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Headlines 2 September, 2016

Ukraine moves Roma families amid village's rage at murder

Ukrainian officials have decided to move dozens of Roma (Gypsies) out of a village after their ethnic Ukrainian neighbours attacked their homes.

29/8/2016- The violence erupted on Saturday in Loshchynivka, in the Odessa region, shortly after the body of a nine-year-old girl was found. Police said there were signs she had been raped. A 21-year-old Roma man is in custody, suspected of having murdered her. Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili said he shared the locals' outrage. In a video message on Facebook (in Russian) he said "anti-social elements" were involved in "massive drug-dealing" in Loshchynivka. Ukrainian police say the situation is now under control in the village, after extra police were sent there. On Saturday, a crowd of furious villagers set a Roma house ablaze and smashed up others, breaking windows. The Roma residents managed to flee before the violence, and none were hurt, reports say. YouTube clips uploaded by Irina Zolotaryova appear to show the attacks on property in the village.

Roma community help
The head of Izmayil district, where the village lies, said buses were ready to move the Roma families out on Monday. More than 50 Roma live there, Valentyna Stoykova told the news channel 112 Ukrayina. She said the Roma would be re-housed. "They themselves understand that they cannot continue living in the village. And our task is to keep them safe," Ms Stoykova said. Only two of the Roma families living there owned their homes, she said, the other six families were renting. The European Roma Rights Centre has documented previous cases of Roma being targeted in Ukraine and living in extreme poverty there. More than 70% of Europe's Roma are poor and marginalised, and discrimination against them is rife. Europe is estimated to have 10-12 million Roma, many of them concentrated in eastern, former communist countries.
© BBC News

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Bulgaria Will not Accept Refugees Returned from Europe

Bulgaria will not accept refugees returned from Western Europe unless a re-admission agreement with Turkey, part of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, comes into effect, Bulgaria's PM announced on Sunday.

29/8/3016- Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said Bulgaria will not accept migrants returned from Western Europe without a deal with Turkey - adding that he had informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders of Bulgaria's standpoint at a meeting in Berlin on Saturday. “Over two million migrants are coming from Aleppo [in Syria], and Turkey is already at the end of its resources. I have firmly told European colleagues that we will not accept [back any] migrants if there is no readmission agreement with Turkey,” Borissov said. “I told them directly – do you imagine me waiting at the airport for you to send me tens of thousands of refugees? I will simply not let the planes in,” he added. Borissov met the German Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of Austria, Croatia and Slovenia in Berlin to discuss the European refugee crisis. A day earlier, Borissov in Istanbul met the Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, and the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Yildirim used the talks to send a message to Europe via Borissov, warning that unless the EU guarantees visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by the end of October, Ankara may back out of its agreement to help stem the flow of migrants to the European bloc. “The EU and Turkey have to show great efforts for the [EU-Turkey migrant] agreement to enter into force until October and to find steps to make it work after that. Because, good or bad, the agreement works,” Borissov noted. He noted that while Turkey cannot join the EU in the short term, the visa regime should be eased for Turkish public servants and business people. According to the so-called Dublin regulation, the first EU member state that a migrant enters and registers in is responsible for handling his or her application for asylum. This means that Western European countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden have the right to return refugees to Bulgaria who registered there having entered from Turkey.

At the meeting with Merkel and his colleagues from Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, Borissov also called for more European solidarity with Bulgaria in terms of protection of the EU's external border. He demanded more technical equipment from the EU in the form of helicopters and patrol boat for the needs of the border authorities.
© Balkan Insight

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Sweden Democrats try to woo pensioners

Sweden’s far-right party on Saturday vowed to fight for the elderly, saying it will only support a government that is prepared to significantly hike pensions for those who struggle financially.

28/8/2016- Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson said the minimum pension guaranteed for the country’s retired population ought to be increased by around 10 percent, or 800 kronor (€85), per month. “We won’t support any government which doesn’t improve the situation for the poor elderly. That’s a promise,” the politician said during his annual summer speech in Sölvesborg in southern Sweden on Saturday. Åkesson said higher pensions would be vital in getting the party’s support in the next elections, describing the Sweden Democrats as the country’s “the social conscience”. “Sweden can do better,” he said, calling Prime Minister Stefan Löfven a “traitor”.

Political analyst Andreas Johansson Heinö said the move is only aimed at attracting new voters as the party’s anti-immigrant stance is no longer as unique, with more and more political parties calling for stricter policies on migrants. “So it’s handy to then represent yourself as speaking up for voters who you consider not having been treated well and that other parties haven’t really cared about. And I think a lot of people see this [particular] voting group as rather large and that they are subject to a fair bit of injustice,” he was quoted as telling Swedish news agency TT. Löfven quickly dismissed Åkesson’s vows, saying there was ”no credibility at all” in the statement. “They make out to have money that no one else has,” he said, adding that the far-right party recently voted against a proposal to lower taxes on pensions.
© The Local - Sweden

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5 Tips for Coping with Addiction in the LGBTQA Community

By Jennifer Woodson
An I CARE exclusive

27/8/2016- LGBTQA individuals are one of the groups at the greatest risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is primarily due to the social rejection many LGBTQ individuals suffer. Coping with addiction, judgmental people, and embracing your identity all at the same time is understandably overwhelming. Here are a few tips for making your journey to recovery and self-discovery a bit less rocky.

1. Find a Safe Space
Finding a place free of judgmental or cruel people to escape to is necessary for your mental state. The feelings of social rejection play a key role in the alarming addiction statistics surrounding LGBTQA groups. Therefore, identifying a space where you can feel safe and accepted is a good start to your self-acceptance and recovery process. This might be a support group, a coffee shop, or even a bar. As long as you feel accepted and happy in this space, it doesn’t matter where it is.

2. Work with an LGBTQA-Familiar Counselor
Addiction counselors are a critical component to recovery. Equally important is seeking a counselor who has worked within the LGBTQA community before. Just as there are differences in the best approach to recovery between low-income addicts and wealthy addicts, similar differences exist between addicts in the mainstream community and those within distinct minority groups such as LGBTQA. It is important that your counselor knows the difference and is familiar with beneficial treatments.

3. Seek Support
Support can be found in a number of ways in many places. It can mean an entire extended family ready to help you in any way they can or it can be a solitary friend who uses your pronouns. Attempting to overcome addiction on your own can often lead to disappointment. Collect a network of people who support both your identity and your health as you work to recover. People who only support one or the other are not a positive influence on your health.

4. Remove Yourself from Negative Influence
Many times, LGBTQA individuals are introduced to addictive substances through other LGBTQA individuals. Though these people may have been your friend group before treatment, it is important that you remove yourself from any connections or situations foster negative behaviors. Cutting connections is hard but losing your life to addiction is even harder.

5. Find an Outlet
If your life revolves around trying to recovery from your addiction and fighting society as a result of your identity, you will exhaust yourself. You need to have a positive outlet to distract yourself from your current struggles. Such outlets also serve as recovery tactics. When you are feeling stressed and tempted to relapse, having a hobby or activity to turn to and refocus yourself can be a great asset.

There is a reason LGBTQA individuals often fall prey to addiction. The social repercussions of deviating from the mainstream can be devastating, creating an ideal path for addiction to set in. It is important that you seek help from the right people and find an outlet as a coping mechanism. Remove the negative influence from your life and replace them with positive ones. Though recovery and self-acceptance is a difficult path to travel simultaneously, it is certainly possible with the help of trained professionals, supportive people, and positive outlets.
Jennifer Woodson enjoys serving the public as a writer for PublicHealthCorps.org. The site is dedicated to putting the public back into public health by serving as a hub of reputable and useful public information on health topics.
© I CARE News

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Netherlands: Support for anti-Islam PVV falls, but it remains the biggest party

28/8/2016- Support for Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV has fallen to its lowest level this year, although the party remains the biggest with the backing of 22% of voters, according to the latest Maurice de Hond opinion poll. The new poll gives the PVV a virtual 33 seats in the 150 seat parliament, down nine, or six percentage points, on their all time high of 42 seats in February this year. The ruling VVD, lead by prime minister Mark Rutte, remains in second place with 16% of the vote, an increase of less than 1% on the previous poll. The poll comes as Rutte apologised to voters for making election promises in 2012 that he could not keep. The prime minister also announced his intention to the lead the VVD into the next election in March 2017.

Third term
According to the De Hond poll, 40% of the electorate would like to see Rutte as prime minister for a third term and 31% consider him to be the country’s most capable leader. One in 10 PVV voters also back Rutte for PM. The De Hond poll is based on the responses of 5,000 people and was carried out on Friday, the day after the publication on the PVV election manifesto. In the one page document, the party called for a ban on the Koran, the closure of all mosques and an end to government spending on aid, the arts, wind turbines and innovation.
© The Dutch News

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Czechs not to accept any migrants from Turkey says Interior Minister

28/8/2016- The Czech Republic will not accept any migrants from Turkey due to the unclear situation after the coup there till the end of the year, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) told the public broadcaster Czech Television (CT) on Sunday. The Czech Republic should start a tough diplomatic offensive in order to make Greece fulfil its duties over the displaced persons, Chovanec said. "We will not accept anyone till the end of the year because the security checks are very precise," Chovanec said. "After the events in Turkey, and we do not know exactly what happened in Turkey, whether it was a coup or counter-coup, Turks have been intervening militarily in a very efficient way," he added. "However, I am afraid that they are not intervening to the benefit of the people in Syria, but they are resolving their conflict s with Kurds," Chovanec said.

