies and Travellers to obtain planning permission, the UK government is failing to meaningfully recognise the ethnic minority status of Gypsy and Traveller people in the planning system. What’s more, with a new three-point “clarification” to the definition of the words “Gypsy” and “Traveller”, the DCLG guidance could be used to redefine who Gypsies and Travellers are.

Shut out
Gypsies and Travellers have long been recognised as minority ethnic groups under race relations legislation, as well as under the EU’s definition of the word “Roma”. But for the purposes of planning, the DCLG now suggests that a Gypsy or Traveller person can only be a Gypsy or a Traveller if they “travel”. According to this policy, if people stop travelling (to stay in education, or because of limited employment or ill health), they cease to be a Gypsy or a Traveller altogether. That means they’re no longer eligible to apply for planning permission to build, develop and potentially reside on a site. Travellers already suffer from a serious shortage of sites, and the new guidance will make things even harder for them. Many will be forced to live on the roadside, and there could also be an increasing number of those unauthorised sites which Lewis has publicly condemned.

Living on an unauthorised campsite is far from ideal and carries a heavy weight of suffering and disadvantage. An understandable cause for community tension, unauthorised sites can be difficult for some members of the general public to tolerate and accept. Travellers themselves contend daily with the risk of criminalisation and eviction, as well as limited access to basic services such as running water or sanitation. Yet still, as a number of studies have shown, many Gypsy and Traveller families continue to live and suffer on unauthorised camps because of a shortage of authorised sites. Whether the available sites are owned and operated by local authorities or housing associations or privately owned and developed by Gypsy and Traveller families, there is simply not enough provision to suit demand. When planning permission for campsite development has been proposed in the past, applications have often been refused. Even where Gypsies and Travellers own the land, permission to develop it can be extremely difficult to secure.

Stay put
What’s often overlooked is that Gypsies and Travellers living on local authority or housing association sites are responsible for the exact same costs as other people living in local authorities or housing association housing. The main difference is that if a Gypsy and Traveller family vacates their pitch for anywhere between two and 12 weeks, even as part of a nomadic way of life, they can be evicted. And then, forced to rely on unauthorised camps, they can be prosecuted and criminalised under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. More and more Gypsies and Travellers are being forced to remain in one location to avoid prosecution and maintain tenancy agreements, while planning permission to develop their own private land is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. This is because the DCLG now requires these people to prove they are genuine Gypsies or Travellers by way of their nomadic habit of life. It seems a culture, heritage, language and tradition that can be traced back through history is no longer enough to constitute a legally recognised ethnicity.

Now that Gypsies and Travellers have to provide “evidence” that they are Gypsies and Travellers, we might well ask whether other “minority” groups will be expected to prove their minority status to secure basic rights in the future. That housing and planning law is now being used to determine and validate the ethnicity of a group of people who have been living and travelling around the UK since the 16th Century seriously undermines any progress that was made during the Decade of Inclusion. And more than that, it calls into question the UK government’s ability to effectively apply the EU’s human rights policies in general.
© The Conversation


UK: The readers’ editor on… Islam and the media

British Muslims feel they are too often associated with extremism, with little attention paid to their positive contribution to society
By Stephen Pritchard

27/9/2015- With the tragedy of last week’s hajj stampede, Pope Francis entering the climate change debate in the US and the archbishop of Canterbury considering loosening the ties of the worldwide Anglican communion, religion is never far from the news – but just how literate is the press when it comes to discussing matters of faith? “The media’s coverage of religion is a bit like covering football from the point of view of hooliganism and never really watching the game,” said Michael Wakelin, former head of religion and ethics at the BBC, at a fascinating, though occasionally depressing day of discussion held in London recently on Islam and its treatment in British broadcasting and newspapers. After years of conflict in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Muslims in Britain feel that they are too often associated with the crimes of extremists while too little attention is paid to the positive contribution they make to civic life or to the peaceful aims of their faith.

Understanding that faith – and indeed all faiths – is an urgent priority, said Wakelin, quoting Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmiths University of London: “Billions of people around the world remain religious, despite the assumptions of secularity. Millions are in Britain, Europe and the west. After decades in which we have barely talked about religion and belief in public discourse, society has largely lost the ability to do so. Diversity, global trade and extremism make it pressing to do so now.” Wakelin maintained that a generation of neglect, with education failing the religious curriculum, the major religions failing to engage with the wider public – and the media not understanding religion and therefore keeping it at arms’ length – had resulted in a society that lacked the confidence to deal with religious subjects and religious people.

Inspired by the success of the Science Media Centre in transforming the way science is reported, he is now involved in setting up a religion media centre. “We do not want to promote religion or even say that it is a good thing, but we are wanting to have a recognition that it matters and therefore it needs to be reported, discussed and examined with knowledge, fairness and respect. And to carry on mocking it, misreporting it with unhelpful shorthand and careless choice of images, or pretending it is going to go away or that it is only of interest to people who are only intent on destruction is simply not going to wash any more.” 

Some of that mocking, misreporting and unhelpful shorthand is starkly evident in our media every day, and confirmed by Professor Tony McEnery and Professor Paul Baker of Lancaster University. They have analysed some 220m words of coverage on Muslim matters published in the British press from 1998. Their latest research, commissioned by Muslim Engagement and Development and due to be published next month, spans the period 2010 to 2014, and while it reports some improvement in press discourse it indicates that many obvious faults remain. Islam, for instance, is often wrongly portrayed as a single entity and while broadsheets tend to feature reporting of Islam-related war and violence overseas, tabloids focus on fears about the “Islamification” of the UK (with particular focus on child grooming – the Mail; burkhas and immigration – the Express; violence – the Mirror; fanatics – the Sun; and halal meat and poppy-burning – the Star).

Since 2010 there has been a small but significant increase in the positive portrayal of Muslim women, but the media continue to focus on them as victims. The main argument against the veil, for instance, has changed from one of the oppression of women to difficulties surrounding communication with the veil wearer. (When tabloids continue to describe the veil as a shroud and veiled women as Daleks or Darth Vader, there is still a very long way to go.) The day of discussion was organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Muslim News, established, as its campaigning editor Ahmed Versi said, when Muslims in Britain were crying out for a medium that would reflect back at them. “We were a nascent community, only just getting our voice heard,” he said, identifying the burning of the Satanic Verses in the streets of Bradford as a pivotal media moment. “That act alone provided the iconic photograph that would join a gallery of negative imagery of Muslims, providing the optics to demonise the community that carry on until this day.”
© The Guardian


UK: Speaker banned from Warwick University over fears of offending Islam

Ex-Muslim, Maryam Namazie, has been banned from campus by the students union which is concerned she could "incite hatred"

26/9/2015- An ex-Muslim campaigner has hit out after she was banned from speaking at Warwick University when the students’ union said it was concerned she could incite hatred or offend Islam. Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie, a member of the Council of Ex-Muslims, is well known for giving talks which challenge aspects of the religion she does not agree with. The Iranian-born secularist was invited to Warwick University’s Students’ Union by Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society to give a talk on October 28.

But the university’s students’ union later blocked the invitation and, in a response shared by Ms Namazie, said: “This is because after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus. “There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy.” The response goes on to detail other aspects of the policy including the guidance that speakers “must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups”.

Ms Namazie suggested the decision prevented important debate and amounted to oppression. She said: “It angers me that we’re all put in a little box and that anyone who criticises Islam is labelled racist. It’s not racist, it’s a fundamental right. The only way we can challenge aspects of Islam is through speech. “The Islamic movement is a movement that slaughters people in the Middle East and Africa. It’s important for us to speak about it and criticise it. “Labelling us as Islamaphobic is a way of preventing us from expressing our dissent.” She added: “My parents are Muslim, this is not about Muslims. There are many different types of Muslim.

“The students’ union’s decision labels all Muslims as reactionist and suggests they are all offended by people who leave Islam, and that is not the case. “Criticising an idea, which is what religion is, is not racism. It’s the definition of people being able to live how they want.” Warwick University said the decision had not been made by them and was a matter for the students union. Warwick Atheists have appealed the decision. The students union could not be reached for comment.
© The Coventry Telegraph


UK: Essex police granted extra stop and search powers for EDL rally

The force will be able to search people without reasonable suspicion during the English Defence League's protest in Colchester town centre

26/9/2015- Essex police have invoked additional powers to search members of the public for weapons ahead of an English Defence League march on Saturday. Officers will be allowed to search people - either on the street or in their cars - for dangerous objects and order them to remove their masks without the need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. The EDL plan to march through Colchester High Street from 11am on Saturday and a “community resistance” rally by the Anti-Fascist Network has been planned for the same time. Essex Police announced on Friday evening that they had been granted the use of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, between 8am and 6pm on Saturday in Colchester Town Centre.

The measure, which is meant to be used when there is a potential for "serious violence" to occur, was initially introduced to combat hooliganism at football matches, and can be used for a maximum of 24 hours. Chief Superintendent Williams said the force had been liaising with the EDL in the run up to the march. “We intend to use this Section 60 power to search any protestors we believe are intent on causing trouble or disorder, confiscate any weapons or other dangerous items, and keep everyone safe,” he said. “The powers also allow us to enforce the removal of any disguise, such as a mask, being worn by a person.

“We have a robust policing plan in place in order to minimise the opportunity for contact between the rival protestors and the use of the Section 60 power will ensure that we can carry out our policing operation as effectively as possible. “There will be a significant police presence in the town to manage the march and any protestors involved and we would advise members of the public intending to visit Colchester on Saturday to carry on as normal.” Last year Theresa May, the Home Secretary, unveiled a series of measures to scale back the way police can stop and search suspects including tougher thresholds so that officers will be able to use the powers much less frequently. Another new measure she outlined was to make it compulsory for police to record whether or not a stop and search led to anyone being arrested.
© The Telegraph


UK: Calls to boycott far right rally in Preston

The Lancashire Evening Post is asking the people of Preston to boycott a far right anti-refugee rally planned in the city.

26/9/2015- Members of The North West Infidels, a splinter group from the controversial English Defence League, say they will hold a No More Refugees themed demonstration in a “prime spot” in the city on Saturday, October 10. The LEP wants readers to rise above the rally and asks those suggesting a counter demonstration to instead focus on the real issue – helping those fleeing persecution from war-torn Syria. The North West Infidels have refused to speak to the Evening Post about their plans, but within hours of a Facebook event page being set up, 160 people had confirmed their attendance. Under the hashtag #Nomorerefugees, a poster on the site reads: “You have taken our kindness for granted. You have abused our goodness. Now pay the price.” It goes on: “They say you reap what you sow, now face the harvest of your treachery, we will take to the streets in numbers. We’ll not allow you to rest peacefully until the price has been paid. “No excuses, this is direct action. “Step up or step out. Like Dover, our voice will be heard and our feet on the ground will echo through Lancashire and beyond.”
© The Lancashire Evening Post


UK: Council bans far-right Scottish Defence League march

The far-right Scottish Defence League has been banned from marching through Edinburgh city centre next Saturday to protest against immigration over fears that it would cause disruption and because two earlier marches were planned for the same day.

26/9/2015- Edinburgh Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee gave approval to two earlier marches on October 3 by the Scotland for Elephants group and the Walk for Democracy organised to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir of Huntershill. The committee then voted unanimously to ban the Scottish Defence League (SDL) anti-immigration march after hearing reports from Police Scotland and council officials about fears of disruption and an “excessive burden” for the police caused by the cumulative effects of three marches on one day. Under Government guidance, when march licensing clashes occur, those who apply first are given priority – the Muir march was organised last year, while Scotland for Elephants applied on September 3. The committee was told the SDL applied on September 4.

The SDL’s application stated the reason for the event was “freedom of speech” but its Facebook page had made it clear the march was to protest against immigration and they had said so to police and council officials. A letter from Police Scotland laid out reasons for their objections to the march. Chief Superintendent Gillian Emery informed the committee that before two recent SDL events in Edinburgh, organisers had cooperated with the police and council officials but they “were unable to influence significant elements of the SDL group who were confrontational and failed to comply with police direction.” She said this was compounded by “ineffective stewarding” which saw “the potential for serious disorder.” Emery added: “I am no longer confident that the cooperation of the organisers is indicative of wider elements of the SDL membership and affiliated groups.

“There can be little doubt that some of the opinions expressed by SDL are controversial. The recent high-profile refugee movements from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with the UK and Scottish Governments’ committing to taking in a large number of Syrian refugees, conflicts with the well-document views of the SDL and the stated purpose of their match, ie ‘against immigration.’ “It should therefore be expected that the SDL event will attract some level of opposition, especially given that the public mood, reflected in and/or influenced by the media, is generally sympathetic to the plight of the refugees.” The planned route of the march up the High Street to the City Chambers was also a cause for concern. Committee convener Gavin Barrie stated a wedding had been booked for the City Chambers and questioned why the organisers wanted their march to end at the Chambers.

Graham Walker, organiser of the SDL, said the group could move somewhere else, and he was then asked if he could vary the day of the march, only to tell councillors that intending participants had already booked flights and trains from London. A police representative at the meeting said: “Mr Walker engages fully with Police Scotland in the planning process ... but history has shown that Mr Walker’s influence over the people attending these marches has become less and less and the potential for disorder as a result has become more and more significant.” A key issue was a late notification on Thursday from the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group wishing to hold a counter-demonstration at the same time and same place as the SDL.

Walker claimed notice of this counter-event was already appearing on the UAF’s Facebook page and was told by Barrie that the UAF or any other organisation would need to apply for permission and if they went ahead without it, “that will be a police matter.” Barrie said: “We appreciate that people want to demonstrate and counter-demonstrate. “I still have significant concerns about public order in this matter and everything else that is going on in the city that day, and I don’t think we can negotiate a new route at this time. “It leaves the committee with no other option but to see that you don’t march, that we are banning it and from everything that’s apparent, we are putting a banning order on it.” The committee voted to ban the march, citing the increased risk to public order and because it might cause undue disruption to the life of the community.
© The Scottish National


French Euro MP sidelined after France is a “white race” remark

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for Nadine Morano - a member of his The Republicans party - to be withdrawn from regional elections

1/10/2015- A French European MP was fighting for her political future on Wednesday after coming under attack for describing France as a country of “white race”. Nadine Morano, of the right-wing The Republicans party, could be barred from standing in regional elections in December over her remarks, in which she also said France was a “Jewish-Christian” country. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads the party – the main opposition to the governing Socialists – has asked the leadership to withdraw Morano from its list of candidates for the biggest electoral test of 2015. Morano, a former minister with a reputation for gaffes and unguarded Twitter comments, said in a television interview on Saturday that: “We are a Jewish-Christian country... of white race, which takes in foreigners.”

Sarkozy, who once counted the 51-year-old as one of his closest allies in his government, said: “I will not accept any slip-ups.” Morano has been condemned from all points of the political spectrum, and the head of The Republicans’ list of candidates for eastern France, Philippe Richert, said her comments had had a “devastating effect” on his campaign. Morano insists she is the victim of a “witchhunt”. “I said nothing terrible. In fact I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” she said. Support has come from one predictable source – the former leader of the far-right National Front (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said Morano was “stating the obvious” when she described France as a country of “white race”.
© The Guardian


France: Nazi banner shocks locals in Nice

People in the French city of Nice were alarmed to see a Nazi banner hung from a government building on Monday September 28.

29/9/2015- Two men could be seen draping the banner over the roof of the Palais de la Prefecture as astounded locals stopped to see the flag. French officials reassured people that the building was merely being used during the filming of a World War 2 movie. Joseph Joffo’s personal account of the conflict, A Bag of Marbles, is filming in Nice and the Palais is set to represent the Hotel Excelsior. The Nice hotel was used by SS chief Alois Brunner to organise the round up of Jews during the war. Visitor Andrew Gentry told the BBC “People started screaming, they were really agitated. There was nothing around to explain what was going on.” He added that among the angry locals were a number of tourists who began taking selfies. Officials released a statement later in the day insisting that they had done everything possible to inform people of the filming in advance. Canadian director, Christian Duguay, is at the helm of the project, an adaptation of Joffo’s graphic novel which dramatises his boyhood escape from Nazi-occupied Paris.
© Euro Weekly News


French school makes Muslims and Jews wear red discs

Primary school outrages parents by making non-pork eaters wear red discs around their necks in canteen

26/9/2015- A school in central France has provoked outrage for making Muslim and Jewish pupils wear a red disc around their necks at lunchtime so canteen staff would not serve them pork. The Piedalloues primary school in Auxerre, in Burgundy, gave red discs to non-pork eating pupils and yellow discs to those who do not eat meat. Eighteen of the school’s 1,500 pupils were made to wear the discs. They were withdrawn after protests by angry parents and community leaders, who said they were reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi occupation. “It’s revolting. It reminds you of the darkest times,” said a local councillor, Malika Ounès. “Practices like this are not acceptable. No one has the right to impose this on children.”

Christian Sautier, director of communications in the mayor’s office, said it was “an isolated, clumsy and unfortunate initiative” that lasted only one day. He said it had been put into effect by canteen staff without informing local authorities, who ended it immediately. “When we learned about it, we fell out of our chairs,” Mr Sautier said, adding that the mayor had ordered an investigation. Serving schoolchildren alternative meals without pork is a sensitive issue in France. The far-Right Front National opposes the practice. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, ignited controversy last year by trying to force school canteens in towns where the party won local elections to stop offering non-pork options.

In March, the former centre-Right president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he too opposed pork-free options in schools, a view that was quickly disavowed by several prominent figures in his party, The Republicans. The Republican mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, also in Burgundy, has ordered schools in the town to stop offering non-pork choices on days when pork is served. A Muslim group has started legal proceedings against the ruling, to come into effect next month. There has also been controversy over whether holiday camps should be forced to provide halal food for Muslim children, as well as higher-profile disputes over veils. Headscarves and other forms of clothing linked to religious observances are banned in state schools and a law prohibiting the wearing of full-face Islamic veils in public was introduced in 2011.
© The Telegraph


Finland: PS speaker of parliament blames the media for Finland’s KKK image

Maria Lohela is the Perussuomalaiset (PS) speaker of the parliament who has real issues with Islam and cultural diversity. Last week a man dressed in Ku Klux Klan sheet and mask protested in Lahti against the arrival of refugees to that city. His picture was published in many newspapers abroad

28/9/2015- The only party that continues to have an especially ambivalent stand on the KKK Finn and racism is the PS. The foreign minister, Timo Soini, was more worried about the KKK impersonator carrying a Finnish flag than wearing something that represented white supremacists in the United States. Lohela doesn’t even condemn on her Facebook wall attacks against refugees and refugee centers in Lahti, Kouvola or in other parts of Finland but blames the media for Finland’s poor image abroad. If the Finnish media lacks teeth then it will be the foreign media that will name and shame us into action against racism. Lohela writes at the end of her Facebook posting about what a great country Finland is but for whom? For white Islamophobic Finns like her? Finland’s poor image abroad is being caused by the PS and the likes of her who are totally indifferent to the suffering of others and denying our ever-growing cultural and ethnically diverse society. That diverse society is here to stay irrespective if people like Lohela are upset by it.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.
© Migrant Tales


Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 40

Four problems with Europe's refugee quota

It came at a cost, and a significant one

2/10/2015- Last week’s EU refugee summit produced one signal achievement. A refugee quota was agreed that will – over the next two years – see a total of 160,000 asylum-seekers shared across the bloc. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It will ease the pressure on Italy and Greece, currently vastly overburdened, and, as Europe pulls together, soothe the sense of a crisis spiralling out of control. Yet it came at a cost, and a significant one. There are three main problems with it. First, the quota was imposed on four Eastern European nations, who will kick up rough for some time, and may go so far as to not comply. Second, it will be difficult to keep refugees in states they are relocated to, which may see those sent Romania, for example, leaving for Germany in any case. (Limiting benefits to collection in the stated host country, though, may help.) Third, a rise of far right sentiment is more or less guaranteed. The fourth problem goes broader. Still, the EU has failed to provide safe and legal routes for those fleeing war to enter Europe – leaving them to take their chances with smugglers and the Mediterranean.
© The Independent


In Serbia, migrants are in limbo as they await word of next open border

Before they left Turkey, the friends made a pact: no smugglers. If they were going to get to Europe, they would do it on their own.

1/10/2015- The five young Syrians pooled their money and bought a motorized raft for $2,400 that was just big enough to fit all of them. Early one morning in September, they picked the shortest route between the west coast of Turkey and the nearby Greek island of Lesbos and set off, safely navigating rough waters that have claimed the lives of other migrants. Once in Greece, the buddies followed the well-worn path of refugees and migrants who have been pouring into Europe by the thousands each day, taking the bus, crowding onto trains and walking through Greece and Macedonia to Serbia. But here in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, they found themselves at sea again — figuratively, at least. Caught up in Europe's squabbling on how to deal with its largest migration of people since World War II, the men were in limbo, unable to figure out how to proceed to their preferred destinations in Northern Europe.

In recent weeks, border openings and closings have happened so rapidly in the Balkan states of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia and in nearby Hungary that new arrivals in Belgrade, a common staging post on the migrant trail, have no idea what to do next. Travel plans carefully laid weeks ago have fallen apart. Information is short-lived and contradictory, turning Europe into a confusing chessboard for asylum seekers trying to plot their next move. "We have a bus ticket to the Croatian border, but we don't know what will happen," said Ali, one of the five friends, who declined to give his last name because his parents still live in their war-torn homeland. He and his companions hail from Homs, a city devastated by violence. Trained as a software engineer, Ali, 24, was aiming for the Netherlands, where he wants to enroll in a master's program. "I don't understand why they are changing all the logistics each time, shuttling us from one border, telling us to walk across the next one," he said of various Balkan authorities. "Why not just let us go through to the countries that say they will accept us?"

Such bewilderment is common in the makeshift migrant camp erected during the spring in a downtown park next to Belgrade's central bus station, where hundreds of journeying asylum seekers remain stuck in a holding pattern. Dozens of tents dot the camp's square. In between, tired young men curl up on pieces of cardboard, trying to catch a few hours of sleep. Children play in the dirt with donated stuffed animals and balls as their mothers watch or cradle infants. Their fathers search for places to receive money via Western Union. In the middle of the park sits a volunteer information booth from which electrical power strips snake to a bench outside. Every socket is taken up by a recharging cellphone. The same question hovers on everyone's lips: Where is the next open border?

To the west, Croatia, overwhelmed by tens of thousands of asylum seekers, shut all border crossings with Serbia for several days. That sparked angry exchanges between the two countries, which went to war with each other in the 1990s. The crossings have since reopened, but this week the Croatian prime minister declared he no longer wanted to speak to his Serbian counterpart. To the north, Hungary has erected a razor-wire-topped fence along its nearly 110-mile border with Serbia and made it a criminal offense to cross illegally. Yet Hungarian authorities also continue to shuttle some migrants and refugees coming from Serbia over to Austria.

In Belgrade, migrant help centers overflow with donated diapers, food and blankets, but can't dispense the most sought-after commodity: advice on what will happen at the next frontier. "Information is changing every day, and it's very difficult for us to tell them where they can go next," said Milos Rajkovski, a volunteer at a help center near the main railway station. The center is supported by the United Nations' refugee agency and several local charities. "Even I have a hard time figuring out what's going on from the news," Rajkovski said. "I just have to tell them I don't know." Migrants come to the center to use computers to check the latest news on Facebook pages created by refugee and volunteer groups. The more affluent asylum seekers spend their money on hotels and on taxis to and from border crossings where they try their luck. Those who can't afford to do so camp out, waiting for more certain information even as the weather turns chilly and the rain turns the earth beneath them into mud.

The Serbian government has set up an official migrant camp across the Danube River from central Belgrade, but virtually no one wants to go there. "They don't have proper accommodation in that camp, and they need papers to enter the camp," which many migrants lack, said Rados Djurovic, director of the nonprofit Asylum Protection Center in Belgrade. The migrants are also loath to be far from a main road or transit hub because that would prevent them from moving quickly if a window for getting into Croatia or Hungary suddenly opens, Djurovic said. On a recent afternoon, 22-year-old Ahmad Khalifa watched as another migrant approached his group of 17 travelers. Khalifa, from the besieged eastern Syrian city of Dair Alzour, quickly pounced. "What do you know about the Croatian border?" he asked the stranger, who had no concrete information to offer.

Khalifa and his group had arrived in Belgrade that morning, before sunrise. They had run out of money and were anxiously awaiting a wire transfer of funds from Khalifa's uncle in Germany to finance the rest of their way there. If trying to exit Serbia openly and legally remained a crapshoot, Khalifa said he would resort to clandestine means. "If we have to pay smugglers, we will," he said. "There's always a way over a border."
© The Los Angeles Times


Greece reopening Olympic venue to house asylum-seekers

1/10/2015- Authorities in Greece have reopened a disused Olympic venue to house migrants and refugees camped out in central Athens. Police on Thursday escorted buses carrying about 500 people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, from Victoria Square in central Athens to the mothballed Galatsi Olympic Hall. It was used for table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics during the 2004 Athens Games, and is the second major Olympic venue to reopened to accommodate refugees in recent weeks. Yiannis Mouzalas, a migration affairs minister, promised to try to swiftly improve management of the crisis to avoid "local residents becoming susceptible to extremist, racist, xenophobic views." Local residents and an anti-racism group held small protests at the square Thursday, urging the government to do more to ease the effects of the crisis.
© The Associated Press


Netherlands: Refugee crisis boosts support for anti-Islam PVV, poll shows

30/9/2015- The new poll of polls for broadcaster Nos shows a sharp rise in support for the anti-immigration PVV, indicating the party would increase its share of the vote in an election from 17.3% to up to 20.6%. The poll, an amalgam of five different opinion polls, says the PVV would win 27 to 31 seats in the 150 seat parliament, a rise of five on last month. It won 15 in the 2012 general election. Compiler Tom Louwerse says the increase is due to the impact of the refugee crisis which generated more political attention since the end of the summer recess. Most new support for the PVV has come from the VVD, which can count on support of up to 17%, and the Socialist Party, which is now backed by between 11.3% and 14% of voters, the poll of polls showed.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Separate refugees on ethnic and religious lines, say police

29/9/2015- The Dutch police union NBP has urged refugee settlement agency COA to separate asylum seekers along ethnic and religious lines, the AD reports on Tuesday. If different groups are not kept separate, there is likely to be more trouble at refugee centres, the paper quotes the union as saying. ‘Our involvement at refugee centres used to be minimal but that threatens to change,’ union chairman Han Busker told the paper. The COA should think properly about how it divides up refugees, Busker said. ‘That is in everyone’s interest, including that of the refugees,’ he said. ‘Things will be quieter and calmer for them as well.’

The COA told the paper it had no intention of changing current policy of mixing refugees of different backgrounds. ‘That has not been our policy for 20 years,’ a spokesman said. ‘The COA’s experience is that mixed groups make for a better living situation as well as being more manageable.’ The police call for separate facilities follows fights at a refugee centre in the village of Overburg near Utrecht last week. Some 40 police officers and two dog handlers were involved in breaking up the trouble between rival groups of young men.

Dutch mayors, who are responsible for local refugee centres, have also criticised the COA for not having the situation under control. The alarm was sounded by 
 Heerenveen mayor Tjeerd van der Zwan who says he is concerned about the services being offered to the 200 refugees in his town, who are living in a sports centre. ‘I consider these people to be temporary residents and I cannot accept that they are not receiving proper care,’ he said. The group includes several pregnant women but problems with the paperwork mean they cannot be given the care they need, Van der Zwan says.

Van der Zwan had been expecting 186 refugees but 204 turned up and not all had the proper registration documents, the mayor said. ‘I understand the difficult situation in which the COA finds itself but there is a bottom line, and that is what I, as a mayor, have to monitor,’ Van der Zwan said. However, both the COA and local authorities’ association VNG said they are unaware of any major problems. All refugees are first registered at the Ter Apel reception centre and then taken to their accommodation, a COA spokesman said.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: MPs want answers on refugee child brides as 20 head for Ter Apel

28/9/2015- MPs said on Monday they are concerned about reports that a group of young teenage girls who have gone through arranged marriages are reporting to the Ter Apel refugee registration centre to be reunited with their partners. Local broadcaster RTV-Noord said on Monday some 20 teenage Syrian girls had made the journey to the Netherlands. The broadcaster bases its claims on IND documents. Two of the girls are 13 and two others 14. One is 15 and married to a man of 38, the documents show. Labour MPs have now called on junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff to clarify the situation.

