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Headlines 27 November, 2015

Headlines 20 November, 2015

France: Terror Attacks Paris & Impact on Refugee Crisis

Headlines 13 November, 2015

Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 46

Headlines 6 November, 2015

Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 45

Headlines 27 November, 2015

Netherlands: “Fuck the PVV” singer scorned by nationalist party supporters

23/11/2015- Groningen musician Obed Brinkman’s new protest song “Fuck the PVV” resulted in hundreds of insults from the nationalist party’s supporters. Some PVV supporters even spread his telephone number about, so that he can be insulted in person. Brinkman released the song on YouTube on Friday under his alias O-Bat. In the song, he calls the PVV “neo-fascists” and “demons in disguise”, among other things. “Fuck Geert Wilders and fuck the PVV”, the song concludes. The video was picked up by blog GeenStijl and PVV parliamentarian Martin Bosma that same day, and resulted in hundreds of angry comments on the blog, Twitter and the YouTube channel.

“I did not say it subtly, but the PVV has been offending everyone for years. And I wanted to insult them back”, the musician said to Dagblad van het Noorden. He added that he did expect angry reactions, but not so many and not so violent. “Yet I still stand behind the song.” He did decide to close the comment section on YouTube, however. “What was said there really got out of control.” He hasn’t gotten around to combing through the hundreds of reactions on his telephone and the internet as of yet. But if there are any threats among them “I will definitely press charges”.
© The NL Times


Headlines 20 November, 2015

How many trans people need to die for Europe to take action?

20/11/2015- Every year on November 20, the trans community remembers and mourns those trans people who lost their lives to transphobia. During the past 12 months, 11 trans persons were reported murdered in Europe [1], but many more murders go unnoticed. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, TGEU calls on the European Commission to extend current European hate crime framework to cover for gender identity, and on the Council of Europe to upscale their efforts to combat transphobic violence. Boglarka Fedorko, TGEU project manager comments “Crimes against trans people go unnoticed, unreported, and unpunished. Often authorities do not recognise the scale of the problem and law enforcement officials themselves hold prejudiced and transphobic attitudes.” [2] While there has been increased awareness about transphobic hate crimes and discrimination [3] in Europe in the past years, there is still a lack of commitment and comprehensive measures to prevent transphobic crimes by public officials.

“Trans people in Europe need the EU to act swiftly. The Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia [4] should be extended to also tackle other crimes committed for a different bias. Many trans people get targeted because of an intertwined racist motive, or for a hate of women, and sex workers.” Boglarka Fedorko adds. EU Member states had until this week to implement the Victims Rights Directive [5], which provides an obligation for member states to take action in better protecting and better supporting trans victims of violence. According to the Directive, trans victims to a crime are entailed to an individual assessment to prevent repeat victimisation, and shelters and victim support services must open their services to trans people.

Finally, TGEU Executive Board Member Krisztina Kolos Orban, asks “all Member states of the Council of Europe agreed to upscale their efforts on transphobic violence when agreeing to the Committee of Ministers LGBT Recommendations in 2010 [6]. How many more trans people have to die until significant action is taken in Europe?”
© Transgender Europe


Roma gypsies most negatively perceived European minority group, survey finds

YouGov poll was conducted in June of this year

19/11/2015- The Roma and Gypsy communities are regarded the most negatively by northern Europeans, a study has found. The YouGov poll also found 40 per cent of the French had a negative impression of Muslims - the same as the UK. Only the Danes and Finish populations polled at higher levels (45 per cent). Overall, Jewish communities were the least negatively perceived, with LGBT groups polling just above. Overall, the Finnish and Danes were found to have the most negative impressions of minority groups, in particular the Roma or Gypsy people.

Germans were found to hold the least negative views about minority groups in Europe. However, the survey’s sampled only 7,230 people in total. 1667 British adults, 1016 German adults, 1004 French adults, 1009 Danish adults, 1010 Swedish adults, 970 Finnish adults and 554 Norwegian adults responded to the study. The survey was conducted in June prior to the Paris attacks, claimed by terror organisation Isis, which killed 129 people and injured hundreds more. The poll’s results come following another YouGov poll in November conducted for The Times that appeared to show British support for accepting Syrian refugees had dramatically fallen following the attacks on the French capital.
© The Independent


Balkan Countries to Bar ‘Economic’ Migrants

Serbia said it was closing its border to so-called ‘economic migrants’ after Croatia and Slovenia did likewise.

19/11/2015- Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's minister for refugees, on Thursday said Serbia would no longer allow in “economic” migrants after Slovenia and Croatia announced they had barred such migrants from their countries. “We need to protect our country, which is why we are applying these reciprocal measures against those who Croatia and Slovenia consider have no place in their countries,” Vulin said. Only refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq will be treated as legal migrants, as they are from war-torn countries. Others will no longer be allowed to enter, as the countries they come from are not at war. Croatia’s Interior Minister, Ranko Ostojic, on Thursday confirmed that people from Morocco, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Pakistan will be now treated as illegal migrants. Ostojic said that he had “informed colleagues from Macedonia and Serbia that citizens of these countries will no longer be able to use this route”.

He also said Croatia had refused to receive back from Slovenia 162 people from Morocco, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Liberia from Slovenia, because two countries lacked a prior agreement on the issue. The Slovenian news agency, STA, on Thursday reported that Slovenia had also stopped allowing in “economic migrants”. It said Slovenian police would now check the national identities of refugees on international databases and decide who can continue their journey. Macedonia, meanwhile, began erecting a wire fence near Gevgelija along the border with Greece to control the entry of refugees and migrants. Construction of the fence started after Macedonia’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday received an official statement from Slovenia saying it will no longer receive migrants from countries not in armed conflict.

Melita Sunjic, from the UN refugee arm, UNHCR, confirmed that the three countries have closed their borders to economic refugees but called the policy unacceptable. Countries should not allow people in on the basis of nationality and said that each refugee must be guaranteed the right to seek asylum. “It is not acceptable, deciding who can pass on the basis of nationality. Every person need to have a right to ask for regular asylum procedures,” Sunjic said. The UN refugee agency says that from January 1 until November 14, it registered 416,000 refugees from the Middle East who expressed an intention to seek asylum in or who were passing through Serbia on their way towards the EU.
© Balkan Insight


Czech authorities receive 130 asylum applications in October

18/11/2015- One hundred and thirty foreigners applied for asylum in the Czech Republic in October, mostly from Ukraine (46) and Syria (38), according to the data posted on the Interior Ministry website Wednesday. Five Syrians, who have been mentioned in connection with the current migrant wave, and one stateless foreigner were granted asylum in October. Czech authorities have received 1245 asylum applications since the beginning of the year. During this period, 52 foreigners were granted asylum and 344 foreigners were granted additional protection. From January to October 2014, 965 foreigners applied for asylum in the country.

The asylum was not granted or the asylum proceedings were halted in 722 cases this year. The ministry was dealing with 618 asylum applications at the end of October. In accordance with the Dublin proceedings, four foreigners were transferred to the Czech Republic from other EU countries and three foreigners were transferred from the Czech Republic to Hungary in October. In 2015, the asylum applicants have been mostly Ukrainians (573) so far, followed by citizens of Cuba (120), Syria (111), Vietnam (69), Armenia (38) and Russia (34).
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Minister: Zeman helps enhance rise of fascism in Czech society

18/11/2015- President Milos Zeman helps create conditions for the rise of fascism in Czech society, Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier told CTK on Wednesday, adding that some of Zeman´s statements are xenophobic and Islamophobic, and arouse fear in society. With his appearance at a Prague-Albertov meeting on Tuesday, Zeman crossed all acceptable limits by supporting "hateful groups in society," Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD) said. In reaction to him, Zeman´s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said Dienstbier once again showed his contempt for citizens, their views and rightful apprehension. Dienstbier said he "could never imagine the head of this state supporting extremist positions, behaving in a way that divides and splits the society, and mainly scaring people," Dienstbier said.

He commented on the November 17 national holiday event at which Zeman appeared together with members of the Bloc Against Islam movement, which is hostile to Islam and the acceptance of Muslim refugees. "I cannot imagine the head of state speaking this way in any other civilised country, backing such hateful groups in society, and the society tolerating this," Dienstbier said. Martin Konvicka, who heads the Bloc Against Islam, previously suggested on Facebook, for example, that Muslims be ground to make bone meal of them. Dienstbier said he considers not only Zeman´s statements but also his vocabulary is xenophobic and Islamophobic. "Above all, it is utterly unacceptable to make lump judgements, far away from assessing individual people´s behaviour and life style," Dienstbier said, adding that several thousands of Muslims live in the Czech Republic, who are quite unproblematic.

Zeman recently spoke about the threat of the introduction of the Islamic Sharia law in the Czech Republic and said that most refugees do not deserve compassion. In October, his statements were criticised as xenophobic by the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights. Dienstbier said Zeman contributes to fomenting fear instead of being a moderator who tries to calm down the situation and help seek joint solutions. Zeman helps create conditions for a rise of fascism in society at least, Dienstbier said. "Of course, with his way of stirring fears in society and commenting on the situation, he contributes to this, creates the atmosphere, and I would even say he leads the process with his utterances," Dienstbier added.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Zeman: Opponents of migrants should not be dubbed racists

17/11/2015- Czech President Milos Zeman said on Tuesday the holders of opposite opinions of the migrant crisis should not be "branded" Islamophobes, racists or fascists, at an event staged by the Bloc Against Islam that takes a negative stance on migrants and is opposed to their acceptance. On another occasion, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), on the contrary, called on the public not to turn the anger provoked by terrorists against the migrants. "Tolerance for opposite opinions must be shown, everyone in a free society has the right to express their opinions, but people with opposite opinions must not be reduced to silence," Zeman said in Prague´s university neighbourhood Albertov. Labels or abusive language are no argument. That is why people should not mark opponents of Islam and migrants as racists, he said.

Zeman observed one minute silence in remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. Supporters of the Bloc Against Islam call for the complete removal of Muslims from the Czech Republic and they are opposed to accepting migrants. Adherents of neo-Nazi or extreme right organisations appeared at several anti-Islam events this year. Several people with extreme-right opinions also came to the event yesterday. Zeman said people took to the streets in November 1939 and 1989 to protest against manipulation and the enforcing of the sole correct opinion on them (by the communist regime), to which the participants in the Albertov event reacted shouting "Long live Zeman." "This nation deserves to be able to rule itself and no one from outside should dictate to it what they should do or what they should not," Zeman said.

Zeman is an opponent of the EU quotas for the redistribution of migrants across the EU. He said people are victims of media massage where the migrant crisis is concerned. Zeman called his critics who shouted during his speech at Albertov and pelted him with eggs last year a roaring herd. This year, the participants were accommodating. Several thousand people came to support him. The police put the number at some 2000. They carried posters reading Long Live Zeman, Czech flags as well as crossed EU flags. Besides Zeman, other speakers addressed the participants, including Martin Kovincka, chairman of the Bloc Against Islam, and Miroslav Lidinsky, chairman of the Dawn-National Coalition party. He criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European politicians. According to Lidinsky, there is the danger that they will bring Europe on the brink of destruction.

Only several Zeman´s opponents came to Albertov, carrying posters and red cards and calling for tolerance. The two camps verbally clashed after the event ended. Bodyguards did not allow students to come to the commemorative plaque at Albertov where they wanted to light candles before 12:00 already while Zeman was only to come after 14:00, the Czech television (CT) public broadcaster reported. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he was sorry for that the students were not allowed to come to the plaque. "On the other hand, the police have been assigned to keep the peace and ensure security. We do not want any violent clashes between the supporters of individual opinions to take place," he told Czech Television (CT).

November 17 is a national holiday, on which the students who fell victim to Nazi persecution in 1939 and the beginning of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 are remem-bered. The revolution was a series of events started in Narodni Street on November 17, 1989, by a brutal intervention by the communist police against a student march in remembrance of the students persecuted by the Nazis in 1939. The events led to the fall of the communist regime at the end of 1989.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech President Attends, Addresses Rally Against Muslims

17/11/2015- The Czech Republic's president marked the 26th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution by addressing a rally of his supporters organized by an anti-Muslim group. Amid heavy security, the Bloc against Islam rallied Tuesday in support of President Milos Zeman, who is known for his anti-Islam rhetoric. Zeman told the crowd of several thousand that they aren't extremists. Riot police separated them from a counter-demonstration. The rally took place at a university campus where the anti-Communist revolution began in 1989, prompting Charles University officials to distance themselves from it. The migrant crisis and the Paris attacks attracted thousands of people to different rallies in Prague in favor and against refugees, even though the country has seen only a small number of asylum-seekers compared to other European nations. Later in the day, protesters from several anti-immigration rallies joined forces and marched to the government building. They demanded the center-left government resign over its acceptance of a European Union plan to redistribute 120,000 refugees in member states despite its disagreement with it. Police used force to disperse the crowd of almost 1,000, which included members of the far right, when they refused to disperse. Police spokesman Tomas Hulan said up to 10 protesters were detained.
© The Associated Press


Cyprus: Cops accused of ‘doing nothing’ during attacks

17/11/2015- Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou says no stone will be left unturned after investigations were launched into accusations that some police officers stood idle during Monday’s attacks on Turkish Cypriots by members of far right wing group ELAM. Opposition party leader Andros Kyprianou has meanwhile accused the government of doing nothing to stop such acts of racial hatred on the island going as far as to say that only his party Akel appears to be standing up to acts of violence at the hands of far right groups. According to media reports, hundreds of young members of the extremist group ELAM, including high school students, threw rocks against Turkish Cypriot cars. In one instance, they broke a window and the driver was taken to hospital with light injuries.

Police told The Cyprus Weekly that vandals threw rocks or otherwise caused damages to Turkish Cypriot vehicles in three different incidents in Nicosia, one which resulted in an injury. Two reports have been officially filed with the police. The incidents prompted a response from President Nicos Anastasiades who warned that the incidents are a threat to finding a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem. The incidents were also condemned by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. Education Minister Costas Kadis said that his ministry was looking into the possibility that students were being groomed by far right groups. “First of all, I utterly condemn these incidents that are not a true reflection of our community, traditions and culture,” Nicolaou told state radio on Tuesday morning. “The President had spoken of such incidents hurting our chances of reunification and that is the reality of the situation. Such incidents only serve people who want to keep the island partitioned.”

There were also accusations that police had been warning Turkish Cypriots not to cross over into the south on Monday because “the situation was dangerous.” “What I told by police differs somewhat from some of the accusations – particularly with regards to the police response in some instances – but they will nonetheless be looked into and no stone will be left unturned.” He added: “People should rest assure that those who behaved in that unacceptable manner will be hunted down and prosecuted. The same goes for any police officer who did nothing. That officer will also be liable to prosecution and there will be consequences.”

Meanwhile, opposition party Akel spoke of the government’s ‘reluctance’ to tackle instances of ‘right wing extremism’ head on. “With regards of Monday’s attacks, we know of hundreds of people being involved from ELAM and another group and are waiting to see what will happen this time. These twisted ideologies not only hurt our chances of reunification but also pull us further away from a solution.” “The government has got to do more to fight such extremism. Around two weeks ago, two members of ELAM had prosecutions against them dropped by police for illegal possession of weapons and our question is ‘why were these charges dropped?’ We will be putting those questions and many others to government officials in parliament.”
© In Cyprus


Germany: Hard-right AfD now 3rd biggest party

Germany's hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are now the third most popular party in the country, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

17/11/2015- In a sign of the sharp rise of the far-right in Germany over recent weeks, the INSA survey gave the AfD 10.5 percent of the vote if an election were to be held tomorrow - meaning they leapfrogged the Green Party and Die Linke (Left party). The AfD was founded in 2013 as a Eurosceptic group, critical of the Euro currency and bailouts, but after an internal party feud in which its founder was deposed earlier in 2015, it has focused on criticizing the government's immigration policies. Katja Kipping, chairwoman of Die Linke, told The Local that the Christian Social Union (CSU), a junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, was to blame for the rise of the AfD, accusing their leadership of making "xenophobic slogans socially acceptable."

The CSU, which are the single largest party in Bavaria, Germany's wealthiest and southern most state, have in recent weeks called for the erection of border fences to stem the flow of refugees arriving in Germany. "The AfD is also profiting from the impression that people in need could overwhelm a rich country like Germany – but this is a fictictious emergency: the releveant authorities at the federal level didn't react quickly enough to the predictable rise in refugee numbers,“ Kipping added.

Hitler comparisons
The party has been prominent in the media in recent weeks after its most firebrand leader drew comparisons with Hitler due to his aggressive nationalistic rhetoric. Björn Höcke, party chief in the eastern state of Thuringia, has created headlines with proclamations at crowded rallies in the state capital of Erfurt, such as: "Thuringians! Germans! Three thousand years of Europe, 1,000 years of Germany." Despite being despised in editorial rooms in Hamburg and Berlin, the teacher and father of four has struck a chord with voters in the east of the country where fears about immigration are particularly pronounced. Critics say there is little to distinguish Höcke from Pegida, a xenophobic movement which draws thousands on the streets of the eastern city of Dresden every Monday, calling for an end to "the Islamization of the Occident".

The INSA poll puts the AfD in double digits for the first time in the party's short history and marks a sharp turnaround in just the space of months, after they were stagnating on 3.0 percent in August polling. Early in the summer, the party's more moderate leader and founder Bernd Lucke left in a war of words, accusing colleagues of slipping into right-wing populism. Within the space of a month they have increased their share of the vote by three percent from 7.5 percent on October 19th, apparently capitalizing on infighting within the ruling coalition government on how to go forward with its refugee policy.

'Authentic position'
"The AfD stand for an authentic position in terms of refugees and migration," Hermann Binkert, head of INSA told The Local. "Voters who don't agree with [Merkel's] CDU go to the AfD because all the other parties stand for the Willkommenskultur." Willkommenskultur is how Germans describe a welcoming policy towards refugees. Binkert said it was impossible to say how long-term the AfD's success is, but argued that it was closely tied to the refugee crisis. "If the refugee issue were to be solved then the central reason why people are saying they'd vote for them would also disappear," he said. "But at the moment I can't see the refugee crisis being solved."

Since August, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) together with Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) have slumped eight points in polling from 43 percent to 35 percent. The fall in popularity has been accentuated by squabbling between Merkel and CSU chief Horst Seehofer on whether to start limiting Germany's intake of refugees. Seehofer has consistently called for an upper limit to be set on the amount of refugees Germany is prepared to take, while Merkel has insisted that as long as people are fleeing from war, Germany will provide them with sanctuary. INSA head Binkert explained though that the AfD are winning votes from across the political spectrum, even from the left-wing Linke party. "German society is deeply divided on the refugee issue and this division runs through the parties as well as through German society,“ he said.
© The Local - Germany


Germany: Over 700 Crimes Against Refugee Shelters in 2015

17/11/2015- The number of arson attacks, assaults and other crimes against refugee shelters in Germany has passed 700 this year, according to figures obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Data compiled by Germany's federal police showed 715 such crimes between the start of the year and Nov. 16, compared with 199 in all of 2014. The sharp increase reflects growing anti-immigrant sentiment amid an unprecedented influx to the country of people seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty. In at least 640 cases, authorities were able to confirm a far-right motive behind the crimes. In the 75 other cases, the motive hadn't yet been determined.

Among the attacks were 56 cases of arson and eight cases of attempted arson. Last year there were six cases of arson. The average number of incidents per day has increased from just over one in January to more than three in November. German authorities say far-right groups are actively using social media to drum up fears about migrants and that many of the attacks are likely to be the result of such incitement. To back this up, they note about two-thirds of the suspects identified in these crimes were previously unknown to German police, who keep a close eye on extremists.
© The Associated Press


Germany 'watching Islamists and far-right'

German security authorities will be closely watching both known Islamic fundamentalists and far-right extremists who might join an anti-Islamic backlash in the coming days, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said on Saturday afternoon.

14/11/2015- "The situation is serious," de Maizière told journalists in Berlin. "We don't know whether the eight attackers we know of were all of them. I will be glad tomorrow if we've had a peaceful night." He announced a closer watch on road, rail and air traffic at the German border and heavier arms and armour for police at critical infrastructure like airports and rail stations. "Before and after the Charlie Hebdo attacks [in Paris in March], I have always said that not just single countries, but the whole West, includng Germany, is in the crosshairs of international terrorism," de Maizière said. The Interior Minister also rejected any attempt to link the Paris attacks with the refugee crisis in Germany, as conservative politicians from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) have already done. "As federal interior minister and a responsible politician in this country, don't hurriedly create a link to the debate over the refugee issue.

"We have a large number of attacks on asylum seekers and asylum homes. People need to consider their words. They shouldn't put this in any relation to what we are now experiencing in the area of terrorism," he said. De Maizière added that a friendly football match between Germany and the Netherlands slated for Thursday in Hanover would go ahead. He praised the "exemplary" behaviour of Germany's national football team after explosions rocked the Paris area where they were playing a friendly against France on Friday night. "We have many large events in this country. And we are a country where people move freely and proudly on streets and in public spaces," he said. De Maizière was unable to give any new information on a Montenegran man arrested with a hidden shipment of weapons in his car in Germany several days ago. The man had "an address in Paris" marked on documents found in the car, De Maizière said, but refused to speculate whether he might be linked to the attackers. "If we were to fear to hold events, we would be giving the terrorists what they want."
© The Local - Germany


Netherlands: Geert Wilders' grandmother was a refugee too (column)

History tells us that Europe wouldn’t be Europe without refugees, write professor of migration law Thomas Spijkerboer and PhD student Martijn Stronks.

20/11/2015- Are Europeans prepared to offer protection to non-Europeans? That is the central question in the refugee debate. The apparent reluctance to do so has everything to do with the fact that non-Europeans are regarded as outsiders. That is why it is important to remind people that Europe and refugees go together, like Bert and Ernie and Sesame Street. Recent history shows that Europeans have not always been opposed to refugees. Their protection is purely and simply a matter of self-interest. During WWI, a million Belgians fled to the Netherlands. Most returned when the war was over, but not all. Virginie Korte-Van Hemel (junior justice minister from 1982 to 1989), for instance, is the daughter of Belgian musician and refugee Oscar van Hemel.

From 1933, many Germans fled to other European countries and to the United States (the Manns, relatives of Anne Frank, Albert Einstein) where, after the Anschluss in 1936, they were joined by Austrians (among them Sigmund Freud, who fled to London). The Spanish civil war (1936-1939) led to an exodus of Spaniards, most of whom ended up in France. Writer Jorge Semprun was one them. Many fled from occupied countries to Britain, like Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (of film and musical Soldier of Orange fame) and the High Commissioner for Refugees Van Heuven Goedhart. A small number of Dutch Jews managed to flee to safety. After WWII, millions of refugees were milling around Europe, so many in fact, that a special International Refugee Organisation was founded to deal with them. There were displaced people, German minorities from Poland and Czechoslovakia (Günter Grass), Jewish survivors, and groups on the run from the Red Army. 

Dutch Indies
A separate group came from the Dutch Indies and Indonesia to the Netherlands. They were ethnic Dutch or ‘Indo’s’ who fled the fighting of the war of independence 
(the Bersiap period, the police actions ). They were categorised as repatriates although many of them had never set foot in the Netherlands before, or hadn’t been there for a very long time. Although many had Dutch nationality and couldn’t be classified as refugees they felt like refugees and their welcome in the Netherlands reflected that. One of Geert Wilders’ grandmothers and housing minister Stef Blok’s father came to the Netherlands as repatriates. In 1951, 12,500 Moluccan soldiers from the KNIL Royal Indonesian army were transferred to the Netherlands on the order of a Dutch court because their position in Indonesia was too precarious. They were treated as refugees although they weren’t included in the VN refugee treaty. 

Steady stream
From 1945 to 1950 international relations became ever more tense. A slow but steady stream of refugees from the communist countries entered western Europe. More 
came after the communist take-over in Czechoslovakia (the father of human rights activist Boris Dittrich), the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 (junior minister Dzsingisz Gabor) and Czechoslovakia in 1968 (television presenter Martin Simek and tennis star Richard Krajicek). Until 1975, refugees also came from countries with fascist regimes. Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese who left for political reasons didn’t claim refugee status because it was easy for them to get residency permits as migrant workers. Between 1992 and 1995, many refugees from the former Yugoslavia were given asylum in western Europe. In 1999, refugees from Kosovo also made their way to western Europe until Nato managed to put a stop to the incipient genocide of Kosovar Muslims with a military intervention against Serbia. Asylum seeker numbers and the problems of housing them were as great then as they are now.

All refugees We Europeans are all refugees. Modern history shows that we’ve had to seek refuge in and outside Europe on many occasions. It also shows that we managed to build a life for ourselves in our new home. But the events of today uncovers something even more fundamental. Protecting refugees is not altruistic, it is a mutual insurance policy. I hope my house won’t burn down. But it might happen and so I pay my insurance premium every month. Meanwhile I hope that I won’t need that insurance but that someone else will profit from it. That seems altruistic but isn’t: I know I’m covered as well in the event something happens to me. Or, as footballer Marco van Basten is supposed to have said: when I play Germany I bet on a German victory. That way I can’t lose. The same is true of refugee law. We, as members of the global community, have agreed to help each other out in times of trouble. If all we have to do is welcome refugees we should not complain but count ourselves lucky that we’re not the ones having to leave our country behind. And we know that if that sea level keeps rising our grandchildren will find a new home elsewhere, too.

All refugees
We Europeans are all refugees. Modern history shows that we’ve had to seek refuge in and outside Europe on many occasions. It also shows that we managed to build a life for ourselves in our new home. But the events of today uncovers something even more fundamental. Protecting refugees is not altruistic, it is a mutual insurance policy. I hope my house won’t burn down. But it might happen and so I pay my insurance premium every month. Meanwhile I hope that I won’t need that insurance but that someone else will profit from it. That seems altruistic but isn’t: I know I’m covered as well in the event something happens to me. Or, as footballer Marco van Basten is supposed to have said: when I play Germany I bet on a German victory. That way I can’t lose. The same is true of refugee law. We, as members of the global community, have agreed to help each other out in times of trouble. If all we have to do is welcome refugees we should not complain but count ourselves lucky that we’re not the ones having to leave our country behind. And we know that if that sea level keeps rising our grandchildren will find a new home elsewhere, too.

This article appeared earlier in the NRC

Read more at Geert Wilders grandmother was a refugee too

© Dutch News

Netherlands: Progress on targets for women in top jobs is at a 'snails pace'

16/11/2015- Women still fill just one in 10 top corporate jobs in the Netherlands, far below the government’s target of one in three. Since January this year, there has been an official target of 30% women on the executive and supervisory boards of the country’s biggest employers. Companies which fail to reach the target are supposed to outline the reasons in their annual reports. A new report from the government’s own corporate monitoring committee shows no stock exchange listed company met this target by September. There has been some improvement since 2012, when monitoring began. By the end of 2014, some 14% of firms had 30% women on their executive boards and 18% met the target in terms of their supervisory boards. However, there were no women at all on 75% of executive boards and 63% of non-executive boards, the report said. Emancipation minister Jet Bussemaker described the results as ‘extremely disappointing’. Progress is being made at a ‘snails pace’, she said. However, the improvements booked in the first half of this year are encouraging – 70% of new supervisory board appointees were female – so legislation anchoring the quotas in law will not yet be brought in, the minister said.
© The Dutch News


Ireland: Black people suffer the most racism report finds

Victims of attacks do not believe gardaí will treat their experiences seriously, survey says

19/11/2015- Black victims of racist attacks do not believe gardaí will treat their experiences seriously, a new report has found. The report, Afrophobia in Ireland, published this morning by the Irish branch of the European Network Against Racism (Enar), finds black and African people suffer the most racism of all ethnic groups in the State. Enar Ireland is a network of more than 50 organisations committed to combating racism. The network includes Crosscare, the Irish Traveller Movement, Siptu and Age Action Ireland.

Its reporting system for racist incidents,, has been gathering data since July 2013. Report author Dr Lucy Michael, of the University of Ulster, found racism against African and black people accounted for 225 reports to over the past two years, which was 30 per cent of all reports received. Some 22 reports of assault and aggravated assault against black people were received, with weapons included in two cases. Three reports involved assaults on children.

Lack of confidence
The reports show a “reluctance” to involve gardaí, Dr Michael says, due to a lack of confidence in An Garda Síochána to “take cognisance of the real impact of racist incidents”. Failures by gardaí to attend at scenes of assaults, to appropriately gather evidence and to update victims on investigations are documented in the report. “In several cases the victim was persuaded at the scene that no response was possible, or that it was unwise to seek prosecution,” says the report. Some 28 cases in the report involved reports to gardaí, of which 24 involved criminal offences exceeding verbal abuse. “Just three of these expressed confidence in the willingness of gardaí to investigate the offence.” There are “clear challenges for An Garda Síochána”, the report says. A Garda spokesman said all racist incidents should be reported to gardaí.
© The Irish Times.


Ireland: Same-sex couples can marry from TODAY!

After months of patiently waiting, the first same-sex couples will marry in Ireland from today.

16/11/2015- After months of waiting, the first gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry in Ireland from this morning. The final stage of the process, following from a victory after Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage, was for the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to sign the commencement order. Now those is done, and since the Irish Senate passed the bill in October, the Marriage Equality Act can go ahead. The government had pledged to legislate to permit weddings as soon as possible – but the plans were hit by delays due to a legal challenge to the ruling, and Parliamentary recess. However, after the Seanad passed the bill last week, and the President signed it on Thursday, all that is needed now is a commencement order from the justice minister.

LGBT activists have also praised those who fought to push the bill through as quickly as possible. “Tribute must also be paid to national politicians in Ireland, as all the main political parties put aside their partisan differences to campaign for the greater goal of equality,” Evelyne Paradis of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said in a statement. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice previously said the weddings would hopefully go ahead “before the end of this year” if all goes to plan.

Last month, Ireland’s government also put its revolutionary new Gender Recognition Act into effect – meaning transgender people can now gain legal recognition without seeing a doctor. The bold new Gender Recognition Bill, which passed through Parliament in July without issue, includes sweeping changes to allow transgender people to self-declare their gender. The form to apply for an Irish GRC is just two pages long – compared to other countries, where the process is often full of bureau-cratic hurdles. The two-page form compares to the five pages you’d have to fill out to replace a missing pensions book.
© Pink News


UK: Teachers trained in dealing with racism in classrooms

18/11/2015- Teachers will be trained how to tackle racism in classrooms across Teesside with the help of former footballers, thanks to £43,000 of funding from Cleveland's police and crime commissioner (PCC). The three training sessions, which are being run by North-East charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC), are aimed at helping teachers and youth workers deal with racist attitudes or stereotypes within the classroom. More than 60 schools will benefit. Ex Newcastle defender Jon Anderson and former Boro defender Dean Gordon will also talk about their experiences with racism on and off the pitch at more than 30 schools. Laura Pidcock, manager of the North-East Education Team at STRCTR, said: "Anti-racism education has never been more necessary. "Show Racism the Red Card firmly believes in the power of critical thinking to prevent people from believing racist ideas and myths often presented by the media.

"Young people and adults need the opportunity to have a safe and non-judgemental space to explore their own prejudice and develop techniques and strategies to overcome them. "We need to be brave enough to have difficult conversations with young people so that they can make sense of the world around them for themselves, rather than simply believing Facebook or a newspaper headline." PCC Barry Coppinger said: "It is important to stress that we are not saying Cleveland has a specific issue with racism. However, we know that hate crime exists, and we know that it is under-reported, both locally and nationally. "Current events internationally also make this a particularly topical subject and organisations like Show Racism the Red Card enable us to face these issues head on." Workshops have also been funded directly with pupils in primary and secondary schools across Cleveland.
© The Northern Echo


Britain First wants the media to stop using the word 'racism'

The group voted for the policy at its national conference

18/11/2015- The far-right group Britain First has called for the media to stop using the term “racist” in reports. The policy was among 18 put forward at the group’s national conference in Sheffield, which also included banning Islam and classing policies which enable large number of foreigners entering the country as treason. At the event, held in a hotel near Chesterfield and attended by around 50 people, Britain First debated whether the media should be banned from using the word “racism” – a discussion that divided the group, the Huffington Post reported. “The word 'racism' has for too long been used a (sic) weapon to undermine debate and to suppress discussion on important matters of nationhood, immigration and political correctness,” the policy read. “If we were in prison racism would be the bars,” Britain First leader Paul Golding told the room. On the group’s website it argues that “word “racism” was invented by a communist mass murderer, Leon Trotsky, to silence European opposition to “multi-culturalism”, so we do not recognise the validity of this made-up word.” The public weren’t so convinced by the idea and took to Twitter to mock the group.

Established as an off-shoot of the far-right British National Part (BNP) in 2011, Britain First came to mainstream attention in the summer of 2014 under the slogan “taking out country back.” In mid-November, it became the first political part in the UK to receive more than 1 million followers on Facebook. The group frequently posts populist posts which divert from its core far-right message, including those relating to animal cruelty. At the time, Matthew Collins, a member of the counter-racism and fascism group Hope Not Hate who has been monitoring Britain First’s page for a number of years, estimated that less than a third of its Facebook followers understand the group’s cause. “People don’t even realise they are signing up to the group,” he told The Independent. The group was recently embroiled in its latest controversy surrounding the appropriate use of images on its Facebook page, after a mother of a young girl said she was “livid” that Britain First used an image of her daughter selling poppies on their Facebook page. Britain First did not respond to requests for comment from The Independent at the time the photo was published.
© The Independent


UK: Muslim cultural centre torched by thugs in Bishopbriggs

17/11/2015- A cultural centre used by Muslims was today targeted in a firebomb attack, the Evening Times can reveal. A manhunt is underway for the thugs who targeted the Bishopbriggs Cultural Centre - also known as Al Sarouk - in the early hours of this morning. Insiders fear the building may have been set alight in revenge for the Paris terror attacks. Fire crews raced to the scene in Auchinairn Road, Bishopbriggs at around 2.20am today and found a fire had been started. Police today confirmed the fire is being treated as "wilful fire-raising" and witnesses have been urged to come forward. Sources said the incident may be linked to the Paris terrorist incidents and although, it was not currently being treated as a hate crime, it is "one line of inquiry being looked at".

The insider told the Evening Times: "It was definitely a deliberate act and an investigation is underway to find exactly what happened. "Obviously, the motive for the incident is key." Police stressed no one was injured and the building is believed to have been empty when the vandals struck. Chief Inspector Craig Smith, area commander for East Dunbartonshire, confirmed an investigation had been launched. He said: "Officers are investigating a fire at Bishopbriggs Cultural Centre in Auchinairn Road, Bishopbriggs. "Police and fire crews were alerted to the fire at around 2.20am on Tuesday November 17. "The fire is being treated as wilful and a joint investigation between Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is now underway."

It comes after a Scots couple were violently assaulted by a gang outside their takeaway in Fife. The man and woman were set upon by a group of around 15 people in the early hours of Sunday. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101.

Update 18/11/2015: Police have stepped up patrols at Scottish mosques after a community centre used by Muslims was torched in a suspected hate crime.
© The Evening Times


UK: Why we need to talk about race discrimination at work

Unequal opportunities need to be addressed
By Matt Gingell

17/11/2015- We need to talk about race issues at work. We’ve been talking a lot about gender and age. Now it’s time to talk about race too. Why? A recent survey of over 24,000 ethnic minority and white employees has highlighted a very big problem and like any problem, it’s no good sweeping it under the carpet. Race discrimina-tion is prevalent in the workplace – and these unequal opportunities need to be addressed. The Race at Work report, published by Business in the Community, has summarised the findings of the survey. Worryingly, 28 per cent of employees from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background have directly experienced or witnessed racial harassment or bullying from their manager in the last five years.

Out of those employees surveyed who either witnessed or directly experienced racial harassment or bullying (including white employees) an alarming 30 per cent said it happened in the last year alone. Also, 30 per cent of employees from a BAME background felt they’d been overlooked for a promotion in their current organisation compared to 23 per cent white employees. On top of all that, less than half of the employees (49 per cent) reported that they’ve been offered equality, diversity and inclusion training within their organisation. Out of those offered it, only 65 per cent reported it being mandatory.

What’s the current legal framework?
Under our equality legislation, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably because of race. Race is defined as including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. It’s not necessary to show that the perpetrator discriminated consciously – just that race played a significant part in the treatment. It’s also unlawful for an employer to discriminate by applying a provision, criterion or practice that disadvantages job applicants or employees of a particular racial group without justification. An example could be employers insisting that candidates for a job have UK qualifications. However, if an employer can show why UK qualifications are necessary, it could be justified. Harassment related to race and victimisation are prohibited too.

But even if the law prohibits what it should prohibit, is that enough? No it’s not enough. Why? Because allegations of race discrimination are difficult to prove and employees have to fork out so much cash in legal fees to bring claims. What will change things though is if we talk more about race issues in the workplace and the business case for racial equality. Only then will bosses begin to recognise that they need to speak out against race discrimination and seek to stamp it out. There is a strong business case, as well as strong moral one, for racial equality. McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report found that organisations with racially diverse senior management experience 35 per cent greater financial returns. With our skills gap as well, employers would quite simply be mad not to fully utilise the talent of all those who are willing and able to work. Race discrimination has to be eradicated.
Matt Gingell is a partner at law firm Gannons, which specialises in commercial and employment law
© The Independent


UK: Disruption warning ahead of far-right rally on Anglesey

North Wales Police says it will be deploying more resources and closing parts of Llangefni during the “Infidels of North Wales” march on Saturday

17/11/2015- Businesses and residents will face some disruption this weekend with two opposing rallies set to take place on Anglesey. This Saturday will see far-right group “Infidels of North Wales” march in Llangefni over the so-called “Islamification of Britain” and the “hiding of sex offenders and paedophiles in our hostels and villages”. But the move has inspired a counter-demonstration with opponents set to meet and “celebrate diversity” at an event starting at the same time at the island's market town. With tensions bound to be running high following the events in Paris over the weekend, North Wales Police are set to deploy extra resources on the ground in a bid to keep both groups apart. The force has now warned businesses and residents to expect disruption on the day with officers set to close a number of roads in the town.

A Police spokesman said: “North Wales Police has a duty to facilitate lawful and peaceful protests, and is therefore working with the Isle of Anglesey County Council, and other partners, to plan and prepare for these events. “They will, undoubtedly, mean some disruption for the town of Llangefni, its residents and businesses. “There will be sufficient police officers available on the day to support the local community during these events.” As a result of the events both the Station Yard and Town Hall car parks will remain closed to the public from 6pm this Friday until 5pm on Saturday. Church Street and Bridge Street will remain shut between 12pm and 4pm on Saturday with the High Street and Field Street also closing for 20 minutes during the same time period.

The Infidels group are expecting around 100 people to turn out to their rally with the like of Anglesey MP Albert Owen and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood set to attend the counter-demonstration. The organiser of the “Celebrating Diversity” demonstration, Dyfrig Jones, said: “Our hope is that we can draw a large crowd to Llangefni on the day to clearly show that the ordinary people of this area reject any form of racism.” The counter-demonstration will gather at 12.30pm by the county council’s headquarters before marching to Bulkeley Square.
© The Daily Post


UK: Couple 'attacked by mob' as they closed their takeaway shop

A Scots couple have been violently assaulted by a gang outside their takeaway in Fife.

16/11/2015- Mohammed Khalid and his wife run the Caspian Fast Food outlet on Wellesley Road in Methil. They were set upon by a group of around 15 people in the early hours of Sunday as they closed up. Mr Khalid, 53, required hospital treatment for a serious injury to his eye and his wife suffered minor injuries as she tried to help him. The couple claim the men involved in the attack repeatedly cited the Paris terrorist incidents, Islamic State (IS), terrorism and subjected them to racist abuse. Their daughter Shama Khalid posted CCTV footage of the assault onto Facebook in a bid to highlight the abuse.

She said: "This is so upsetting. I hope no one has to witness anything like this ever. My poor parents. They spent all their lives trying to protect us from things like this, only to become victims themselves. "Dad has been in hospital for over 12 hours now, the specialist is taking a look at his eye. My dad's eye is pretty messed up. It will take a while to heal." In a later post, Ms Khalid added: "My dad was set upon by a mob of 15 young thugs as he tried to shield my mum and co-workers away [from the group] who had threatened to bash them. "My dad was pummelled to the ground where he was repeatedly kicked, racially abused and stomped while my mum screamed at them to stop. "This is not the first time incidents of racial hatred have occurred at the takeaway."

The video shows a group congregating outside the shop and going in, before Mr Khalid comes out and is pushed to the ground and attacked. His wife then comes out to try and help him before police officers arrive. Emergency services were called to the scene and the group fled. A spokesman for Police Scotland confirmed that two people have been charged over the incident. She said: "We are currently investigating a disturbance at a takeaway in Methil, which took place in the early hours of November 15. "The incident happened at around 1am at a premises on Wellesley Road. As a result of our inquiry two men aged 35 and 17, have been charged and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal. "Our investigation into this matter is ongoing as we seek to trace a number of youths who were at the scene. "Anyone who has information that can assist with our inquiry is asked to contact police immediately on 101 or alternatively the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 FREE."


UK: BBC's Iain Lee leaves show after condemning guest's anti-gay views

BBC Three Counties Radio breakfast show presenter took issue with stance of Christian Legal Centre lawyer

16/11/2015- A BBC radio presenter has reportedly left his job after labelling anti-gay views as bigotry on his show. Iain Lee made the comments during an interview with Christian Legal Centre lawyer Libby Powell, who said that, according to the Bible, homosexuality was a sin. Powell appeared on Lee’s BBC Three Counties Radio breakfast show to defend a reverend who was accused of homophobia after reading out anti-gay verses of the Christian holy book during a prison service. Lee repeatedly labelled anti-gay passages in the Bible – and Powell’s adherence of them – as “homophobic” and “bigoted”. He asked her if she “supported bigotry” and said that labelling homosexuality a sin was preaching hatred.

Powell said that the anti-gay passages of the Bible were not bigotry. She added that the Bible’s teachings did not only attack gay people, but were about “the lifestyle”, including “people who have sex before marriage” and “people who steal”. And she said that people were free to believe in, and read from, the book, regardless of whether other people deemed its teaching bigoted. Lee and the BBC later apologised, with the broadcaster saying the interview was “at several points inappropriate”. A statement issued to Pink News read: “The BBC – and Iain Lee himself – wish to apologise for any offence that may have been caused.” On Sunday, Pink News reported that Lee had left his show. A representative of the presenter and comedian has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment, but Lee confirmed on Twitter he would not be presenting the show.

Powell and Lee were discussing the case of the Reverend Barry Trayhorn, who brought a case of constructive dismissal against the secretary of state for justice, saying he felt “compelled” to resign from his job at a prison after receiving a warning for reading anti-gay Bible verses to prisoners. Trayhorn was working as a gardening supervisor HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire and had been leading worship at the prison since 2012. According to the BBC, he said the Bible passage he read was 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6 Verses 9 to 11, which include the lines: “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor coveters, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God”.
© BBC News


UK: Scottish Anti-asylum seeker protest falls flat as only a handful turn up

Only 30 people turned up to the protest in Monkton, near Ayr, whilst a 200-strong group of pro-refugee and anti-fascist protestors countered the Scottish Defence League demonstration.

16/11/2015- A right-wing protest against asylum seekers in a Scots town fell flat yesterday as only a handful turned up. And the bigots of the Scottish Defence League were heavily outnumbered by a counter-demonstration of anti-racists in Monkton, near Ayr. The neo-Nazi SDL had planned their first public demo in two years in the town, near where the Home Office have placed 150 asylum seekers in the Adamton Country House Hotel. But they mustered fewer than 30 at the height of the protest, with a bald man and a blonde woman at the forefront, yelling slogans of hate. On the other side, there was a 200-strong group made up of pro-refugee groups, Labour and SNP activists and anti-fascist organisations. On posts whipping up support for their racist cause, the SDL referred to the asylum seekers as “secret, dark-skinned African males” who could be “murderers, rapists or paedophiles in their own country”.

The SDL demonstration was originally cancelled because of some light rain but when it dried, up a few stragglers made it along. The first five to arrive at the meeting point found themselves protected by a ring of police as opponents chanted: “There are many more of us than you.” An hour later, another two dozen right-wing extremists arrived, including skinheads wearing camouflage and there were scuffles as police tried to separate the two sides. The skinheads claimed the asylum seekers were “bombers” and should be sent back. One of them, a Pole who said he was called Scott and lived in Mauchline, Ayrshire, claimed it was OK for him to be in Britain because he was “legal”.

Three weeks ago, 150 asylum seekers were bussed by the Home Office into Adamton House from the north-west of England, bypassing the Scottish Government, the local authority and community. Although the SDL said they were there to support residents of Monkton, several from the town joined the counter-protest. Sarah Collins, one of the organisers of the anti-racist coalition, said the poor show by the SDL illustrated the lack of support for them. But she said: “It is important to demonstrate against them, especially when they are protesting against such vulnerable people as asylum seekers.” Police said there were two arrests for public order offences. The Scottish Refugee Council say Adamton House is not suitable for vulnerable asylum seekers, as it is two miles from the town, leaving them completely isolated. The asylum seekers are kept in a separate block, are not allowed to use the majority of hotel facilities and are discouraged from using the grounds.
© The Scottish Daily Record


How Europe became a 'magnet for waves of refugees'

Europe is in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. With 60 million people fleeing their homes, over 1 million refugees are set to try and seek asylum in Europe, this year alone.

15/11/2015- David Folkerts-Landau, group chief economist at Deutsche Bank, released a note on Friday November 13 illustrating why Europe acts as "a magnet for waves of refugees" and why this can be positive for the 28-nation bloc's economy. Through a series of charts and analysis, Folkerts-Landau illustrated the exact breakdown of immigration levels in Europe at the moment, and how this will have an impact on the EU — specifically Germany. The number of refugees has hit a 20 year high due to the growing list of conflicts. Deutsche Bank, citing United Nations data, says more than 60 million people worldwide have fled their homes. "The war in Syria alone, now in its fifth year, has triggered a mass exodus of around 11.5 million Syrians, four million of whom have fled to other countries," adds the note.

Here is a breakdown of where the refugees come from:


Deutsche Bank says "due to the situations at home, some of which appear quite hopeless, and the prospect of the conflicts dragging on for years to come, more and more people − especially from Syria − have decided to attempt the difficult (onward) journey to Europe."
Here is the map of how refugees attempt to seek safety across the European Union:

Deutsche Bank highlighted how each country takes in a vastly proportion of refugees and Germany accounts for the largest share. The note says "the influx of refugees has raised net immigration to Germany to the record level of more than one million." "Among the OECD countries, this trend could put Germany ahead of the United States, traditionally the No. 1 destination country for migrants. For the time being, Germany is likely to remain a magnet for refugees. As a result, the country faces the difficult − and costly − task of integrating the refugees and absorbing the supply shock to the labour market:"

However, Deutsche Bank made it clear that this is an "opportunity" for Germany to "rejuvenate" its labour force:
@ The refugees represent an opportunity for rejuvenating an ageing population in Germany, where there is a growing scarcity of labour and the threat of lower structural growth. Without immigration, the country’s economic growth is predicted to drop in the next ten years from its current average of around 1.5% to just 0.5% annually. The stability of the social security systems, especially the pay-as-you-go pension system, would be put to the test.
@ The Herculean task of integrating the refugees must be seen as an investment in the future. The refugees are young; the share of those who are younger than 18 years old is 30%.
@ As part of a win-win scenario, successful integration offers Germany the opportunity to consolidate its position as Europe’s economic powerhouse. Germany’s appeal as a country of immigration stands to benefit greatly. And more importantly, the necessary changes have the potential to provide German society, in which the preservation of the status quo has become a Leitmotiv, with new momentum for the decades ahead.
© The Business Insider


France confirms it will receive 30,000 refugees

19/11/2015- France will receive 30,000 refugees in the next two years, president Francois Hollande confirmed Wednesday (18 November). The figure had first been announced by prime minister Manuel Valls in September. But what had been interpreted as French reluctance to play its part in relieving other countries facing massive arrivals can now, in the wake of Friday's Paris terror attacks, be seen as a political gesture. "Some want to establish a link between the influx of refugees coming from the Middle-East and the terrorist threat," Hollande noted in a speech to the congress of French mayors. "The truth is that this link exists, because inhabitants of areas in Iraq and Syria are fleeing because they are being murdered by those who are attacking us today."