"I am afraid that the escalation of the tension Turkey is now practicing in the direction of the Kurds may destabilise Turkey," he added. "If the agreement with Turkey crumbles, we may expect a migration wave of a minor character this year and a much bigger one next spring," Chovanec said. It is impossible to accept the Turks' demand and cancel their visa duty because they have not fulfilled the conditions given to them by the EU, he added. "If Europe does this, it will absolutely lose its face," Chovanec said. It is necessary to force Greece and Italy to start approaching the migration seriously, he added. "If they do not, they will have no place in Schengen," Chovanec said. "The Czech Republic should start a tough offensive in diplomatic negotiations primarily to make Greece fulfil its duties," he added. "Unfortunately, Greece will have to become a sort of detention facility where the migrants would know that they are closed there, checked and returned," Chovanec said.

The Czech Republic is also preparing a more comprehensive monitoring of its border with Germany in case Germany starts returning the refugees to the country of their origin, he added. At the end of September, Chovanec will have talks with his German counterpart in Berlin. "We will not be closing our border and building fences, but we want to know what is going on on it," Chovanec said. It can be expected that after the return policy is toughened, a part of the migrants will try to escape from Germany, he added. "We want to know where they go and whether they will go across this country," he added. "It is not very likely that they will be running to the Czech Republic in order to stay in it," Chovanec said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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German minister defends giving obscene hand gesture to right-wing protestors

Germany's Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy stuck his middle finger up at protestors.

28/8/2016- A video, posted a few days after it happened, shows Sigmar Gabriel facing the a mob of right-wing protestors who are shouting at him, before laughing and raising his middle finger to the men and turning away. The publication of the video appears to indicate the protest was organised by the Young National Democrats, which is a branch of Germany's far-right party the NDP. At the time of the incident, a party spokesperson for Gabriel, 56, said his reaction to the protesters had been "emotional". However, Mr Gabriel told a German television channel his only mistake had not been issuing the sentiment with both hands, rather than one.

Gabriel, who is Angela Merkel's second-in-command, made the gesture to a group of right-wing protesters, who he referred to as 12 "young, aggressive, swearing and ready-for-violence Nazis". He said he questioned how his critics would react if confronted by the same situation. In the video, the men can be heard shouting at Gabriel, calling him a "cultural Marxist" and a communist. They also refer to Gabriel's father – who he has admitted was a sympathiser of Hitler's Nazi government and a holocaust denier until his death in 2012.
The men shouted at Gabriel: "Your father loved his country, and what do you do? You destroy it." Germany has witnessed a resurgence of far-right groups in recent months, and as a supporter of Angela Merkel's open-door policy in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, Gabriel has born much of the brunt of an increasingly anti-migrant backlash.iser of Hitler's Nazi government and a holocaust denier until his death in 2012. The men shouted at Gabriel: "Your father loved his country, and what do you do? You destroy it."

On Saturday, members of the far-right Identarian Movement scaled Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, where they hung a banner in protest against the "Islamisation" of Germany because of the levels of immigration. A recent poll also showed more than half of the country's population did not agree with Merkel's policy. At the time of the incident involving Gabriel and the protestors, his party issued a statement, which said: "Obviously Sigmar Gabriel does not regard that gesture to be an appropriate form of everyday communication, but communication was not possible with bellowing neo-Nazis who were clearly prepared to use violence."
© The International Business Times - UK

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Germany: Far-right Anti-Islam Activists the Brandenburg Gate

Members of the Identitarian Movement agitate against the "Islamisation" of Germany.

27/8/2016- Members of the far-right Identitarian Movement scaled Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Saturday and unfurled a banner to protest against the "Islamisation" of Germany via mass immigration. More than a million people, many of them Muslims, flocked to Germany last year from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The IAB German labor office research institute says around 16,000 are still arriving per month. Around 15 protesters spent about 50 minutes on top of the Brandenburg Gate, a short walk from the German parliament, before coming down, a spokesman for Berlin's police force said. They hung a banner calling for "secure borders - secure future" from the structure and waved flags bearing the Identitarian Movement's black and yellow logo.

Flyers from the movement said Germans were "becoming a minority" due to immigration and urged people to take action against "Islamisation." A poll this month showed just over half of Germans thought Chancellor Angela Merkel's migrant policy was bad. Support for anti-immigrant groups has risen, and the right-wing Alternative for Germany is expected to do well in regional elections in Berlin and the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in September. The Identitarian Movement is being monitored by the Germany's domestic intelligence agency. A spokesman for the agency said this month there were indications the group's activities went "against the free democratic order."
© Reuters

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UK: Man assaulted by gang of teenagers in suspected hate crime

A man is in a critical condition after being set upon by a gang of teenagers in a suspected hate crime.

29/8/2016- The victim was talking to a second man in The Stow, Harlow, when they were approached by a group of 15-20 teenagers and attacked. Police were called shortly after 11.35pm on Saturday, August 27, with reports the victims had been assaulted outside the TGF Pizza and Mr Luigi's takeaway shops. A 40-year-old man from Harlow suffered head injuries and was taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital. He was later transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, where his condition is described as critical. A 43-year-old man from Harlow was taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with suspected fractures to his hands and bruising to his stomach.

Detective Inspector Al Pitcher, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This was an extremely vicious and unprovoked attack, which has left one of the victims in a critical condition in hospital. "At this stage we are treating the assault as a potential hate crime but the motive remains unclear and we are continuing to keep an open mind. "From our initial enquiries, we understand the victims were chatting and eating together when they were approached by a group of teenage boys. "They were verbally abused before being assaulted and knocked unconscious. "It is not yet clear how many attackers there were, but the suspects were part of a group of about 15 to 20 youths, both girls and boys. We understand not all these people were involved and we believe there will be witnesses who were deeply shocked by what took place.

"We know they may find it hard to come forward, but we would encourage them to discuss it with their parents and to contact police. They can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously if they are afraid to give their name or speak directly with us. "This was a brutal assault and we are grateful for the public's support so far in coming forward with information to help us identify those responsible for this horrific incident and bring them to justice." Police will be carrying out extra patrols in the area and we are working with our partners to provide reassurance to the community. Anyone who has concerns, or information, is encouraged to speak to local police.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111
© The Harlow Star

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UK: Sexist hate crimes given second-class status, says senior Tory MP

Warning from Maria Miller comes as one police force launches policy to record misogyny as a hate crime

29/8/2016- Gender-related hate crime has been given second-class status while sexist behaviour online, in the street and in the classroom has been going unchallenged, according to Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities select committee. The warning from the Tory former cabinet minister comes after the Nottinghamshire chief constable, Sue Fish, spoke in depth for the first time about the force’s pioneering policy to recognise misogyny as a hate crime. Miller, whose committee has most recently been taking evidence on the sexual harassment of girls in schools, hailed the Nottinghamshire pilot, but she warned: “While progress has been made in sensitising people to the issue of racial and religious hate crime, it seems to me that gender-related hate crime has taken on second-class status.”

Nottinghamshire police, in partnership with Nottingham Women’s Centre, has become the first force in the country to record harassment of women as a hate crime. The change began in May after a public summit last autumn at which women explained how unsafe they felt on the streets. And there have been some encouraging results since, with supporters hoping the Nottinghamshire policy could be taken up by other police forces around the country. “Listening to women’s experiences, they felt that they weren’t going to be taken seriously and then had mixed experiences if they did report. For both those who take the calls and the officers who respond to them, [the new policy] is giving a clear position,” Fish told the Guardian.

Previously police knew the procedure when it was “indecent assault or a public order offence … But if it’s at the lower end, officers would have lots of empathy with the women but were not quite sure what they could do,” she said. The force now defines misogyny hate crime as: “Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.” The basic hate crime definition is not provided by statute, and police forces are encouraged to include types of hate crime identified as a priority in their areas. The Nottingham classification now means people can report incidents that might not be considered to be a crime and the police will investigate, and can offer the victim support. Since the policy was officially launched in mid-July, Fish expressed some frustration with headlines about “arrests for wolf-whistling”, including one in the Guardian.

“This challenges the power base in society, and some people have deliberately misunderstood,” she said. “Some trivialise it and say: ‘Oh so I can’t chat up a woman now.’ But I think there’s a significant difference between ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ and ‘Do you want some cock?’ This is about the unacceptable abuse of women because they are women and it has to stop.” A similar frustration is expressed by the campaigner Martha Jephcott, who has so far led 40 training sessions for police on misogynistic harassment. “A really important part of the training, which is usually male dominated, is to emphasise that the average man doesn’t do this, but also to point out the hidden nature of the problem,” she said. “It’s never been done to me when I’m standing next to a man.”

Jephcott is perfectly placed to explain the details of women’s lived experience to officers having set up the Nottingham branch of the global anti-street harassment campaign Hollaback while at university in 2014. “I tell them about the things that women do to keep safe – whether that’s carrying keys between your knuckles, changing from heels to trainers, or walking in the middle of the road so you can’t be dragged off – which encourages them to think about the world that women live in when men are not around. I explain the fear that women report when they are shouted at in the street, and how they are always thinking about the worst-case scenario of serious sexual assault.”