MP Antje Kuiken is quoted as saying by broadcaster Nos that the situation is unacceptable. ‘I don’t believe this is voluntary,’ she said. ‘I think these are forced marriages.’ Kuiken said the girls now arriving in the Netherlands should be placed with foster families. Last year 34 teenagers in arranged marriages came to the Netherlands as refugees, most of whom are no longer minors. The Netherlands recognises marriages involving young teenagers as long as they are officially registered in the country of origin. However, campaigners criticise this position. ‘These girls need help,’ one social worker told RTV-Noord. Legislation which will limit the recognition of marriages to people aged 18 and over is currently waiting for approval in the senate. The vote is not expected before November.
© The Dutch News


UK/France: Banksy turns Dismaland into migrant shelters

Art project dismantled, sent to migrants stranded in France

30/9/2015- Banksy's Dismaland, the "most disappointing" theme park in Britain, will be broken down and turned into shelters for migrants in France, the street artist has said. "Coming soon ... Dismaland Calais," a statement on the park's website announced Monday. "All the timber and fixtures from Dismaland are being sent to the 'Jungle' refugee camp near Calais to build shelters. No online tickets will be available." Attached to the statement is an image of Dismaland's dilapidated castle towering over the French camp, which is currently home to at least 3,000 migrants, most of them from Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

But on Wednesday an official from the Calais mayoral office told CNN that there had been no request to move pieces of the exhibition to the "Jungle," and that associations in the city working with refugees hadn't heard from Banksy or Dismaland organizers either. "One cannot just do what one wants," the official, who gave his name as Louis, told CNN. The sprawling art installation -- Banksy's dystopian send-up of Disneyland -- is being dismantled after its five-week run in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare in southwest England. Visitors to the elusive British street artist's "bemusement park" were able to explore a run-down version of Sleeping Beauty's castle, join the paparazzi in snapping pics of a dead Cinderella, or treat themselves to balloons bearing the words "I am an imbecile."

Banksy, whose identity remains unknown, described Dismaland as "a family attraction that acknowledges inequality and impending catastrophe," in an interview with the Sunday Times. "It's modelled on those failed Christmas parks that pop up every December -- where they stick some antlers on an Alsatian dog and spray fake snow on a skip. It's ambitious, but it's also crap. I think there's something very poetic and British about all that." Amongst the park's darker attractions was a small pond where visitors could take control (or so it seemed) of migrant boats. "In the remote control boat pond at Dismaland it randomly switches the boat you operate -- so you have no control over whether your destiny is to be an asylum seeker or a western super-power," Banksy told the Sunday Times.

"I feel like my generation was the first to deal with the mass media beaming the world's problems to us in real time," he said. "I remember the baked beans cooling in my mouth as Newsround showed pictures of flies crawling over the faces of African babies. Mostly we've chosen to deal with this by cocooning ourselves, that we can live with the guilt." "But why should children be immune from the idea that to maintain our standard of living other children have to die trapped in the hulls of boats in the bottom of the Mediterranean?" Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have drowned attempting to reach Europe this year. Most of those who have made their way to Calais are hoping to end up in Britain. Since June, at least 11 people have died trying to cross into the UK via the Eurotunnel terminal near the French port city.

Tickets for Dismaland, which featured work from more than 50 artists in 17 countries, sold out within hours of going on sale in August. Officials say the attraction brought more than 150,000 visitors and £20 million ($30 million) to the seaside town, the BBC reported Monday. Banksy has achieved worldwide fame for his street art, which is often laden with social or political messages. In February he released a two-minute film highlighting the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. The video featured ironic messages in the style of a travel commercial, interspersed with shots of the artist's work adorning the doors and walls of bombed out buildings. "Make this the year YOU discover a new destination," the film entreats the viewer. "Welcome to Gaza."

Using the language of glossy brochures, it describes the territory, whose borders are largely controlled by Israel, as "nestled in an exclusive setting" and says it is "watched over by friendly neighbours."


Slovakian small town held a vote on accepting refugees; 97 percent said no.

28/9/2015- The next act of the European refugee crisis will unfold in little places like this one, where hundreds of Syrian war refugees are coming to live in a town that just voted by overwhelming numbers to oppose their stay. Over the past few days, the first of 500 Syrian asylum seekers arrived to take up three-month residency at a state-run dormitory in the center of town. Last month, as locals watched the news of streams of migrants winding their way through Europe, the town held a special referendum: 97 percent voted to oppose reopening the Slovak government’s refugee facility. “We’re not haters,”said Zoltan Jakus, one of the organizers of the vote. “But I think this will end badly.” With the refugee crisis escalating, European Union leaders last week approved a plan to spread 120,000 asylum seekers across 28 nations on the continent, over the objections of Central European countries. Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia voted against the measure, a rare note of discord.

The residents of Gabcikovo wonder why wars and unrest thousands of miles away, involving Muslims, should be their business. Gabcikovo is a town of 5,000 residents, where pensioners ride bicycles along quiet lanes lined with sturdy houses, many with overflowing gardens and ceramic gnomes, where everybody knows not only your name, but also what football club you support and what beer you drink. Most of them speak Hungarian and are Catholic. The people of Gabcikovo say they are not cold-hearted or racist, but they are clearly worried, and many of them are asking the same questions as other Europeans who feel uneasy about the rising numbers of war refugees and economic migrants.

“Who are these people? Where do they come from? Why are they here?” said Daniel Koczkas, 27, who works at a coffee distributor and has lived in Gabcikovo all his life. He waved a greeting to his mother, who was passing by on her bicycle. “We have no problem with different colors,” Koczkas said, “but we don’t know them.” One of his friends, Zoltan Zsemlye, 26, who works for Volkswagen, said, “If they’re all war refugees, why don’t they go to the Arab countries?” The two friends asked how many refugees were being taken in by rich Arab states in the Persian Gulf. They answered in unison, “None!”

A pair of young mothers pushing baby strollers, who declined to give their names, asked, “Would you want them in your home town?” A vegetable vendor said she was worried that terrorists could slip in among the refugees. Several local people expressed fears that on the nearby Danube, a massive dam and its hydroelectric plant would be a choice target. “They flew airplanes into the twin towers. Why not blow up the dam?” the greengrocer said. She pointed to the church steeple. The water from the dam would be that high. Other residents mentioned diseases — and the prospect of single young men walking the streets with no work and no money. “They’re scared,” said Peter Borbely, a graphic artist from Hungary who works here. “It’s a small town, really a village. Very tight, maybe even closed to outsiders, even to me.” He predicted that their fears would be allayed in time.

Gabcikovo has a long history of hosting outsiders, but this time it is different. During the early 1990s, the dormitories at the Slovak Technical University sheltered people fleeing the Balkan wars. The dormitories were used again to house other refugees and migrants seeking asylum in Europe. “We had Chechens, Iranians, Sri Lankans, Romanians, you name it,” said Zoltan Jaros, an administrator of the dorms. Jaros said that between 1993 and 2008, more than 5,000 refugees and migrants spent time at the campus dorms. “We have not had a single serious crime,” he said. “Maybe somebody stole an apple from a tree. But no rapes, assaults, robberies. Nothing.”

He stressed that the refugees are to be housed in dorms for only three or four months — that all are Syrians applying for asylum in Austria and that none will remain in Slovakia. (The E.U. plan calls for 800 refugees to be settled eventually in Slovakia, though Slovak leaders are opposed). “Austria has run out of room, so we are being good neighbors and helping them,” Jaros said. Vienna is just an hour away. “They’ll do all their paperwork there. We have nothing to do with that. Here they will sleep, eat, meet with social workers and study German, and if they are accepted, they will move to Austria.” Jaros said he has been impressed with the first arrivals at the dormitories. “Very calm. Very orderly. You can see they are educated people. They speak better English than me,” he said.

He has no patience for townspeople who fear the newcomers will bring terror or disease. “Some people think refugees eat little children for breakfast,” Jaros said. He shrugged and suggested that the complaints were naive or worse. Basil and Etidal Taroun, pharmacists from the Syrian capital, arrived last week and were strolling through town, relieved and maybe a bit stunned at where they ended up. They were applying for asylum in Austria. “It is nice for us,” Basil said. “It is okay.” His wife was smiling and said they would never complain. They would share a bathroom and toilet with another family. Their 2-year-old son was sucking on a lollipop. They would learn German quickly, Etidal promised. They would be given asylum, they were sure. They had made it here after 24 days on the road. They did not know that the town had voted to oppose their stay.

Zoltan Jakus, who led the referendum effort, said that volunteers collected 1,881 signatures in just three days to stage the vote and that the “no” campaign won 97 percent of the ballots with a turnout of 60 percent. “So that says something,” Jakus said. “The village people are ready to help. We would provide clothes, food and help them on their way, but we don’t want them to live here,” he said. “The fact that they are another ethnicity, another religion, another language, this will cause conflict,” Jakus said, adding that it was his impression, from media reports, that the Arabs are quick to anger. “They like to protest,” he said. “Maybe they will want to fight.” He said villagers wondered where the Muslims would pray. “We have no mosques here,” he said. “I don’t know if there is a single mosque in all Slovakia. You see? That is the problem.”
© The Washington Post


Sweden: Police act against huge shanty camp in Malmö

Swedish police have vowed to take action against a shanty town in Malmö that has become home to large numbers of migrants, mostly from Romania.

28/9/2015- Hundreds of migrants have been living in tents, caravans, shacks and cars in an industrial area in south east Malmö for months. But police admitted on Monday that their investigation into what is believed to be Sweden's largest shanty town had been delayed due to a wave of violence in the Swedish city over the summer. Mats Karlsson, Malmö's deputy police chief, told Swedish newswire TT that he was aware that permanent residents were becoming concerned about the camp and what to do if they found EU migrants camping on their property. He said that it was "certainly" the case that police would step in to help people who were worried. "We will complete this investigation," he added. Under Swedish law both locals and visitors alike currently have the right to walk or camp on almost any land, although this does not include public land that is adjacent to residential property or privately-owned gardens.

The case of the camp in Malmö is unique because the person who owns the land tolerated the migrants - who are mainly Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria - for six months before launching a trespassing case with police. In April, Malmö's environmental health board (miljöförvaltning) voted to ban fires and littering on the camp. But the decision was rejected, firstly by the regional government and then by Sweden's land and environment court (mark- och miljödomstolen), which argued that any case needed to be directed at specific individuals. "It is not just about the camp in Malmö. It is important for us to get the laws clarified, what paths we should go down if this situation occurs...once and for all, we need to get it clarified in court," a lawyer for Malmö city, Andrea Hjärne Dalhammar, told TT. "It feels as if the courts just want to drop a hot potato quickly," she said.

Sweden's national government recently announced it was set to appoint an investigator to review the country's regulatory framework for eviction. Some municipalities in other parts of Sweden have already evicted groups of Roma from public land including in the capital, Stockholm. On Monday Roger Haddad, a member of parliament for Sweden's centre-right Liberal party submitted a written request to the Swedish government demanding immediate clarification of the law and suggesting that authorities in Malmö had been "lazy". Research by Swedish broadcaster SVT in April 2015 suggested that the number of EU migrants from Romania and Bulgaria had more than doubled in the preceeding 12 months, to around 4,000 people.

Many of the migrants say they are fleeing poverty in their home countries and the Swedish government is cooperating with authorities in Romania to try and help the most vulnerable.

© The Local - Sweden

Sweden: More Swedes ‘want increase in refugees’

44 percent of respondents in an opinion poll undertaken by Ipsos for Sunday's edition of Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, believe that Sweden should take more refugees - an increase of 18 percentage points since February.

27/9/2015- In February, a similar Ipsos survey on attitudes to immigration and integration found that 36 percent of Swedes felt that the country should admit fewer refugees. The percentage of those who wanted to receive more then was just 26 percent. However, the situation is now reversed. When Ipsos repeated the question this month, 44 percent of the respondents said that more refugees should be taken in, an increase of 18 percentage points. “It is not so common to see such very strong public opinion changes - this is a big increase,” says Nicklas Källebring, analyst at Ipsos. "It is difficult to know exactly when the oscillation occurred, but it is likely that there is a trigger because it is an unusually large reversal. It is significant and occurs in all population groups. It shows what an impact the issue has made with people," Källebring.

Those that favour fewer refugees being offered asylum has dropped from 36 percent to 30 percent. The percentage of respondents who thought that the current number was about right dropped 13 points to 20 percent. Another finding was that close to one in three Swedes are willing to host a refugee in their home. The poll also showed that seven out of ten Swedes are worried about heightened xenophobia. “It is interesting that it is very clear that people are more concerned about xenophobia than about increased immigration,” says Källebring. Although many Swedes agree with the the government’s position on refugees, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s administration does receive a rap on the knuckles from the poll. 59 percent of respondents believe the government can do more to help the refugees from Syria.  “It is obvious that there is a majority, even among the government's own voters, that think they can do more than they do. This is a clear criticism of the government,” says Källebring.

In recent years Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation. During 2015, the migration issue has become an increasingly hot topic in public debate in Sweden. The civil war in Syria and Isis terror in the region has displaced millions of people and the number of asylum seekers who have come to Sweden has increased for four consecutive years. Critical voices have questioned whether Sweden can afford to host refugees at a time when public finances are stretched. There has also been concern about the impact of integrating so many migrants into the economy and labour market.
© The Local - Sweden


Czech Rep: MPs reject idea of permanent refugee relocation quotas

1/10/2015- The Czech Chamber of Deputies rejected yesterday the idea of a permanent mechanism of refugee relocation among the EU states and backed measures aimed to improve the protection of the EU's outer border, the readmission of migrants without the right to asylum and crackdowns on people smugglers. At the close of a seven-hour debate on the migration crisis, the lawmakers also rejected proposals by a part of the opposition that the Czech Republic file a lawsuit over the previously approved quotas for the relocation of dozens of thousands of refugees at the European Court of Justice. The resolution, which a deputy from the conserva-tive opposition TOP 09 party prepared in cooperation with the groups of deputies from the government Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), was supported by 91 of the 141 deputies present. Twenty deputies voted against it.

The opposition Communists (KSCM), Civic Democrats (ODS) and Dawn movement complained that no one had discussed the draft resolution with them. ODS deputies' group head Zbynek Stanjura labelled the draft "Brussels-like" and "saying nothing." The ODS, on the other hand, supported the government plan of state border protection. On the ODS's proposal, the Chamber of Deputies asked the government to specify the procedure of checking the refugees who are to be accepted by the Czech Republic. The Chamber of Deputies also asked the government for information about the humanitarian aid the Czech Republic has provided to refugee camps outside Europe so far. It asked Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) to promote, on the EU level, an increase in the sum that is spent on this aid from the EU budget, so that refugees prefer staying outside the EU instead of flowing to Europe.

A part of the opposition criticised the cabinet for failing to challenge the September decision on the mandatory quotas for a one-off redistribution of refugees.
ODS chairman Petr Fiala said the Czech government, which was opposed to the quotas, played "a great European comedy" in this connection, but it backpedalled on the issue as soon as it came to the "political crunch." Sobotka said Prague is still convinced that the quotas will solve nothing but it respects the decision. He repeated that Prague will not follow the example of Slovakia that wants to challenge the approved one-off quotas at the European Court of Justice. The Czech Republic should not take any steps that could weaken its position, Sobotka added.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Another refugee center to open soon

27/9/2015- The Czech Interior Ministry will open another detention centre for refugees in a former prison with the capacity of 240 people in a week, Hana Mala, from the Interior Ministry press department, has told CTK. The plan is opposed both by the towns and villages in the vicinity and the Usti Region. Mala said the detention centre would start serving the refugees as of October 5. "The foreigners will be able to use the facility depending on the existing situation," Mala said. "Men in particular will be accommodated there," Mala said. The ministry is making the last modifications in the centre, she added. "The staff is being hired and trained," Mala said.

With its capacity of 228 places, the former prison was the smallest in the Czech Republic. "The Usti Region already has enough problem localities," regional governor Oldrich Bubenicek (Communists, KSCM) said. "We are afraid that if the migrants are here, the situation may even worsen," he added. The small town of Lubenec, within whose administrative bounds Drahonice is located, also disagrees with the plan. Mayor Jiri Chaloupecky told CTK earlier that the establishment of the refugee centre contradicted the zoning plan and the local town hall was resolutely against it. The locals have launched a petition against the facility. The police have promised to increase the supervision of the area.

According to the Refugee Facilities Administration, the detention facilities for refugees accommodated 860 people on September 23. The centres are located in Bela-Jezova, central Bohemia, Zastavka, south Moravia, and Vysni Lhoty, north Moravia. The Czech Republic is one of the few EU countries to have rejected the mandatory quotas for refugees recently passed by EU interior ministers. It has only vowed to help the refugees on a voluntary basis.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Austria: Identitarian activists block border crossing

Around 50 members of the right-wing Identitarian Movement of Austria (Identitäre Bewegung Österreich) blocked the Spielfeld border crossing in protest against policies they say encourage mass immigration to Europe over the weekend. Evan Thomas spoke to some of the activists, who said they are frustrated by the recent refugee crisis and plan to continue carrying out acts of civil disobedience.

29/9/2015- This media-savvy organization, primarily made up of college students, is changing the nationalist scene in Europe through their defiant, but nonviolent tactics. A few years ago, old-style nationalist or neo-Nazi groups sought to attract young people opposed to multiculturalism and mass immigration. Now, the Identitarians have established themselves as an alternative, aiming to be a "patriotic Greenpeace-type organization", as their Vienna-branch leader Martin Sellner puts it. Recent stunts include blocking the A4 road near Nickelsdorf, occupying a border post in Salzburg, and building a border fence on the Austrian-Hungarian border.

The group says it has used social media to reach thousands of people since the start of the refugee crisis in September. They want Syrians to seek refuge in regions in the Middle East or North Africa. They claim that proceeds from their "border helper" (Grenzhelfer) stunts will be going to World Vision to support refugees in safe zones neighbouring Syria - rather than in Europe. Alexander Markovics, who heads up Austria's Identitarian movement, believes that "Europe can never hope to solve the migrant crisis and world poverty through immigration”. He claims it is short-sighted and culturally-destructive for all involved. "Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other nearby countries are more logical destinations for them, and this is where Europe should be focusing aid efforts and diplomatic leverage," he adds.

While there is some disagreement on how to classify the Identitarian movement politically - whether it be far-right, right, or ‘new right’ - they represent something distinct from traditional right-wing groups of the post-war period. Identitarianism claims “ethno-cultural pluralism” as a core value, which says no group of people is more or less valuable than another. This view, Markovics says, is of central importance to their worldview and has allowed them to attract young people from various political leanings. In keeping with the idea that different people should be free to run their own societies, they take positions that seem almost influenced by the traditional left than far-right - for example being anti-colonial, anti-imperial, and in favour of self-determination. The emphasis on strengthening indigenous identities globally and opposing assimilation is also uncharacteristic of the far-right.

Despite representing a break from traditional far-right extremists, the Identitarian movement remains very controversial for its vocal criticism of mass immigration and multiculturalism - which Markovics argues, "makes the preservation of ethno-cultural identities impossible and will lead to a non-European Europe". As Europe becomes more polarized on issues of culture and migration, a part of Austrian society is seeing this position as more reasonable than they otherwise might have in the recent past. According to Julian Bruns, an expert on far-right movements, when talking about the Identitarians it is important to keep in mind that they don't bring violence to the streets, instead it is their messages that present a danger because they know how to package them well. He says that since the movement’s beginnings in France in 2012, it has been made up of students, not skinheads, who use popular culture and new right rhetoric to attract young adults to their movement.

The social anxiety over the migrant crisis that Austria’s Identitarians are tapping into, is also facilitating a boost in popularity for the Freedom Party. The FPO, campaigning to reduce immigration, could conceivably win a majority in Vienna's October elections - something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Many Identitarians have links to the Freedom Party, and the FPO's recent success in Upper Austria's state elections was marked with jubilation on some of the movement's social media profiles. Potentially even deeper than the divisions highlighted by the Greek debt crisis earlier this summer, the current refugee crisis has exposed profound differences among Europeans on the direction, role, and even definition of Europe.
© The Local - Austria


Refugee crisis: Fears Austria's transport system could collapse

28/9/2015- Authorities in the Austrian city of Salzburg are warning the influx of migrants trying to reach Germany could cause the country's transport system to collapse. Due to Germany's slow processing of migrants, facilities where migrants are temporarily staying in Salzburg are overcrowded, officials say. If the flow of migrants continues, the authorities may be forced to shut down its train station where the migrant shelter is, which may paralyse Austria's entire train system.

As most 'regular' media keep talking about refugees as 'migrants' (evidently it makes it sound more like it's their own fault that they drown) I've taken it upon myself to change the headlines when ever possible- Suzette, editor I CARE English news feed.
© BBC News


Austrian far-right party gets electoral boost from refugee crisis

27/9/2015- Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) doubled its votes to finish a strong second in a state election on Sunday, dealing a blow to the two main centrist parties which were left nursing heavy losses. The conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) came in first at 36.4 percent of the vote, despite losing about 10 percentage points compared to the last election in 2009, and was followed by the FPO at 30.4 percent, according to the final results. The Social Democrats (SPO) lost around six percentage points to finish third at 18.4 percent. The anti-immigrant FPO has scored over 30 percent in recent national opinion polls, overtaking the Social Democrats and conservatives who have traditionally ruled Austria in coalitions since World War II. "Today's election was not about Upper Austria, but about one topic only, namely asylum," the OVP Upper Austria head Josef Puehringer told ORF television. "The winners amplified the understandable fears and concerns of the people," he said, adding he would enter coalition talks with all parties.

Austria has been a center of the migration crisis unfolding across Europe as tens of thousands of people, many of them fleeing war and destruction in countries like Syria, come to northern Europe via the Balkans and to the Alpine republic. On Saturday alone, around 12,000 migrants crossed into Austria, a nation of 8.5 million, from Hungary. FPO national leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who is running to become Vienna's mayor next month, wants to give preferential treatment to Christian migrants over Muslims to protect what he calls Austria's western character. He has also argued Austria should build a fence to stem the large numbers of migrants. In June, the FPO joined other far-right parties such as Geert Wilders' Dutch Freedom Party and France's National Front to form a common bloc in the European Parliament.

As most 'regular' media keep talking about refugees as 'migrants' (evidently it makes it sound more like it's their own fault that they drown) I've taken it upon myself to change the headlines when ever possible- Suzette, editor I CARE English newsfeed.
© Reuters


Germany: Hamburg to seize commercial property to house migrants

Hamburg has become the first German city to pass a law allowing the seizure of empty commercial properties in order to house migrants.

2/10/2015- The influx of migrants has put pressure on the authorities of the northern city to find accommodation. Some migrants are sleeping rough outdoors. Ham-burg's law takes effect next week. In a separate development, prosecutors filed charges of inciting racial hatred against a co-founder of the anti-Islamic Pegida movement. The prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said they acted after Lutz Bachmann had on Facebook described asylum seekers "trash" and "animals". Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) members have staged a number of rallies in recent months, attracting tens of thousands of people.

Meanwhile, a new survey by broadcaster ARD said 51% of people admitted the influx of migrants scared them. It suggests a four-year low in Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity. She has said Germany can accommodate migrants who have genuinely fled war or persecution - a humanitarian gesture towards the many thousands risking their lives to reach Europe this year. But many politicians - including her conservative Bavarian CSU allies and various EU partners - have criticised the open-door policy.
© BBC News


German right-wingers push through with controversial refugee home visit

Members of the far-right NPD have been allowed to tour a refugee center in northeastern Germany, despite a previous ban. Their mainstream colleagues decried the trip as propaganda.

28/9/2015- The five NPD politicians visited the facility on Monday in their capacity as members of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament. The NPD was only allowed to visit the home after winning a court injunction, which overturned the earlier ban by state authorities. The officials had claimed that such a visit would disturb "peaceful coexistence." Indeed, the far-right politicians lost no time in criticizing the camp for its abundance, the exact opposite depiction of widely reported stories, which have underscored the fact that refugees pouring into Germany are only receiving the bare minimum. "Many Germans could only dream" of the conditions provided by the center, said the NPD parliamentary group leader Udo Pastörs. According to other participants in the tour, the NPD leader also remarked on the lack of pork during lunch, wondering if people who eat pork were discriminated against. A server allegedly replied that the overwhelming majority of migrants were Muslim.

Pastörs' remarks were sharply criticized by other lawmakers in the state parliament, who claim that the NPD was aiming to stir hatred and intolerance. "It is absurd and cynical to pretend that the refugees here are living in [extreme luxury], after many of them came here with nothing but their lives," the state's SPD faction leader, Norbert Nieszery, said. "They do nothing but feed the flames," said Johann-Georg Jäger from the Greens party. The more moderate parties sent their representatives - wearing shirts with slogans praising diversity - to join the tour, in a show of support for the immigrants. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the only state where the NPD is represented in the parliament; the party has no seats on the federal level.

New attacks in the state
After the tour, the SPD politician Nieszery also accused leading NPD members of being on the frontlines of various anti-refugee protests across the state. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been the site of several clashes between far-right protesters and security forces, with over 1,000 people taking part in anti-refugee street marches last week. On Monday, an unknown attacker broke two windows by throwing stones and a beer bottle at a refugee home in the town of Pinnow, before fleeing the scene in a car, police said.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Call to segregate rival groups after clashes at asylum centres

Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy and her calls for a “culture of welcome” are facing a growing backlash from within her party.

28/9/2015- Germany’s police said accommodation for refugees should be divided along religious and ethnic lines after violent clashes between refugee groups at asylum centres in recent days. The latest violence occurred on Sunday night at a “tent city” housing 1,500 migrants in the town of Calden, north of Frankfurt. Police said rival groups of Pakistani and Albanian refugees attacked each other with clubs. Fourteen people were injured in the clashes, which were broken up by police using teargas and pepper spray. “Between 60 and 70 people were involved. They attacked each other with clubs and threw things at each other,” a police spokesman said. The incident followed similar violence on Friday at an asylum centre near Leipzig, where 200 Syrian and Afghan migrants attacked each other with table legs, bed frames and sticks after a dispute about who should be allowed to use one of the few lavatories provided in the accommodation first.

“The police have reached the absolute limit of what they can take,” complained the deputy head of Germany’s police trade union, Jörg Radek. “ We must do everything we can to prevent further outbreaks of violence.” He said segregation of refugees along religious and ethnic lines was essential. No formal segregation has been introduced so far, although in the states of Thuringia and Bavaria refugees from similar ethnic backgrounds tend to be housed together. “We take into account the religious and ethnic differences when providing accommodation for asylum seekers,” said Emilia Müller, Bavarian’s minister for social affairs. The German government has set aside €6bn (£4.4bn) to fund accommodation and an extra 3,000 police to cope with the estimated one million refugees the country is expected to take in this year. But with training for police taking around three years, Germany’s 16 federal states are currently forced to rely largely on private security firms to meet the shortfall.

The clashes among refugees in Germany’s overcrowded asylum accommodation have followed more than 200 attacks on refugee centres by suspected far-right activists this year alone. In the east German town of Heidenau, the scene of earlier racist anti–immigrant attacks, a refugee was attacked and injured by a man armed with a beer bottle as he walked to his accommodation at the weekend. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition has offered Syrian war refugees the prospect of immediate asylum in Germany for the next three years. However, her open-door migrant policy and her calls for a “culture of welcome” are facing a growing backlash from within her own conservative Christian Democratic Party. Steffen Kampeter, a veteran Christian Democrat MP, insisted in an interview with Die Welt newspaper at the weekend: “We need to send more signals showing that not everyone can come to us...We must act thoroughly otherwise we will not be able to stop things going wrong.”

Erika Steinbach, another veteran conservative, said: “Life has not become easier as a result of the chancellor’s comments. I don’t know anyone who believes we can really bring the arrival of so many refugees under control – the people want a further influx stopped,” she insisted. President Joachim Gauck also took a more cautious tone than Ms Merkel over the weekend, saying there are limits to how many refugees the country can take. “We want to help. We have a big heart. However, there is a limit to what we can do,” he said.
© The Independent


Germany: Attacks on refugee shelters more than doubled, police say

28/9/2015- The number of attacks and other criminal offences committed against refugee shelters in Germany has more than doubled this year compared to 2014, police said on Monday. Germany expects a record-breaking number of 800,000 new arrivals this year. The unprecedented influx of foreigners has fueled social tensions and there have been protests and attacks against asylum shelters in some parts of the country. "In the last few months, the crimes have reached a new level - both in quantity and quality," Sandra Clemens, spokeswoman for the BKA Federal Criminal Police Office, told Reuters. The number of criminal offences against asylum shelters so far this year surged to 437 from around 200 in the whole of 2014, she said, adding that damage to property, graffiti and verbal insults made up the largest part of the offences.