Hollande reminded his listeners that "France accepted playing its part in showing solidarity towards these refugees and towards Europe" and confirmed that "30,000 will be welcomed in the next two years". In September, Valls said on TV that "France will not take more than 30,000 asylum seekers." "We have to show solidarity, generosity, humanity … but at the same time, we have to master" the flow, he said. "We cannot welcome to Europe all those who flee dictatorship in Syria." On Wednesday, however, Hollande stressed that the "duty of humanity towards the refugees goes hand in hand with the duty to protect the French people". He said that France will continue to "do the necessary checking before accepting refugees on [its] territory".

Hollande's declaration comes as voices in France and Europe called for a change in EU refugee policy. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called Monday to "immediately stop receiving migrants" and to "scatter" on French territory those already present. On Wednesday, the new Polish right-wing prime minister Beata Szydlo renewed criticism over the EU refugee relocation mechanism. "Attempts to export a problem that certain countries have themselves created without the input of other members cannot be called solidarity," Szydlo said in her first address to parliament.

Her EU affairs minister, Konrad Szymanski, said on Saturday that "in the face of the tragic events in Paris, Poland sees no political possibilities for implementing the decision on the relocation of refugees". The views of the new Polish government echo those of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. "In light of this terror attack, Brussels cannot challenge the right of member states to defend themselves," Orban said. "Mandatory resettlement quotas are dangerous because they would spread terrorism across Europe." In Germany, Bavaria's conservative finance minister, Markus Soeder, said Sunday that Europe "must protect itself better from enemies who will stop at nothing." “The era of uncontrolled immigration and illegal immigration cannot go on like this. Paris changes everything," he said in an interview to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Germany's federal defense minister Ursula Von der Leyen, however, also a conservative, retorted that "we must not make the mistake of equating refugees with terrorists." The same position was expressed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. In the Czech republic, the social-democrat president Milos Zeman did not refer to the attacks. On Tuesday, though, he joined a meeting organized by an anti-Islam group and attended by Germany's Pegida movement. "People should not be put in opinion straightjackets and should be able to think differently," he said at the meeting. According to figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 3,802 migrants entered Greece, their main first country of arrival in Europe, on Wednesday alone.
© The EUobserver


French Jewish teacher stabbed by ISIS sympathizers in Marseille

18/11/2015- A Jewish teacher in the French city of Marseille was stabbed by a man wearing an Islamic State T-shirt who shouted anti-Semitic profanities at him with two other men. The victim, a history teacher at a Jewish school, suffered injuries that were not considered life threatening, the French news agency AFP reported, citing an account of the Wednesday night incident by the chief of police of the Bouches-du-Rhone district. The attackers fled and are the subject of a manhunt, according to the chief, Laurent Nunez. The teacher, a bearded, observant Jew, was wearing a kippah, Michele Teboul, the president of the local branch of the CRIF umbrella of French Jews, told JTA. A young man approached the teacher on a moped in the 13th arrondissement, or district, and showed him a picture of Mohammed Merah, the Islamist who killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. The picture was on the motorcyclist’s cellular phone, Teboul said.

One of the suspects also showed the teacher, who was identified by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement as Rabbi Tsion Saadon, a Chabad-Lubavitch school teacher, that he was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the symbol of the Islamic State terrorist group. Then the attacker produced a knife and stabbed the teacher, who sustained superficial injuries, Teboul said. The two other suspects believed to have been involved in the attack stood by, joining in when the attacker began shouting anti-Semitic profanities. They did not stab the victim. The teacher filed a complaint with police as he was being treated, and was evacuated to the hospital. On her way to visit the teacher in hospital, Teboul confirmed initial reports that his life was not in danger. She added that the victim was conscious.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the multiple terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on Nov. 13. At least 129 people were killed. The Anti-Defamation League said it was “alarmed and saddened” by the stabbing. “Anti-Semitism is a core tenet of Islamic extremist ideology, attacks on Jews by ISIS sympathizers should come as no surprise,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a news release. On Oct. 24, a French man of Arab descent assaulted three Jews in Marseille as they were walking home from synagogue. He stabbed one and hit two others — a rabbi in his 50s and his 19-year-old son — wounding them lightly. The stabbing victim was seriously hurt but survived.

As anti-Semitic attacks against French Jews have become more common in recent years, Marseille, which has approximately 80,000 Jews, has seen fewer of the incidents than Paris in absolute numbers and proportionately. But Teboul said Islamist extremism, disseminated online and through satellite television, “is sadly changing the Marseille we used to know.”
© JTA News


France: Fire rips through Calais's notorious 'Jungle' migrant camp

Fire in 'jungle' camp believed to have been caused by an electrical fault; 2,500 metres of tents and shelters were burnt down in the fierce blaze; No casualties have been reported from the site and the fire has now been put out by firefighters

14/11/2015-  A huge fire broke out shortly after midnight at the refugee camp known as the 'Jungle' in Calais, France. The fire is not thought to be related to the horrific terror events in Paris despite unsubstantiated claims that the fire was started by activists angered by the migrants presence in France. No casualties have been reported from the site, where hundreds of migrants have been living in difficult conditions after making their long and dangerous journey to Europe. Over 2,500 metres of tents and shelters were burnt down in the fierce blaze which was believed to have been caused by an electrical wire. Gas cylinders in the packed camps reportedly exploded as they were consumed by the flames as fire fighters battled the flames. The strong wind is believed to have further added to the ferocity of the flames before it was eventually put out.

The news comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Europe 'will manage' the migrant crisis despite the continent's continual struggle with heavy influx of refugees in recent months. She has made little headway persuading Germany's European Union partners to share the burden. Over recent days, her governing coalition squabbled over a plan to give many Syrians a restricted asylum status that wouldn't allow them to bring relatives to Germany for two years. The program was announced by the interior minister apparently behind the chancellery's back, and quickly shelved, but then backed by prominent conservatives. The chancellor appears to be inching toward more restrictive policies without dropping her broadly positive approach.
© The Daily Mail.


Europe Prepares for Anti-Refugee Violence

Right-wing parties and newspapers are already turning the Paris attacks into a refugee issue and police are beefing up security at camps to protect refugees.

15/11/2015- Shortly after the first shots rang out in Paris on Friday night, police in Rome moved swiftly to beef up security at the city’s main high-traffic tourist destinations, from the Vatican to the Coliseum. But they also moved extra security forces to other destinations, like the Baobab Centro, a center for refugees near the Tiburtina train station on the outskirts of the capital. They weren’t worried that some of the refugees might be involved in terror attacks; they were worried that Italians would be the ones attacking the refugees in retaliation for the Paris attacks.

Since the refugee exodus that has driven more than half a million people out of North Africa and the Middle East began last year, there has been a steady drumbeat by many mostly right-wing political parties across Europe that the migrant boats are filled with radical Islamists and jihadi fighters. Recent reports that a Tunisian terrorist who spent seven years in prison in Italy was caught coming in to Italy on a boat in October, or that a temporary refugee passport found at the scene of one of the Paris attacks belonged to a man who had come in to Europe through Greece and traveled along the migrant trail along with hundreds of thousands of legitimate refugees do little to help. But neither do headlines like “Islamic Bastards,” which showed up on the cover of the right-wing newspaper Libero on Saturday morning.

It has become a regular practice across Europe to associate terrorist threats with the refugee crisis, despite the fact that most of the refugees are actually escaping the same sort of violence Europeans fear most. Drive-by shootings and suicide bombers of the kind that shook Paris on Friday night are everyday experiences in many Syrian cities, says Giovanni Pinto, Italy’s director of Immigration and Border control. He worries that events like the Paris attacks will put refugees at risk. “It is increasingly difficult to not just provide basic comforts, but to actually protect them from angry citizens,” he says. “Many Europeans group all Muslims in one category. The problem is exacerbated by terror attacks like the one in Paris.”

That fact hasn’t stopped some countries from making blatant claims that all refugees are terrorists, and it doesn’t stop even centrist news organizations in Europe from running images of migrant boats under headlines about terrorism. Refugee camps in Italy’s northern regions are under almost constant attack by far-right protesters who have torched prayer rooms and constantly hand out anti-Islam propaganda. In many of the camps, the security fences do more to keep angry citizens out than to keep the migrants and refugees in. Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, wrote on his Facebook page that all Islamic communities in Italy should be subject to close surveillance, suggesting, “The throat cutters and Islamic terrorists should be eliminated with force!”

Marine Le Pen, a French anti-immigration politician, said, “Whatever the European Union says, it is necessary that France recovers the power over her national borders forever. Without borders there is no protection nor security possible,” she said. “France must ban Islamist organizations, close radical mosques and expel foreigners who preach hatred in our country as well as illegal migrants who have nothing to do here.”

Those sentiments were echoed across the continent over the weekend. Poland’s newly elected, incoming European Affairs commissioner Konrad Szymanski said Poland would no longer accept refugees and migrants after the Paris attacks. “The attacks mean the necessity of an even deeper revision of the European policy towards the migrant crisis,” he said Saturday. “We’ll accept them if we have security guarantees. This is a key condition, and today a question mark has been put next to it all around Europe.”

In Germany, where most of the recent refugees are heading, security has been increased around refugee camps, which are increasingly targeted by anti-immigration protesters. On Saturday, police drove away a group of angry residents who threatened refugees huddled in the camps along the German-Austrian border. Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, tried to calm nerves, promising that most migrants and refugees were escaping terrorism, not inciting it. “I’d like to appeal urgently that no one rush to make a connection with the refugee situation,” De Maiziere said on Saturday. “How we deal with the refugee crisis shouldn’t be linked in any way to how we deal with terrorism.”

In the article with the “Islamic Bastards” headline, Libero journalist Franco Bechis insisted that there is no way to know who may be hiding among the refugees. Under European law, all migrants and refugees should be fingerprinted and their details should be logged, though in many cases, the sheer number of arrivals make it logistically impossible to do. The Daily Beast has witnessed refugees arriving without being documented. Bechis insists it isn't done at all. “From January to the end of October a small city of ghosts have landed on our shores,” he wrote. “None of them have a document. None of them have a fingerprint. Nobody gives the Italian authorities a name, a surname, a city of origin. The only thing we know from the people who see them land is that they are mostly Arab and African.”

© The Daily Beast


Best Way To Stop Islamic Terrorism? Reach Out to Muslims (Opinion)

By Deborah Lipstadt

15/11/2015- When the editor of this paper asked me whether I wanted to share my thoughts about the tremendous tragedy in Paris, I responded by saying, “What is there to say except, Oy lanu, woe is unto us.” In the hours since then I have decided to modestly add my thoughts. I say modestly because so many people seem to know exactly what must be done to halt such attacks in the future. Many of the suggestions are simply impossible — close the borders to all immigrants from a certain area of the world — or vindictive and counterproductive, such as the call to close the mosques and limit Muslims’ rights. Even now, less than 48 hours since the assault, there are certain things that are obvious. As I wrote in these pages after the February Copenhagen attacks on a conference about the Muhammad cartoons and on the synagogue where a bat mitzvah was underway: The most important lesson is that unless you name something you cannot address it or resolve it.

This is Islamic terrorism or, as some call it, jihadism. It does not represent all or even the majority of Muslims. In fact, although no one knows for sure, it probably represents a very tiny proportion of Muslims. Yet there is no question that it grows out of a particular perspective or interpretation of Islam. Those who attribute these attacks to “extremism” or just plain “terrorism,” rejecting any connection to Islam, will never be able to address or resolve the problem.

Its roots are in the interpretation of Islam adopted by ISIS and other terrorists. But in directly describing this deadly phenomenon, we have to be careful of “explaining” it as the result of the social and economic situation experienced by some Muslims in various countries, including France. There are, of course, Muslims, particularly in countries such as France, who suffer from social and economic discrimination. Some have pointed to that as a “source” of this extremism. That borders on a justification and a blaming of the victim. While to be unemployed is difficult and to be discriminated against is completely unjustified, these are never reasons for terrorism. Linking the two is misguided and wrong and offers the perpetrators a rationalization for their action.

However, if we label all Muslims and their religion as extremist and murderous and ostracize them, we will drive an unknown number into ISIS’s arms. ISIS’s best recruiting tool is convincing Muslims in other countries that they are victims. If this threat is going to be addressed, the most important source of help will come from within the Muslim community, from those who totally reject and are repulsed by the interpretation of Islam adopted by ISIS, Al Qaeda and the like. These people will be more likely to speak out if they feel supported, not just from within their community, but from outside of it as well. ISIS’s modus operandi had been to find local recruits. However angry non-Muslims may feel about these attacks, they must not fall into ISIS’s trap by lashing out at all the Muslims in their community and making them feel marginalized.

It is hard to resist engaging in vast generalizations, especially when our hearts are filled with grief and anger, but we must. We Jews should know how unjust these generalizations are. After all, we worry that if a small group of Jews does wrong we will all be branded. During this anguished time, I’m reminded of a viral video from the University of Missouri recorded during a rally after the university president resigned under pressure. A photojournalism student who was harassed by other protesting students bravely stood his ground. The photographer reminded the students that the Constitution that gave them the right to march gave him the right to record their march. At one point, a student tried to restrain a fellow protestor who was getting aggressive and seemed about to physically harass the photographer. He kept pulling at the protester’s sleeve and repeating: “Don’t change the story. Don’t change the story.”

This student intuited, correctly, that the story was on the verge of becoming about the treatment of the photographer and not about their grievances. And this is what is occupying the national conversation right now. We cannot afford to “change the story” from Islamic terrorism and extremism by unjustly lashing out collectively at Muslims, most of whom do not share these extremist views. We must not engage in vast generalizations about Muslims, not just for moral reasons — which should be sufficient in and of themselves — but for strategic reasons as well. Let us call this terror what it is, Islamic violent extremism. But in doing so, let us engage the vast majority of Muslims who are the key to arresting this deadly scourge.
© The Forward


Radicalization Cannot Be Explained by Racism Alone (Opinion)

By Robin Sclafani, Director of CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe

14/11/2015- It is just 12 hours since terror began in Paris, since we began to shed tears for the hundreds of victims killed or injured, since we suspended ourselves in front of the news reports waiting for the signs that it was over. Maybe the immediate incidents of violence have come to an end, but the terror and the aftermath domino-effect is in full swing. Oh Paris, dear France and its people, our hearts are with you who are on the front line in this war. This morning the analysts get to work and the social media buzzes, and with great frustration and even inner conflict, so many of us grapple to find that place of balance between emotions and ideals. It is so easy to fall back on stereotypes and prejudices, to search for generalizations that can help make sense of the violence. Conditions are ripe for the far-right to take control.

The problem of extremisms has been festering for decades. Far-right, neo-Nazi type of extremism is blamed on hatred, ideologies and mythologies that serve opportunistic politicians. Islamist extremism, however, is not only blamed on hatred, ideologies and mythologies that serve opportunistic madmen. It is blamed also on religion, and innocent Muslims become the scapegoat for peoples' fear. Many are braced for retaliation hate crimes which are sadly inevitable in the current climate. They are dreading an escalation of policies and policing which will invariably be discriminatory either directly or indirectly. Some blame Islamist extremism on discrimination, social exclusion, segregation, etc. It is logical, and probably true, that the effects of racism leave a fertile breeding ground for radical ideas and violent actions which are generated and fueled by state and non-state actors abroad.

Regardless, security is non-negotiable and keeping us safe from terrorist attacks will be good for everybody, including the problem of discrimination faced by Muslims. Explaining the problem of radicalization as a result of discrimination is a total disrespect to the victims of these attacks and to the millions of people who have been affected by racist and discriminatory policies throughout their lifetime and are good-hearted, non-violent, responsible hard-working contributing members of society. There may be correlations between poverty and extremism, also used to describe participants in Neo-Nazi movements which are responsible for 1,380 extreme-right motivated crimes and 104 attacks in Germany during the month of September alone. In the third quarter of 2015, attacks against refugee accommodation jumped from 136 in the second quarter to 274 in the third, and there were 203 antisemitic attacks in the third quarter alone, or nearly two per day.

Such correlations however can be refuted, as there are plenty of educated and middle class people who subscribe to far-right ideas, just as there is recruitment to radical violent Islamist groups taking place in universities. Without a strong political will to confront the international sources of ideas and funding for radical Islamism, all our efforts from education to security will not suffice in the long-run. There is no simple answer to this escalating, intensifying cyclone of hatred and violence that Europe (and other parts of the world) are facing. Just as individuals need to find the right balance between emotions and ideals inside our hearts and minds, society must also find the right balance between freedom and control, reactive and preventive measures, domestic and international policies, security and education, intelligence and employment, shared identity and respect for diversity.
© The Huffington Post - UK


France: Terror Attacks Paris & Impact on Refugee Crisis

EU, Turkey Migrant [refugee] Deal Still Elusive

The two sides are close enough that a summit could go ahead later this month

19/11/2015- The European Union and Turkey failed to conclude a deal Thursday on a joint plan to curtail the influx of migrants [refugees] into Europe, officials said, but the two sides are close enough that a summit between EU and Turkish leaders could still go ahead later this month. Officials said Frans Timmermans, the No. 2 official in the EU’s executive branch, was on his way back to Brussels on Thursday evening following talks with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirliošlu in Ankara. They said that despite progress on nailing down some details of the migration [refugee] deal in the latest negotiations, talks are continuing among experts and there is still no clarity on the final shape of an agreement. “There is no conclusive deal,” said one senior EU official Thursday evening.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been pressing for a summit meeting with all 28 EU leaders and a possible meeting had been penciled in for the weekend of Nov. 28-29. However, officials said European Council President Donald Tusk will call a summit only if Brussels is confident a deal can be announced. That means a “difficult judgment call” for Mr. Tusk, said a second senior EU official. He will have to decide in coming hours, based on conversations with EU capitals, whether to call the summit in the hope of persuading Turkey to make some final concessions—or to delay the summit and risk stalling the negotiations, the official said. The talks between EU and Turkey started in September as the 28-nation bloc struggled with the biggest influx of migrants [refugees] since the aftermath of World War II. Already this year, some 730,000 migrants [refugees], mainly Syrian, arrived in the EU via Turkey according to the International Organization of Migration.

However, the stakes have grown higher in recent days following the Paris attacks of last Friday. In addition to European concerns over the migrant [refugee] inflow from Turkey, there is growing international pressure on Mr. Erdogan’s government to tighten border security to prevent terrorists crisscrossing from Europe to Syria and back via Turkish territory. At least two of the people alleged to be involved in the Paris attacks are known to have traveled to Syria. EU leaders last week in Malta agreed in principle to pay €3 billion ($3.22 billion) to Turkey to help it cope with the more than two million Syrian refugees in the country. However, they still had to figure out from where the bulk of the money would come.

There was also continued uncertainty over what guarantees the bloc would offer Turkey in its demands for progress on its EU membership talks and on Ankara’s bid to win visa-free access to the EU for its citizens. In return for these benefits, Turkey would beef up its border patrols in the Aegean Sea and on the land borders with Greece and Bulgaria to stop illegal migration into Europe. They would also commit to crack down on human trafficking gangs and would agree to take back to Turkey migrants [refugees]  whose asylum claims are denied by EU countries. EU leaders said a month ago that they were close to sealing an agreement but negotiations went on hold ahead of Turkey’s Nov. 1 elections, and Mr. Erdogan and some senior Turkish officials have said publicly that the EU wasn’t offering Ankara enough to win its cooperation.

That led to a bad-tempered meeting Monday among Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan made fresh demands of his European counterparts and attacked them for offering too little to win Ankara’s cooperation. “He wasn’t happy with the money and he wasn’t happy with the [progress on EU membership] chapters either,” said another EU official. “Erdogan seemed not to have been briefed on the details [of the negotiations] and was very negative.” Turkish officials in Brussels didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday. A Turkish official in Ankara said only that “negotiations are ongoing.”

EU officials warn that Mr. Erdogan is in danger of overplaying his hand. They say that unless Ankara moves swiftly now to show it is ready to scale up its security steps, the bloc’s governments, many of which were already skeptical of Turkey’s goodwill, could start to look at alternative solutions. That could include a fresh push for much broader security checks not only on the EU’s external borders but also within the bloc’s Schengen visa-free zone. “I think they are underestimating the risks that there could be a Plan B coming up,” the second EU official said Wednesday.
© The Wall Street Journal*


Fake video, images claim to show Muslim joy over Paris attacks

18/11/2015- One video that was widely shared in the aftermath of the Paris attacks shows a scene of revelry. Men gathered in front of London’s Tooting Broadway Station cheer and fist-pump the air. Full of smiles, some have climbed onto a statue and are waving green flags above their heads. The title of the clip posted to Facebook: “Muslims Around The World Celebrate The Islamic Victory in Paris France.” The video was rapidly disseminated, and with it, the outrage. Social media users pointed to the clip as evidence of violent tendencies in Muslims, while others cited it as a reason to be wary of Syrian refugees. Until Tuesday, only a few ventured to bring up its dubious nature.

After all, the video actually has nothing to do with terrorism — it was filmed in 2009, not last weekend, and it shows Pakistanis celebrating a cricket match victory following the ICC World Twenty20 tournament. A closer examination of the footage reveals that this context makes a lot more sense. The men are chanting “Pakistan,” wearing green clothing and holding up the green crescent moon flag of Pakistan. The flag of the Islamic State is black and marked by a white circle containing the Seal of Muhammad. But still the video was shared as depicted as a perverse celebration of tragedy, generating nearly 500,000 views within hours of being posted on the personal Facebook page of a user named Jean-Baptiste Kim. Though it has since been removed from Facebook, it can still be viewed on YouTube with the incendiary title.

Others have sought to dispel the false claims around the clip, though not nearly to the same viral effect as the original condemnatory posts. It isn’t the only piece of fake “evidence” for Muslim joy over the Paris attacks to have surfaced in the past few days. Internet users are also sharing an image of a bearded man standing atop a French flag while holding up his right fist. He wears a robe that resembles traditional Islamic garbs for men. “Oh Look another ‘Moderate Muslim’ Celebrating the Paris Terrorist attacks…,” read one tweet of the photo that has been shared over 1,000 times.But this image, too, is dated and has no connection to the Paris attacks. A Google search confirms that the photo is two years old, according to The Independent.

Over the weekend, online hoaxers also sought to besmirch the reputation of Veerender Jubbal, a Canadian Sikh man whose smiling bathroom selfie was digitally altered to make it look like he was wearing a suicide bomber vest and holding up the Koran. In the undoctored photo, Jubbal is wearing only a blue plaid shirt and holding up an iPad. The Post’s Soraya McDonald reported that a Twitter user with the (now-suspended) handle @abutalut8 had posted the photo along with the caption, “BREAKING, one Islamic State attacker in #ParisAttacks was a sikh convert to Islam.” A few European news outlets ran the photo as if it were real, while Jubbal, a freelance writer, took to Twitter to clear his name. “Let us start with basics,” he wrote. “Never been to Paris. Am a Sikh dude with a turban. Lives in Canada.”

While these social media campaigns use fake material, the Islamophobic threats that Muslims have faced since the Paris attacks are real. Over the weekend, a Canadian mosque was set ablaze and two others in Florida were threatened. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, KVUE-TV reports. “I’m a red-blooded American watching the news in France,” said one voice mail message left at a St. Petersburg mosque. “Guard your children. I don’t care if you’re extremists or not… Get out of my f—ing country.”  This Monday, a member of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville outside Austin arrived at his mosque to find a torn up Koran covered in feces at the entrance. A hijab-wearing Toronto woman was attacked Tuesday while going to pick up her son from school, the Associated Press reports. She was punched and kicked by two men who yelled slurs, tried to rip off her hijab and stole her cellphone and some cash. “There’s no doubt that this is hate-motivated,” police constable Victor Kwong told the AP. The woman’s brothers told reporters in an emotional address that she had been called “a terrorist” and told to go back home.

In North Carolina, an Ethiopian American Uber driver told WBTV that he was attacked by a passenger who thought he was Muslim. “He said he’s gonna shoot me right in the face. He’s gonna strangle me,” Samson Woldemichael, a Christian, said of the encounter. “I asked him why. He was calling me too many bad word names…insulting me. He told me I was a Muslim.” After the man threatened to kill him, Woldemichael asked him to get out of the car, but the passenger refused to leave. He wanted Woldemichael to get out instead. Then, the passenger began hitting him repeatedly on the forehead. He didn’t get out of the car until Woldemichael started honking his horn in an attempt to get the attention of passersby. As the passenger was leaving, Woldemichael said, “He was saying he would shoot me and he was acting like he’s hiding his hand in his back, so he was acting like he was armed.” The Uber driver, who arrived in the U.S. from Ethiopia eight years ago, told WBTV: “There are people who are not originally from here but who are really Americans in their hearts. They love the system…They believe in America, so it’s better to work with them than generalizing them and attacking them.”
© The Washington Post.


How the Paris attacks have blown the refugee debate wide open

The UN has joined rights groups in warning that the attacks could lead to a crackdown on migrants and asylum seekers

18/11/2015- For many escaping civil war, famine and oppression in the Middle East and Africa, arriving in what is supposed to be a safe haven now risks becoming only the start of their problems. Rights groups, and even the United Nations, have warned that the terrorist attacks in Paris could lead to a crackdown on migrants and asylum seekers, 800,000 of whom have so far this year risked the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to the shores of Italy, Greece and Spain. More than 3,000 of them have drowned trying. Earlier this summer, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, effectively threw open the gates to Germany, allowing migrants to settle in their thousands, giving them access to the rest of Europe thanks the continent’s open borders.

At the time, Ms Merkel’s decision was lauded as a humane act. Last Friday’s attacks across Paris have now blown that debate wide open, with some linking the carnage in the French capital to the uncontrolled numbers entering Europe. Jihadists posing as asylum seekers are getting in, it is said. That argument gained more potency on Monday when it was confirmed that one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France had crossed into Greece on 3 October. The UNHCR warned that linking the attacks to the influx of migrants would lead to greater restrictions on the numbers being allowed into the European Union. Of the six Paris terrorists named by French officials so far, five are known to be either EU nationals, and all were known to the security services. A number had managed to travel to Syria to fight for Isis, before returning home without being picked up by the intelligence services.

In the aftermath of Friday’s attacks, a number of EU countries responded by imposing unilateral restrictions on migrants. The new right of centre government in Poland said it would refuse to accept quotas agreed between its predecessor and Brussels. And France will ask later this week for the effective suspension of the Schengen Agreement, which allows free movement of people within the EU. The leader of the far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, who commands a lead over François Hollande in opinion polls, has called for an “immediate halt” to migration into the Europe. But despite the horrific events on Friday night, those gathered in Paris’s central Place de la République bore little animosity to the migrants. “What happened here has got nothing to do with immigration,” Clara Stein, a 19-year-old au pair, said. “That would be the worst thing that could happen – if suddenly the migrants got the blame for what has happened. They are just normal people looking for a better life.”

The tougher language from those on the right is seemingly doing little to dissuade those prepared to risk the hazardous journey. At least nine people drowned today off the Greek island of Kos, attempting to cross the Aegean Sea.
© The Independent


Bosnian Muslims Ponder Backlash After Paris Attacks

Bosnian Muslims do not believe the attacks in Paris will impact much on community relations in Bosnia - but are concerned about the increasingly negative perception of Islam in Europe.

18/11/2015- The day after the attacks in Paris, the leader of the Islamic Community in Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, condemned the murders and expressed solidarity with the victims. "The attackers do not represent our faith nor our community," Kavazovic said on Saturday. Earlier, the former leader of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, called on "Muslims from all Europe to defend the dignity of Islam against these people who don't show any respect for human life". Although many worry that the attacks in Paris will impact negatively on perceptions of Muslims in the European Union, few believers in Sarajevo think it will have much direct impact on their own community in Bosnia. "There is a huge difference between Bosnia, where Muslims are part of the indigenous population and European countries where they arrived as foreigners or immigrants," Mubina Muftic, a young woman from Sarajevo, told BIRN.

"Everybody here is used to having Muslims friends, so we don't fear a possible rise in islamophobia or hatred against us," she added. Sadzida Balic, another Muslim believer, says there is no conflict between Islam and other faith communities in Bosnia. "We are not afraid of anti-Muslim attacks because we have nothing to do with the extremists who attacked people in Paris," she said, adding that islamophobia "is most likely to grow when people only learn about Islam from media reports about tragedies like the one in Paris." "There is no islamophobia in Bosnia because this is a multicultural place. There are many ways of professing Islam in the world but when you are raised as a Bosnian, you will forever act as a Bosnian," Muhamed Hemceglija, a man in his fifties, told BIRN.

"We learned that Islam is first and foremost a religion that teaches the respect for other people's faith. After all, the first neighbour of the Prophet was a Hebrew," he added. "However, some radicals are acting against the true spirit of our religion and are ruining the image of Islam," he continued. "We feel caught between two fires," acknowledges Sumeja Hadzic, another young Muslim believer. "The media in Europe are fuelling fear and misconceptions about Islam. On the other hand, we have radicals who have nothing to do with us and who obviously don't know the teaching of the Koran, which clearly states that whoever kills an innocent life has indeed killed one hundreds lives." Despite the general optimism about Bosnia's multi-faith heritage, there are concerns that this situation will not help the international image of the country.

"We're in a difficult situation", Irvin, aged 27, told BIRN. "We are fully aware that what happened in Paris is a real tragedy. We experienced the same horror here, during the war. But the world reacted far less loudly to the attacks in Beirut last week." "Maybe islamophobia will not increase, but this will have for sure an impact on this country, especially when it comes to the fight against terrorism and foreign fighters," he said. Bosnia is one of the main exporters of foreign fighters in the Balkans. According to a study published this summer, 217 Bosnian citizens have joined the conflict in Syria. At least 26 reportedly died so far. The Bosnian authorities last year passed a new law that imposed stronger sanctions against citizens who fight abroad and those who recruit them. On November 5, Bosnia's state court jailed Husein "Bilal" Bosnic, one of the chiefs of the local Salafi movement, for seven years for recruiting fighters to join ISIS. In October, the same court imposed its first sentence against four Bosnian men who tried to join the militants fighting in Syria.
© Balkan Insight


Dutch to carry out body searches, biometric registration of refugees

17/11/2015- The registration and identification of asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands is to be tightened up in the very short term, prime minister Mark Rutte said in a briefing to MPs on Tuesday. All asylum seekers will be searched, as will their baggage, on arrival, Rutte said. Everyone’s biometric details will also be included on a special register and police will have the power to check mobile phones and tablets for documents and other information. The extra checks were already being planned but are being brought in more quickly because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Rutte said. One of the attackers may have come from Syria by posing as a refugee, although this is still unconfirmed.

Rutte also reiterated that the threat level in the Netherlands remains ‘substantial’ and that there are no concrete indications to suggest attacks have been planned on Dutch targets. While there have been arrests in connection with the attacks in both Belgium and France, ‘no direct link’ has been establlished between the Paris terrorists and jihadis or jihadi networks in the Netherlands, Rutte wrote. Last week, justice ministry inspectors said not enough is being done to prove asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands are who they say they are and where they have come from. MPs from across the political spectrum called for immediate improvements.
© The Dutch News


UN Rights Chief Rejects Anti-Migrant Moves

15-16/11/2015- The latest news as hundreds of thousands make their way across Europe in search of safety and a better life. All times local.

2:40 a.m.
The U.N. human rights chief is sharply rejecting anti-migrant actions in Europe in the wake of the Paris attacks. "One cannot conceive of a European continent which is going to thrive economically if borders are ... fenced off with walls and barbed wire and machine gun nests and observation towers," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Monday night in a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "In a century where finance and capital can move in a nanosecond ... we're going to have long lines at borders while every vehicle is checked and X-rayed to make sure there are no migrants hiding in the fuel tank?" he asked. Zeid added of the migrants: "They all have their human rights. They all should not be abused."

11:45 p.m.
A new U.N. report says migrants held in Libyan detention centers have reported abuses including whippings with metal rods and cables, racial insults, overcrowding and a lack of potable water. The report released Monday by the U.N. mission to the chaotic north African country calls conditions in Libya's detention centers "inhuman." Thousands of refugees and migrants have set off from Libya in recent months on sometimes deadly journeys toward Europe. The U.N. and others have warned that the chaos in the country, which remains split between two rival governments, is allowing smugglers of migrants and refugees to thrive. The new report says migrants and refugees face "torture and other ill-treatment upon arrest" in detention centers run by government migration authorities — and even run directly by some armed groups.

10:40 p.m.
An official says Cypriot authorities won't consider the asylum applications of six individuals from among 114 migrants whose boats landed on the shores of a British air base on Cyprus last month because of unspecified security reasons. The Cypriot government official said Monday information authorities have collected on these individuals offers reason to refuse processing their asylum claim. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to publicly discuss security matters, didn't elaborate on what the information pertains to. He didn't rule out the possibility that Cypriot authorities could refuse asylum claims for other applicants on similar grounds. Under an existing agreement with U.K. authorities, Cyprus is charged with processing asylum claims filed by migrants who arrive directly to the two bases that Britain maintains on the east Mediterranean island. But the Cypriot official said the agreement includes a provision under which Cypriot authorities can refuse to consider asylum claims on security grounds.

6:10 p.m.
Security officers at both sides of the Slovenia-Austria border are conducting detailed security checks of thousands of migrants crossing toward western Europe, in the wake of the Paris attacks. The migrants, fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, were body searched and their belongings were scanned on Monday at the Sentilj border crossing as authorities in both countries stepped up security after 129 people were killed in the Paris violence on Friday. One of the suicide bombers who blew himself up outside the national soccer stadium in Paris was identified as having traveled the so-called Balkan migrant corridor in October with a Syrian passport. The detailed searches have caused a large pileup of migrants on the border. 

6 p.m.
Officials say they are investigating clashes between pro and anti-migrant demonstrators near the main border entry point into Austria used by those looking for a better life in the EU. District Commissioner Manfred Walch said Monday the weekend unrest near the Spielfeld crossing from Slovenia involved members of about 500 pro- and 800 anti-migrant protesters. Police say about 80 vehicles and several fences were damaged in Sunday's melee.

2:55 p.m.
Hungary's strongly anti-immigration prime minister says the European Union is "weak, uncertain and paralyzed" in light of the migrant crisis. Viktor Orban told lawmakers Monday that the EU plan to distribute migrants among member countries is unlawful and will "spread terrorism around Europe." Orban said no one could say for certain how many terrorists entered Europe by blending in with migrants, but "one terrorist is too many." Orban said the EU needs to "forget political correctness ... and return to common sense" by adopting policies to protect its external borders, its culture and its economic interests and ensure that people are given the right to influence EU decisions. Hungary has built fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants. 

12:01 p.m.
Poland's new foreign minister says that young Syrian refugees in Europe could be formed into an army that could fight for Syria's freedom. Witold Waszczykowski made the statements late Sunday on state TV. He is to be the foreign minister in the new conservative government of the Law and Justice party that is to be sworn in on Monday. "If hundreds of thousands of young Syrians have entered Europe, they could be formed into an army," Waszczykowski said. "With our help they could fight their country back."

9:40 a.m.
Greek authorities say 1,244 refugees and economic migrants have been rescued from frail craft in danger over the past three days in the Aegean Sea, as thousands continue to arrive on the Greek islands. A coast guard statement Monday said rescuers responded to a total 34 incidents since Friday morning, near the islands of Lesbos — where most migrants head — Chios, Samos, Kos, Kalolimnos and Megisti. The count does not include thousands more people who safely made the short but often deadly crossing from nearby Turkey's western coast. Greece is the main point of entry for hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa seeking a better life in Europe. Several hundreds have drowned making the crossing, which is arranged by smuggling gangs in Turkey.
© The Associated Press


Hungary PM: Migrant quotas would spread terrorism across Europe

16/11/2015- European Union migrant quotas would spread terrorism across Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told lawmakers in response to the Paris attacks, as parliament prepared a legal challenge against the quota regime. Orban, whose policy to fence off the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring into Europe from the Middle East and Asia has drawn criticism from his neighbors, used Friday's attacks in Paris to defend his hard line against migration. In September EU leaders approved the mandatory relocation of up to 120,000 migrants across member states by 2017 in a decision opposed by Hungary and several other eastern European Union nations. "In light of this terror attack, Brussels cannot challenge the right of member states to defend themselves," Orban told parliament on Monday. His Fidesz party has a nearly two-thirds majority, making endorsement of the challenge a formality. "Mandatory resettlement quotas are dangerous because they would spread terrorism across Europe," Orban said.

Friday's attack in Paris prompted a similar response from Poland, where European affairs minister designate Konrad Szymanski said his incoming government could not accept migrants under EU quotas. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said that militants may have infiltrated the migrant wave. Authorities in several countries have said that the holder of a passport found near the body of one of the gunmen who died in the Paris attacks was a Syrian who arrived in Greece last month and was registered as a refugee in Europe. Hungarian lawmakers could vote on the motion to challenge the quota regime as soon as Tuesday or next week, joining neighboring Slovakia, which has also said it would seek legal remedy. "There will be no quotas or resettlements here as long as this government breathes," said Orban, whose tough stance over the issue has boosted support for his government.

Orban said the continent failed to prevent militant attacks because of its mishandling of the flow of migrants escaping conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. "(We do that) without control, without identification, without knowing who they are, whether they have carried arms, killed people, been members of terrorist organizations, received training ... without knowing anything at all," he said. He blamed the EU's ineffectiveness on its insistence on a federal system, calling it a "systemic error" and a "distortion of thought" that prevented efficient action and comparing it to Nazi and Communist regimes in the 20th century. "There are some who think we will be happy, we will have a nice life in Europe if we eradicate nation states. If we switch them off. That is a crazy idea just like the previous ones were."
© Reuters


USA: After Paris attacks, governors refuse to accept Syrian refugees

At least 13 governors say they will not accept Syrian refugees in their states in response to Friday's attacks in Paris.

16/11/2015- The Republican governors — in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin — are concerned that resettlement could open the doors to terrorists. "There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted, "I just signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take all available steps to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to LA."

At least 132 people were killed and hundreds injured in a series of attacks that took place around Paris on Friday evening. Several of the attackers have been identified as French citizens. According to French prosecutors, a bomber who targeted the national stadium was found with a Syrian passport. The passport's discovery raised concerns that Islamic State militants may be crossing into Turkey before moving to Western Europe alongside the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who have entered Europe this year, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria. In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he is suspending his efforts encouraging resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state. But he he did not make any blanket statement on Monday that refugees would not be allowed into Michigan. "Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration," Snyder said in the statement. "But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents." Comments that Snyder had made Sunday were widely viewed as an indication he would not allow Syrian refugees into the state.

About 20 Syrian refugees already in the pipeline for resettlement in the U.S. either recently arrived in Michigan or are expected to arrive soon, and Snyder said Monday he is not asking that they be stopped or vetted again. Detroit-area Arab-American leaders and refugee advocates argued the Department of Homeland Security already does extensive security checks before allowing any refugees into the U.S. "The United States should be a safe haven," said Dr. Yahya Basha, a Syrian-American advocate from West Bloomfield, Mich., who has family members who are refugees. He was at the White House recently to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis with U.S. officials: "We should welcome them."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a statement saying the plan to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States is "is not the right strategy." Despite such reactions, President Obama is continuing with plans to accept refugees from Syria. Responding to calls to admit Christians but not Muslims into the country, he said, "That’s shameful. That’s not American, it’s not who we are." But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a letter to the president that, "Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity. As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril."

One refugee advocacy organization said the governors are setting themselves up for a discrimination lawsuit. “You can’t restrict certain nationalities coming to your state,” said Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy with the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service. "We don’t have religious tests to our compassion," he said, speaking from the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont said Monday that governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values. Shumlin said he believes seven or eight refugees from Syria are being considered for placement through the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont, and he believes the state can take more. “It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part,” Shumlin said.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement saying his state "has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers.. Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect.” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley acknowledged Sunday there are no plans to settle refugees in his state, or credible terror threats directed at Alabama. But he issued a statement saying he would "not place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people." “Please continue to join me in praying for those who have suffered loss and those who will never allow freedom to fade at the hands of the terrorists,” Bentley said.

According to the U.S. Census, 3.5% of Alabama’s population in 2014 was born in a foreign country. The national average was 12.9%. Bentley in 2011 signed a sweeping bill that attempted to criminalize undocumented immigrants living in the state. Most elements of the law have been struck down by the federal courts. Bentley's statement said neighboring states had accepted Syrian refugees; Louisiana has accepted 14; Syrian refugees also have settled in Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville. The civil war in Syria, which has raged since 2011, has killed 250,000 people and, according to the United Nations, sent more than 4 million refugees into other countries to flee the violence in what has been called the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. At least one Republican governor said he doesn't have the authority to keep out certain refugees.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in a letter to congressional leaders Monday, said organizations have asked his state to support the relocation of 425 possible Syrian refugees and he wants Congress to deny federal funding for that process. "More importantly ... it is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state support," Scott wrote. The vast majority of the refugees have gone to Europe or neighboring countries. The United States accepted 1,854 Syrian refugees through September; more than 10 times as many have been admitted from Myanmar. The Obama administration has indicated that it plans to increase that number to 100,000 by 2017, which human rights advocates call inadequate to address the depths of the crisis. The U.S. accepted at least 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees in the months after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
© USA Today


UK: Religious hate crime spikes in Scotland on back of Paris attacks

Police Scotland have investigated a number of instances of religiously motivated hate crime since the attacks in Paris on Friday.

15/11/2015- Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone issued a statement today saying that these types of crime would not be tolerated. He said: "Police Scotland have investigated instances of crime since the events in Paris on Friday that have been motivated by religious hatred. "These crimes have been both on line and in public. Arrests have been made. "Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of Hate Crime and I urge everyone across the country to continue working together to ensure that no one feels threatened or marginalised. "If you have witnessed or been the victim of a Hate Crime, please tell us about this." Deputy chief constable Livingstone also said his officers were doing everything they could to support the international investigation into the atrocities in Paris.

And he said all communities in Scotland had joined in condemation of the attacks. He said: "Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I have sent condolences on behalf of Police Scotland to the Consul General, Mr. Emmanuel Cocher, at the French Consulate in Edinburgh. We are all shocked by these attacks and we are doing everything that can be done to support those who may be affected by these horrific events and we are helping in every way we can. "Our sympathy and solidarity is with the people of France at this very difficult time. We are currently working with law enforcement colleagues in the UK and internationally to support this investigation and more broadly to counter the threat from terrorism.

"The public should be confident that our priority is their safety and security; we want people to be alert but not alarmed. "We constantly review security plans taking into account specific intelligence and the wider threat. "The current overall threat level is severe which means an attack is highly likely and the threat to the UK remains very real. "Whilst people in Scotland remain safe in going about their day to day business with family, friends and colleagues I would encourage everyone to remain vigilant, alert and avoid complacency. "We are working closely with communities across Scotland who have, through their reaction to the Paris attack, collec-tively conveyed a very clear stance that Scotland must remain united against terrorism. "Community cohesion in Scotland is strong and the widespread condemnation of the attacks across our diverse communities is evidence of this."
© The Herald Scotland


Balkan Leaders Condemn Xenophobia After Paris Attacks

Political leaders in Serbia and Croatia warned against any xenophobic backlash against refugees, while Macedonia prepared for the possible building of a barbed-wire fence on its border.

16/11/2015- Authorities in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia said they are on heightened alert about possible militants concealing themselves among the refugees using the Balkan route to reach Western Europe after unconfirmed reports that one of the Paris attack suspects passed through the region. But some political leaders and rights campaigners also issued warnings that the Paris attacks should not be directly linked to the refugee issue or used to stoke ethnic hatred. Macedonia’s Security Council on Sunday ordered the military to stand ready for the possible construction of a barbed-wire fence on the southern border with Greece, the main entry point for refugees, should Western European countries limit the numbers allowed in. Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov insisted however that the fence would “not be aimed at closing the border, but at channelling and limiting the [refugee] flow”. Meanwhile Uranija Pirovska, the head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, urged that the Paris attacks should not be linked to the ongoing refugee crisis. “We are already facing serious hate speech, even hatred-driven incidents towards those who are helping refugees,” Pirovska said.

The annual March of Tolerance on Sunday in the Macedonian capital Skopje was dedicated to refugees and calls for tolerance and compassion about their ordeal. A minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris attacks was also observed at the march, which was attended by French ambassador Laurence Auer. Several Macedonian media speculated meanwhile about the possibility that some of the attackers may have transited the country on their way to France. Media reported at the weekend that a man holding a Syrian passport which was found at the scene of one of the Paris attacks had passed through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia in October, claiming to be a refugee. France however has not officially confirmed that the passport belonged to one of the suspected attackers.

Serbian officials have said that the Syrian passport holder registered as an asylum-seeker in the town of Presevo near the border with Macedonia on October 7. The country’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Monday sent out a strong message against ethnic hatred. “Arabs are no better than non-Arabs nor vice versa. A white person is no better than a black person or the other way around. The only thing that is important is kindness and personal qualities. Colour and belief play no role,” Vucic said. But a minor right-wing group, the Serbian People’s Party, which has often called on the authorities to close the borders to refugees to boost security, said in a statement that its fears were vindicated by the Syrian passport find. It said this confirmed allegations that “terrorists are travelling hidden among migrants on the ‘Balkan route’.”

In Croatia, interior minister Ranko Ostojic said on Monday that the Paris attackers’ goal was to jeopardise the refugee route and prevent them from fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East. "That's why I was glad that [European Commission President Jean-Claude] Juncker said that criminals should be distinguished from people who are refugees," Ostojic said. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Saturday meanwhile that he would not link the refugee crisis with "the tragedy in Paris".
© Balkan Insight


Paris Attacks Shift Europe’s Migrant Focus to Security

15/11/2015- With hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring across its borders, and economic and political pressure growing to enact tighter controls, Europe has nevertheless stayed fairly steady in its response to the humanitarian emergency. But after the attacks on Friday in Paris, fears that Islamic terrorists might infiltrate the migrant flow have deepened across the Continent, and the talk has shifted sharply to security over compassion. Officials across Europe were calling for even stronger border controls, stricter screening of those arriving and some way to persuade people to stay in the Middle East. So far, it is mostly talk. But in recent weeks, European countries from Sweden to Slovenia have been enacting new border controls, erecting border fences and discussing ways to better screen and register the migrants. 

And since the attacks by militants, and the discovery of a passport of a recent Syrian migrant near the scene of a suicide bombing, the rising antimigrant sentiment seems poised to substantially shift the conversation. Perhaps it could even change both policies and attitudes toward the migrants, as they arrive, make their way across Europe and land in the countries where they hope to make their homes. In the short run, this shift in tone could complicate the only significant plan that the European Union now has to slow down or bring order to the resettling of more than a million people: its plans to relocate 160,000 migrants across Europe. It could also affect future attempts by the bloc and others to fashion a more comprehensive and unified approach to the crisis.

Germany, which has accepted the largest number of migrants and is the destination of choice for many of them, is crucial to any solution to the crisis. But even there resistance is growing. “The days of uncontrolled immigration and illegal entry can’t continue just like that,” insisted Markus Söder, the finance minister of Bavaria and a leader of its Christian Social Union, in an interview on Sunday with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Paris changes everything.” Much of the harshest language is coming from Eastern European leaders, who have never been warm to the arrival of thousands of largely poor and Muslim migrants. Since the attacks in Paris on Friday, leaders have stepped up their criticism.

Karl Erjavec, Slovenia’s foreign minister, warned that the Paris attacks made it clear that hiding among the throngs of migrants are some “with bad intentions.” “This atrocious act confirms that we are entering difficult times,” said Milos Zeman, the president of the Czech Republic. “We cannot fight international terror with protests and demonstrations anymore.” Andrej Babis, the Czech finance minister, said that Europe was at war and that concrete steps needed to be taken — including, perhaps, closing the open borders of the Schengen group, which made passport-free travel possible among 26 nations, one of the Continent’s proudest achievements. The concerns were not limited to government officials.