Crucially, the Nottinghamshire scheme will allow police to chart the scale of the problem for the first time: in the first month since they began recording in early May, they received 21 reports of misogynistic hate crime, which included verbal abuse, threats of violence, assault and unwanted physical contact. It is hoped that there will be growing awareness of the ability of victims to report such behaviour. While thousands of anecdotal reports have been collated by organisations such as Hollaback and Laura Bates’s Everyday Sexism site, a recent study supports what younger women have been saying for a number of years: that harassment of women in public is at epidemic levels.

Believed to be the first study to look specifically at this issue, the results of a YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women Coalition were released on 8 March, International Women’s Day. It found 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places, while 35% have experienced unwanted sexual touching. For women aged 18-24 the percentages increased significantly to 85% and 45% respectively. 64% of all women have received unwanted sexual attention in a public place. 85% of young women have received unwanted sexual attention in a public place The Guardian was unable to gather UK-wide data on reports of street harassment, partly because there is no uniform way of logging or responding to these incidents. But one thing is clear: where the police do concentrate their energies, reporting figures leap up.

In 2013, British Transport police introduced a dedicated text service to encourage people to quickly and discretely report any form of behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable – that could be rubbing, leering, sexual comments, indecent acts or more serious sexual assault. This was followed up in 2015 with the Report it to stop it campaign. BTP have since seen a dramatic increase in reporting, increasing force-wide by 40% from 2014-15 to 2015-16, after the campaign had been launched. The spike was particularly visible in London, which the BTP had previously targeted with the Project Guardian campaign, with reporting increasing from 567 a year to 894, a rise of 58%. There has been a 40% increase in the reporting of sexual offences force-wide after the British Transport police campaigned to raise awareness among passengers.

BTP are keen to stress that, even if women do not want to give further information, reporting an incident helps to build intelligence. “The whole point is to change the culture of reporting,” said a spokesperson. And, because all BTP officers have received training for these campaigns, victims’ experience of reporting has also changed. “I cannot praise the British Transport police enough,” said Aileen MacKay, who was harassed and physically grabbed late at night on the Glasgow subway by a man who then followed her out of the station demanding her address. “I would encourage anyone else unfortunate enough to be a victim of misogynistic harassment to get in touch with them. They will take you seriously, act thoroughly and offer you victim support.” But other women who shared their experiences of reporting street harassment with GuardianWitness revealed far less constructive responses from the authorities.

One Londoner described how a 999 call handler insisted that she return to the road where a man had followed her, threatening to rape and murder her, to confirm the spelling of the street name. Another respondent from the east Midlands, after reporting that a man had followed her from a train station when she was eight and a half months pregnant, then grabbed and squeezed her bottom “so aggressively that I could feel his fingers dig in between my buttocks”, was asked by an officer: “Are you sure he didn’t do it by accident?” A student who managed to run away from a man who had grabbed her and told her “I’m going to rape you” was advised by police to get a taxi in future when returning home late at night.

For DCI Alwyn Bell, head of the Edinburgh public protection unit, the benefits of being victim-led are self-evident. Two years ago, Bell set up a dedicated team of six officers in the Scottish capital to deal with high-volume, lower-level offences such as voyeurism, indecent exposure and communications, and minor sexual assaults. They deal with about 1,000 offences a year and undertake outreach work with the local media and victims’ charities “to allay fears that we won’t take women seriously”. As with England and Wales, there is no legislative hate crime provision for misogyny in Scotland, so the basic laws and powers of the courts apply in these cases. Lewd remarks on the street or groping in a bar will usually fall under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

For those who would argue that pursuing these crimes distracts from more serious offences, Bell emphasised – as the BTP do – the operational importance of information gathering, especially where offending escalates. “The beauty of a specialised team is that you can see patterns developing,” Bell said. For example, after a recent appeal for witnesses to a man allegedly making lewd remarks towards a woman on the street in Edinburgh, the individual was eventually charged with two other counts of indecent exposure. Bell said: “Regardless of independent corroboration, we will still bring the person to the station if they are identified, take their photograph and fingerprints. They can make no comment and we may not be able to pursue it further at that time, but they are on our radar and we can check if they are a potential suspect in other cases, or they may come up again. The bigger picture is that if you’re making a comment like that, what does that lead to? And if you get away with that, what else do you think you can get away with?”

Since the Nottinghamshire force launched their misogyny hate crime initiative, a number of other forces have expressed initial interest in the pilot. In Scotland, although gender was left out as an aggravating factor in previous legislation, campaigners believe the rise of online misogyny and greater sensitivity both to street harassment and sexism in schools means the scene has shifted significantly since then. The Scottish government’s independent advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion is expected to report next month.

Another woman reported that two men who shouted sexual abuse at her from their van as she was walking to work in the morning, then revved the engine and drove towards her at speed. She said the officer behind the police station desk had smirked at her account, laughed with a colleague and failed to write down the registration she had noted. She described succinctly the effect of her experience: “I don’t suppose all police officers would handle my report this badly, but the fact they might do makes me unwilling to report similar. They reinforced my sense that the streets are not my domain. I can walk on them but it’s at the discretion of men. And there’s a lot of hatred out there.”
© The Guardian.

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UK: May launches probe to uncover 'difficult truths' about racism in public services

'We should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before'

27/8/2016- Theresa May is to launch an official audit of racial inequality in public services which she says will reveal “difficult truths” about disparities in modern Britain. The results of the investigation will be made public and allow service users to check how race, gender and income affect the provision of hospitals, schools and employment. The Prime Minister said the audit would help fulfill her central promise of making the country “work for everyone, not just a privileged few”. “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street on my first day, I made clear that I believe in a United Kingdom by every definition, and that means the Government I lead will stand up for you and your family against injustice and inequality,” she said. “Today, I am launching an audit to look into racial disparities in our public services that stretches right across Government. It will highlight the differences in outcomes for people of different backgrounds, in every area from health to education, childcare to welfare, employment, skills and criminal justice.

“This audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before. It is only by doing so we can make this country work for everyone, not just a privileged few.” Downing Street was keen to stress that it expected the audit to show how white working class people, as well as ethnic minorities, were often left behind in provision. Labour also launched a consultation to develop the party’s policies on fighting racial discrimination. The scheme is being launched alongside the Race Equality Advisory Group, chaired by Patrick Vernon OBE. Jeremy Corbyn, who has long campaigned against racism, attacked some in the right-wing media for “sowing division” across the UK. “In Britain, hate crime is rising. More than half of all young black people are unemployed. Black people are a shocking 37 times more likely to be stop and searched," he said. "Labour must be a party that fights for black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, and a diverse and united Britain.

“Words matter. We must never pander to elements of the right-wing press, which sow division in our society and demonise Muslim communities. We must stand against anti-semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, wherever they exist. “But it also means going further – and addressing the systematic disadvantage that so many people face. To build a society that works for everyone, we will end austerity and invest £500bn in jobs, infrastructure and public services as part of our plan to rebuild and transform Britain.” Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow minister for equalities, added: “Labour has a proud history of tackling race equality, but recent events and the rise in extremism across Europe has shown that despite the progress which has been made, more work needs to be done. “This consultation will take the first steps in developing policies which can tackle the structural issues which affect Britain's BAME communities and the new challenges we all face in building a fairer, more equal society.”

The two schemes come on the heels of a warning by the United Nations that British politicians’ “divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric” during the EU referendum campaign had fuelled a surge in hate crimes. The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “seriously concerned” that British politicians whipped up hatred and then “failed to condemn” racist abuse during the campaign. Immediately following the referendum, hate crimes surged by 42 per cent in England and Wales, with a total of 3,076 incidents recorded across the country between 16 and 30 June. Many areas that voted strongly for Leave also posted even higher results, police figures obtained by The Independent showed.
© The Independent

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UK: Hate crimes against Bristol taxi drivers are going unreported, says Mayor

27/8/2016- Taxi drivers are increasingly the victims of late night violence and hate crime because of their race or faith – but they don't trust the authorities to deal with it properly so aren't even reporting most attacks. That was the reason why Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees visited a group of the blue cab drivers at Temple Meads, to listen to their issues and urge them to trust the authorities to deal with it. The Mayor said he set up the event in response to the recent increase in hate crime across the city, which taxi drivers have been affected by. He said he went to tell them about the range of agencies and support organisations, as well as the police, who could help them. A council spokesman said some drivers "currently have low confidence in agencies that can support them and therefore don't report crime or hate crime unless it's serious".

"It was very interesting to come down and meet some of the city's taxi drivers this morning, and listen to some of the problems they experience on a regular basis," said the Mayor. "The council values the work carried out by Bristol taxi drivers in what are often challenging circumstances, particularly when operating in the night time economy. "We want to support drivers and work with them to ensure that we have a first class service for visitors and residents. "Taxi drivers are an important part of our night time economy, but they are vulnerable to crime in general and hate crime in particular. Together we must be clear that any form of discrimination or hate-crime will not be tolerated in our city."  The mayor is working with long-standing Bristol group SARI, which gives support to victims of hate crime.