The total for 2015 included 59 crimes classified as violent, a new record high after last year's peak of 28, Clemens said. Of this year's figure, 26 were arson attacks. Police have arrested 20 suspects in connection with these arson attacks, she said. As a whole, police identified 500 suspects for crimes against asylum shelters. The majority of these suspects were men aged between 18 and 25 years who often lived in the same town where the offences were committed, Clemens noted. The police statistics came after President Joachim Gauck warned that there are limits to how many refugees Germany can take in, showing growing concern even at the highest level over how to look after so many newcomers.
© Reuters


German president says country has finite capacity to absorb refugees

German President Joachim Gauck has said the country has a finite capacity to take in refugees. Meanwhile, Germany's intelligence chief has warned of further radicalization of right-wing groups.

27/9/2015- Gauck said "our hearts are wide open," but Germany faces difficulties housing refugees and providing schooling and other services amid budget constraints. "Our absorption capacity is limited, even if it has not yet been decided where these limits lie," Gauck said at an intercultural service on Sunday evening. With Germany expecting up to 1 million migrants by the end of the year, Gauck said the government will be required to "promote the construction of apartments and build schools, hire teachers and kindergarten staff, adjust the labor market and vocational training, teach the German language and German law -- and do all of that at the same time."

Germany is grappling with the influx of refugees, many from war-torn Syria, by speeding up the processing of asylum claims and establishing quotas for each of the country's 16 states after Bavaria was overwhelmed by refugees entering from Hungary and Austria. The federal government on Thursday announced a series of measures that include providing states 670 euros per asylum seeker, per month. Leaders also agreed on tighter rules for those seeking asylum. Gauck applauded volunteer efforts to help refugees, but the humanitarian response of people would need to be sustained "when the initial euphoria of giving has evaporated." He voiced concern over "tensions between newcomers and established residents," while warning of "rightwing radical incendiaries and agitators" and the potential of Islamic fundamentalists to infiltrate Germany alongside refugees.

Extremist groups rise
Gauck's warning echoed comments by Germany's intelligence chief, who cautioned in a radio interview on Sunday of rising xenophobia and radicalization of right-wing groups responding the refugee influx. "What we are seeing in connection with the refugee crisis is a mobilization on the street of right-wing extremists, but also of some left-wing extremists" against the right-wing groups, Germany's domestic spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen said. He added that the intelligence service had noticed "a greater willingness to use violence" by far-right, left-wing and Islamist extremists. The influx of refugees has led to a series of attacks and protests against refugees and their housing, as well as clashes between the far-right and leftist groups supporting refugees.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Hungary PM Orban lambasts Croatia counterpart over migrants

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has said his Croatian counterpart is a leftist mouthpiece tasked with attacking Hungary, as a row over migrants grows.

2/10/2015- He said Zoran Milanovic was an envoy of the Socialist International, whose members believed the current influx of migrants was "a good thing". Tensions between the two nations have risen since Hungary erected a barbed wire fence on the Serbian border. This forced migrants to go to Croatia, prompting criticism from Zagreb. Hungary completed the construction of the fence along its 175km-long (109 miles) border with Serbia in September, and is now building a similar barrier on its border with Croatia. Thousands of migrants - many of them fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa - have been arriving in the three countries as they seek to move to wealthier EU nations. Last month, the 28-member EU agreed plans to relocate 120,000 migrants from Hungary, Greece and Italy.

Speaking to local media on Friday, Mr Orban said: "We don't consider what the Croatian prime minister says to be the opinion of the Croatian people." "When they hear the Croatian prime minister, I ask Hungarians not to hear a Croatian man but an envoy of the Socialist International who is supposed to attack Hungary," he added. Mr Milanovic's Social Democratic Party is a member of the Socialist International. Mr Orban has repeatedly stated that Europe's borders are threatened by migration, saying this is "breaking the doors" of the continent. Last month, the government in Budapest was strongly criticised by the EU after Hungarian police used tear gas and water cannon to stop migrants breaking through the fence from Serbia. Meanwhile, Mr Milanovic on Friday described Hungary's moves to erect a barbed wire fence on the Croatian border "nasty and inefficient". "There is no point in talking about closing the border. You cannot close it," he told the BBC. "If Hungary wishes to roll more rolls of barbed wire, then so be it. People are always able to circumvent it."

Eastern European countries are stressing the need to protect the EU's external borders and distinguish between economic migrants and refugees, says the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels. Meanwhile German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere repeated calls to limit the number of refugees coming into Europe. He proposed that the EU create "generous contingents where we take people from crisis regions into Europe without traffickers and distribute them across Europe".

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


Hungary's minorities bear brunt of anti-migrant rhetoric

1/10/2015- Hungary's government has launched an all-out campaign against migrants, but the people who feel like they are the real targets already live there: members of the country's Roma and Muslim minorities. "I wish the government would think more carefully before starting campaigns like this," said Robert Sulek, president of Hungary's Islamic Community. "It's our wives who get spat on and have their veils ripped off in the street." Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has divided opinion across Europe by shutting his country's borders to the throngs of weary refugees seeking to cross through on their way to Northern Europe. More than 240,000 migrants have passed through Hungary this year so far, nearly all seeking sanctuary in the rich countries of western Europe from war and poverty in the Middle East.

Orban's government has built a fence along its border with Serbia and introduced fast-track asylum procedures to prevent migrants and refugees entering the country. But the refugees mostly pass through without staying. Meanwhile, Hungary is home to around 30,000 Muslims, most of whom arrived after World War Two, and to 800,000 Roma, or gypsies, present in this part of Europe since the Middle Ages. Both groups say they have felt the force of a government campaign of xenophobia. "We often experience the kind of exclusion that migrants feel," said Gabor Varady, a taut and driven boxing trainer who heads the Roma advisory council in the northern industrial city of Miskolc, which has Hungary's largest Roma population after the capital Budapest. "You hear ever stronger statements about gypsies, about migrants, things you would never have heard 20 or 25 years ago," he said.

Closely Linked
Orban's defenders say the government was left with no choice but to curb the flow of migrants passing through on their way to Germany and other wealthy countries further north. Hungary has been the main overland entry point into Europe's border-free Schengen zone, and European law demands the border be protected. But critics say the government has taken the campaign much further, seeking to outflank extreme right wing nationalists by stoking dangerous ethnic rage. Earlier this month, the country's only Roma town mayor resigned from Orban's Fidesz party after the right-wing prime minister gave a speech drawing a comparison between the migrants and the Roma. "It's a historical fact that Hungary must live with a few hundred thousand Roma," Orban told Hungarian ambassadors at a Budapest conference. "We can't ask anybody else to live with a large number of Roma."

Weeks before, the justice minister said Hungary was not in a position to take in migrants since its hands were already full dealing with its Roma population. Bela Lakatos, the Roma mayor of Acs, a town of 7,000, said Orban's speech made him feel like a "second-class citizen". "Gypsies and refugees are so closely linked in the public mind that it takes just a few moments to put the two together," he told Reuters in an interview. The government openly conflates immigration with terrorism, as in a leaflet sent by the government to every household in the country early this year. It contained a questionnaire soliciting citizens' views for a "National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism." Sent out weeks after staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed in Paris by Islamist gunmen, it opened by asking: "How important is the spread of terrorism (the French massacre, ISIS's horrifying acts) in your life?" That was followed by a lengthy poster campaign, nominally targeted at migrants but unintelligible to almost all of them since it was written in Hungarian. "If you come to Hungary, you can't take Hungarians' jobs," read one poster.
"Immigration Madness"
Some social scientists said the campaign appeared tailor-made to trigger negative associations in people's minds, not only toward newcomers but toward all minorities. "Roma and migration shouldn't be linked in any straightforward way," said Simon Rippon, a political scientist at Budapest's Central European University. "No more than there's a link between immigration and terrorism." Muslims and Roma say they sense the change in mood. "I hardly dare go out on to the street in my hijab since the immigration madness started," said a 40-year-old Muslim convert, who asked not to be identified for fear of becoming a target. "My car tires have been slashed, and when I told the police they told me not to attract attention by wearing my black headscarf," she said.

Despite being part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly two centuries, Hungary does not have an indigenous Muslim community. But, since World War Two, Muslims, primarily from the Arab world, have arrived in growing numbers. From the sixties onwards, many came from across the Middle East and Africa to study. Some stayed, like Fahmi Al Maktari, a cardiologist from Yemen at a hospital in Salgotarjan, a small city in the North. "There has been an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment," he said, though as a well-known doctor in a small town he and his family experienced little of it directly. The transition from Communism to a market economy brought insecurity and inequality, which has helped fuel xenophobia.

Orban's Fidesz party is under pressure on its right flank from the far-right Jobbik party, which explicitly blames Roma for crime and insecurity. Since the start of Orban's migration campaign, Fidesz has gained in the polls at the expense of the far right. Hungary's Roma suffer from higher poverty rates, lower education levels and lower life expectancies than the overall population. In the "numbered streets", a Roma district in the shadow of a long-shuttered steel plant in Miskolc, half the houses are empty, their roofs open to the sky and windows looking on piles of accumulated detritus.

"Easily Misunderstood"
Some of them have become migrants themselves. In 2011, 4,500 mainly Roma Hungarian citizens applied for asylum in Canada. While few had their applications accepted, returning Roma still reminisce about the quality of their life there. "Here, I could never get a job. There, I insulated buildings and earned 4,000 Canadian dollars a month," said Attila Horvath, a 54-year old in Miskolc who was sent home to Hungary in 2013. Livia Jaroka, an ally of Orban who in 2004 became the first female Roma member of the European Parliament, representing his party, acknowledged that some remarks by government members were "easily misunderstood". But she said Hungary under Orban was facing up to the issue of combating social exclusion among minorities. Hungary's experience dealing with its own poor, including the Roma, had helped shape Orban's view that migration was not the answer. "It's not normal that people should need to leave their country to be happy," said Jaroka, an anthropologist who left the parliament last year to focus on anti-poverty policy. "Roma and non-Roma poor shouldn't be imposed on other countries."

Familiarity with the challenges faced by Hungary's Roma was one of the reasons Orban was concerned about migration, recognizing it would take time and effort to integrate new arrivals in Europe, Jaroka added. In Budapest's Jozsefvaros market, just a few hundred meters from the Keleti railway station that until recently thronged with thousands of migrants pausing on their journey westwards, a vibrant multicultural society is taking shape. At thousands of stalls and shops, Chinese, Arab, Afghan and Turkish traders hawk their wares and do deals. The market is a major distribution point for budget goods destined for poorer countries to Hungary's south and east. Some of the market's Muslim traders pause five times a day to pray in one of the market's three mosques - Arab, Turkish and Afghan - and many lent a hand to starving and exhausted Syrian refugees as they passed through.

Tariq came to Hungary in the 1980s to study medicine. He stayed and now runs a mobile handset shop at the market. "I've been here 20 years, and the discrimination has got better and worse at times," he said in near-perfect Hungarian. "But I myself am from a Palestinian refugee family, and I've made a good life here."
© Reuters


Hungary to EU: migrant quotas will repeat Western Europe's 'failed' attempts at multiculturalism

Hungary is not interested in moralising EU “lectures” on compulsory migrant quotas and defends its rejection of more Middle Eastern refugees on the basis that it wants nothing to do with the West’s past “failed experiments” in multiculturalism.

27/9/2015- The country’s tough stand is a direct riposte to one of Brussel’s most senior bureaucrats who scolded Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban for erecting border fences designed to frustrate migrants transiting the country on their way to the rest of Europe. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned on Thursday that Central European countries have “no experience with diversity,” making them susceptible to fears about Muslim refugees. If no sustainable solution is found “you will see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent,” Timmermans said on BBC Radio 4. Timmermans, in the BBC interview, said Central Europe must adapt to the demographic changes while singling out Hungary for special mention. “Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future — that’s the future of the world,” Timmermans said. “So [Central European countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of playing into the fears as I’ve seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of months.”

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Orban’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said integration in much of Western Europe had been anything but a resounding success and Hungary, he said, felt neither the wish nor the obligation to follow suit. “Contrary to Mr Timmerman’s vision, we can’t see into the future,” Mr Kovács said. “But we are aware of the past, and multi-culturalism in Western Europe has not been a success in our view. We want to avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.” On Wednesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan for EU states to spread 120,000 asylum seekers across the 28-member bloc was pushed through by a qualified majority vote. In came in the teeth of eastern opposition from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both Hungary and Slovakia have threatened legal challenges to the ruling.

“Mr Timmermans is right that we have not had the same experience as Western Europe, where countries like Holland, Britain and France have had mass immigration as a result of their colonial legacies,” added Mr Kovács. “But we would like to deal with our problems in a way that suits us. “And we especially don’t like it when people who have never lived in Hungary try to give us lectures on how we should cope with our own problems. Calling us racists or xenophobes is the cheapest argument. It’s used just to dodge the issues.” According to the Telegraph, Mr Kovács comments came after Hungary’s ambassador to London, Péter Szabadhegy, claimed common cause with Britain on the issue.

In a briefing to British journalists last week, he said the British public had been jamming the switchboard of Hungary’s embassy to London in support of Budapest’s controversial stance. Of the 300 phone calls, emails and letters that were reaching the embassy’s Belgravia HQ every day, 70 per cent described Hungary’s actions as “God’s gift to Europe.” The rest were mostly insults such as “heartless scum”. Reiterating Hungary’s opposition to quotas, Mr Szabadhegy said: “We don’t think it’s the right priority. If you have a burst pipe in your house, it is like worrying which rooms the water is going into instead of fixing the pipe.”
© Breitbart


Bulgaria Refugee Accommodation Centers 'Half Empty'

26/9/2015- Beds in accommodation centers for asylum seekers in Bulgaria are only 49 percent full, authorities say. Data from the State Refugee Agency (DAB) comes against the backdrop of reports of increased migratory pressure at the southeastern border between Bulgaria and Turkey. Most migrants who manage to cross into Bulgaria prefer not to stay and avoid being registered, only using the country's territory to reach Germany. As of September 25, people accommodated at the centers around Bulgaria numbered 2513, compared to a "full" capacity of 5130. The website quotes Deputy Interior Minister Filip Gounev as saying that people who have been granted refugee status here also tend to depart for Western Europe. In his words, some 1500-2000 people enter the accommodation centers every week but most of them leave. The number of people applying for asylum has increased in August (1447) compared to the first months of 2015 (1000-1200) and earlier in the summer (1200-1400), data also suggests.
© Novinite


Finland: far-right groups attack refugees

Demonstrators have attacked a bus load of refugees arriving at a reception centre in southern Finland with stones and fireworks.

26/9/2015- Between 30 and 40 protesters, one wearing a white robe like those worn by the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan in the US, waved the Finnish flag and shouted abuse at the bus in the southern town of Lahti late on Thursday. Some demonstrators also hurled stones and let off fireworks at the vehicle carrying 40 refugees, including several young children, Finnish television YLE said. "The protesters were young people from Lahti... At this point we have no indication that they would be somehow organised," chief inspector Martti Hirvonen told the local Finnish outlet STT, according to the AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, a petrol bomb was thrown at another reception centre in Kouvola, also in southern Finland, police said. No one was known to be hurt in the incidents, the Reuters news agency reported. "The Finnish government strongly condemns last night's racist protests against asylum seekers who had entered the country," the government said in a statement. "Violence or the threat of violence is always to be condemned." Prime Minister Juha Sipila this month offered to take in refugees at his home, a move that attracted international attention but also criticism in Finland.

'Christmas gift'
"Sipila's noble-minded gesture was like a Christmas gift for human traffickers and refugees. The news about open doors in Finland have sent many young men on a journey towards the promised land," Mika Niikko, a deputy from anti-immigrant party The Finns, said last week in a statement. So far this year more than 13,000 refugees have come to Finland, compared to just 3,600 in the whole of last year. In recent days, about 500 refugees per day have crossed the Finnish land border in Tornio, near the Arctic Circle, after a long journey through Sweden. The Finnish government has launched random border checks and identity checks around the country amid the influx of people. Finland was the only EU state to abstain from this week's vote about relocating refugees across the member countries. It accepted its 2 percent share of 120,000 refugees in question but said it was opposed to a mandatory quota system.
© Reuters


Refugee crisis: 17 people drown after boat sinks off Turkish coast

Seventeen migrants attempting to reach Greece by boat from Turkey have drowned after their boat sank off Turkey.

27/9/2015- The victims, all thought to be Syrians, included five women and five children, local media said. Another 20 people on the boat's deck, who were wearing life jackets, survived, the news agency said. Some 300,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Greece so far this year, most of them moving on to try to reach other EU countries. Those arriving in Greece have mostly set off from Turkey's Aegean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Those who drowned on Sunday were trapped in the boat's cabin as it sank, Turkey's Dogan news agency reported.

The boat is thought to have set out from the village of Gumusluk near the Turkish resort town of Bodrum, where three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi died earlier this month. Alan's death made international headlines when an image of his body washed up on the beach in Bodrum was widely shared. With several Greek islands within a few miles, thousands of people are attempting the dangerous journey every day.

Mediterranean rescue
Separately, 500 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean so far this weekend in seven operations involving the Italian coastguard and navy and a ship belonging to the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres. A spokesman for the coastguard told the AFP news agency on Sunday that three of the seven operations were ongoing. The rescued migrants are thought to be largely from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone and left Libya three days earlier. They were rescued about 80km (50 miles) off the Libyan coast. Hungarian police said on Sunday that 9,472 migrants had arrived in the country on Saturday, overwhelmingly crossing from Croatia. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that his government plans to seal its border with Croatia, in the same way that it has sealed the border with Serbia.

 Croatia said on Saturday that about 67,000 people had entered the country over the past 10 days, when Hungary's decision to fence off its border with Serbia redirected migrants towards Croatia. About 10,000 migrants crossed into Croatia from Serbia on Friday - a record daily high - with the steady stream of people continuing into the weekend. Migrants and refugees crossing the Serbia-Croatia border have suffered a dip in temperatures this weekend. A majority of EU interior ministers last week approved a controversial plan to relocate 120,000 refugees and migrants from Greece and Italy to other member states. Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic voted against the proposals.

As most 'regular' media keep talking about refugees as 'migrants' (evidently it makes it sound more like it's their own fault that they drown) I've taken it upon myself to change the headlines when ever possible- Suzette, editor I CARE English newsfeed.
© BBC News


While EU governments demur, refugees find a welcome on the Web

27/9/2015- With one million people expected to seek asylum in Europe this year and governments arguing over how to cope, thousands of volunteers are taking to the Internet to offer refugees shelter free of charge. In France, the Netherlands and other European countries, private individuals are proposing free lodging via Web-based platforms inspired by Airbnb, the home rental venture that has flourished with the rise of smartphones. Some fear private endeavors may complicate government efforts to direct the refugee flow, or simply prove too short-lived as the strains of sharing a home take their toll. "It's laudable symbolically but it's not the model favored by the state," said an official at the interior ministry of France, where arrivals are despatched to accommodation centers or state-paid hotel rooms.

But refugees, many of whom relied heavily on mobile phone maps and communications during their journey to Europe from Syria, Iraq or Africa, will find plenty of offers online. On one Irish website, more than 1,000 people "pledged a bed" for refugees within three hours. In Germany, "Refugees Welcome" offers a matching service to put people with lodgings in touch with refugees. One French venture, Singa, has registered 10,000 offers of free lodgings since it started up in June and now has 10 volunteers working full time to match refugees with hosts. "We're overwhelmed. We had no idea there would be such an enthusiastic response," said founder Nathanael Molle. So far, Singa has put 47 refugees in homes around Paris.

Civil servant Clara de Bort, 40, used to rent a spare room to paying tourists. Now she shares her home for free with Aicha, a woman who fled ethnic conflict and forced marriage in Chad and who has been through 14 different state-funded accommodation centers and hotels since she arrived two years ago. Aicha, 25, recently equipped with a book to help her learn French, hopes for a convivial living arrangement and eventual stability. "What I need now is to speak French properly, get a job and find a HLM (long-term social housing)," said the Arabic-speaker. She asked not to have her family name published. Dutch-based Refugee Hero, whose founders describe it as a "mobile-friendly website with similar functionality to Airbnb", says 50 refugees have made contact since it started a few days ago. It has yet to conclude a placement but already "we've got over a hundred listings from all over the world, from Portugal to Brazil, to Austria and the Netherlands," Ayoub Aouragh, one of three young co-founders, told Reuters.

Jurrien ten Brinke in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn aims to fill gaps in public housing and is linking up with non-governmental organizations to train volunteers to help refugees. More than 24,000 people have signed up to help and 6,000 of them are offering to house refugees if and when the authorities acknowledge they are stretched. Peter van der Weerd, an Apeldoorn volunteer, regularly hosts refugees for dinner at his home. "It's my duty to share something with them, not only food ... but to spend time with them," he said.  Yaman, a 24-year-old Syrian, arrived with his brother via Turkey, one of the main exit routes from the war in his homeland. "They told us they really liked us and want us to stay in Apeldoorn. They didn't treat us any differently than the people living here."

European Union governments this week adopted a plan to distribute 120,000 asylum-seekers across the 28-member bloc over two years, which, including a previous quota, takes to the number needing lodgings and assistance to 160,000. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says however that a million people will request asylum this year and up to 450,000 of those will be eligible to stay in the EU. "You can't take a refugee into the home in the same way you take in someone for 48 hours when they are victims of flooding," said Pierre Henry, head of France Terre d'asile, one of the charities that deal with migrants. "It's a long-term welcome."
© Reuters


Far right making hay from Europe's migrant crisis

26/9/2015- The far right in Europe is making capital from the hundreds of thousands of migrants pushing into the continent and hopes to turn fears it has helped to fuel of an "invasion" into electoral success. "Their attitude is basically that the people coming in are neither refugees nor migrants, but invaders," said Jean-Yves Camus, one of France's leading experts on the far right. The leader of France's National Front (FN), Marine Le Pen, claims that the migrants are "illegal immigrants who are over-demanding and arrogant" and that three-quarters are not refugees at all, but people who just want to claim benefits. Europe's biggest migrant crisis since World War II is "what the FN has been warning about for years", she says. Le Pen's blunt solution to the stream of people arriving at Europe's borders every day is to "warm them up, feed them and then send them back where they came from", she told Paris-based foreign correspondents this week.

Several leading figures in the Sweden Democrats, which won nearly 13 percent in last year's general election, have even accused the father of Aylan, the Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, of wanting to come to Sweden "to get free dental treatment". Camus said the fact that the migrants are mainly Muslims played into far-right ideology, which portrays them as leading a "crusade" against Europe's "Christian traditions". The leading far-right figure in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, has compared the migrant influx to an "Islamist invasion" that threatened "the security, culture and identity of Europe". While the far right has been making such claims for years, they potentially have more impact in the current context because "the migrant phenomenon coincides with the phenomenon of Daesh," Camus said, using another name for the jihadist Islamic State group.

"When the FN and (Flemish nationalist group) Vlaams Belang say they are hostile to Muslim immigration, it's nothing new. But when they organise a big conference in Brussels three weeks after the attack on the (French train), it takes on another dimension," Camus said, referring to the thwarted shooting on the Amsterdam to Paris train on August 21 over which a Moroccan suspected extremist has been charged.

- 'Huge capital' -
French historian Nicolas Lebourg says the far right has gained ground in Europe in recent years thanks to the global shockwaves generated by the September 11, 2001 attacks and the 2009 financial crisis. "If you add the third factor, the migrant crisis, they should make huge capital out of it, especially as migration remains the issue closest to their heart," he said. The effect is already being felt at the ballot box. On August 20, the Sweden Democrats topped opinion polls in that country for the first time ever, and the Vlaams Belang has climbed to almost 10 percent in similar polls in Flanders. In France, a recent survey showed that 34 percent of voters agreed with Marine Le Pen's views on the migration issue and her party could finish top in several regions in elections in December.

Beyond mere electoral success, the migrant crisis has also sparked large street protests. The anti-Islam PEGIDA movement drew crowds of up to 25,000 to marches in the eastern German city of Dresden at the start of the year. PEGIDA has seen its support dip since the spring and around 60 percent of Germans back Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants. But even nationalist leaders are occasionally not immune to the emotional impact of events such as the discovery of the bodies of 71 migrants in a lorry in Austria or the photograph of Aylan that brought the human tragedy of the crisis into sharp focus. The leader of Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini did offer to put up a refugee in his Milan flat -- providing it was "someone who is really fleeing war". He added though that given the choice between taking in a Muslim or a Christian, "my preference would be a Christian".


Europe's Forgotten Refugees

29/9/2015- It took Hagos Hadgu 11 traumatic months to travel from Eritrea to his new temporary home in a refugee camp in Sweden. Along the way, he made deals with smugglers, was held captive by terrorists and almost drowned crossing the Mediterranean. And in Libya, so close to the continent he believed would give him and his wife, Natsnet, refuge, he became separated from her. He doesn't know if she is alive or dead. Throughout the ordeal, what kept 34-year-old Hadgu going was the hope of gaining asylum in Europe. But when he arrived in Italy, he was told by other refugees that getting to the United Kingdom—his preferred destination—would be almost impossible. Since then, and especially in recent weeks, he has come to believe that one thing above all others would help him find a new home in Europe: being Syrian.

Hadgu's sense that Syrians are increasingly being given priority over other refugee populations arriving in Europe as part of the largest migration of people on the continent since World War II is shared by many asylum-seekers. Statements and policy decisions by European officials and governments have compounded this belief that not all refugees arriving in Europe are being treated equally. In Germany, which receives the largest number of asylum applications of any European country, officials are being increasingly explicit about policies that put Syrians at the front of the line. "Syrians have a prioritized procedure [in Germany] right now," Kira Gehrmann, a spokeswoman for the country's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, tells Newsweek. "They don't need to attend a personal hearing. It is enough when they fill out a written form. Furthermore, they are being prioritized by our staff concerning the processing of their applications."

Following the death of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned off the Turkish coast on September 2, many Europeans and their leaders expressed deep sympathy for Syria's refugees. The British government, for example, announced on September 7 that it would take in 20,000 Syrians over the next five years. In Washington, President Barack Obama told his administration on September 10 to prepare to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. On the Greek island of Lesbos, an arrival point for thousands of asylum-seekers, officials held a mass registration for Syrian refugees on September 7, in a bid to clear the growing numbers of asylum-seekers on the island. "Across Europe, Syrians are getting accepted more quickly," says Paul Donohoe, a spokesman for the International Rescue Committee, which is assisting refugees on the island. "Everyone knows that Syria is at war, and everyone knows what they are fleeing from, so that makes things easier."

In all refugee crises, various factors—including geographical proximity, economic self-interest and pressure from activists and politicians—help shape the decisions made by host governments about which nationalities to open their doors to. Europe is geographically close to Syria, and some of the EU's member states have direct involvement in the region. British air force pilots have been participating this year in airstrikes over Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. On September 7, French President François Hollande announced that France would begin reconnaissance flights over Syria the next day. Once these were concluded, he said, "we will be ready to conduct strikes." Geopolitical reasons aside, Syrian refugees, who are often highly educated, are appealing to countries like Germany, which has an aging labor force.

Inevitably, prioritizing one group can mean neglecting others. While non-Syrian refugees must go through a lengthy asylum process, in which their claims are assessed on a case-by-case basis, they are watching Syrian refugees in some EU countries get asylum almost automatically. "If you feel that you're being ignored, or not being helped, or not having your rights respected, that will cause resentment," says Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of refugee and migrants' rights at Amnesty International. "This resentment happens in every refugee crisis. The issue is not to exacerbate the resentment with policies that only benefit one group." Hadgu is likely to qualify for refugee status because he fled Eritrea's oppressive regime. He will be interviewed for his asylum claim in October. The odds are on his side because Sweden grants asylum to almost all Eritrean refugees.

But even in Sweden, which last year received the highest number of asylum requests in Europe per capita, there are no guarantees. Hadgu is concerned that Europe's focus on the Syrians is affecting other refugees more generally. "It makes me really sad," he says. "I've been through a lot, and any human rights abuse that you can name happens in Eritrea. The only thing is, we don't have a visible war like in Syria." Hadgu did not flee war, but his odyssey to Europe was as tough as many of the journeys undertaken by many Syrians. In June, after traveling through Ethiopia and Sudan, Hadgu and his wife finally reached Libya, their crossing point to Europe. As the couple headed in a convoy toward the capital city of Tripoli, fighters from a militia allied with ISIS ambushed the refugees and took 86 Eritreans hostage. Among the captives were Hadgu and his wife. "They let the Muslims go and kept the Christians," says Hadgu, himself a Christian. "I knew what would happen to us. I knew we'd be beheaded."