“Along with refugees, there are also terrorists coming,” Mariana Koleva, 40, said on a shopping trip to Edirne, Turkey, from her home in Bulgaria. “I don’t want Romania now to receive migrants, especially after what happened in Paris,” said Gabriela, 38, a bank analyst in Bucharest who declined to give her last name because her employer would not approve. “We could also be in danger in the future.” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, who made an impassioned speech this summer urging a unified bloc response to the migrants, again urged tolerance. “Those who organized these attacks, and those who carried them out, are exactly those who the refugees are fleeing,” Mr. Juncker told reporters Sunday at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Antalya, Turkey. “And so there is no need for an overall review of the European policy on refugees.”

Marie Hermanova, the spokeswoman for a team of Czech volunteers who have been working with the migrants, said her group was bracing for a rising anti-migrant mood. “What happened in Paris on Friday night is happening in Syria every day, and it is exactly why those people are running away,” she said. “Our volunteers are extremely unhappy about the wave of hate this will likely release.” Tereza Novak, the director of Slovenska Filantropija, a humanitarian organization that has worked with migrants for two decades, echoed those concerns. “It’s unfortunate that such violence gives wings to those who spread fear and loathing of refugees,” she said. But Barbora Petrova, a political campaign strategist in Prague, said the attacks had created a sense of solidarity among Europeans at the expense of solidarity with the migrants. “People are alarmed, and the space for compassion with the refugees has dramatically shrunk,” she said. “The migrants’ problems have been overshadowed.”

In Poland, already quite cool to the idea of allowing hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe, the attacks in Paris further hardened attitudes. “If you look at what Polish commentators are saying on Facebook, the position has grown much stronger since the attacks,” said Pawel Poncyljusz, a former conservative politician who went into private business. “Opinions vary from those who want to admit no migrants to those who want to revise the system to make it more secure.” Mr. Poncyljusz, who said he shared the concerns, said almost no one was arguing to keep the doors open for humanitarian reasons. There might even be support for Poland’s taking part in a military coalition to defeat the Islamic State, he said.

In Germany, for weeks Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies have been calling for an upper limit on the number of migrants the country can handle. In his interview with Welt, Mr. Söder, the Bavarian finance minister, said, “It would be good if Angela Merkel acknowledged that the opening of the border for an unlimited period of time was a mistake.” Ms. Merkel, however, was giving no indication that she was thinking of shifting her stance. And, said Klemen Groselj, a security and defense analyst in Slovenia, that is the stance that most matters. “No matter what happens anywhere in Europe, when it comes to the migrant crisis, all eyes immediately turn to Germany and what the chancellor will do,” he said. “While countries on the Balkan route from Greece to Slovenia and Austria are doing a lot of posturing on sovereign decision-making and protecting their national interests, the fact of the matter is there is so much codependency that any talk of an individual country doing something original, security-wise, following the attacks is simply not feasible.”

The Paris attacks, Mr. Groselj said, have reduced the number of questions facing European officials about the migrant crisis to one: “Do they allow the migrant flow to continue or do they stop it?”  Pressure may ease on Germany — and other nations — simply because the number of migrants passing into Europe has been slowing, driven by worsening weather and other factors. On Friday, 5,700 migrants entered Germany at the five crossing points most often used, said Angelika Kaltenbacher, a spokeswoman for the federal police. On Saturday, the total was 5,830. Those are substantial numbers, but well below the 8,000 a day or more who crossed in September and October.

The answer to the Paris attacks, said Peter N. Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, is not to shut the door on those desperately fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, including many fleeing from the Islamic State. “The answer is to put in place a coherent E.U. asylum policy that provides those fleeing war and repression with safe and legal alternatives to get that asylum, without having to risk their lives,” Mr. Bouckaert said in a Facebook post. Standing outside the French Embassy in Riga, Latvia, Marcis Zitmanis, 35, watched his daughter light a candle in an array of flowers and letters of condolence. “We should not blame the migrants,” said Mr. Zitmanis, a construction engineer. “If we help them more, the risk of a terror attack happening again would be less.”
© The New York Times


Europe's far-right blames migration crisis for Paris attacks

Following the deadly attacks on Paris by the "Islamic State," Europe's far-right has demanded a stop to the continent's influx of refugees. The United Nations has warned that the demands are "not the way to go."

17/11/2015- Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's right-wing National Front (FN), was the first of Europe's populist and far-right leaders to call for an "immediate halt of all intake of migrants in France" on Monday. Le Pen said in a statement that one of the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Paris on Friday had arrived in Greece last month "among the mass of migrants who flow into Europe each day." "Islamic State" (IS) militants have claimed responsibility for the series of bombings and shootings in Paris on Friday, in which 129 people were killed and more than 350 were injured.

'Forget political correctness'
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed similar views in Budapest's parliament on Monday, saying that the European Union had become "weak, uncertain and paralyzed" due to the migrant crisis. The staunchly anti-immigrant leader, who has already blocked refugees from entering Hungary by erecting a barbed-wire fence, added that the EU's plan to relocate migrants among member states was unlawful and will "spread terrorism around Europe." "We don't think that everyone is a terrorist, but no one can say how many terrorists have arrived already, how many are coming day by day," Orban said, adding that the EU needs to "forget political correctness ... and return to common sense."

'Attacks didn't come out of nowhere': PEGIDA
In Germany, right-wing movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) also carried out their usual Monday demonstration in Dresden. A leader of the self-styled movement, Siegfried Däbritz, told the 10,000-strong crowd that the Paris attacks were "the result of an immigration policy that invites people from completely foreign cultures with completely different values into countries and regions, whose culture many of these immigrants despise." Beyond Europe, governors in more than a dozen US states have also threatened to stop efforts to take in Syrian refugees. "I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way," said Republican Governor Robert Bentley. According to immigration experts, however, governors would be unable to legally block refugees from settling in their states under the Refugee Act of 1980.

'Mistake of equating refugees with terrorists'
The United Nations hit back at the calls to refuse entry to refugees on Monday, saying that "the reaction to the wave of refugees we have seen should be one of compassion and empathy." "It is understandable that countries need to take whatever measures they need to take to protect their own citizens against any forms of terrorism," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "But focusing that on refugees, vulnerable people who are themselves fleeing violence, would not be the right way to go," he said. Officials in Germany also urged the public on Monday to not demonize the wave of refugees arriving from crisis areas in Africa and the Middle East. "We must not make the mistake of equating refugees with terrorists," Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Monday edition of the German newspaper "Passauer Neuen Presse." "The hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have left their homeland to escape exactly the type of atrocities that we have seen in Paris on Friday," she said.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Europe's populist right targets migration after Paris attacks

Populist leaders around Europe rushed to demand an end to an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa on Saturday after a wave of deadly attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State militants.

14/11/2015- The carnage in the French capital, directly linked to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, seemed bound to further complicate the European Union's task in sharing out hundreds of thousands of migrants who have entered the bloc this year, fleeing war and poverty. Poland's designated Europe minister said Warsaw could not take in refugees under an EU quota system after Friday's wave of attacks on restaurants, a concert hall and a soccer stadium in Paris, in which 127 people died and some 200 were injured. The Islamic State militant group based in Syria and Iraq claimed responsibility for the carnage, saying it was to punish France for its involvement in those conflicts and for its attitude to Islam. French President Francois Hollande said the group, also known as ISIS or by the Arabic acronym Daesh, had organised the attacks from abroad with internal help. He said France was at war with Daesh.

In a comment on the right-leaning news portal, Konrad Szymanski said his incoming government did not agree with the previous Polish administration's commitment to accept a share of an EU-wide relocation of immigrants. "In the face of the tragic acts in Paris, we do not see the political possibilities to implement (this)," he said. Szymanski will take up his position as minister for European affairs on Monday as part of a government formed by the conservative and Eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won a general election last month.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, a centre-left nationalist who has also opposed refugee quotas, raised the possibility that Islamic State militants could have infiltrated the wave of migrants reaching Europe. "We are working with two versions of the attack - radicalisation of the Muslim parts of population of France as retaliation for France's involvement in air strikes against ISIS, or infiltration of ISIS into the current migration waves," he told journalists after chairing an emergency meeting of his country's national security council. "We have been saying that there are enormous security risks linked to migration. Hopefully, some people will open their eyes now," Fico said. He is one of a group of central European government leaders, including nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who accuse German Chancellor Angela Merkel of having triggered a stampede of migrants by opening German doors to Syrian refugees.

"Far reaching political ramifications will flow from yesterday's events as pressure increases on Merkel’s liberal refugee policy, UK intervention in Syria becomes more likely, and building consensus on a pan-EU asylum policy more challenging," analyst Charles Lichfield of the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy said.

Take Back Control
In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen demanded that Paris take back control of its national borders permanently from the EU and "annihilate Islamist fundamentalism". In a televised statement, she said France must outlaw Islamist organisations, shut down radical mosques, expel foreign "preachers of hatred" and illegal immigrants, strip binational Islamists of their French citizenship and deport them. She did not mention Europe's migration crisis but she has previously opposed admitting any more refugees or migrants.

Elsewhere in Western Europe, some hard right politicians seized on the Paris attacks to sharpen their arguments for an end to migration while others were more cautious, expressing shock and condolences. In the Netherlands, anti-Islam far-right leader Geert Wilders called on the government to close Dutch borders immediately, accusing the authorities of being in denial about connections between immigration and terrorism. Wilders, whose Party of Freedom has climbed to record high popularity during the refugee crisis, said in a statement: "Prime Minister Rutte, I say to you: Close the Dutch borders. Now! Protect the Dutch people. Stop turning away and denying." If elections were held now, opinion polls show, Wilders would triple his party's number of seats to more than the combined total of the two government coalition parties. Mark Rutte, a centre-right liberal, announced a tightening of border checks and said the Dutch too were "at war" with Islamic State, but added: "We are not at war with a country, a belief or with Islam."

In Italy, where the right-wing daily Libero headlined its front page "Islamic Bastards", nationalist Northern League leader Matteo Salvini pointed to the religious radicalisation of immigrants and their children as a security threat and called for the closure of Europe's borders. "Immigrants who are out of control do not help security. Of course if the terrorists turn out to be of second, third or fourth generation (of immigrant families) it's even worse because it means that Islam is not compatible and cannot be integrated with democracy," he told reporters in Milan. On his Facebook page, Salvini said "all Islamic communities" in Italy should be placed under close surveillance, adding: "The throat cutters and Islamic terrorists should be ELIMINATED with force!"
© Reuters UK.


Polish anti-refugee protesters burn effigy of Orthodox Jew

19/11/2015- Protesters burnt an effigy of an Orthodox Jew at a far-right anti-refugee demonstration in the Polish city of Wroclaw on Wednesday night. Hundreds of supporters attended the event, organised by the National Radical Camp and All Polish Group, the present day incarnations of group of the same name which held anti-Jewish marches in the 1930s. Crowds gathering in the Wroclaw town hall cheered as a demonstrator sprayed lighter fuel on a free-standing effigy of an ultra-Orthodox Jew, clad in traditional religious garb and holding an EU flag. The man proceeded to burn the effigy.

The rally was organised in opposition to the Polish government’s decision to accept 5,000 Syrian refugees in addition to the 2,000 it has already accepted. A protest leader told crowds that Syrians in Europe were terrorists and economic migrants, not refugees, according to Polish newspaper Wyborcza. He warned that Polish citizens would be “raped, beaten and murdered by the Islamic wilderness” if the migrants were allowed to enter the country. The demonstration came less than a week after the Paris attacks, where 129 people were killed by so-called Islamic State terrorists. One suicide bomber is reported to have entered Europe using the passport of a Syrian man named Ahmad al Muhammad. The emergency passport, which passed through the Greek island of Lesbos in October, was found by the body outside the Stade de France. Polish police attended the demonstration and made no arrests.

Earlier this week an anti-refugee banner was photographed hanging from a bridge over a main road in the nearby Polish city of Poznan. The English-language banner read: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust”. It was marked with the Celtic cross, a neo-Nazi symbol which is illegal in Germany.
© Jewish News UK


Poland Will Not Take Refugees Under EU Scheme After Paris Attacks

14/11/2015- Poland will not respect a European Union relocation plan for thousands of refugees following the wave of attacks in Paris that left at least 127 people dead and dozens in critical condition, an incoming Polish government minister said on Saturday. Poland's new European Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski said that the attacks ruled out the chances of taking in refugees under the scheme to help ease the burden on EU frontier states Italy and Greece. "The European Council's decisions, which we criticized, on the relocation of refugees and immigrants to all EU countries are part of EU law," he wrote on the right-wing Polish website "After the tragic events of Paris we do not see the political possibility of respecting them," he added.

He called for "revision" of the EU's policy on migration and wrote that Poland must "retain full control" of its borders. Syzmanski is taking on the European affairs brief in Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party, which formed a new government after winning the country's general election in October. The party ran on the pledge that it would refuse the entry of refugees into Poland. The relocation plan, agreed by the EU in September, would see 160,000 refugees who registered in Italy, Greece and Hungary resettled around the 28 member states of the economic bloc. The plan has faced stiff opposition from central and eastern European countries. European governments overruled opposition from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Poland sided with Germany and France to vote for the proposal but now Szymanski's comments have signalled a policy U-turn in Warsaw.

Of the 160,000, 66,000 were planned to be resettled in the months following the agreement in September with the remaining refugees moving a year later. The nine EU member countries in central and eastern Europe were scheduled to take only 15,000 of the first batch of refugees, half the number France and Germany are scheduled to absorb between them. However, the EU had only relocated 116 refugees as of November 4, The Guardian reported.
© Newsweek.


German far-right leader blames Paris attacks on migrant wave

The leader of the German far-right movement PEGIDA has blamed the Paris attacks on the influx of migrants to Europe.

17/11/2015- Thousands joined a rally of Germany's far-right PEGIDA movement Monday, cheering a speaker who blamed the Paris jihadist attacks on what he labelled Europe's failed immigration policy. "The attacks didn't come out of nowhere," Siegfried Daebritz, a leader of the self-styled "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisa-tion of the Occident" (PEGIDA), told the flag-waving crowd in the eastern city of Dresden. "They are the result of an immigration policy that invites people from completely foreign cultures with completely different values into countries and regions whose culture many of these immigrants despise." The rally started with a minute's silence for the Paris victims. Some protesters waved the French tricolour flag, while others held up placards that said "Je suis Paris" and "Yesterday in Paris, tomorrow in Germany".

Police no longer give attendance figures for PEGIDA rallies, but an initiative by Dresden's university gave a crowd estimate of 9,000 to 12,000 -- far below their all-time record of 25,00 after January's jihadist attack against the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris. PEGIDA started life over a year ago as a xenophobic Facebook group, initially drawing just a few hundred protesters to demonstrations in Dresden. Interest began to wane following overtly racist comments by founder Lutz Bach-mann, which are now being investigated by prosecutors, and the surfacing of "selfies" in which he sported a Hitler moustache and hair-style. But PEGIDA has seen a revival as the influx of migrants to Germany has spiked, with the country expecting up to a million asylum seekers this year. The populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD), which shares many of PEGIDA's fears, has risen in recent polls to 10 percent support.

PEGIDA drew widespread condemnation in October after a speaker used Nazi-era rhetoric, including a reference to concentration camps, and after a protester displayed a miniature gallows with the names of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy. Merkel has repeatedly urged citizens to stay away from the rallies and shun those with "hate in their hearts". On Monday night the crowd again chanted "Merkel must go!" One protester, who gave his name as Thomas, 45, told AFP: "What happened in Paris just confirms what we have been warning about. It is very sad but not very surprising. We're probably next in line."


Germany: Paris changes everything on refugees: Bavaria

Conservative leaders in Germany insisted on linking the terror attacks in Paris on Friday night to the country's own refugee crisis, with calls emerging on Saturday for a crackdown at German borders.

14/11/2015- Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition allies in the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) quickly linked the Paris attacks to the refugee crisis in Germany. "Paris changes everything," Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder told Die Welt am Sonntag. "It cannot be that we don't know who is coming to Germany and what these people are doing here. This situation must be brought to an end by any means," said Söder, echoing comments by state premier Horst Seehofer. Söder added that Germany should consider following France's lead by closing the country's borders if the European Union was unable to secure its external frontiers – something the state of Bavaria might also do itself if federal action is not forthcoming, he said.

But federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière warned at a Berlin press conference that politicians shouldn't "hurry to create a link" between the Paris attacks and the refugee crisis, saying that careless words might raise tensions and worsen attacks on asylum seekers and refugee homes. The German Police Union (DPolG) also called for tougher action at the borders, with Ernst Walter, head of the DPolG federal police branch, calling for the "immediate conversion of the EU border agency Frontex to an effective European border police" in a statement. The Federal Police's newly-created anti-terror unit should immediately be released from all other duties to focus on the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, Walter said.

Green Party leader Cem Özdemir warned against conflating the Paris attackers with refugees arriving in Germany, saying that could lead to violence. "If far-right fanatics in this country declare the refugees who have themselves fled from Isis [which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks] to be targets, then they will be mocking the memory of the victims in Paris after they are dead," he told Tagesspiegel Am Sonntag.
© The Local - Germany


Belgium Calls off Spain Game After Raised Security Alert

16/11/2015- Belgium called off Tuesday's soccer match against Spain less than 24 hours before kickoff after the government raised the security threat level amid an investigation related to the Paris attacks. The Belgian football federation said the decision was taken late Monday after the government recommended that the game not be played. "After consulting with the relevant bodies and the Spanish national team, the (Belgian FA) decided to cancel the match," the federation said in a statement. "Right at the end of the evening, the (federation) was contacted by the government which recommended that the Belgium-Spain match should not go ahead tomorrow night. "It is in the context of a new elevated terrorist alert and the current pursuit of a suspect."

France has identified a Belgian man as the mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people on Friday. His current whereabouts are unknown. A major police operation took place in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek on Monday, although it failed to yield any arrests related to the attacks. The Ministry of the Interior's Crisis Center had raised the threat level earlier Monday, recommending the cancellation of the match on its website. "We deeply regret that such a friendly match between two motivated teams had to be cancelled so late and we understand the disappointment of numerous fans," the federation statement added. "However, taking into account these exceptional circumstances, we couldn't take any risk in the matter of the security of our players and supporters."

The attacks in Paris started when two explosions were set off by suicide bombers outside the Stade de France while the French national team was playing Germany. France is playing England at Wembley Stadium in London on Tuesday after the countries decided to go ahead with that game. The game in Brussels was set to pit the No. 1-ranked team in the world — Belgium — against the two-time defending European champion Spain in a warm-up match ahead of next year's Euro 2016 tournament. Before the cancellation, the Spain players had said they weren't worried about the security situation. "If we're going it's because it's safe, we're calm," Spain defender Marc Bartra said. Belgium is also set to host the Davis Cup final against Britain in Ghent later this month.
© The Associated Press


What’s the Matter With Belgium?

The small nation has become a major source of violent jihadists, both in Syria and Iraq and also inside Europe.

17/11/2015- French authorities say they believe Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian man, masterminded the November 13 attacks in Paris. The focus on Abaaoud helps emphasize how tiny Belgium has taken on an oversized role in the European theater of jihad. The country has provided a steady flow of fighters to ISIS in the Middle East—including Abaaoud—and has been the site of planning of attacks in Europe. (The Daily Beast has a good timeline of incidents involving Belgian militants.) Abaaoud was already suspected of planning a prior attack that was foiled by Belgian authorities in the days after January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Two suspects were killed in the operation. At the time, Slate’s Joshua Keating warned: “The Belgian police may claim today to have ‘averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo,’ but it’s clear that the country’s radicalization problem is much larger, and will take more than police raids to address.” Those words proved prophetic.

Belgium has just 11 million people, and Pew estimated that about 6 percent of the population was Muslim as of 2010. But Belgian and French nationals make up around a quarter of the Europeans who went to fight in Iraq in the mid-2000s. While the government has acknowledged that hundreds of Belgians have gone to fight with ISIS or for other groups in the Syrian civil war, Pieter Van Ostaeyen, an independent researcher, calculated in October that 516 Belgians had fought in Iraq or Syria, far higher than the government’s figures. Based on his numbers, Belgium has contributed more fighters per capita to the fight in the Levant than any other European country. The central figure in Belgian militant Islamism is Fouad Belkacem, a 33-year-old preacher and founder of the group Sharia4Belgium. He was born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, and is a disciple of the British radical Islamist Anjem Choudary.

Belkacem, who had been arrested for various petty crimes, organized burnings of American flags after 9/11 and harassed gay Muslims. Sharia4Belgium became a major feeder for fighters in Syria and Iraq, including Jejoen Bontinck, whom Ben Taub profiled in an excellent New Yorker story. Bontinck, a former TV dance-show celebrity, was a convert, as many of the most prominent European ISIS fighters have been. (Van Ostaeyen calculates that only 6 percent of Belgian-national ISIS fighters are converts, however.) Others, like Abaaoud, came from secular or mildly observant Muslim families, but became radicalized. In December 2014, Belkacem and 45 other members of Sharia4Belgium were found guilty of membership in a terrorist group. He is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Belgian jihadism seems to mimic French Islamist militancy, only more concentrated—as befits the smaller country. Both have large numbers of immigrants who are poorer and isolated from the dominant culture. Both countries have also seen far-right, anti-immigrant parties rise by loudly declaring a Muslim menace. Experts also say it is comparatively easy to acquire illegal guns in Belgium, making it an attractive base for operations. The Washington Post notes that Belgium’s unusual bilingualism—Flemish and French—makes it hard for immigrants who only speak French to find work and assimilate. And deep distrust between French- and Flemish-speaking government officials has created an elaborate and sclerotic security apparatus that doesn’t always deal with threats efficiently and promptly.

In particular, Belgian jihadism is concentrated in Molenbeek. It’s a neighborhood of nearly 100,000 people in Brussels, northwest of the city center, which has had a large Muslim population for many years. There are 22 known mosques in the district. Molenbeek shares some characteristics with the banlieues in French —densely populated, large immigrant populations, very high unemployment, complaints of inadequate government services, isolation from the central city and corridors of power. In other ways, however, Molenbeek is rather different: It has a strong middle class, bustling commercial districts, and a gentrifying artist class. “I notice that each time there is a link with Molenbeek,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said Sunday. “This is a gigantic problem. Apart from prevention, we should also focus more on repression.” (That unfortunate wording may be a failure of translation.) Interior Minister Jan Jambon added: “We don’t have control of the situation in Molenbeek at present.”

Jambon’s statement has reawakened concerns about Muslim “no-go zones” in European cities. It’s an idea Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor and Republican presidential hopeful, was heavily pushing in January. According to the myth, there were large zones that police forces had simply ceded to sharia gangs, and into which neither non-Muslims nor law enforcement dared to go. When I looked into it at the time, there was no evidence that such areas actually existed. Even Daniel Pipes, a leading alarmist about the threat of radical Islamism, argued that Jindal was mistaken in describing the banlieues that way. But there were disturbing reports of gangs of men intimidating or beating non-Muslims or residents whom they deemed insufficiently observant.

Does Molenbeek prove that no-go zones are real? On the one hand, there’s Jambon’s statement. But in other clear ways, Molenbeek doesn’t appear like a Muslim exclave in the middle of Brussels. Jambon himself pointed this out in his remarks on TV on Sunday, mentioning Molenbeek’s non-Muslim mayor and its own constabulary: “I see that Mayor Françoise Schepmans is also asking our help, and that the local police chief is willing to cooperate. We should join forces and ‘clean up’ the last bit that needs to be done, that’s really necessary.” Journalists seem to be having little trouble reporting from the area; Politico sent a reporter and photographer out in the neighborhood, and found that while residents were not eager to speak to the press, it looked in many ways like a typical, somewhat run-down district.

“Daily life in Molenbeek works well—but that’s maybe what has fooled us: that in ordinary life, there are no difficulties,” Schepmans, the mayor, said. “And next to that, there are people living in the shadow. And we have left them living in the shadow. We didn’t ask ourselves the right questions.”
© The Atlantic


Belgium:Inside Molenbeek,, troubled Brussels neighborhood linked to terror in Paris

The Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek is in the world spotlight like never before, as police move in looking for suspects linked to Friday's murderous attacks in Paris.
By Paul Ames

16/11/2015- The gritty inner-city district with a majority Muslim population is being portrayed as a jihadist breeding ground, a no-go area for the police where extremists have been free to plot terror. Besides the suspected links to Paris, a would-be gunman wrestled to the ground by American tourists on a high-speed train to Paris in August got his AK-47 from Molenbeek, prosecutors say. The Frenchman of Algerian origin who killed four people at Brussels' Jewish Museum was living there, as were two terror suspects shot dead by Belgian police in January. "Almost every time, there is a link to Molenbeek," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said over the weekend. Belgian authorities, who have long been criticized for a lax approach to radicals in the neighborhood, vowed to crack down. Justice Minister Jan Jambon pledged he'd oversee an operation to "cleanse" the area.

But Molenbeek's problems are not new. in 2012, Belgium's then-foreign minister jokingly compared the area to Afghanistan and far-right websites were already calling it "Mullahbeek." Molenbeek made headlines that summer when violence broke out following an attempt by police to check the identity of a woman wearing a niqab, which has been illegal in Belgium since 2010. She resisted, and in a scuffle a policewoman suffered a broken nose. In the neighborhood rumors spread that the woman had been stripped and manhandled by male officers. That night several dozen youths clashed with police. Days later another policewoman and a male colleague were stabbed in a Molenbeek subway station by a suspected extremist who traveled from France to "avenge the honor" of the veiled woman. The incidents sparked outrage among Belgian politicians. There were calls for Islamist extremists to be deprived of their Belgian nationality and deported.

Community leaders pointed out that the niqab-clad woman at the center of the incident was a native "Belgo-Belgian," without roots abroad, while the two injured policewomen were Muslims of Moroccan origin. Since then the area's problems have worsened. Wars in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East have fueled radicalization among disaffected youth. A country of 10 million, Belgium is believed to have produced an outsized number of foreign fighters for the ranks of IS and other radical groups in Syria. It's estimated more than 350 Belgian nationals may have joined the conflict. Over half of Molenbeek's population of about 95,000 is Muslim, mostly Moroccan immigrants and their descendents. The area shares many of the problems of high crime, rampant youth unemployment and overcrowded housing common to poor immigrant neighborhoods around Europe. Unemployment among people under 35 is above 30 percent.

"My dad was a steel worker, and when our parents' generation came over here they focused on their work and the education of their children," Noureddine Imnadine, a Moroccan-born architect, told me in 2012. "Many of us studied hard and did well, became architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, but nobody talks about that," he told me in his office in the neighborhood where he grew up. "Now times are different, there's not so much work around for this younger generation, so you have these kids hanging around on the streets, feeling excluded, stigmatized, angry. We need a social framework for these kids, to get them engaged in work or in some activities to get them off the street." The tightly packed row-house streets at the heart of Molenbeek's old industrial neighborhoods are just a short walk from the boutiques and chic cafes of downtown Brussels, but few well-heeled shoppers venture over the narrow canal that separates the district from the city center.

On the bright summer day when I visited, Molenbeek didn't appear so scary. Cafe terraces were filled with men gossiping over glasses of mint tea. Matrons in bright "djellaba" robes shopped for pastries scented with saffron and orange blossom, while newer immigrants from Poland or central Africa mingled in the line for groceries at the Dial Soussi Moroccan supermarket. "When Belgo-Belgians from outside do see the real Molenbeek, they are often astonished to discover that it's not like they've been told," local businessman Moutapha Beggar told me. After riots in the early 1990s the local officials in Molenbeek and Brussels city authorities launched efforts to improve integration. Services to fight "social exclusion" were set up, including a House of Cultures that sought to engage all sections of society in the arts. Funding was provided for a prestigious soccer academy for local youngsters.

Then gentrification began in parts of Molenbeek. Warehouses and factories were converted into fancy apartments, artists' studios and office space to attract new residents and business into the area. Yet staff at companies who moved in complained of robberies and vandalism. Women in particular accused Molenbeek city hall of minimizing street crime and harassment. "Youngsters have snatched our handbags, they have broken the windows of our cars, they have insulted us verbally to the extent that we're scared to our stomachs to go into the street," employees of the BBDO advertising agency wrote to the then-mayor. Social worker Ali Benabid told me Belgian politicians had repeatedly failed to deal with the area's real issues.

The right fueled alienation by blaming the whole community for crime and social problems, he said, while the left turned a blind eye to intolerance from religious conservatives because of political correctness or fear of losing votes. Moderate Muslims were caught in the middle. "There's a sort of cultural relativism, there are some parties that are prepared to accept the unacceptable on women's rights and other issues. They argue it's a cultural thing, instead of upholding universal rights," Benabid told me back in 2012. "That has to change." Three years on, the politicians may finally heed his words.
© The Global Post.


France: Migrant camp stormed by police amid fears it had been infiltrated by jihadis

The camp in Téteghem was home to more than 250 migrants

19/11/2015- French police have dismantled a migrant camp on the outskirts of Calais where nearly 250 people from Syria, Iraq and Iran had been living. More than 200 officers descended on the camp in Téteghem in an evacuation that the town’s mayor Franck Dhersin said had been decided upon a week ago, before the attacks in Paris. Local volunteers helped police erase all traces of the camp which had become the scene for numerous clashes between migrants and police in recent months. Local news outlet lepharedunkerquois reported Mr Dhersin as saying that it was a ‘rebel camp that we can tolerate no longer’.

The mayor said he had become concerned at the level of proselytizing taking place in certain parts of the camp. 'I saw with my own eyes an English group hand out Korans and organise sermons and prayers,’ he said. He had called for its dismantling since September as he believed it was 'in the hands of people smugglers'. In August, the camp was at the centre of a police operation to smash trafficking gangs ferrying migrants across the Channel. Police commissioner Jean Henri described the clearing of the camp as a ‘humanitarian operation’. ‘It was explained to them that the camp must close, but they need to understand that we are not putting them in jail,’ he said. The migrants were taken by five buses to be relocated to sports hall from where they will be sent to other parts of France.
© The Daily Mail.


France: Far-Right Backlash after Paris Attacks

By Rebecca Sheff

17/11/2015- On the heels of the horrific attacks in Paris, far-right groups in France are already escalating their xenophobic rhetoric and mobilizing supporters to turn their anger against refugees and immigrants. Muslim and immigrant communities across the country face a greatly increased risk of hate crimes. Indeed, violent confrontations are already happening. As hundreds of people gathered in Lille on Saturday to demonstrate support for the victims of the attacks, a small group of far-right supporters tried to force its way into the crowd. The extremists reportedly shouted insults and threats, set off smoke bombs, and brandished a banner that read: Kick Out the Islamists! They were repelled by other demonstrators, who yelled, “Keep out of it, fascists!”

In Pontivy, a far-right anti-immigrant demonstration on Sunday degenerated into violent confrontations with counter-protestors. It was organized weeks in advance by ADSAV, a local far-right nationalist group. Security forces intervened with tear gas and arrested several people. In the midst of the pandemonium, a man of North African origin was reportedly the victim of a hate crime: he was tackled and assaulted by six people while bystanders were unable or unwilling to intervene. In addition, an international convening of extreme far-right groups took place in Paris on November 14, organized by France’s Groupe Union Défense (GUD). Attendees reportedly included Greece’s notorious neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, along with groups from Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Belgium, South Africa, and Russia. We have received subsequent heartening updates that this was a small event, not seen as representative of the situation on the ground in France more broadly.

President Francois Hollande said he will seek to expand the scope of the national state of emergency and extend it for three months. The Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, announced that as part of this initiative, the government would dissolve radical mosques that “lash out at the values of the Republic.” This heavy-handed response may lead to the intimidation of the broader Muslim community. It would, in other words, play into the hand of extremists, who want to drive a wedge between Muslims and the government. As France determines its course of action and calls on its allies for support, an inclusive E.U.-led solution to the refugee crisis hangs in the balance. Yesterday Marine Le Pen—president of the National Front, a far-right party that rose to prominence largely on the strength of its anti-immigrant platform—called for the “immediate halt of all reception of migrants in France.” Other countries influenced by far-right movements have already spoken out against welcoming refugees after the Paris attacks.

Encouragingly, however, on Monday Hollande stated that it’s “vital” for the European Union to continue accepting refugees from Iraq and Syria. Government officials across Europe should recognize that these refugees are often themselves victims of ISIS and other extremist groups, who risk their lives to be somewhere where their rights will be protected. Human Rights First has issued recommendations on how the United States can best support France and provide the sort of solidarity that ensures, as President Obama said after the attacks, that “our values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism.” How France responds now will determine whether this cycle of violence is disrupted or perpetuated.
This blog post has been updated in light of recent reports and developments.
© Human Rights First


France: Paris’s Muslims and Jews are now more anxious than ever

After the attacks, Muslims hope to escape a backlash. Jews hope the majority has finally understood the threat

17/11/2015- Under a traffic bridge not far from the famous Saint-Ouen flea market in northern Paris is another, more dismal curbside market, where immigrants sell scraps of used clothing, single shoes and bashed-up electronic equipment. The dominant language here is Arabic, and new arrivals from Syria exchange information on how to reach Britain. After the November 13th attacks, carried out by members of Islamic State (IS) and directed from the movement’s headquarters in Syria, the main concern is over how border controls could be affected. “This will only make people blame us, though we’re escaping IS ourselves,” worries Abdel Manal, recently arrived in Paris from Aleppo. Election posters for the far-right National Front are plastered on the walls, showing a threatening young woman in a niqab head-covering, but the local Muslim residents don’t seem to fear a backlash.

“The Front are just trying to provoke people,” says Mubarak Bariki, a Tunisian-born male nurse. The perpetrators of the attacks were “doing something which is haram (forbidden)”. Some in the market insist that that the attacks were fictions invented by America and Israel to hurt Muslims. “There’s no such thing as IS,” said one young man. In relatively liberal Paris, Muslims do not seem to fear retribution. In other French cities, anti-Muslim slogans have been chanted at memorial rallies and graffiti daubed on mosques. The desire not to be identified with the perpetrators motivated a group of imams, joined by rabbis, to lay candles and flowers at the Bataclan theatre, site of the greatest carnage in Paris. But as new details emerge about the identities of the attackers, at least two of whom were French-born, questions are inevitably being raised about the failed integration (or radicalisation) of too many of the children of France’s immigrants from its former colonies in north Africa. The national census does not mention religion, but demographers estimate that 5-10% of French are Muslim.

“After 25 years of speaking about [the issue of] French Muslims, all the governments have failed,” says Olivier Roy of the European University Institute, an expert on radicalisation in France. One problem, he argues, is that Muslim communities are highly fragmented. Politicians tend to appoint their own interlocutors. These purported local leaders have little following, while imams are credible only inside their own mosques. While the public imagines Muslim youth as disenfranchised and poor, many are actually middle-class individualists who “despise those who are chosen by the government to speak on their behalf.” Many of the security personnel who responded to the attacks were Muslims. Liberals argue that they should be considered better representatives of France’s Muslims than the murderers.

French Jews are much better integrated than Muslims. For them, Friday’s violence was a reminder of the second round of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, which targeted a kosher supermarket in Paris, and of the attack in 2012 at the entrance to a Jewish school in Toulouse. Following the supermarket attack, Jewish institutions throughout France were guarded by soldiers. French Jews reacted with ambivalence, at once glad of the protection and distressed at their status as endangered subjects. The attacks spurred an already rising wave of emigration: about 9000 Jews are expected to leave France for Israel this year.

French Jews hope the latest killings, which targeted public spaces seemingly at random, will reinforce the sense that all citizens are in the same boat. “What has happened should make everyone realise that we need better security for all of France, not just the Jews,” says Levi Matusof, rabbi of a congregation in Paris’s 16th arondissement. In a practical sense, there may be no other choice. Patrick Klugman, a deputy mayor of Paris and a former president of the Jewish student union, says there is simply nothing more that can be done to improve security at Jewish institutions. “Now we should hope that because many of the casualties were young French Muslims, they can also speak out,” Mr Klugman says.
© The Economist


France: Muslim and Jewish leaders gather at Paris concert hall memorial

It is time to close ‘places of hate’, says imam in group carrying white roses and singing La Marseillaise at scene of massacre.

15/11/2015- French Muslim leaders gathered outside the Bataclan concert hall on Sunday to honour the 89 people who died there in the bloodiest attack by jihadi terrorists France has known. They carried white roses, which they laid among the hundreds of candles and bouquets left by members of the public and were accompanied, as a show of inter-faith solidarity, by representatives of the French capital’s Jewish community. As the group stood at the barriers around the music venue where heavily armed gunmen went on a murderous rampage on Friday night, they broke into a ragged rendition of La Marseillaise. The message and symbolism was perfectly clear: the four gunmen who stormed the Bataclan, cutting down concertgoers in a hail of bullets then picking survivors off one by one with cold-blooded precision, may have claimed to be killing on behalf of Islamic State, but their actions had nothing to do with Islam.

In case anyone – specifically France’s far right and its supporters – were minded to miss it, Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy, a Paris suburb, spelled it out. “Anyone who uses hate speech has no place in France and those places that preach hate are not places of prayer but are those of a sect. After this tragedy and the more than 100 deaths, now is the time to close these places of hate,” Chalghoumi, president of the imams’ conference of France, told the crowd. Chalghoumi, who says he is the subject of an Islamic State “fatwa” calling for his killing, said: “1.5 million people are hostages of Daesh, 1.5 million people are hostages of these barbarians who are sullying the name of Islam and Muslims. It’s time to say no to this barbarity.” The flower-laying ceremony, initiated by the Polish-born French Jewish author Marek Halter, came as political analysts warned that Friday’s series of coordinated attacks across Paris could play into the hands of the far-right Front National (FN) just weeks before regional elections.

The FN president, Marine Le Pen, who met France’s president, François Hollande, on Sunday afternoon, has called for a series of measures to combat Islamic extremism. These include stripping those linked to radical Islamist movements of their French nationality and expelling them from France and for the state to “rearm” and wrest back permanent control of its borders, in defiance of Europe and the Schengen agreement. Le Figaro reported that some insiders at the FN headquarters outside Paris feel the public mood is swinging their way and is reflected in the combative tone adopted by the French government. “As always, it risks being a lot of words and not much action and we have the impression, for the moment, that they’re saying what the country wants to hear. But there’s a new urgency … people want a complete change of politics,” one FN source told the newspaper.

Laurent Bouvet, a professor of political science at Versailles University, said the fearful atmosphere created by terrorism made the FN’s message seem relevant. “People in Paris tell journalists they are not confusing Islam with terrorism, and that is true, but Paris is not France and that is not necessarily how people outside the city, in FN strongholds like the Nord Pas de Calais or Provence Alps Cote d’Azur, see things. Or how they vote,” he said. “Fear, insecurity, questions of nationality, closing borders and cracking down, all this kind of talk can benefit Marine Le Pen.” Earlier, the imam of Bordeaux, Tarek Oubrou told Le Journal du Dimanche: “From a religious point of view, Islam’s position is very clear: these murders call for a triple condemnation – ethical, legal and theological. “Ethical because no morality allows for the killing of innocent people, legal because these acts do not respect war as it is decreed in the Muslim tradition and theological because these suicide bombers are convinced they’re going to heaven when they actually risk finding themselves in hell.” He said that communications from Muslim institutions, however, were not enough: “Muslims must also demonstrate to say ‘stop’ – to say that we don’t accept these actions being done in the name of our religion.”
© The Guardian


France's far-right Le Pen says government soft on security

14/11/2015- France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Saturday that the Socialist government badly needed to toughen up on security following the attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead. "The nation must remain united," she said in response to President Francois Hollande's call for the country to stand united across the political spectrum in the face of the tragedy. But in a taste of potential opposition criticism over lax security, she added: "Beyond words, only forceful relentless action can protect the French and maintain this unity.(But) France and the French are no longer safe (and) urgent measures are needed." Saying France had become "vulnerable", she called for Islamist organisations to be banned and radical mosques closed. "Foreigners who preach hatred must be expelled as well as illegals who have nothing to do here," she said.

Earlier, conservative opposition leader and former president Nicolas Sarkozy also put the accent on tight security. "The terrorists have engaged in war with France," he said. "The war we must wage must be total, our duty is to take the extreme seriousness of the situation into account and draw the consequences, in terms of action." The coordinated attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group left the seven gunmen and suicide bombers dead and injured 352 people injured, 99 of them in critical state. A Syrian passport was found near the remains of one suicide bomber, the Paris prosecutor said, while another of the seven was identified as a French national known to intelligence services.


France: Far-right protesters who stormed vigil chased away by attendees shouting 'go away fascists'

After they had gone, the crowd broke its silence, singing the French national anthem La Marseilleise

14/11/2015- Far-right protesters wielding the French flag stormed a silent solidarity march for the Paris attack victims in Lille this afternoon – but got more than they bargained for when hundreds of those gathering to pay their respects chased them away shouting “Go away fascists”. The silent vigil had begun at 3pm but was inter-rupted within 15 minutes by a group of around 15 people the march’s organisers said were Front National supporters. They infuriated the crowd after spilling on to the square screaming “Expel Islamists”, throwing firecrackers and unveiling an Islamophobic banner. They were angrily pushed back and then forced to retreat across the square where minutes before protestors had been silently holding up signs saying “I am not afraid” – and traffic was held up as they spilled out on to the road. Security forces intervened to separate the two groups before tensions escalated further and the far-right protestors moved, still singing, to a street further away. After they had gone, the crowd broke its silence, singing the French national anthem La Marseilleise. Authorities had discouraged the public gathering but the League of the Right’s of Man, a human rights NGO that organised it, got the go-ahead from the local police station.
© The Independent


Terror attacks in Paris: no place for hate

14/11/2015- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns the horrific attacks in Paris yesterday and mourns the many victims. No community or group has been left unharmed by this indiscriminate violence. It is crucial to refrain from incitement to hatred and violence against innocent people in the aftermath of these attacks. The response to hate must be unity, solidarity and respect for the rule of law. United we have fallen, united we will stand up again. Our thoughts go to the victims and their families.
© EUropean Network Against Racism


Swedish city 'is largest recruiting ground for Isis'

Gothenburg, in western Sweden is, per capita, the European city from which most people have joined Islamic extremist groups, according to Swedish integration police chief, Ulf Boström.

15/11/2015- The largest of these groups is Islamic State (Isis), which claims to have carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people. Boström, who works with the Muslim community in Gothenburg, told Swedish newspaper Göteborg-Posten on Sunday that Isis “has the strength, intellectual capacity and ability to coordinate. They are no fools.” Previous statistics from the Swedish security service, Säpo, suggest that just over 300 Swedish nationals have left the country to travel to fight with Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. 40 percent of those – around 120 young men – are from the Gothenburg area, primarily from Bergsjön and Angered. According to Boström this means that Gothenburg is the European city which, in proportion to its population, contributes the highest number of people to violent extremism.

Boström says that those who are radicalised are from the same demographic that form the criminal gangs in the Gothenburg suburbs, young people who believe they have no future. “This really affects my work in Gothenburg as the vast majority of Muslims here hate the terrorist attacks. They sometimes ask me, ‘How do you protect the good Muslims’. They are terrified that this kind of terrorism creates a more xenophobic Europe.” Boström has previously been very critical of the Swedish government's approach to returning jihadis. In May he told Göteborg-Posten that at least 50 Swedish jihadis, and perhaps as many as 100, have returned to Sweden and not one has been prosecuted under the laws related to terrorist crimes.

"It is incomprehensible. Here we have the names and social security numbers of people who travel to Syria to fight and we know about it. Some come home and when they do, they can get health care and help, and then go right back down there again. Sweden is one of the few countries, if not the only one, where it is possible to travel in and out like this," he said at the time. Meanwhile, Erik Nord, chief executive of the police in Greater Gothenburg, has noted there is at present no increased threat against the city. "However, there is a degree of insecurity, and this has meant that we have decided to increase oversight of Muslim and Jewish institutions," he said.
© The Local - Sweden


Headlines 13 November, 2015

Ukraine gives equal rights to gay workers, to please Brussels

13/11/2015- Members of the Ukrainian parliament granted equal rights to gay workers on Thursday (12 November), but several did it more out of necessity than of conviction. The adopted legislation was a requirement from Brussels if Ukraine wants visa-free travel. As a result of the vote, Ukraine's labour code will be amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds on which discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. But the preceding debate showed that, for many members of parliament, the issue was seen as a trade-off. The European Union had set the inclusion of anti-discriminatory provision for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgen-der, and intersex (LGTBI) people as a prerequisite for visa-free travel by Ukrainians to those European countries which are part of the Schengen area. It was also framed in Kiev as a measure required to move closer to the EU out fear of Russia.

“It’s better to have a gay parade on [Kiev's main street] Khreshchatyk than Russian tanks in the centre of the Ukrainian capital,” said MP Yuri Lutsenko, who is a member of president Petro Poroshenko's party. “I believe if we go to Europe, we must recognise the rules adopted in the EU,” Lutsenko added. For his part, the Ukrainian president had promised ahead of a previous attempt that if MPs voted yes, “Ukrainian citizens [can] visit EU countries without visas as early as next year.” Thursday's passing of the vote, with 234 members of the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada voting Yes, was the third attempt this month to pass the bill. A week earlier, on Thursday (5 November), 117 MPs had voted Yes. At Wednesday's attempt, 207 MPs were in favour. Those opposed had argued the bill was an attack on Ukraine's Christian Orthodox values. MP Pavlo Unguryan, of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s pro-EU party, said last week “a special status for sexual minorities is simply unacceptable”.

Gay activist Maxim Eristavi told Gay Star News Wednesday that homophobia is still very much ingrained in Ukrainian society and politics. “There is a rising culture of absence of prosecution for those initiating violence against minorities, including but not limited to LGBTI people,” said Eristavi. A small gay pride in Kiev this summer was disrupted by an attack by right-wing protesters. The country's pro-Western, English-language newspaper Kyiv Post, wrote in an editorial Thursday after the vote, Ukrainian “lawmakers pass[ed] a bill that would have been passed without hesitation in most Western countries.” “With its reluctance to pass this crucial legislation, Ukraine showed that it is still plagued by the same Soviet bigotry as its backward and belligerent neighbour,” the paper said.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the LGBTI lobby group Ilga Europe called the adoption of the bill an “important milestone.” “Today, we have witnessed great change in Ukraine. This result is a victory for the LGBTI community and Ilga-Europe send our congratulations to those parliamentarians who voted in favour of human rights and fundamental freedoms today,” Ilga-Europe said in a statement.
© The EUobserver


Italy: Security boosted at Milan Jewish sites after stabbing

13/11/2015- Italy boosted security at Jewish sites in Milan on Friday after an Israeli Jew was knifed in the city, police said. Nathan Graff was stabbed in the back and face on Thursday evening by an unknown assailant near a Jewish school in Italy's financial capital, police said. They added that his wounds were not life threatening. The attacker has not yet been caught and his motives are not known, but a judicial source said anti-terrorism prosecutors were investigating whether it was a hate crime. Members of the Jewish community in Milan said Graff was wearing a kippa, or skullcap, at the time of the attack. "Let us hope this was an isolated incident," Milo Hasbani, co-president of the Jewish community in Milan, told reporters after meeting city officials to discuss the stabbing. "We have never had problems in Milan. We are well integrated into the city and have no fear ... We don't think this was a personal affair, there is nothing to suggest that." Police said they were looking at video from surveillance cameras in the area to try to identify the attacker. If it is confirmed as a hate attack, it would echo a spate of recent stabbings in Israel and the occupied West Bank, with Palestinians lashing out at Israelis in the worst wave of violence in the area since the 2014 Gaza war.
© Reuters


Marion Le Pen, heiress to France's far-right in quest for power

13/11/2015- A huge 1990s election poster of Marion Marechal-Le Pen as a blonde toddler with her grandfather, founder of France's far-right National Front party, greets visitors at her campaign headquarters. Now a 25-year-old rising political star and France's youngest lawmaker, she wants to win a December local election in southern France, to put the anti-immigration, anti-Europe party started by the maverick Jean-Marie Le Pen on a firmer footing for the 2017 presidential vote. Like her aunt, National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, she hopes to bring the party into the mainstream, distancing it from the patriarch's shock tactics, including comments playing down the Holocaust that Marine expelled him for this summer. "We're advancing step by step, we're building credibility... this is reassuring French citizens and breaks the 'fear argument' that people use against us," Marechal-Le Pen told Reuters at the Carpentras headquarters in a recent interview.