"SARI has been working closely with taxi drivers, many of whom have reported hate crime or faced difficulties when trying to access services," said Alex Raikes MBE, SARI's strategic director. "We have, on behalf of taxi drivers, set up a working group with the council, Avon and Somerset Police, the British Transport Association and the National Taxi Association, as well as local solicitors and other agencies that can make a difference. "This group has done a lot of fantastic work with drivers to promote reporting crime and hate crime; to try and prevent such abuse and to build better relationships," she said. "This outreach session is thanks to the commitment of the taxi trade and the above agencies and is all about us reaching out and trying the best we can to make a difference for this crucial part of our business community. "Our taxi drivers help to make Bristol a safe and successful, vibrant hub for all those who live, work, study and visit here. They are a community that deserve all the respect and support they can get. They should not have to tolerate any form of hatred or attack," she added.
© The Bristol Post

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UK: Woman suffers broken ankle in 'race hate attack'

Police are hunting a man who knocked a woman to the ground causing her to break her ankle - after she stepped in when he racially abused her friend.

27/8/2016- The woman was assaulted whilst on a night out in the West End in the early hours of Friday, July 1. The 28-year-old woman was stood outside Barrio Bar in Poland Street at about 1am, having left the bar with friends after it closed. While they were outside the venue a man is believed to have racially insulted one of the victim's friends, who is black. The victim challenged the man, and an argument broke out, with a large group of people joining in. During the altercation, the victim felt a hand over her face before she was struck over the back of her head and fell to the floor. The victim was unable to get up, but was helped to her feet by her friends and left the area. A short while later, she realised the seriousness of her ankle injury, and went to hospital where it was confirmed as broken. The victim had also suffered scratches to her face, while another of her friends also suffered minor injuries in the melee.

The suspect, who left the scene in an unknown direction, has been described as a white man with dark hair who is roughly 5ft 10in, and was wearing a dark suit and white shirt. Detectives in Westminster are treating the incident as a hate crime. DC David Doig from Westminster CID said: "This was a nasty attack on woman enjoying a night out with her friends. After challenging abusive comments, she has received injuries requiring extensive rehabilitation. "Lots of people would have been leaving the area at the time. I would urge anyone with any information to come forward."

Any witnesses or anyone with any information is urged to contact Westminster's Community Safety Unit on 020 7321 8033 or police via 101. To give information anonymously, Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org.
© The Evening Standard.

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BURKINI BAN IN FRANCE

France: Paris restaurant owner refuses to serve headscarf-wearing women

'terrorists are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists'

29/8/2016- In the latest instance of intercultural tensions in France, a restaurant owner in the Paris suburb of Tremblay-en-France is facing an investigation after chasing two veiled Muslim women out of his premises on Saturday. His actions, caught on video, provoked a furious response and prompted prosecutors to open an inquiry into racial discrimination. The incident, filmed by one of the two women and posted online, shows the other saying: "We don't want to be served by racists." The restaurateur responds: "Racists like me don't plant bombs and don't kill people." He added that "terrorists are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists. I don't want people like you in my place. Now you know it you can get out." The boss of Le Cenacle restaurant later apologised for his actions as calls to boycott his establishment flooded social media sites alongside negative reviews.

Things "got out of hand," the restaurant owner said to a group of men that confronted him over the incident, due to the current tensions around the burkini debate, but also because he had a friend who had died at the Bataclan attack last November. A source close to the investigation said that the proprietor had left his home along with his family for security reasons. Mayors of 28 French towns are maintaining bans that prohibit wearing full-body swimsuits, known as burkinis, in defiance of a ruling by France’s highest administrative court, in a move that is "likely to create antagonism and irreparable tension" according to interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Rightwing figures are pushing for a nationwide ban to be written into law, led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy who this week launched his bid to regain the presidency in next year's election.

"As the prime minister has said, the government refuses to legislate on the matter because any such law would be unconstitutional, ineffective and likely to create antagonism and irreparable tension", Mr Cazeneuve said. "However, Muslims must continue to engage with us over gender equality, the inviolable nature of the principles of the French Republic, and tolerance in order to live together," he said, noting that in overruling the ban, the court had "stated the law". The interior minister lashed out at the opposition for trying to earn political points from the burkini controversy at a time when the country has been rattled by a string of deadly attacks claimed by Islamic State militants. "Certain opposition leaders are making a lot of noise. They think that in the current context of terror threats, we can abandon the fundamental principles of law as embodied in the Constitution," he said, warning that such a move would be "a serious mistake".
© The Telegraph

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French rightwingers call for extension of burkini ban

Undaunted by the suspension of the anti-swimwear decree in a Riviera town, former president Nicolas Sarkozy and others want a nationwide prohibition

26/8/2016- France’s political row over the burkini continued to rage on Friday, as the French right stepped up its call for the garment to be outlawed nationwide despite a decision by the country’s highest administrative court to suspend a ban in one Riviera coastal town. In a ruling that the government had hoped would calm the growing controversy, the state council suspended a decree against full-body swimsuits issued by the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet on the Côte d’Azur. The suspension is likely to set a legal precedent for the 30 other towns that have banned the swimwear on their beaches in the past month. But the French right, led by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, stepped up its calls for a complete nationwide ban on burkinis and at least three mayors refused to withdraw their bans.

The state council ruled that the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet did not have the right to ban burkinis. The court found that the anti-burkini decrees were “a serious and manifestly illegal attack on fundamental freedoms”, including the right to move around in public and the freedom of conscience. The judges stated that local authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a “proven risk” to public order. It ruled that a proven public order risk had not been demonstrated. Crucially, the judges ruled that without any risk to public order, “the emotion and the concerns arising from terrorist attacks”, especially the attack in Nice on 14 July in which a lorry driver killed 86, were “not sufficient to legally justify a ban”.

Villeneuve-Loubet, where locals and police told media they had only seen one or two burkinis in the past two months, will have to immediately withdraw its ban. Its hardline rightwing mayor, Lionnel Luca, who is close to Sarkozy, said the court ruling was a boost to what he called the “rampant Islamisation [that] is progressing in our country”. “Far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid,” he said. Mayors in the other 30 coastal resorts that have banned burkinis – mainly on the Côte d’Azur – will now have to make their own decision whether to withdraw the decrees. They could keep their bans in place and risk being forced to suspend them by local courts or face further legal action from human rights groups.

Ange-Pierre Vivoni, a Socialist mayor in Sisco in northern Corsica, said he would not withdraw his ban. “Here the tension is very, very, very strong and I won’t withdraw it,” he told BFMTV. He issued his burkini ban on 13 August after a skirmish between villagers and Muslim families on a beach, but an ongoing investigation has suggested there was no burkini involved. After reports of some women being stopped by police for simply wearing a headscarf and loose clothing, criticism had grown from French rights groups who warned of the lasting impact of the bans. 

Michel Tubiana, the honorary president of the French Human Rights League, one of the groups that brought the test case, said that the burkini row had left a mark on society despite the ruling. The ruling unfortunately” did not resolve everything because “the public humiliation of women” and “the political oneupmanship” over stigmatising people for their religion had cut deep. Tubiana criticised the Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, who had supported the mayors who banned burkinis, and Sarkozy, who called the burkini a “provocation”, as well as Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National, which is now calling for a complete ban on all religious symbols – including veils or turbans – from all public spaces. Tubiana said the burkini row “will leave traces and scars in society” and the ruling was a reminder of the law for politicians who had stoked tensions in society and “poured oil on the fire and in that I include the prime minister and the former president”.

The controversy has become the focus of the battle for the presidency in 2017. Sarkozy, who is seeking his party’s nomination to run for president, is leading the charge against the full-body swimwear and seeking to ban Muslim headscarves from universities and private companies. The left is bitterly divided on the matter: the prime minister has supported the mayors who issued anti-burkini decrees while the feminist education minister and the health minister warning of a dangerous unleashing of racist rhetoric and stigmatisation. The president, François Hollande, appears to have sat on the fence – saying on Thursday only that life in France “supposes that everyone sticks to the rules and that there is neither provocation nor stigmatisation”.

The first short-term burkini ban was issued in Cannes at the end of July, after the murder of a priest in Normandy, which was claimed by two attackers who proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State, and the terrorist attack on Nice. Many of the bans are due to expire in the next couple of weeks. They do not explicitly use the word burkini but instead ban “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”, citing reasons such as the need to protect public order, hygiene or French laws on secularism. At the heart of the row is the French principle of laïcité – secularism – and accusations that politicians are twisting and distorting this principle for political gain and using it to target Muslims. The French republic is built on a strict separation of church and state, intended to foster equality for all private beliefs. In theory, the state is neutral in terms of religion and allows everyone the freedom to practise their faith as long as there is no threat to public order.
© The Guardian.

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France's highest court suspends burkini ban in test case

Suspension concerns single ban in southern town but is likely to set precedent for other places that prohibited full-body swimwear

26/8/2016- France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on the burkini in a test case brought by human rights groups, pending a definitive ruling. The ruling from the state council suspends a single ban in the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, but is likely to set a precedent for other towns that have prohibited the full-body swimwear on their beaches. Under the French legal system, temporary decisions can be handed down before the court takes more time to prepare a judgment on the underlying legality of the case. he bans – made in the form of mayoral decrees – followed the Bastille Day attack in Nice and the murder of a priest in Normandy. They do not explicitly use the word burkini but instead ban “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”, citing reasons such as the need to protect public order, hygiene or French laws on secularism.