Preferring to risk being shot, Hadgu and a friend jumped from the truck ISIS fighters were transporting them in. His wife, who was heavily pregnant, couldn't follow. In early August, Hadgu heard through other Eritreans who escaped from ISIS that she was still alive at that point, but he has not had news of her since—and it torments him. When he escaped, he says, he was thinking only about himself and whether he would survive. "My biggest regret is that I jumped. I should have helped her." Hadgu eventually arrived in Tripoli and crammed himself into an old wooden boat bound for Italy. On board were 300 other refugees. Three hundred more were being towed behind the front boat in two separate vessels. After 12 hours, seawater began seeping into the lower deck where Hadgu was lying, crammed in with so many other bodies. "All you do," he says, "is pray you get rescued alive."

Eventually, the Italian coast guard spotted the boats and towed all three to shore. Once in Europe, Hadgu made his way to Germany and then to Sweden, arriving just before the Aylan Kurdi tragedy became news. In Berlin, Talal Hussein, a doctor from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, has been waiting eight months for a ruling on his asylum application. He fled his home five months after ISIS occupied the city in June of last year. "In Mosul there is no life, no salaries, no security," he says. "You cannot say, 'I will live tomorrow.'" Desperate to start his new life, Hussein says the German government is prioritizing refugees from Syria. This makes little sense, he says, when many people from both countries are fleeing the same tormentor—ISIS. "We have the same situation, we have the same problem, but why we are differentiated I cannot understand. Many Iraqi refugees have now come from Iraq, and the situation here is miserable."

Some refugees, afraid that they might be barred from entering Western Europe as countries like Germany, Austria, Hungary and Croatia try to tighten their border controls, are now claiming to be Syrian to boost their chances of entry. Ewa Moncure, a spokeswoman for EU border management agency Frontex, says that non-Syrian refugees and economic migrants now "see a Syrian passport as their best, but by no means guaranteed, chance of getting asylum." In an interview on September 1 with French radio station Europe 1, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said a trade in fake Syrian passports has sprung up, particularly in Turkey. Like many genuine refugees, the people carrying these documents, Leggeri said, "come from North Africa, the Middle East, but they have the profile of economic migrants." Friederike von Tiesenhausen, a spokeswoman for the German Finance Ministry, told reporters on September 4 that customs officials have intercepted mail packages containing both real and fake Syrian passports.

Many Syrians now worry that the influx of fake papers will slow the asylum process and could make European officials suspicious of them too. "I think it's criminal, it's worrying," says Georges Malki, head of the Syrian Swedish Peace Association, a community group that aims to raise awareness of what is happening in Syria and supports President Bashar Assad's regime. "In Sweden now they don't accept too many Syrian identification documents because they believe that they are not given by Syrian authorities." The trade in false passports may temporarily slow genuine Syrian asylum claims, but it is unlikely to ultimately hinder them. If anything, the scramble for fake papers is just another indication of the pent-up desire among many in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia to find new homes in Europe. As the pressure from the sheer numbers builds on generous countries like Germany and Sweden, their governments will have to make sure they are seen as evenhanded to all refugees. The last thing the continent needs now are communities of newcomers who feel they've been unfairly shut out of the European dream.
© Newsweek Europe


Headlines 25 September, 2015

Czech Republic: Attacks on Muslims rising

Women with headscarves have become targets of abuse

25/9/2015- The number of incidents provoked by hatred of Muslims has been rising in Czech Republic, In Iustitia organization director Klára Kalibová has told the Czech News Agency. Last year, the organization registered 10 such incidents, this year it has been 23 already, which is more than a 100-percent rise, while most of them have occurred sine June, that is roughly since the beginning of the refugee crisis, she added. The assaulters have been motivated by racism rather than by their fear of Islam, Kalibová said. “Since June, we have also monitored a number of attacks on non-Muslim women who where wearing a scarf on their heads for some reasons and who have become a target of verbal and physical violence, such as ripping of the scarf,” she said.

In connection with the refugee crisis, the number of attacks on and threatening of the organizations aiding refugees or linked to foreigners in general has been rising. “No one has become a target of physical violence yet, but the offices of the Prague Multicultural Centre have been assaulted,” Kalibová said. Arab studies scholar Milos Mendel said in an Internet interview last week that almost anything can be said about Islam and its followers in the CzechRepublic without risking a criminal prosecution on suspicion of defamation of a nation or group of persons and their faith as well as incitement to hatred. If similar defamatory statements were uttered on Judaism and its followers, the perpetrators would be brought to court for promoting ant-Semitism, he added.

Kalibová said she considered this view speculative. “However, it is true that we are culturally more sensitive to manifestations of anti-Semitism than to symptoms of any other hatred,” she admitted. In Iustitia, which has been monitoring expressions of racial and religious hatred, registered ten attacks on Muslims and three on Jews last year. None of them has ended up in penal proceedings yet. This year, it registered also three attacks on Jews, apart from 23 on Muslims. Kalibová pointed out that the Muslim community settled in the Czech Republic traditionally did not want to make problems and draw attention.

A certain breakthrough in its approach was last year's police raid on the Muslim centre in Prague. “The religious freedom of the people gathered there was violated. They sought support in legal mechanisms inspecting the police steps, but failed. It considerably affected their trust in the police,” Kalibová added. The Muslim Communities' Headquarters filed a legal complaint over the raid by the Squad for Uncovering Organized Crime (ÚOOZ), but it at the same time asked for court proceedings to be held behind closed doors.
© The Prague Post


Italy far-right files 82 million changes to constitutional reform bill

23/9/2015- Italy's far-right, anti-euro Northern League party on Wednesday submitted more than 82 million computer-generated amendments to a draft constitutional reform in a bid to trump the bill. The immense list could still be rejected in one clean sweep by the Senate president. Italy's upper house currently enjoys extensive powers to block and delay legislation. If passed, the reform -- initiated by Northern League's arch-foe Prime Minister Matteo Renzi -- would replace the Senate with a much less influential second chamber comprising regional representatives. "Today I submitted 82,730,460 amendments to the constitutional law being studied by the Senate: every means are permitted, including this one, when it comes to saving democracy," said Roberto Calderoli, a Northern League leader and Senate vice-president. "I am pretty sure I've beaten all the records," he beamed.

The idea is simple: a computer programme creates millions of versions of the same sentence by changing a full-stop or a letter, producing each time a new amendment designed to smother the reform bid. Senate President Pietro Grasso may declare all the submissions inadmissible in the coming days. Even so, the rules require the authorities to print out each submission on a separate sheet of paper. According to the Italian news agency AGI, this would mean the waste of 412 tonnes of paper. The constitutional reform bill, which supporters say will ease Italy's notorious political gridlock, is currently in its third review in the Senate. It must then return to the lower house of parliament before it is put to a referendum, likely in 2016.


Italy: A politician likened a black minister to an 'organ-utan' and escaped racism charges

Senators voted not to bring racism charges against Roberto Calderoli 

22/9/2015- Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has called a meeting of senators after they voted against bringing racism charges against a politician who likened the country's first black minister to an "orangutan".Prime Minister Renzi told L’Unita: “There will be a meeting of the group at the Senate after the Calderoli-Kyenge vote,” the Local reported. Kyenge, a member of the Democratic Party, was serving as integration minister at the time of the slur and is now an MEP. Following the result of the vote, Kyenge said the Democratic Party showed “serious incoherence” by allowing Calderoli to escape racism charges. 

The world reacted with outrage in 2013 when Roberto Calderoli, a member of the far-right Northern League party, made the slur against Cecile Kyenge, at the time serving as integration minister in Enrico Letta’s cabinet. “When I see Kyenge I can’t help but think of an orangutan,” Calderoli told supporters at a rally in Treviglio. He subsequently refused Letta’s calls to resign and held onto his senate seat. Fellow senators - including members of Kyenge’s Democratic Party (PD) - last week voted against Calderoli facing racism charges. Renzi did not directly condemn the outcome, but said his PD senators would discuss what had happened. “There will be a meeting of the group at the Senate after the Calderoli-Kyenge vote,” he said, quoted in L'Unità.

Minutes before the prime minister spoke at the PD meeting on Monday, Kyenge expressed her “bitterness” over the vote. By “pardoning” Calderoli of racism charges, she said the PD demonstrated “serious incoherence.” Now an MEP, Kyenge said last week she will take the case to the European Court of Justice.
© The Local - Italy


Russia: Book aimed at gay children becomes symbol of defiance in Moscow

25/9/2015- Samuel Leighton-Dore was five years old when he realised he was gay. "When I was playing Lion King with the boys up the street I always wanted to be the cub that got licked by the dad," he said. "I was always interested in boys, but there was no presence of gay protagonists or characters in what I was reading or the films I was watching so I didn't really have a word for it." Over the next decade Leighton-Dore would go through the confronting and often brutal experience of school in Sydney. In and out of counselling, "I felt isolated by my sexuality long, long, before I'd ever been sexually active", he said. "I couldn't walk across the playground in Homebush without being called a 'gaylord' or 'faggot'. "I wish I could go back and tell my seven-year-old self that these 10 years are going to be hard, but there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Now the 23-year-old has done just that, self-publishing a children's book titled I Think I'm a Poof. Leighton-Dore and illustrator Lucy Adelaide take readers on the journey of Johnny – a child struggling with his sexual identity. "Johnny woke his dad in the middle of the night," the book's opening lines read. "He had tears in his eyes, something wasn't right. Johnny's dad sat up and whispered, is something aloof? Johnny looked to ground and replied, I think I'm a poof." Meetings with publishing powerhouse Hardie Grant were productive, but ultimately landed the 27-page picture book in the "too risky" basket. The publisher declined to comment on why it didn't proceed to press. Leighton-Dore's friend Henry Gelbart ultimately stumped up the cash to get it to print, but that was only half the battle.

Nervous bookshops would not stock the small initial run of 2000 books, said Leighton-Dore. Among them, Better Read Than Dead, a book store in perhaps Sydney's most progressive enclave, Newtown. "There is no way that I would give that book to a child," said the store's manager, Amelia Lush. "It plays with stereotypes of sexuality which I wasn't really comfortable with, particularly as a queer person. "At the moment gay kids are being bullied across the country. I'm not going to stock any material that is likely to increase that through using words like poof, queen and fairies." Despite the relatively small circulation, copies of the book have been smuggled into Moscow, where LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual) groups are forced underground to discuss politics under the guise of learning English.

In the cobbled streets by the Kremlin, Leighton Dore's book has become a small symbol of defiance. "What we're doing is completely illegal," one of the Moscow group's leaders, Tatiana, tells Leighton Dore in an email. "We are constantly terrified that the police will come for us – that they'll beat and arrest us." Leighton-Dore said he wanted to empower the gay community through taking back ownership of terms like "poof". He hopes that one person in particular sees it that way too – the British actor, presenter and activist Stephen Fry. "Getting Stephen Fry to read the book out loud has always been the dream," he said.
© The Sydney Morning Herald


Russia bans five online LGBT youth groups under anti-gay law

21/9/2015- Five online LGBT youth groups have been added to a banned list by the Russian watchdog. The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, banned the groups, all registered on the country’s most popular social network VKontakte. The district court in the city of Barnaul imposed the ban. It did so, accusing the groups of containing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” Those included in the ruling were prominent Children-404, which is organised by journalist Yelena Klimova. The group provides counselling to LGBT young people. The controversial law under which this ruling was made, which caused an international outcry, was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
© Pink News


Germany: Roberto Hilbert: 'Racism has grown' (interview)

25/9/2015- Monkey chants, insults hurled from the stands, personal attacks: Racism in sport is a big problem and for Bayer Leverkusen's defender Roberto Hilbert, the problem is even more personal.

DW: Roberto Hilbert, you were recently appointed refugee representative at Leverkusen. What are your tasks?
Roberto Hilbert: It's well known that we are taking in a lot of refugees at the moment, or that many are coming to Germany. A club like Leverkusen is ready to help these people 100 percent, to make life easier for them and make sure they are happy. With clothing and food donations, the club is trying to support them and give them a welcome feeling here.

You are personally affected by this topic as your wife comes from Eritrea. How have you and your family dealt with the situation?
It's a huge topic at home. Around the corner from us, refugees have been put up in a sports hall. One of my sons, who is at the school who offered the hall, has experienced it first hand and we talk about it as a family. My wife also arrived as a refugee and knows what it is like to flee home because of war. The current Germany-born generation isn't even aware of these dangers.

What kind of experiences has your wife had in Germany?
Sadly, there have been plenty of people who have insulted my wife and my children as "damned negros". Once on an airplane, my daughter was crying and the man sat in front of my wife, said "negros" would only drink alcohol and bring disease to the country, and that screaming children of "negros" are a "catastrophe." These are sadly experiences that my family has had to endure.

Did this incident change your family?
I was very shocked and felt it particularly terrible that my wife was left alone in this situation. No one else on the plane helped - the opposite in fact! The steward even asked my wife to move seats. There are people who insult foreigners, but I think it is worse not to help a woman with three children. It's very upsetting she was left alone in this situation.

So there's a lack of social courage?
I can understand people who aren't brave. There have sadly been enough negative examples where people have shown social courage and lost their life as a result. I still think more people can intervene against an individual though.

How difficult is it for a foreigner to find their feet in Germany?
It's not easy. I have a lot of Turkish friends in Germany who haven't fully been accepted in Turkey or Germany. I struggle to understand that. I think if someone is born in Germany then their origin, skin or hair color is irrelevant. They grow up here, adapt and accept the culture, then how can they not be accepted by society?

You played for Besiktas in Turkey between 2010 and 2013. You were a foreigner there. What differences did you note when you returned to Germany two years later?
Honestly, when I returned after three years in Turkey I was shocked at how racism had developed here. In terms of xenophobia, things have got worse. I was never insulted as a foreigner in Turkey, but I should add that my wife and children picked up Turkish relatively quickly. We couldn't speak the language perfectly, but could communicate well. That was greatly appreciated by the people of Turkey and we were accepted as we were.

A football team is full of different people from different countries and cultures. Why does racism remain such an issue?
This is an excellent question, and one that I too have considered. I have yet to find an answer because I can't understand it. When I look at our team for example, we have Brazilians, Mexicans, Greeks, Germans and players from Turkey - there are a lot of cultures that come together. The players are celebrated in the stadium and then insulted as foreigners on the streets. It just doesn't make any sense.

Following the news and the burning of refugee accommodation, how do you feel about it all?
I find it harrowing. I simply cannot understand how people can act that way. You have to remember there are people in that house and if they die then that's on your conscience. A great deal has to have gone wrong in your life to accept having someone on your conscience. With all due respect, I cannot understand that.

How do you see the topic of refugees continuing?
I hope that it develops in a positive direction. I think our politicians are doing a great deal to handle the matter. I think it is not a Germany problem though, but a European problem. The European countries should work together to find a solution. People should be spread out and welcomed so as to make it possible for them to start again anew. They have to have the chance to lead a normal life again.

Roberto Hilbert plays for Bayer Leverkusen. The 30-year-old began his career at Stuttgart before moving to Turkey in 2010. Two years ago, he returned to the Bundesliga. Hilbert is also involved in projects against right-wing extremism, and is a part of the 'Show Racism the Red Card' campaign, as well as the sponsor of the Hannah charity, which helps children who have been subject to abuse.
This interview was conducted by Thomas Klein.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Zazzle responds about anti-Gypsy T-shirt

23/9/2015- News server reported yesterday that the German-language pages of the Zazzle online retailer were offering a T-shirt reading "GYPSY HUNTER BADGE - WE KILL THE GYPSIES". The item was no longer for sale approximately two hours later. Customers wrote indignant protest letters to the company and shared them through Facebook. News server also contacted the firm with questions. Communications Director Diana Adair responded to yesterday evening as follows: "Thank you for contacting us regarding the matter of this motif. We are working to remove it. Zazzle provides an open market where users can create a broad range of products themselves. Whenever we ascertain that a product violates our norms because of hateful or violent content, we immediately remove it."
© Romea.


Germany/UK: T-shirt reading "WE KILL THE GYPSIES" for sale online by Zazzle

22/9/2015- At 15:12 CET today the Czech edition of news server reported that the German-language pages of the Zazzle online retailer were offering a T-shirt reading "GYPSY HUNTER BADGE - WE KILL THE GYPSIES". Zazzle is one of the biggest, must progressive firms in its field, offering customers the opportunity to create their own logos for placement on T-shirts or other items and then to sell their creations through the firm's online store. There are probably problems with controlling what turns up on the firm's website in terms of customer designs. News server sent questions to the media department of Zazzle about the T-shirt and their control process which have yet to be answered. Zazzle was established in 1999 and has won many awards. It has been invested in by John Doerr, a Google investor and member of a panel of independent experts who advises US President Barack Obama and by Ram Shriram, another Google investor and manager. At approximately 17:30 CET the T-shirt disappeared from the website. We do not know to what degree the questions sent to Zazzle by news server affected this because we have yet to receive a response from the retailer.
© Romea.


Greece: 26 Cretan Villages Give Zero Votes to Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn

4/9/2015- An island that suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany immensely during World War II doesn’t forget the past too easily. In the September 20th Greek national elections, the historic town of Anogeia— burned to the ground by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War and twenty-five other villages throughout Crete didn’t give a single vote to the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Golden Dawn scored its lowest voter totals in Crete, than anywhere else in Greece. On islands like Kos, besieged by the refugee crisis, the anti-immigrant nationalist party saw huge increases in new voters. The town of Anogeia had 1604 people casting votes, which were split between the two leading parties of Syriza and New Democracy, as well as a dozen smaller parties— without a single vote for Golden Dawn.

Two dozen more entire villages on the island gave Golden Dawn zero votes. The names of the villages are below:
Kamari Malevizi
Kamariotis Malevizi
Polythea Minoa Plain
Perry Phaistos

Apokoronas Melidoni
Sebronas Platania
Skaloti Sfakion

St. Basil
St. John Kali Sykia
Agios Mamas, Avdella

Louma municipality Agios Nikolaos
Gdohia Ierapetra
Lower Glebe
Lastros Sitia
Rousseau Churches
A similar phenomenon occurred in the January 2015 national elections.
© Pappa Post


Greek government minister resigns over anti-Semitic, homophobic tweets

A minister in the new Greek government has resigned less than 48 hours after being appointed over an outcry about a series of anti-Semitic and homophobic tweets.

24/9/2015- Dimitris Kammenos of the Independent Greeks Party had been appointed deputy transport minister following Sunday’s election. The Independent Greeks are the junior coalition partner in the government of the far-left Syriza party. Among the tweets on his page, which have since been deleted, were some that referred to a conspiracy theory alleging that Jews did not show up to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. Another mocked the Athens pride parade. Kammenos resigned late Wednesday, reportedly following pressure from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, saying he was doing so to allow the government to “function in an orderly way.” He also released a statement denouncing anti-Semitism and homophobia, and claimed his social media pages were hacked.

This is not the first time Kammenos has been in trouble for social media posts, however. Earlier this year he sparked outrage by posting a picture on Facebook of the Auschwitz death camp gates with the pro-Europe slogan “We stay in Europe” replacing the sign on the gate, “Arbeit macht frei,” a German phrase used during the Holocaust that translates to “work makes you free.” The post came as Greece was locked in crisis talks with the European Union. Kammenos is not related to party leader and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who also caused an outcry last year when, during an election campaign, he said Jews don’t pay taxes. A recent ADL poll found that anti-Semitic stereotypes are widespread in Greece and that the country had the highest percentage of anti-Semitic views in Europe.
© JTA News


Greece: Outcry as anti-Semitic, homophobic 9/11 doubter joins government

PM Tsipras gives transportation portfolio to Dimitris Kammenos, notorious for racist and homophobic remarks 

23/9/2015- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked his nationalist coalition partners for an explanation Wednesday after outrage erupted over his appointment of a minister notorious for anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Dimitris Kammenos, a lawmaker from the nationalist Independent Greeks party who has been named junior infrastructure minister, sparked uproar earlier this year by comparing the EU to Auschwitz. He is also accused of peddling a conspiracy theory claiming that 2,500 Jews employed in New York’s World Trade Centre “skipped work” on the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Kammenos is one of five members of the right-wing party named to the government by Tsipras, which was also the junior party in his last administration.

As outrage over the nomination mounted, Tsipras stepped in to phone Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos — the new defence minister — to ask him to verify the allegations against his namesake Dimitris Kammenos, a government source said. Should the allegations prove to be true “his presence within the government would not be compatible with the values” of the cabinet, Tsipras was quoted by the source as saying. But as unease over the appointment grew, Dimitris Kammenos issued a statement “denouncing racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism” and claiming that his social media accounts were managed by associates, not by himself, and that they have been repeatedly hacked. “Most of (these postings) are distortions of the truth and have been carefully forged,” he claimed.

The 49-year-old lawmaker had mocked pro-EU demonstrators in June by posting a doctored picture of the gate to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz on his Facebook page. In the posting, the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) over the gate were replaced with “We Stay in Europe”, the rallying call of the pro-EU demonstrators. The stunt caused outrage, with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece launching an immediate protest. Kammenos, a reserve special forces captain and former lobbyist, later tweeted by way of apology: “The comparison may have been unfortunate but there is an economic holocaust underway in my country!” The government’s top European deputy, Dimitris Papadimoulis, on Wednesday said he was “not at all happy” with having Kammenos in the cabinet given his “extreme and racist views”.

Popular writer and former left-wing lawmaker Petros Tatsopoulos had earlier said he was “ashamed” to hear of the appointment. In June, the To Vima weekly noted that Kammenos had also mocked the Athens gay pride parade as “pathetic”. The Independent Greeks party helped Tsipras form a government in January when he fell short of an absolute parliamentary majority. They returned to the coalition after Sunday’s election that saw Tsipras re-elected but with fewer lawmakers. Kammenos’s Twitter page was not operational Wednesday. A photo posted on his personal website shows him standing to attention before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece’s most revered military monument.


The Far-Right Golden Dawn Is Still Greek's Third Most Popular Political Party

22/9/2015- Last night, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras celebrated his second parliamentary victory in less than a year. With nearly all votes counted, his left-wing party, SYRIZA, had received a little less than 36 percent of ballots, while the right-leaning New Democracy came in second with roughly 28 percent. The third-largest party in Greece remains the neo-Nazi organization Golden Dawn, which swept up about 7 percent of votes. It's estimated that roughly 500,000 people voted for Golden Dawn, one of the most far-right political parties in Europe, whose leader is currently facing proceedings for directing a criminal organization. The latest polls show that 16.6 percent of the country's unemployed voted for the party. Golden Dawn's popularity has also doubled in islands like Lesbos and Kos, where thousands of refugees have been arriving daily. Before the Greek financial crisis, GD were only receiving 0.5 percent of the vote, but this vote, with Greece feeling the effects of economic despair and the refugee crisis, they managed to become the only party that didn't lose any power in terms of absolute numbers of voters.

Last week, the organization's leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, publicly accepted the political responsibility for the 2013 murder of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas. Many believed that such a confession would lead to a nosedive in the party's ratings, but, on the contrary, the far-right party managed to gain more power than in January's elections—from 6.28 percent all the way up to about 7 percent. "Golden Dawn is now a movement of power. It's no longer a protest movement," Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn's spokesman, told Star TV. That said, in April, most of Golden Dawn's leadership were arrested for running a criminal organization. "There haven't been any unsuspecting Golden Dawn voters since Autumn of 2013, when the press concentrated on the criminal activity of the organization," Dimitris Psaras—author of The Black Book of Golden Dawn—told VICE last Thursday.

Golden Dawn aside, what was noticeable in last night's election was the rate of absence; voter turnout was the lowest in Greece's history. Only 56 percent of those eligible to vote showed up, compared to 63.6 percent last January—a fact that alludes to the public's increasing distrust in politics and a growing sense that the country has lost its sovereignty to its international creditors. Earlier this year, Tsipras—after months of intense discussions with the country's creditors—made a U-turn on his initial promises and accepted a new package of budget cuts, tax increases, and other austere measures in return for about $96.8 billion in aid. However, even if many commentators suggest that the lower turnout helped SYRIZA win, everybody agrees that it's a huge personal victory for Tsipras, especially after the chaotic conditions of this summer that saw the implementation of bank withdrawal limits.

Yesterday, Tsipras renewed his party's alliance with the right-wing Independent Greeks and its leader Panos Kammenos, who received 3.69 percent of the votes. Within the next three days, they will form a new government. Together, the two parties will hold the majority, with 155 of a total 300 Parliament seats. According to the Guardian, EU officials reacted to the news of Tsipras's win with thinly-veiled comfort; sources claimed there was relief that the left-wing party would remain in government and apply policies, rather than rabble-rousing in the streets.

Want to know more about Golden Dawn? Here's some of the things they are into.
© The Vice


Greece: Head of EU parliament questions Tsipras about far-right coalition partners

The head of the European Parliament can "not understand" the decision by Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras to renew a coalition with the small right-wing Independent Greeks party.

21/9/2015- Speaking to France Inter radio, Martin Schulz said he lamented Mr Tsipras' decision to bring the Independent Greeks, who polled less than 4 pc of the vote, back into government. The Greek prime minister stormed back into office with an unexpectedly decisive election victory on Sunday, claiming a clear mandate to steer Greece's battered economy to recovery. The vote ensured Europe's most outspoken leftist leader would remain Greece's dominant political figure, despite having been abandoned by party radicals last month after he caved in to demands for austerity to win a bailout from the euro zone. "I called him (Tsipras) a second time to ask him why he was continuing a coalition with this strange, far-right party," Mr Schulz said. "He pretty much didn't answer. He is very clever, especially by telephone. He told me things that seemed convincing, but which ultimately in my eyes are a little bizarre."

Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos says the bailout by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund has reduced Greece to the status of a debt colony. The party differs from Syriza on many traditionally conservative issues, pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and defend the close links between the Orthodox Church and the state. Mr Schulz said he admired Tsipras for the way he had navigated through the last year to get himself re-elected, but said Mr Kammenos was a loose canon who always needed to be controlled. "It's politically and strategically something that you have to admire," he said. "But after ... this renewed mandate with this far-right, populist party, that I don't understand."
© Reuters


Greek Neo-fascist party takes third place in wave of voter fury

Golden Dawn wins 7% of election vote – with support from around 500,000 Greeks – behind Syriza and New Democracy

21/9/2015- Golden Dawn, one of Europe’s most violent far-right parties, has emerged as one of the biggest winners of Sunday’s general election in Greece, consolida-ting its presence in parliament and power on the streets. The neo-fascist group came in third with 7% of the vote, behind the triumphant leftwing Syriza and conser-vative New Democracy. The result was met with abhorrence and dismay. In April most of its leaders were put on trial on charges of running a criminal organisation masquerading as a political force. The party – which has denied the charges – stands accused of murder, armed attacks, money laundering and trafficking.

“Golden Dawn is a movement of power, it is not a protest movement any more,” the party’s Swastika- tattooed spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, told Star TV as it became clear that the extremists had retained their position as the country’s third biggest political force. “Golden Dawn is the only party seeing an increase in its percentage. In October when Greeks begin to experience the consequences of the memorandum and illegal immigration you will see our support increase radically,” said the former marine, berating the country’s mainstream media for boycotting the party. With 18 MPs in the 300-seat house, around 500,000 Greeks cast ballots in favour of Golden Dawn. The organisation performed especially well in Attica, the greater Athens region and the Aegean islands of Lesbos and Kos where voter support doubled. Both islands have been overwhelmed in recent months by thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and poverty.

Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant stance at a time of mounting fears over Greece’s frontline role in Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis in recent history, almost certainly helped. The party, portraying itself as the “only nationalist choice” played heavily on fears that Greeks could soon become a minority in their own country. But, so too, did its shrill opposition to the internationally sponsored bailout accords, or memoranda, that the extremists have said amount to “ethnocide” or death of the nation. Polls showed that 16.6% of those who voted for Golden Dawn were victims of record levels of unemployment – the most grievous side-effect of massive budget cuts and lay-offs enforced as the price of being bailed out to the tune of €326bn by creditors from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“In terms of absolute numbers Golden Dawn was the only party to hold its ground,” said Aristides Hatzis, political commentator and Athens University professor. “It was not at all affected by the very high rate of [electoral] abstention. Its performance is a danger and disgrace for our democracy.” The party won 6.8% of the vote in the election in January despite most of its leadership being behind bars. MPs, including Nikos Michaloliakos, the group’s founder, and Kasidiaris, his anointed dauphin, were released this year after serving the pre-trial maximum of 18 months in prison. Analysts had predicted a dip in Golden Dawn’s popularity after Michaloliakos admitted to “political responsibility” for the brutal murder of an anti-fascist Greek rap singer in September 2013. The diminutive leader, an admirer of Hitler, has denied neo-Nazi links, but fascist paraphernalia were discovered in his Athens home upon his arrest. Golden Dawn’s emblem resembles a swastika.