"We know that in this election the National Front plays double-or-quits," she said. "Any FN region will be scrutinized, monitored." Polished, softly-spoken and comfortable smiling for selfies with supporters, opinion polls show Marechal-Le Pen neck-and-neck with former president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives, with the Socialists, who rule both France and the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region, far behind. It is one of up to three regions which polls show the far-right might win out of thirteen, with Marine Le Pen leading in the northern France Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, a former left-wing bastion.

While Jean-Marie Le Pen drew protest votes, his daughter and granddaughter have attracted more voters disillusioned with mainstream parties, tapping into anger towards the ruling Socialists about high unemployment and corruption scandals in the south as well as growing concerns about immigration. "I've met her several times, she's nice, she's approachable. Marion Marechal-Le Pen is France's future," said 80-year old Marie-Therese Boyer at a campaign rally in Carpentras, proudly holding a signed campaign poster. The retired farmer, who does cleaning jobs to make ends meet, is typical of voters who turn to the FN because they feel neglected by mainstream parties.

The FN won 11 municipalities out of 36,000 in elections last year. It also won more votes than any other party in last year's European elections and has two seats, including Marechal-le Pen, in the lower house of France's parliament and two representatives in the Senate. Winning a first region would prove the FN has moved deeper into the mainstream and give Marine Le Pen and Marechal-Le Pen a chance to show they can govern, after attempts to run towns in the 1990s were widely judged to have highlighted FN shortcomings, including one illegal policy favoring French inhabitants over foreigners. "We will absolutely respect the law until we are in government at the national level and can change it," Marechal-Le Pen said.

Not A Puppet
A regional win could also help the FN's prospects in the 2017 national vote and the two major parties - President Francois Hollande's Socialists and Sarkozy's Republicans - have been getting increasingly nervous about the prospect. In 2012, Marine Le Pen won 17.9 pct of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections in 2012 but did not make it to the second round, unlike her father in 2002. Jean-Marie's shock result triggered protests and many voted tactically to keep him out of power. But with Marechal-Le Pen helping to bring a younger, more modern touch to the party's image, FN wins provoke little reaction these days.

After a rocky start in politics when she burst into tears after a TV reporter's question, she now speaks confidently in parliament and is at ease at campaign rallies, although she is not yet as skilled a speaker as her aunt and grandfather. "She is a political heiress but certainly not a puppet," said political analyst Joel Gombin "One should not under-estimate her." While cultivating a more modern image than her grandfather, she is no moderate and shares his views that immigration is to blame for much of France's woes, tapping into concerns over the unprecedented numbers seeking refuge like other far-right and euroskeptic parties across Europe.

France "can't afford" to take in Syrian refugees, she said, talking of "migratory submersion" and saying that, should she win in December, she would stop any subsidies from the region to refugees as well as to charities that help migrant workers. The Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region borders Italy and is one of the paths Syrian, Iraqi asylum seekers and others take to northern Europe and there is some sympathy to her views. "She's right to say there are too many migrants. We're allowing more and more in when there are old people here who are starving," said Boyer.

Although both seek to attract more mainstream voters, there are differences between Marine and Marion, including the latter's close ties with her grandfather. She is also seen as more conservative and took part in "Manif pour tous" (Protest for all) rallies against gay marriage laws which Marine avoided. Marechal-Le Pen kept away from the public feud between him and her aunt during the summer and downplays any differences, insisting she is in politics to back and support her aunt. "I don't see where that (talk of rivalry) comes from," she said. "Marine Le Pen belongs to her generation, I belong to mine. I got into politics for Marine Le Pen and with her as party leader." She nevertheless describes herself as a heiress to her grandfather, crediting him for persuading her to run in 2012 when she became the lawmaker for the Carpentras area aged 22. "He told me if you don't go for it you're not a Le Pen," she said.
© Reuters


Georgia: Transgender Day of Remembrance Held in Tbilisi

11/11/2015- Georgian LGBT activists organized the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 10th. They hope that November 10th will become the national counterpart to the international Transgender Day of Remembrance occurring annually on November 20th. Activists held a rally at the Public Service Hall in remembrance of the one year anniversary of the death of transgender woman Sabi Beriani and demanded they punish the person who murdered her. Until October 10th 2014 there were no recorded murders of transgender people in Georgia. The rally was also held because Transgender individuals are asking for a change in the law in terms of gender identity documents. “Recognizing a person’s sex is a difficult procedure in Georgia. It requires surgeries many transgender people can’t afford. The Government should take this into account. There is a practice in the world where the diagnosis of gender dysphoria makes it possible to change sex in identity and other documents,” Beka Gabadadze, Chairman of the LGBT Georgia board stated.

25 year-old transgender woman Sabi Beriani was killed on November 10th 2014. Her body was discovered by the fire and rescue services called to her house to stop a fire that had started there. The body was discovered with multiple knife wounds. It is thought accused, Levan Kochlashvili, killed her, set fire to her apartment and then fled the scene. Kochlashvili was found not guilty of premeditated murder by the Tbilisi City Court. He was found guilty of two further charges however; beating and intentional damage or destruction, and sentenced to four years in prison. According to the official statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, disputes between the deceased and the accused were thought to relate to money. Though some LGBT activists think it was a hate crime based on Beriani’s gender identity. The rally was organized by LGBT Georgia, Women’s Fund Georgia and Temida.
© Georgia Today


Sweden: Xenophobia and antiziganism on the rise

Sweden and other Nordic countries have long been viewed as exemplary in terms of the protection of minorities. By the public they are seen as the quintessential tolerant and human rights-based countries. Recently, however, the international press and media have also reported on the rise racism and hate crimes in Sweden.
By Alexander Armbäck

10/11/2015- Although Sweden remains the only European country in which the majority has a positive attitude to non-EU immigration (European Commission, 2015), the growing number of racist attacks in the country have raised alarms recently. Recently, a host of examples for the growing racism in Sweden were highlighted by a UN report, published on August 25, 2015. The text revealed that “the group most vulnerable to racist hate crimes is that of Afro-Swedes”, with 1,075 Afrophobic hate crimes having been reported last year in the Nordic country, which marks a rise from the previous year’s 980. The paper also revealed the structural and institutional racism people of African descent face in Sweden, noting that “a general Swedish self-perception of being a tolerant and humane society” might obstruct the recognition of these barriers to racial equality (United Nations, 2015).

Besides having the highest per capita inflow of asylum seekers among OECD countries (OECD, 2015), Sweden also faces a new wave of immigrants from the newly accessed members of the EU. The latter group, arriving mostly from Southern Europe, has also “tested limits of Swedish tolerance”, as The New York Times has put it recently. It refers to both the rise in the popularity of the right-wing populism and the escalating number of attacks against Roma beggars, who provide a novel sight in the streets of Swedish cities (Castle, 2015). (European migrants without employment are not eligible for social welfare benefits in Sweden, but begging is not illegal in the country. – The ed.)

The government estimates that approximately 5000 migrants are begging in Sweden. Many of them live in camps or on the streets (Castle, 2015). Most of these camps are located in the outskirts of cities, but some of them also in downtown areas, like in Malmö. There have been numerous attacks on beggars and in Roma camps lately in Sweden. During 2014 300 attacks were reported, an increase of 23% compared to the year before (Dickson & Von Hildebrand, 2015). Recent attacks include a camp in Malmö, which was set in fire; in Boras a beggar got ran over by a moped, in a camp in Skara another was wounded with an air rifle and in a public park Stockholm a corrosive fluid was doused on a 27-year-old Roma from Romania in his sleep (Castle, 2015).

Far-right parties also fuel xenophobia all over Europe. In 2010, the anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) entered the Swedish parliament with 5.7% of the votes, which increased to increased to 12.7% in the 2014 elections. A poll in September 2015 showed that the Sweden Democrats, for the first time, became the most popular party in the country, with 25,2% of the voters supporting them (TNS Sifo, 2015). It was preceded by their anti-begging campaign a month earlier at a subway station in central Stockholm. Their controversial banners, receiving international publicity, read: “Sorry about the mess here in Sweden. We have a serious problem with forced begging! International gangs profit from people’s desperation. Our government won’t do what’s needed. But we will! And we’re growing at records speed. We are the Sweden Democrats! Welcome back in Sweden in 2018!” (Bolton, 2015).

These texts were shown together with pictures of people sleeping in the street. The next day, thousands of Swedish people demonstrated in downtown against the advertisements. The organizers of the event stated that the campaign of the Sweden Democrats “kicks at some of the most vulnerable in our society”. Two people were also arrested for trying to tear down the adverts (Bolton, 2015). Earlier the human rights abuses of the Swedish police against the Roma stirred a similar controversy. On March 5th 2015 the Swedish human rights group Civil Rights Defenders sued the Swedish state for breaking a number of human rights laws. The group represents 11 Roma Swedes of the thousands who have been registered in a police registry based on their ethnicity.

In 2013 the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed that the police in Skåne County, the southernmost region of Sweden has secretly registered nearly 5000 Roma people, mostly with no criminal record, and 1000 of them children. The registration was declared illegal by the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection, but the authority did not consider it as a case of ethnic discrimination, endorsing the claim that the basis of the registration was familial ties to criminals. Although the Parliamentary Ombudsman Cecilia Renfors accepted this framing, she nevertheless claimed that the database also “acquired a character of an ethnic register” (Civil Rights Defenders, 2015; Löfgren, 2015).

Despite the registry having been declared illegal, no one was held responsible for its creation. The Swedish national police commissioner made an apology and the people registered were offered an indemnity of SEK 5000 (500 EUR), a measure some of the affected felt offensive. Critics of the illicit actions suggest these events significantly damaged the trust of Roma Swedes towards the Swedish police and justice system (Civil Rights Defenders, 2015). The chairman of the Commission against Antiziganism of the Swedish Government, Thomas Hammarberg stated:
This has been a huge shock among the Roma themselves. Some of them had begun to believe that the time to be especially singled out was over. Roma are concerned that the registration itself plus the police’s attitude that the register was justified, should be perceived as a confirmation of the prejudices about the Roma being more criminal than other groups. Moreover, it leads to Roma people not going to the police when they are victims of crime” (Nylander, 2015).

The issue came to light just in the wake of efforts by the Swedish government to reveal “the abuses, neglect and discriminatory measures inflicted on the Roma minority in the 20th century” (Ministry of Employment, 2012). According to the authors of a 2010 government report, a close examination of this part of history is necessary to rebuild the trust between the Roma and the majority society that was eroded by systematic discrimination. In the history of Sweden ethnic registries were made by the church and state institutions, which later provided the ground for the mistreatment of the Roma. For example the practice of forced sterilization, of which the public has been made aware by the government report The dark unknown history: White paper on abuses and rights violations against Roma in the 20th century (Ministry of Culture Sweden, 2015).

The recent events in Sweden can also remind us of what happened in other countries before and during World War II, an experience affecting many Roma who arrived to the country in the second half of the 20th century. In Germany the registration of Roma started already in the 1920s, due to the so-called “Law for the Fight Against Gypsies, Vagrants and the Workshy”, which banned the Roma from a travelling lifestyle, subjected them to surveillance and ordered the unemployed Roma to be sent to forced labour. Some years later, the same registries provided the ground for the enforcement of the racial purity laws of Nazi Germany, culminating in the persecution and genocide committed against the Roma (Barsony & Daroczi, 2008).
Alexander Armbäck is an intern at Romedia Foundation in the Fall 2015 semester. He is a student of the Ethnic and Minority Studies Master Program at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

Barsony, J., Daroczi, A. (2008). Pharrajimos: The fate of the Roma during the holocaust. New York, NY: The International Debate Education Association.
Bolton, D. (2015, August 4). Racist advert for far-right Sweden Democrats on Stockholm Metro prompts huge protest. Retrevied from
Castle, S. (2015, August 8). Poor E.U Migrants test limits of Swedish tolerance. Restrieved from
Civil Rights Defenders. (2015, March 5). We are Suing the Swedish State for the Police Register of Roma [Press release]. Retrieved from
Dickson, D. & Von Hildebrand, E. (2015, August 24). Swedish tolerance under question as attackts on migrants rise. Retrieved from
European Commission. (2015). Standard Eurobarometer 83.
Löfgren, E. (2015, March 17). ‘Illegal’ police register of Roma Swedes slammed. Retrieved from
Ministry of Culture Sweden. (2015). The dark unknown history: White paper on abuses and right violations against Roma in the 20th century. Retrieved from—white-paper-on-abuses-and-rights-violations-against-roma-in-the-20th-century-ds-20148
Ministry of Employment. (2011). A coordinated long-term strategy for Roma inclusion 2012–2032.
Nylander, L. (2015, April 14). Historiska paralleler till hur tomer behandlas idag. Retrieved from
OECD. (2015). International Migration Outlook 2015. Retrieved from
United Nations. (2015). Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its sixteenth session. Addendum. Mission to Sweden. Retrieved from
TNS Sifo. (2015). Väljarbarometern. Retrieved from
© The Romedia foundation


European Court of Human Rights rules against French ‘anti-Semitic’ comic

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected claims by a French comedian that his right to speak freely was denied when he was convicted and fined in France for insulting Jews.

10/11/2015- The court said Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a provocative performer who has been repeatedly accused of hate speech and anti-Semitism, could not claim the protection of free speech guarantees in the European Convention on Human Rights. In his last conviction in March, he was found guilty of condoning terrorism by posting a joke on his Facebook page about the January Islamist militant attacks that killed 17 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket.

Charlie Hebdo can and does lampoon religions freely because blasphemy is not a crime in France. But Dieudonne’s jibes at followers of a specific religion, in this case Jews, fall under a law against inciting hatred of certain people or groups because of their race, religion or ethnicity. France has Europe’s largest Jewish population, estimated at about 600,000, but also sees a steady emigration to Israel of Jews who say they no longer feel safe in the country. Synagogues across the country are under armed military guard since the attacks in January. The four victims killed at the Hyper Cacher supermarket were all Jews.
© Reuters


Slovakia: Far-right party pushes the limits

Štefánia Lorándová saved hundreds of lives during the holocaust forging documents for Jews in Hungary who could then escape from the country. Ultimately she ended up in a concentration camp. Far-right party People’s Party Our Slovakia filed a criminal complaint on October 29 for publishing her story.

10/11/2015- NGO Post Bellum which documents the memories of witnesses of the important historical phenomenons of the 20th century published her story as part of their exhibition commemorating 70th anniversary of the end World War II in Banská Bystrica. The party filed the complaint, claiming that her story promotes violence and suppression of human rights. “We were surprised and I think that this is their way how they promote themselves,” Post Bellum head Lenka Kopųivová told The Slovak Spectator.

Some days earlier the party’s leader and Banská Bystrica Self-Governing Region (BBSK) governor Marian Kotleba approached secondary schools in the region with the request to re-schedule cultural events and discussions to the afternoon, extra-curricular hours. Instead, he recommended them to organise beauty pageants. This was done in order to prevent the events of the Stop Extremism! project to take place at schools. Kotleba first scrapped the project of granted state donation and later – when they were to take place anyway – they should be replaced by beauty contests, according to Marian Pecko, the art director of the Puppet Theatre at the Crossorads which runs the project.

Twisting historical facts
Štefánia Lorándová was a member of Hashomer, the Jewish defence organization originated by Zionists, during the Second World War. Its members were joining the fight against Nazism and helping Jews flee from Nazi countries. In its criminal complaint People’s Party Our Slovakia refers to a United Nations Security Council resolution from 1975 where it “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. What the party did not mention is that it was politically motivated resolution which was later cancelled in 1991, reads the Post Bellum statement. It is, however, encouraging that the party refers to a UN resolution against any form of racial discrimination, according to Post Bellum. “The basic idea of this document is that all people, no matter what their race or nationality, are equal,” read the organisation’s statement. “We call on People’s Party Our Slovakia to honour and follow this general principle.”

Misusing history
The party is wrong when it says that Zionism is an ideology suppressing human rights, according to Katarína Hradská, a historian with the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Zionism was a modern Jewish nationalism preaching the need to create a Jewish state. Its followers were educating themselves, studying Hebrew or Yiddish and improving their physical condition, in order to help them adapt to demanding conditions in their new homeland. “Zionism, its ideas and practical pursuit of them was not connected with violation of human rights and freedoms in any way,” Hradská told the Slovak Spectator. Argumentation of Slovak ultra-nationalists criticising Israeli nationalism is hypocritical and factually inaccurate.

The filing of a criminal complaint is an expression of anti-Semitism. Far-right parties hide it with an alleged fight against Zionism to avoid being called anti-Semitists, according to political scientist specialising in extremism Tomáš Nociar. “Such statements can be considered as signs of real ideological background of some party’s main representatives,” Nociar told The Slovak Spectator. “They try to gather political support with issues like an anti-Roma agenda or criticism of traditional politicians, but at the same time they show hard core of activists that they don’t forget traditional issues of far-right extremism such as biological racism, anti-Semitism and anti-democratic sentiment.”

Dispute with theatre
Valentína Kaliská is the head of the students’ board at Grammar School of Andrej Sládkovič in Banská Bystrica. Currently, the board is tasked with organising a beauty contest at the school, but students are not very enthusiastic about that and feel that they were forced to do it, according to Kaliská who called the contest a “primitive event”. “I don’t like that we are indirectly forced to organise this event,” Kaliská told the Sme daily. “We are preparing it because we were forced to, but time will show how this will end.” Students approached by The Slovak Spectator and Sme see a connection between contests and the dispute of BBSK with the Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads. Even writer Jana Juráņová who was the first one to point out this issue considers Kotleba’s steps to be a reaction to the theatre organising anti-extremists events at schools. A puppet theatre, received a grant of €6,985 from the Foreign Affairs Ministry for a project entitled Stop to Extremism concerning the problems of extremism, xenophobia and racism in society.

The authors wanted to address secondary school students from lower income municipalities in the region and prepared a play and a course together with Amnesty International. Kotleba, however, refused to sign-off on the allocation, complaining about the presence of Amnesty International and the way the project wanted to present the issue. Under current rules, all grant agreements must be signed by regional governments if they own the theatres. Subsequently the theatre received €1,629 via a public collection and asked for a subsidy from the Orange Foundation. In addition, members of the BBSK regional parliament donated about €7,000 to the theatre. The theatre is using the money to implement the project at schools despite Kotleba’s protests. BBSK’s recommendation to organise a beauty pageant came only a few days after Kotleba’s office requested schools to re-schedule cultural events and discussions which is just another way to fight against theatre. The pageant therefore functions as a distraction from this serious issue, critics say.

Inappropriate intervention
BBSK refused such interpretation. The regional beauty pageant was planned long before Kotleba refused to sign the funds for Theatre at the Crossorads’s project Stop Extremism, according to BBSK spokesperson Michaela Piliarová. “School directors were complaining that events and discussions running at schools disrupt the education process at schools,” Piliarová said. This argument is strange because directors have the power to decide when and what events will be organised during the school hours. When they do not want to have an extensive number of those events they simply will not allow them, according to Vladimír Burjan, editor-in-chief of Dobrá Škola (Good School) magazine. “I consider it to be inappropriate intervention of BBSK to schools’ education process,” Burjan said. “This is not in the schools' founder's [BBSK] competences.” Also Pecko considers those steps as inappropriate saying that since Kotleba started to put pressure on schools, they have been withdrawing from agreements with the theatre. “I don’t want to comment on the behaviour of those schools, but it seems to me that it is fear of the region’s head behind it,” Pecko said.

Controversial competition
Altogether 35 of 60 secondary schools in the Banská Bystrica region positively responded to the BBSK office call to organise beauty pageants. The contest is for girls who are 15-years-old and older and who do not smoke, while it should not be just a regular beauty pageant. “In this way we wanted to motivate young girls in our region to become young ladies who know how to mannerly express themselves and at the same time know how present their abilities and talents,” Piliarová told The Slovak Spectator. The contests will be held at schools and winners will make it to regional finals personally attended by Kotleba. “It seems like it is pre-election campaign of Marian Kotleba,” Pecko said. The image of beauty pageants is constantly worsening, according to Vladimír Burjan, editor-in-chief of Dobrá Škola (Good School) magazine. “Such competitions should not be at schools,” Burjan said. “There are dozens of better competitions for students than this one.”

In general such actions have no added value and just displaying young girls to be admired by the public is sexist. Some children may be hurt by failure, according to Katarína Holbová, school psychologist at a vocational school in Nové Mesto nad Váhom. “There are children who will be sad that they did not succeed and there will be ones who forget about it after one day,” Holbová told The Slovak Spectator. “It depends on their age and personality.” On the other hand, similar beauty pageants are organised at secondary schools every year. It is the first time, however, that they have a regional final round, according to Grammar School of Andrej Kme¯ Director Renata Mikulášová. “However, it's true that also our student board has mixed feelings about that because students see it as a directive from above,” Mikulášová told The Slovak Spectator. “We have not discussed the issue more than was necessary.”
© The Slovak Spectator.


Luxembourg: 'False nationalism can lead to war' in Europe

9/11/2015- The migration crisis facing Europe could lead to the collapse of the European Union and even to war, the bloc's longest-running foreign minister said in an interview published Monday (9 November). Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of Luxembourg since 2004, told German press agency DPA that the core EU element of borderless travel, agreed in the Luxembourg city of Schengen in 1985, is under threat. “We have maybe only several months time left [to save it]," he said. “The European Union can break apart. That can happen incredibly fast, when isolation instead of solidarity, both inwards and outwards, becomes the rule.” Asselborn is not the first European politician to warn of a break-up.

Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar said last month he believed the EU would “fall apart” if no solution is found to slow down the influx of refugees and migrants. But with Luxembourg holding the six-month rotating presidency of EU and counting itself among the bloc's six founding states, its words carry extra weight. The Grand Duchy's centre-left minister criticised politicians who use fear of migration as a way to appeal to voters, saying there are in the EU “some who have not truly internalised the value of the European Union, which is not only material value."

“The glue that holds us together is still the culture of human values. And this false nationalism can lead to a real war," noted Asselborn. He didn't speak of how war could break out, but, like Germany's Angela Merkel in recent days, he expressed worry about rising tension in the Western Balkans - the main migratory route. "When the lid is shut in Sweden and Germany, then I do not know what will happen in the Balkans", said Asselborn. "I believe that there is already a very, very critical situation." The migration crisis will be on top of the agenda in Brussels again this week, as interior ministers meet Monday to discuss relocations of migrants. EU leaders are also meeting with African heads of state in Malta on Wednesday (11 November) and holding a separate, EU-only summit in Valletta the following day.
© The EUobserver


Kremlin blasts Baltic States over "massive human rights violations"

12/11/2015- Thursday November 12, 2015, saw Sergei Naryshkin, the Speaker of Russian State Duma’s lower house lash out at the Baltic States over what he described as “massive human rights violations" towards their Russian-speaking populations. He focused specifically on the status of Russian-speakers as stateless residents in Latvia and Estonia. According to the Interfax news agency, Naryshkin said the unwillingness on behalf of European MEPs to notice massive human rights violations in the Baltic countries had become a dangerous trend. "There is no doubt we are concerned about the growing number of such cases, which have become a harmful and dangerous tradition,” said Naryshkin. “For example, the accommodation of neo-Nazi movements and the shameful unwillingness to pay attention to massive human rights violations in the Baltic republics. "The notorious and odious non-citizenship institution applied to hundreds of thousands of people in Latvia and Estonia belongs to the same category.”

Naryshkin’s comments came at a meeting entitled "20 Years in the Council of Europe - Lessons and Prospects." According to Naryshkin, this approach undermines the fundamental values and principles of the Council of Europe. The Russian Federation joined the Council of Europe in 1995. ”Back then Russia did not see the Council of Europe as a certain entrance hall of the European Union, although we can feel that some of our political opponents would probably agree to such a humiliating position of the Council of Europe," he said. “At the same time, Russia has no right to isolate itself or to wait until the problems vanish by themselves. "Quite the opposite, we should build new routes of cooperation and interaction with the Council of Europe and energetically use European legal and judicial instruments to protect the interests and rights of our citizens and our compatriots living in European countries."
© The Baltic Times


UK: Anti-Muslim hate crime rockets across West Yorkshire

12/11/2015- Anti-Muslim hate crime has rocketed across West Yorkshire - with parts of Kirklees among the worst affected areas. Islamophobic offences have more than doubled since 2010, and this year there has been a spate of incidents in Huddersfield, Holmfirth, Dewsbury and Batley. Now a special event is being held in Huddersfield next week to raise awareness of the problem and look at ways of tackling it. The majority of offences have been recorded by police as people causing racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress, and there have also been cases of harassment and assault. Two years ago, there were fears there could be a spike in offences motivated by race and religious hatred in the aftermath of the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was murdered near the Royal Artillery barracks in south-east London in 2013. His widow Rebecca and young son Jack live in Southowram, near Brighouse.

Nationally, there has been a dramatic increase in hate crime, and West Yorkshire Police recorded 70 anti-Muslim/Islamophobic offences between January and August this year, compared with just 31 for the whole of 2010, 35 in 2011 and just 27 in 2012. Ten offences were recorded in Huddersfield between January and August this year, and in five of the incidents the victims were women. Supt Keith Gilert, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police are committed to tackling hate crime of all types by encouraging reporting from members of the community who are most vulnerable to being victims, as well as those who may witness hate crime. “We work closely with our partners in the criminal justice system to robustly investigate such crimes, ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and, perhaps most importantly, ensure that victims are fully-supported throughout the process and feel safer and less vulnerable.

“West Yorkshire Police employ specialist Hate Crime Co-ordinators across the Force area, with a remit of assisting investigating officers in identifying perpetrators, providing ‘after-care’ support for victims of hate crime, working with communities to increase awareness of hate crime and hate crime reporting mechanisms, and joint working with partners, such as local councils, Victim Support and third party Hate Incident Reporting Centres.” The not-for-profit organisation MEND will be hosting an event in Huddersfield on Monday to illustrate the growing problems being caused by Islamophobia, and to look at ways of trying to tackle it. MEND aims to engage and develop Muslims in the community with the aim of reducing Islamophobic hate crime.

The event is taking place at the Huddersfield Rugby Union Club, and a number of councillors and police officers have been invited. The keynote presentation will be delivered by award winning philanthropist and CEO of MEND Sufyan Ismail. The chair of its Huddersfield Working Group Saqib Saddiq said: “I am delighted to see such a keen interest to eradicate this hate crime, which has no place in British Society. Many of our leaders...have personally expressed their empathy and support in order to achieve this.”
© The Huddersfield Examiner


Britain First faces backlash over this post during two-minute silence

Social media users accused the group of a lack of 'respect for the fallen'

11/11/2015- The far-right group Britain First faces a backlash after posting a message about “fish & chips” and “cream teas” during the Armistice Day silence. The organisation, which claimed this week to have become the first “political party” to receive 1 million Facebook supporters, mixes patriotic celebrations of the Queen and Armed Forces with xenophobic and Islamophobic fear-mongering online. While many extended the two-minute silence held at 11am on 11 November to their online activities – and the London Ambulance even stopped using sirens as a mark of respect – Britain First posted a message to Facebook showing a meme of UK stereotypes.

“Proud to be British! A nice cuppa, the Queen, rainy days, cream teas, the seaside [and] fish & chips,” the message read. In an almost immediate backlash, Facebook users accused the group of a lack of “respect for the fallen”. Luke Sebastian wrote: “Did you really post about fish and chips making you proud to be British at 11am on November 11th?” Jack Evans said it was “disgusting you would write this at 11am on Armistice Day”. And Parveen Nabi wrote: “WOW!! You claim to be British and patriotic and yet you were posting during the 2 minute silence on Armistice Day. Where is YOUR respect for the fallen and the veterans?”

Earlier this week, Britain First boasted of passing the milestone of more than 1 million Facebook “likes” in a post on its website. But Matthew Collins, a member of the organisation Hope Not Hate who has been following the far-right group for a number of years, estimated that less than a third of Britain First’s Facebook followers were genuine users. Mr Collins said that even if the group had only around 300,000 genuine “likes” on Facebook it was “still worrying”. “But politics is about a lot more than just a page on Facebook,” he told The Independent. “There are other far-right groups out there doing a lot worse, and genuine political groups doing a lot more.”
© The Independent


UK: Majority of Muslims have witnessed Islamophobia - study

60% of respondents to survey say they have seen abuse or discrimination directed at fellow Muslims, up from 40% in 2010

11/11/2015- The majority of British Muslims say they have witnessed discrimination against followers of the Islamic faith and that a climate of hate is being driven by politicians and media, a study has found. Six out of 10 Muslims in Britain surveyed by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said they had seen Islamophobia directed at someone else, up from four in 10 when the survey was first conducted in 2010. Then, half of Muslims said they had not witnessed Islamophobia – a figure that has now crashed to 18%. Furthermore, feelings of being increasingly demonised and discriminated against are rising, according to the report, which says Muslims suffer physical and verbal abuse, as well as discrimination in the workplace. The study is based on interviews with 1,780 people and repeats questions asked in 2010.

In the latest study, nearly every headline finding is worse. The results paint a picture of alienation among a community seen by Whitehall, police and security officials as crucial to helping provide intelligence to thwart terrorism. More than two-thirds of Muslims told the survey they had heard anti-Islamic comments by politicians, and half thought politicians condoned Islamophobic acts. Nearly nine out of 10 thought discrimination was driven by the way Muslims are portrayed in media coverage. The findings come amid controversy about a planned crackdown on what the government says are extreme views, which are currently lawful, which some British Muslims and even police chiefs warn will create further alienation.

Subtle effects of discrimination are also on the rise, the study claims. It found 63% said they had experienced “being talked down to or treated as if you were stupid; having your opinions minimised or devalued”, up from 38% in 2010. More than half said they had been “overlooked, ignored or denied service in a shop, restaurant or public office or transport”, while three-quarters said they had been stared at by strangers. The IHRC report links rising prejudice to politicians and the media and says: “Just over half believe that politicians condone discriminatory acts against Muslims. This perception indicates that the level of political discourse is seen to be poisonous and one of attribution of blame to Muslims.” Since 2001 the government has been trying to counter a rising terrorist threat, and it says the threat of attack by those driven by an extremist Islamist ideology is high.

The IHRC was criticised by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) thinktank. “The group argues that government policy is designed to criminalise Islam and Muslims, when in fact the recent counter-extremism strategy rightly promises to address the growing levels of anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK,” a spokesperson said. “The IHRC’s claims fuel additional and unnecessary fear within Muslim communities, which we believe is far more divisive than any efforts to identify and challenge extremism and radicalisation.” The commission responded to the comments by saying the HJS follows a neoconservative agenda. The HJS denies this and says it has all-party support for its work promoting liberal democracy.

Others welcomed the report. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, said: “This will make very uncomfortable reading; not all will agree with every aspect of the analysis, but it is painfully clear that physical and verbal violence against Muslims has risen spectacularly in recent years. What is described here is a serious reproach to our society’s most humane ideals and values.” Prof Ian Law, of the University of Leeds, said the study shed light on the rise of anti-Muslim prejudice: “This report identifies a shocking deterioration in the quality of everyday life since the last report in 2011. Increasing hostility in political and media discourse, increasing hostility on the streets in terms of physical attacks and abuse and increasing hostility in the labour market and in educational contexts are some of the key markers of increasing anti-Muslim hate identified here.” The findings match what some senior police chiefs have told the Guardian about their assessment of Muslims communities.
© The Guardian


UK: Britain First accused of using two schoolgirls for anti-Islam propaganda

Charity said the girls had been approached by two men and asked for a photo but did not know who they were

9/11/2015- Britain First has been asked to remove a photograph from its Facebook page of two schoolgirl sea cadets apparently being "guarded" by members of the far-right group from attacks by "Islamists". The group posted photographs of two men standing next to the girls while they were selling poppies as part of their "Protect the Poppy" day of action to "protect poppy sellers from abuse by Islamists". The charity commented on the post asking for the photograph to be removed. The chairman of the Nottingham Sea Cadets, Sue Dewey, told The Independent the charity were "furious" about it. She said: "It is completely beyond the pale. They haven't got permission and these kids are vulnerable- they don’t know who these people are and lots of people want to have their photo with cadets because they look so great in their uniform. "They are using this spurious excuse that they are protecting the children but the kids don’t do this on their own they have adult instructors with them anyway so the whole thing is just shocking and we are really not happy about this." She said the parents were furious because they normally had to give permission before their children's images were used in any publicity and they had made a "concerted effort" to get the image remove with "100s of people" reporting the image to Facebook.
© The Independent


UK: Britain First to hold conference in Sheffield after Chesterfield ban

A far-right political party will hold its annual conference in Sheffield after being banned from a Chesterfield venue.

8/11/2015- Britain First members will check into the Days Inn Hotel at Woodall Services on Saturday. The controversial party had booked a Chesterfield Borough Council venue for the seven-hour meeting. But in a letter to the nationalist party's leader, the council's chief executive Huw Bowen said: "I am writing to advise you that a decision has been taken to cancel this booking because of the risk of public disorder. Your fee of £379 will be credited to your account." Britain First claims the council cannot legally cancel the booking and has threatened to take legal action. Britain First campaigns primarily against mass immigration, multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture.

The party was formed in 2011 by members of the British National Party. Its website states: "Britain First is not 'racist' in any way and we do not hate any other ethnic groups. "All we ask is that if people come to this country they abide by the law and respect our heritage and way of life. "Our opposition to immigration is based on space, not race. "The only people we 'hate' are the white left-wing politicians and journalists who are wrecking our beautiful country." Commenting on the ban on the Derbyshire Times' Facebook page, James Eaden said: "Well done Chesterfield council. Let's keep the hate merchants out of Chesterfield."
© The Derbyshire Times


Germany: Holocaust-denying 'Nazi grandma' sentenced to 10 months in jail

An 87-year-old German woman has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for denying the Holocaust. Ursula Haverbeck insists that Auschwitz was "not historically proven" to be a death camp.

13/11/2015-  An 87-year-old German woman has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for denying the Holocaust. Ursula Haverbeck insists that Auschwitz was "not historically proven" to be a death camp.

Ursula Haverbeck
Dubbed by the German press as the "Nazi-Oma," meaning "Nazi grandma," Haverbeck told a Hamburg court that the concentration camp, where at least 1.25 million prisoners died between 1940 and 1945, was "only a belief." The right-wing pensioner, who lives in the western German town of Vlotho, already had a criminal record, with two fines and a suspended sentence for sedition to her name. She was also previously the chairwoman of a far-right training center, which was shut down in 2008 for spreading Nazi propaganda. The notorious extremist was summoned to court, however, after declaring on television in April that "the Holocaust is the biggest and most sustainable lie in history." She made the comments while petitioning outside the trial of 94-year-old former SS guard Oskar Gröning.

'Lost cause'
Showing no remorse for her comment, Haverbeck cheerfully admitted to the court, "yes, I said that indeed," before challenging them to prove that Auschwitz was a death camp. Ruling magistrate Bjoern Joensson responded, saying: "It is pointless holding a debate with someone who can't accept any facts." "Neither do I have to prove to you that the world is round," he added. On issuing his ruling on Thursday, Joensson said it was "deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense." "She is a lost cause," he added.

Applause from supporters
Anti-far-right activists arrived in force to occupy most benches in the courtroom on Thursday, leaving Haverbeck's supporters outside, demanding to be let in. The Holocaust denier was not alone in her cause, however, with a group of supporters gathering to applaud Haverbeck as she left. "Of course" they won't accept this sentence," the German "Tageszeitung" newspaper quoted her as saying.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: 'For a neo-nazi drop-out everything collapses' (interview)

9/11/2015- The neo-Nazi drop-out project "Nina NRW" works with people wanting to leave the right-wing extremist scene and return to a non-violent life. In an interview with DW a drop-out counselor describes how this can succeed.

Deutsche Welle: What has to happen for a neo-Nazi to consider an exit?
Exit counselor: The best help is repression or love. These topics provoke persons to change their life in another direction. Some gradually come to the conclusion that they don't want to carry on as before, that he cannot stand the conflict between that which is preached in the scene and that which he had experienced.

How difficult is an exit?
For a follower it is perhaps easier to leave compared to someone who was in the leadership; it is very difficult because a person who has opted out is a traitor and a traitor can't be allowed to just leave.

The drop-out Karl, who you counseled, told us that they wanted to kill him …
Yes, that can happen. The young women and men who quit the scene have knowledge about the scene: about illegal activities, possession of firearms or other things. There is always the danger that a person who leaves the scene will be interviewed by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution [Germany's domestic intelligence service] or the police. That's why they want to eliminate these people. Karl was attacked with a knife and stabbed. They held a gun against his head. Sometimes the former comrades stand at the door with a baseball bat and kick the door down. Sometimes a pet is killed, sometimes the rest of the family is threatened. But that's not the general rule. In a supervised exit there are possibilities to protect the drop-out.

Karl went to the police when he quit - is this the best way?
The police are one way. But it is not so easy when the dropout begins to talk. The police are then obliged to launch criminal proceedings. An exit program like Nina NRW has no obligation towards law enforcement. We can try to bring the person to a different, safer region. Often a move has to be quickly organized and the person given a new identity, because there could be informers in the authorities.

An exit often means that a person reaches rock bottom?
For every exit, everything collapses from one moment to the next: friends, the ideology, everything that one thought about life in general. Maybe the place of employment is gone when I move away. I have to make new contacts, there is often complete distrust. For a neo-Nazi dropout everything collapses and has to be completely rebuilt.

What do you do when someone meets you for the first time?
I ask them which scene they were in, what duties they had, how they perceive the threat and where we have to plan. That could mean a move, it could also mean removing a swastika tattoo. Security is the first priority. Can we achieve a quiet exit? How do you quit? Later all things are possible: accompanying someone to the job center, to an addiction therapy or debt counseling – all sorts of baggage that one has to carry around.

How can you change extreme right-wing thinking – are there democracy seminars?
No. You don't become a democrat from one day to the next. It always requires personal conversations. It is very important to move away from the ideology because there is always a danger of falling back into such circles. You have to rehabilitate certain topics individually: is it someone who doesn't accept the fact that people with a migration background live in Germany? Is he a Holocaust denier, a chauvinist? Everyone has his particular trait; some have all of them. Because there are very different directions, you have to look where the person stands and how he can rehabilitate this intellectually. Sometimes you have to proceed in very small steps.

What is important for the drop-out to persevere long term with the exit?
It is really important to create other perspectives - for example, employment: that he has a task. It's all about personal esteem. In the group there was recognition, slaps on the back for certain acts and this recognition now has to be found somewhere else.

Violence, also handling weapons and explosives, gives lots of them a high – how does the dropout cope without these stimuli?
He has to find an alternative. Thrill of speed is a substitute satisfaction, but that is very different. Someone who enjoys the feeling of power has to see what he can do instead – maybe a sport that satisfies him.

How often are there relapses?
Extraordinary seldom, something I am very glad about. There are of course relapses - people who meet with their comrades who realize that: I am somebody and in real life I am just a stupid trainee , who has to deal with being screamed at in the factory. It is not easy but relapses are part of every life change.

Kart was abused as a child, isolated, was in a children's home. Do all concerned come from strained situations?
I know people who come from really good families, but there are always triggers where the balance of recognition is not right. When neo-Nazi hear this they would probably become angry, but I know from many stories of strained situations and say that these are partly hazing victims. These are experiences which could be compensated by joining a strong group.

In the beginning it is not all about right-wing extremist ideology, is it?
The joining processes are relatively the same in all scenes. I hear that again and again: "It doesn't matter who caught me, it could have been left, right or anything else." Seldom does the way go via ideology. Often it's called: "Suddenly there was somebody there who looked after me. Then we began to talk about these things, I went to a demo and slowly became political. "

If one wants to keep people out of the neo-Nazi scene, one must separate the ideology and the people?
Yes. I think it's also important to keep in contact and to argue, amongst friends or as parents: when you notice that your child is going in a direction that you are not happy about, you should always say "as a person you continue to be important to me, it is just that what you say and do that I cannot accept at all."

How long do you have for the supervision?
For as long as the project exists. If someone needs five years, then he needs five years.

Exit projects often have financial difficulties – how is it with yours?
We have to make an application every year, so that we can continue to work. You can become exasperated because you have built up a network and more importantly are working with participants who need security. You don't want to drop them because the project ends.

The exit counselor works as a qualified educationalist in the "Nina NRW" project in North-Rhine Westphalia. For security reasons she does not want to have her photo and her name published.
The interview was conducted by Andrea Grunau.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Berlin police raid homes in crackdown on right-wing 'hate speech'

Police have raided buildings in the German capital in a crackdown on far-right hate speech. Officers confiscated smart phones and computers and urged social networks to help slow the spread of xenophobic content.

12/11/2015- State security officials were said to be systematically investigating individuals for incitement against asylum seekers and refugee housing. A total of 10 search warrants were executed. If charged and convicted of incitement, individuals face heavy fines or even imprisonment. Berlin's top security official, Frank Henkel, said authorities "won't turn away if racism or incitement is being spread on the Internet." Henkel called on social network operators to put in place more effective controls to combat hate speech. Facebook, in particular, has been accused of doing too little to deal with the issue in Germany. Germany's domestic intelligence service has warned of a radicalization of right-wing groups amid a record influx of migrants into Germany. There have been protests against refugee homes and clashes with police in several towns, mostly in the former communist East Germany.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Defense team for neo-Nazi NSU suspect requests to be relieved ahead of testimony

Three defense lawyers for Beate Zschäpe have petitioned to be relieved of their duties a day before their client takes the stand. She is a member of a German neo-Nazi group accused of racist killings.

10/11/2015- Court-appointed lawyers Wolfgang Heer, Wolfgang Stahl and Anja Sturm asked the Higher Regional Court in Munich to relieve them on the grounds that a defense "in terms of the interests of our client" was no longer possible. "Our appointments to the defense are just a facade and transparently serve merely the maintenance of the appearance of a proper defense," the text of the application reads. It is not the first time that Zschäpe's defense team has tried to quit. Tuesday's motion comes a day before the 40-year-old is set to testify for the first time about her role in the extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU). Its other core members died in 2011 in an apparent murder-suicide as police closed in on the group.

Zschäpe is accused of involvement in 10 murders, mostly men of Turkish descent, by the NSU. She also stands accused of torching the group's shared apartment after dousing it with gasoline, causing a powerful explosion. She has maintained her silence throughout the trial on advice from her lawyers, but Zschäpe has clashed with them several times over this policy. Her primary legal team says they only learned through media reports that she intended to release a statement, through a fourth lawyer, to be read out in court.

Serious law enforcement lapses - or worse
The case has triggered heated debate in Germany, mainly because the cell remained apparently undetected for over a decade despite the fact that state intelligence agents had dozens of informants operating within the right-wing extremist scene. It also put a spotlight on institutional bias in the police , which failed to apprehend the suspects partly because of a repeated dismissal of the possibility that the crimes were motivated by racism, and instead pursued nonexistent links to Turkish organized crime. Judge Manfred Götzl has adjourned proceedings to allow the others involved in the trial to prepare their responses to the defense attorneys' motion.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Neo-Nazi suspect Beate Zschäpe to finally break her silence in NSU trial

Beate Zschäpe has agreed to testify for the first time this week, according to a German media report. She is the only known living member of the neo-Nazi trio known as the NSU.

9/11/2015- Zschäpe is expected to break her silence this Wednesday in a Munich court, which has met more than 240 times over the past two-and-a-half years examining her leading role with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror group, the news magazine "Der Spiegel" reported. As the main defendant in the NSU trials, her testimony could answer many unknown questions about the underground group, which prosecutors have blamed for 10 murders between 2000 and 2007. Zschäpe is the only known surviving member of an alleged killer trio. The gang's two other members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, died in 2011 in an apparent murder-suicide while hiding in a camper van after a botched bank robbery.

Zschäpe will reportedly not speak directly to the court, but rather her testimony will be read by her new defense attorney, Mathias Grasel. The court, federal prosecutors and four co-defendants accused of assisting the group and their defense attorneys will be unable to ask questions. Zschäpe faces 10 murder charges, two bombing charges and 15 robbery charges for her role as a member of the NSU trio that terrorized immigrants in Germany for roughly a decade. The victims were all residents in Germany - eight men of Turkish origin, a Greek migrant, and a German policewoman.

The case has generated heated debate in Germany, primarily because the NSU cell went undetected for over a decade despite authorities having dozens of informants in the country's right-wing extremist scene. The German Bundestag as well as state legislatures have launched multiple investigations to shed light on the NSU, but the probes have opened up as many questions as they have answered.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Pegida march goes forward despite Kristallnacht anniversary

Supporters of far-right Pegida group held rallies in numerous German cities despite the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Thousands of counter-protesters have taken to the streets in response.

9/11/2015- Pegida's decision to hold its weekly "evening stroll" and, thus, to ignore the signifiance of date was met with stark criticism on Monday night. In Munich, around 3,000 Pegida opponents took to the streets, protesting against racism and xenophobia and calling to ban Pegida-related events on the anniversary of the "night of broke glass." About 5,000 people turned out in Dresden, where roughly 6,000 Pegida supportesr had also taken to the streets. Despite the counter-protests, Dresden's mayor Dirk Hilbert, who belongs to the liberal Free Democratic Party, has said that there was "no legal base" for cancellation, and stressed that he could not ban or relocate Pegida's marches. On the night of November 9, 1938, coordinated Nazi attacks throughout Germany left thousands of Jews dead and their property destroyed. A group of city officials sought a ban on Pegida's Monday demonstrations in courts, but were unsuccessful.

'Sad and shameful'
The International Auschwitz Committee also criticized the decision. "November 9 is a day of sorrow in Germany. It serves as a reminder for us," said Christoph Heubner, a senior official of the committee of Holocaust survivors, on Monday. In an online petition, more than 80,000 people protested the local government's actions. An association of cultural institutions in Dresden said it was "incomprehensible" that Pegida was allowed to hold the march on Monday night. "Kristallnacht is one of the darkest nights in the German history," the association was quoted by the regional Dresden newspaper "Sächsische Zeitung" as saying. "We cannot understand this decision and are sad and deeply ashamed. It shows that we are giving space to hatred."

Solidarity with Pegida
Over the past year, Pegida has drawn intense media attention for its xenophobic sentiments and the presence of a pocket of right-wing extremists at its rallies. The growing refugee crisis has reignited the movement in recent months, with its supporters vehemently opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's asylum policies  Increasingly closer ties with the far-right NPD party have also raised concerns. In May, Pegida organizer Siegfried Däbritz posed with NPD's chairman for Saxony, Frank Franz, for a photo in front of Dresden's synagogue.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: 10 pro-migrant protestors arrested at anti-AfD rally

7/11/2015- Police in Berlin have clashed with pro-migrant demonstrators who were holding a counter protest to anti-migrant marchers of the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) group on Saturday. At least 10 supporters of the migrants were arrested, with police saying that an officer was lightly wounded in the brawl, according to AFP. Around 3,500 anti-migrant protestors took to the streets of Berlin shouting slogans such as "Asylum Has Its Limits — Red Card for Merkel". Organisers from AfD had hoped that 5,000 people would turn out to protest at the recent influx of migrants, but far fewer made it to the demonstration. AfD is the main critic of the top European economy's open-door policy under Chancellor Angela Merkel towards refugees fleeing war and persecution. Pro-migrant groups, which included representatives of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union of German (CDU), the Social Democratic Party of Germany, The Greens and other left-wing parties, held five counter-protests across Berlin which organisers said had a turnout of 7,000 people.

Police deployed around 1,100 officers to prevent clashes and used pepper spray at times to keep the two protesting groups apart. Besides the 10 arrests, there were no other significant incidents at the protest. The protests come at a time when the nation is divided about migrants coming into the country, leading to the biggest rise in Nazism in Germany since Adolf Hitler. Neo-Nazis are brazenly targeting refugees, as well as journalists and politicians who are pro-migrant, in brutal attacks reminiscent of the Third Reich's brown shirts. The situation in Germany has become so toxic that a leading German magazine declared that, "The hate is back". Security sources in Germany, which has taken in more migrants and refugees than any other European country, say they have seen a sharp rise in violence linked to right-wing extremism in recent weeks.