At a hearing before the state council on Thursday, lawyers for the rights groups in the Villeneuve-Loubet case argued that the bans were feeding fear and infringe on basic freedom. A lower court had ruled on Monday that the Villeneuve-Loubet ban was necessary to prevent public disorder. The row over burkinis has intensified after a woman in a headscarf was photographed on a beach in Nice removing a long-sleeved top while surrounded by armed police. The city banned the burkini on its beaches last week, following about 15 seaside areas in south-east France where mayors had done the same. The bans have divided France’s government and society and drawn anger abroad. The former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, used the first of rally of his campaign for the 2017 election to call for a nationwide ban on the swimsuits, while the Socialist government has become divided, with the prime minister and one of its leading feminist voices at cabinet-level taking opposing positions.

The burkini bans have prompted a row over the French principle of laïcité – secularism – amid accusations that politicians are twisting and distorting this principle for political gain, and using it to target Muslims. The French republic is built on a strict separation of church and state, intended to foster equality for all private beliefs. In theory, the state is neutral in terms of religion and allows everyone the freedom to practise their faith as long as there is no threat to public order.
© The Guardian.

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France: Top court set to probe burqini ban

A ban on the Islamic burqini swimsuit by several French towns will come before France's highest administrative court on Thursday, the tribunal said.

23/8/2016- The Human Rights League (LDH) is appealing a decision by a lower court in the Riviera city of Nice which upheld a ban on the outfit by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet. Villeneuve-Loubet, just west of Nice, was among the first of some 15 French towns to ban the burqini, triggering a fierce debate in France and elsewhere about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, women's rights and secularity. The Nice tribunal ruled on Monday that the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet was "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" to prevent public disorder after a succession of jihadists attacks in France, including one in Nice on July 14. The burqini was "liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach," and "be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by" the community, it added.

The ruling by the State Council, France's highest administrative court, will provide a legal precedent for towns to follow around the country. The LDH and other rights groups believe the ban is a "serious and illegal attack on numerous fundamental rights" including freedom of religion. One of the world's most secular countries, France strongly separates religion and public life, and overt religious symbols or clothing are considered incompatible with French values. Islamic dress has long been a subject of debate in France, which was the first European country to ban the Islamic face veil in public in 2010, six years after outlawing the headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools. "It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said of the burqini Wednesday.
© The Local - France

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Sarkozy calls burkinis a 'provocation' that supports radical Islam

French presidential hopeful earns sharp rebuke from burkini designer Aheda Zanetti, who says French don’t understand her creation

25/8/2016- The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has branded the full-body burkini swimsuits worn by some Muslim women a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam. After efforts by a series of French coastal towns to ban women from wearing burkinis set off a heated debate in the country, Sarkozy said in a TV interview on Wednesday night that “we don’t imprison women behind fabric”. His outburst earned a sharp rebuke from the woman who created the burkini, the Australian designer Aheda Zanetti. “I truly, truly believe that the French have misunderstood and that they don’t know what a burkini looks like and what it represents,” said Zanetti. “For someone to bring out a statement like that on a piece of clothing that is about joy ... he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He needs to go to the beach and maybe ask, what is a burkini swimsuit? “Burkini is just a word that describes a full cover swimsuit and it doesn’t symbolise anything to do with Muslims. It’s about encouraging our kids and children to learn how to swim.”

On Thursday, the council of state, France’s highest administrative court, will examine a request by the French Human Rights League to scrap the burkini bans. Lawyers argue that the short-term decrees are illegal. The political row in France has intensified after a woman in a headscarf was photographed on a beach in Nice removing a long-sleeved top while surrounded by armed police. The series of pictures, taken by a local French news photographer, showed a woman dressed in leggings, a long-sleeved tunic and headscarf being approached by four officers. As the police stand around her, she removes her long-sleeved top, revealing a short-sleeved top underneath. It is unclear whether or not the woman was ordered to do so. In another image, a police officer appears to write out a fine.

The Nice mayor’s office denied that she had been forced to remove clothing, telling Agence France-Presse that the woman was showing police the swimsuit she was wearing under her tunic over a pair of leggings. Last week, Nice banned the burkini on its beaches, following about 15 seaside areas in south-east France where mayors have done the same. Nice’s deputy mayor, Christian Estrosi, from the centre-right Les Républicains party, said a municipal police team had “acted perfectly to make sure that [the] decree was respected”. He threatened legal action against anyone disseminating pictures of municipal police. A total of 24 women have been stopped by police in the city since the burkini ban came into force. The pictures of the woman removing the item of clothing were met with outrage. “I am so ashamed,” tweeted the French feminist Caroline De Haas. Accounts of other women being stopped by police for wearing Muslim headscarves and long-sleeved clothing on beaches caused fury among the ruling Socialist party and rights groups.

In Cannes, a 34-year-old mother of two described how she had been stopped and fined on a beach, where she was sitting with her children, while wearing clothes and a headscarf. “I was sitting on a beach with my family. I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming,” said the former flight attendant from Toulouse, giving her name only as Siam. She told the police that she thought her clothing was normal and appropriate, she had not shocked anyone and there was no law stopping her being dressed as she was. “I wasn’t in a burkini, I wasn’t in a burqa, I wasn’t naked, so I considered my clothing was appropriate,” she said. She described a mini-riot around her as about 10 people ran over in support, telling the police that the family was not bothering anyone, while about 10 others verbally insulted her. “There were insults like ‘Go home’, ‘We don’t want that here’, ‘France is a Catholic country’. My daughter was crying, she didn’t understand why her mother was being asked to leave.” She was fined by police, who wrote on her ticket that her clothing did not conform with “good manners” or French secularism.

Sarkozy, who is running for the presidency again next year, is stepping up his hardline rhetoric ahead of must-win primaries organised by the French right in November where he is expected to face tough competition. He is expected to campaign on a hard-line platform on immigration and security issues in a country marked by recent attacks carried out by Islamist extremists. In the TF1 channel interview, Sarkozy insisted that Muslims in France are French people “exactly like any other ones” but, when living in the country, they must “assimilate” the French language and way of life, the French regions and the history of France. The French Council of the Muslim Faith has requested urgent talks with the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, citing the “growing fear of stigmatisation of Muslims in France”.

The bans follow the Bastille Day attack in Nice and the murder of a priest in Normandy. The various mayoral decrees do not explicitly use the word burkini; instead they ban “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation,” citing reasons such as the need to protect public order, hygiene or French laws on secularism. The burkini bans have prompted a row over the French principle of laïcité (secularism), amid accusations that politicians are twisting and distorting this principle for political gain, and to target Muslims.
© The Guardian

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Burkini Designer Says Ban Fuels Soaring Sales ó 40% of Buyers Non-Muslim

The Australian designer of the burkini said she has enjoyed increased sales of the body-covering swimwear for Muslim women since three French cities banned it.

25/8/2016- The mayors of Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet and the Corsican seaside resort of Sisco imposed the ban last week, arguing the burkini, which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed, defies French laws on secularism. “Our sales have increased and the more they actually ban it, or the more they actually reject it, it doesn’t mean a woman will stop wearing it,” Sydney designer Aheda Zanetti told Reuters. “I think they’ve misunderstood, I think that when we produced the swimsuit it was part of integration, it was part of combining cultures.” The burkini debate is particularly sensitive in France, where the full face niqab and burqa veils were banned in 2010. Tensions between communities have heightened following deadly attacks by Islamist militants.

Last month, a Tunisian killed 85 people when he drove a truck into crowds in Nice and a Roman Catholic priest had his throat cut in church by two French Muslims. In November 130 people were killed by bombings and shootings in Paris. Zanetti, who has lived in Australia for more than 40 years since moving from Lebanon, designed the burkini in 2004 after struggling to find sporting garments suitable for Muslim women. She said by using a hood to cover the head, rather than a burqa veil, the burkini had become an option for non-Muslim women. Zanetti estimated that 40 percent of her sales go to non-Muslim women, with cancer survivors, body conscious mothers or women who want to protect their skin from the sun among the buyers.
© Reuters

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France: Armed police order Muslim woman to remove her burkini on packed Nice beach

These images show police in Nice ordering a woman to strip down; A woman in Cannes claimed 'racist' officers wanted to humiliate her; French court this week upheld 'burkini ban' - ruling it could cause offence; Algerian businessman said that he will pay any penalties women incur; Judges said the ban was 'necessary, appropriate and proportionate'

23/8/2016- The French ban on the burkini is threatening to turn into a farce as police officers armed with pepper spray and batons marched onto a beach today and ordered a woman to strip off.  Four burly cops stood over the middle-aged woman, who had been quietly sunbathing on the Promenade des Anglais beach in Nice - yards from the scene of the Bastille Day lorry attack - and watched her take off a Muslim-style garment which protected her modesty. It is thought the woman was given a warning about the dress code on the beach and was handed an on-the-spot fine.The woman, who was wearing a traditional headscarf and matching top, was spoken to by the officers, who have been tasked with implementing the ban. The woman is then ordered to remove the blue garment. Most of the other people on the beach on a sweltering summer's day were wearing trunks or bikinis

France prides itself on its secular society and the burka is banned. That has now spread to the burkini.  Nice and Cannes are among several French towns to have introduced a 38 euro (£32) fine. Another young Muslim mother was ordered off the beach at Cannes and fined for simply wearing a headscarf. Three armed officers pointed a pepper spray canister in the 34-year-old's face and told her she was in breach of a new rule outlawing swimming costumes that cover the entire body. She said the 'racist' officers simply wanted to humiliate her in front of her children and other family members, even though she was not even wearing a burkini. It was the latest in a series of incidents in the south of France and comes after video emerged of armed police waiting for Muslim women to come out of the sea at nearby Nice, and then warning them about their choice of headscarves. And just days ago, four women were fined 38 euros for wearing their burkinis on the beach in Cannes.
© The Daily Mail.