With the ultra-nationalists using the refugee crisis and economic despair of Greeks to gain ground, political scientists said Sunday’s election was further proof that the Golden Dawn phenomenon had assumed particularly worrying dimensions. All agreed that the virulent anti-immigrant, antisemitic, anti-EU party had spread its tentacles deep into Greek society. “It tells us that Golden Dawn is not just a symptom of the crisis but is here to stay,” said Dimitris Keridis, professor of international political science at Athens’ Panteion University. “And it shows that the Greek disease is not superficial, it’s much deeper than many think.” Before the outbreak of Greece’s great debt crisis, the far-rightists were a fringe party on the political scene gaining less than 0.5% of the vote.
© The Guardian


France: Eric Cantona to provide food and shelter for refugees in memory of Spanish Civil War

23/9/2015- Inspired by his family’s escape from the Franco regime many years ago, Eric Cantona is about to take in refugees in his native France. Cantona’s maternal grandparents crossed the Pyrenees on foot during the Spanish Civil War. “They were Spanish Republicans who fled Franco”, he told France’s Inter radio. “If you house someone who does not have the right to work, then they need to eat too”, Cantona said. His response to the current refugee crisis will be to provide a small house with a garden and food for at least two years. Earlier in the month Cantona indicated his willingness to take in migrants to Le Parisien newspaper and called on his fellow 65 million Frenchmen to accept them as well. The 49 year-old footballer turned actor is becoming increasingly frustrated with the political system and told Le Parisien that although he voted for President Francois Hollande in 2012 he intends to spoil his vote in 2017.
© Euronews


French court dismisses race hate case against right-wing broadcaster

A case of incitement to racial hatred against a controversial French TV and radio commentator was dismissed on Tuesday. Eric Zemmour had been prosecuted for comparing gangs of foreigners to the invading barbarians that followed the fall of the Roman empire.

22/9/2015- "The Normans, the Huns, the Arabs, the great invasions after the fall of Rome have now been replaced by gangs of Chechens, Roma, Kosovars, Maghrebins and Africans who rob, assault and pillage," Zemmour declared in a radio broadcast in May last year. "Excessive and shocking though these words may appear", the court declared in its judgement, they only referred to "a fraction of the communities and not to them in their entirety". It dismissed charges of incitement to racial hatred and racial slander on these grounds. Prosecutors had called for him to be fined 5,000 euros and for the radio station RTL to be fined 3,000 euros for posting the broadcast on its internet site. Zemmour, who is much admired in hard-right circles, was found guilty of the same charges in 2011 for having said that "the majority of drug dealers are black and Arab, that's how it is, it's a fact" on national TV. He also caused a row by appearing to call for the deportation of Muslims in a newspaper interview last year. Far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation, legal sources said Tuesday.


French far-right leader to face trial for inciting racial hatred

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front, has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation, legal sources said Tuesday

22/9/2015- Le Pen was campaigning to take over leadership of the FN from her father in December 2010 when she made the comparison, complaining that there were "10 to 15" places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when they were full. "I'm sorry, but for those who like talking a lot about World War II, if it comes to talking about the occupation, we can talk about it, because that (Muslims praying on the street) is the occupation of territory," she told a crowd in the southeastern city of Lyon. "It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents." After the comments, which provoked outrage in France, Le Pen was investigated for inciting racial hatred but the probe was later closed with no result. But a complaint by an association led to a judicial enquiry which was opened in January 2012. Le Pen was charged in July 2014 after her immunity as a member of the European Parliament was lifted following a vote requested by French authorities.

- 'I'll be at trial' -
Le Pen told AFP she intended to attend the trial. "Yes, of course. I wouldn't miss such an occasion," she said. Since taking over her father's party in 2011, Le Pen has tried to soften its image and has scored a series of election successes. However the party remains staunchly anti-EU and anti-immigration and Le Pen has seized upon Europe's migrant crisis to win votes ahead of regional elections in December. The FN is already leading opinion polls in several regions. Le Pen has leaned on traditional party arguments, calling for an end to Europe's borderless Schengen zone as well as actions seen as enticing migrants to France. However she also stepped up the rhetoric, comparing the flood of migrants on Europe's doorstep to the "barbarian invasions" of the fourth century. Speaking to Paris-based foreign journalists on Monday, Le Pen said of migrants: "We should warm them up, feed them and then send them back where they came from."

Despite its growing popularity, the party's image suffered after a bitter public spat between Marine and her father and the party's founder Jean-Marie Le Pen which led to her ousting him over a series of controversial comments. Marine Le Pen decided enough was enough after her father repeated his view that the Nazi gas chambers were merely a "detail" of history and also claimed France should establish close relations with Russia to save the "white world". The FN has also been slapped with charges of fraud as part of an ongoing probe into campaign financing.


France: Far-Right-Wing National Front Party Gains Popularity

20/9/2015- Marine Le Pen’s far-right-wing National Front party would sweep local elections in France’s northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais were they held today, Odoxa poll results indicated Sunday. The outspoken Euroskeptic enjoyed almost 40 percent support among voters in a region that has been hit hard by unemployment and has found itself at the center of a continuing refugee crisis. Sampling nearly 1,000 people in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region close to the English Channel, the survey showed growing popularity for the National Front in general and its leader Le Pen in particular. Unemployment in the region has remained higher than the French average for almost 40 years, and Le Pen has said lowering unemployment would be one of her top priorities. A manufacturing region specializing in coal and steel mills, it suffered great losses with the decline of domestic industry in the 1970s and 1980s, pushing the unemployment rate as high as 14 percent. It has since recovered from this economic shift, although it has not become as productive or wealthy as other regions of France.

Dissatisfied with the two mainstream parties -- President Francois Hollande’s center-left Socialist Party and former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right Union for a Popular Movement -- voters in the country’s northern region are increasingly looking toward the National Front, a party promising employment security in uncertain times. Le Pen’s party enjoyed the support of 36-37 percent of voters in the region, 10 percentage points more than any other party, according to the Odoxa poll. Le Pen has drawn heightened support in Nord-Pas-de-Calais amid the refugee crisis currently under way in the economically struggling region. Thousands of refugees, many coming from Syria and other war-torn countries, have been arriving on Europe's shores daily throughout the summer. Calais became a flashpoint in the crisis as it marks the border between France and the U.K., the latter a country that many refugees have cited as their final destination, making the situation in Calais increasingly crowded and tense.

“Without any action, this migratory influx will be like the barbarian invasion of the IV century, and the consequences will be the same,” Le Pen said at a rally near Paris Tuesday. “We must immediately stop this madness to safeguard our social pact, freedom and identity,” she said. The Odoxa poll surveyed 991 people, and its margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 percent.
© The International Business Times


Serbia: Hundreds at pride march call for solidarity with migrants

20/9/2015- Hundreds attending a tightly-secured gay pride event on Sunday in Serbia called for solidarity with tens of thousands of migrants passing through the Balkan country in search of a new life in Western Europe. The colorful pride march was held in the capital, Belgrade, thanks to thousands of riot police in full gear deployed in the downtown area to protect the gathering from right-wing extremists and soccer hooligans.

Police have detained several extremists for planning to attack the event. In 2010 extremist groups and soccer hooligans attacked another gay pride gathering in the conservative Balkan country, triggering clashes that left more than 100 people injured. Anti-gay sentiments are high in the traditionally macho culture, but government has pledged to boost human rights as the country seeks membership in the European Union. Opponents include the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose priests have taken part in anti-gay marches. One of the pride organizers Goran Miletic said Sunday that he regretted the event had to be guarded by police and “that we have to fight for our rights this way.”

Activists at Sunday’s pride in Belgrade said migrants, like gays, were seeking their basic human rights to be able to live and work freely. A black-and-pink banner read “Europe, Open Your Gate” to the men, woman and children fleeing war and poverty. “We feel for our friends in trouble,” said liberal playwright Biljana Srbljanovic. “Let’s reach out to them and give them hope they, like us, will fulfil their rights.” Thousands of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other troubled countries of the Middle East, Africa or Asia have passed through the Serbian capital in the past months, many camping in parks in the open.
© The Associated Press


Serbia: Belgrade Locked Down for Gay Pride Parade

 Several hundred gay rights supporters marched through the Serbian capital after police shut down the city centre to ensure security and senior officials warned that violence would not be tolerated

20/9/2015- Around 300 people marched through Belgrade from the government building towards parliament on Sunday after police closed off the city centre to ensure the safety of the Pride parade, which has been attacked by right-wingers in previous years. The gay rights supporters marched behind a truck decked with balloons and blasting music from a sound system while the organisers carried a banner with the slogan: “My rights, my demands.” “This is a great day for LGBT community and for the human rights,” said one of the marchers, the well-known Serbian playwright Biljana Srbljanovic. Police deployed armoured vehicles and a helicopter circled overhead to deter potential attacks. A small group of priests and Orthodox Christias protested against the parade near Tasmajdan Park in the centre of Belgrade but did not disrupt the march.

Serbia’s European integration minister Jadranka Joksimovic, culture minister Ivan Tasovac and Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali joined the march, as well as the representatives of foreign embassies in Belgrade. The authorities had issued stern warnings that they would not tolerated any attacks on the even, which has been repeatedly targeted in the past. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday he would not join the parade but promised that the authorities would ensure security for the march because all the country’s citizens have the right to safety. “As far as I am concerned I will not attend those parades. It is my right. I was not there last year, I will not attend it next year as well, neither as a Prime Minister nor as a citizen. I have something else to do at the time. But state institutions must ensure that every citizen feels secure and that is a European standard,” said Vucic. 

Before the main march, there was also a Trans Pride meeting in Pionirski Park in the centre of Belgrade attended by dozens of activists urging legal changes so transgender people can define their own gender, name and other data in official ID documents. “We just want to live as ordinary people. Nobody is free until we all are free,” said Helena Vukovic, one of the Trans Pride organizers. Some media outlets reported that eight young people were detained by the police because they wanted to approach the Trans Pride without showing identity documents, although this was not immediately confirmed by police. News website Blic reported that one of them was well-known Red Star Belgrade football fan Uros Misic, who has previously served a jail sentence for seriously wounding a police officer at a match. 

Ahead of Sunday’s Pride march, the organizers said they believed the event would be peaceful this year and confirmed that activists had received no serious threats. Goran Miletic, one of the organizers, said that the “atmosphere in the entire society” was also much better than in previous years. “This is the first year that Pride was announced normally. Media reports were just as we wanted them to be, there were no stories on bloodshed or similar things,” he said. He also praised cooperation with the police. “The police were also more relaxed. It is becoming easier, more routine, and better for all of us,” Miletic said. European integration minister Joksimovic sent a letter of support to Belgrade’s LGBT community ahead of the march. According to the organizers, Joksimovic wrote that last year's successful Pride parade was a good step towards securing the human rights of LGBT people establishing a more tolerant society. 

Last year the parade was held amid heavy security which deterred any serious attempts to attack the participants. The only major incident happened when Andrej Vucic, the Serbian Prime Minister’s brother, was beaten up by police after he tried to breach the cordon which was securing the event. In 2010, the parade was also held but several thousand young people cause mayhem on the streets, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire. The first ever Belgrade Pride Parade in 2001 was disrupted by a large group of far-right nationalists who attacked and beat up the participants. Belgrade Pride Week 2015 ran from September 14 and ended with the parade on Sunday. During the week, activities including debates, cultural and entertainment programmes were held with the aim of making the general public more aware of the situation for LGBT people in Serbia.
© Balkan Insight


UK: Dawkins defends Ahmed Mohamed comments and dismisses Islamophobia as a 'non-word'

24/9/2015- Richard Dawkins has stood by controversial comments he made about the American school boy Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested for building a clock. Ahmed, 14, was detained by police in Texas after a teacher mistakenly thought the clock he brought into MacArthur High School, in Irving, was a hoax bomb. The arrest prompted accusations of Islamophobia and Ahmed is now transferring to another school. Dawkins provoked outrage when he questioned Ahmed's motives on Twitter. The atheist writer suggested Ahmed might have "wanted to be arrested" in order to be seen as a victim of discrimination and later defended his comments on Twitter as a manifestation of his passion for seeking out the "truth".

He was questioned about the reaction his tweets caused when he spoke with Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow on Wednesday evening. When asked by Snow if he regretted suggesting the teenager “wanted” to get arrested, Dawkins replied: “I asked the question. I think what he was the victim of is the zero tolerance policy of the United States Homeland Security Act. "He got a clock, got a screwdriver, opened the clock, took the works out and put them in the box. He did nothing else whatever. There was no creative act in that at all, he took it to school, as an invention, and then a teacher was afraid it might be a bomb. It wasn't a bomb, it was an unaltered clock which he had taken out of its case."

© The Independent


UK: It’s time the media treated Muslims fairly (opinion)

When a study finds that nearly all stories about Muslims are negative it’s clear this is the last acceptable form of bigotry – and it’s tearing society apart
By Miqdaad Versi


Hats off to the Mail on Sunday for finally apologising for its incendiary headline: “Muslim gang slashes tyres of immigration-raid van”. In the piece in question, an attack on an immigration enforcement van in east London was blamed on the “Muslim community” and “Muslim youths” – even though the faith of the perpetrators was not known, nor relevant. This fact has now been acknowledged by the paper, and it has rewritten the story and issued a correction both online and in print. In the media, using Islam or Muslims as descriptive terms when referring to criminals remains all too common, even in cases where faith has little or nothing to do with the crime. The Times ran a front-page story in March with the provocative headline Call for national debate on Muslim sex grooming. There is nothing in Islam that could justify such heinous acts, and none of those involved in this particular crime cited Islam as their motive. So why was this story headlined in this way when articles about other cases of paedophilia made no mention of the perpetrators’ faith or ethnicity?

When tens of innocent pilgrims tragically lost their lives in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, the Mail Online linked their deaths to Osama bin Laden and 9/11 in its headline At least 87 people killed … after giant crane ‘operated by Bin Laden firm’ collapses … on anniversary of 9/11 attacks”, references that mimicked a plethora of rightwing bigots on Twitter. The newspaper did eventually remove the 9/11 reference and later the Bin Laden link. But the damage was done: the odious headline had already spread across the internet like wildfire. Should Muslims – and society more broadly – just accept this bigotry? We know sensationalism sells, especially online, where news sources use clickbait headlines and copy to attract readers in a crowded marketplace. And what better way to get people to read an article than by linking it to the far-right narrative that Islam is evil, and that its adherents need to be civilised to become “good Muslims”? It’s a narrative that many Muslims feel is often reflected in government rhetoric as well.

According to an Islamophobia Roundtable in Stockholm, held in June last year, and featuring world-renowned experts on the topic, the regular association of Islam and Muslims with crime and terror in the media and on the internet is vital to the spread of Islamophobic rhetoric. The real-world consequences of the spread of one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry affects the very cohesiveness of our society. According to the largest survey of its kind in the UK, over a quarter of children aged between 10 and 16 believe Islam encourages terrorism, and almost a third believe Muslims are taking over the country. In addition, 37% of British people who were surveyed admitted they would support policies to reduce the number of Muslims in the country. Is it any wonder that more and more Muslims feel alienated?

This “othering” of Muslims has also manifested itself in a growth in hate crime: a 70% rise in the past year according to the Metropolitan police. We now live in a country where most Muslims know someone who has suffered from Islamophobic hate or abuse. Of course, the media should not be held responsible for violence against Muslims – that is the liability of the attackers. But with over 90% of reports about Muslims taking a negative angle and playing up faith, even when irrelevant, it is not reasonable to deny that the media plays a key role in the development of anti-Muslim hatred.

So what can be done?

First, build awareness. According to research presented at the Muslim News’ Conference on “Reporting Islam and Muslims in Britain” last week, there have been improvements in the language that is being used, but religious illiteracy remains rife within parts of our newspaper elite. Until recently, a managing editor of a major national newspaper did not know that “jihad” had multiple meanings, and that “fatwa” did not just mean a death warrant. The lack of comprehension on a topic that is part of the bread and butter of newspapers today is deeply distressing and its role in editorial decision-making cannot be understated. I would like to think that this is due to sheer ignorance rather than pure malice, which is much harder to tackle.

Second, diversity. There is an under-representation of all minority groups, but particularly Muslims, within the media – especially within senior positions – and greater diversity will improve coverage and help combat misreporting. This requires greater outreach on the part of media organisations to bring in talent from all backgrounds through diversity programmes, paid internships and fast-track schemes to proactively close this gap. The final piece in the jigsaw is regulation. Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code of Practice says: “Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion … must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.” The problem is that this protection only extends to individuals and not to groups, which is why Katie Hopkins was able to get away with her infamous comments comparing refugees to “cockroaches.

The arguments about censorship and free speech are complex – but Jonathan Heawood of the Impress Project, an independent monitor of the press, believes the Editors’ Code should incorporate Lord Leveson’s suggestion that this clause is broadened to include groups. This would allow representative groups to hold the media to account for using “Islam” or “Muslims” where it was not “genuinely relevant” to the story. We are equal members of society and demand fairness, not favours. Avoi-ding daily smears, group libel and the violent consequences is not too much to ask of the nation’s editors.
© Comment is free - Guardian

UK: 'Low caste' woman awarded Ł183,000 compensation in discrimination case

Permila Tirkey, who was paid 11p an hour for an 18-hour day, wins claim in landmark employment tribunal against former employers Ajay and Pooja Chandhok

22/9/2015- A “low caste” Indian woman has been awarded £184,000 in compensation from her employers who made her work 18 hours a day for an hourly rate of 11 pence. Permila Tirkey brought the claim after being forced to work for a wealthier British-Indian family for more than four years. Miss Tirkey worked seven days a week and was forced to sleep on the floor of Ajay and Pooja Chandhok’s home in Milton Keynes. Her lawyers said the case set a new legal landmark by establishing that workers in Britain who are treated poorly because they are from a lower Indian caste are protected by race discrimination laws. The employment tribunal hearing in Cambridge heard Miss Tirkey, now 39, was also barred from contacting her family and from bringing her Bible with her when the Chandhoks recruited her from Bihar, the poorest of the Indian states, in 2008.

Miss Tirkey said: “I want the public to know what happened to me as it must not happen to anyone else. “The stress and anxiety that this sort of thing creates for a person can destroy them. “I have not been able to smile because my life had been destroyed. “Now I am able to smile again. Now I am free.” Victoria Marks, her solicitor from charity the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, said: “This is a very useful judgment for victims of modern day slavery. “We hope that it will give other victims the courage to come forward and seek redress.” The tribunal ordered Mr and Mrs Chandhok to pay their former employee £183,773 to make up the shortfall in what she should have received under the national minimum wage. It ruled she was a victim of unlawful harassment and indirect religious discrimination.

Mrs Chandhok, who hired the employee, was born in India to Afghan Hindu parents and has been a British citizen since 2005. Her husband was described as a Hindu born in Afghanistan whose parents sought refuge in Britain during the Afghanistan war in 1985 and has lived in Britain since 1999. He remains a German citizen. Miss Tirkey, from from Bihar, the poorest of the Indian states, arrived in Britain in May 2008 and cared for the couple’s twins, a boy and a girl, and performed other domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning. The Chandhok’s “concocted” a story about her working for them over an earlier period in order to circumvent immigration rules, the tribunal said. After hearing evidence about Miss Tirkey's accommodation the tribunal found that she slept on the floor of several rooms within the house and on occasion had to sleep without a mattress.

The panel also accepted her evidence that she worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and outside those hours she was “on call” to do the family’s bidding. The Chandhoks had claimed Miss Tirkey’s hours were five and a half or six hours a day only with either one or two days off per week. Mrs Chandhok would call Miss Tirkey “girl”, despite being younger than her, which the tribunal accepted was “demeaning”. Miss Tirkey left their employment in 2013 by resigning “in circumstances which amounted to a dismissal”, the ruling said. The tribunal said the Chandhoks “wanted a servant in the Indian style”. “They wanted someone who would be not merely of service but servile, who would not be aware of United Kingdom employment rights and whom they could treat in the United Kingdom as [Mrs Chandhok’s] father treated his servants in India,” the ruling concluded. It found the employers had also breached the European Union working time directive over her rest hours and annual leave. In addition to the compensation awarded by the tribunal a further hearing to determine remedies for the discrimination and other matters will be held later this year.
© The Telegraph


UK: Nigerian preacher is robbed and hit with glass bottle in Glasgow racist attack

David Adetoro, 46, was walking along Bardowie Street to his local church in Ashfield Street, when two men threatened him at around 11.35pm last night.

19/9/2015- A Nigerian preacher was robbed and hit with a glass bottle in a racist attack which police are treating as a hate crime. David Adetoro, 46, was walking along Bardowie Street to his local church in Ashfield Street, Glasgow, when two men threatened him at around 11.35pm last night. One of the men was brandishing a glass bottle and hit the preacher with it. The victim was also punched before his assailants made off with his rucksack which contained his Bible and personal possessions but no money. The pair made reference to Mr Adetoro's colour during the attack. Police are appealing for information about the incident which happened in the Saracen area of the city.

Detective Constable Alan Watt said: "The man had got off the bus on Saracen St and was heading to his local church in Ashfield Street, when he was attacked by the men. They stole his rucksack which, although it had no money inside, did contain personal possessions including his Bible. "On checking CCTV we can see the two suspects hanging about in Saracen St a short time before the attack. I would appeal to anyone who recognises their description or who has information that will help officers with their enquiries to contact the Community Investigation Unit at Pollok via 101. "I am keen to hear from the driver of a grey 'Hackney' taxi who was seen on CCTV just passing the men on Bardowie Street just before the attack."

The suspects are described as white and in their late teens. One is described as of medium to heavy build, with a short dark crew cut hairstyle and was wearing a grey hooded top, black tracksuit trousers and white trainers. The second man is of slim build with short light brown hair and was wearing a black hooded top and red tracksuit bottoms.

UPDATE: Schoolboy, 15, and 17-year-old quizzed over hate crime attack on Nigerian preacher
20/9/2015- Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with an alleged attack on a Nigerian preacher. The 46-year-old man was walking along Bardowie Street to his local church in Ashfield Street, Glasgow, when he is said to have been robbed and hit with a glass bottle at around 11.35pm on Friday. The incident was being treated as a hate crime as a reference to the man's colour was alleged to have been made during the attack. Police said a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy have been arrested and detained in police custody in connection with the incident. Both are expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday.
© The Daily Record


UK: Counter protests fail to stop far-right march

A far-right rally has been held in Wigan town centre.

19/92015- Demonstrators from neo-Nazi group the National Front and the North West Infidels were met by counter protesters from organisations Hope Not Hate and the Liverpool Anti-Fascists as they gathered on Wallgate outside the Last Orders pub. Missiles, including glass bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at the anti-fascist counter protesters who positioned themselves outside Totally Wicked on the opposite side of the road. Hundreds of police including tactical aid units and police dogs were in attendance to keep the two groups apart. The NF protesters, who were demonstrating against immigration, chanted ‘refugees not welcome here’ which was met by shouts of ‘Nazi scum off our streets’ from the anti-fascists. The protesters were kept on Wallgate for about an hour before the march was allowed to begin. Police surrounded the NF protesters and led them down Library Street along Hewlett Street before they came down Millgate and Standishgate along Mesnes Street, New Market Street and Market Street and back to Wallgate.

Several scuffles broke out between the police and the counter protesters who continued to try and halt the march. The NF protesters reassembled outside the Last Orders pub while some of their members gave speeches outlining why they were demonstrating before police began to lead small groups of them at a time towards the train stations. A statement on GMP Wigan West’s Facebook page reads: “We are happy to report that everything is back to normal in the town centre following a National Front protest and a counter protest. “The protests passed off with minimal disorder and any incidents were dealt with swiftly by officers at the scene. One man was arrested on suspicion of a racial aggravated public order offence.” GMP said the policing operation was prepared together with partners from Wigan Council and that during the day a number of incidents of disorder took place which were all handled swiftly. All of the protesters are now believed to have left the town centre though patrols will remain in the area for the time being.

Superintendent Craig Thompson of GMP Specialist Operations said: “As we have said many times before, we respect everyone’s right to lawfully protest and we understand that demonstrations like these can be extremely emotional given the polarising views of the opposing sides. “We have worked very closely with Wigan Local Authority to ensure that this protest passed as peacefully and safely as possible and thankfully today this has passed largely without serious incident. Any disorder was dealt with swiftly by officers policing the event. “We have taken positive action against those who tried to abuse the right of free speech but the majority of people went about the protest in a lawful manner and they are now able to go home and spend the night with their families instead of in a police cell.”
© The Wigan Today


A Finnish father teaches his child to hit and hate refugees

21/9/2015- If you want a lesson on how racism and hatred is passed on to the next generation, watch the video clip (in Finnish) of supposedly a father or guardian telling his daughter to hit a monkey teddy bear, which is supposed to be a refugee. The child doesn’t appear to be too happy at the end of the video for hitting the monkey teddy bear. “What is this,” the father says. “Who is this?” “Refugee,” the child responds. “What shall we do to it? Look, like this,” the father continues hitting the monkey teddy bear’s head. “Iitu, Iitu what do we do to refugees?”he asks. “With both hands, Iitu. Show me. Let’s give the refugee a punch. Iitu. Give it a hard punch like this one,” the father continues hitting the monkey teddy bear’s head hard. “What is this?” the father asks the child again. “Refugee,” the child responds.
© Migrant Tales


Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - week 39

Hungary’s Politics of Hate (opinion)

By Istvan Rev 

25/9/2015- While journalists flocked to cover the chaos at Budapest’s Keleti Station and thousands of refugees marched on foot along the M1 motorway toward the Austrian border, Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, was watching the Hungary-Romania soccer match from his V.I.P. box in the Budapest football stadium. Before the kickoff, Hungarian and Romanian “ultras” shouted Nazi slogans and fought one another at the stadium, after having warmed up by harassing, insulting and beating up hundreds of hopelessly exhausted refugees, who, in their panic, had mistaken the noise of fireworks for gunshots. 

Mr. Orban, who recently built a $20 million dollar soccer stadium next door to his summer cottage — with seats for 4,000 people in a village with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants — had cut short a meeting with foreign leaders in Prague in order to get back to Budapest in time for the match. His behavior recalled the habit of Nicolae Ceausescu, the one-time Romanian Communist dictator, who never allowed social unrest to disturb his favorite pastime. What is happening in Hungary is not just about the global refugee crisis and its consequences for Europe. It is also the beginning of the 2018 Hungarian election campaign. And it provides a cautionary tale about what could happen in Europe, and not only in Europe, when radical, nationalist populists take over the state.

Mr. Orban recently announced in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that his aim is “to keep Europe Christian.” He began his xenophobic campaign eight months ago in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He chose the massive demonstration in Paris on Jan. 11 as the most appropriate occasion to announce the need to stop the influx of non-Christian migrants to Europe. For him the massacre demonstrated that migration inevitably leads to terror — despite the fact that the killers were not recent immigrants but long-settled French citizens. He insists that European political correctness and decadent moral relativism make it impossible to address this threat.

At the end of this unusually hot and tragic summer, he announced: “We are experiencing the end of a spiritual-intellectual era. The era of liberalism.” But this, Mr. Orban declared, “provides the opportunity for the national-Christian thinking to regain its dominance not only in Hungary, but in the whole of Europe.” To defend European Christendom, Hungary — together with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania — voted last week against distributing 120,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers among the European Union’s member states. Never mind that the Hungarian minister of the interior announced in January 2014 that Hungary would be easily capable of accommodating 170,000 Hungarian-speaking Ukrainians, who are predominantly Christians, if they ever had to flee.

In early 2015, the popularity of the ruling party declined dramatically due to major corruption scandals involving the government and Mr. Orban’s family. Voters started shifting toward the neo-Nazi Jobbik party — which is, distressingly, the only serious opposition to Mr. Orban’s government. These neo-Nazis have been moralizing about anticorruption policies and defending the rights and interests of what they call true-born Hungarians. Raising the refugee issue provided Mr. Orban’s beleaguered government with a unique opportunity to mount a nationalist, racist, xenophobic campaign of its own — while of course taking care to distinguish itself from the neo-Nazis by refusing to spout hatred about either the Jews or the Roma.

Following a nationwide billboard campaign over the summer that incited hatred and spread fear with slogans like “If you come to Hungary, you must respect our culture,” the country — as if it were at war — is now flooded with huge posters: “The people decided, we must defend our country.” Faced with Mr. Orban’s radicalism, the neo-Nazis look faint-hearted and indecisive. Had Jobbik done what the prime minister is doing now, it would have been widely denounced. But the prime minister is posing as the Christian savior of Europe. According to the official history books — and there are only officially-approved history books in Hungarian schools today — Hungary has always been the last bastion of Christianity in Europe: against the Mongols in the 13th century, against the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th, and against the Bolsheviks during World War II.