The most significant attack occurred on October 17 when the liberal politician Henriette Reker was stabbed by a neo-Nazi whilst out on the campaign trail in Cologne. The episode led to another German publication, Der Spiegel, to ask: "Does this threaten a relapse to the time of the Weimar Republic when violent political confrontations were commonplace?" Some neo-Nazis have formed "lynch mobs" who have been attacking migrants in the streets with baseball bats, and attacks on migrants have occurred in at least three cities: Pirna near Dresden, Wismar and Magdeburg, outside Berlin.
© The International Business Times - UK


Polish nationalists rail against Brussels in show of strength

Tens of thousands of nationalists marched through Warsaw on Wednesday chanting “Poland for Poles”, in a show of strength by the country’s far-right anti-immigrant movement.

11/11/2015- The annual march, organised to commemorate Poland’s independence in 1918, has become increasingly dominated by far-right radical movements, and in recent years has sparked violent clashes with police and arson attacks. Members of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik movement and Italy’s neo-facist Forza Nuova took part in the march, which saw at least 35,000 flood the city centre, many waving flags, burning flares and chanting xenophobic and anti-EU slogans. “No Islam, no atheists, a Poland for Catholics,” chanted the crowd, which contained elderly ladies and babies in pushchairs. “Europe is being invaded, and we are the defence against it.” Marchers threw firecrackers and lit fireworks along the route, as speeches and songs railed against Brussels and warned of “Islamisation” eroding Poland’s “national Catholic heritage”. At the end of the march, through a thick fog of smoke billowing from hundreds of hand-held red flares, Jobbik MP Laszlo Toroczkai told the crowd to “fear” refugees. “[Eastern European] countries are now the bastion of the EU. We are defending the whole continent,” he said.

The march took place less than 20 days after Poland ejected its liberal centre-right government after eight years in office, handing the rightwing conservative Law and Justice party the most decisive election victory in the country’s history. Law and Justice, which is expected to promote more nationalist policies in office and be more robust with Brussels, campaigned strongly against the previous government’s decision to accept around 7,000 refugees under an EU sharing scheme, tapping widespread anti-immigrant feelings among voters. Public opinion in Poland is against accepting more migrants from the Middle East, and the country’s new government has said it will resist attempts by Brussels to force Warsaw to agree to resettle additional people. Organised by radical nationalist organisations, the march also drew thousands of ordinary Poles celebrating the country’s independence, many wearing red and white armbands or scarves in the national colours. In previous years small groups of rioters have broken off from the march and attacked public art installations representing liberal political views, the Russian embassy and public transport infrastructure.
© The Financial Times.


Polish defence minister condemned over Jewish conspiracy theory

Newly appointed Antoni Macierewicz criticised for saying hoax document about plan for world domination could be real

10/11/2015- Poland’s newly appointed defence minister has been condemned for entertaining the possibility that a fraudulent document claiming to show there is a Jewish plan for world domination may be real. Antoni Macierewicz is one of a number of controversial appointments the rightwing Law and Justice party made on Monday after securing an absolute majority for the first time in the country’s general election. His appointment could complicate Poland’s relations with Nato and EU allies as they seek to contain Russia. It could also prove difficult for David Cameron, whose European Conservatives and Reformists group is propped up by Law and Justice. Macierewicz told listeners to Radio Maryja in 2002 that he had read Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a pamphlet that purports to be a Jewish plan to control the global economy and media, but which has been exposed as a hoax.

He acknowledged there was debate about the pamphlet’s authenticity, but told a listener: “Experience shows that there are such groups in Jewish circles.” His words have been widely condemned by anti-racist campaigners in Poland. Rafa³ Pankowski, who wrote about Macierewicz’s appearance on the radio show in a book about Poland’s far right, said: “He is well known for his divisive, radical style of politics, which is rooted in the nationalist identity discourse of Radio Maryja. “The political culture of Law and Justice seems strongly influenced by such discourse. It is a sad time for Polish and European democracy if the promotion of conspiracy theories is rewarded with high-level appointments.”

A former member of Poland’s anti-communist opposition movement and deputy defence minister, Macierewicz is known for his efforts to purge the country’s military intelligence services of communist and Russian influence. In the early 1990s, he led a search for communists among former Solidarity leaders, accusing them of having worked for the secret police. He even accused the union’s founder, Lech Wa³źsa, of being a spy known as Agent Bolek, but his claims could not be proven. More recently, he has been the main champion of a theory that a plane crash that killed 96 Poles in 2010, including the Polish president, was assassination orchestrated by Russia, rather than an accident as official investigations found. “The government headed by [Russia’s then prime minister Vladimir] Putin is fully responsible for this tragedy,” he told the European parliament in March. “It may be said that it was the first salvo in a war which today is going on in the east of Europe, and which is ever more dramatically nearing EU and Nato borders.”

The Russian government blamed pilot error, and Polish investigators have said airport crew were also responsible. Macierewicz’s incendiary language may concern diplomats in Brussels already wary about the victory of the nationalist and Eurosceptic Law and Justice. Protocols of the Elders of Zion was supposed to have been first published in Russia in the 1900s, translated into various languages and disseminated internationally in the early 20th century. It claimed to be the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting of Jewish leaders, in which they discussed their goal of a global plan to subvert the morals of gentiles and control the press and the global economy. Journalists and historians exposed it as a fraud in the 1920s, showing it to contain chunks of text lifted from other books. It was nonetheless studied in German classrooms after the Nazis came to power in 1933.

Law and Justice became the first party in post-communist Poland to win an absolute majority in parliament, giving it unprecedented control over policy. Its return to power brings back the former prime minister Jaros³aw Kaczyński, whose government annoyed European allies with anti-EU rhetoric between 2005 and 2007. Law and Justice did not respond to the Guardian’s request for a comment.
© The Guardian


Poland: Anti-racism rally in Warsaw

Thousands of people took to the streets of the Polish capital, Warsaw, to protest against a growing wave of xenophobia and right-wing politics.

9/11/2015- The organisers of the rally, which marched under the "Solidarity instead of nationalism - together across borders" slogan, said that as many as 2,000 people attended it on Sunday. The people carried signs which read "Warsaw free from racism", "Stop scaring refugees, solidarity is our weapon”. “Seventy-seven years ago hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to the death camp of Treblinka from this very spot," Amnesty International's Agata Kwiatoń told reporters at the historic Umschlagplatz in Warsaw. "They were murdered because of their religion and origin. Others were threatened with exile,” she added.

Controversial decisions
Poland has agreed to take on 7,000 refugees as part of an EU programme to relocate hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers across the bloc, and the decision has become a key political and social issue in the country, with right-wing nationalists saying that “Poland should remain Polish”. At least one person from the Arab world was subject to a racist attack in Poland over the past days. The student from Syria was hospitalised after he was severely beaten in the centre of Poznań, west central Poland. The news was applauded by nationalist groupings over social media. Such groupings will be a central part of the upcoming National Independence Day March in Warsaw.
© The News - Poland


Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 46

Finnish fitness center advertises migrants needn’t apply as members

Believe it or not in Finland there are fitness centers that advertise to their Finnish customers that foreigners won’t be allowed to use their facilities, especially those that live in an asylum reception center nearby. Kuntokeskus Valolinna is a fitness center in the town of Heinola, located about 140km north of Helsinki, which advertised on its website and in a newspaper the following:
Kuntosali Valolinna will continue to serve only Finns in the future. Due to outside requests, migrants staying in Heinola will not be allowed to become members of our fitness center because our membership is full.
Say what?! You won’t accept foreigners because your membership is full? An asylum reception center is being opened near Kuntokeskus Valolinna and this appears to be the reason why the fitness centers wants to assure its customers that these people fleeing war will be kept out of the fitness center. Non-Discrimiantion Ombudswoman Kirsi Pimiä was quoted as saying in YLE that the announcement by the fitness club is discriminatory.
© Migrant Tales


French paper publishes Facebook 'hate-speech' from Calais migrant articles

Le Nord Littoral outs those behind offensive comments using their Facebook names as journalists take a stand over ‘unspeakable remarks’

12/11/2015- A French newspaper has taken action against what it deems hate-speech posted below reports about Calais migrants, by publishing a series of the most offensive messages from its Facebook page, along with the names of the posters. Calais-based Le Nord Littoral reports daily on the port and the situation there, which has resulted in thousands of people living in a squalid, open-air camp, hoping to reach the UK. Its editors said the offensive comments posted on the paper’s Facebook page had reached such extreme proportions of hate speech that it had to take a stand. Le Nord Littoral published several comments that had been made below its articles about the migrants in Calais, giving the Facebook names of the posters.

One had written: “Why not build a concentration camp?” Another, below a piece about people rescued from the water at Calais as they tried to swim to a boat, wrote “they still need some training”, suggesting that with luck “some might die”. Beneath another piece about migrants and the ring road, a reader posted: “Just run over them, after a dozen, they’ll calm down.” Another said: “Hauliers should be armed and shouldn’t hesitate to shoot.” The paper said it shared news articles on its Facebook page that often elicited strong reactions and being able to share ideas and compare arguments was a plus for France. However, Le Nord Littoral added: “For several months, the comments on the topic of immigration have offered up a stack of unspeakable remarks.”

The paper said taking a stand against offensive comments did not mean it was being pro-migrant. People in Calais had the right to say they did not want migrants in their town and the paper would never censor anyone’s comment saying so, it added. “However, from now on, we will flag up any comment that is reprehensible in the eyes of the law. For the good of everyone and out of respect.” Hate speech is outlawed in France and, since the terrorist attacks in January at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 17 dead, the government has launched a major campaign to contain the steep rise in racism and hate speech.

Le Nord Littoral’s initiative follows a similar approach by the German newspaper Bild, which last month published a double-page spread of offensive messages from internet commentators to denounce a rise in hate-speech. Le Nord Littoral journalist Julien Pouyet told BFMTV: “The idea came from the fact we had had enough of reading daily messages of hatred towards migrants and journalists, often with death threats. We moderate these comments when we see them or when they are flagged up to us, and we regularly publish a reminder of the law on our Facebook page, but that wasn’t enough. So we decided to crack down.” The Calais Socialist MP Brigitte Bourguignon supported the move and, with a collective called Faites de la Tolérance, has launched her own petition for more moderation of racist comments and hate speech on social media.
© The Guardian


Bulgaria accused of brutality by Oxfam

The Bulgarian authorities have been accused of brutality towards migrants in a new report sponsored by the British charity Oxfam.

13/11/2015- The report, based on the testimony of migrants walking through from Bulgaria into Serbia, cites numerous cases of alleged police beatings and extortion. Many migrants opt to travel through the Balkans, afraid of the sea-crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands. The Bulgarian government has not yet responded to the allegations. Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many from Syria, Africa and Afghanistan, have been making their way from Turkey to the Balkans in recent months, in a bid to reach Germany, Sweden and other EU states. Collated by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and sponsored by Oxfam, the report highlights the dangers which await migrants both near the Turkish-Bulgarian border and later as they try to cross into Serbia. Cases of alleged extortion by Bulgarian police, physical violence against migrants, and attacks by police dogs are described in detail, reports the BBC's Nick Thorpe. The report findings are based on interviews conducted with over 100 refugees arriving from Bulgaria in the Serbian border town of Dimitrovgrad over a three-day period in October.

'Consistent picture'
Stefano Baldini, Oxfam director for South East Europe, said: "In light of the reported abuses, the European Union has to intervene and take concrete action to protect basic human rights within its borders." "These testimonies present a consistent picture of alleged incidents in Bulgaria," he said according to the UK's Press Association. Last month an Afghan migrant was shot dead by a Bulgarian border guard after entering the country from Turkey. Officials said he was killed by the ricochet of a bullet fired as a warning to the migrants. UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said the agency was "deeply shocked" by the incident and called on the Bulgarian authorities to commission an independent investigation into the death.
© BBC News


Bulgaria: Refugees opting for Bulgaria route exposed to violence

Asylum-seekers with limited funds or fears of sea travel are bypassing Greece for a land route through Bulgaria, but the risks remain high. Diego Cupolo reports from Dimitrovgrad, Serbia.

12/11/2015- Refugees opting for a land route to Europe are hiking in and out of Bulgaria, where they must cross dense forests and lightly populated areas that leave them exposed to violence from local gangs, human trafficking rings and the Bulgarian border police. Many refugees arrive in Serbia with swollen faces and bruised bodies, claiming they were attacked, robbed and, at times, detained in residential houses or hotels where they are forced to pay off middlemen and kidnappers. To bring light to the issue, volunteers working at a refugee camp in Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian town just four kilometers north of the Bulgarian border, have been collecting testimonials from injured refugees and documenting their experiences.

"They are being targeted by both local criminals and the Bulgarian border police, and [I] don't know which one is worse," said Sharon Silvey, a British volunteer coordinator in Dimitrovgrad. "We have reports that police officers beat them, set dogs on them, make them stand naked in holding cells and spray them with cold water … I've seen their wounds. They kick them like footballs." Ahmad Salim, a telecommunications engineering student from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, who arrived in Dimitrovgrad, said his family avoided the Bulgarian police by walking along mountain crests, but he did not advise other families to take the Bulgarian route. "The police are hunting refugees like it's a sport," Salim said. "My friends said the first thing they ask for is your mobile phone so you can't record anything or communicate with anyone about where you are. Then they beat you."

Locked up by traffickers
While border police normally send asylum-seekers back to Turkey, a less certain fate awaits those entrapped by human traffickers. Parwez Khan, a 24-year-old taxi driver from Laghman Province, Afghanistan, said he was held and beaten by armed men in a Sofia apartment over the course of four days. Standing in the registration line in Dimitrovgrad, Khan explained that he was traveling with 10 Afghans, when a dispute between his smugglers left his group locked in a room with one barred window outside the city center. Khan's group was held there, without food, and beaten on a daily basis from November 2 - 6, he told DW. "When they hit me the first time, I was in shock for five minutes, I couldn't speak or see," Khan said. "I thought I was going to die." Khan had a swollen nose, wounds on both cheeks, and his upper lip was split in four different places. He refused to have his face photographed, but allowed pictures of the bruises on his back, which he received while being beaten with nunchucks as he was held face down on the floor.

"When they got drunk, they would come into the room and hit us," said Mohammed Haseeb, a law and public service student from Kabul, who was detained with Khan. "They had two boxers, two big men with tattoos all over their arms and legs. They separated us, took us into different rooms, and they hit us and asked for money." Haseeb, whose face had also been roughed up, said other people in his group were beaten with the back of a wood chopping axe. Haseeb and Khan said their group was allowed to leave for Serbia only after being stripped of all their valuables, including phones, watches and jackets.

Dangerous journeys
"I've been documenting stories of violence on refugees for weeks and sending them to the UN, to the Red Cross, to the media, but barely anyone responds, and when they do, they say they'll look into it, and I never hear back from them," said Silvey, who is also the creator of Refucomm, a Facebook page that informs refugees of route conditions to Europe. Dimitrovgrad receives about 300 new refugees a day, most of whom are young Afghan males who walk three-four days through the mountainous region along the Serbian-Bulgarian border. The UN estimates about 13,000 refugees have crossed Bulgaria since the beginning of 2015. Once in Serbia, the refugees are registered at the Dimitrovgrad police station adjacent to the camp. Independent volunteers from various countries provide the only food in the camp with the help of online crowdfunding, while the Red Cross and Women and Health Alliance International are on site to provide medical services.

Outside the camp, bus drivers sell 25-euro ($27) tickets to the Croatian border, which often create problems because many refugees have been robbed along the way, Silvey said. "A pair of refugees were stuck here for two days because they didn't have money," Silvey said. "When I told the bus driver I was going to take them to the train station if he didn't take both of them for 40 euros, he threatened me with death." More refugees are expected to try land routes as cold weather sets in and doubts rise over the discount winter boat fares offered by smugglers between Greece and Turkey. Prices during the summer ranged between $5,000-$3,000, whereas boat passages are now being sold for as little as $1,000 per person. "I originally wanted to go from Turkey to Greece, but then I saw the boat, I said 'no'," Haseeb said. "It was made of inflatable plastic and they wanted to put 45 people on it. I thought it was definitely going to sink so I didn't do it. I came to Bulgaria because I thought it was the safer choice."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Sweden introduces border checks for first time

Police to monitor trains and ferries arriving from mainland Europe, to deter those hoping to reach other Scandinavian countries.

12/11/2015- Sweden is introducing border checks for the first time since the start of the refugee crisis, hours after its prime minister asked European counterparts at a high-level migration conference in Malta to do more to help his country and Germany care for refugees arriving on the continent. Swedish police will monitor trains and ferries arriving from mainland Europe and stop anyone without valid travel documents. Officials stressed that anyone seeking to apply for asylum in Sweden would not be turned back, and said the intention is to deter those hoping to cross Sweden to reach other Scandinavian countries, and to create a more orderly process of arrival for refugees. “If they come to the border and request asylum, then we will process their request, but if they have no desire to stay, then that’s a question for the police,” a spokeswoman for Sweden’s migration agency, Migrationsverket, said.

Under the previous system, refugees could simply take the train or ferry to Sweden and enter the country unobstructed – a laissez-faire situation that its prime minister now says constitutes a threat to security. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, Stefan Löfven said: “If you don’t have good control of who is coming here – what people are actually entering the county – that is a risk.” Sweden is proportionally bearing the biggest burden of the European migration crisis, with 10,000 asylum-seekers arriving every week, and no more short-term space to house them. Migration officials expect the country to absorb at least 170,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year, within a total population of 10 million. Britain, with a population of more than 60 million, has pledged to receive 4,000 Syrian refugees in the same period.

Löfven said other EU countries needed to step up their response to the refugee crisis, so that the burden was not only left to Sweden and Germany. “I’ve been mentioning burden sharing for a long time,” Löfven told Today. “It is not sustainable that one country, or two countries, take the vast part of the responsibility. All European countries need to take responsibility. If the European Union can’t handle this situation, it’s serious.” Other European countries have been extremely slow to react to the scale of the crisis. EU leaders have convened several conferences, such as Thursday’s gathering in Malta, but little has been achieved at them. Politicians took months to agree to even a modest quota system that would see less than a quarter of refugee arrivals shared between the EU’s members, leaving the majority of the burden to countries like Sweden and Germany.

On Thursday, the deputy head of the EU border agency Frontex said EU countries had failed to provide it with the resources and personnel it needed to deal with the record influx of migrants entering the EU. “Up until now, member states have only committed 40% of the resources we asked for,” Gil Arias told Spanish daily El Mundo. In October the agency turned to the European commission, formally requesting more personnel for operations in Greece and the Balkans, but received little response, he said. The lack of resources, said Arias, has left Frontex in a tricky situation. “Often enormous expectations are generated over what the agency can do,” he said, noting that the agency had unofficially shifted its mandate in recent months from patrolling EU coastlines to carrying out daily rescues of migrants. “Frontex was not created to replace member states when it comes to rescue and border patrol, but rather to help them.”

The burden on Sweden has left the country struggling to find enough beds for its new residents, and has led to internal division about its asylum policies. The far-right Swedish Democrat party has called for the country to end its generosity, while the government argues that its high humanitarian standards should be maintained at all costs, and blames its domestic crisis on the negligence of other countries. “The big problem is in Europe,” Fredrik Bengtsson, spokesman for Migrationsverket, said. “There are so many different asylum systems. In Sweden we have one system, in Hungary they have another, so of course [refugees] are making the rational decision about where they want to go. “The key for this question is not for Sweden to lower their standards, it’s for other people to raise theirs.”
© The Guardian


Sweden calls on army to help manage refugee crisis

Military chiefs to aid migration agencies as Scandinavian country that has taken far beyond its share of migrants strains from sheer weight of numbers.

10/11/2015- Sweden’s army is to help manage the fallout from the country’s refugee crisis, with the civilian administration struggling to cope with an unprecedented surge in arrivals and a top official claiming there is no room left, in the short-term, for migrants reaching Swedish shores. On Monday, military officers were sent to help coordinate logistics at Migrationsverket, Sweden’s refugee and immigration agency. They will be involved at a management level, rather than on the ground. For several weeks, Migrationsverket has already been working with the country’s civil contingencies agency (MSB), a department usually involved in the aftermath of natural disasters or in overseas humanitarian catastrophes. The severely short-staffed migration agency cannot find enough housing for refugees, some of whom have been forced to sleep on the floor of reception centres. Despite some centres quadrupling their manpower in recent months, many agency officials are working double-shifts and weekends.

“We don’t have any more space,” the agency’s lead spokesman, Fredrik Bengtsson, said. State-owned accommodation has been full since 2012, he said, and now officials cannot find any more affordable private housing. “For the time being, all of these are finished as well, so for the last three or four nights we’ve had people sleeping in our [non-residential] centres across the country. Right now we’re just looking for people to have a roof over their heads.” Sweden is bearing a disproportional burden of the European refugee crisis, due in part to its pledge in 2013 to provide permanent residency to almost any Syrian who reached Swedish soil. Of the roughly 800,000 people to have arrived in Europe by sea this year, at least one in seven have ended up in Sweden, even though the country accounts for just one in 50 EU citizens. So far in 2015, more than 120,000 people have applied for asylum in Sweden.

Migrationsverket expects the total number of refugees to reach about 170,000 by the end of the year, with 10,000 people arriving every week, compared with 4,000 during the summer. A few years ago, case workers hoped to reach a decision on every asylum application within two or three months; now some speculate each one might take two years. For those familiar with other parts of the European migration trail, the scenes in Sweden will seem contained and organised compared with the chaos in places such as the Greek island of Lesbos, where refugees are left to walk and even sometimes sleep in the rain, with little institutional support. But in Sweden, even experienced asylum officials are nevertheless shocked by the unprecedented scale of the challenge that faces them, especially with winter fast approaching.

“I’ve never seen this many people, ever,” said Olof Grindemark, a team leader at Märsta, one of the two main reception centres in Stockholm, as he walked past the queues at the centre on Monday. “We don’t seem to have any more beds in Sweden. We don’t have anywhere to send them.” In the medium-term, the situation is not so dire. The government has identified potential space in sports halls and other public buildings for an extra 66,000 arrivals, just under half of which could be converted without too many adjustments. But in the short term, ready-to-use space is proving hard to find due to a combination of allegedly greedy landlords, arsonists and health-and-safety laws. Vandals have set fire to several sites earmarked for refugees, while the agency blames legislative bureaucracy for the delay in opening a series of tent cities in southern Sweden.

This struggle to provide something as basic as accommodation has led to fears about Sweden’s ability to handle more complex refugee needs, such as education and healthcare. “How will they manage doctors and schools, and how will [refugees] learn Swedish?” asked Enar Bostedt, one of Sweden’s most experienced asylum lawyers. “That’s totally another issue that no one has had time to think about yet.” For the time being, the migration agency is struggling even to register asylum seekers fast enough. In Solna, the second of Stockholm’s two big reception centres, staff numbers have risen from 30 to 130 in two years, but even this increase is not enough. The volume of applicants is still so great that the management usually has to turn less vulnerable people away, “sometimes by 10am or 11am”, said Joakim Selen, deputy head of the centre’s asylum seeking unit.

Staff often work until 11pm, even at weekends, while experienced case workers have been asked to help out with the more basic role of migrant registration, leading to further delays in the decision-making process. In an ideal situation, case workers should judge three asylum applications a week, but this is now rarely possible. “We can’t get out three decisions a week,” said Emma Weinstock, a case worker. “The more cases you have, the more preparation work you have.” Some refugees have lost patience with the backlog. “In Sweden the process is so slow, so I’m going back to Iraq,” said Hassanein, a 29-year-old technician, waiting at Stockholm central station, before his attempted homewards journey. “My family is waiting for me there, and it isn’t safe for them to wait there for so long without me.” Hassanein said he was scared to return, holding up a disfigured hand that he claims was the result of an attack by Islamic State. “But I’m just going back to gather my family, and bring them to Sweden again, so we can all wait here together.”

The Swedish government has been criticised for failing to accompany its 2013 promise to Syrians with appropriate measures to prepare for their arrival. In defence of their preparations, Bengtsson said the situation had been very manageable until mid-2015, when the sudden rush of arrivals through Turkey and Greece took all of Europe by surprise. The situation this autumn has been made more critical by a spike in the number of unaccompanied Afghan children, all of whom require an even greater level of care than adult asylum seekers. But whatever the cause of the refugee crisis, it has undeniably caused a crisis of identity within Sweden itself. Some stoke the fear that Sweden risks being unable to provide for its own citizens if it continues to let in so many outsiders. The Swedish Democrats, a far-right party that has recently grown in popularity, distributed a flyer to refugees landing in Lesbos this week that claimed that thanks to immigration “our society is falling apart”, and warned migrants from trying to reach Sweden. Hours later, Sweden’s conservative party, known as the Moderates, called for increased border controls against refugees.

Others feel that any dereliction of duties to refugees would mark an abandonment of the core tenets of Sweden’s social democracy. “Our society is built on the principle that people are entitled to the same as everyone else,” said the secretary-general of the Swedish bar association, Anne Ramberg, as she waited to provide legal advice to new refugee arrivals at Stockholm central station. “But we are in a situation where we can’t even give refugees housing.” The answer, Ramberg argued, is not for Sweden to lower its standards, but for the rest of the world’s richest continent to take on its fair share. “A crisis for us,” said Ramberg, “is very different from the crisis in Jordan or Lebanon,” two countries where refugees are estimated to respectively constitute around a tenth and a quarter of the total population. “We could take these people if we had solidarity between EU countries. We are a continent of 500 million people – of course we could do it. But there’s no solidarity. It’s just Germany and Sweden.”
© The Guardian


Ban Ki-moon calls on world leaders to shun xenophobia and open hearts to refugee influx

11/11/2015- Voicing deep concern at those who exploit the suffering of refugees to stoke xenophobia and spew hate speech, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on European leaders, and the world at large, to stand true to the values of human of rights and respect the dignity of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Syria and elsewhere. “The current policies are clearly not adequate,” he stressed in an opinion piece published in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro on the mass influx of refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and African countries into Europe. “It is time for the international community to develop a global response to mass population flows. I am working to bring countries together behind more a humane and coordinated approach. Progress would serve the common interest of all nations.”

He warned that sealing borders, criminalization and detention will not resolve any problems, calling on countries instead to provide more safe and legal avenues for migrants and refugees to enter, more resettlement opportunities, better local integration options and greater investments in chronically underfunded relief operations. “With creative thinking, we can generate opportunities for more migrants and refugees, for example through private sector scholarships, humanitarian visas and diaspora sponsors,” he wrote. “This compassionate response is also an effective way to combat smuggling and trafficking networks that thrive on desperate people.” Recalling his recent visits to refugees in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other host countries, Mr. Ban wrote that a six-year-old boy caught his eye because he himself was a refugee in his native Korea at that age: “I was forced to flee my own home during the Korean War.”

“Although I never had to travel as far as they did, and was spared many of the ordeals that have left them scarred, I knew all too well the confusion and fear of abandoning my village as bombs fell. I will never forget watching my grandfather frantically search for something to feed us on the mountainside where we hid.” “I was too young to understand terms such as ‘collective security’ but when I saw the multinational troops serving under the United Nations flag, I knew we were not alone. And when the UN provided us with life-saving supplies, I felt the beginnings of responsibility to give back to the world that had saved me,” he added. “Like millions of Europeans and others who pieced back together shattered lives following the end of the Second World War, today’s arrivals want what all people want: safety, stability and a better future for their loved ones.”

Mr. Ban concluded by quoting children he met at the Tenda di Abramo centre in Rome who “sang of how they had travelled from different continents, concluding their performance with a message for the world: ‘But what difference does it make? We are all humanity.’”
© UN News Centre


Sweden: Five myths about refugee crisis

13/11/2015- Sweden's reputation for openness is being questioned as it steps up border controls. But how much are attitudes really changing? Here's a truth check on some of the more common misperceptions about how the refugee crisis is affecting the Nordic country. 

1. Sweden is asking refugees to stop coming
Just because Sweden decided to reinstate border controls this week, it doesn't mean it's closing its borders. In the briefing from the Swedish Migration Agency which formed the basis of the government’s decision to impose border controls, it did say that the controls might lead some asylum seekers to stay in Denmark or Germany instead. But Swedish ministers have also emphasised that those who come to Sweden will be able to apply for asylum and will have their applications considered. What Sweden is really doing is telling refugees not to use it as a transit spot or live here without registering with the authorities. The decision to reinstate border checks is temporary and valid for 10 days, but can be renewed for up to six months under Schengen regulations on free movement. Swedish police officials said on Thursday that they were preparing to have the controls in place for six months, though Sweden has made no such request yet.

2. Most people back the idea of refugee cutbacks
While it's true that support for rising refugee numbers is waning in Sweden, it's a myth that most people want cutbacks. A poll from last week found that 41 percent of respondents said Sweden should grant fewer residency permits to refugees -- compared to just 29 percent in September. Meanwhile a quarter wanted the number to remain at current levels, while 17 percent wanted an increase and 16 percent were undecided. Sweden, a country of 9.8 million people, has taken more refugees as a proportion of its population than any other country in Europe, and expects to receive up to 190,000 asylum seekers this year – more than double the 80,000 it took in last year.

3. Sweden Democrats are the biggest party now
One pollster, YouGov, has put the Sweden Democrats as the largest party, with 24.8 percent of those polled in October saying they would vote for them, compared 23.2 percent for the Social Democrats and 21.8 percent for the Moderates. However, other polls, including Ipsos and TNS Sifo, put the Sweden Democrats in third place, on about 17 percent. If that figure was repeated in an election, it would certainly strengthen their position in parliament and prevent either the centre-right or centre-left from forming a majority, but mainstream parties would together still be supported by eight out of ten voters. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the support for the party has increased dramatically since the elections last year, when it pulled in 12.9 percent of the votes.

4. Refugees are being attacked across the country
While it's true that there have been some refugee housing torched in Sweden recently, it's only a tiny proportion of the number of centres in the country. Considering there are over 100,000 refugees who came to Sweden this year alone, the occasional attack is far from representative of the current attitude towards refugees. One of the bigger concerns for refugees in Sweden has been settling into life in Scandinavia. One Syrian who arrived Östersund in rural northern Sweden earlier this year said he loved his new town, but wasn't such a fan of the struggle to find accommodation. "This city is a small city and a quiet city, and the people here are really, really nice and I like it, but it's a big problem to find an apartment," he told The Local

5. Refugees won't get work and can't integrate
Many refugees want nothing more to get a foot into the job market - a crucial step towards integrating into a new country. Yet by one important measure Sweden is  one of the worst countries in the OECD at getting immigrants into the labour market. Sweden has the largest gap in employment rates between native-born people and immigrants in the OECD. It is particularly bad at integrating immigrants with low skills. Sweden has spent lots of money on trying to turn this around, with free language training and programmes to help them match their skills with the labour market. But looked at from another angle, any individual refugee is still more likely to find employment in Sweden than in many other countries, simply thanks to Sweden’s strong economy. The unemployment rate for foreign-born people in Sweden is 21.8 percent, compared to figures in the mid-thirties in Greece or Italy.
© The Local - Sweden


Slovenia Starts Building Fence on Croatia Border

The Slovenian military started to erect a barbed wire fence on the border with Croatia on Wednesday, to stop refugees from entering the country using informal border crossings.

11/11/2015- The Slovenian military started to set up a barbed wire fence on the border with Croatia on Wednesday, media reports confirmed. The Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced the move on Tuesday. The fence is being built to stop Middle-Eastern refugees from illegally entering the country using informal border crossings and divert the refugees to regular border crossings. The fence, which will be 1.8 meters high, is being constructed in eastern Slovenia in the vicinity of Veliki Obrez and Rigonce, municipalities close to the border with Croatia. “We decided that on the border with Croatia we will introduce technical measures for protecting the border and barriers, including a fence. Barriers will guide the refugees to border crossings. The border remains open,” the Slovenian Prime Minister said.

Cerar explained that Slovenia needed to introduce these measures to protect the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone. A large number of refugees is expected to reach Slovenia from Greece in the coming days and Slovenia has to control the refugee wave since the onset of winter will mean new capacities are needed to accommodate them. He confirmed that he had informed his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanovic about the move. Cerar added that Milanovic had said he would respect Slovenia's decision and the two countries will continue to cooperate on the refugee issue. Slovenia will receive as many refugees as Austria in turn can receive from Slovenia. The country deployed its military on the border to better control the refugee wave in October. Slovenia is about to become a second state in Southeast Europe to set up a fence on its borders to control refugees.

Hungary, also a part of Schengen zone, set up a fence on the border with Serbia on September 15 and did the same on the border with Croatia on October 16. After the refugee wave diverted from Serbia to Croatia on September 16, Croatia transported the vast majority of refugees to the border with Hungary. Since Hungary put up the fence on the Croatian border and introduced stricter border controls, it has transported refugees by trains and buses to the border with Slovenia. In the meantime, on November 2, Croatia set up a new refugee camp in Slavonski Brod in eastern Croatia, which will house up to 5,000 refugees in heated tents during the winter. Apart from a few cases of refugees entering southern Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina, all refugees enter Croatia from the east from the direction of Serbia. According to the Croatian Interior Ministry, by September 16, 358,506 had refugees entered the country. From midnight on Tuesday until 9am on Wednesday another 3,039 refugees entered Croatia.
© Balkan Insight


Attacks on Refugees Intensifying Across Europe under Far-Right Influence

Susan Corke reports from France, where she is researching antisemitism and far-right extremism.

10/11/2015- In Europe, the outlook is grim for refugees and other minorities. Xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism are on the rise. As the refugee crisis mounts, so too does violence against marginalized groups. In Germany, there have been more than twice as many attacks on refugee hostels during the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2014. Meanwhile popular support for the anti-migrant Pegida movement soars. In Finland, protestors threw fireworks at a bus transporting refugees, while in the Netherlands, masked men attacked a refugee reception center. In Sweden, a string of arson attacks destroyed refugee homes. My view from the ground: the French response to the refugee crisis is extremely shameful. The National Front’s Marine Le Pen recently visited Calais, where a day center will soon open to provide services to refugees. She declared that the port city has become “no more than a jungle where violence and the survival of the fittest reign.” Just a few weeks prior, riot police forcibly evicted refugees from informal camps and destroyed shelters, using tear gas and a bulldozer.

Calais is now commonly called "The Jungle," a stark example of how the refugee crisis is fueling racism. Refugees come to Calais to try to leave France for the U.K. via the Channel, but the city is hostile to these visitors. Overnight, refugees and police clashed with rocks, with a number of police injured. The police response has been to arrest and disperse migrants to “administrative retention centers” around the country. Many just return to Calais. France has failed to humanely manage a camp for fewer than 6,000 refugees, while Germany has been receiving hundreds of thousands. Refugees are reportedly trying to avoid France because they see it as unwelcoming. As winter approaches, refugees across Europe will congregate in reception centers and other housing facilities. Many fear an increased risk of violent anti-migrant attacks. Attacks are much more likely to happen in areas where far-right extremist groups hold sway. As Human Rights First documents, the ascent of far-right political parties in the European Parliament and national elections has provided a platform for antisemitic, homophobic, and racist rhetoric and policy proposals. And it’s inciting violence.

Not only are extremist groups encouraging anti-migrant hate crimes, their influence continues to corrode respect for democracy, human rights, and protection of minorities—the very principles on which the European Union was founded. The United States has a critical role to play in helping its European partners counter this challenge. As Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland noted in congressional testimony, the United States has provided $26.6 million to UNHCR for its programs in Europe as well as $1.2 million in grants, humanitarian commodities, and donations of excess property and equipment. But it’s not enough. The U.N. efforts are only 40 percent funded, and food assistance has been cut. Meanwhile, the UNHCR launched a new appeal for $96.15 million in additional support for Greece and the Balkans. This money would go toward “winterization” of existing shelter and reception facilities as well as emergency shelters and supplies to protect refugees from the cold.

Refugees are expected to continue arriving in Europe throughout the winter, defying earlier predictions. UNCHR anticipates that as many as 5,000 new arrivals will reach Greece every day between November 2015 and February 2016. Harsh conditions will inevitably lead to more deaths en route. Even after they reach the relative safety of European shores, in the absence of coordinated action to address hate crimes, these refugees will remain vulnerable to violence. Children and families, who have already endured unimaginable conditions, are now terrorized within Europe. This re-traumatization will impede their ability to integrate into society and rebuild their lives.

The U.S. government should work with its European allies to prevent and respond to violent attacks on refugees. This collaboration should include bilateral assistance to European governments in hate-crime data collection, police investigations and prosecutions, as well as assistance to NGOs working in this area. This should be just one part of a comprehensive global effort—in partnership with European allies—to advance the protection of refugees. The United States should launch a major initiative to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees next year. Violent attacks on refugee shelters are one of the most acute symptoms of the deep need for an intensified global response to this crisis. And for American leadership.
© Human Rights First


Austria: FPÖ accuses officials of abuse of office

Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) has brought charges against top government officials, accusing them of abusing their office by allowing tens of thousands of migrants to enter the country unrestricted.

10/11/2015- Riding high in opinion polls, the populist party filed a 16-page claim against Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative ÖVP party, as well as against Chancellor Werner Faymann and Defence Minister Gerald Klug, who belong to the Social Democrats (SPÖ). In the claim submitted to prosecutors, the FPÖ accused the officials of "wilfully" breaking national immigration laws and helping to transport illegal migrants to the German border. "Tens of thousands of people have been able to cross the border without restrictions since the beginning of September," FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday. "The deliberate omission of controls... massively endangers the preservation of public order and security in Austria," he added, reiterating his call for a border fence.

The move came as neighbouring EU member Slovenia announced on Tuesday it would build "temporary barriers", potentially including fences, on its border with Croatia to help stem the flow of migrants. Austria has become a key transit country for the migrants -- mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq -- desperately seeking to reach northern Europe through the Balkans before winter sets in. Like other European far-right parties, the FPÖ has been steadily gaining support as the country faces a record 70,000 asylum claims so far this year amid Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II. Recent national opinion polls have put the party in first place with more than 30 percent of voter intentions, although the next general elections are not due until 2018. Austria's squabbling coalition government is expected to discuss border measures on Wednesday. Faymann has repeatedly rejected the interior ministry's suggestion to build a fence to control the influx.
© The Local - Austria


Scandinavia: Nordic refugee welcome chillier as numbers rise

Asylum seekers travelling to Scandinavia are finding chillier welcomes as their numbers surge and far-right parties increasingly assert their influence on immigration policy, analysts have said.

9/11/2015- Denmark, Norway and Finland – but also Sweden, heretofore especially welcoming to refugees – have begun cutting back the benefits they offer to newcomers while also hardening their asylum policies. “It seems there's a certain amount of competition aimed at not offering the most generous social benefits to asylum seekers,” Asle Toje, a Norwegian international relations expert, told the AFP news agency. Even ultra-liberal Sweden, despite taking in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU state – expecting around 190,000 this year for a population of under 10 million – has decided to tone down its image of generosity. In line with the rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats party, the kingdom is now demanding that its European partners share more of the burden, and it plans to harden conditions for reuniting families.

Sweden's ruling “Social Democrats are worried about losing voters to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who were capitalizing on people's fears over mass migration to Sweden,” said Magnus Hagevi, political scientist at Linné University. “Already we've witnessed a rash of arson attacks on migrant facilities across Sweden – people are also worried about the price of immigration. Many people are worried about what the future will bring and how that will affect the welfare state,” he said. Again on Saturday, a planned refugee shelter was burned down in Sweden, the latest in a string of suspected arson cases targeting a huge influx of migrants.

On the other side of the Öresund strait, Denmark's immigration policy has grown tighter since 2001, when the far-right Danish People's Party began influencing policy making. In July, soon after elections made DPP the country's second-largest party, Denmark moved to slash benefits to asylum seekers in a bid to reduce the influx. Under the new rules, which came into effect in September, a recently arrived immigrant without children now receives 5,945 kroner ($897) per month, compared with the 10,849 kroner they got previously. The move seems to have had the desired effect, since the number of asylum seekers declined in September from a year earlier while setting records elsewhere in Europe. “Many of them say that the conditions are better for them in other countries, perhaps Sweden, asn so they go there,” said DPP leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

Norway and Finland, both led by governments with anti-immigration elements, are similarly moving to cut back social services and toughen conditions for uniting families and granting citizenship or permanent residency. The Nordic countries are also trying to use the media to help them stop the flow at its source. In September, Denmark took out advertisements in the Lebanese press warning about new asylum regulations in the hope of discouraging Syrian refugees. And unofficial flyers, purporting to be by the nationalist Sweden Democrats, have been found circulating in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, warning of grenade attacks, shootings and, incorrectly, an imminent ban on halal slaughter and the veil in the Scandinavian country.

Norway and Finland have tried to get the message across on Facebook, where the bulk of people turn to compare possible destinations. But Toje said the strategy is likely to have little effect. “Refugees are not coming here mainly to take advantage of the welfare state. They are fleeing countries where there is war, conflict and hardship. So even if we reduce services, I don't think that will necessarily lessen the number of asylum seekers,” he said.
© The Local - Sweden


Czech Rep: Politician displays anti-immigrant billboards

11/11/2015- Jaromir Dusek, deputy to the Pardubice regional governor, east Bohemia, and a former trade union boss, has spread billboards with pictures of refugees and slogans "No to Illegals Immigrants" and "No One Has Invited You Here" all over the region, Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes yesterday. Dusek claims that the billboards are not part of his starting campaign ahead of the regional elections to be held next autumn, in which he intends to run, MfD adds. "I only point out that if refugees have illegally crossed three countries and ended up in our country, they cannot be here legally," Dusek told MfD. He represents the Party of Citizens Rights (SPO) at the regional office. The preferences of the SPO, established by supporters of President Milos Zeman, have long been under the 5-percent parliamentary threshold. Dusek´s fellow party member Miloslav Sousek dismissed the view that the billboards were the expression of political populism to attract new voters to the party whose popularity was declining, MfD writes.

"This is not a crisis but a war. And this is why it should not be an issue for an election campaign, but for the whole society," Sousek said about the current migrant wave.
However, Dusek was not able to clearly explain the purpose of his billboard campaign in Pardubice and other towns. "I want to express my opinion about what is happening here and show whom I support," he told MfD. Yet Dusek is being discussed as a possible regional election leader and a candidate for regional governor in the 2016 polls, MfD says. Dusek did not rule out a possibility to run in the Senate election next year as well, MfD says. Political scientist Lubomir Kopecek, from Brno´d Masaryk University, says the refugee crisis has become a more and more popular topic for politicians. "Even mainstream parties are using this, refugees are being blamed for a lot of things now," Kopecky said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Refugees on hunger strike over long detention

10/11/2015- Forty-four refugees from the Drahonice detention centre have launched a hunger strike in protest against their detention in the Czech Republic and possible return to their home countries, Mikulas Vymetal, a protestant priest in contact with the refugees, told CTK yesterday. According to a statement that CTK received from Vymetal, the mostly Iraqi refugees complain of being detained in the country for more than 90 days in some cases. They write that they fled against fighting, prison and violence only to get into a new fight and prison and to be treated as if they were monsters. Vymetal said some of the refugees fear that they would be returned to their homeland because they received a decision on their deportation. The refugees going on hunger strike say they were not going to return home to die, and that they would die in the detention facility instead.

Vymetal said he was in contact with the refugees already when they were in the Bela-Jezova detention facility. The Drahonice facility has been operating since early October. Ombudsman Anna Sabatova and some NGOs assisting foreigners criticised the way, in which refugees were treated in the detention centres. Minister for Human Rights Jiri Dienstbier shared some of the criticism. Justice Minister Robert Pelikan visited Drahonice last weekend and said he was satisfied with the living conditions in the facility. The former prison in Drahonice has recently been turned into a detention centre for illegal immigrants. More than half of its 240 beds are currently occupied and only men are staying in the facility.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep. & Slovakia not to take migrants from EU this year

9/11/2015- Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia count with accepting refugees within their relocation among the EU member states this year, the Czech and Slovak interior ministers, Milan Chovanec and Robert Kalinak, said upon their arrival in Brussels yesterday. They pointed out before an extraordinary meeting of the EU countries´ interior ministers on migration issues that the system of hotspots, that is the migrants´ registration and identification, had not started working yet. However, according to the draft conclusions for yesterday´s meeting, the countries should announce their capacities for accepting refugees in a week, that is on November 16. The document also says the establishment of hotspots must be more supported so that the system could start working by the end of November.

"The system is not functioning at present," Chovanec told reporters referring to Czechs´ reports from Greece and Italy. It is not possible to transfer the migrants elsewhere since they have not been registered in Greece yet, he added. Only a few dozen people have been relocated within the system so far, while thousands of people are flowing to the EU a day. The EU should also negotiate with the government in Kabul about the readmission of Afghan migrants to safer parts of this country, Chovanec told reporters. He noted that Germany would like to solve the readmission policy issues with the Afghan government very soon. During the EU ministers´ talks, Chovanec told reporters that the criticism of not functioning hotspots and the approach of Greece and Italy had been voiced by a crushing majority of the member states at the meeting. The hotspots would have to have the capacity of some 100.000 people whose freedom could be restricted during the registration to be really functioning, Chovanec said.

Kalinak said the prepared draft conclusions of the EU interior ministers´ meeting had surprised him as they did not reflect the real situation. Those who have prepared the document "have not met with reality," he added. He is also of the view that hotspots are not working yet. "The hotspot on Lesbos island is able to process ten migrants a day," Kalinak said. The Czech Republic has announced that it could admit about 35 percent or some 900 people of the total number of refugees it should take within the quotas system in two years, Chovanec said. By 2017, the Czech Republic should accept and decide on asylum applications of 2691 Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans. "However, it will depend on whether the system of hotspots will be successfully kicked off ands whether it will be working," Chovanec said. He added that the Czech Republic can also reject particular persons for security reasons. The draft conclusions have already admitted the possibility to restrict the migrants´ personal freedom until they are registered as "a last resort" to secure their cooperation in the effort to register them, Chovanec pointed out. At present, migrants are to be relocated only from Greece and Italy. The programme is to apply to some 160,000 people in two years.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Spain welcomes first refugees from its European quota

The 11 Eritreans and one Syrian are first of 854 migrants to be resettled before end of year

9/11/2015- The first group of refugees to be officially accepted by Spain as part of a European deal to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers across the continent arrived at Madrid airport on Sunday night. The 12 individuals – 11 from Eritrea and one from Syria – are the first members of an initial contingent of 50 refugees whom Spain has agreed to take in. Seven more Eritreans who had been greenlighted for travel to Spain refused to board the flight, and demanded to be flown to Germany instead. The flight landed at 9.30pm at Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas airport, where the refugees were greeted by Spain’s secretary of state for security, Francisco Martínez, and by the general secretary for migration issues, Marina del Corral.

Hours earlier, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz made a statement in Barcelona, where he said that the government’s goal was not just to accept refugees but to ensure that they became an integrated part of society by offering them “all kinds of attention: healthcare, education, training for the job market...” With this move, Spain becomes one of the first five European countries to begin the relocation process agreed by the European Union earlier this year. In early September, the Spanish government announced that it would accept the nearly 15,000 refugees that the European Commission allocated to it. The Spanish government is planning to resettle 854 asylum seekers before the end of the year. Non-profit groups will take charge of the new arrivals and help cover their basic needs, said the Interior Ministry in a release on Sunday evening.

Three Eritreans will move to the Basque Country, where the regional government has expressed a willingness to accept around 1,000 refugees fleeing war zones. “All agencies have made an effort, without turning this into a political issue, thinking simply about the people,” said the Basque executive’s chief of family policies, José Luis Madrazo, adding that he was surprised at how slow things were moving. “It’s odd that only three people can come,” he noted. But slowness has been a trait of all resettlement efforts in Europe. By early November, only 86 migrants had traveled from Italy to Sweden and Finland. The rest remain caught up in bureaucratic red tape. In theory, all 160,000 refugees should be in their new homes within the next two years.

From Syria to Spain via soccer
Although Sunday's migrants are the first contingent from the official quota of refugees accepted by Spain, there was a precedent in mid-September, when a Syrian family arrived in Madrid after making global headlines. Son Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who became famous when he was tripped up by a Hungarian TV camera operator on September 8, was sponsored by Spain’s National Soccer Coach Training Center and brought to the Madrid suburb of Getafe with two of his sons.
© El Paķs in English


Dutch populist Wilders seeks halt to 'Islamic invasion'

The best way to deal with Europe's growing refugee crisis is to close national borders to stop an "Islamic invasion", Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders says.