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French police apprehend 10 Muslim women for wearing burkinis

Four women were fined 38 euros for wearing burkini

18/8/2016- Ten Muslim women wearing burkinis to the beach have been apprehended by police in the southern French city of Cannes. Arguing that the burkini defies French laws on secularism, Cannes is one of three towns in France to have banned the garment amid tensions after a militant attack in nearby Nice killed 85 people on Bastille Day on July 14. The moves have sparked an intense public debate, with Muslim groups calling them unconstitutional, divisive and Islamophobic. The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, will rule on the legality of burkini bans in coming days. The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, will rule on the legality of burkini bans in coming days. France's prime minister, Manuel Valls, however on Wednesday said he opposed the burkini as an "enslavement of women" and a "provocation". “That is not compatible with the values of France," he said in an interview with La Provence newspaper, although he fell short of backing a full national law against the swimwear. "I support those who have taken measures [to ban burkinis]. They are motivated by the desire to encourage social unity," he said. "I don't think we should legislate on the issue. General rules on clothing restrictions cannot be a solution."
© World Bulletin

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The Burkini-Bikini False Equivalence and Your Disproportionate Outrage (opinion)

What if I told you that you can condemn bans on the hijab while still acknowledging the very real and urgent mechanisms of coercion underlying it? FANCY THAT.
By Hiba Krisht

24/8/2016- In this piece I present a two-part thesis:
I, a woman who was coerced into hijab from prepubescent childhood, for 15 years, wholly and unequivocally condemn the French burkini ban as oppressive and borderline fascist.
I am also disturbed and disheartened by the form that rhetoric condemning the burkini ban is taking in liberal media. It is narrow-sighted, dangerous, and strikes me as especially dissonant. Prepare for some Big Thoughts. (Y’all know the hijab is kind of my obsessive subject, right?)

I: On the Burkini Ban, and Why It Is Not To Be Condoned
A cursory, non-comprehensive takedown

First, for the sake of steel-manning, let me grant proponents of the ban two assumptions (which I don’t entirely agree with as presented): One, Muslim modesty doctrine is inherently oppressive and restrictive to women. Two, condoning public embodiment of such doctrine is not in line with principles of Laicite. So. Let’s pretend (lolsob) that I am one of these women directly victimized by the very regressive ideology of modesty being opposed here. I have a bit of freedom being allowed to go to a pool in a burkini by my restrictive and intolerant family and community. And you’re going to ban me from that??? Thereby making it so on top of all my other restrictions I can’t swim too?

Thanks, now I’m more isolated and limited than I was before. ‘Cause you’ve also made sure I can’t go to public school or university in my hijab. Well, I guess I’m confined at home now, because no hijab ban law is going to matter to my family who view hijab as a matter of mortal moral incumbency. So here I am stuck at home, unless my family is able and willing to put me in private schooling. And on top of that more forms of public presence are slowly being restricted from me as well. But sure, ban me from the public in attempt to champion my rights. That will fix things. Oh but maybe it’s not about me, for all the protestations that hijab is bad because it oppresses girls and women like me. It’s actually about France, about protecting secular culture and community from the taint of extremist religious ideology.

Well. Is facilitating further isolation and insularity of Muslim communities conducive to that goal? If Muslim communities are expected to shape up and deal critically with their own issues of violence and extremism as a matter of civic responsibility, would restricting them from access to public facilities and tools help that?  Even if people within those communities themselves are open and enthusiastic and passionate about the same goals? If I had been born into the same exact family but we lived in France, all my willingness and desire and affinity to break out of my conservative community into a mainstream secular culture and/or help guide my community thereto, reduce its insularity and increase awareness and tolerance therein– would they have been enough to overcome such restrictions? If I’m not educated, if I’m confined further to my home by these laws, how do I help make the changes compatible with secular culture in my community? How could I do half of what I do now?

How does a voice like mine join the discourse?
(I’ll spare you my own painful story of being banned from swimming in a pool with my class on a Saudi compound in my burkini, how lasting the humiliation and exclusion I felt before peers I desperately wanted to relate to.)

II: On The Burkini-Bikini False Equivalence, and Why It Is So Terrible
Okay, actually the Hijab-Bikini False Equivalence but I liked the alliteration

For perhaps the hundredth time, I see this (I’m sure well-meaning but terribly infuriating) comic making the rounds: And though I’ve seen it a hundred times (and seen the hijab compared to western beauty standards a thousand times), it still manages to knock the breath out of me with how severe and audacious a false equivalence it is. In short, this is how thoroughly they are not the same: When a woman’s community acceptance, respect, dignity, employability, marriagiability, physical safety, enfranchisement, social mobility, access to social institutions, freedom, and autonomy hinge upon her daily, unwavering, public adherence to the bikini, then we can make this comparison. When a woman cannot leave her home in anything other than a bikini without being deemed immoral and her human worth and family’s honor compromised, then we can make this comparison. When there are severe legal, social, and extrajudicial forces holding a woman’s safety, wellbeing, and livelihood hostage to her adherence to the bikini, then we can make this comparison.

(It should go without saying that some or all of the above systemic constraints manifest with variance across diverse Muslim communities.)

It’s a slap in the face, so hurtful and insulting a comparison it makes it hard for me to breathe looking at it.  Let me address the most common equivocation regarding the above. It goes something like, well context is important. While it is probably not fair to compare these on a global level, women are not made to cover in the West like this, see [insert plethora of counterexamples].  It is honestly a bit confusing to me, this idea that prominent examples of women vocally and visibly defending their adherence to hijab in a certain community can act AS EVIDENCE that hijab is not coerced in that context. Because pointing to visible examples of positive, willing adherence to the hijab does not and cannot speak to what happens in the case of dissent.

Sanctioned modesty is very, very much a pressing and relevant issue in Muslim communities in the West. Women suffering from this are largely invisible, closeted, and unheard, and unfortunately unless one is immersed in the problem, or has access to safe ex-Muslim or reformist Muslim spaces, one is not liable be exposed to this problem, its mechanics, to understand how deep it runs. The Muslim women who have visibility and whose voices are elevated and endorsed by their communities? They are not the ones dissenting to their community’s norms. Is that not intuitive? I don’t know what people mean or understand by “coercion,” but positive adherence to modesty doctrine does not negate the presence of constraint.

Further to that, positive adherence to modesty doctrine in the presence of social sanction and encouragement is only to be expected. Conforming to an extant social norm and feeling free and empowered to do so is not only entirely possible in the presence of systemic constraint, but encouraged and enabled by it. Especially if it is adherence within a fold that has no truck with outsiders (eg particularly insular communities). Because while those who choose to conform are visible, those who are not free to dissent are not. Looking at the woman who insists she wasn’t made to conform tells you nothing about the woman who didn’t want to conform, and hasn’t anything resembling the visibility to say so.

III: On the Injustice of Disproportionate Outrage to the Burkini Ban
Or, climbing on the backs of millions of Muslim women in service of anti-racism

This is a bit tricky for me. I generally dislike social epistemic norms like “you can’t talk about x without also talking about y”.  For instance: “you can’t talk about the oppression of Muslim women without talking about Western imperialism [spoiler alert: yes you can, and, indeed, you must- I’ma blog about this soon]” or “you can’t talk about child abuse and misogyny in PoC communities without talking about poverty and racism.” I think ‘you can’t talk about x without talking about y’ is a bad epistemic heuristic because it largely carries an always-already assumption that the factors of the latter are necessarily relevant to discussion of the former, and/or an assumption that discussion of the latter will not damage or obscure or take away from discussion of the former, but rather enhance it. Or even an assumption that the latter is the more pressing problem (eg the misconception that anti-Muslim bigotry–not misogyny, not FGM, not honor violence, not homophobiia– is the only or most pressing problem of oppression plaguing Muslim communities in the West today). These are assumptions that do not always actually play out. In this case however…

When I see disproportionate outrage about a minority of women from Muslim communities in France subjected to clothing policing in certain contexts vs equivocation (with a background soundtrack of crickets) about the millions of women subjected to clothing  policing globally in the general public in Muslim majority countries and communities, and when I see rhetoric about the former being used to obscure and deny and minimize mechanics of oppression regarding the latter, I’m kind of feeling favorably about this sentiment, that it’s unjust to talk about the former without acknowledging the latter. Because liberal discourse has tended to uncritically sanitize the hijab by effectively stripping it of its social and cultural context. 

o take it even further, I find even juxtapositions giving fair measure to both hijab coercion and hijab bans to be insufficient (like the above cartoon by Khalid Albaih depicting two converse horrific human rights violations, in France and Iran respectively). Look at these two examples, side by side. Look at them. Think about what each represents, the urgency, scale, and credence given to it. We should feel so lucky that they’re given “equal” consideration, representation side by side. On the right we have represented the grand collective of millions of women across dozens of countries and ethnicities whose modesty is policed in incredibly complex and diverse ways (legislative social extrajudicial institutional familial capitalistic sectarian political) that extends to all forms of public presence (as hijab is largely permanent public garb) and that affects matters of basic living (physical safety, education, emotional damage, enfranchisement, mobility, dignity, standing, marriagiability, employability).