Now, according to this narrative, Hungary is being forced to defend the same values as the West lapses into moral relativism, multiculturalism and same-sex marriage. Sometimes, according to the logic of Hungarian foreign policy, the only way to defend the traditions of Christianity is to make an alliance with the East, joining Vladimir Putin’s crusade against the decadent West. The country’s top Catholic clergy is doing its part to arouse enmity, too. Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is also president of the Council of European Bishops, said that if the church provided asylum to the refugees, it would amount to becoming people-smugglers. The bishop of Szeged, Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, responded to Pope Francis’ plea to show mercy to the refugees by asserting: “The pope does not know what he says.” The church and government seem to have forgotten the hospitality Hungarian refugees experienced in the West when they fled after the Soviets crushed the 1956 revolution.

Hungary has already built a razor-wire fence along the Serbian border; it is now constructing another along the frontier with Croatia. Relations with neighboring countries haven’t been worse since the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918. A new law passed by the ruling party with neo-Nazi support authorizes the government to introduce a state of emergency, mobilize military reservists, and treat illegal border crossing as a crime punishable by several years in prison. Mr. Orban is bolstering his popularity by spreading fear and inciting hatred — not only against refugees, but against the thousands of Hungarians who have helped them day and night, in heat and rain. The country has turned into a fenced fortress that imagines it is fighting an enemy at the gates, and also an enemy within: the good-hearted Hungarians who dare to show solidarity with refugees, who are ashamed of their government, and who remember what happened to our Jewish Hungarian compatriots in 1944. Hungarian democrats now find themselves unwelcome refugees in their own country, ruled by a government that would gladly transport them to the Austrian border.
Istvan Rev is a historian and the director of the Open Society Archives.
© The New York Times


Finland: Ku Klux Klan-clad protester in Lahti anti-asylum seeker demonstration

A group of asylum seekers brought to stay at a former barracks in the Hennala district in Lahti Thursday evening were confronted by protesters carrying Finnish flags hurling fireworks and stones. One of them was dressed in the distinctive robes of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan movement. Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg described the events as an isolated incident.

25/9/2015- Yle reports that a group of asylum seekers who were being transported to hastily-arranged accommodation at a former army barracks in Lahti’s Hennala district were met by a group of 30 - 40 individuals protesting the presence of the new arrivals. The demonstrators chucked fireworks at the bus in which the asylum seekers were travelling, many of which exploded with a loud bang. The bus contained some 49 people, the majority of whom were fleeing violence in Iraq. The group also included small children, as well as infants in arms, according to Yle’s reporter on the scene, Kirsti Pohjaväre. Senior Constable Esa Mäkelä of the Lahti police department confirmed the number of demonstrators and said that two of them were fined for throwing fireworks. As the bus approached the area where the barracks were located, Finnish Red Cross workers were on hand to guide the refugees to the reception centre.

Stones hurled at Finnish Red Cross workers
Yle reporters say the unrest in Hennala began roughly half an hour before the buses began to arrive, with protesters pelting rocks at the Red Cross workers as they took coffee to guards manning the gates of the complex. However no one was injured during the stoning incident. On Friday morning three additional buses arrived on the scene. A total of 250 people are expected to arrive at the Hennala centre. Earlier in the evening another Yle journalist, Heikki Ahonen, reported on the group, whom he said comprised mainly young men. Ahonen noted the presence of the Ku Klux Klan-clad individual and described the scene at the time as mostly calm. He also noted that officials had not intervened in the situation at that time. In a separate incident in Kouvola Thursday night, police held a 50-year old man who threw a Molotov cocktail at an emergency shelter. No harm was done, as guards were able to put out the fire.

Interior Ministry PS: Lahti case an "isolated incident"
Meanwhile Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg said she’s satisfied with police actions in Hennala. She added that security officials had been prepared for the possible consequences of establishing a reception centre in the area. "The role of the police in such situations is to handle them as quickly and as proactively as possible to ensure that nothing happens to anyone," Nerg told Yle Friday morning. Nerg described the events in Lahti as an isolated incident, but admitted that Interior Ministry officials were concerned about resistance to housing asylum seekers. "All of the reception centres are being placed in communities where there haven’t been many people with foreign backgrounds. These are small-scale incidents but we have prepared well for them to guarantee the safety of asylum seekers as well as other people living in the area," Nerg commented.

A few weeks ago the Interior Ministry established a crisis management team under Nerg’s leadership. The permanent secretary said that the Ministry has so far remained on top of the refugee situation. But she acknowledged that in retrospect, all of the Ministry’s actions have so far lagged behind current developments. She pointed out however that the establishment of a central asylum seeker registration hub in Tornio, northern Finland, had helped bring the situation under control.
© YLE News.


Netherlands: Upset because of refugee centres is 'normal': minister

25/9/2015- Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff said on Friday that it is ‘quite normal’ for people to be upset when they hear an asylum seekers centre is to open in their neighbourhood. He was reacting to the cancellation on Thursday evening of a council meeting in Purmerend, north of Amsterdam, where police had to be called to restore order when locals protested about the decision to set up a refugee centre. Dijkhoff compared the situation with the opening of a supermarket in an empty building round the corner. ‘You also think “what is going on? Will there be more traffic in my street?”‘ An asylum seekers centre means a few hundred people you do not know from countries you may also not know, the minister told Dutch media. ‘And you ask yourself what will be the result.’ However, in practice, things usually work out well, according to Dijkhoff.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Local councils: no homes for asylum seekers

25/9/2015- Four in five local councils do not have enough empty housing to accommodate refugees with a residency permit, NRC Next reports on Friday. The paper asked 213 of the Netherlands’ 400 town and village councils about how they were planning to house refugees with the right to stay in the Netherlands and what preparations they were making to settle them. The researchers also found that the influx of refugees on the social housing market is leading to complaints from the local population about long waiting lists. This was an issue in one in four local authority areas, the paper says. The councils themselves are mainly worried about the costs involved in the integration process, including language lessons, education and help in finding work. The government has slashed spending on integration and language courses and new arrivals are now responsible for funding this themselves. Some 13,000 refugees with residency permits are currently living in asylum seeker centres while waiting for a permanent home. These places are needed urgently to cope with the influx new arrivals, the paper says.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: No sign militants posing as refugees to reach Europe

24/9/2015- Dutch authorities said on Thursday there was no sign of militant groups systematically using Europe’s asylum provisions as a way of smuggling attackers into Europe disguised as refugees. Far-right politicians in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe have suggested in recent months that the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa pose a national security threat. But, echoing scepticism expressed by other intelligence services, a spokeswoman for the AIVD intelligence agency said there was no evidence that militant organisations like the Islamic State were infilitrating fighters across Europe’s southern and south-eastern borders. “There are no structural signals of refugees coming in with terrorist motives,” a spokeswoman for the AIVD intelligence agency told Reuters. “It is possible that individuals may use it (the route) but we don’t see groups coming in.”

Germany’s domestic intelligence service, however, warned on Tuesday that radical Islamists posing as humanitarian helpers could try to recruit young refugees arriving in the country. Dutch anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders recently referred to the influx as an “Islamic invasion”, saying that thousands of Islamist militants were concealed among those fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq. A poll this week showed his far-right populist Freedom Party would nearly double its seats, from 12 to 29 in the 150-member parliament, if elections were held now. More than half of Dutch voters oppose a European deal under which the country will admit an additional 7,000 refugees. The Dutch government has been stepping up security measures amid growing concern at the threat of attacks by returning militants and plans to grant sweeping cable-tapping powers to intelligence agencies.
© Reuters


Austria: Volunteers, Many Once Refugees Themselves, Help as Guides in Vienna

24/9/2015- At the migration center in the east wing of the main train station here, Ragad al-Rachid, a petite 19-year-old psychology student and a Syrian Muslim, is immersed in the logistical details of helping dozens of people a day adjust to new lives in her adopted country. She shouts directions to the makeshift kitchen in Arabic, points people to a registration desk and a lawyer to advise them on legal ways to stay in Austria, gets local SIM cards for the new arrivals, helps them connect to the free Wi-Fi at the station and shows them how to buy tickets for trains to Germany and beyond. Often she just sits with refugees and listens to them talk about their experiences. But even as she spends her days helping the thousands of people transiting through the Austrian capital, she said, she is also benefiting. As one of dozens of Arabic-speaking Muslims among the 2,000 or so volunteers here who tend to refugees, she has for the first time since coming to Vienna found herself among Austrians who “look like me and think like me,” she said.

Seeking a Fair Distribution of Migrants in Europe
German and European Union leaders have called for European countries to share the burden of absorbing the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have poured into the continent this summer. As Europe absorbs the multitudes heading its way from the Middle East and Africa, it has often left unresolved the integration of earlier waves of Muslims. In Germany, it was the Turks. In France, the Algerians. But all across the Continent, Muslims are in various stages of acceptance, and the young, in particular, have been seeking ways to fit in.

Ms. Rachid’s family’s story illustrates the recent arc of the exodus from the Middle East into Europe. She arrived in Austria this year. One of her uncles sought asylum in France, and another is waiting for his residency papers in Sweden. Two of her aunts are being processed in Germany, and a third is in Austria, where Ms. Rachid, her parents and a younger brother are also seeking asylum. Just last week, nine months after they officially requested international protection here, they obtained a decree allowing them to remain in the Alpine nation of 8.7 million people. “It’s been really tough on my family, but we are the lucky ones because we have the means to support ourselves in the waiting period,” Ms. Rachid said. Her father owns a business in Nigeria.

With the war in Syria raging into its fifth year, the family has not been back to its home in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, an opposition stronghold that has been under government siege. But while Ms. Rachid longs to return to Syria, the country has come to her through the Syrians who descend every day from trains at Vienna’s Hauptbahnhof, exhausted by the journey through the Balkans, traumatized by the past in their war-wrecked homeland and fearful of a future in exile. “I think about these stories a lot,” Ms. Rachid said. “I’ve had sleepless nights, and the hardest thing for me now is the realization that my country is gone.” It is the refugees’ questions about Austria that she has the hardest time answering. Does she like Austria? How long does it take to get asylum, and how long before they can bring the family over? Should they go on to Germany? She struggles with a reply because she knows it is a long process in Austria, and most of the refugees landing here now do not have the means to support themselves while they wait.

The asylum policy is being amended constantly because applications for international protection in Austria have risen sharply. In the past three days, the Interior Ministry has registered a record number of requests — 500 to 700 applications a day, compared with 100 to 150 at this time last year. By the end of September, officials expect more than 9,000 asylum applications on their books, compared with 3,000 in March. Her advice to refugees often is to move to Germany — and not just because Austria’s list of asylum seekers has grown so long. “I feel strange here sometimes, maybe because of my head scarf,” Ms. Rachid said. “People are always staring at me.” She is particularly uncomfortable taking Vienna’s underground commuter trains. “Whenever I enter the metro, I see people stiffing up, pulling away from me slightly, and I think, ‘Oh, no, what did I do?’ ”

Ms. Rachid, who has not mastered German, said she tried to limit her movements around Vienna to the apartment her family is renting in a middle-class district, to a supermarket across the street and to a private university, where is taking English-language courses in psychology. And to the east wing of the train station, where the migration center has sprung up as a primary service point for the thousands pouring through.

This week, trains kept pulling in, each with 150 to 350 exhausted and nervous migrants, from the Hungarian border. On a recent day, volunteers counted nearly a thousand people at the station in their care. Earlier in this crisis, Austria was heavily criticized for the appalling conditions of its refugee centers in the border areas. Protests for better treatment occurred this month, and a group of people broke away from the official collection centers and established their own refugee relief effort. Within three weeks, one effort, known as Train of Hope, was established at Vienna’s main train station. It is now on par with the refugee center run by an Austrian Christian charity, Caritas, in the capital’s oldest station, the Westbahnhof.

Starting with a few boxes of clothing and a shopping cart full of medicine, a core group of eight volunteers, all in their 20s, initiated the relief effort in a corridor of the train terminal’s east wing. Now they have a clinic with two beds; closets stacked with medicines and first aid and hygiene kits; and X-ray and ultrasound machines. There are six doctors and four nurses by day, two of each at night. There is a makeshift kitchen and dining area, a restroom with several toilets at the entrance to the station and a tented area that is organized as a bazaar for migrants to choose from donated clothes. There is also a missing-persons desk and a legal-advisers desk with two volunteers who talk about asylum policies and onward journeys with migrants. Elsewhere, SIM cards are handed out, and free food and snacks are available at every corner.

Another volunteer, Monika Alamgir, a 24-year-old Austrian of Indian and Bangladeshi origin, said she could relate to Ms. Rachid’s feelings as an outsider. Ms. Alamgir was born in Vienna to a Muslim family and has a degree in Islamic education. She has four sisters, and three of them, along with their mother, cover their hair with head scarves. “I like it here, but it is different. People perceive you differently here if you wear a hijab,” she said. “You are a Muslim, visibly, and not everyone likes us.” But Ms. Alamgir said she had a good life in Austria, where her father, a journalist, sought asylum nearly three decades ago, when he was forced to flee Bangladesh. “I consider myself and my family fortunate because we are safe here and we have all we need,” Ms. Alamgir said. “I want to help others now because I know how it is to be in their place, in danger and with no money left.”

Train of Hope lists its needs on a Facebook page that has more than 40,000 fans, and through its Twitter account, which has more than 5,500 followers. It also now oversees seven halls, industrial spaces and an indoor sports stadium that it has turned into sleeping areas. “What we do here is try to have people who have been through hell smile again — let them know they are safe with us,” said Ashley Winkler, 24, a graphic designer from the southern Austrian city of Graz, who quit her job at an ad agency to help found and run Train of Hope. “The City of Vienna supports us, but not the federal government,” Ms. Winkler said. “They should, though. We are doing their job without any pay.”

Ms. Alamgir’s main task at the train station is to coordinate hundreds of volunteers, many of them refugees themselves or descendants of previous generations of asylum seekers. It is essential they speak German, Ms. Alamgir said, but the languages most in demand are Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Kurdish. What is most needed is for the volunteers to know and understand what the refugees are going through, Ms. Alamgir said. “It does not matter what language you speak, I tell volunteers,” she said. “You have to be kind and loving to these people who have been through so much.”
© The New York Times


Balkan tensions rise amid migrant crisis

24/9/2015- Relations between Croatia and Serbia plunged on Thursday to their worst since the end of the post-Yugoslav civil wars, as the growing migrant crisis rekindles old tensions in the Balkans. Serbia banned imports from Croatia after Zagreb closed its border to Serbian trucks and the two countries traded recriminations over each other’s handling of the flood of refugees. Serbian newspaper headlines called Croatian premier Zoran Milanovic an “idiot” who was “leading Croatians into war”, and Belgrade’s foreign ministry called Zagreb’s actions reminiscent of “fascist, independent Croatia” — a reference to the Nazi puppet regime during second world war.

The spat is threatening to reverse 15 years of improving relations between Croatia, which became the EU’s 28th member in 2013, and Serbia, which has moved towards the EU since its former leader Slobodan Milosevic was toppled, and began formal accession talks last year. It comes with memories still fresh in both countries of the bloody ethnic conflicts of the 1990s, as the migrant crisis undermines European solidarity. Tensions between the ex-Yugoslav states have flared after Hungary in effect closed its southern border with Serbia last week, and Belgrade began busing migrants instead to the border with Croatia. Croatia initially said it would allow free passage to migrants. But it has been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, with more than 50,000 entering in the past week.

Mr Milanovic said Croatia introduced its blockade on Serbian trucks because Belgrade had been “sending refugees only to Croatia, in an organised manner, in agreement with Hungary”. “I won’t allow that they make fools out of us”, he added. Noting that Croatia had received 9,000 migrants on Wednesday, when it could only cope with between 4,000 and 5,000, Mr Milanovic said the situation could be quickly resolved if Serbia “controlled the movement of refugees”. After a deadline of midnight on Wednesday set by Belgrade for Croatia to end a four-day blockade on trucks coming from Serbia, Belgrade said it would ban Croatian trucks and Croatian-made goods from entering.

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s prime minister, has appealed to the EU to intervene, while the country’s justice minister Nikola Selakovic said Serbia had been “brutally attacked by Croatia”. The dispute has prompted concerns in Brussels, with one senior official saying there was “considerable dismay with Croatia over rhetoric and actions that are seen as inflammatory and harmful both to the economy and in terms of handling the pressures of the refugee crisis”. “It is getting ugly, nasty,” the official added. With elections looming in Croatia this year, some EU officials are pressing for both sides to tone down the rhetoric and avoid reawakening the spectre of ethnic tension that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, spoke to the Serbian and Croatian premiers on Wednesday night, calling for them to calm the situation and work constructively towards reopening the trade flow. “Closing borders is never a solution, and in that part of our continent might bring back difficult feelings and emotions that we don’t need at this moment,” she said. Johannes Hahn, the EU enlargement commissioner, will travel to Serbia on Friday to visit refugee camps. “My plea is to disarm in terms of words and statements and to stay calm,” he said.
© The Financial Times.


Outburst of compassion in Europe puts lid on far right -for now

24/9/2015- European far right parties have called refugees streaming into the region "terrorists", a "ticking time bomb", a Muslim "invasion" that will bankrupt nations and undermine the continent's Christian roots. For now, that has hardly helped their dreams of winning power in elections. In many countries they have found themselves out of step with a wave of public compassion for refugees, prompted by images like that of drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach in August. But political experts say that as long as the crisis goes on, with no sign of a European consensus on how to stop it, the compassion may wear thin and far right parties could gain momentum. "If we're not able to tackle this issue, if we're not able to find sustainable solutions, you will see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said on Thursday.

The far right has had success in places: anti-immigration parties have risen in Italy and the Netherlands thanks to charismatic leaders. Hungary's governing Fidesz party, led by the raucous premier Viktor Orban, has moved sharply right, partly stealing the thunder of nationalists there. A Swedish rightwing party has benefited from a backlash over that country's status as Europe's most generous to refugees. But across Europe as a whole, virulent rhetoric has lately done more harm than good for parties at the extreme of the political spectrum looking to expand. "The refugee crisis has exacerbated reactions. We've seen both the best come out of people, with an unprecedented wave of solidarity from people wanting to help, and the worst with a big wave of people who have been ranting and raging with racist and xenophobic comments," said Francois Gemenne, migration expert at Sciences Po in Paris.

The biggest migration to Western Europe since World War Two has produced powerful images in recent weeks, which have provoked both sides of the debate over whether Europe should be more open or closed. The far right points to daily scenes of migrants pushing against police lines, cramming through windows to board trains or creating long traffic jams as they walk down motorways. "Masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest) across Europe; it's an invasion that threatens our prosperity, our security, our culture and identity," Geert Wilders, a Dutchman and one of the most prominent far-right politicians, said earlier this month.

In Hungary, Orban has emerged as one of the continent's most vociferous opponents of mass immigration, saying the continent is being "overrun" and its Christian culture in jeopardy. That has helped his center right Fidesz party avoid being outflanked by Jobbik, a party on the far right. Hungary has become the main overland route into the EU's Schengen zone of border-free travel for hundreds of thousands of migrants who first arrive in Greece and then trek across the Balkan peninsula, bound for richer countries like Germany. Orban's government has responded by building a fence to shut the border and giving the army permission to use non-lethal force to defend it.

Wilders' Freedom Party meanwhile has been scoring around 17 percent in recent polls compared to the 10 percent it won in a 2012 election, making it the most popular party in the Netherlands today, although it usually does worse in elections than in polls.

Fear of Appearing Heartless
But striking images have also worked against the far right, above all the image of lifeless 3-year-old Aylan face down in the surf. When the image appeared, mainstream politicians who had taken a comparatively hard line were caught out, like Britain's David Cameron, who faced headlines calling for more action to aid refugees even in right wing tabloids usually known for opposing immigration. Many rightwing parties in Europe toned down their rhetoric for fear of appearing heartless.

In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League had more than doubled its support since last September to 16 percent in the summer, but that has since tapered off, said Nicola Piepoli, head of the Piepoli Institute, an Italian polling firm. "The League is very monothematic and its rise has been virtually entirely due to the migrant crisis. Now the wind has changed a bit. It has lost a couple of percentage points and I think it has arrived at its peak," he said.

Likewise, Britain's UK Independence Party led by Nigel Farage has become less bombastic. "Farage can't be too tough on it at certain times, because even he doesn't want to come across as saying effectively 'Oh no, I'd like to see more dead babies'," said Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at pollster YouGov.

An example of how the crisis has provoked contrary passions is France, where support for taking in migrants swung dramatically to a majority after images of the drowned toddler appeared. A poll showed 53 percent wanted France to take more refugees from 44 percent before the image appeared. Yet a few days later, another showed 51 percent of the French thought the far-right National Front was "right to defend a firm position" against migrants, while 48 percent thought the party "lacked humanity". The National Front's leader Marine Le Pen is polling at around 28 percent at the moment, which would put her in the lead of a presidential election, due in 2017.

"EUrope Defined by Barbed Wire"
Some countries have escaped a surge in the far right altogether.

Greece, despite being the main entry point for migrants by sea, has seen its debt crisis eclipse all other political issues. Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was elected to a second term on Sunday, while far right party Golden Dawn has been stuck on the fringes at around 7 percent of the vote.

In Ireland, criticizing migration is taboo due to that country's own history of emigration. Spain is preoccupied by an independence movement in its Catalonia region and the rise of anti-establishment parties on the left and in the center.

In Norway, the Progress Party scored its worst election result in two decades precisely due to its anti-immigrant stance. Support for the Finns party in Finland dwindled after it joined the government and had to compromise on its program.

Bjarke Moller, director of Copenhagen-based Think Tank Europa, said an agreement struck earlier this week by European leaders to share out 120,000 refugees among nations shows they have not been "taken hostage" by the far right. But they still need to find a unified solution. "If the EU does not, there is a risk that more extremist nationalistic forces will try to create a Europe defined by barbed wire, national walls, border control and protectionism."
© Reuters


Bulgaria May Host ‘Hotspot’ Reception Center for Refugees - Merkel

24/9/2015- A hotspot for refugees may be established in Bulgaria by end-November, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel, as cited by the press office of the EC, said that Bulgaria had requested the measure on the grounds of experiencing substantial migratory pressure. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday after the EU summit in Brussels, Merkel noted that Bulgaria’s willingness to open such a facility had been welcomed. Four such hotspots are being built in Sicily, and one is to be opened in Greece’s Piraeus, with the EU expected to cover the expenses, according to reports of

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov did not comment on the outcome of the meeting of EU leaders after its conclusion. Bulgaria’s government has so far officially refused to open such an EU-run facility, which is to speed up the processing of asylum requests. Meanwhile, Bulgarian MEP Eva Paunova, who interpreted for Borisov during the EU summit, claimed that Bulgaria had not requested to host a hotspot. Paunova, as cited by Sega daily, insisted that the hotspots would be located outside EU countries. Asked to elaborate on the matter, Paunova reiterated that she knew nothing about such an initiative on Bulgaria’s part.
© Novinite


NGOs: Czech Republic helps maintain migration crisis

24/9/2015- The Czech Republic helps maintain the migration crisis by the refusal to bear its humanitarian responsibility, the Czech Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organisations said Thursday. The country cannot act as a passive victim of a 'crisis,' the consortium said. As the Czech Republic sent soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan and delivered arms to the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, it bears responsibility for the development in the region, the NGOs writes in reaction to a joint statement that the four prime ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries made earlier this month. In early September, the Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak PMs expressed regret over the loss of lives in connection with the migration wave. The consortium said regret was not enough.

The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia fully supported Hungary in its effort to manage the refugee influx. The V4 countries agreed that the outer borders of the European Union should be controlled and protected, that the aid should be voluntary and that the causes of the conflicts in the home regions of the refugees should be dealt with. The consortium criticised the steps Hungary took against refugees. Hungary creates a humanitarian crisis at its border, tries to discourage the asylum applicants by its military and uses tear gas against the refugees. It forces the refugees to return to Serbia, which will not provide shelter to them, the consortium said. The countries keep playing with the lives of refugees and use a buck-passing strategy, it said.

The Czech government takes an uncritical stance on Hungary, although this goes against the democratic principles of the country, the consortium wrote. It called on the government to reject violence against refugees, such as the use of truncheons and tear gas. The consortium said Czech politicians insisted on using the term "migrant" rather than "refugee" because this lowered the humanitarian urgency of the conditions of the refugees and the government's direct and acute responsibility for them according to Czech and international law. Czech authorities divided refugees into Syrians and the others, although Afghanis, Iraqis and other people fleeing from war had the right to be helped as well, the consortium said. It also criticised the government for considering the refugees a security risk. "We urge our government to take a more realistic attitude and take no part in this false and dangerous view," the consortium wrote.

The Consortium associates 18 organisations, including People in Need, the Organisation for Aid to Refugees, La Strada, the Association for Integration and Migration and the Czech Charity.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Army preparing for possible migration wave

23/9/2015- Czech soldiers will build a humanitarian camp in the military training area in Libava, north Moravia, to check their preparedness to face a possible strong migration wave, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) told journalists Wednesday. In case of need, the Czech military could offer two "humanitarian bases," or tent camps with a total capacity of 900 beds to help cope with the migration crisis. The refugees could stay for about a month in the camps, where Czech soldiers would provide them with food, personal hygiene facilities and beds. The camp for 450 people in Libava is being built by the engineering unit from Olomouc, north Moravia. It has to be completed and put into operation within three days of the issuing of the order, i.e. by Friday. The camp will have its own wiring, toilets, a canteen and a medical surgery.

"I have proposed that the defence minister check the facility. It started to be built Wednesday and it will be completed on Friday," chief-of-staff Josef Becvar told journalists. "It is a preventive operation, we wanted to try whether we are capable of building a humanitarian base within the given period of time," Becvar said. The one-month operation of such a base costs five million crowns, not including the soldiers' salary, he said. For the time being, the military would not build such bases to complement the detention and other facilities for foreigners that have been operated by the Interior Ministry as their capacities are sufficient now, Stropnicky said. He previously said the Czech military is ready to deploy up to 5,000 soldiers to protect the Czech border. In this connection, a joint exercise of the military and the police is to take place by the end of September.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Nowhere to Turn: The Situation of Dom Refugees from Syria in Turkey (Report)

23/9/2015- The aim of this report is to shed light on the situation of Dom refugees and related groups from Syria in Turkey, examining their needs for assistance and the socio-economic, political and legal challenges facing them since their arrival. The report is available here.
© European Roma Rights Center


Refugees Move Faster Than the EU

Amid the bloc’s contentious plans to redistribute asylum seekers, most are deciding themselves where they want to go.

24/9/2015- While the European Union overrode the bitter objections of four members this week to establish a plan to relocate 120,000 migrants around the continent, most asylum seekers are deciding for themselves where they want to go—and more quickly than officials can respond. The plan to resettle 120,000 asylum seekers now in Italy, Greece and other front-line countries and an earlier plan to resettle another 40,000 migrants affect just a fraction of the more than half a million people who have sought refuge in Europe this year. The plans are meant in part to ease pressure on Germany, the refugees’ destination of choice. The relocation is expected to take place over two years, and is tied to bolstering efforts to register migrants in Italy and Greece as they arrive on those countries’ shores. But most of the people landing there are moving on swiftly, even the relatively few whom local authorities do manage to register, some officials say. According to more than a dozen people who have trekked across the continent in the past few weeks, it takes an average 10 days to get from Turkey to Germany, with usually just a few days in Greece.

Greece, from which a total 66,400 refugees are to be relocated to other EU countries, has so far registered fewer than 10,000 of the arriving people, several diplomats involved in the talks said. “And of those 10,000, most of them are probably in Germany already,” one EU official said. Supporters of the redistribution plans—namely officials in Western Europe and Brussels—say it was important to establish procedures whereby all countries would accept that they have to take in refugees from EU countries under particular strain from the arrivals. Once the experiment with a relatively small number of migrants succeeded, the thinking was it would be replaced by a more permanent redistribution system to spread the burden of the crisis more equitably. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Wednesday that the EU governments had “started wrongly” in trying to solve the refugee crisis, by “clashing about the redistribution of 120,000 people when we have millions of refugees coming.”
© The Wall Street Journal-


Brussels launches investigation into asylum law violations in 19 countries

The European Commission has opened an investigation into 19 countries for violations of asylum laws, including Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Spain.