10/11/2015- As the popularity of his far-right Freedom Party (PVV) skyrockets amid Europe's largest movement of migrants since World War II, Wilders has his sights set on becoming the next prime minister of the Netherlands in elections due in 2017. "The only way to deal with it (the refugee crisis) is to regain our national sovereignty and close our national borders," Wilders told AFP in an exclusive interview in the Dutch parliament. "I'm not asking for anything strange, I am asking that our government close its doors as Hungary did ...that we close our borders to those we consider to be migrants, not refugees," he said.

Reviled and supported in equal measure, Wilders' fiery rhetoric is finding fertile ground among working and middle-class Dutch, who fear social upheaval as thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and other conflict areas reach the Netherlands. Polls showed Sunday his PVV would win 38 seats in the 150-seat Lower House should elections be held today -- its largest-ever showing in a predictive survey. The lowlands country of 17 million citizens is bracing to take in about 60,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year with numbers climbing weekly to reach some 1,800 alone in the first week of November, according to the latest government statistics.

- 'Angry, afraid' -
The issue has polarised the Netherlands, which prides itself on its long, but fading tradition of consensus politics and multi-cultural tolerance. In recent days both Dutch King Willem-Alexander and lawmakers have called for calm after rowdy gatherings about housing refugees. "People are angry, they are afraid, they want a different policy and the political elite is not listening to them," said Wilders, 52, sporting his trademark platinum-blonde hairdo. "That's why parties like mine all over Europe are getting very strong." He argues the refugees would be better provided for if they stayed in countries closer to home, with a similar culture and religion -- and that many of the arrivals are economic migrants not true refugees.

His message may be gaining some traction, but Wilders remains wary of poll figures. The PVV currently has only 12 seats, down from 15 after a disappointing result in 2012 elections. In the previous polls in 2010, the PVV had grabbed 24 seats. "The larger we become, the more difficult it will be to ignore us and I'm sure we have a chance to govern," Wilders insisted. He also put the European Union on notice that he would move to pull the Netherlands out of the 28-nation body, arguing countries are stronger outside of the organisation. "At a supernational level in Brussels, we never had a democracy. The European Commission, nobody elected them," he said, urging Britons to vote for a "Brexit" in next year's referendum. Wilders, who once likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and wants the full-face covering Islamic veil to be banned, renewed his accusations that the migrant crisis constitutes an "Islamic invasion."

- Hate crimes trial -
Nearly 752,000 migrants and refugees have reached Europe's shores this year, causing bitter divisions within the EU. Wilders chided leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy towards refugees. "I think it was very unprofessional and even irresponsible," he said, adding: "We should not have to pay for the stupidity of Angela Merkel." It's however not all plain sailing for Wilders. Next year he's expected to go on trial for inciting racial hatred after pledging in local elections he will ensure there will be "fewer Moroccans" in the country. The politician last year asked his supporters whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?" When the crowd shouted "Fewer! Fewer!" a smiling Wilders answered: "We're going to organise that," prompting more than 6,000 complaints. Wilders said he was referring to a "criminal element" among Moroccans and not to the group in general.

The country's most securely guarded politician since the assassination of controversial anti-Islam filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004, Wilders has received several death threats for his anti-Islamist views and is said to be on an Al-Qaeda death list. Wilders said he was opposed to any violence including against Muslims -- although his comments on the Koran and Islam are seen by many moderate Muslims as highly disrespectful. "If people threaten to use violence against anybody, any person and any institution, they should be taken to court and jailed for a long time," said Wilders. "Nobody in this parliament and maybe in this country knows better than I do what it's like to be threatened with violence."


Netherlands: A cost-benefit analysis of refugees will only fuel hysteria (column)

A cost benefit analysis of the refugee crisis will inevitably focus on the costs and fuel the hysteria of Wilders’ hordes. It would be better – and cheaper in the long run – to concentrate efforts on establishing a long-term policy, writes economist Marcel Canoy.

9/11/2015- According to CPB director Laura van Geest, it doesn’t do to calculate the costs of refugees. According to Volkskrant columnist Frans Kalshoven – with in his wake a couple of applauding professors – this is exactly what should happen. Kalshoven’s argument is simple and logical. There are a number of objectifiable effects (accommodation costs, for example). Why not map these so you can separate them from the unobjectifiable, ethical and sometimes emotional issues (for example, the extent to which our society is willing to be fair or empathic). I’m with Kalshoven on many things. It’s fine to make a cost benefit analysis of matters natural and cultural before asking the ethical question of what we are prepared to spend on a symphony orchestra or a nature reserve. But it won’t wash with refugees. The costs of decent facilities (bed, bath and bread) are easily calculated. The benefits are speculative (what will happen to the labour market?) or impossible to express in figures (the impact on stability, solidarity or sense of security). Those benefits can’t be written off under the heading of ‘ethical arguments’. These are real benefits which can easily translate into solid euros, even if we have no idea how many.

You could argue that good researchers would give prominence to these unquantifiable benefits as well. Laura van Geest probably realises that the government’s macro-economic think tank CPB doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to doing justice to benefits that are difficult to quantify. Health care is a good example, and so is the CPB report into the cost and benefits of migration (2003) in which unquantifiable benefits were reduced to insignificant footnotes. Even if the CPB were to rise above itself and make an honest attempt at interpreting these benefits, they would undoubtedly fall victim to the usual fate in the public discourse: uncertain benefits will always be equated with non-existent ones.

The refugee crisis needs a thorough and calm political decision making process. A sustained European asylum policy will lead to stability in the region and a firmer sense of security. A mature handling of the migration issue will lead to selection and positive effects on the labour market, and greater public acceptance. Kalshoven’s well-meaning but naive attempt to rid the debate of emotion will achieve exactly the opposite. A cost benefit analysis of refugees will inevitably put the spotlight on costs and that will give Wilders’ already hysterical hordes more ammunition. It would be much better to do our utmost to increase the long-term benefits. That would be better for migrants and asylum seekers, better for Europe and better even for disgruntled citizens.

This column comes with a PS from the writer:
Misunderstanding 1
Some have seen this column as an attempt to gloss over effects, or even ban research. That is not the case. Research should only be carried out if it contributes something to society. I tried to explain that this analysis does not contribute anything to the quality of the decision making process and therefore isn’t fit for purpose.

Misunderstanding 2 Refugees versus refugee policy
Cost benefit analyses are made to evaluate policies, not people. This analysis is not about what refugees ‘bring’ but what the costs and benefits are of a more or less stringent refugee policy.

Misunderstanding 3 The counterfactual
A cost benefit analysis usually comes with a counterfactual: what happens if we don’t carry out this policy? Asylum policies in particular are costly but relatively cheap compared to the costs of a destabilised region or the erosion of the European Union. It is impossible to quantify this complex matter. That is why I think we should leave this to the ‘wisdom’ and insight of politicians, which will, of course, be subject to the usual democratic checks and balances.
Marcel Canoy is an economist, academic and lecturer at the Erasmus School of Accounting & Assurance
This article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad
© The Dutch News


Germany: Outrage over Schäuble's refugee 'avalanche' remark

12/11/2015- Germany's Finance Minister Schäuble has caused outrage for calling the influx of migrants in Germany an 'avalanche.' Some politicians have criticized the remarks, while others encouraged further public debate. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's remarks about the refugee crisis attracted a broad set of reactions throughout Germany's political spectrum. His coalition partners, Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) appeared to be particularly dismayed by the statement. SPD leader and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he would refrain from "choosing such a comparison" and added that the issue was not the number of refugees coming into Germany, but the speed at which they were coming. Gabriel said Germany had to come up with ways of organizing "orderly immigration" to tackle the problem. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) attacked Schäuble's choice for a metaphor by saying on Twitter that people in peril were not a natural catastrophe.

Left-wing indignation
Bernd Riexinger, head of The Left party, called Schäuble's remark "erroneous and dangerous in equal parts." "To keep using metaphors, you could equally say that the millions of refugees were simply the boomerang effect of reckless policies that fuel wars, destroy resources and ruin livelihoods," Riexinger told the AFP news agency. He later told Schäuble via Twitter that the refugee crisis was merely a "rendezvous with your reckless, shitty policies." Green Party lawmaker Steffi Lemke meanwhile said the situation was growing increasingly ugly at the CDU, which is led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and of which Schäuble is a member. Lemke implied that Schäuble was pinning himself as Merkel's successor in the chancellery, as Merkel's approval ratings have been falling in opinion polls.

President encourages further debate
Without making any direct reference to Schäuble's remarks, German President Joachim Gauck said using pessimistic language around the refugee debate was particularly "dangerous." Gauck said such vocabulary would create an impression of Germany not able to cope with the situation. "People are painting a dire picture for the future. And all these dire pictures and negative stereotypes only serve one goal: they disempower us," he said while visiting a refugee center in Bergisch-Gladbach on Thursday. "There's no need to run away from an unsolved problem while we can still tackle it," he added. Gauck also said it was important to allow concerned citizens to voice their fears in a bid to avoid a spike in far-right or xenophobic views.

Justified concerns?
Meanwhile, staff members at Germany's Federal Office for Refugees (BAMF) said there was considerable cause for concern about receiving fraudulent asylum applications from Syrians. In a letter to BAMF head Frank-Jürgen Weise, staff said the expedited process to process Syrian asylum applications introduced in the wake of the influx of refugees was open to systematic fraud. In the letter, which was reported on by German media, staff said there was a "high share of asylum seekers, who used a false identity in order to gain the right to remain in Germany and allow their families to join them in official family reunions." Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had said earlier that roughly 30 percent of all applicants had falsified their identities as Syrian in order to be granted stay in Germany and extend this to their families. The statement followed an earlier official parliamentary request for information by the Green party asking how many refugees had entered Germany. The Interior Ministry replied it didn't know the exact number of migrants currently in the country.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany Can't Take Many More Migrants, Minister Says

The country is expected to receive 800,000 to 1 million refugees this year

9/11/2015- Germany is nearing a point where it will no longer be able to accommodate the continuing influx of migrants, the country’s Finance Minister said on Sunday. “We need to send a clear message to the world: we are very much prepared to help, we’ve shown that we are, but our possibilities are also limited,” Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble said in a television interview with German broadcaster ARD, Reuters reported. Germany is a terminus for the massive population of migrants escaping conflict in the Middle East, with between 800,000 and 1 million refugees slated to arrive in the country in 2015. Though the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has been by and large hospitable to the growing immigrant population, some politicians have pushed for tighter asylum policies. Schäuble spoke in favor of a measure that would, among other things, prohibit family members of refugees from joining them in the country. “I think it’s a necessary decision and I’m very much in favor that we agree on this in the coalition,” he said.
© Reuters


Germany: Attacks on refugees double in three months

The number of registered attacks against refugee accommodations and asylum seekers in Germany has doubled in the last three months. Severe crimes such as arson, bombings and assault have tripled.

7/11/2015- The number of attacks on refugee accommodations has jumped from 136 in the second quarter to 274 in the third quarter of this year, according to an article in the "Saarbrücker Zeitung" newspaper on Saturday. The number of participants in neo-Nazi demonstrations against refugees has also spiked to 5,800 people between July and September. In the previous quarter the number was only 800. "Protests against refugees are now used by Nazis as a central theme to mobilize," Jelpke told the German newspaper. The number of neo-Nazi protestors includes demonstrations by groups such as the NPD and the Third Way, but does not include anti-immigration demonstrations organized by PEGIDA. Yet, much of the data on attacks and demonstrations is still lacking, Jelpke said. For example, there is no federal data breaking down arson attacks on inhabited versus uninhabited refugee accommodation. It is also unclear how many of the attacks were right-wing inspired. The spike in attacks and rise in support for far-right groups comes as Germany is expecting up to one million refugees fleeing conflict and poverty by the end of the year.

Neo-Nazi more than a danger to refugees
In September alone there were 1,380 extreme-right motivated crimes and 104 attacks registered across Germany, according to Die Linke politician Petra Pau. There were also 203 anti-Semitic attacks in the third quarter, or nearly two a day.
© The Deutsche Welle.


German teachers union warns girls to stay away from refugee men

A teachers group in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt has garnered criticism after saying girls should be encouraged to stay away from male - often Muslim - refugees. Politicians have accused the group of fear-mongering.

7/11/2015- "An immigrant invasion is spilling over in Germany," said an article in a recent teachers union magazine, which went on to recommend girls stay away from "often attractive Muslim men." The statement from the "Journal of the Philologists' Association of Saxony-Anhalt" that young women should be dissuaded from relationships with Muslims drew ire from state politicians on Saturday. According to a report by German daily "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung," the original article by the teachers group, signed by leaders Jürgen Mannke and Iris Seltmann-Kuke, told instructors to warn their students of the risk of being molested by refugees and to resist the temptation to engage in "a superficial sexual adventure with the often attractive Muslim men." The newspaper also reported that the article alleges that these "young, strong, mostly Muslim … often uneducated men" are entering the country "under dubious pretenses." Mannke and Seltmann-Kuke then go on to describe how innocent conversations in public transportation and in supermarkets can lead to sexual assault.

As a record number of people seeking asylum come to Germany, many escaping violence in their homelands, Saxony-Anhalt's education minister, Stephan Dorgerloh, took exception to the union's implication that the safety of female students was threatened by the refugee crisis. Speaking to the "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung," Dorgerloh accused the group of "amplifying rumors, spreading half-truths and exploiting its value as a union." "The content [of the article] is completely base, it serves prejudice and the far-right fringe" of the political spectrum, state leader of the Green party Claudia Dalbert told the newspaper. As Germany grapples with the unprecedented wave of human movement through its borders, sentiment towards the newcomers has largely been one of welcoming - though many incidents of arson and destruction to planned refugee homes have been recorded, particularly in the former East German states, including Saxony-Anhalt.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Greece: No migrant deaths in Aegean for 1st time in 11 days

7/11/2015- Authorities rescued several hundred migrants from the Aegean Sea off eastern Greek islands in relatively calm waters on Saturday, also reporting the death of a toddler. The boy, aged 2-3 years, was found off the coast of Lesbos fully clothed, including boots, and wearing an orange life jacket, the Greek coast guard said in a statement. A coast guard spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press, that there were no reports of a missing child from today's migrant arrivals or rescues. "Until we identify the boy, we cannot exclude anything," she said, leaving open the possibility that the child may have drowned before Saturday.

Earlier, Greek authorities had reported that Saturday was the first time in 11 days that no migrant had been reported dead in the Aegean, largely because of favorable weather. Even with favorable seas, Greece's coast guard and European Union border agency Frontex rescued a total of 429 migrants in seven separate rescue operations, authorities said. One of the boats was "in a difficult situation" while two others were "rudderless." As people flee conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, European countries are struggling to cope with the heavy flow and hostility from anti-migrant groups. Many EU members have been reluctant to take in significant numbers of migrants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined in her weekly video message the need for "a fairer distribution (of refugees) in Europe." Germany has seen 758,000 asylum-seekers arrive between January and October this year and this has resulted in a political backlash for Merkel. The latest anti-immigrant rally, organized in Berlin by the Alternative for Germany party, drew 5,000 people shouting "Merkel Must Go!"

In southwestern Sweden, an empty building intended to house refugees was burned to the ground, the latest suspected arson fire to hit asylum centers or buildings being renovated for refugees. In recent weeks, the Scandinavian country has seen more than 20 arson attacks as an influx of refugees has surged. Sweden expects up to 190,000 asylum-seekers this year.

In neighboring oil-rich Norway, a non-EU member, Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said the government plans to reduce benefits for refugees up to 20 percent and introduce tighter immigration rules. The ministry's Facebook page warns would-be refugees they could be sent home if their asylum applications are turned down and that people who won't leave Norway voluntarily "will be returned by force."
© The Associated Press


Poland: EU flag burned as thousands protest migrants

Nationalism, as in anti-European Union and anti-globalism, is sweeping through Eastern Europe and in no place is it catching fire faster than Poland.

12/11/2015- Upwards of 50,000 Poles were reported out in the streets Wednesday evening, marching with flags and slogans like “Stop Islamization” and “Great Catholic Poland” on the anniversary of Poland’s return to independence after World War I. There were 11 demonstrations throughout the day in Warsaw Wednesday. Police came out in full riot gear and there were some minor skirmishes, but no injuries reported. “God, honor, homeland,” chanted the protesters as they marched under a sea of red-and-white Polish flags, the Telegraph reported. Demonstrators trampled and burned a European Union flag at one point, while a banner added to the anti-EU theme with the slogan “EU macht frei” (“Work makes you free” in German), a reference to the slogan over the gates at Auschwitz, according to the Telegraph.

Poland’s outgoing centrist government has agreed to accept about 7,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea, a plan that has angered many Poles. Germany, by contrast is accepting at least 1 million migrants from Syria and other countries in the Middle East and Africa. France has agreed to take 22,000, Britain 20,000 and Spain 17,000. Sweden has taken in more than 40,000 Middle Eastern refugees this year and Greece 88,000, according to In the wake of the migrant crisis, Poland’s anti-migrant Law and Justice party won in a landslide election Oct. 25. A new government will be sworn in within days. “Yesterday it was Moscow, today it’s Brussels which takes away our freedom,” chanted one group of protesters.

The crowds gathered in front of the National Stadium where they lit flares under the slogan “Poland for the Poles, the Poles for Poland.” Some, such as American author Pamela Geller, have speculated Europe could be on the brink of civil war if the migrant crisis continues unabated and European politicians continue to hang out the “welcome” banner in face of growing opposition from their own people. Stories of Germans being evicted from apartment homes so migrants can be accommodated and mounting reports of rapes in Germany and Sweden do not bode well.

Swedish King invites migrants to live in his palaces
The developments in Poland, and to a certain extent Hungary, which has elected nationalist Viktor Urban as prime minister, contrast with the politics of Sweden, which continues under leftist rule. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, it was reported Thursday, is considering letting refugees stay in his unused palaces as the country has run out of available housing options. The king has 16 extravagant estates across the country, many of which he never uses, the Daily Caller reported. Margareta Thorgren, the royal director of communication, said the royal family has taken the Syrian migrant situation to heart and is “open to creative solutions” to solve the housing emergency. “The royal family is following it and is very engaged in the issue,” Thorgren said. “The situation is such that we need as many people as possible helping out, and the royal family has done this by helping established organizations working on the refugee crisis.”

Letting people stay in the king and queen’s primary residence of Drottningholm Palace is not an option. But if the National Property Board — which technically owns the estates — is open to using some of the unused properties, they will have a discussion, according to Thorgren. The annual march in Warsaw, organized by Poland’s nationalist right, has featured rock-throwing youths and vandalism in previous years but this year’s march was peaceful. “I came here because I love Poland and want to show it,” 27-year-old Piotr, who came with his fiancée, told the Telegraph. “I came here for my grandfather, who fought in the Warsaw Uprising (against the Nazi occupation of the Polish capital), and for his father, who fought for independence.”


Poland: Disillusioned young Poles lend refugees a helping hand

7/11/2015- Angered by their country's foot-dragging on Europe's refugee crisis, 30 young Poles are lending a helping hand to refugees in the Balkans, breathing new life into a "Solidarity" ethic made famous in Poland in the 1980s. "We're heading to the Balkans this week with clothing for refugees," says Maciej Bulanda, 26, one of four friends who launched the aid drive on Facebook by creating the Dobrowolki ("volunteers" or "goodwillers") page. "We've got eight cars and around 30 volunteers," he told AFP as students and activists stuffed garbage bags full of warm clothes, shoes and blankets into vehicles. Soon they will set off on the 2,000-kilometre (1,200-mile) journey south to Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia.

"The response of ordinary people was incredible," Bulanda said as he loaded a shiny new luxury-brand van that a car rental company loaned them free of charge. "Everything we're doing is also a way to voice our protest against the inaction of the countries in our region regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Balkans." More than 750,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, many fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the European Union has struggled to craft a unified strategy to deal with the influx. In eastern Europe, a potent mix of fear, ignorance and Islamophobia is fuelling widespread opposition to taking in refugees, despite the EU's adoption of a quota system to redistribute the new arrivals around the 28-member bloc. But the young volunteers are determined to press on with their mission to help the new arrivals.

"We're going to Slavonski Brod in Croatia first. We'll drop the clothes off and then the group will split up: some will go to Slovenia and others will head elsewhere in Croatia," says Monika Pronczuk, who returned two weeks ago from her first aid trip, to Berkasevo in Serbia. "We'll get special ID cards in Slavonski Brod allowing us to work as volunteers," she adds.

- 'Cholera', 'parasites' -
Like Poland, Croatia is a member of the 28-state European Union, while Macedonia and Serbia are not. Pronczuk explains some Polish volunteers then plan to head to Presevo, a small Serbian town near the Macedonian border that hosting a refugee and migrant reception centre. The enthusiasm displayed by the young Poles stands in stark contrast to the words of a leading Polish politician, dubbed by some Poland's new "king" due to his party's control over the presidency, the parliament and soon, the central bank. Jaroslaw Kaczynski's push for power in last month's parliamentary elections preyed on fears arising from Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Analysts believe his victorious Law and Justice majority government will likely try to reverse the decision of the outgoing centrist administration to accept refugees under an EU quota plan. Kaczynski claimed refugees were bringing "cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasites", in comments that critics said recalled the Nazi era. He insists Warsaw should financially support EU efforts to tackle the crisis, but not take in refugees -- a view surveys suggest is shared by nearly 60 percent of Poles. In their determination to defy the government and do what they see as the right thing, the Dobrowolki have reminded some Poles of the Solidarity movement of the 1980s. Led by then Gdansk shipyard electrician Lech Walesa, Solidarity spiralled into the biggest opposition movement behind the Iron Curtain, triggering the peaceful demise of communism in Poland by 1989.

Insisting there is too much "indifference" to the plight of refugees and migrants, one of the volunteers, 33-year-old Jacek Kastelaniec said he had postponed a dream trip to the Caribbean in order to help refugees in the Balkans. "This drama is happening here and now in Europe, close to us. During World War II, too many people said the same thing: 'It's not my business'," said Kastelaniec, director of a special fund aimed at preserving the site of the Nazi German twin death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau -- now a state museum in southern Poland. "As a Pole, I want to feel that I have done something for these people, to ease their plight."


Serbia, Croatia Solve Migrant Crisis Together

Serbia and Croatia are now working together to handle the refugee flow - to the dismay to traffickers, taxi drivers and other profiteers.

7/11/2015- It took only a month to get things working. Starting from the time where Croatia closed the border with Serbia, blocked traffic to Serbian citizens, and when Serbia banned Croatian products from entering, both countries have now reached the point where good communications play the main role. Instead of trucking refugees close to the Croatian border between Sid and Tovarnik where the migrants continued their journey on foot through the fields and mud to Tovarnik or Opatovac in Croatia, Serbia now directs buses from southern Serbia to the railway station in Sid. Migrants are then guided to a train, which takes them directly to Slavonski Brod in Croatia, where a winter camp with a capacity for 5,000 people was set up in recent days. All migrants who come to Presevo in southern Serbia are registered and the documents given out by the Serbian authorities are now also used by Croatia’s migration services.

Serbia has also started to control the flow of the migrants on its territory, so that they do not travel with traffickers or through the fields on foot. The head of the regional police in Sid, Mile Jandrię, is optimistic about the new agreement between Serbia and Croatia that came into force on November 3rd. He says communication with Croatian colleagues is frequent and professional, although issues still need more coordination, starting with the number of people arriving every day in Sid. “People arrive in large numbers, 5,000 or more every 24 hours,” Jandrię said, pointing out that both sides will have to work on providing more trains. One train can carry about 1,300 people but no one ever knows exactly when it can be expected. The first groups of migrants who came on Monday to Sid waited eight or nine hours to continue to Slavonski Brod in Croatia.

The traffic was dense, so the police stopped the buses coming from Presevo on the highway and directed them to Adasaveci, a hamlet next to Sid. The migrants and the bus drivers waited hours there before being allowed to enter the railway station in Sid. Miro Brandic, head of the Croatian police across the border in Vukovar, says he is also happy cooperating with his Serbian colleagues, and says the biggest problem does not lie on the Serbian side, but in the numbers of people that are coming and the capacity of both countries to handle this situation. “Every beginning is difficult,” he said. “What we need to do is establish the train schedule, which would help to manage this situation more effectively,” Brandic added. There is a lot to manage as the new situation has completely changed the landscape of places that have become migrant hotspots.

In Presevo, more than 200 buses await migrants, who wait in lines of hundreds of metres long to get registered. Dalibor, from Batajnica, a bungalow settlement near Belgrade, is a bus driver who transports refugees from Presevo to Sid. “I went from Belgrade to Presevo on Monday, traveled for five hours and spent 34 hours in a column of buses there,” he said angrily. “Then, before we reached Sid, the police directed us to the gas station in Adasevci on the highway and we spent almost nine hours there waiting for permission to enter the railway station in Sid,” he added. That was not the end of the torment, as the train first was due to come at 8pm, then at 9pm, but was not there at 10pm either. The migrants slept in the buses, as all the other places were full, Dalibor explained. “There are women and children here, I cannot let them freeze,” he said.

He has never had a problem with his passengers, however “They offered me bananas and chocolate all the way to Sid,” he confessed, criticising the recent agreement because it has slowed the passage of the migrants down. The new cross-border action plan has also upset the local Serbian taxi drivers who have lost extra income. “The police no longer allow us to drive the migrants to the border,” complained Slobodan. “Taxi drivers in Sid didn’t earn much money, but it was better than now, without the migrants. The cab drivers from Belgrade get all the real money, we have only a few kilometers to the border.” For now, there is no way back to the old pattern, when hundreds of migrants never even got to the Registration Centre in Presevo. After crossing into Serbia from Macedonia, they would continue without documentation, illegally crossing Serbia to Sid, often paying bus or taxi drivers twice as much as they should.

The cab drivers and bus drivers who were smuggling people without documents and often overcharging them are now cut off from the chance to pocket money illegally. So are the landlords in Presevo who used to charge 200 euros or more per day, and the people who found customers for the bus drivers among the refugees. They used to earn 5 euro per person. Now all of them are deprived of income by the decisions of the two ministries of interior affairs. Ivan Gerginov, assistant Serbian Commissioner for Refugees and Migration, with more than 25 years of experience in the field, says all the current problems can be solved. What is needed is not just money, although there is a need for that, but good management. “A mechanism to distinguish the refugees from economic migrants needs to be established and is not hard to do,” he said. “But we cannot decide about it here. “We will handle this situation, I promise you that, but a solution needs to be found by the European Union,” he added.

Serbia, like Croatia, is preparing temporary centres for winter. Around Sid there will be three centres like the ones in Principovac, Adasevci and Sid, with a capacity to offer 3,000 people a warm bed and food while waiting for their trains. If the numbers of migrants entering Serbia remains around 8,000 a day, however, the situation might get dramatic, and the good will of Serbia or Croatia will not be enough. “During the last 15 months, 6,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean, while 1,000 drowned on the Titanic, which everybody called a tragedy. What about the 6,000 people who drowned before our eyes, not 100 years ago?” asked Gerginov, urging the EU to act.

The European Commission has estimated that about 3 million migrants could reach Europe by the end of 2016. The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to Serbia, Hans Friedrich Schodder, warns that the possibility of borders closing is still real. Slovenia is considering fencing off the border with Croatia in order to secure the Schengen zone. Schodder has promised another 100 million US dollars for the countries on the Balkan route to deal with the migration crisis. It is not quite the management solution that Gerginov is talking about.
© Balkan Insight


European Union’s disillusion (commentary)

by Martin Scicluna 
Yesterday, the President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, Donald Tusk, addressed the Maltese Parliament. This article is written before President Tusk’s speech to Parliament, but it would surprise me greatly if the theme of what he said last night did not focus on the single most important subject confronting Europe today.

11/11/2015- It is one to which President Tusk returns repeatedly. This is the need to lift Europe’s disillusion and to shore up its liberal values against the threat from populism. As Europe’s crisis-manager-in-chief, Tusk has the unenviable task of managing the European responses to an endless series of exigencies – from Ukraine,to Greece’s bail-out, to the immigration and refugee emergency. He has to dothis without any real power, except that of persuasion. His view is that the liberal centre must “be tough and determined not to become more like the right-wing populists, but to protect Europe against them”. This is hardly an original thought in a European Union afflicted by Marine Le Pen in France and Victor Orban in Hungary, and others.

Born-again Robespierre populist upstarts are re-shaping Europe’s political map. The head of the Left Front party in France vies with the far-right National Front party, using rhetoric that would have sounded familiar in 1789. Both say they are determined to “purify” the political system through “a big sweep of the broom”, to purge France of its elite, tainted by charges of corruption. Support for the EU in France has plunged to an even lower level than in the UK – and that’s saying something. On the far right, le Pen predicts gleefully that the EU will collapse “like the Soviet Union” under the weight of its own contradictions.

Poland has just elected the right-wing, anti-immigrant Eurosceptic Law andJustice Party. “Pirate” parties in Sweden, Finland and elsewhere, stand-up comics in Italy, billionaires in Austria and formerly fringe parties, such as the UKIP in the UK, are becoming mainstream, with startling effect. None more so than in Germany – Europe’s pillar and the fount of European integrationist ambitions – where Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), an increasingly xenophobic party which calls for the euro to be abandoned, has tapped into deep-seated scepticism about the euro. AfD’s policies have seemingly little in common with Eurosceptics elsewhere in Europe. Unlike many in the UK (where polls show a swing towards Brexit), it wants to stay in the EU.

Unlike the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, its driving force is not resentment of Muslims and immigrants. Unlike the Five Star Movement in Italy or the Left Front in France, it does not seek to smash the corrupt political class. Most importantly, AfD taps into a mood of resentment in Germany at the broken promise that the country would never have to stand behind the debts of others in the eurozone. In echoes of the debate in the UK, AfD’s leaders highlight that the German people were never asked if they wanted the euro, or indeed any other European Union treaty. But most worryingly of all, the failure of the euro has exposed a gaping democratic deficit throughout the EU.

Populists of the far left and far right are on the rise as anger at the handling of the economic crisis deepens among ordinary people whose livelihoods and way of life have been adversely affected and sometimes destroyed by harsh austerity measures. The prolonged, acute unemployment is alarming. Fears of a political backlash are high and rising. To compound the economic gloom, there are more refugees in Europe, and seeking to get into Europe, than any time since 1945. The economic crisis has been further inflamed by the burgeoning refugee and immigration powder keg of the last year, which has led to Eurosceptic, anti-immigration parties emerging virtually in all the countries of the Union.

Angela Merkel’s worthy plans to welcome Syrian refugees to Germany in early September may have been hailed asan enlightened moral act of leadership, but can now be seen as the result of muddled thinking. The arrival of a tidal wave of refugees has placed the most enormous strains within her Grand Coalition government, and opened up divisions in her own conservative party with the sister party in Bavaria. German cities have seen the spread of right-wing protest movements, such as the anti-Islamic Pegida, which have flourished as migrants flock from the Middle East.

These upheavals present the EU with an unprecedented challenge to its identity, its administrative capability and its ability to combine a humanitarian response with hard-headed realpolitik. The crisis has hit the continent’s weakest economies hardest. It is exacerbating anti-immigrant extremism and has stymied the EU’s efforts to muster an effective and coordinated plan. To its critics, the EU was born in sin, a project devised by and for the elites, lacking democratic legitimacy. All attempts to make good the ‘democratic deficit’, a term first coined in the 1970s, have failed. Direct elections to the European Parliament? Turnout has fallen virtually every year since they were instituted in 1979. Give the assembly real power?

The European Parliament has never had more clout, yet trust in the EU is at an all-time low. A contest to elect the next President of the European Commission? A damp squib. The EU is not a country. The Commission is not a government. It has the near-exclusive right to propose new legislation, to be approved by both the Council of Ministers (representing governments) and the European Parliament. But it is also a powerful civil service, policeman of the single market and competition watchdog. The Commission has acquired greater powers to scrutinise national budgets and economic policies. It also has the power to recommend sanctions against dilatory countries. But neither the Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, nor President Tusk of the Council, and certainly not President Schultz of the European Parliament can decide the issues European voters most care about.

Voting against austerity in the European Parliament cannot alter the laws of economics. Widespread disagreement between 28 disputatious states has led to the EU appearing weak and divided and its voters disillusioned. The EU is a hybrid. Part international organisation and part federation. There are no neat solutions to the democratic deficit. A directly elected President of Europe would only make sense in the highly unlikely event that the Commission were granted federal authority. But for the foreseeable future, and perhaps forever, European politicians will never trump national ones in terms of legitimacy and public support.

The sense of alarm is palpable. Francois Hollande has described the rise of populists, nationalists and Eurosceptics as leading to “regression and paralysis”. The poisoning of domestic politics right across the Union has hampered decision-making by governments. However, as President Tusk will surely have stressed in our parliament, it is for national leaders to lead the fight against Eurosceptics and populist extremists. They should stop blaming the EUfor its ills. They should defend thebenefits of the Union (short of the unattainable goal of actual union) and fixits flaws by making the bold andwide-sweeping reforms needed to tackle the instability caused by the refugee crisis, to secure its frontiers and to mend the eurozone.
© The Times of Malta


Headlines 6 November, 2015

Greek MP punched by far-right activists during protest in Athens

6/11/2015- A Greek conservative MP suffered a beating at the hands of suspected far-right activists during a protest in Athens on Thursday, his party said. George Koumoutsakos, 54, suffered facial bruises but did not need to be hospitalised. Speaking in parliament shortly after the incident, the New Democracy MPs accused neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn of being behind the attack. "Those who did it...are those who have committed murder, they are the purveyors of racism, xenophobia and what is most extreme in the political and social life of the country," he said.

Leading members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party are currently on trial for allegedly instigating the murder of leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas two years ago. Several Golden Dawn MPs were present at Thursday's protest. Skai TV showed Koumoutsakos, a former diplomat and ex-foreign ministry spokesman, being struck by several people outside parliament as riot police stood by. He is then seen being helped to safety. No arrests were made. The New Democracy party said Koumoutsakos had been beaten by "fascists" and that another of its MPs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, narrowly escaped being attacked.

The protest organized by the Pan-Pontic Federation of Greece (PEO) was sparked after Education Minister Nikos Filis said earlier this week that the deaths of Christian Greeks in Ottoman lands in early 20th century did not qualify as "genocide." A large number of people responded to the POE's call and gathered at the Syntagma Square to protest the minister's remarks, but the protests turned violent as the perpetrators pushed and punched Koumoutsakos at the scene. Videos of the scene and eyewitnesses confirmed that police delayed interferingto protect the MP.
© The Daily Sabah


Greece: Police officer relays conversation with Roupakias after Fyssas stabbing

4/11/2015- The trial of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party accused of being a criminal organization, continued Wednesday with the testimony of police officer Dimitris Kouretzis who was at the scene of rapper Pavlos Fyssas’s murder. Kouretzis, a co-driver in one of the squad cars dispatched to the Keratsini suburb of Piraeus on the evening of the killing on September 18, 2013, relayed to judges the conversation he had with Giorgos Roupakias, the GD member who has admitted to stabbing 34-year-old Fyssas to death. “I asked him what had happened and he responded, ‘I don’t know.’ Right after he said, ‘I did it, don't tell anybody, I'm one of you,” the witness told the court adding that he had found Roupakias smoking a cigarette in the front seat of his car, with the engine running and the lights on. “I asked him, ‘what do you mean?’ and he replied, ‘I belong to Golden Dawn.’ ‘Sir, you are not one of us,’ I told him and took him to the police station,” said Kouretzis, adding that he had found a knife covered in blood dropped behind the car’s rear left wheel.
© The Kathimerini.


Using education to understand impact of attacks on Holocaust memorials(OSCE region)

There have been a number of attacks on Holocaust memorials in the OSCE region in recent years. These hate crimes are a feature of contemporary anti-Semitism. Educating law enforcement is an important step in countering these crimes.

5/11/2015- Holocaust memorials are sites for commemoration and reflection across the OSCE region. Notably, communities gather around these sites on Holocaust Memorial Days for solemn ceremonies. However, Holocaust memorials have been the targets of anti-Semitic attacks in many OSCE participating States. Civil society information reported to ODIHR since 2011 suggests that Holocaust memorials were vandalized in at least 17 OSCE participating States. These defilements can take many forms, from painting swastikas or anti-Semitic slogans on the memorials, destroying and smashing memorial plaques, to covering them with pork meat. Information submitted to ODIHR also indicates that many anti-Semitic attacks on Holocaust memorials take place in the days surrounding commemorations, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January.

“In a perverse way, the Holocaust has now become a feature of contemporary anti-Semitism, used as part of resentment against Jews,” says Mark Weitzman, Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). “Attacks on memorial sites not only directly target the memory of the Shoah – they also send a very chilling signal to Jewish communities and to survivors.” OSCE participating States have repeatedly pledged to take action against anti-Semitism. A critical way in which they take can fulfil this commitment is through work to strengthen law-enforcement agencies' abilities to recognize and address hate crimes.

“Frontline law-enforcement officers play a leading role in governments’ responses to anti-Semitic attacks, such as attacks on Holocaust memorials,” stressed Cristina Finch, Head of ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, at IHRA's Conference on Holocaust and Public Discourse, which took place on 6 November 2015. “Ensuring that police officers identify and record anti-Semitic motivations in attacks on Holocaust memorials sends an important signal to the targeted community, the perpetrator and society. This is the first, very important, step in an effective government response.” ODIHR is developing a toolkit to help further support the work of law-enforcement agencies in countering anti-Semitic hate crime. The toolkit will draw attention to Holocaust memorials as targets of attacks, thus raising awareness of the specific nature of anti-Semitic hate crime. It will also include good practices that demonstrate how Jewish communities and law enforcement can work together and build mutual trust.

Education can play an important role in sensitizing police officers to the impact that attacks on Holocaust memorials have on Jewish communities. For example, some museums and memorial centres offer professional development programmes for police that connect history with a reflection about their role and responsibility in contemporary societies. Anna Lenchovska, Regional Consultant in Ukraine for the USC Shoah Foundation, draws on Holocaust testimonies to train Ukrainian law enforcement on tolerance and non-discrimination issues. “Testimonies by Holocaust survivors provide powerful human accounts of what it means to experience bias and discrimination in its most extreme form,” she observed. “The more police officers know about stereotypes, the easier it will be for them to do their job recognizing and responding to anti-Semitic hate crimes.”
© OSCE/ODIHR - Hate Crime Reporting


Ukraine eschews visa-free EU travel by refusing to protect gay people in workplace

Parliament has blocked legislation banning discrimination at work that was condition of travel agreement set by European Union.

5/11/2015- Ukraine’s parliament has scuppered the country’s chances of visa-free travel to most EU nations by blocking legislation that would have banned discrimination against gay people in the workplace. The pro-EU leadership that replaced the Moscow-backed president last year has made it a priority to join the Schengen zone – a club of EU countries that allows visa and passport-free travel. But the European Union said in 2010 that Ukrainians being allowed free travel depended in part on Kiev adding a clause to its Soviet-era labour code that would ban all forms of discrimination against gay people. Homosexuality was a criminal offence that landed people in jail throughout the duration of the Soviet Union and survived the superpower’s 1991 collapse. Ukraine decriminalised it in 1992 – a year before neighbouring Russia. But anti-gay prejudice remains high in large swathes of the overwhelmingly religious and conservative eastern European state.

A gay pride parade held on the outskirts of Kiev in June lasted just minutes before a far-right group attacked it without any apparent intervention from the police. President Petro Poroshenko said in a nationally televised address late on Wednesday that his crisis-torn nation – its economy battered and the pro-Russian separatist east out of Kiev’s control – faced “an extremely important day”. A yes vote would allow “Ukrainian citizens to visit EU countries without visas as early as next year”, the 50-year-old leader promised. But the chamber, controlled by a loose pro-government coalition that has seen members break away to join nationalist or populist groups, gave the change a resounding “no” in the first of two votes. Only 117 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament supported the changes demanded by Brussels. Such a minority reflects not only public opinion, but also the slim chance the legislation has of collecting the required 226 votes in a second ballot, whose precise date has yet to be set.

Poroshenko’s government was dealt another blow when a member of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s own party denounced the proposed legislation in a passionate backbench address. “As a country with a thousand-year-old Christian history, we simply cannot allow this,” lawmaker Pavlo Unguryan said. “Today, a special status for sexual minorities is simply unacceptable.” His remarks mirror Russia’s ban of “gay propaganda” aimed at minors that prompted travel boycotts by prominent western artists and condemnation by human rights groups.
© The Guardian


Romanian Ultra-Nationalists Establish Anti-Hungarian, Far-Right Political Party

5/11/2015- Noua Dreaptć (New Right), a Romanian ultra-nationalist group that has organised several anti-Hungarian demonstrations over the previous years, has founded a political party. A statement issued by the organisation claims that the new party will be “national, Christian and social” in its standpoint and will fight for the unification of Romania with the Republic of Moldova and confiscating “illegal” fortunes. The party’s interim chairman has been named as 37-year-old lawyer Tudor Ionescu. The far-right group has a history of organising several demonstrations against the country’s 1.5 million-strong ethnic Hungarian community, homosexuals and immigrants. It claims that the new party will embody the national, Christian and social Right instead of the “liberal, anti-national, atheistic and oligarchic” Right currently represented in Romanian political life and strives to “save the Romanian nation from disappearance” brought on by the promoters of globalism.

Over the previous years, Noua Dreaptć has organised anti-Hungarian protests in several Hungarian-populated towns in Transylvania, including the Hungarian-majority Szekler Land region, on 15 March, the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution and a major public holiday. The gatherings saw participants chant slogans such as “Out with the Hungarians from the country!”, “Harghita and Covasna counties are Romanian land!” and “The Romanian language is the only overlord!”.
© Hungary Today


Finnish PS Kotka counclman under police investigation for ethnic agitation

Mertsu Merivirta is a Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party councilman of the southern Finnish city of Kotka. His Facebook wall is full of nationalist anti-immigration posts and sexism. If you’re going to victimize migrants and minorities why not include women as well.

4/11/2015- Is it a surprise that Merivirta is a member of the nationalist populist PS? All of the above is second- and third-hand knowledge about the PS, a party that gets attention and support by spreading bigotry about migrants and minorities. Merivirta is under police investigation for ethnic agitation for a Facebook post on October 28, which has been removed.
In light of the police investigation, the Kotka city board not only condemned what was published but recommended that the PS city council group suspend Merivirta from taking part in city council meetings until the investigation is over.

 Näyttökuva 2015-11-4 kello 9.11.27

City of Kotka councilman Metrsu Merivirta was in “a euphoric” state when he posted this on his Facebook page, which was removed. The post states above the machine gun that soon you’ll have as neighbors “happy migrants.” “Greet them in the traditional way in Finland,” the post adds.

Guess what the answer was from the head of the Kotka PS city council group, Freddy Van Wonterghem, a far right politician who has been sentenced for ethnic agitation as well? Right. The PS city council group will not take any action against Merivirta. Van Wonterghem, in the usual PS style, played down what happened and blamed the councilman’s “state of euphoria” for posting a hostile picture on Facebook against asylum seekers and migrants. What does “state of euphoria” mean? Does it mean having one too many and losing it? The YLE journalist that wrote the story didn’t apparently care to ask this important question. “The thoughtless picture [on his Facebook wall] has received a disproportionate amount of attention,” Van Wonterghem was quoted as saying in YLE. “After all, Merivirta hasn’t profilied himself as a migration critic [politician][sic!].” I disagree. It’s these types of posts and, worse, the lame reaction to them that permits racists to spread their unacceptable behavior and see another day. The correct word for it is shameless bravado. If you disagree why not ask what would kind of a reaction would we see in Finland if a migrant posted something similar on his or her Facebook wall. Merivirta is another sad example of the hostility of the PS against migrants and minorities.
* The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names 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


Austrian far-right party ejects MP over anti-Semitic comments

2/11/2015- Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) said on Monday it had expelled a member of its parliamentary group over anti-Semitic comments on Facebook and called on her to give up her seat. The Freedom Party, which several polls suggest is the most popular in Austria, has gained support with an anti-immigration message during a massive influx of migrants into Europe, and has called for a border fence to be built around the country. But the remark on Facebook last week, in which MP Susanne Winter expressed support for an anti-Semitic comment, had crossed a "red line", her party said in a statement.

Winter, an MP since 2008, on Friday posted a link to an article in the German news magazine Der Spiegel that said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had blamed Europe's migration crisis in part on what he described as a prominent financier's support for human rights initiatives. Another user responded to the posting with a comment that included the phrase, "The Zionist money-Jews worldwide are the problem," according to Austrian media. Winter replied: "You take the words out of my mouth There is a lot I am not allowed to write. That is why I am all the more pleased by brave, independent people!"

The FPO offered Winter the chance to resign by 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) rather than be expelled from the party, but she did not do so. "Given that up to this point in time no announcement has been made as to the resignation of Susanne Winter, she is hereby excluded from the Austrian Freedom Party with immediate effect. In addition, the FPO continues to call for her to give up her mandate (in parliament)," the party said in a statement. Winter, a member of the Austria-Israel parliamentary group, has since deleted the exchange. She was not immediately available for comment on Monday but denies being anti-Semitic. "Anti-Semitic ideas were, are and will always be completely abhorrent to me and I do not support this body of thought!" she said on Facebook on Sunday, the day the main Jewish community group called her "a disgrace to the Austrian parliament".

Her Facebook exchange was also condemned by members of Austria's main political parties and the speaker of parliament. Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who failed last month in his bid to become mayor of Vienna, has denounced anti-Semitism on the campaign trail. In 2012, however, he was accused of posting an anti-Semitic cartoon on his Facebook page. Austrian President Heinz Fischer Fischer called it "the low point of political culture, which deserves to be universally and roundly condemned". The cartoon showed a fat banker with a hooked nose and six-pointed star buttons on his sleeve gorging himself at the expense of a thin man representing "the people". Strache denied being anti-Semitic, after the cartoon provoked an outcry and prompted demands from the Jewish community that the political establishment condemn the act.
© Reuters


German town thwarts plans for far-right demo

Residents of the town of Regensburg in central Bavaria have found a rather clever way of blocking demonstrations by the far-right Pegida movement – by block-booking all the town's squares for their own rallies.

6/11/2015- The normally sleepy medieval town of Regensburg has been in a state of upheaval over the past week. First a massive second world war bomb was found in the town centre, leading to over 5,000 people being evacuated from their homes. And now the town seems to be ablaze with political unrest. Sixteen different demonstrations have been called for Saturday. Town authorities have had to reserve almost every centimetre of public space to appease a sudden surge in political activism. But there is something odd about these marches. The themes all seem to be rather similar. One goes under the name 'Demo against Nazis' another runs with the title 'No place for Nazis' and yet another is calling people to the streets for a 'Demo against right-wing violence'. In fact, so similar are the calls to arms that the Mittlebayerische Zeitung speculates some of them will have no participants at all.

But then the point of the protests is not to have people turn up, but to prevent another demo – one that followers of right-wing, anti-Islam group Pegida were rumoured to want to hold. Pegida originated in Dresden in east Germany, but has since spread to many other towns. Its name is an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West", and in recent months it has taken up the far-right cause against refugees arriving in Germany. The movement is widely condemned as xenophobic and its leader is under investigation for inciting racial hatred. A spokesperson for the city of Regensburg told The Local that a rumour spread on social media that people with Pegida affiliations were intending to hold a demo on Saturday, and concerned locals then jumped in to book up all the best spots. “There was interest in holding a demo from the other side, but when they realized that there is no attractive space left they pulled out,” she said.

If they were to have had a demo their only choice would have been a spot on the edge of town. It seems that the ancient town is infertile land for the far right to try and grow its support.  There are three Facebook pages which claim to represent Pegida in the town, which has a population of 140,000, and none of them has more than 60 followers. “We don't have Pegida here,” said the city spokesperson. “We only have a few people who are somewhat close to them." But she added that the city has no truck with far-right sentiment. When the xenophobic National Democratic Party (NPD) marched in the city a year and a half a go, huge numbers of people came onto the streets to oppose them. The NPD meanwhile was only represented by a couple of dozen people bussed in from outside.
© The Local - Germany


Four years of Germany's worst neo-Nazi scandal

Four years ago, police finally uncovered the far-right group behind a series of grisly murders - but the story of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) is far from over.