And on the left? We have represented one of the few (but unequivocally wrong) instances of converse oppression, manifesting with one type of enforcement (legal) that extends to some forms of public presence (the beach, public educational institutions, civil employment) and largely affects emotional damage and access to public education, government employment, and the beach. Yet even that one-to-one acknowledgment seems beyond progressive discourse today.

IV: The Awful Marriage of Burkini False Equivalences and Condemnations of the Burkini Ban
Or, trivializing the harm of modesty doctrine in attempt to defend those who adhere to it.

(If your thoughts right now are along the line of it’s not a competition! and there’s no hierarchy of oppression!, this section is for you :)) The burkini ban is ridiculous and bad. This I agree on, unequivocally. My reasoning for this boils down to it defeats its own purpose by only isolating a marginalized group further, and policing the clothing of others is bad On Principle because it violates bodily autonomy. The former argument may or may not be ideologically convincing (it assumes one holds a principle such as things that isolate marginalized groups should not be legally sanctioned or the burkini ban was conceived at least in part in service of oppressed Muslim women). The latter though? The latter should be a sufficient argument per force in condemnation of a ban as oppressive. Policing bodily conduct is oppressive (how I believe this is never justified pertaining to the hijab in particular is explicated here); therefore the burkini ban is oppressive.

And yet, liberal rhetoric condemning the ban seems to find it necessary to sanitize and defend hijab itself in order to oppose banning it. Rhetoric that paints the notion that hijab can be oppressive to be some kind of unhinged, laughable racism, that again makes facile comparisons to forms of Western dress, implying that the notion of oppressive hijab is either as trivial or as hyperbolic as that of oppressive business suits or bikinis. The implication that, again, the notion of hijab as oppressive is a terrible myth, driven by un-self-conscious double standards between how Western cultural artifacts like bikinis and ties are viewed and how hijabs and niqabs are viewed (there are un-self-conscious double standards at play here– but, sheer irony, they are basically the inverse of these). So the above comic. Look at it properly, the ‘Business Burka.’ It’s not even about gendered expectations that objectify anymore– it’s even a more feeble and faulty false equivalence than the bikini, and for what? to make a terribly specious point (it’s ridiculous to be afraid of women in burkinis) that erases the dynamics of oppression inherent in normative modesty doctrine?

I do not deserve this. We do not deserve this. There is no necessity, no, tradeoff, here. Because:

DID YOU KNOW THAT you can condemn a ban on a mode of dress while SIMULTANEOUSLY acknowledging the presence of systemic constraints enforcing that dress, with their full gravity and ideological context?
DID YOU KNOW THAT you can acknowledge mechanics of oppression surrounding how a mode of dress is sanctioned and enforced while CONSISTENTLY condemning a ban on that mode of dress?

I’m gonna turn this damn favorite analogy of everybody’s around.
Oh, women are pressured/socialized to adhere to feminine beauty standards in the West! Or–men have to wear ties and collars to make it in the workplace in the West! And wearing hijab is no different, just the normalized presentation of a different culture!
Okay… let’s assume they’re actually comparable for half a second. If somebody wanted to ban bikinis tomorrow, could you not BOTH condemn such a ban as borderline fascist and oppressive WITHOUT DISCOUNTING the ways women are limited and pressured about the beauty standards embodied in The Bikini?

Like, do those just fly out the window? Nah, they don’t. You know they don’t. And the thing is, those pressures and expectations, they’re NOTHING compared to the severity and extent of institutionalized constraint surrounding Muslim modesty doctrines globally. I mean, setting aside mechanisms of enforcement (legislative, social, extrajudicial etc), the very nature of modesty doctrine as 1) extending to all forms of public presence, 2) as morally normative, and 3) as placed in honor cultures (communal societies where family honor, which hinges absolutely upon female modesty, is the most basic social currency), puts it in a rather different ballpark than ‘expectations and pressures.’ And you know, for all progressive discourse appeals to concepts such as ‘there is no hierarchy of oppression! women having it WORSE elsewhere does not make our commentary on beauty standards invalid!’, for all they do that and make noise about anyone objecting to a Comprehensive Feminism that talks about everything down to the limited range of makeup and hosiery available for Women of Color as a Legitimate Intersectional Feminist Issue,

it strikes me as especially dissonant that every shade of particularity re gendered Western cultural artifacts Legit Deserves Its Own Thinkpiece, while there needs to be a battle for representation over the very QUESTION of whether there are mechanics of oppression underlying the hijab, which is SO MUCH MORE PRESSING an issue than that of like, makeup brands or whether it’s appropriative to belly dance if you’re white (seriously?!). Sometimes I feel like ‘there is no hierarchy of oppression’ is a principle that serves only those whose oppression does not lack relative focus to begin with. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like All Lives Matter to me. Not in theory, but in application. ‘Cause while there is no hierarchy of oppression and valid issues are valid no matter how relatively ‘small,’ there sure as hell is an extant hierarchy of representation.

Perhaps this is a pat and bitter metaphor, but the discourse allocates space to stuff like appropriating clothing and the harm of beauty standards and gendered workplace expectations the way makeup stores allocate space to foundation and hosiery in various shades of ‘nude’. And millions of women whose physical safety and agency and livelihood and mobility and freedom is on the line get the tiny corner with more ‘exotic’ shades. ‘There is no hierarchy of oppression’ is only truly applicable in a utopia of resources. And seriously? I’m over it. Fuck the idea that there is endless space to talk about things and everything deserves its own focus. We do not have fucking unlimited resources, and if you think there’s PLENTY of space in the discourse to go around, maybe it’s because you’ve always found it for your white western feminist issues or anti-racist issues or whatever, oblivious to how there ISN’T space for other things that, frankly, yes, are more pressing. The space you take up, and what it pushes out is definitely invisible to you– this is why I am trying to highlight it.

But is it also immaterial to you?

We live in a real world and we cannot pretend like we must not practically prioritize because it is not justified to ideologically prioritize. And frankly, if you have been very concerned with championing the rights of Muslim women in France but do not also talk about the rights of Muslim women regarding modesty doctrine, FGM, honor crime, arranged marriages, etc etc, then you do no service to women from Muslim backgrounds. If you care about the hijabi who is publicly attacked or restricted for her hijab in the West but not about the hijabi in the West who is beaten by her father who caught her texting a boy in her class, then you do no service to women from Muslim backgrounds. Your anti-racism fails in its purpose, and I and women like me are hard put to forgive you for the collateral damage, invisible to you perhaps, but falling heavy on our shoulders, the shoulders of the most silenced and marginalized in the Muslim world.

PS: Because I anticipate responses that address ‘save the brown women’ narratives and ‘what about positionality’, note that more complex issues of positionality, representation, narrative hegeomony, and how outsiders can ‘do things right’, re this issue are addressed here.
© The Ex-Muslim

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Donít Fight Terror on the Backs of Women Wearing Burkinis (opinion)

Anyone who defends the rights of women to bare their shoulders, legs and hair must also defend the right of women to choose to cover them up.
By Allison Kaplan Sommer


22/8/2016- Stroll along the beaches of Israel and you’ll see slender chic young women in the latest tiny bathing suits sunbathe alongside middle-aged women in tank tops and shorts and baseball caps and others swathed in long robes from head to toe. It’s not unique - from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, in Lebanon, Egypt or Morocco, the Middle East coastline features a diversity of female swimwear. The amount of skin a woman chooses to expose varies for many reasons. Some women cover up because they are protective of their complexions, or worried about skin cancer. Others are merely self-conscious about a few extra pounds and don’t feel comfortable letting it all hang out. And yes - many do so because of religion, refusing to leave their commitment to modest dress behind when they hit the beach. Muslim mothers frolic with their children in the waves, the kids in bathing suits, the mom fully dressed in hijab billowing over soaking wet jeans.

Orthodox Jewish women wade into the water with skirts on top of long biking shorts. Who knows - if you’re lucky, you might even catch a Catholic nun wading into the water in her habit. The discomfort of getting water and sand stuck when fully clothed on the beach has driven a new booming market of “modest swimwear” for those who don’t want to let their religious observance prevent them from hitting the shore in summertime. Companies bearing names like SeaModest or Hydrochic, many founded by enterprising observant Jewish, Muslim, or Christian women supply everything from a swimming dress to the full-body coverage plus headgear known as a burkini. The new trend has been viewed as a welcome development liberating religious women, allowing those who don’t bare all to get wet and enjoy the beach and sunshine with their friends and families instead of staying home.