23/9/2015- The Commission accuses Spain of infringing laws concerning minimum standards for asylum procedures, inadequate conditions for receiving refugees and not clarifying the grounds for granting protection. A total of 40 violations are being investigated among the 19 countries, which include Germany, France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Hungary, the Commission said on Wednesday. "The pieces of legislation concerned focus on fairer, quicker and better quality asylum decisions (the Asylum Procedures Directive); ensuring that there are humane physical reception conditions (such as housing) for asylum seekers across the EU (the Reception Conditions Directive); and clarifying the grounds for granting international protection," the Commission said in a statement. "In Europe everyone must uphold the commonly agreed standards, in the way we receive asylum seekers," said Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in a statement. "These standards need to be fully implemented and respected, while always respecting the dignity and human rights of the applicants."

The investigation comes as EU leaders are meeting on Wednesday for an emergency summit about the ongoing refugee crisis across the continent, where they will be discussing border security, aid resources and a plan to redistribute 120,000 refugees among member states. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom will not face an investigation because they do not take part in EU asylum legislation. The countries under investigation will first receive a letter of formal notice from the Commission and then will have two months to respond. If they do not properly implement existing EU laws, they will be threatened with an indictment in the European Court. On Tuesday, EU interior ministers voted on a plan to share responsibility for refugees across Europe through a quota system. Talks have been divisive on how to handle the crisis - the worst of its kind since the Second World War.
© The Local - Spain


EU to fortify external borders to stem migrant flow

24/9/2015- The EU is forging ahead with plans to restore control of its external borders amid a refugee crisis unlike anything seen in recent history. Among the ideas announced in the early morning of Thursday (24 September), is the establishment of EU-run quarantine centres for new asylum arrivals by the end of November and a proposal for an EU border and coast guard system by December. The gathering in Brussels followed weeks of bickering between member states and tit-for-tat border and rail closures amid a massive influx of asylum seekers and refugees.  Thursday's plan is part of a larger ambition to deport people with no right to international protection after ministers earlier in the week had agreed to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece. "We cannot continue like we did before. Without changing the current paradigm, the Schengen area will only exist in theory", EU council chief Donald Tusk told reporters.

The summit ended with a short statement and bullet-point document on actions, described by Judith Sunderland at Human Rights Watch as anti-refugee. "Almost everything in the document is about reinforcing borders, stopping people from reaching the borders, and sending people back if they do", she said in a statement. The document said the EU would reinforce cooperation with Turkey to stem migratory flows and that more efforts will be made to assist the Western Balkan countries. But it also proposed providing an additional €1 billion to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the cash-strapped World Food Programme. Tusk warned that millions of Syrians are still likely to make the journey to the EU in search of refuge. "It is clear that greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come", he said.

The quarantine centres – also known as hotspots – will separate legitimate asylum seekers from others not entitled to international protection. People will be finger printed and registered. Rejected applicants will be returned back to their home countries. The centres are being set up in Greece and Italy with support from the EU border agency Frontex, the European asylum support office (EASO), and the EU police agency, Europol. But the zones have been hit with administrative and logistical delays. Frontex still needs to deploy staff to help with fingerprinting in Italy. EASO experts have also yet to be sent. Greece has still not set up a first reception centre on the Greek island of Kos, where most asylum seekers first disembark. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit that Bulgaria also wants a hotspot scheme.

Merkel said that setting up fences between member states is not the solution to the problem. She added that it needs to be made clear to economic migrants that they will not get the protection they are counting on. "We are all committed to offer sanctuary, those who are fleeing can't have a choice,” Merkel said in regard to refugees who insist on seeking asylum in Germany. Her comments were directed towards Hungary's decision to erect a razor-wire fence on the Serb border. But Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban shot back. "If they don't like the fence, then we can let the migrants though to Austria and Germany", he said.

Beefed up border controls
Clamping down on the EU frontier may also include shifting border controls to the EU level. Plans are in the works for the European Commission to propose in December a so-called European border and coast guard system. This includes expanding Frontex with more personal and more money. The Commission wants 60 more posts at the Warsaw-based agency. Tusk said EU leaders had shown little enthusiasm for the idea but had agreed to continue talks about a "possible common European policy when it comes to external borders." The EU is also discussing €1 billion fund for Turkey for 2015 to 2016 to help with refugees. The money would go towards infrastructure support to health services and education. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be meeting with Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on 5 October. Tusk is also set to meet Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu in New York.
© The EUobserver


EU: Six member states slash UN food aid for Syrian refugees

Every member state, except the Netherlands, has slashed contributions to the World Food Progamme (WFP) in 2015.

23/9/2015- EU leaders at an emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday (23 September) are being asked to shore up contributions. The drastic cuts over the past year mean the UN agency has been unable to hand out food vouchers to hundreds of thousands of Syrians at refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. The lack of food and deplorable conditions at the camps is, in part, compelling many to take the journey to the EU. At the camp in Jordan, some 229,000 Syrians stopped receiving food aid in September. In Turkey, around 60,000 women gave birth in the camps since the start of the conflict. WFP has since had to halve assistance to almost 1.3 million Syrian refugees in the region. Most live off $0.50 a day. The agency is warning that disruptions to water supplies could provoke major outbreaks of disease. “Faced with such harsh conditions who can blame people for seeking a safe haven in Europe”, said European parliament president Martin Schulz.
100% cuts in aid

Austria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and Slovakia made the most drastic cuts. All sliced their contributions by 100 percent this year, compared to last year. Sweden’s contribution dropped by 95 percent, followed by Lithuania at 69.5 percent, and Belgium at 54.7 percent. The UK also dropped by 29.5 percent. Others like Croatia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania gave nothing in the past two years. The Netherlands stands alone as the only member state, at plus 5.8 percent, which has increased contributions. It means member state contributions went from €895 million in 2014 to €675 million this year, a 38 percent drop.

But Sweden, for its part, contested the 95 percent drop in figures given by the European Commission. It says it usually makes the disbursements quite late in the year, which was not reflected in the commission's data. "The Swedish contribution for 2015 at the moment stands at $69.3 million. This is without the increase just announced, which takes the total to about $72.3 million", said a contact at Sweden's ministry of international development cooperation. The WFP said Sweden's contribution was registered last week. "Sweden is still a much respected donor for WFP", said a WFP spokesperson.

€1 billion needed
Draft summit conclusions suggest at least €1 billion is needed for the WFP and other agencies like the UNHCR. The commission said it will contribute an additional €200 million. The Brussels-executive also announced a separate €1 billion trust fund for Syrian refugees. Five hundred million euro will come from the EU budget. Another €500 is being asked from member states. But so far, only Germany (€5mn) and Italy (€3mn) have put any money in the hat for the trust fund. The EU has made a start up contribution of €38 million, but says another €100 million will be found before the end of year. Additional pledges from member states for both WFP and Syrian trust are being made, an EU official said.
This article was updated on Friday (25 September) at 14:23 to note Sweden contested the figure provided by the European Commission
© The EUobserver


Refugee crisis: Opponents furious over new EU quotas

Central European countries have reacted angrily after plans to relocate 120,000 migrants across the continent were approved by EU interior ministers.

22/9/2015- Under the scheme, migrants will be moved from Italy, Greece and Hungary to other EU countries. But Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against accepting mandatory quotas. Czech President Milos Zeman said: "Only the future will show what a mistake this was." The BBC's Europe correspondent Chris Morris says it is highly unusual for an issue like this - which involves national sovereignty - to be decided by majority vote rather than a unanimous decision. The scheme to take in migrants appears on the surface to be voluntary, he says, although countries are likely to be given little choice in the matter.

In the latest reaction:
@ Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico says he will not accept the new terms and will not "respect this diktat of the majority"
@ Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has tweeted: "Very soon we will realise the emperor has no clothes. Today was a defeat for common sense"
@ Radio Prague reports that the Czech Republic could seek to take the matter to the European Court of Justice
@ In Latvia, whose interior minister backed the move, hundreds of people have marched against the quotas
@ Hungary will respect Tuesday's decision, a government spokesman says
Under the EU's rules, a country that does not agree with a policy on migration imposed upon it could have the right to appeal to the European Council. But Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who chaired the meeting, said he had "no doubt" opposing countries would implement the measures.
© BBC News


Refugee crisis: EU ministers approve disputed quota plan

EU interior ministers have approved a controversial plan to relocate 120,000 migrants across the continent over the next two years.

22/9/2015- It will see migrants moved from Italy, Greece and Hungary to other EU countries. Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against accepting mandatory quotas. After the vote, Slovakia's prime minister said he would not accept the new quotas. Finland abstained from the vote. Poland, which had opposed the proposal, voted for it. The BBC's Europe correspondent Chris Morris says it is highly unusual for an issue like this - which involves national sovereignty - to be decided by majority vote rather than unanimous decision. The matter must now be ratified by EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday.
© BBC News


EU Begins Two Days of Emergency Talks on Migration

Anti-quota bloc appears to be winning the day.

22/9/2015- Interior ministers from the majority of European Union members that favor binding refugee quotas face a bruising meeting today in Brussels with the eastern members who oppose the plan. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – the so-called Visegrad Four – have formed a solid front against the European Commission’s plan to redistribute asylum seekers. Interior ministers from the four countries met in Prague on 21 September to reinforce that stance and demand greater efforts to weed out economic migrants from bona-fide refugees. As migrants continue to arrive in Austria and Germany along the eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey through the Balkans and Hungary, it is becoming clear that even the EU’s enlarged redistribution scheme will settle only a fraction of the incomers expected this year.

The EU’s new plan calls for the resettlement of 120,000 asylum seekers now housed in Italy, Greece, and Hungary. Eastern member countries reluctantly signed on to an earlier plan to redistribute 40,000 refugees, and it has not reached its target yet, according to EurActiv. The anti-quota bloc headed by the Visegrad Four, with Romania and the Baltic States as stalwart allies, may be gaining strength. One EU source told EUobserver that the draft text for today’s ministerial meeting had dropped the European Commission’s calculations of the numbers of refugees each member should accept based on GDP, population, and other factors. This meant the mandatory quota notion was “dead,” the source said. The BBC today also says “mandatory quotas have now been dropped,” citing unidentified EU diplomats. EU leaders will gather in Brussels on 23 September for another emergency summit to discuss the broader migration crisis.

  • A Latvian parliamentary committee has approved a government proposal to accept an additional 526 refugees, bringing the total to 776

  • Estonia will be ready to take in its first refugees under the EU’s refugee redistribution plan by the end of the year – “four or five refugee families,” a Social Affairs Ministry official said.

  • New Hungarian legislation allows the army to restrict personal liberties and use non-lethal weapons, or lethal force if it cannot be avoided, to keep migrants from entering the country. According to AFP, the law permits troops to use “rubber bullets, pyrotechnics, tear gas grenades, and net guns.

  • In a commentary published a day after he said the EU’s mandatory quota system was “against European principles,” Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna writes, “The first priority must be to seal EU borders. Only by doing so will we be able to avoid further chaos and brutal skirmishes on the frontiers. Even countries that have until recently expressed a very open attitude towards taking in refugees now realize they have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.”

  • The OECD predicts that 1 million people could request asylum in Europe this year, and that some 450,000 of these could obtain permission to stay in their new homes. “An emerging challenge will be the integration of the many new refugees who will remain in European host countries. We need to scale up and adapt programs so that refugees can integrate as quickly as possible in their new homes and make best use of their skills. We should all remember that migration is not a liability, but an asset,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in a statement today.

© Transitions Online.

Europe’s moral indigestion amusing no longer

Urgent tasks at this week’s emergency EU summit include waking up to reality and sharing responsibility for migrants.

22/9/2015- Watching Europe flounder, backtrack and bicker this summer in response to the migrant crisis has been darkly amusing, in the way that grim comedy often attends the greatest tragedies. But no longer. Hungary spent weeks building a wall, even though none of the hundreds of thousands who have passed through its territory have shown the slightest desire to remain there. Croatia, which had ample fore-warning of the inevitable, was initially welcoming – but only because it believed, unfathomably, that it would be receiving about 500 refugees a day. After 10,000 poured over the border in 24 hours, Zagreb shrieked with dismay and started ferrying them back to Hungary while condemning the “inhumanity” of Budapest. Which, after threatening to block “pathetic”, “lying” Croatia’s future admission to the Schengen Zone, sullenly began busing thousands to the Austrian border. And still they come in their thousands, despite Europe’s roiling moral indigestion, as colder weather approaches.

The awesome exodus has rent Europe economically between north and south, and culturally between east and west. It has also divided each of its members from within, as between hearts and minds – between those who say we can’t integrate them, now or ever, and those who say we can’t just abandon them in light of our values. Despite all the summitry, and the terrible prospect of how many may yet come this way, European leaders are still fiddling while Syria burns. Like Robert Fico, with his over-my-dead-body bravado, or the UK’s David Cameron with its underwhelming 20,000-over-five-years ‘commitment’.

It’s time to move on from our first, understandably emotional, responses to the crisis. Yes, absorbing well over half a million refugees this year will cost us a lot of money, and on top of the millions of poorly-integrated Muslims already in Europe, will further strain social cohesion. Yes, we would all have been better off if Angela Merkel had not rashly promised Syrians an open door in Germany, just as we all could have done without neo-Nazi Hungarian mayors posting threatening videos on youtube.

We all know that Europe is not going to bus or fly half a million people back to where they came from, just as it is clear that walls and soldiers are not going to prevent more from arriving. Nor are we going to allow them to starve or freeze – yes, even if it turns out that some are not fleeing war. So let’s propose a clear and urgent agenda for this week’s emergency EU summit: stop posturing, admit the facts, share responsibility and agree a solution. Lest our leaders make it even more clear that they, rather than Europe’s newest inhabitants, pose the greatest threat to the future of our Union.
© The Slovak Spectator.


Greece: Huge increase in migrant arrivals on Lesbos

23/9/2015- More than 2,500 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees, soaked and exhausted, reached the Greek island of Lesbos within hours on Wednesday, a sharp rise in the rate of arrivals via the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey. They were the latest wave of at least 430,000 refugees and migrants, a record number, to have taken rickety boats across the Mediterranean to Europe this year, 309,000 via Greece, according to International Organization for Migration figures. Around 50 rubber dinghies each carrying up to 60 to 70 people arrived in pouring rain in the space of five hours on one Lesbos beach, which was covered in life jackets and rubber tubes. Some refugees were suffering from hypothermia.

As they approached shore, a Syrian man lifted his wailing daughter, in an orange life jacket, above their overloaded dinghy. In another, packed with Afghan families, headscarved women smiled and young, beaming men flashed the victory sign.  Emotions ranged from relief to exhaustion. "It was difficult, we were afraid," said 18-year-old Ruhin from Afghanistan, whose sister collapsed on the shore. The number of boats was far greater than normal for such as short period of time; 40 boat arrivals would be considered average for a full day over the past few weeks, a Reuters photographer on the scene said.

Why the numbers rose so quickly on Wednesday was unclear, but the Mediterranean will be hit increasingly by storms as autumn progresses towards winter, making the crossing too dangerous for most refugees to attempt it. In Athens, hundreds of protesters shouting anti-EU slogans marched to European Commission headquarters in a show of solidarity with the refugees and migrants arriving on overwhelmed Greek islands. Among other things, they demanded better reception facilities and registration procedures. "The situation on the islands has reached its limits. The government has a big responsibility," Communist-affiliated trade union PAME, which organized the protest, said in a statement.

In the summer, tensions flared on Lesbos and the nearby island of Kos, with people sleeping rough on the streets with little food and water and hygiene rapidly deteriorating, prompting aid agencies to declare a "humanitarian disaster". Hundreds of thousands of refugees, primarily Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and Africans fleeing war, repression and poverty, have crossed the narrow but precarious sea channel between Turkey and Greece's eastern Aegean islands this year, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable boats. Almost all refugees and migrants quickly move on out of Greece and up through the Balkans towards wealthier countries in the EU's north and west, especially Germany and Sweden.

Over the weekend, 13 migrants, including six children, died in Turkish waters near Lesbos when a boat carrying 46 people en route to Greece collided with a dry cargo vessel and capsized. The European Union approved a plan on Tuesday to share out 120,000 refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria, across its 28 states based on mandatory quotas, overriding vehement opposition from four ex-communist eastern nations.
© Reuters


French councils refuse to accept Muslim refugees

25/9/2015- A number of councils in France have refused to accept any of the 24,000 Muslim Syrian refugees the President had agreed to accept over the next two years, with one town claiming they “cut off boss’s heads”. Two mayors declared they only wanted to accept Christian refugees to keep out terrorists. Referring to the June incident when Yassin Salhi decapitated his boss, a memo, unanimously approved by Charvieu-Chavagneux Council on September 9 said the town only wanted to accept Christian refugees because they “wouldn’t proceed to cut off the heads of their bosses.” The Council’s text went even further declaring that “Christian refugees will not put others in danger, they would not attack trains armed with Kalashnikovs and would not gun down journalists in an editorial meeting,” referring to the recent foiled attack by a gunman on a train, and to the massacre at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.

The text also evoked a “war of civilization” and the “arrival en masse of jihadists on French territory”. Others have also expressed reluctance to accept refugees – a process which remains voluntary, so far at least. National Front Leader, Marine Le Pen, vowed that none of the 11 towns run by her party would take in any refugees. She claimed they were unequipped, but the suspicion is that anti-Islam sentiment may also lie behind the stance of a party seen by critics as being deeply Islamophobic and racist. Even ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been stoking fears talking of the “risk of the disintegration of French society” due to the influx of refugees and migrants.

Secretary General of the Union of French Mosques Mohammed Mraizika denounced the “dangerous” stance of the mayors. “These mayors are irresponsible and their words are dangerous especially in the context of this crisis, which is very difficult,” he said. “Whether refugees are Muslim or from another religion we have a duty to stand together and face up to this human tragedy,” he said. Mraiziki said Charvieu-Chavagneux Council was pouring “oil on the fire. They don’t think about the consequences of their words.” “Each time there is a statement like this, we notice a steep rise in Islamophobia and racism in France. It’s dangerous,” he said.
© The Muslim News


France: 350 refugees evicted as police deploy tear gas and use digger to bulldoze tents in Calais

22/9/2015- French police have used tear gas, violence and a 10-tonne Volvo bulldozer to evict migrants and destroy shelters created by 350 mostly Syrian refugees in four separate camps across Calais. In morning raids, riot police forcibly evicted the predominantly Syrian, but also Eritrean and Sudanese, refugees from a warehouse in an industrial estate in Calais at the Paul-Devot hangar and an adjoining garden, where they had set up camps. Elsewhere in the port city, which has become home to roughly 4,000 migrants, riot police  yesterday (21 September) smashed the shelters of refugees and migrants living below a bridge and also evicted them from a church where some had been living for up to a year. Humanitarian groups working in the area have claimed at least one man was hospitalised in the ensuing police violence.

Maya Konforti, from the humanitarian group L'Auberge des Migrants, said she deeply regretted the decision of the authorities to evict the refugees just as colder weather had set in and she railed against the heavy-handed police tactics. "They told them to leave, so they had to leave right away. They barely had the time to get out and to leave. They didn't have anything except the clothes on their back," she told IBTimes UK "It's just totally inhuman. No care, not pity. When you tell people to evacuate, you can talk with them, you could have discussions," she added. Konforti explained that the mix of refugees and migrants in living in the areas outside the area's main 'Jungle' camp had permission to be there, with the exception of the garden. She explained that those who had little to begin with had lost most of their belongings in the raids. "They didn't even get the time to take their personal belongings, they lost their money, their clothing, their documents, their phones," she said.

The worst of the violence took place, Konforti explained, as the migrants who had been pushed back towards the Jungle refused to move past its entrance. It was then that clashes and confrontations with police took place. French officials have said the evictions were necessary because of health concernsm but with the Jungle, an informal camp of a dozen hundred or so tents on the edge of Calais close to capacity and with floods caused by recent heavy rain, Konforti does not see how they will fair better now their dwellings have been destroyed. The raids appear to be part of a pattern in which French authorities have shown themselves to be increasingly intolerant of migrant camps outside the Jungle and the Jules-Ferry Centre. Syrian refugees, who have been arriving in increasing numbers to Calais over the past month, have looked to stay outside of the Jungle.
© The International Business Times - UK


Spain: Preparations are under way in Malaga to meet the needs of refugees

22/9/2015- As Malaga Province waits to see how many Syrian refugees will be coming to the area, the authorities are busy preparing to receive them and drawing up plans. One of these plans is a resource guide being drawn up in collaboration with the Education, Health and Social Policies departments which aims to record what is available where to help meet the needs of future arrivals, which will include charities, individuals, local and government services. Junta de Andalucia regional government delegate for the province Jose Luis Ruiz Espejo explained that the Junta aims, through this guide, to record all available resources and place them at the disposal of those attending refugees. “Organisation and advance preparations are vital in this type of situation that removes thousands from their homes,” Ruiz Espejo said.
© Euronews


Dutch MPs welcome refugee quotas

23/9/2015- Dutch MPs of all parties have welcomed the decision of European governments to impose refugee quotas, but say it is just the first step in a joint European answer to the humanitarian crisis. The deal to impose refugee quotas was forced through on Tuesday afternoon and will share 120,000 people between the EU states, four of which voted against the deal. The Netherlands has agreed to take around 7,000 asylum seekers over a period of two years. Whether the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia will accept refugees having voted against the deal is the question. However, junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff told broadcaster Nos: ‘The deal obliges all member countries to accept the agreed quotas.’ 

First step
Government and opposition are agreed that this is just a first step. ‘Europe must now focus on limiting the numbers of refugees and tackling the causes of the crisis,’ Malik Azmani of the governing VVD party told the Nos. While the opposition Christian Democrats say the main problem lies in Syria and is pushing for safe havens to be created in that country. EU leaders are in Brussels for a summit dedicated to the refugee crisis on Wednesday.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: 4,200 refugees reach in one week

22/9/2015- The number of refugees entering the Netherlands reached 4,200 last week, junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff said on Tuesday. It is the largest number so far. The week before there were 3,100 refugees and the one before that 1,800. Empty prisons, conference centres and other public buildings are being turned into emergency centres to house them.

For instance, Nijmegen city council is setting up a massive camp of tents to house 3,000 refugees, and the distinctive dome prisons in Arnhem and Haarlem will house
several hundred asylum seekers, as will the Jaarbeurs exhibition centre in Utrecht. Amsterdam has also agreed to take in 1,500 people, 400 of whom will be housed in a former prison in the Havenstraat. The rest will be spread between two sports halls and a former council office building, the NRC reports. However, Dijkhoff says more needs to be done, because refugees with permission to stay in the Netherlands will eventually need permanent housing.

Foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders said on Tuesday that a ‘massive amount of money’ must be sent from Europe to the Middle East in order to help Syrian refugees. He was speaking during a visit to a refugee camp in Libanon. Koenders says the money is necessary to ensure that these refugees have ‘a future’ in their own region of the world. The Dutch government recently made €110m available for Syrian refugee camps.
© The Dutch News


Anti-migrant quota EU states meet in Prague

21/9/2015- Foreign ministers from the main opponents of migrant quotas are meeting in Prague on Monday ( 21 September), as refugees continue to criss-cross EU borders. The Prague event - involving the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, as well as the Luxembourg EU presidency, which supports the quota scheme - comes ahead of two days of talks on the crisis in Brussels. Interior ministers will, on Tuesday, try to agree on a European Commission proposal on mandatory redistribu-tion of 120,000 asylum seekers. EU leaders will then debate wider issues, such as border security and aid to Turkey - which hosts 2 millions refugees - on Wednesday. For their part, EU ambassadors in Brussels spent the weekend working on draft conclusions for Tuesday’s meeting.

An EU contact familiar with the draft text told EUobserver it no longer contains the Commission’s mathematical "key" on redistribution based on GDP and population size, among other factors. The EU source said this means the mandatory idea is "dead". But for his part, French leader Francois Hollande said in Morocco over the weekend that, no matter what the technical details of the deal, every EU state must take its fair share. “No one can be exempt or we would no longer belong to the same union built on values and principles”, he noted. "We will ensure that this mechanism is effective regardless of its terms, that commitments can be kept and that it's not always the same countries who are receiving the refugees".

German debate
In Germany, the most popular migrant destination and the most pro-migrant EU state, differences are emerging in the ruling coalition. The interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, from the Chancellor’s centre-right CDU party, told Germany’s Spiegel: "We can’t host all the people from conflict areas and all poverty refugees who want to come to Europe and to Germany". "The right way would be that we in the EU commit ourselves to fixed, generous quotas for the admission of refugees". But Sigmar Gabriel, the centre-left SPD’s deputy chancellor, called the idea "nonsense". "It’s the opposite of what the Chancellor has rightly said, namely that those who arrive in Germany and apply for asylum need a fair procedure", he noted. "It is not a solution to establish quotas for asylum seekers. Incidentally, it is also contrary to the German constitution".

Nordic leaders, who are seeing more arrivals coming via Russia, also spoke out. Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said on Sunday: "The entire chain is full of leaks". He estimated that up to 5 million people could come to Europe in the near future, adding: “If we could trust that the system works and the outer EU borders will function as they should, then I would be open to the idea of raising Finland’s refugee quota significantly”.

Meanwhile, the Turkish foreign minister, who met his Luxembourg counterpart in Ankara on Friday, said he has no intention of stopping people from coming to the EU. “We have to help them go wherever they want, but in an orderly way. Turkey does not have a policy of locking these people in”, Feridun Sinirlioglu told press. Politicians’ talk aside, the migrants, over the past two days, continued to cross EU internal and external borders, where possible, to get to their preferred destinations.
Croatia’s interior minister, Ranko Ostojic, told the BBC that 27,000 refugees have arrived over the past five days. Hungary had earlier closed its borders with Croatia and Serbia. It continued to talk tough, with its foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, comparing Hungary’s “defence” of EU borders with its historic role as defender of Europe over the past 1,000 years. But it is letting people go from Croatia, via Hungary, to Austria, which received up to 15,000 people over the weekend. Some 7,000 are reportedly waiting in Nickelsdorf, Austria, for onward transport. A further 2,500 crossed from Croatia into Slovenia. But 4,000 more are stuck in the Croatian border town of Tovarnik. Germany, which has reimposed border controls, reported 1,985 people crossing on Friday and 1,710 on Saturday.

Northern route
On the northern route, between 350 and 500 people a day are arriving in Finland, its interior ministry said. The Swedish migration board registered 6,400 asylum claimants last week, and 5,200 the week before. But in the south, the Aegean Sea crossing from Turkey to Greece continued to claim lives. Reports say that a helicopter from the EU border control agency Frontex spotted an inflatable boat containing some 20 people trying to get from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece. The boat had capsized, with survivors saying 26 others had drowned.
© The EUobserver


Polish right joins eastern EU's anti-migrant camp

19/9/2015- Poland's conservative party chief who appears poised to win the October general election has ruled out taking in refugees, bolstering the hardline of other eastern EU countries on the migrant crisis. "Do you want us to stop calling the shots in our own country? Poles don't want this," Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said this week during a special Polish parliamentary session on the crisis. "We're definitely in favour of helping, but in a safe way. In other words, financially," the right-wing eurosceptic added, insisting Poland should not take in any refugees.

The European Union is struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East -- especially Syria. The influx -- the greatest migratory flow in Europe since the end of World War II -- has created a deep rift between western and poorer eastern EU members, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leading the hardline group. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have staunchly rejected a European Commission plan to relocate 160,000 refugees among the bloc's 28 states via a compulsory quota system. This anti-migrant front will spread if -- as opinion polls suggest -- Kaczynski's populist party wins the general election on October 25 and comes to power in the eastern European powerhouse.

"Especially if he (Kaczynski) ends up governing on his own," said Stanislaw Mocek, a political scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences. "Kaczynski has a predilection for Viktor Orban's system of government," he told AFP. The latest opinion surveys give the populist PiS party between 32 and 36 percent of votes, compared to between 22 and 26 percent for the governing centrist Civic Platform (PO).

- Germany's problem -
Following Orban's example, Kaczynski has painted a menacing picture of the supposed advance of Sharia (Islamic) law through Europe and accused Berlin of having had a hand in bringing about the migrant crisis. "Who created the magnet for attracting economic migrants? Germany. And it's their problem," Kaczynski told parliament on Wednesday. The comments were reminiscent of the anti-German rhetoric that became Kaczynski's trademark during a 2006-7 stint as prime minister. He comes from a political family as his twin brother Lech Kaczynski was Polish president from 2005 to 2010 when he died in a plane crash on an official trip to Russia. Bratislava, Budapest and Prague are taking a similar anti-German line, which according to a study from the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) "has brought about the first serious chill in their Berlin ties in recent years."