4/11/2015- In 2000, the so-called "Bosphorous Serial Murders" began to sweep Germany. The series of murders saw members of the public shot dead in daylight hours by unknown gunmen, most at point-blank range with a silenced pistol. Many attacks occurred while victims were at work in greengrocers, doner kebab shops or kiosks. Eight victims were of Turkish origin, one was Greek and one German. The attackers were the National Socialist Underground, made up of core members Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe. But at the time, police failed to link the murders together - or to right-wing extremism, let alone the NSU. It wasn't until a failed bank robbery in November 2011 that the group's neo-Nazi terror tactics finally came to an end.

The NSU trial: a timeline
4th November 2011:
Mundlos and Böhnhardt hold up a Sparkasse bank in Thuringia and leave with over €70,000. But as they flee, they are spotted - and later, police find the pair's caravan. Surrounded by police, they commit suicide. According to a reconstruction, Mundlos shoots Böhnhardt in the temple, sets the vehicle alight and finally aims the gun into his own mouth. The same day, the apartment in Zwickau where Mundlos and Böhnhardt had lived with Zschäpe is also set alight.

8th November 2011:
Beate Zschäpe turns herself in as the group's third core member. She first tries to confess over the phone – but the officer who answers her call has no idea who she is, saying he knows nothing about the case. Zschäpe later walks into the police station in Jena and is taken into custody.

11th November 2011:
Karlsruhe Federal Court relaunches an investigation into the murder of policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter in 2007. Kiesewetter was shot while sitting in a patrol car on her break with her partner. While the rest of the 'Bosphorous murders' appeared to be racially motivated, Kiesewetter's German origin makes the reason for her murder unclear. However, her duty pistol was found in the caravan where Mundlos and Böhnhardt died, suggesting her murder was connected to the other shootings.

13th November 2011:
The Federal Court issues an arrest warrant for Zschäpe. By now, the NSU are also considered to be behind two bomb detonations in Cologne in 2001 and 2004, and at least 14 bank robberies.

27th January 2012:
After Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich demands clarification about alleged mistakes police made during the murder investigations, a parliamentary inquiry begins work in Berlin,

2nd July 2012:
Heinz Fromm, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, resigns as serious slip-ups made during the investigation come to light. His resignation comes less than a week after it emerges that relevant documents were destroyed by the intelligence service after the NSU was exposed on November 4th.

24 March 2013:
The Bild am Sonntag reports that the NSU had a much larger network behind it than previously thought. Citing classified security authority documents, the newspaper reports that 129 members of the far-right scene aided the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU) over the years.

6th May 2013:
The NSU trial begins in Munich, with Beate Zschäpe as the main defendant. Ralf Wohlleben and Carsten Schultze are also on trial, accused of supplying the trio with a handgun and silencer. Meanwhile, Andre Eminger is accused of being an accessory in two bank robberies and in the 2001 bombing in Cologne, and Holger Gerlach is accused of three counts of supporting a terrorist organization.

22nd August 2013:
The NSU parliamentary enquiry submits its final report. The 1,000 page report condemns previous police investigations into the group's activities - blaming a lack of co-ordination between authorities and failures to link the murders with racist groups. Police falsely assumed the killers were immigrants, the report claims - an assumption based on institutional racism, which allowed the NSU to continue their killing spree for seven years. The report labels the investigation "a humiliating defeat for the German security and investigative agencies.”

16th July 2014:
Witness interrogations are put on hold after Beate Zschäpe announces she wants to dismiss her entire legal team.

27th August 2014:
The German government announces new measures requiring police and courts to take tougher action against suspected hate crimes. "We have the duty to do everything we can to ensure that such things never happen again," Justice Minister Heiko Maas says in a statement, referring to the NSU's extensive murder spree.

28th March 2015:
In the ongoing trial, Melissa M becomes the third witness to die under mysterious circumstances. In September 2013, her boyfriend Florian Heilig was killed in a burning car hours before he was due to be questioned about the NSU, while in April 2014, 39-year-old Thomas Richter died in his apartment, allegedly from a sugar imbalance caused by undiagnosed diabetes. Both Heilig and Richter were believed to have background information about the murder of Michèle Kiesewetter.

20th July 2015:
Zschäpe's defence team request to be released from their duty. However, the court rejects their plea.

2nd October 2015:
The government announces a second parliamentary enquiry into the NSU case. The first session is planned for December.
© The Local - Germany


Germany's Far Right Wants Muslim Concentration Camps

Whether in Europe or America, old bigotries are being packaged as non-bigotries—very often by ethnic or racial minorities.

3/11/2015- About two weeks ago in Dresden, a speaker at a rally for the new far right movement PEGIDA lamented, with regard to Germany’s growing Muslim population, that “the concentration camps are unfortunately out of action at the moment.” I would love to say I was shocked to find that this was met with applause by an audience of 20,000 Germans in the year 2015, but I wasn’t.

I toured Germany last month with my band Azar Swan, the lead singer of which is a female Afghan Muslim, and in Dresden I caught a glimpse of Europe’s new xenophobic awakening, what I sometimes call the “Not A Nazi, But…” movement. At the same time I was reading headlines from the U.S., where Donald Trump was describing supporters who had attacked a homeless Mexican man as “passionate.” After several weeks of seeing firsthand how the refugee crisis was being handled by some in Germany and seeing how Republicans in the U.S. were stoking anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments, a picture emerged of a new kind of bigotry that I think is worth trying to sketch out. It’s a uniquely postmodern form of prejudice, one which lacks self-awareness, which plays fast and loose with language, and which thrives in a climate of cherry-picked history and facts.

On the day I left for Germany, the Ahmed Mohamed clock incident was in full viral bloom. I had spent a large part of that afternoon arguing with someone on Facebook who was explaining to me that “they” want to destroy secularism and turn everyone in Europe into a sharia-abiding Muslim. I am a strident secularist, one who has criticized the term “Islamophobia” and who stood in solidarity with the slaughtered cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo while many in the West were calling them “racists,” but nevertheless I found this kind of talk troubling. I believe that Islamism is a real threat, but what lurked beneath that appeal to my secular values was a recurrent “they” which referenced all Muslims, not specifically Islamists or jihadists. A reference to a people, not an ideology; one which was designed to associate any Muslims with violent terrorism.

That conversation served as the perfect preface to what I was to encounter in Dresden days later, not just because of the “Fear Of A Muslim Nation” ranting, but because of how eager this person was to window-dress these “arguments” in adamant claims that they were in no way prejudiced or racist. This is the first and perhaps most important and common feature of the new bigotry. It either does not believe it is what it is, or it purposefully obfuscates its true intentions.

There’s no need to decide which it actually is because it is both. Some of these people are genuine old-school hate-mongers, but many more are deluded about the implications of the policies they’re supporting—whether the thousands who demonstrated in Dresden or the Americans who find it unproblematic that the leading Republican candidate is open to shutting down mosques. Like an alcoholic who doesn’t believe he’s an alcoholic because he doesn’t wake up and brush his teeth with vodka, a great many on the new right downplay the shades of bigotry which infect their politics by referencing a more overt, more demonic iteration from the past with which we’re familiar.

PEGIDA members are not openly advocating for a Final Solution, therefore they are not Nazis, merely citizens concerned with the preservation of German culture. The American far right is not hanging blacks from trees, therefore its activists are not racists, merely defenders of the Constitution. There is truth in these claims that these are not like the organized hate movements of the 20th century, but it is truth which is used to perpetuate self-deceit and misrepresentation. Twenty-first-century bigotry is still bigotry. A prejudiced claim can be objectively prejudiced while the person making it remains unaware of its prejudice.

It would take a separate article to explore the reasons this kind of delusional lack of self-awareness has taken hold on a global scale. It was a popular on the left in the ’80s and ’90s to decry the manufacture of consent by the corporate media, and the Internet has definitely played a role in making it harder to control the boundaries of conversation. But nobody should have expected only progressive forces to find new life in online space. Reactionary ideas have benefited both from the new platforms for information but also from the way people now treat information.

Plenty of books have been written about the filtering out of conflicting viewpoints (Democracy 2.0 by Cass Sustein) and the disappearance of intellectual and factual rigor in the bloggified world of Internet politicking (Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen, True Enough by Farhad Manjoo). Even David Frum’s short book Why Romney Lost had much to say about a conservative media bubble which had created its own reality and its own facts. This is the fertile soil from which the new far right has sprung. PEGIDA has revived the Nazi-era term Leugenpresse (German for “liar press”) which is barely distinguishable from the distrust that radical American conservatives harbor towards “the mainstream media.”

In the ’80s and ’90s, postmodern and poststructuralist philosophers chiseled away at the notion that objective truth was possible or desirable. In the 2000s, technology picked up where academia left off. There is a long list of issues which have grown popular despite facts to the contrary; from vaccine skepticism to the denial of human-caused climate change. Each of these are now presented in the language of counterculture. People who believe vaccines cause autism believe they are “thinking outside the box” and “aren’t fooled by scientists who are all in the pockets of corporations.” Replace “vaccines cause autism” with “humans don’t cause climate change” and you’ve got yet another.

Something similar is true of the PEGIDAs and American Freedom Defense Initiatives of the world. In Germany, where the new right claims that refugees will be a drain on the welfare system and that Muslims are “taking over,” statistics are available regarding the amount of money that immigrants pump into the German welfare system yearly, as well as what percentage of Germans are Muslim. Muslims account for roughly 5 percent of the German population, and about 4.7 million foreigners pay into the German pension fund yearly as they contribute $20 billion to the German GDP.

A worthwhile analogy is what has been rather brilliantly illustrated by Peter Pomerantsev as Russia’s “postmodern dictatorship.” The appearances of Russia submitting to a democratic process are highly stage-managed. The Kremlin runs propaganda targeted to the West via media sites like Russia Today (RT), which believes any story will do so long as it undermines the case for the legitimacy of the West and especially the United States. Putinism doesn’t look like Stalinism, and there are no 21st century Gulags. But these are precisely the “improvements” which uphold the new authoritarian system. Likewise, with the rising far right in America and Europe, the fact that it’s not as bad as it used to be allows it to be as bad as it is.
© The Daily Beast


German journalist assaulted over column decrying xenophobia

A journalist for Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel said on Facebook he was tracked down and physically attacked on the street by right wing thugs in Berlin on Friday after writing a column about xenophobia.

2/11/2015- According to his account on the social media site, Helmut Schümann was attacked from behind by unknown persons who asked him "are you Schümann for Tagesspiegel? you left-wing pig“, before knocking him to the ground. In a later post Schümann tells his attackers that they will not silence him, saying he will continue to "shout about them and write about them.“ In a later post he writes that "physically I'm recovering fast but mentally it is taking longer." The columnist had written an article on Thursday questioning whether he could continue to call Germany his country given what he described as the rise of right wing extremism and xenophobia embodied by organizations such as Pegida and the Alternative for Germany.

Violent attacks on the rise
Attacks on supporters of refugees have become increasingly common in recent weeks, while violence against refugees and the places they live continues to be a major problem. In the most serious incident to date, Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker was stabbed in the street last month due to her pro-refugee stance during the city's election campaign. She survived the incident without sustaining life threatening injuries. An arson attack against the car of a right-wing politician in Berlin last week meanwhile has been seen as evidence of a general trend towards violence in the refugee debate. And on Sunday, large groups of anti-refugee demonstrators turned violent in the Saxon town of Meerane, throwing bangers and attacking police who tried to break their blockade of asylum seekers transferring from trains to buses.
© The Local - Germany


German far-right Pegida group grows in strength on first anniversary

31/10/2015- It has been a year since anti-immigrant group Pegida was founded in Dresden, eastern Germany. An acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, Pegida has in the past fortnight attracted tens of thousands to rallies marking the anniversary and reaffirming their opposition to immigration and the politicians they accuse of selling them out. Amid a disturbing resurgence of the German far right, More than 10,000 took to the streets in support of the group on 26 October and the previous week, notorious UK far-right activist Tommy Robinson addressed crowds bearing aloft German flags and placards with anti-immigration and anti-Islam slogans. The show of strength marks a return for the group, which months ago seemed in terminal decline after its founder, Lutz Bachmann, was pictured with a Hitler moustache. His resignation sparked fierce internal disputes and while rallies drew tens of thousands at the turn of the year by June attendance had dwindled to a few hundred.

Germany's immigration crisis has sparked a resurgence for the group, which has capitalised on growing anxieties about how the country is going to cope with the refugees and immigrants arriving in their thousands every day. More than one million immigrants are expected to arrive in the country before the end of 2015, and towns and cities across Germany are reeling from the impact. In response, the group has called for the Schengen Agreement on the free movement of people in Europe to be suspended, and the intake of refugees to the country to be frozen.

The group's rhetoric comes with the German public increasingly turning against Chancellor Angela Merkel's open door immigration policy, and declaration that refugees to the country are welcome. In a recent poll, 51% of Germans – up 13% on the previous month – said they are "scared" by the number of immigrants arriving in the country. The group's rallies have grown in intensity, with a man recently charged by police after bringing a gallows "reserved" for Merkel to a rally, and posters held aloft by supporters portraying the chancellor as a Nazi dictator, with the euro symbol in place of the swastika on the armband. Reinstated leader Bachmann was charged by police in October after referring to immigrants as "filth" and "cattle" on his Facebook page.

Dr Ralf Melzer, a researcher on the far right at the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung academy in Berlin, said the movement is a manifestation of deeper feelings of resentment and powerlessness. He told IBTimes UK the immigration crisis is "fuel into the fire" but the movement is an expression of a "general hatred and hostile attitude to democratic institutions and what is seen to be a political elite and media establishment". As an expression of general rage he said it is "not targeted, it is not serious, it is just blaming other people" He added: "I think this is a reaction to global developments. To the implications of globalisation, to feelings of being detached from developments." In such a situation, Melzer said: "You have figures like Mr Bachmann or even politicians who give fuel into the fire and give simple answers to complex questions."

Throughout the country, there have been violent attacks on immigrants as well as on politicians regarded as supporting immigration. In October alone, police uncovered a plot to commit explosives attacks against immigrant shelters in the Bavarian town of Bamberg, and the prospective mayor of Cologne was stabbed by far-right extremists. Authorities have recorded 505 attacks on immigrant shelters so far in 2015. Merkel warned the group's leaders have "hatred in their hearts". Others link the group's rhetoric to the increasing anti-immigrant violence. "There's no more question about whether those who organise [the Pegida protests] are hardcore right-wing extremists," said Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on national television. "They condemn all asylum seekers as criminals, and all politicians as traitors."

It is not just grass roots groups such as Pegida who are seeking to capitalise on the crisis. The populist Alternative Fur Deutschland party has seen membership soar at the rate of 40 new members a day, party leader Frauke Petry claimed in a recent interview, as the party steps up its anti-immigrant rhetoric. The immigration crisis and its political fallout is one of the biggest challenges Germany has faced since the war, and anti-Pegida activists and political moderates of all stripes are asking how the tide of support for the group can be stemmed. For Melzer, it is essential that politicians uphold the traditions of tolerance that are central to democracy. "This a challenge for the whole of society: for civil society, for media, for politicians," he said.

He called for politicians not to seek to seek short-term gains at the ballot box by parroting the slogans of the far right but stand against attempts to "infiltrate the mainstream with right-wing ideologies, and this begins much earlier than [a situation in which there is] violent behaviour or Neo Nazis in parliament." He added: "The earlier we are aware that language has a direct impact on behaviour and the more we keep our consensus as a democratic society and make clear that it is not acceptable to humiliate people or devalue people the better."
© The International Business Times - UK


Cyprus: Concerns over racial violence

2/11/2015- Cyprus has been facing an upsurge in racially motivated violence and hate crime, directed against migrants and refugees as well as Turkish Cypriots and Roma, according to a new opinion on Cyprus by the Council of Europe’s advisory committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), published on Monday. The committee expressed concern over concomitant reports that most victims of racially motivated offences hesitate to turn to the police, because they lack trust in the officers’ capacity or willingness to investigate the case properly, or are afraid that such involvement could exacerbate their situation.

The opinion – published on Monday with a Cypriot government reply – reported recurrent cases of excessive use of force by the police, alleged racial profiling, or cases where the police failed to intervene appropriately. The advisory committee called on Cyprus to conduct more targeted training of human rights norms and anti-discrimination standards for the police and to ensure that all cases of police misconduct are adequately and promptly followed-up. The committee further acknowledged that Cypriot society is still recovering from the 2012-2013 economic crisis and ensuing budget cuts, and praised the continued support for the preservation of minority identities, predominantly in the education sphere. Overall, however, it called on Cyprus to overcome ethnic divisions in daily life and to facilitate the formation of an open, multilingual and inclusive society.

Several points were raised by the committee in its report, followed by the appropriate recommendation to the Cyprus government. These included a “continued fixation on classifying citizens into either Greek or Turkish Cypriots in all spheres of life, even when not related to the exercise of political rights and when not strictly called for by the Constitution”. Acknowledging the specific constitutional set-up of the Republic of Cyprus, the committee further noted that “the Constitution appears not always to be applied consistently”. Welcoming the status of the Ombudsman’s Office, which enjoys trust among society, the commission noted that it is woefully under-resourced, calling on the government to strengthen it.

Additionally, with regard to the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Complaints and Allegations Against the Police (IAIACAP), the commission noted that the number of complaints it receives is rising, which is “interpreted as a sign of increasing trust in its work”. “The advisory committee notes, however, the very low number of complaints directed against the independent authority that resulted in criminal proceedings being launched against the police officers in question,” the report said. The government’s comments to the Council of Europe’s opinion featured an overview of the reasons why Turkish Cypriots’ constitutionally afforded rights are not being fully enforced.

“It is useful to recall that the Turkish Cypriot community, by its own decision, withdrew its participation from the institutions of the Republic in 1963,” it said in its letter of response. “Despite the fact that the provisions of the Constitution pertaining to the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the institutions have since been suspended as a rule, e.g. seats in Parliament, their positions remain available for their return.” However, barring several other minor points, the government’s response failed to address the key points listed above.
© The Cyprus Mail


Spain: Unusual gay hate crime at Fuengirola feria

Man arrested for assaulting woman due to her sexual orientation

2/11/2015- A girl has been harassed, assaulted and had a bucket of dirty water thrown over her in a callous gay hate crime. The perpetrator, a 27-year-old man, launched himself upon her at the October 13 Fuengirola feria while she was walking hand-in-hand with her girlfriend and a group of friends. The young woman was rushed to hospital when it happened, at around 2am, and the man has now been arrested for discrimination, hate and infringing her personal rights.
© The Olive Press


France ditches pledge to give foreigners vote

The French government has given up on one of President François Hollande's landmark election pledges - to give foreigners the right to vote in local elections. Rights groups tell The Local the government has "caved in to xenophobia and racism".

5/11/2015- The controversial plan to give non-French nationals from outside the EU the right to vote in local elections was finally buried this week by French PM Manuel Valls. The prime minister admitted that the country was not ready for a reform that is firmly opposed by the right, but backed by most on the left. Speaking to French students this week, Valls admitted it would be “impossible” both “politically and constitutionally” to achieve the reform, that was first put forward by President François Mitterand back in the early 1980s. The plan, as laid down in Hollande’s campaign promise, would have seen those foreign nationals who are legally living in France and have been in the country for more than five years, given the right to vote in municipal elections – as is the case for citizens from other EU countries.

But another electoral promise appears to have been broken. “I do not think it’s a priority,” the PM said. “It is no longer a subject, it will not be implemented and I am convinced that it will not re-proposed at the next presidential election,” he added. France’s labour minister Myriam El-Khomri added: “Since the Senate is in the hands of the right, this law would never pass. “We are accepting the fact that we cannot do it today,” she said. Valls’ words come as a surprise given that only last year President Hollande himself vowed to make the reform happen. “How can it be that people who have been here for 20 years, 30 years cannot vote?” Hollande asked in the traditional presidential interview on the occasion of France’s national day, July 14th. The reform would have needed a change to the French constitution, which given a lack of support in parliament may only have been possible through a referendum.

With the sensitive issue of immigration once again dominating the political and public debate and the far-right National Front riding a wave of popularity, it appears the jittery French government is simply not prepared to broach the issue of voting rights for foreigners. Ministers fear the reform would give the right and the far right a chance to galvanize support among a French public, whom surveys suggest are growing increasingly intolerant towards immigrants. France’s Socialist government is still scarred from the memories of the mass anti-gay marriage protests, and with the 2017 elections drifting ever closer they want to steer away from any issues that will give opponents the chance to mobilize.

"Democracy has lost out to xenophobia and racism," Vincent Riberioux, vice president of France's Human Rights League (LDH) told The Local on Thursday. "The policy of the government is being dictated by the far right. They are scared of the National Front. "The government has shown a complete lack of political courage by not taking on this issue. By refusing to confront the question the government is ceding to xenophobia and racism. "They have a responsibility to send out a clear message to the country. They may not have achieved the reform, but they should have shown the courage to try." Members of Hollande’s own party are also not happy. Jean-Christophe Cambadelis insisted the matter was “still on the party’s agenda and would happen one day. “Giving foreigners, who are legally on the French soil for ten years, the right to vote is not detrimental to the French Republic, on the contrary it’s a way of strengthening it.”
© The Local - France


French police search office, home of National Front founder

4/11/2015- French police and investigators raided the offices and home of far-right National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen on Wednesday searching for evidence of alleged tax evasion through foreign bank accounts. Le Pen, 87, contacted by Reuters while on a trip abroad, flatly denied any wrongdoing. A French news website has said he had a hidden account in Switzerland managed by an associate. "I am stunned and infuriated, I do not see what justified such a search," he said by telephone. "I have no secret bank account abroad." Two other searches were conducted as part of the same inquiry at the homes of a current and a former assistant of Le Pen, a source in the French judiciary said.

Le Pen was expelled earlier this year from the party that he founded after a feud with his daughter Marine, who is now leader of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party and set to run for president of France in 2017. That followed remarks in which he repeated declarations that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" of World Wart Two history. Marine Le Pen has broadened support for the party by shedding the Front's anti-Semitic image and focusing more on issues such as unemployment. The search of Le Pen's home was one of several operations that sparked political ire this week against independent judicial investigators in France. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday said the country would do better spending money to monitor potential terrorists than tracking political leaders like himself. An official investigator looking into an international cocaine-smuggling operation has ordered checks on Sarkozy's phone usage, a move the former president said could not be justified simply because he had used the services of the same airline company as the one at the center of the drugs probe.
© Reuters


France walks narrow line on Islam in schools after attacks

4/11/2015- This was the week that schoolchildren in one Paris suburb got a stark choice at the cafeteria: pork or nothing at all. Chilly-Mazarin joined a handful of towns run by right-leaning mayors which have ended a practice of offering a substitute for students forbidden by their religion from eating pork. The decisions have come amid increased discussions in France about its secularist ideals following the terror attacks in January that were blamed on French Islamic extremists — a discussion critics say has been hijacked by anti-Muslim forces on the far right. On Wednesday, the Socialist government issued unusually direct criticism against the schools that have ended the pork substitutes as it was training dozens of appointees to mediate tense questions about the role of religion in schools and in public life.

In back-to-back speeches, the education and interior ministers walked the country's increasingly narrow line on religion in schools, with the unspoken threat of Islamic extremism hovering over the auditorium in Paris' tony 16th arrondissement. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said teachers at schools have to impart the secularist ideal, but "not a secularism that is a declaration of war against a religion, as we see when a mayor here or there decides that in the name of a so-called secular ideal, children will be forced to eat pork or skip school lunch." France forbids "ostentatious" symbols of religion in schools and government buildings, a mandate generally interpreted to mean Muslim head scarves and one that includes parents who accompany school outings wearing them. Schools take seriously their mission to educate the next generation of secular French citizens, never more so than since the January terror attacks.

Vallaud-Belkacem alluded to that mission repeatedly in her speech to the mediators, whose job is to offer advice to local governments and schools about France's much-vaunted division between church and state. "School is a place of knowledge, not of belief. This distinction is essential and we have to repeat it and teach it without cease," said Vallaud-Belkacem, who was born in Morocco and raised as a Muslim. Schools need to take responsibility for spotting and countering extremism, she said. But some say that what France defines as a religious problem actually leads to discrimination of a minority population that has little economic power and even less hope of advancement. "The terror attacks of January 2015 weigh heavily on the way the problem is defined," said Olivier Noel, a sociologist who studies discrimination in France. "When you are talking about misusing the secular ideal, on the one hand it's happening on the extreme right, with Islamophobia. Then you have the extreme secularism of the left. And without meaning to, they join the positions of the extreme right."

Vallaud-Belkacem and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve drew the line at public figures they accused of using attacks on religion to score political points. Vincent Berton is the secular mediator for the Marseille area, a Mediterranean crossroads where religions have mixed for hundreds of years. But even there, he said, "you find the same questions pretty much everywhere" — scarves, school meals, prayers. The issues are not clear cut. Although a group of intellectuals floated the idea of vegetarian meals as a secular alternative, the concept of meatless lunches has yet to take hold. But in Chilly-Mazarin, for example, the school cafeteria menus for November and December show only four days when pork is the only main dish offered. And in the Burgundy town of Chalon-Sur-Saone, an administrative panel rejected an emergency request to keep the substitutes, ruling that only two of 50 meals until the end of the year contained pork. The tribunal said the hard decision — whether the town's decision was an attack on freedom of religion — will be made within three months by a higher judge.
© The Associated Press


France to end its ban on blood donation by gay men

France is to end its ban on blood donation by gay men, with the country's health minister hailing it as the end of "a taboo and discrimination".

4/11/2015- Minister Marisol Touraine told Le Monde newspaper that from spring next year, no blood donors can be refused based on their sexual orientation. The policy shift comes after a European Court of Justice ruling in April found that government bans must follow strict conditions. Many governments had imposed lifetime bans on gay men because they are more likely than other groups to have HIV, the virus that causes Aids. Ms Touraine said lifting the blood donation ban will proceed in stages, to allow the government to study whether and how the risks change.
© The Irish Independent


France: Thousands march against racism in Paris

Condemning racism and police heavy-handedness, thousands of people attended a "march of dignity" rally in Paris at the weekend to mark a decade since the deaths of two youths sparked nationwide riots.

2/11/2015- The two teenagers were electrocuted at a power substation on October 27, 2005 as police investigated a reported break-in at a building site in the northern Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a sizeable immigrant population. Their deaths were the trigger for three weeks of riots across France as tensions already simmering over high youth unemployment and police harassment of youths from poorer housing estates boiled over. The government was forced to declare a state of emergency and by the time calm was restored on November 17, 10,000 cars had been burned, 300 buildings destroyed or vandalised, two policemen shot and injured, and 6,000 people arrested. Saturday's march set off with a group of women at their head under the banner "march for dignity against racism."

Participants, many of whom had travelled to the capital from around the country, called for "justice, reparation, unity" as they descended on the northern Barbes district for a rally called by women's collective Mafed, backed by US civil rights campaigner Angela Davis, as well as anti-racist and anti-discrimination associations. "Today in France, if you don't have the right skin colour ... you can die at the hands of the police," said Mafed spokeswoman Amal Bentounsi, who said her brother was killed by a policeman in 2012. "They stigmatise and disdain people from working class districts," said Bentounsi.

Organisers said they wanted to highlight "increasingly deplorable social conditions and the harassment and humiliation of local people (which) constitute daily life for black people, Arabs, Roma and working class white people." Despite a decade of government initiatives to revitalise underprivileged suburbs, many residents say little has changed and this week the deputy mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois warned conditions were right for riots to happen again.
© The Local - France


France: Marine Le Pen's approval rating rises among right-wing voters

31/10/2015- Far-right leader Marine Le Pen's approval rating has risen among those voters who describe themselves as right wing, one month ahead of regional elections, a BVA institute survey showed. Le Pen, who is set to win control of France's northernmost area in December elections, saw her rating rise 5 percentage points to 52 percent among right-wing voters who were asked who they wanted to become more influential in political life. The poll put her behind center-right, former prime minister Alain Juppe, whose rating at the top of the list was stable. The leader of the main conservative party, Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was well behind with 39 percent.
© Reuters


Netherlands: Utrecht bans second "risky" anti-Islam, anti-refugee protest

6/11/2015- The municipality of Utrecht has rejected anti-Islam movement Pediga’s request to hold a second protest in the city this weekend. “The risk of disorder is too great.” Pediga will not be allowed to protest in the city on Saturday, but the protest already arranged in the Hogelandsepark on Sunday may go through. Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen announced this on Friday, RTL Nieuws reports. On Thursday Pediga applied to hold a second demonstration on Saturday, in exactly the same time and place that Utrecht Bekent Kleur already has a demonstration arranged. “The message of both organizations is directly opposed to one another. The risk of disorder is too great.” Van Zanen said. According to the municipality, Pediga would not consider an alternative for Saturday’s demonstration and would not take any responsibility for ensuring that things do not get out of hand. The mayor believes that the importance of public safety and security is higher than the right to demonstrate. “The right to demonstrate is not the right to confrontation, that applies to all parties.”
© The NL Times


New Dutch Campaign to Outlaw Kosher Slaughtering

2/11/2015- If the recent rise in anti-Semitism were not enough for the small Jewish community in the Netherlands, a proposed ban on ritual slaughter is creating angst for the small number of Jews who eat kosher. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority advised the government to ban ritual slaughter of animals, citing pain and suffering caused to them in the process.“ Kosher Today has learned that while other proposed bans have failed in the past, the newest threat has the support from across the political spectrum. In 2012, the Dutch Senate scrapped legislation passed the previous year that amounted to a ban on kosher and halal slaughter because it required all animals be rendered unconscious before they are killed, a violation of Jewish law. Both Muslim and Jewish religious law requires animals be conscious when their necks are cut. Kosher Today has learned that kosher slaughter in the Netherlands involves only 60 animals a week. The sources blamed overzealous liberal veterinarians for inciting the country against kosher slaughtering.
© The Jewish Press


Netherlands: Racist chants, neo-Nazi support banner at FC Utrecht v. Twente

A group of FC Utrecht supporters chanted racist slogans during the clubs match with FC Twente on the Glagenwaard stadium on Sunday afternoon.

2/11/2015- FC Utrecht director Wilco van Schaik has had enough of this “small group” of supporters and officially distanced the club from their actions in a statement on the club’s website. He has also launched an investigation into those responsible for the chants. “We are not going to downplay this incident. We want to name it publicly and emphatically and send a clear message: we have really completely had enough of this, and with we we also include our audience who spoke up against these chants”, Van Schaik said. “We have had it with those border figures who try to ruin a beautiful football afternoon every time.”

The racist chants once again came from the Bunnik side, where antisemitic songs could be heard during a home game against Ajax last season. Many Ajax supporters refer to themselves as “The Jews”, though the team has no historical connection with Jewish communities. A number of Jewish groups are against this practice, which also prompts many teams to chant antisemitic slogans at rival fans. A neo-Nazi support banner also made an appearance during the match on Sunday. The banner read: “NSB DNA is in Utrecht’s blood, SV FCU advises that the away end must be empty!” NSB refers to the National Socialist Movement, who were Nazi collaborators before and during the Second World War. SV FCU is FC Utrecht’s supporters club.

The banner was likely hung by Twente supporters, mockingly accusing Utrecht hardcore fans of being Nazi sympathizers. FC Utrecht management pledged to investigate the origin of all signs they found highly offensive at the match. Dutch football association KNVB imposed a 10 thousand euro fine after the antisemitic chant incident and decided that the Bunnik side will be empty during the next FC Utrecht-Ajax match at the Galgenwaard stadium, on December 13th. FC Utrecht decided that fans who have tickets for the Bunnik side will be allowed to watch the match from other stands. Last week Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen announced that Ajax fans will not be welcome at the stadium during next month’s match. Ajax is very disappointed by this measure. “We find it outrageous that the perpetrators of these very offensive chants will now be present at the match and we have to go without supporters”, Ajax director Jeroen Slop said in a reaction.
© The NL Times


UK: Far-right group Britain First won’t stop using the image of murdered soldier Lee Rigby

5/11/2015- A British far-right group has continued to share images of a murdered British soldier despite criticism and a plea from his family not to politicise his image. Britian First has more likes on Facebook than any other UK political party and regularly shares images and stories with an anti-Muslim sentiment. In recent years, the party has launched a number of stunts to gain publicity including “invading mosques”. As part of its Facebook strategy, the party has frequently shared images of British soldier Lee Rigby who was murdered by Islamic extremists on the streets of London in 2013. This is despite a plea from his family two years ago who asked that his name not be used in a way that excuses attacks against others.

A family’s statement released through the UK’s Ministry of Defence in the weeks after his killing said that they wanted his memory to promote peace:
“We would like to emphasise that Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others. We would not wish any other families to go through this harrowing experience and appeal to everyone to keep calm and show their respect in a peaceful manner.”

Britain’s First website is open in its disrespect for Islam, describing it as a ‘barbaric religion’ and encouraging followers to ‘take the fight to hate preachers’. Earlier in the week, the party shared a picture of the Rigby under the slogan ‘never forget’ and faced criticism. Today, the party have done so again saying that Rigby is ”Always in our hearts”. It’s prompted further criticism from people online.

© The Journal Ireland


UK: Gay hospital chaplain loses discrimination case against CofE

4/11/2015- An NHS hospital chaplain who accused the Church of England of discrimination when he lost his job after marrying his gay partner has lost his case at an employment tribunal. Jeremy Pemberton, who was the first member of the CofE clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage, said he would appeal against the ruling. The Nottingham employment tribunal dismissed all claims by the clergyman after hearing his case in June. Pemberton had claimed the church was in breach of the 2010 Equality Act.

The case was seen as significant as an examination of the validity of CofE doctrine, a test of equality legislation in relation to that doctrine, and because it raised the issue of whether the church could legitimately veto appointments by other bodies – in this instance, the NHS. Pemberton’s marriage to his partner, Laurence Cunnington, in April 2014 was in defiance of a CofE ban on gay weddings for clergy, although they are permitted to enter into civil partnerships.The bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Richard Inwood, revoked his permission to officiate, which prevented Pemberton from taking up a job at King’s Mill hospital in Mansfield even though he was to be employed by the NHS as a hospital chaplain.Bishop Inwood argued at the tribunal that according to CofE doctrine, marriage could only be between a man and a woman. The tribunal ruling said there was “no doubt whatsoever that the present doctrine of the church is clear”.

The 58-page ruling stated: “The claimant would never have been in this position had he not defied the doctrine of the church. The claimant knowingly entered into that marriage and knew what the potential consequences could be for him.” By marrying, Pemberton was in breach of his oath of obedience. “There is the canonical requirement that he has to live his life as a priest consistent with his calling. In getting married to his partner, he was flying in the face of the clear restating of doctrine in relation to same-sex marriage.” Pemberton has continued to work as a hospital chaplain in Lincolnshire, where the diocese issued him with a rebuke over his same-sex marriage but did not revoke his licence to officiate.

A statement issued by Pemberton’s solicitor said: “We are obviously very disappointed by the employment tribunal’s decision; our lawyers have considered the judgment and are in the process of preparing the grounds of appeal for submission to the employment appeal tribunal.” A spokesperson for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said the case had been “a long and difficult process for all concerned”. It added: “Churches across the diocese continue to offer a generous welcome to people from all backgrounds. We remain engaged in the ongoing shared conversations across the wider Church of England that are exploring questions relating to human sexuality.”

Tracey Byrne of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said the case had “shone a light on the challenges facing gay and lesbian people”, and would encourage the drive for justice and change. “What Jeremy has done is to call church leaders to account publicly for their actions. If the outcome of this case is that people are now aware of the ways in which the Church of England can indeed legally discriminate against gay and lesbian people who want to do nothing more ordinary than fall in love and marry, I hope people will sit up and take notice,” she added. “Is this the kind of established church we want? One which is allowed to discriminate? Is the NHS really going to continue to allow the Church of England to dictate who it can employ? Is this really what equality legislation is designed to do?”
© The Guardian


UK: Theresa May bans US segregationist from UK for 'neo-Nazi' remarks

Matthew Heimbach, 25, who has been called the ‘face of a new generation of white nationalists’, posted his exclusion letter on Twitter

4/11/2015- Theresa May has banned a US southern nationalist who has advocated racial segregation from entering the UK, because of his neo-Nazi and antisemitic remarks. The home secretary ordered the exclusion of Matthew Heimbach, 25, president of the Traditional Youth Network, who has been called the “face of a new generation of white nationalists” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC). Heimbach posted a copy of his exclusion letter on Twitter. “I am now banned from England for being a nationalist while 10ks of radical Muslims are welcomed. #EnglandYoureDrunk,” he tweeted, adding later that he was considering attempting entry regardless of the order.

The letter says: “After careful consideration, on 30 October 2015, she personally directed that you should be excluded from the UK on the grounds that your presence here would not be conducive to the public good. “The home secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviour by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” It also notes that Heimach is “a southern nationalist and that you advocate for racial segregation in the US”. It cites concerns about Heimbach expressing antisemitic and neo-Nazi views.
© The Guardian.


UK: Fury as neo-Nazi group advertises white supremacist event at major Glasgow college

3/11/2015- POLICE have been contacted over claims by a far-right group that it is to stage a white supremacist event within a Scottish further education college. The group calling itself the Scottish Nationalist Social Party has advertised its "sell-out" No To Diversity event at Glasgow's Cardonald College. Named frontman for the neo-Nazis, Alexander Agnew, said on publicity for the meeting that it would "give local people the chance to challenge the city's forced multiculturalism of our neighbourhood". It also bills itself as raising questions around the "native white population when diversity is forced upon them without any request" and the "dangers of mixed towns and neighbourhoods when the population is forced to accept different cultures who don't want to integrate themselves". Details posted on promotions site Eventbrite locate the meeting at Cardonald College in the south west of the city.

But concerned college bosses have been forced to deny the meeting is being staged in its premises, with an email circulated to all staff within the newly-created Glasgow Clyde College network. Students have also been contacted by their own representatives, while Police Scotland has been informed. In the email to all staff, the college said: "We are aware of a ‘Scottish Nationalist Social Party – No To Diversity’ event this Saturday night being advertised on Eventbrite using our Cardonald campus postcode, therefore suggesting it is taking place on Glasgow Clyde College premises. "There is no such event taking place at Glasgow Clyde College. The building will be closed as per normal on a Saturday night and the car park will be locked. Our Student Association President is emailing all students to reassure them that the college has nothing to do with this event. No booking would ever be taken by the college for an event of this nature.

"Eventbrite has been contacted to remove the reference to Cardonald campus from the event listing. Police Scotland has been informed about the supposed event and the hateful content of the organiser’s social media accounts. "They’ve been asked to patrol the area on Saturday evening, should any attempt be made to gain access to the campus." Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephen said: "Our community's diversity is its greatest strength, as we saw only last week, when a community group brought members of the community together to raise £60,000 for a local food bank, at the Central Mosque. There is no place in Glasgow South West for fascism or racism. "The event proposed is wholly inappropriate, totally unwelcome and I am pleased the College will not host it, or have any part of it, and the trade unions and the student community have once again led the way in their opposition. "The real message from our communities is a simple one. No to Nazis - Yes to Diversity." The Scottish Nationalist Socialist Party, via Mr Agnew, has not responded to a request for comment.
© The Evening Times


UK: Ukip member Winston McKenzie quits party over 'racial discrimination'

A Ukip member who once compared party leader Nigel Farage to Jesus has now quit the political party after claiming he was the victim of "racial discrimination".

3/11/2015- Winston McKenzie, formerly Ukip's most high profile black member, claims he has been "ignored" by people in the "higher echelons" of the party. Announcing his decision to leave the party in an interview with ITV News, he said: "I'm incensed at the present moment because where I stand in UKIP, I feel as though I've been completely ignored, racially discriminated against by people in the higher echelons of the party. "I'm talking about the leader's followers." Mr McKenzie, a former professional boxer, has long been the subject of newspaper headlines. The 62-year-old politician previously compared leader Farage to Jesus, saying: "Jesus was one man. We are his army. Farage is one man, and we are his army." He stood as the party's candidate for Croydon North in the 2015 election despite branding the town a "unsafe and a dump" in one interview. He also once described placing children for adoption with same-sex couples as "unhealthy" and "tantamount to child abuse".

In December last year, he was suspended as the chairman of Ukip's Lambeth and North Croydon branch after members backed a letter of "no confidence" in him. Just a few months later in March 2015, he was removed as the party's Commonwealth spokesman. Previously, he stood as a Conservative candidate for London mayor in 2007 but failed to attract enough votes to make the shortlist. He was formerly a member of the Labour Party in the 1980s before joining the Liberal Democrats in 2002. He defected to Ukip in 2009. The Evening Standard has contacted Ukip for comment.
© The Evening Standard.


UK: Faith Matters Launches Report Entitled, 'We Fear for Our Lives'


Faith Matters launched the following report through the Tell MAMA national project which supports victims of hate crimes and which monitors and measures levels of intolerance and prejudice across the United Kingdom.

This report is a joint collaboration with the authors, Mr Imran Awan and Dr Irene Zempi, and Tell MAMA. The overall aim of this report is to examine the impacts of online and offline anti - Muslim hate crime. In doing so, the authors conducted 20 in-depth interviews with Muslim men and women who have been victims of both online and offline anti-Muslim hate. Since Tell MAMA’s inception in 2012, it has found a high proportion of online and offline incidents of anti-Muslim hate reported to it. With this in mind, the authors of the report have produced the first ever report to examine the nature and impacts of both online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime. The report concludes with a list of key recommendations that participants suggested to us, which we describe as the ‘victims charter’.

The reports principle findings are as follows:
• Both online and offline incidents are a continuity of anti-Muslim hate and thus should not be examined in isolation.
• Participants described living in fear because of the possibility of online threats materialising in the ‘real world’.
• The prevalence and severity of online and offline anti-Muslim hate crimes are influenced by ‘trigger’ events of local, national and international significance.
• The visibility of people’s Muslim identity is key to triggering both online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime.
• Muslim women are more likely to be attacked in comparison to Muslim men, both in the virtual world and in the physical world.
• Victims of both online and offline anti-Muslim crime suffer from depression, emotional stress, anxiety and fear.
• The victims of online anti-Muslim hate crime remain less ‘visible’ in the criminal justice system.
• Muslim men are unlikely to report an incident of anti-Muslim abuse for fear of being viewed as ‘weak’.

1. Anti-Muslim hate must be challenged from within Muslim communities.
The report found that participants would like the community to speak out against the hate crimes that they suffer.
2. Media training around reporting stories to do with Muslims.
The media must portray a more balanced viewpoint when discussing Muslim stories as this could impact upon the way they are viewed by wider society.
3. The police can improve the way in which they handle cases of anti-Muslim hate crime.
Participants who reported incidents to the police felt that they were not taken seriously.
4. The public should intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate.
Victims do not necessarily want physical action but just a phone call to assist the police.
5. Anti-Muslim hate crime awareness and visibility.
Better awareness of what a hate crime is and what people can do to help reassure them and build confidence.
6. Social media companies should make their systems of reporting hate crime more user friendly.
Social media companies can do much more to help tackle online prejudice and bigotry through specific systems that help victims report anti-Muslim hate crime.
7. Diversity in the criminal justice system.
A more diverse criminal justice system with people of all backgrounds could help break down the barriers that might exist for victims reporting anti-Muslim hate crime. 8. Challenging the language and engaging schools in the debate.
To tackle anti-Muslim prejudice seriously, we need to start with schools and begin challenging the language, and engaging schools in the debate.

© Tell Mama

UK: man threw a disabled person's walker off a bus because he was speaking Turkish

2/11/2015- Islamophobic attacks in London have increased by 70% in the past year, and the UK recently announced a crackdown on this new wave of Islamophobia. A recent example is a video circulating the internet in which a man threw a disabled person's walker off a bus because he was speaking Turkish. The identities of both the assailant and the victim are currently uncertain, and London's transportation authority is looking into the incident. This incident comes days after a different Islamophobic rant was caught on camera on a London bus, though the attacker here turned herself in and pleaded guilty to "racially or religiously aggravated intentional harassment."
© The Business Insider


UN HR expert: More reliable data needed to combat racism and discrimination

3/11/2015- Governments need to improve data collection as a mean to better assess the situation of vulnerable groups, a UN independent expert on racism said today, noting that “the right to be free from discrimination includes the right to access information that could serve as evidence to prove discrimination.” “The lack of disaggregated data has led to a serious information gap that limits the effective identification of population groups that are suffering discrimination,” the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, said after presenting his latest report to the UN General Assembly. “It also hinders adequate policymaking at the national, regional and international levels and promotes impunity,” Mr. Ruteere said.

He noted that, although there is no clearly stated international obligation to collect ethnic data, the human rights legal framework provides a strong mandate to gather this kind of data. “The right to be free from discrimination includes the right to access information that could serve as evidence to prove discrimination,” he said. The human rights expert acknowledged the fears and anxieties expressed by some states and vulnerable groups regarding the collection of sensitive data, but he said that these concerns can be overcome if strict human rights rules are observed, including the right to privacy, the protection of data, the establishment of participatory processes based on informed consent as well as the self-identification of respondents. “The collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity on economic, social, cultural, civil and political indicators is a pre-requisite if we are to identify patterns of discrimination and existing gaps,” Mr. Ruteere said. “Through better data collection, discriminated groups will become more visible and get better protection.”
Equality is at the heart of the newly adopted sustainable development agenda which, under Goal 17, calls for the collection of disaggregated data to measure progress while leaving “no one behind,” to promote and foster non-discrimination while upholding the universality of human rights, he said. “At a time where the international community is discussing how to measure progress on the new agenda, the adoption of indicators capturing levels of discrimination will demonstrate States’ commitment,” Mr. Ruteere said. Mr. Ruteere was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He is not UN staff and does not receive a salary for their work.
© UN News Centre


UN Reports on Racism in Sweden and Netherlands Highlight the Need to Tackle Afrophobia

By Claire Fernandez, Deputy Director for Policy at the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

2/11/2015- Concerns over the increasing ill-treatment and violence targeting asylum seekers and migrants in Europe have confirmed ENAR's worse predictions on deeply-rooted and structural racism and xenophobia. The recent racist killings at a school in Sweden are the latest in a series of violent incidents targeting ethnic minorities. In this context, United Nations bodies have recently issued damning reports on racism in two Western European countries which usually praise themselves for their tole-rance: the Netherlands and Sweden. Based on the UN Decade for People of African Descent that started in 2015, the UN bodies looked specifically at the situation of people of African descent in these two countries and highlighted a number of concerns. Their recommendations draw lessons for Dutch and Swedish authorities as well as for the EU and its Member States as a whole. People of African descent and Black Europeans are amongst the groups most targeted by discriminatory practices and yet these remain largely invisible and overlooked.

In both the Swedish and the Dutch reviews, the UN bodies encouraged states to recognise the specificities of Afrophobia - racism and discrimination affecting people of African descent - and to adopt plans of actions implemented by dedicated institutions in partnership with civil society and communities. They also called for the collection of disaggregated equality data to monitor and plan strategies to address discrimination.

The colonial and slavery past of both states laid the foundations for contemporary forms of racism affecting people of African descent. While Afro-Swedes do not all share a common history of enslavement, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent notes that "Afro-Swedes are a group that is racialized in particular ways, situated in internationally widespread racial hierarchies that often place black people at the bottom, implicated by the legacies of the transatlantic trade and European colonialism". States should establish a national day of remembrance for victims of the slave trade, conduct awareness campaigns, and consider modules in school curricula on European states' role in slavery and colonialism and black people's positive contribution to European societies. The current figure of Black Pete in the Netherlands, with the use of black face and other racial stereotypes, is also highlighted as one of the most widespread illustrations of Afrophobic stereotypes that should be abolished.

The low rate of investigation and convictions for racist crimes against people of African descent and Black Europeans is a concern across Europe, as featured in the European Network Against Racism's Shadow Report on Racist Crime. Beyond creating a hate crime unit in Sweden, the UN recommends increased interaction of the police with communities and that the police record Afrophobic crime as a separate category. In both countries, there are concerns about discriminatory police practices, ethnic profiling and police brutality and the UN bodies recommend establishing mechanisms with the power to conduct independent investigations. Last but not least, the UN bodies call for immediate action against labour market discrimination and unemployment of Black communities. Specific indicators for states to achieve a higher rate of employment and career progression for people of African descent should be established.