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Kaczynski's parliamentary remarks were "the first sign of the road towards Poland's EU exit". Her government has proclaimed its commitment to European solidarity, even as it expresses its own reservations about taking in migrants. The country of 38 million people has so far agreed to accept only 2,000 refugees, but the European Commission has assigned it an extra 9,287 individuals within the quota plan. Warsaw is negotiating the number and setting conditions for its agreement, which could hamper the centrist PO's bid for re-election.

- 'Play on people's fears' -
Kaczynski's stance falls under his party's campaign strategy, according to Maciej Gdula, a sociologist at the University of Warsaw. The tactic appeals to Poland's ethnic and religious homogeneity -- 90 percent of the population considers itself Catholic -- and widespread wariness of an influx of Muslim refugees. Kaczynski notably claimed in his parliamentary address that Muslim refugees would end up trying to impose their way of life on Poles. He cited Britain, France, Italy and Sweden as cautionary tales, alleging that there were areas in the Scandinavian country that were outside state control and where young girls could no longer wear short skirts. "He is drumming up hysteria before the parliamentary elections. He understands that it's a time of crisis and he wants to capitalise on that and play on people's fears," Gdula said. "Kaczynski is also appealing to an old historical viewpoint according to which Poland is a bulwark for Christianity in the east and must save Europe from itself."


Refugees and ‘Germanness’ (opinion)

By Jochen Bittner

25/9/2015- In the past few weeks, I’ve been tempted to say something once unthinkable for my generation: I’m proud to be German. It’s been almost a month since the waves of refugees began arriving here, and still, thousands of us are flocking to sports halls and makeshift camps to help them. It reminds more than a few of us of Emma Lazarus’s famous lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” which greeted many Europeans when, a century ago, they were the newcomers. Old Europe has become New America. Still, though tempted, I won’t say I’m proud to be German. There are deep reasons for this reluctance, but they all boil down to one nervous question: Have we, the newly most powerful state in Europe, learned an appropriate language to convey our convictions and values to others — both our European neighbors and the hundreds of thousands of Muslims we are taking in?

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, accuses Berlin of “moral imperialism,” and he is not the only one to hold this view. Although the truth is that it was merely a moral imperative that caused Chancellor Angela Merkel to temporarily open the borders, it is right that the exaltation at our train stations and sports halls will soon subside. The next challenge ahead, to integrate all the newcomers, will be enormous. “German thoroughness is super, but now German flexibility is needed” — that is the slogan of the hour from Ms. Merkel. And this country may indeed be able to accommodate the influx with speedier housing construction. Yet offering the migrants an emotional home will prove harder. For this a third virtue is needed: an attractive idea of “Germanness.” Unfortunately, we have very little experience in explaining to other people who we are, without sounding angry or chauvinist.

Why? Because ever since the mania of the Nazi era, we Germans have been highly suspicious of collective feelings. Never again do we want to be seduced by an imagined national greatness, or even national identity. The result: We have never found a relaxed, let alone inviting identity. Concerns like that might sound strange to American ears. This is because the United States has always been a walk-in nation. Sure, immigrants never had it easy there; nativism only changed form over centuries, from the anti-Irish Bowery Boys to the anti-Mexican Donald Trump. But anyone who settles there could at least claim to be American. Germany offers no easy-access national feeling of this sort. On the contrary, many Germans, namely the liberal-left from the 1960s generation of Joschka Fischer, have long felt so at pains with their nation that they promoted multiculturalism, for the sheer purpose of not having to be left alone with their strange countrymen.

Luckily, those days of self-hatred are over. But still, compared with America’s self-confident image as a highway to freedom, German identity is a scary old building with thick doors, multilayered staircases and deterringly dark cellars. When an Irish friend living in Berlin said he was considering taking German citizenship, I asked how he planned to deal with the little downside of this affiliation: helping shoulder historic responsibility for the Holocaust. Startled, he said he would have to think anew. Germany can never be to Europe what America has been to the world. Our borders with nine neighboring states are like a skin, highly sensitive to the multiple reactions our movements may cause. Nevertheless, there are times when we shouldn’t twitch, but should stand firm.

Just as we need to find the right words to transport nonnegotiable ideas like equal rights and equal respect for women, or the separation between state and religion to people from Afghanistan, Eritrea or Syria, we should make clear to Mr. Orban and others what European values mean, in our view: among other things, the right to claim asylum, no matter if you are Muslim or Christian. No doubt, Europe will be strained by the ongoing influx, both financially and culturally. How, for example, will we deal with a husband who won’t let his wife attend community meetings? How do you react to a schoolgirl who refuses to shake a boy’s hand? How do you make clear to people who grew up in failed states or dictatorships that the government here is not an enemy, but deserves trust? And will we have the guts to separate real refugees from the free-riders, and send them home?

The goal is to do all this in a way that is firm, persuasive, even argumentative, but also respectful and, to the extent that we can be, accommodating. We might actually discover a little pride in clarifying to many asylum seekers that our most amazing achievement is neither our welfare system nor our national soccer team. Already, Salafist groups are trying to recruit young, shaky immigrants, telling them that Islam is the most fulfilling idea of all. These extremists must be stopped, just like the neo-Nazi gangs who set refugee housing on fire. Yet, the #refugeeswelcome movement has been glorious, and we shall never forget these precious moments of heartfelt sympathy. But besides our deep hearts, we need our heads, and we need self-confidence. New Germanness, put in one sentence, first and foremost means: You don’t need to be a native; nor should you be naïve.
Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
© The New York Times


Germany: Fate holds cruel twist for Syrian family sent to AC in town that saw neo-Nazi riots

From the bright lights of Berlin to a grim former Nazi military barracks near the Czech border, the Syrian refugee family's new life in Germany has been a roller-coaster of euphoria and despair.

25/9/2015- Last week, fate reserved yet another nasty surprise for the Habashieh family, as they were shuttled from a miserable army barracks to an even more dismal refugee center — in a town that made international headlines last month because of neo-Nazi riots against plans to house migrants there. The Habashiehs arrived well after the protests, but residents have been quick to tell them how unlucky they are: Heidenau is one of Germany's most depressed, racism-infested towns. In late August, more than a hundred drunken rioters threw stones inside the shelter and blocked the road so buses packed with asylum-seekers could not enter the compound. More than 20 police officers were injured by firecrackers and broken bottles thrown by neo-Nazis. "I keep telling my mom that soon we will be done here and start our lives again," said 19-year-old Reem Habashieh. "But really, it's unbearable here."

Reem, her mother Khawla Kareem, brothers Mohammed, 17, and Yaman, 15, and younger sister Raghad, 11, are desperately trying to make the best of a bad situation. But it's hard to keep up a brave face when authorities keep shuttling you from place to place because of the "no vacancy" message at processing centers. Things were bad enough two weeks ago when the family received computer-generated instructions to board a train from Berlin and head to the gritty eastern town of Chemnitz. There they found their prospective new home to be a forbidding compound surrounded by towering fences topped with barbed wire. It was not the kind of life they dreamt of day and night on their perilous 16-day journey from war-torn Damascus; over the Mediterranean on a rubber dinghy; across the Balkans; and finally into Germany.

But the heartbreak didn't end there. Guards told them the asylum center was full, and ordered them to wait through the night for the bus that would eventually take them to Heidenau. Life here seems hardest for mother Khawla Kareem, who constantly agonizes over whether she made the right decision to bring her children out of Syria. Before the outbreak of Syria's civil war, Khawla Kareem would start her mornings in Damascus listening to the yearning tunes of Lebanese star Fairuz, brew herself a strong black coffee and wake up her four children for school. These days, she wakes up freezing cold on a narrow black army cot, among 700 other refugees crammed into a defunct home improvement store — suffering from a piercing headache without a cup of coffee in sight to help her begin another day of bone-numbing idleness.

Germans have been overwhelmingly welcoming to the flood of newcomers, who are expected to reach up to 1 million this year. But there have been anti-foreigner attacks and demonstrations by the far right — and Heidenau became Germany's main focal point for that hatred. So much so that Chancellor Angela Merkel visited its shelter late last month, to publicly show support for the refugees. The Habashiehs' new temporary home sits between train tracks, a furniture factory and a busy main road leading to the Czech border. The compound is closed off by metal fencing covered with a white tarp, and guarded around the clock by security guards. On Tuesday morning, about 80 men lined up at a side door to pick up their weekly pocket money of about 30 euros, provided by the German government. A pregnant woman collapsed nearby and was whisked away in an ambulance, as a dozen kids sat around a table under a sycamore tree blowing soap bubbles.

Mohammed puffed at a cigarette and stared into the void, while his younger brother Yaman killed time playing games on his phone. Little Raghad was more cheerful. She had already participated in a German class held by volunteers the day before. Then an elderly German couple dropped by in their car to deliver crates full of hand-picked apples — and gave her a small purse with shiny black tassels. Reem spends most of her time outside the building in the parking lot, reading books she downloaded on her smartphone. She's currently devouring "The Bamboo Stalk" by the Kuwaiti author Saud Alsanousi, about the life and challenges of foreign migrant workers in the Arab world. Mother Khawla Kareem, 44, looked more tense and downtrodden than her children. Lack of sleep showed in black circles under her eyes. She pressed her lips tightly together, trying not to cry again at the thought of Eid Al-Adha, the big Islamic feast beginning this week.

Even during the war in Syria, and after her husband's death, she had still managed to conjure the holiday's magic at home — buying her youngest daughter new dresses and taking her out for fun rides and sugary treats. In Heidenau, there's no way the family will be able to do anything special on the holiday, and the family was gloomy about having to spend it in a converted two-story store. Rumors run rampant about disease and lice. "It's an unhealthy situation, it's a closed place, no windows, it's not good for a human being to be in there," said Reem. "The shared bathrooms are very gross, very disgusting." To grant people a minimum of privacy, white sheets have been hung in the vast hall, a futile attempt to separate families and groups of young men sleeping on cots.

On an escalator that no longer moves, people walk up to the second floor, where food is handed out during meal times. The building is lit with fluorescent long bulbs that are turned off from 10 at night to 7 in the morning. Christopher Neidhardt, the head of the refugee center, said he was given less than two days' notice by the Saxony state government to turn the store into refugee accommodation. Such chaotic situations are mirrored across Germany, as authorities struggle to cope with the massive influx of Syrians. Towns have appropriated gyms, office space and empty schools, and built up huge tent cities, to cope. Neidhardt, who maintains a friendly calm amid the turmoil, pointed out that Heidenau was only an "initial temporary housing center" where people in transit are put up before they start their real asylum process.

For the Habashiehs, that means being bused three times to the central refugee agency in Chemnitz for medical checkups and interviews that will allow them to launch their bid in earnest. Once that happens, they can be relocated to a smaller, more welcoming asylum center, where the kids can finally return to school. But nobody can tell them how long they will be stuck in Heidenau, whether it's weeks or months. And the uncertainty weighs heavily. "Every morning we're checking the black board to see if our names are finally being called for the medical checkup," said Reem. "But so far we haven't been lucky."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third in an occasional series focusing on how new arrivals are adjusting to life in Europe — and how Europe is adjusting to them. Some of the stories will focus on the path of the Habashieh family.
© The Associated Press


Germany: Dachau concentration camp being used to house refugees

23/9/2015- On the site of former Nazi concentration camp Dachau, outbuildings that used to belong to the complex's herb garden are now being used to house refugees. Once a place of fear and death, children can now be seen playing on the site where inmates were forced to spend hours toiling in the cold and rain to cultivate plants intended for use in medicine. "The buildings belonged to the former plantation, to the herb garden, which was one of the worst labour detachments of Dachau concentration camp, where especially Jewish and religious prisoners were working in order to make the soil arable and to plant medicinal herbs. It was one of the worst labour detachments because the work was mostly outside, and the death rate was immense. And as such it was a place of death and terror," head of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site Gabriele Hammermann said.

The garden complex does not belong to the official memorial site, but is being used by the city authorities to house the homeless and asylum seekers whose applications have been recognised, giving them a home to start their new lives in Germany. "Now it has become a story in connection with the debate about the migrant crisis. But homeless people and recognised asylum seekers are housed here, not refugees [whose status is still unclear]. And that difference is often not being made in the press," Hammermann said. The use of the site remains controversial, she said, adding that it would be better to house people closer to the local population. "Fundamentally, we think that other places are more appropriate in order to house people, especially since integration is a major goal. So I think it makes more sense to house people in the centres of towns, not on the outskirts. But at the moment it is a very tense housing situation," Hammermann said.

The German government has said it expects 800,000 people to seek asylum in Germany this year, as Europe struggles to cope with a huge influx of people fleeing war and poverty in countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. With limited housing available, many local authorities have found unusual places to house refugees, including inflatable buildings, sports and recreation centres, and even a virtual ghost town abandoned to make way for a future open-pit mine.
© The International Business Times - UK


German government boosts funding to states for refugees

24/9/2015- The German government agreed on Thursday to give its 16 regional states around 4 billion euros (US$4.5 billion) next year to help them cope with a record influx of refugees that is straining their budgets and resources. Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement after meeting state premiers to discuss ways of helping the states, which are struggling to look after 800,000 asylum seekers expected this year alone. Merkel said the government would pay the states 670 euros each month for every asylum seeker they took in. Sources from her SPD coalition partner indicated that the package could be worth around 4 billion euros once extra payments for providing social housing and looking after unaccompanied young refugees were taken into account. The government had previously pledged to offer the states 3 billion euros for next year to help cover the additional costs of housing and caring for the refugees and asylum seekers.

German public opinion has been divided on the rising numbers of new arrivals, with some warmly welcoming people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa but others concerned about how easily they can be integrated. Merkel told the German parliament earlier on Thursday that the European Union needed the support of the United States, Russia and countries in the Middle East to help tackle the underlying causes of the refugee crisis. Merkel has been criticized by some eastern EU neighbors for what they see as actions that have fueled the influx of people trying to reach Germany. As well as feeding and housing the newcomers, Germany is also weighing their impact on Europe's largest economy. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he still aimed to maintain a balanced budget next year. Some lawmakers have questioned whether that will be possible given the rising costs associated with the migrant crisis.

Schaeuble said looking after the refugees took priority over everything else but it was still his intention to try to stick to his target. "We have a clear commitment to get by without taking on new debt and tax increases," he told ARD German television. Business leaders and the government have said migration can help counter the effects of an aging population and prevent longer-term shortages in the German labor markets. The sudden arrival of so many refugees could push up unemployment next year, however, the German labor office research institute IAB said on Thursday, forecasting a reversal of this year's decline in the jobless tally.
© Reuters


German Town In Decline Sees Refugees As The Path To Revival

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Germany, not far from the Baltic coast, Friedland is a peaceful, rural town of about 5,000 people.

23/9/2015- It wasn't always so quiet here. When it was part of communist East Germany, Friedland was an industrial hub, where massive processing plants turned beets into sugar and potatoes into powdered starch. Like many others in the town, Wilfried Block, 58, used to work at the local potato starch factory. But when East and West Germany became one country again in 1990, things changed. "The factories were shut down after reunification, and it hit us hard," Block says. "We lost 2,000 jobs in Friedland alone." Block was lucky and found another job: He's been the mayor here since 1992. He says the town has invested heavily in regenerating itself. "Our once gray, industrial town is now green and pleasant. But we've failed to keep people from leaving," he says.

Since reunification, more than 3,000 people, most of them young, have left Friedland in pursuit of job prospects in the West. They've left behind a diminished and aging population. Block hopes to reverse the trend and sees a golden opportunity in the many migrants currently arriving in Germany. This demographic shift is also typical in western Germany, but for different reasons. There are plenty of jobs and the economy is buoyant, but with one of the lowest birth rates in the world, Germany is short of workers — particularly in the skilled sectors. Most all of Europe faces similar demographic challenges, but some analysts say that if properly handled, the current migrant crisis could be turned into the basis for future economic growth in Europe.

A Potential Economic Opportunity
The upfront costs of integrating migrants will be high, the analysts acknowledge, but they argue that an influx of younger workers is essential for European countries to prosper. And given the low birthrates across the continent, those young workers will have to come from abroad. As Friedland's job market has started to improve, there are open positions to fill. Block is eager to fill the gap left by the town's own economic emigrants with migrants from elsewhere. "First of all, we want to do our part and help," Block says. "But we also want to encourage asylum seekers to put down roots and build a life in Friedland and help rebuild the town's economy." While larger towns are having to cobble together makeshift shelters and tent cities, Block says Friedland has plenty of space. "Here, there's no need to turn sports halls and schools into emergency accommodation," he says. "We've got empty apartments to offer." But the mayor doesn't get to decide how many asylum seekers come to his town: Numbers are determined by the government, based on population size and tax revenue. This means that Friedland won't be able to fill all of its empty apartments.

So Far, Small Numbers
Nevertheless, 170 migrants are already here. At the weekly event where many recently arrived asylum seekers come to get donated clothes for their fast-growing children, Elizabeth Amoah sifts through a pile of woolen sweaters. The 35-year-old mother of three is from Ghana. She says she came to Germany for economic reasons and is waiting to hear about her visa status. Her children attend the local school, and she wants to settle in Friedland for their sake. "I want my children to have a bright future," Amoah says. "My first child says she wants to be a doctor and the second one a lawyer. My prayers are that their dream should come true." Kerstin Kreller heads up the not-for-profit initiative that runs the clothes bank. She welcomes anyone, regardless of whether they are here as refugees or as economic migrants. "Quite honestly, it's simply the best thing that could happen to us. It's a miracle!" Kreller enthuses. "People are arriving here instead of leaving. Not only can we offer these young, willing and educated people shelter, but also opportunities that will benefit everyone and rejuvenate the local economy. It's a gift."

Kreller says the newcomers need more than just handouts. "We want to be able to help them in their search for a job, help them make sense of German bureaucracy and offer language courses," she says. Learning the language is not the only obstacle to integration: Friedland is running a deficit, and two representatives from the far-right NPD party sit on the town council. But the mayor insists the far-right supporters are a minority. And he says nothing will deter him from reviving his hometown and helping anyone who comes here seeking a better life.


Planned German refugee shelter hit by suspected arson attack

German police say there has been a fire at planned refugee accommodation in the southwest of the country. Meanwhile, a Syrian refugee is reportedly being questioned over alleged links to the jihadist group 'IS.'

21/9/2015- Police in the southwestern German city of Heilbronn said on Sunday that a fire broke out overnight at a sports hall that was to be used to house refugees in the nearby town of Wertheim. No one had been in the hall at the time of the fire, but the blaze had made the building structurally unsound and unfit to enter, they said. They said they suspected the fire had been lit deliberately. Germany has experienced a number of arson attacks in recent months on buildings that have either housed refugees or were planned to be used for this purpose.

'No more room'
The accommodation in Wertheim had been intended for around 400 refugees, who must now be housed elsewhere. "No more refugees will come to Wertheim, as there is no additional emergeny accommodation," said Herman Schröder from the state of Baden-Württemberg, where Wertheim is located. The mayor of Wertheim, Stefan Mikulicz, had earlier warned against allowing more refugees to be housed in the town, where 600 are already accommodated in another shelter. Mikulicz said people helping with refugees in the town were at the end of their strength.

Police probe jihadist links
A German newspaper has meanwhile reported that police are questioning a Syrian asylum seeker on suspected links with the jihadist group "Islamic State." The man, who is staying at a refugee home in the northeast region of Brandenburg, had allegedly told others staying at the center that he had fought with "IS" and killed several people, the paper "Welt am Sonntag" said. Other residents had secretly filmed him making the claims, the report said, leading to the police probe. A federal police spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the report. Some in Germany have expressed fears that Islamist militants could be infiltrating the country amid the current huge influx of refugees, although there has so far been no concrete evidence that this is the case.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Left Party and a refugee home suffer attacks in neo-Nazi heartland

The offices of Die Linke – Germany's radical left party – were attacked on Sunday evening in Freital, the Saxonian town which stood at the centre of anti-refugee protests in recent weeks.

21/9/2015- According to police the attack took place at around 11 pm, when a loud bang was heard in the vicinity of the office. Closer inspection showed that a window pane had been broken in the blast, but no injuries were reported. Police could also provide no further information about possible suspects. This is the second attack on Die Linke in Freital in the past two months, after an explosive was set off under local party chair Michael Richter's car in July. Freital became synony-mous with anti-refugee protests earlier in the year, when in June 160 demonstrators tried for three days to prevent refugees from entering a hotel they were being housed at in the town.

The attack on the Linke offices followed a similar incident at a refugee home in Freital on Saturday evening, when a firework was set off at the window of the building. The resultant detonation broke a window pane without causing injuries. Also in Baden-Württemberg, an arson attack on an as yet empty refugee home on Saturday night left the building unusable.  The refugee centre in the town of Wertheim was in a sports hall which had been converted for the purpose and contained 330 beds. Police found evidence of a break-in at the back of the building. The mayor of Wertheim, Stefan Mikulicz of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said that he was deeply disturbed by the attack. Mikulicz said that he had pleaded with the state government for more support for the town, arguing that the voluntary workers supporting refugees were under unbearable strain. The town of 22,500 inhabitants has taken in 900 asylum seekers so far, with another 400 expected in the coming weeks.
© The Local - Germany


Serbia Denies Funnelling Refugees Into Croatia

Serbian minister on Tuesday rejected Croatia’s claims that Serbia is deliberately sending refugees to Croatia, saying it cannot redirect the routes chosen by refugees

22/9/2015- Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on Tuesday dismissed Croatian claims that Serbia was deliberately redirecting refugees towards Croatia instead of Hungary, which closed its borders to refugees last week. Serbia cannot alter the routes used by refugees and limit their freedom of movement in the country, he said. “Serbia is not involved in the ways refugees move across the region and it is not limiting their freedom of movement. Everybody needs to understand that no one can affect the refugees' routes,” Stefanovic observed. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has asked Serbia to send some of the refugees to Hungary and Romania, since Croatia does not wish to "receive 20,000 people in two days". Croatia has faced a large influx of the Middle Eastern refugees coming from Serbia since Hungary closed its borders last week. In response, Croatia closed border crossings with Serbia, which alarmed Serbian officials who said their economy would be severely damaged if the blockade continued.

However, Croatia partially unblocked the Batrovci border crossing with Serbia on Tuesday afternoon. The Serbian customs administration stated that trucks from Serbia with perishable goods will now be able to leave the country. Before the Croatian government decision, the column of the trucks on Serb-Croatian border was 12 kilometers long. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that Serbia would seek legal protection if Croatia did not withdraw its "irresponsible decisions" to close the borders. "I am asking the Croatian authorities as neighbours, friends and as an EU member to withdraw their irresponsible decisions, otherwise, due to the violation of numerous bilateral and international agreements, we will be forced to use legal means to seek protection," Vucic said.

Serbian exports heavily depends on transit through Croatia. Bojan Djuric, from the Serbian Chamber of commerce, on Sunday warned that the cost of the potential damage for Serbia could be 21 million euros a day if the borders remain sealed. Serbian officials are also worried after the European Commission on Monday said that under a readmission agreement Serbia has signed with the EU, member states have the right to return to Serbia third-country migrants whose requests for asylum have been rejected. "The entire EU has a collective readmission agreement with Serbia," the Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said on Monday. However, Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Monday said no one should expect migrants who have reached the EU to be sent back to Serbia. Under its readmission deal with the EU, Serbia needs to agree to any such decision, he maintained.
© Balkan Insight


Croatia to Force Hungary to take refugees

19/9/2015- Each day brings another twist to the refugee crisis and now the Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has said that his country will force Hungary to accept more refugees by continuing to send them to the border. Hungary in return has accused Croatia of breaking international law by not registering migrants - one minister is reported as referring to Mr Milanovic as being "pathetic". Croatia calculates that more than 20,000 migrants have entered since September 16 and about 8,000 passed into Hungary September 18, according to Hungarian authorities. Additional busloads began arriving at an open border crossing today, with the migrants being transferred to Hungarian buses.

The problems continue to confuse and escalate as Croatia initially welcomed migrants who wished to travel through the country, but then borders were hastily closed as the government said numbers were too large. In Hungary, migrants have at times been met with tear gas and water cannon as they try to push their way north. In Slovenia police used pepper spray on one group. Ironically, the bulk of those migrating don’t want to stay in the countries that are complaining but want to pass simply to Germany or the Scandinavian countries. The EU is to hold emergency talks next week which may be too late for many whilst Slovenia considers opening a travel corridor and yet another child’s body was found on a beach in Turkey following the sinking of a refugee vessel.
© Euronews


UK: Board promises community help resettling refugees and tackling Islamophobia

22/9/2015- The Board of Deputies’ leadership has promised the Jewish community’s help in resettling Syrian refugees and tackling Islamophobia, in a meeting with Home Secretary Teresa May on Monday. Board President Jonathan Arkush said the refugee crisis had a “historic resonance”’ for the Jewish community and welcomed the involvement of Watford MP Richard Harrington, who will take a lead on the resettlement plan. Arkush also offered the Board’s support in “developing constructive engagement with Muslim communities” aimed at tackling anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of extremism. Concerns were raised about recent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Golders Green and Liverpool, as well as online racismhatred online, but Arkush said May was “an empathetic and conscientious supporter of the fight against the threats we face”. The Home Secretary in turn said she “greatly values the support of Britain’s Jewish community in overcoming some of the biggest challenges”.
© Jewish News UK


Finnish-Swedish border: Protesters form human wall against refugees

At least 100 people have protested in the northern Finnish border town of Tornio against the recent rise in asylum seekers arrivals. A registration center for refugees is scheduled to open soon in the town of 22,000.

19/9/2015- On Saturday, Finland started border checks for refugees arriving from Sweden in the northern border town of Tornio, while more than 100 Finns demonstrated in the town's center against the growing influx of asylum seekers, forming a symbolic human wall. According to the public broadcaster YLE, the demonstrators held signs saying "It is enough. Close the borders!" Local police said the demonstration in the town, which is the sole entry point to Finland for refugees arriving from Sweden, had been peaceful and that protesters did not attempt to block people from crossing the border into Finland. "From now on, people crossing the border in Tornio will be checked by a procedure led by the police," Finland's Interior Ministry said in a statement. The ministry said asylum seekers can no longer continue their journey from Tornio to anywhere else in the country without registering as asylum seekers there. "The situation up north is uncontrollable. People have continued from there to any police station in Finland," Paivi Nerg from the ministry told the online edition of "Helsingin Sanomat" daily.

Up to 30,000 asylum seekers expected
Hundreds of refugees, mainly from Iraq, have poured into Finland from Sweden in recent days and up to 30,000 asylum seekers are expected in Finland this year, compared to 3,651 last year. Jaana Vuorio, head of Finland's immigration agency, said that from the beginning of 2015 alone 11,263 people have sought asylum in the country. She added that on Thursday, 521 people - the highest number yet - had entered via Sweden. "I think our economic situation has become a smaller problem than the challenge from the refugees," Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said Friday. "We are monitoring the situation hour by hour." Finland has been a favorite destination for people from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, according to the Interior Ministry, while fewer Syrian nationals have been registered.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Malta: Incidents, racism, during demo against 'forced integration' in Valletta

20/9/2015- A group of some 200 people this morning took part in a demonstration against migration. The activity was held in Valletta by the Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin. It started near the Parliament building and headed towards the offices of the European Commission and the European Parliament in St Paul's Street. Many of those taking part carried Maltese flags and placards, some of which condemned the multi-stabbing incident in Paceville last week (over which a Libyan man has been arraigned). There are also messages against migration and against migrants coming to Malta. Participants circulated a petition headed 'No to forced integration'. Organisers said 14,000 have signed it so far.

Before the demonstration started, policemen had to intervene to protect broadcaster Peppi Azzopardi following threatening behaviour by some of those present as he interviewed participants. Speaking outside the law courts, G©¤aqda Patrijotti Maltin president Alex Pisani said immigration was “leading to the eradication of the Maltese race”. He called for harsher punishments for migrants found guilty of criminal acts and for a limit on social benefits. “Better a police state than a state of fear,” he added. The march then continued on to Merchants' Street, the closest police would allow protesters to Europe House. Addressing the crowd, another official from the organisation described immigrants as “rapists, drug dealers and recidivists”. “Why are they here? There’s no war in their country,” he said to loud cheers. “Malta should be for the Maltese only.”

Despite calls from the organisers not to make an issue of skin colour, one protester who spoke to Times of Malta proudly proclaimed himself a “white supremacist”, while another compared immigrants to “cockroaches”. A woman circulating an anti-immigration petition said: “We need to send a message that the Maltese people do not want these blacks in the country.” As the protest wound up, the organisers were forced to intervene several times to implore the protesters to “go home in peace”, as sections of the crowd again encircled members of the press. One protester was pushed aside by police after attempting to strike a cameraman with his placard.
© The Times of Malta


RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to