The call for specific strategies to address Afrophobia and assess the comparative situation of people of African descent and Black Europeans, based on solid and inclusive data collection and in partnership with communities, echoes demands from ENAR members. During an event organised by the Pan African Movement for Justice in October, Swedish Minister for Culture Alice Bah Kuhnke pledged her commitment to make this happen in her country. In the Netherlands, the government has announced that it will implement the UN Decade for People of African Descent in consultation with NGOs, after the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher acknowledged that Black Pete has become a symbol of racism in the Netherlands and needs to change. It is time the EU and its Member States stop seeing the UN Decade as something limited to relations with third countries and seriously question their human rights and equality policies and practices within their own borders.
© The Huffington Post UK - The Blog


Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 45

Hungary: Orban's ratings rise as fence deters migrant "invasion"

* Border fence shuts down migrant route through Hungary * Country now "nice and empty" of migrants -student * Orban maintains rhetoric despite xenophobia accusations * His Fidesz party fends off challenge from far-right * But voters more critical on job creation

6/11/2015- With an anti-immigrant campaign and razor-wire border fence Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has reversed a slide in his party's popularity, emerging at home as a winner in the crisis that has divided Europe. Personal approval ratings have also jumped for the man who closed down a major transit route through Hungary for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty. Voters are less willing to give Orban the benefit of the doubt on creating jobs. But while Hungarians often helped migrants stranded in appalling conditions last summer, many voters are ignoring criticism that rights groups and foreign governments have directed at their leader over migration.

Despite accusations of xenophobia, Orban shows no sign of moderating his language as he attacks the European Union's failure to solve the migrant crisis, and tries to undermine support for the far-right at home. Speaking on state radio, he said Hungary was now in a "different time zone" from the rest of Europe as it has fended off the "invasion" by sealing its southern borders. This goes down well with many Hungarians, including the young who are often more conservative than their peers in western Europe.

Not far from Budapest's eastern railway station, where thousands of migrants slept rough in September, 21-year-old student Mate Sebok gave his whole-hearted support to Orban's stand. Hungary needed a strong leader who spoke up for the country's interests in the EU, Sebok told Reuters. "There was no common European solution, and I believe Hungary needs to protect its own borders," he said. "A few months ago the eastern railway station was still teeming with migrants and now the country is nice and empty, luckily, so I think the border fence was a good measure." Huge numbers of people, many escaping the Syrian civil war, tried to get through Hungary in the late summer on their way to seeking asylum in countries to the north, notably Germany and Sweden. Orban finally halted that flow with the border fence.

"Xenophobic Charcterisation"
Wrapped in a striped scarf against the autumn chill, Sebok said he voted for Orban's right-wing Fidesz party when it won re-election last year, and would do the same now. An opinion poll by Ipsos put support for Fidesz on 37 percent right after the 2014 vote but its popularity started to slide due to perceived corruption and some unpopular measures, dropping to 20 percent in June this year. The fence on the Serbian border was completed this September, and backing for Fidesz rose to 24 percent, according to Ipsos. The party solidified its core support and attracted around 300,000 swing voters, mostly aged 30-40. Fidesz was the most popular party in all age groups except the under-30s where it fell behind Jobbik, Ipsos said. The ratings rose further in October after the fence was extended along the Croatian border, sealing the southern frontier and forcing migrants to seek different routes north.

Orban accompanied the fence building with rhetoric, saying Hungary did not want Muslims in large numbers, and people were not coming to Europe to live in safety but rather because they wanted "a German or perhaps a Swedish life". Austria likened his policies to those of the Nazis, an allegation Hungary rejected, while the U.S. ambassador to Budapest warned against "xenophobic characterisation of refugees". Many Hungarians appear unworried by such criticism. "The measures tackling the migration crisis were very positive," said Margit Tamas, 62, a retired intensive care nurse. With Germany and Sweden struggling to cope with the asylum seekers, the European Commission wants EU member states to take in a share of the new arrivals.

But this has split the bloc, with Orban rejecting quotas and accusing governments which had welcomed asylum seekers of encouraging the influx. "Who commissioned European leaders ... (to) not only let in but ship into Europe by the hundreds of thousands groups that are culturally different from European culture?" he asked in a speech last week. With the opposition divided and weak, rights groups have been largely left to question his arguments at home. Zsuzsanna Zsohar, a spokeswoman for Migration Aid, accepted Hungary had the right to decide who could come in. "At the same time, as a U.N. member state it is obliged to help people who were stuck in conflict zones," she said. "With its current behaviour, Hungary has lost its right to claim solidarity."

Keeping Up The Momentum
Despite the gains, support for Fidesz remains well below where it was after Orban was reelected for another four years. "He won the migration issue, that is clear, but I think it's too early to speculate on what we will see in the next years," said Csaba Toth, strategic director of the liberal think tank Republikon. Orban would seek new issues to maintain the political momentum he gained from the migrant crisis, he added. One of these is likely to be the economy. Growth is expected at a healthy rate of about 3 percent this year, with public finances on a solid footing and inflation sub zero. However, growth is predicted to slow next year and dissatisfaction with Orban's record on jobs is common. Unemployment has fallen sharply but many Hungarians have had to leave the country to find work and better pay. "I'm deeply disappointed with the way the government handles joblessness," said Tamas, the retired nurse.

With two of her three graduate children already working abroad, she says the government must do more to stem the mass emigration. "My third child, a young doctor, is now preparing (to leave)," she said, adding that it is too early to say how she will vote in 2018 when the next elections are due. The National Bank of Hungary (NBH) launched a massive programme this week to boost corporate lending, and extended an existing funding-for-growth scheme into 2016, pumping hundreds of billions of forints into the economy. But domestic banks, squeezed with huge taxes for years, remain reluctant to lend and investments are dominated by EU-funded projects. "The National Bank is fighting a war it cannot win unless investment is directed in productivity-boosting ventures and a spark is ignited for banks to lend without NBH incentives," Nomura analyst Peter Attard Montalto said in a note.
© Reuters


Austria jails Romanian driver of migrant van with welded doors

6/11/2015- A Vienna court sentenced a Romanian man to two years in jail on Friday for human trafficking after he drove dozens of migrants across Austria in August in a van whose doors had been welded shut. Austrian police rescued 26 migrants from the van, including three young children aged 5 and 6 who were suffering from dehydration and were close to death. The migrants had come from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. A spokeswoman for Vienna's criminal court said the Romanian man, aged 30, could not appeal against his sentence. The police had stopped his Romanian-registered vehicle after a chase near the Austrian town of St. Peter am Hart on the border with Germany, the preferred destination for many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond. The incident occurred just two days after Austrian police had found the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants in an abandoned truck on an Austrian highway.
© Reuters


Scotland to take one third of Syrian refugees arriving before Christmas

Scots ready to welcome disproportionate share of those fleeing conflict, with all 32 local authorities willing to take part in scheme.

5/11/2015- Scotland is expecting to receive a third of the Syrian refugees due to arrive in the UK before Christmas. In a reflection of the country’s readiness in comparison to other parts of the UK, Scotland is preparing to welcome one in three of the thousand refugees David Cameron has agreed to take before the end of the year, although the Scottish government’s proportionate commitment was to take 10% of the total number. Making the announcement, the Scottish government’s minister for Europe and international development, Humza Yousaf, said: “Scotland’s response to the humanitarian crisis has been phenomenal and we have been working to ensure we provide a very warm welcome to those who come to Scotland seeking protection, safety and security.”

After chairing another meeting of the refugee taskforce which was set up to co-ordinate Scotland’s practical response to the humanitarian crisis, Yousaf added: “Of the refugees expected to arrive in the UK before Christmas, Scotland is expected to take around one-third, and this is testament to the work of the taskforce, local authorities and many other partner organisations to ensure we are ready – and we are ready. It is a great symbol of our compassion that Scotland is expected to take a third of refugees arriving before Christmas, while making up only 10% of the UK population.” The refugees are expected to be shared across at least half of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, all of which have expressed willingness to participate in the reception scheme.

Key to the resettlement process will be the work that various authorities are already carrying out with faith groups, charities and grassroots organisations to involve local communities, many of which will be receiving refugees for the first time. Stirling Council, one of the local authorities that has confirmed it will be taking a group of Syrian refugees, held an open summit last month attended by about 200 local residents, organisations and charities to give them the opportunity to discuss how best to support the new arrivals and air any concerns they might have about the impact on their community. Thousands have signed up to the website Scotland Welcomes Refugees to make individual offers of skilled help and assistance, such as translating or befriending.

Yousaf, who travelled to the island of Lesbos in October to witness the crisis at first hand, said: “It has been heartwarming and inspiring to see the positive reaction from people all over Scotland, and local communities will play a crucial role in the integration of these refugees. We cannot underestimate the importance of local engagement in response to what is an international crisis.” The refugees who are coming to live in Scotland have previously been staying in camps bordering Syria. In October, the UNHCR sent the Home Office a list of 1,300 people for possible resettlement and they are currently being vetted. John Wilkes, the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We warmly welcome the positive response of the local authorities ready to receive Syrian refugees next month. Some of these areas will be welcoming refugees for the first time, and we applaud the speedy and spirited way they have responded to the refugee crisis.”
© The Guardian


EU forecasts three million migrant arrivals by 2017

The EU Commission has said it expects three million migrants to arrive in the 28-nation bloc by 2017. The migrant influx is expected to provide a small boost to the economy, the EU's economic commissioner said.

5/11/2015- The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, published its European Economic Forecast for 2015 to 2017 on Thursday, stating that "three million persons" are expected to arrive in the 28-nation bloc by 2017. "This corresponds to an increase in the population of 0.4 percent after taking into account that some asylum seekers will not qualify for international protection," the report noted. The EU's executive body added that it expects one million arrivals in 2015, with another 1.5 million in 2016, until the rate drops to half a million in 2017.

Positive outlook
EU economic commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that the surge in migrant arrivals could provide a small but noteworthy boost to the bloc's economy. "There will be an impact on growth that is weak but positive for the EU as a whole, and that will increase GDP (gross domestic product) by 0.2 to 0.3 percent by 2017," Moscovici said in a statement on Thursday. "That will combat a certain number of received ideas and backs the politics of President (Jean-Claude Juncker)," who has called for increased European solidarity in tackling the migrant influx, Moscovici noted. The commissioner said in a tweet that the 28-nation bloc's economy "remains on recovery course." Europe has struggled to manage a migration wave that has witnessed more than half a million enter the EU in 2015, according to figures provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)."That will combat a certain number of received ideas and backs the politics of President (Jean-Claude Juncker)," who has called for increased European solidarity in tackling the migrant influx, Moscovici noted.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Sweden can no longer guarantee refugee beds

Sweden's Migration Minister Morgan Johansson has urged refugees in northern Germany to stay put, after declaring that the Nordic nation is now unable to guarantee beds for all asylum seekers.

5/11/2015- Sweden is struggling to provide enough beds for the record number of refugees crossing into the country from Germany and Denmark, the government confirmed on Thursday. At a press conference, Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told reporters that there was no longer a guarantee that all asylum seekers could be offered emergency accommodation. "We are in in a very dramatic situation, it has become even more dramatic in recent days. Last week we saw a decline, but now the past few days, we see an increase," he said, referring to the ongoing arrival of refugees fleeing war-torn nations to seek new lives in Sweden. "The urgent problem today is that the number of asylum seekers is increasing faster than the number of accommodation places. Sweden today can no longer guarantee accommodation places," he added.

"Those coming to our borders may well be greeted by the news that we can not arrange accommodation. They may then decide to either arrange accommodation on their own or go back to Germany or Denmark," he said.  Sweden's Migration Board (Migrationsverket) said earlier on Thursday that more than 2,000 asylum seekers were expected to try to travel to Sweden from Rostock in northern Germany, which would have meant a new daily record. Johansson's announcement comes just a day after Prime Minister Stefan Löfven released a written statement calling on the European Commission to push other member states to do more to help tackle the refugee crisis.

"Sweden has long taken an unreasonably large responsibility in comparison with other countries in the EU, and now we are in a very tight position. It is time that other countries now take responsibility and therefore the government requests the redistribution of refugees from Sweden," he said. Last month the Scandinavian nation doubled its refugee forecast for 2015, with up to 190,000 new arrivals expected on Swedish soil before the end of the year. The country's Migration Board has recently sent out a number of appeals to Swedish businesses and residents asking for volunteers to help provide shelter for the rising numbers of migrants crossing into Sweden as the winter draws in.

Hundreds of asylum seekers are already being put up at the world's most northerly ski resort in Lapland and at a remote holiday park in west Sweden, while sports halls, theatres and disused schools have also been transformed into temporary homes. But Anke Erdmann, a Green Party state parliament member for the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein told The Local that plenty of refugees in the Rostock area were also sleeping on "camping mats in empty market halls" and other disused buildings. "The problems they've described affect us too, of course I can understand Sweden's problem, but it's the same in Rostock, Lübeck and Kiel," Erdman said.

Erdmann added that German estimates suggested 1,800 refugees were stuck in northern port city Rostock trying to get tickets to Sweden, with the Nordic nation only offering tickets to 50 or 60 people each day – down from 150 last week. Meanwhile, between 600 and 800 people are believed to be waiting to travel to Sweden from Schleswig-Holstein's state capital Kiel under similar circumstances.
© The Local - Sweden


Sweden Seeks to Relocate Migrants

Avalanche of new arrivals sees end of open-door policy

4/11/2015- The Swedish government on Thursday will formally seek assistance from fellow European Union members to relocate some of the thousands of migrants entering the Nordic nation, reversing an open-door policy that has made it a magnet for asylum seekers. The government said it will ask that Sweden, which was, so far, on the receiving end of an EU burden-sharing program for asylum seekers, be allowed to benefit from it. “The current situation is not sustainable; Sweden is not able to receive people in the way we used to,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said on Wednesday after meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Stockholm to discuss the migration crisis. Mr. Tusk said he would back Sweden’s demand, but that it was up to the European Commission to decide.

The request marks a stark departure from Sweden’s long-standing policy of providing generous support for asylum seekers, and comes amid a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment as well as violent attacks targeting migrants. As Europe experiences the largest migration of people since the end of World War II, the EU has launched a plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees across member states. Most of the refugees will be moved from Greece and Italy, but 54,000 people haven’t been assigned to any country after Hungary opted out of the program following disagreements over quotas. Mr. Löfven said Sweden ought to be a beneficiary from the redistruibution plan, since it has received the most asylum-seekers relative to its population out of all EU countries.

Sweden has previously offered to take 5,700 refugees from other EU countries, and in October volunteered to take the first group of 19 Eritrean refugees from Italy to help smooth support for the plan. The Nordic country of nine million people, which expects more than 150,000 new arrivals this year, recently began housing some refugees in tents and disaster shelters amid a shortage of regular asylum homes. The refugee crisis has fueled tensions in the normally placid country with a recent spike in arson assaults against asylum homes. Last month, a student and a teacher were killed by a sword-wielding Nazi sympathizer in what police have described as a racist attack. The attacker was shot dead by police. The far-right Sweden Democrats party has soared to nearly 20% in polls and now competes for the position as the country’s second largest party on an anti-immigration platform. On Wednesday, the party criticized the government’s about-face, saying it didn’t go far enough to reduce the burden on Sweden.

It is “an ugly way of going around the problem since generous terms for asylum seekers still encourage more people to come to Sweden,” said Markus Wiechel, a member of parliament and the Sweden Democrat’s spokesman on migration. Feeling the growing pressure, the left-leaning minority government and four center-right opposition parties last month agreed to begin tightening immigration rules in an effort to reduce the inflow, including switching to temporary rather than permanent residency permits as the norm. The government said the decision to apply for a reallocation of migrants from Sweden was part of the deal with the opposition.

So far the European Commission has said refugees should only be relocated out of front-line states. The bloc has struggled to convince both governments and refugees alike to participate in the program, with only about half of member states agreeing to begin receiving their planned quota. Mr. Tusk noted that authorities also face resistance from asylum-seekers who prefer to go to Germany or Sweden, prosperous countries with immigrant-friendly reputations, instead of Eastern member states with less experience in integrating refugees. ”We do not have effective procedures when it comes to getting people to agree with us on the destination,” Mr. Tusk said.
© The Wall Street Journal*


Finland says asylum seeker influx has slightly raised terrorism threat

3/11/2015- Finland said on Tuesday a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers had increased the threat of terrorism in the Nordic country, with the risk level raised to "low" from "very low". The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (FSIS) said it was monitoring some 300 people for possible connections to Islamist militant groups, some of whom were among 25,000 asylum seekers to have arrived in Finland so far this year. Militant groups that seek to recruit people now have a presence in Finland, the FSIS added in a statement. The terrorism threat level has been raised from "very low" to "low", FSFS director Antti Pelttari told national broadcaster YLE. "The sudden change in the refugee situation means a significant threat to Finland's security."

About 700,000 refugees and migrants have poured into the European Union from war-torn and deprived areas of the Middle East, Africa and Asia in 2015, causing major financial strain on EU member countries, political disputes within them over to how to best handle the influx, and heightened security concerns. The FSIS said 15 people who recently left Finland to join militant groups in armed conflicts abroad, mainly in Syria, had been killed, while 20 had returned to the Nordic country. At the same time, the FSIS said, the rapid growth in the number of refugees had created an anti-immigrant atmosphere where the threat of violent hate crime had also increased. Dozens of anti-immigrant demonstrations have taken place in Finland since late summer, and on Saturday, a petrol bomb was thrown into a center housing underage asylum seekers. "Finnish extremist organizations have been activated to oppose immigration, and this is the most visible and concrete security threat," Interior Minister Petteri Orpo told YLE. Finland expects 30,000-35,000 asylum seekers to arrive this year, compared with 3,600 in 2014.
© Reuters


Finland: Helsinki welcomes refugees

The Finnish capital city Helsinki, chair of our working group on migration and integration, has long been a city of asylum, having welcomed thousands of Somali refugees since the early 90s.

2/11/2015- Finland expects to receive 25,000 to 30,000 asylum applications this year, compared to 3,600 in 2014. Most of these asylum seekers will settle in large cities. Three cities in the Helsinki metropolitan area (Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo) were already home to over 60% of Finland’s immigrant population before the asylum crisis. The Finnish national government allocates compensation for the reception of refugees to host communities for a maximum of three years during the asylum procedure. While to most European cities the Finnish model would seem like an excellent practice, ensuring support from the national level according to the number of refugees hosted by the city, it is not without its shortcomings.

A city in Finland receives €6,845 per year for children under seven and €2,300 for older children and adults. The compensation for resettled refugees is extended by one year. This compensation procedure was first implemented in 1993 and has since been adjusted to meet the ‘price index of social services’. If this was to meet the real cost of hosting an asylum seeker today, the compensation would have to amount to €10,827 per child and €3,319 per adult. Finnish cities do also receive refunds according to real costs for a maximum of 10 years for specific services such as long term medical or other care caused by disability or illness. Other services like child protection, unaccompanied minors and interpretation are also refunded. However, once the refunding period is over, the city must cover the costs of service provision for refugees out of its own budget.

Helsinki’s position is that the compensation should reflect the real costs incurred to cities: services like early childcare or labour market integration should be well resourced and supported according to the real needs of cities. Training needs are currently not reimbursed, and waiting periods for training courses are extremely long. In Finland, 10 cities including Helsinki were involved in a consultation process on the management of the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) allocated to Finland. Non-governmental organisations were also broadly included in this consultation process, emphasising the focus on needs at local level. However, large cities were not included in the national AMIF implementation committee. The development, follow up and evaluation of the implementation of the AMIF should happen in active dialogue with cities. To be effective, national programmes need local expertise and insight into what really happens in terms of integration in suburbs, schools, kindergartens and healthcare services.
© Euro Cities


Slovenia: Medical care for refugees

It’s a cold, grimy day in Dobova. The rain drizzles down, grey clouds loom and mist collects in pockets.

4/11/2015- A queue of refugees scramble in a line, ankle-deep in mud, as volunteers give them bread and water to take on the train to the Austrian border. This is the next stop on an unending journey, where there will be more waiting and more queuing. Their longing to board the train is clear. The queue moves fast. No one wants to wait another day, another hour. Dobova is home to a new refugee camp in eastern Slovenia, near the border of Croatia. The camp is on the outskirts of this sleepy town, surrounded by green fields and facing the Zagreb to Ljubljana railway line. Since the crisis began, this quiet town has not just been filled by refugees, but hoards of police, army, media and aid workers. Inside the camp, a beacon of warmth on this miserable day radiates from the red Caritas Hungary medical tent. An infrared glow inside declares the state of emergency in the camp, like a flashing ambulance siren, but its warmth and quiet is comforting for overwhelmed and sick refugees.

A young Iraqi teen sits on a low metal bed looking despondent, his head hung low, eyes lethargic. He seems to have a fever. A doctor kneels down and begins to take his temperature and pulse. He has no English, but the small skilled crew of medics speak to him in Arabic. Soon a slightly older man in his 20s comes in. He’s extremely thin with gaunt, hollowed cheeks and a boney frame. Next is a young Afghan boy in need of stiches on his hand after cutting it on a rock, followed by another Afghan boy, with a bleeding head wound. The only Farsi speaker on the team, Bahrang Mostaan (32), is in demand this morning. Originally from Iran, but living in Europe since childhood, he brings his cheerful nature to all his patients, despite working long hours on little sleep.

Bahrang is a sixth year medical student from Debrecen University in Hungary, who is volunteering for a week in the camp, with a view to returning for more shifts as needed. “The people come in waves,” he said. “You have a hectic period and then a few hours of calm. You never know what will happen. The most common illnesses are upper respiratory infections and gastroenteritis. “The most serious condition the team treated recently was a young girl in pre-shock. Her heart wasn’t pumping blood properly. All her veins and arteries were dilated, so there was no blood pressure. I am not sure what that cause was. It could have been fatigue, prolonged stress, lack of food and water…” The ambulance tent has a steady flow of patients, 100 people a day on average.

It was initially set up to treat refugees in Hungary before the government closed its border in mid-September. Having no more refugees to treat, Caritas Hungary brought the service to Slovenia. “We give medical care to refugees and the Caritas Slovenia tent across the way gives food, drinks, clothes and blankets,” said Balint Vadasz, Head of Emergency Response with Caritas Hungary. “Basic medical care is a human right and we thought it was very important to address this. Our medical team and ambulance tent is enough to provide professional care. It is small, flexible, quick to build and can be removed when needed. “Sometimes we have to send people to hospital if their condition looks very serious. But usually when they hear that they will have to go to hospital they try to avoid it, as they don’t want to get split up from their families. “We don’t know what will happen in the winter. We take each week as it comes, as the situation is always changing.”

The refugee trail is taking a serious toll on people’s health. “People here have been under stress for a long time,” said Bahrang. “I have seen young boys completely exhausted. There was a guy yesterday who was very close to a full breakdown. He was very, very depressed and wouldn’t take medical advice, as he was so low. But it had a happy ending, as we were able to make sure he got the last bus, so he could keep moving.” Outside a rumble can be heard and a Caritas volunteer calls out, “look, a train”. As it chugs by, refugees peer out the windows to get a view of their next stop. 1,500 are expected into Dobova in the next hour. The rain starts to fall. Everyone waits. It’s the calm before the storm.
© Caritas


Slovenia PM says migrant crisis could reignite Balkan conflicts

3/11/2015- The migrant crisis engulfing Europe threatens to reignite conflicts between former Yugoslav republics which fought each other during the 1990s, Slovenia's prime minister said on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many of them fleeing Syria's civil war, have taken the Balkan route from Greece to western Europe this year, putting great strain on the finances and infrastructure of transit countries, including the ex-Yugoslav states of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. The situation worsened when Hungary, an eastern outpost of the European Union's passport-free Schengen zone, shut its southern border to the migrants on Oct. 16, diverting the flow of around 135,000 people westwards from Croatia into Slovenia.

Countries have angrily accused each other of failing to register the refugees properly or to share information. "If the migrant crisis is not adequately controlled as agreed at the summit in Brussels there is a possibility of conflict situations between the states of the Western Balkans," Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar told a news conference. "It is possible that a small conflict would initiate a wider reaction because of the very difficult recent history (of the region), which is why it is very important that we solve this crisis together as no country can solve this problem by itself."

More than 100,000 people were killed and up to four million were displaced during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, the last migrant crisis to shake Europe. Cerar is known for making dire warnings. At emergency EU talks on Oct. 25 in Brussels, he said the 28-nation bloc faced collapse if it could not agree on a plan to tackle the sudden influx of the refugees. On Tuesday Cerar said the EU must control its external border in Greece much better. He also said the flow of migrants transiting the Balkans could move further west to Albania and Montenegro, though he did not elaborate. Cerar said Slovenia might follow Hungary's example by building a fence along "relevant parts of the border" to better control the migrant flow, adding: "We do not plan to close the border."
© Reuters


Germany imposes restrictions on Syrian refugees in surprise U-turn

Syrian refugees will only be able to stay for one year with limits to their rights as refugees.

6/11/2015- Berlin has announced hundreds of thousands of Syrians entering Germany will not be granted asylum or refugee status in a surprise U-turn from Angela Merkel's "open-door policy" on refugees. While Syrian refugees will still be able to enter Germany, they will only be able to stay for one year with "subsidiary protection", which limits their rights as refugees. The policy shift followed an emergency meeting of Ms Merkel's cabinet and coalition partners on Thursday. Although the meeting decided against setting up "transit zones" to process refugees on Germany's borders with Austria, they agreed on prompt deportation of people whose asylum claims had failed.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, announced that Berlin would start to fall in line with other governments in the European Union, The Guardian reports. "In this situation other countries are only guaranteeing a limited stay,” he said. “We’ll now do the same with Syrians in the future. We’re telling them ‘you will get protection, but only so-called subsidiary protection that is limited to a period and without any family unification.'" An interior ministry spokesperson told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is instructed henceforth to grant Syrian civil war refugees only subsidiary protection." Germany, along with Sweden and Austria, have so far been the most open countries in response to the growing refugee crisis.
© The Independent


German coalition reaches agreement on migrant registration

The heads of Germany's Grand Coalition have announced a basic agreement on the treatment of migrants, including faster processing of asylum requests. Some of the migrants would be required to stay in specific areas.

5/11/2015- The leaders of Germany's governing coalition parties - Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sigmar Gabriel and Horst Seehofer - agreed on a new strategy to process refugees, the three said in a joint statement on Thursday. Announcing the agreement, Merkel said the process for many asylum seekers would be sped up. "We need to show that we are an open and a tolerant country, but also a country which respects its constitution," she told reporters. Officials are set to create three to five registration centers for the newcomers, speeding up the processing of asylum applications. At least two of them are to be created in Bavaria, the German state that has seen most of the influx. Refugees would be requested to stay in predetermined areas near the centers, harming their chances of a successful application if they broke the residency rules. If the immigrants leave the area more than once, their asylum request would be automatically denied. However, under the agreement, there would be no guarded "transit zones" on the German border, as proposed by the Bavarian conservative CSU but opposed by Gabriel's Social Democrats (SPD).

New ID cards for refugees
Head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, Horst Seehofer denied that his party wanted to put refugees in jail for leaving the designated areas. "Our first priority is the humane treatment of people coming to us," he said. Most of the measures agreed Thursday would only apply to migrants from so-called safe countries, specifically Albania and Kosovo, whose applications are routinely denied by the German authorities. The coalition heads have expressed hope that the speedy return of such refugees free up resources for those truly threatened. According to the coalition representatives, the Berlin government intends to create a new refugee ID, which the migrants would need in order to place an asylum requests and ask for state support. In addition, refugees would be asked to pay part of the expenses for the German courses provided upon entering the country.

Up to a million refugees
In addition, some categories of migrants would not be allowed to bring in family members before spending at least two years in Germany. Germany is expecting between 800,000 and a million people to apply for asylum this year alone, more than double the number than in previous years.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Gang Armed With Baseball Bats Hunts Syrian Refugees

Violence against refugees in Germany reached new heights over the weekend as armed groups attacked Syrians in several towns.

2/11/2015- The incidents included a group of at least 20 dark-clothed people — including some armed with baseball bats — targeting a group of asylum seekers early Sunday in Magdeburg, police said. Three Syrian men had to be treated in hospital for bruises and injuries to their faces. One of the attackers was arrested near the scene. In Wismar, two Syrian men had to be treated in hospital after they were assaulted outside a building which is used as a shelter for refugees. Police said masked attackers armed with baseball bats and other weapons threatened and then beat the pair. A 26-year-old asylum seeker was injured in Freital, Saxony, after an explosive device detonated in front of his bedroom window. A police spokesperson told NBC News they suspect that the act was motivated by right-wing extremism.

Police also reported several deliberate fires at under-construction refugee shelters. "This is a new climax," Hajo Funke, a German expert on right-wing extremism, told NBC News. "These elements now see that the time has come to strike hard." Germany is expected to take in more than 1 million asylum seekers this year and thousands of them continue to enter the country on a daily basis. Some worry whether Germany can cope with the high number of new arrivals. Funke said that Germany's far-right movement has been on the rise in recent years and appeared to be trying to capitalize on the recent influx of refugees and migrants. "They see that there is a certain fear and try to charge it with right-wing extremism," he added.
© NBC News


Netherlands: Democracy the Wilders' way (column)

Wilders’ PVV is doing its xenophobic best to stop refugees coming to this country, and the VVD isn’t far behind, writes cultural historian Thomas von der Dunk.

4/11/2015- Thanks to ‘Steenbergen’ we now know have a good idea of what the Wilders Youth means by the ‘peaceful resistance’ to the arrival of war refugees: intimidation and threats. To the noisiest of Wilders’ elite troops ‘democracy’ simply means having their way and ‘listening to citizens’ means they don’t have to listen to anyone while making sure no one can be heard either. According to this particular interpretation of the concept of democracy, by rights, scum rules. Constant Kuster, the leader of the neofascist Nederlandse Volksunie, stated in the NRC that that is exactly how it should be. And after the events at Steenbergen Wilders said the resistance movement was fine and dandy. In the aftermath of ‘Wormer’ he signed the appeal for calm in the refugee debate but a few hours later he was back in the old resistance groove. What we have learned from the failed storming in Woerden and the attack in Wormer is that the testosterone bombs in Wilders’ ranks pose more of a threat than the odd excitable refugee.

Internet as a sewer
Meanwhile the internet has become the open sewer in which every semi-literate dimwit can dump his xenophobic turd. The vague feelings of fear – lecherous Muslims who rape
and spread disease around every corner–which the extreme right likes to exploit (see too the Law and Justice party in Poland) have their roots in the anti-Semitic clichés of the thirties. Then, as now, parents were advised to keep their daughters under lock and key. True, a person who has lived in a cocoon for the last ten years loses contact with reality and will become, perhaps inevitably, paranoid. That makes Wilders completely understandable and very interesting as a psychiatric case. His place, however, is in the loony bin, not parliament. Parliament itself is not blameless. For years it did nothing to counteract the likes of Wilders. At last CDA leader Buma led the other parties in a frontal attack and it resulted in a complete meltdown of Wilders and his party. So it can be done, and without relying solely on a lone courageous woman in Steenbergen.

Botox tourism
The main parliamentary obstacle in the way of decency is the VVD whose tone in the debate makes the party the spiritual home away from home for the PVV electorate. Halbe
Zijlstra’s comments about botox tourism did not lead to any criticism of him in his party. No one called for his resignation. Not one. It illustrates yet again the complete lack of a moral compass in his party which has reduced politics to bartering, first with one-time pal Geert and now with China. Last week Willem Aantjes died – a politician from a completely different era and with completely different political values. In 1978 he stepped down because he understood that the image of politics would be better served if he left. Zijlstra, in spite of the trail of moral destruction in his wake, will never understand this. Apart from the rampant vulgar xenophobia there is, of course, a civilised form. It is the NIMBY variant prevalent in the better neighbourhoods once so pithily explained by Robert Lansschot in the NRC: it’s much better for the refugees themselves to be housed in poor neighbourhoods.

Cheap shops
What would they want with our pricey patisseries when it’s cheap call shops they want? The only refugees that should be welcomed with open arms are the tax refugees, argued
kindred spirit Paul Fentrop. They are the true victims of these troubled times. The VVD agrees. We have only to watch them squirm under the OECD attack on the Dutch post box firms. This civilised xenophobia, which in the Hague’s chic Benoordenhout did manage to prevent an empty barracks to be turned into an asylum seekers’ centre, is rife among the ‘broadminded’ who, in order to benefit their jobs or companies, approve of open borders but let other deal with the consequences. That this doesn’t go down too well in the poorer neighbourhoods will be readily understood. The shortage of social housing is largely the fault of those politicians who have been flogging it and who are now refusing to build more because it will ‘attract refugees’. You know which party they belong to.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Six arrested at Enschede refugee protest

2/11/2015- Six people were arrested for using Nazi salutes, insulting behaviour and physical attacks during an anti-refugee demonstration in Enschede at the weekend. The demonstration, called in protest at plans to set up an emergency refugee centre in the town, attracted some 400 people, news agency ANP said. Although it passed off largely peacefully, there was some trouble when a group of protesters headed away from the march towards the city centre. Police then broke up the demonstration on the order of the mayor, ANP reported. A handful of anti-fascist demonstrators from over the border with Germany were also in the town but kept away from the main march. Last week, it emerged that members of the neo-Nazi Dutch group NVU had been attending council-organised meetings about refugees to stir up trouble.
© The Dutch News


Czech Rep: Welcoming Migrants, Against the Tide

While the Czech government holds a strongly anti-immigrant line, groups of citizens are organizing via social media to help migrants. Among them is Marie Hermanova. This is her personal story.
by Marie Hermanova

2/11/2015- There are few countries in which tensions have been more pronounced over the arrival of more than 700,000 migrants into Central and Eastern Europe this year than in the Czech Republic. At the end of October, protesters rallying in Prague against migration and “the Islamization” of the country confronted pro-immigration campaigners, leading to a shouting match that was only broken up by the arrival of police. Such divisions reflect the increasing polarization of Czech society over the refugee issue and the rise of social media as a means of offering a counter-narrative to the government’s strenuously anti-migrant line.

When I let it be known on Facebook I intended to help out in a refugee camp in Rozske, on the Hungarian-Serbian border, the response wasn’t the least bit encouraging. In fact, the negative statements on my homepage grew harsher with each passing day. People I’d known for ages and went to high school with started threatening me, calling me irresponsible, naive or just plain stupid for wanting to help a group of unknown foreigners desperate to start a new life. But social media such as Facebook are of paramount importance when it comes to countering what seems to be a distinct lack of courage and professionalism among Czech journalists to tackle the refugee issue head-on.

The Czech Republic is arguably facing one of its gravest challenges since the former Czechoslovakia broke free of control from the Soviet Union. Most newspapers and media outlets are resoundingly against the arrival of the refugees. It’s mostly the blogs and Facebook posts of various volunteers helping migrants that are challenging official versions of events. The refugee question is talked about everywhere – in pubs, at tram stops and in casual conversations. It’s the dominant issue discussed by the cashier at my local grocery store. It can also be an extremely divisive issue, as I discovered during my grandmother’s birthday celebration. My father told me that he’d seen lots of statistics about how migrants in Germany don’t work, how Islam is a dangerous ideology, and how we’d undermine our society if we let these people live among us.

I’m on the verge of tears as I argue with him. I just can’t believe that my own father – the most honest and hardworking person I know – is ignoring the human tragedy unfolding right before our eyes. My mother then blames me for becoming a useless, elitist intellectual out of touch with reality. What was supposed to be a pleasant family lunch erupts into one of the biggest and most horrible fights I’ve ever had with my parents.

Humanitarian Crisis
It’s early in the morning and I’m standing at a tram stop in Prague with a backpack and a plastic bag full of food. I’m waiting for Magda, who is due to arrive in an old van belonging to her colleagues. We’re leaving for Hungary today, together with six other volunteers, to work in a refugee camp in Rozske on the Hungarian-Serbian border. I’m tired and a bit afraid because I haven’t met Magda before. In fact, I have no idea what she looks like, what she does or how old she is. The little I do know about her comes from Facebook – our virtual friendship is exactly four days and about a dozen social media messages old. Still, I’m about to spend the next three days with her and the rest of the group, helping run a food and clothes distribution center in a refugee camp.

A few weeks earlier, I was at home chatting with the filmmaker and ethnologist Michal Pavlásek. He had spent the whole summer on the Macedonian-Greece border, filming and distributing material help to some of the thousands of refugees who had been crossing over from nearby the Macedonian town of Gevgelija day after day. Michal talked about a “humanitarian crisis” – of thousands of people without food, clothes or water; of families with small children who had been travelling for two months and are tired to death. Over the course of the next few days, I begin researching Facebook posts and academic articles and talking with my friends who work for migration NGOs in Prague. Every day I’m more and more convinced that something horrible is happening. When I post articles on my Facebook page to this effect, I’m subjected to a marked anti-migrant theme:

∙ “Do you really think we can just let all these people come here?”
∙ “What will we do with them?”
∙ “These people are culturally incompatible with us”
∙ “They won’t integrate here; look what happened in France”
∙ “You’re crazy and are threatening our national security”

Over the summer, the migrant crisis is making the news everywhere. The situation is deteriorating so fast that a few days later I decide to spend a weekend in Hungary to help out. I don’t call my parents to let them know. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore – I just need to go and do something about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and see what is happening with my own eyes. Contrary to public perception, most of the volunteers who spend their free time in the makeshift refugee camps along the Schengen border are not activists or self-appointed saviors of the world. They might be motivated by the desire to help those in need, but many mention a more personal and less altruistic reason – they simply want to understand the calamity that is happening on their doorstep. “A lot of us went to Bapska [in Croatia] mainly because we felt the need to help the refugees was a natural reaction to what we saw,” one volunteer says in a Facebook discussion.

Go and See for Yourself
I learn from Magda that she is two years younger than I am and spends her free time helping disabled people. Our driver, Vojta, is studying political science; Tereza is studying medicine. Upon arriving at the Rozske camp, we meet journalists, translators, engineers, psychologists and administrative assistants. I’m almost the only one with previous experience of working with migrants and refugees. Such are the diverse backgrounds of the volunteers that the only thing they have in common is a profound unease that it’s neither normal nor rational to stay at home listening to the xenophobic warnings when it is possible to go and see the migrant camps for yourself – and then form your own opinion. Honza, a law student, personifies this approach. “You read all these articles about migrants flooding Europe and you are like, ‘Wait, what?’ Has anyone even seen a refugee here? I felt like everyone was going crazy,” he says. “So I decided to go and see for myself.

It’s not that far, and I knew there were some Facebook groups where you can contact other volunteers. So I wrote a post there, and within a few hours, I had a car and a co-driver. Easy. Everyone should go before judging the situation.” Rozske itself is a fairly nondescript place. You approach it along an old road that cuts through potato and corn fields. Perhaps the only thing exceptional about this border area is the striking lack of amenities and infrastructure for so great an influx of people. We see families who have been on the road for more than a month – desperately tired mothers with sick children, many without proper shoes or clothes. I help an old man with a body-shaking cough and obvious fever to find a doctor.

In fact, it’s older people – rather than the smartphone-carrying young migrants who so often features in the press – who seem to form the bulk of the refugee population. The few younger men there are mostly fathers desperately trying to look after their children, or groups of teens travelling together. Over the past two months, Czech volunteer organizations helping the migrants have grown from a few Facebook pages with simple posts to a fully-blown citizens’ movement with hundreds of supporters. Six coordinators are in touch daily with people in the field and post daily updates about migrant movements, letting volunteers know where they are needed most and what sort of supplies they should bring.

Hundreds of people are now helping out in the camps – the one in Bapske-Berkasovo on the Croatian-Serbian border, for example, is now completely run by Czech volunteers. A group of people gather at Prague’s main train station from where they work in shifts to provide assistance to refugees released from Czech detention centers. This group now has more than 300 members and is in touch with a similar group in Dresden, on the German side of the border. The Czech volunteers send updates to their German contemporaries about inbound trains with refugees on board so that the migrants will be continually provided for.

Homogeneous, Xenophobic
There seems little doubt that this volunteer movement came into existence as a response to the sometimes openly xenophobic discourse that’s so prevalent in the media and among the political establishment. This distinctly unattractive national characteristic is perhaps so widespread because the Czech Republic was for the whole of the 20th century a fairly closed country, and remains one of the most ethnically homogenous states in Europe. Only about 4% of Czech residents are migrants from countries outside of the European Union – and most of them are fellow East Europeans who live in Prague or other big cities. The number of people from Islamic countries living in Czech Republic is low – a few thousand, not even 1% of the population.

So the sudden urgency of the migrant crisis comes as a very unpleasant surprise to a society that was not in any way prepared to handle such a complicated issue. Many of the people opposed to taking in refugees are afraid of the unknown. On top of all this, it’s very difficult for any migrant, whether a refugee fleeing a war-torn country or simply someone looking for a better life, to enter Czech territory legally. Migration and integration into the Czech Republic is handled by the Interior Ministry and is mostly perceived by officials as a security issue. The number of accepted citizenship applications is the lowest in all EU countries.

Most migrants in the Czech Republic are here on short- or long-term visas (i.e. they are not expected to remain here). The situation is even worse for asylum seekers. The country receives only a few hundred asylum applications each year – for 2015, the Czech Republic is on course to get even fewer. Another factor is the significant rise of Islamophobic and xenophobic movements over the past two years. Long before the refugee crisis started, the civic movement “We don’t want Islam in Czech Republic” had more than 100,000 supporters on Facebook. With the rising numbers of refugees, the movement’s openly racist leader, Martin Konvička, has become a sort of folk hero to some members of the public. He is regularly invited to participate in TV debates and public discussions, even though his knowledge about Islam and the migration issue in general is woefully lacking.

The Role of the Mass Media
Lastly, the role of the mass media in this unhappy state of affairs cannot be ignored in a country where a significant number of people are unable to read international news because they do not speak or use foreign languages. Two of the main daily newspapers are run by a corporation owned by the powerful oligarch Andrej Babiš, the head of the ANO2015 political movement and the current finance minister. Babiš is a keen supporter of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s radical anti-immigration legislation and supports the construction of huge camps in the Middle East to detain people before they even reach Europe. The agenda of his newspapers, the most read in the Czech Republic, follows the same populist line.

But volunteers who help the migrants are slowly starting to gain a voice through Facebook. They go to schools to share their experiences with the refugee children; they organize meetings, debates and campaigns; they write blog posts and articles; and they wrangle with the authorities and politicians. Furthermore, they are united in refusing to be manipulated from above. This unlikely alliance exists even though many of them have never met each other in person. They include activists from autonomous movements, members of NGOs, young urban hipsters and suburban mothers on maternity leave. And even though it means they sometimes have to fight their own family or lose a few friends, they have no intention of abandoning the battle. The refugee crisis and the grassroots solidarity movement that has stemmed from it might be one of the rare occasions when this weak and fragmented Czech civic society finds a common cause and begins to gain strength.
Marie Hermanova is a social anthropologist and writer who works in media and NGO sector. Marie is also a coordinator of volunteer initiatives in the Czech Republic.
© Transitions Online.


Greece carries out first relocation of migrants to Luxembourg

Thirty people, from Syria and Iraq, have been relocated from Athens to Luxembourg as part of the EU plan to share the burden of the refugee crisis

4/11/2015- Greece on Wednesday carried out the first relocation of asylum seekers from its territory to Luxembourg, part of an EU-approved plan to ease the burden on border nations inundated by this year's influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Six families from Syria and Iraq were being relocated from Athens, among the first under a €780 million (£550 million), two-year scheme funded by the European Union. Smiling parents holding young children posed for "selfies" with Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, and Jean Asselborn, the Luxembourg foreign minister, beside an aeroplane on the runway of Athens international airport, before boarding their flight, live footage broadcast by state tele-vision showed. "Thirty in the face of thousands who have fled their homes in Syria and Iraq is a drop in the ocean," Mr Tsipras said. "But we hope that this becomes a stream, and then a river of humanity and shared responsibility, because these are the principles upon which the European Union was built." More than 580,000 refugees have entered Greece through its long sea border with Turkey this year. In September, the EU approved the transfer of about 160,000 asylum seekers from member states directly affected by the crisis. About 86 people have already been transferred directly from Italy to Sweden and Finland under the scheme. Martin Schulz, right, and Alexis Tsipras make statements after the first 30 refugees to be relocated from Greece boarded a plane bound for Luxembourg.
© Reuters


Greece: Six Infants Drown When Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Greek Island

1/11/2015- Eleven migrants including six infants drowned when their boat capsized off the Greek island of Samos, trapping most of them in the cabin, the coast guard said on Sunday. Fifteen others were rescued when the six-meter boat sank in the early hours near the coast of the Aegean island. The death toll from drowning among thousands of refugees making the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece's eastern islands has risen in recent weeks as autumn weather has set in, bringing high winds and falling temperatures. "We recovered 11 drowned bodies, 10 of which were trapped inside the vessel's cabin," a coast guard official said, adding that the dead included four babies, two children and four women. A search and rescue operation was continuing to find two more migrants missing from the boat. Greece has been a transit point for more than 570,000 refugees and migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and beyond this year, putting European nations at odds over how to deal with the continent's biggest humanitarian crisis in decades.
© Reuters


Bulgaria AIDA Update: lengthier, deteriorating asylum procedures

29/11/2015- The updated AIDA report on Bulgaria documents a worrying trend of gradual deterioration in asylum procedures throughout 2015. The duration of the asylum procedure has increased on average from 3 to 6 months and is still growing, while the State Agency of Refugees (SAR) was unable to secure interpretation services for asylum seekers during the examination of their claim, according to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Moreover, material reception conditions in Bulgaria have wit-nessed equal signs of deterioration from the beginning of the year. The registration and documentation of asylum seekers, especially those who approach the authorities on their own without being apprehended, is curtailed by delays, while basic services are provided scarcely and unevenly. More worryingly, as of March 2015, financial allowances to asylum seekers (formerly at €33 per month) have been retroactively terminated, thereby stripping applicants from their right to assistance. Finally, the report provides information on the ongoing problem of access to the territory, documenting incidents of push backs and ill-treatment at the border in the period between May and July 2015.
© Asylum Information Database


October's migrant, refugee flow to Europe roughly matched whole of 2014

The number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea last month was roughly the same as that for the whole of 2014, United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday.

2/11/2015- The monthly record of 218,394 also outstripped September's 172,843, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said. "That makes it the highest total for any month to date and roughly the same as the entire total for 2014," he said. The UNHCR puts 2014 arrivals by sea at about 219,000. At the peak, 10,006 arrived in Greece's shores on a single day, Oct. 20. The vast majority of refugees and migrants to Europe have traveled via Turkey to Greece, a switch from the previously more popular African route via Libya to Italy. The largest group by nationality are Syrians, accounting for 53 percent of arrivals, as a result of the civil war that has driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Afghans come second, making up 18 percent of the total.

The flow of refugees into Europe, however, is still dwarfed by the numbers in Syria's neighbors. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have Syrian refugee numbers exceeding 2 million, 1 million and 600,000 respectively. Globally, 60 million people are refugees or displaced within their own country, not counting economic migrants. UNHCR said in October that it was planning for up to 700,000 refugees in Europe this year and a similar or greater number in 2016. But that plan has already been eclipsed, with 744,000 arriving so far. Some 3,440 are estimated to have died or gone missing in the attempt to escape to Europe. "Certainly in 2016, we have to expect this level of arrivals to continue, and that's because the facts that are causing people to move aren't going away," said Edwards. "It is the new reality that we all have to deal with."
Migration experts had expected the number of people making the hazardous journey by sea to dwindle as winter approached, but the boats have continued to arrive. "We hope that there will be some reductions in the number of people crossing this year, simply to help with the manageability of the situation, but unfortunately, the underlying causes that are making people move across the Mediterranean to Europe are still there," Edwards said. The Greek coast guard said on Monday that four refugees drowned and another six were missing off the Greek island of Farmakonisi after their boat sank. Four people were rescued. Eleven people, including six infants, drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the island of Samos, trapping them in the cabin.
© Reuters


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