The news that in a growing number of towns on the French Riviera, wearing a burkini has become a criminal act came as a shock to those of us who are used to seeing covered women on the shore. We’re used to Europe preaching tolerance and diversity to the Middle East - not the other way around. Some of the excuses that French politicians have been citing for the bans are patently absurd. Justifying it on ‘hygienic’ grounds is utterly illogical. Entering the sea - and certainly a swimming pool - in a clean water-resistant full-length bathing costume - essentially identical to a surfer’s wet suit, as many on social media have pointed out - is far cleaner than wading in the water in one’s clothing. The most illogical reason for criminalizing the swimwear is security - the burkini bans, according to reports out of France - were triggered after an incident when tourists on the island of Corsica tried to photograph women in burkinis and a scuffle broke out.

The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, said that he was banning the Muslim women’s swimwear in order to “protect” them. “If a woman goes swimming in a burkini, that could draw a crowd and disrupt public order.” Those who are honest don’t hide the fact that their real agenda is ideological. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls put his cards on the table when he stated that he supported the ban on the grounds that burkinis were “the instrument of a political project, a counter-society based on enslaving women” and “not compatible with France’s values.” Such opposition is an extension of the historically difficult French relationship with the veil and other outward signs of non-Christian religious observance - French Muslim girls aren’t allowed to wear hijab to public schools, and many French Jews feel the need to put a hat over their yarmulkes when they hit the streets so that they blend in.

The burkini ban is a pathetic attempt to deny that there is no escape from the fact that the population of France now includes deeply observant Muslims - not even at the beach. The real reason for the ban, of course, is fear. It is a panicked response by politicians who feel helpless in the face of the new wave of terrorism - the Paris attacks, and more recently, the horrific incident took 85 lives in the terrible Bastille Day attack in Nice. Dangerously, the sentiment seems to be growing and becoming more populist - the number of municipalities banning burkinis (including Nice) has reached eleven, and in the southern town of Heuralt, an anti-burkini rally drew 200 protesters. If there’s any country that understands the fear of terrorism and need for security (and overreaction to it) it’s Israel. But even in our ultra-security conscious state, banning a burkini or any garment meant to allow women of any religion, Jewish, Christian or Muslim, to fully participate in a recreational activity and remain modest would be viewed as over the top, ineffective, and counter-productive.

In any serious struggle, it is important to choose one’s battles - and female swimwear definitely doesn’t top the list. In fact, it is a boomerang issue, which will make French Muslims feel even more unwelcome and angry over their mothers, sisters and wives being made to feel like criminals for their religious observance, driving them into the arms of the very extremism the French authorities claim to be fighting against. Anyone who defends the rights of women to bare their shoulders, legs and hair must also defend the right of women to choose to cover them up. It isn’t up to powerful men to determine what women put on - or take off - their bodies. Rabbis and imams shouldn’t dictate that women cover up entirely because any glimpse of their skin awakens male sexual urges that make them uncomfortable.

But neither should mayors and prime ministers demand that women wear a skimpy bathing suit or refrain from going to the beach because a burkini reminds them that they share their country with a highly religious Muslim population. The battle against violent religious fundamentalism and terror shouldn’t be fought on the backs of women. Denying them the right to freely choose what to wear isn’t protection - it is oppression, pure and simple.
© Haaretz

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Burkini Wars Show Whatís Wrong With the Religious Right ó and Secular Left (opinion)

By Jane Eisner

24/8/2016- No matter how progressive our society has become, a woman’s appearance is still scrutinized, commented upon, critiqued, evaluated and dismissed far more frequently than anything said about a man. Just ask Carly Fiorina. Or Hillary Clinton. But this double standard isn’t simply being exercised by those who weren’t brought up with any manners, or lost the memo telling them that whether a woman is “ugly” (Fiorina) or “tired, old and mean” (Clinton) has nothing to do with her fitness for anything, including the presidency of the United States. No, what’s even more dismaying is that we continue to witness a double standard imposed and regulated by public authorities.

So in the last few weeks, the mayors of several coastal towns in France decreed that women are not allowed to wear a “burkini” — a full-body swimsuit worn by observant Muslim women, enabling them to follow their laws of modesty while at the beach or in the water. On August 23, French police forced a woman to remove her burkini on a beach in Nice. Because, well, it’s not French not to show lots of skin. Meanwhile, Egypt’s state broadcaster suspended eight female television presenters for being overweight, giving them a month to lose an undisclosed number of pounds. Because, you know, Egypt wants its TV (female) personalities to look svelte. And in Petah Tikva, Israel, the administration of a public all-girls high school decreed that all 1,000 students may no longer wear skirts that stopped below the knee; instead, their skirts should drop down to the floor, “kissing the ground.” Because, apparently, it ruins the school’s “educational work” to allow any physical evidence that a 16-year-old girl has ankles.

What’s instructive about these three different examples is that the government regulation is not motivated by any one specific political or religious ideology. The French move against the burkini — echoing the 2010 ban on face coverings in public places — comes from the secular left. The school in Israel is pushing from an increasingly fundamentalist right wing. Women are being dictated to and squeezed from all sides. Beyond the strictures of social norms — and they are powerful in many countries — the use of the tools of government to enforce dress codes and standards of appearance is becoming increasingly prevalent in countries where the men in power see their domination and sense of national identity slipping away. And this is true for the secular left as much as the religious right. In fact, according to a fascinating survey released in April by the Pew Research Center, more countries restrict a woman’s ability to wear religious symbols or attire than require them to dress or cover up in a certain way.

Of the 198 countries in its survey, the Pew Center found that 50 had at least one law or policy regulating women’s religious attire in 2012 and 2013, the two most recent years for which data are available. While, in about a quarter of those countries, women were required to wear a particular dress, more than three-quarters of those countries — 39 of the 50, or 78% — limited a woman’s ability to wear religious garb. The restrictions were most common in Europe — and this survey was compiled before France’s latest, outrageous ban — but they weren’t on view exclusively there. Until 2012 in Egypt, for instance, women who worked for the national airline were not allowed to wear hijabs at work. It’s not a stretch to see the directive to diet sent to Egypt’s female broadcasters as another example of the government seeking to impose its own formulation of secular beauty on its (female) employees.

Some restrictions strike me as reasonable. Pew found that in Canada, for instance, candidates for citizenship had to remove face-covering veils so that the authorities could see whether they actually recited the oath. But it’s a gigantic, unwarranted leap from a one-time, understandable requirement to forcibly stripping women of their clothing while on a public beach. Exactly how do they harm anyone by covering their arms and legs? Any pluralistic society is subject to the push-and-pull of minority groups seeking to maintain their distinctiveness and the nationalistic impulse for cohesion and unity. As Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, asked in a recent blog post on Huffington Post, “How much distinctiveness can the larger society tolerate before it breaks apart into the separatist communities that French officials so fear right now?”

I would say: a lot. Because what France is experiencing, what Egypt is experiencing, what religious Jews in Israel are experiencing, is a changing world that challenges their more narrow sense of national identity. So the men in power push back in the easiest way they know how — against women who, the world over, are the most vulnerable. As Amanda Taub pointed out recently in The New York Times, “Rules like this summer’s burkini bans are meant to prevent the widening of French identity by forcing French Muslims not only to assimilate, but also to adopt the narrower, rigid identity.” That same desperate impulse to exert control is laced through the letter sent by the rabbi who heads the girls’ school in Petah Tikva to explain the new dress code. “We’ve tried everything” to focus the students’ attention and respect on their studies, he bemoaned.

As if narrowing the apparel choices of girls and women will somehow persuade them to conform to a single image of identity, mode of behavior and rigidity of thought. Anyone who’s raised teenagers knows that it’s bound to backfire. The woman forced to strip on the beach in Nice will surely not feel more allegiance to France after this humiliating episode. But the government won’t care. Because, you know, how a woman looks is all that matters.
Also read: Seriously, What Orthodox Women Wear to the Beach Is No Different From a Burkini
© The Forward

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Headlines 26 August, 2016

In Memory of Valery Novoselsky (1970-2016)

By Bernard Rorke

23/8/2016- It is with great sadness we mourn the passing of Valery Novoselsky. The virtual community to which Valery dedicated so many years of his life was united yesterday in shock and grief as news of his death filtered through online social networks. A regular visitor to Budapest in the course of his travels, many of us knew him personally; and yet few of us had an inkling of the fragility that lay beneath his good humoured bonhomie and generosity of spirit.

Best-known perhaps as the editor of the Roma Virtual Network – a truly substantial imagined community - the peripatetic Valery was a frequent fixture at many Roma conferences, events, demonstrations and commemorations in European cities and towns. His travels also took him to the Americas and Asia in his personal contribution to forging a wider sense of solidarity among Roma.

Valery was born into an assimilated Romani family in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine (then part of the USSR). In one interview he gave a fascinating account of his family background: his grandmother was Ashkenazi Jewish with roots in Lithuania while his grandfather was a Roma from Eastern Ukraine, who was orphaned at the age of five and adopted by a Jewish family, surnamed Novoselsky, who could speak Romani and Yiddish, Russian and Ukranian, plus the dialect of the local German minority. His mother was part-Romani and part-Chinese. His maternal grandfather was from Shanghai, and the family was originally from Shaanxi Province, close to Mongolia and Xinxiang.

After graduating from secondary school, he worked in a factory, as a hospital attendant and an apprentice shoemaker. A student of history and Christian Theology he emigrated to Israel in 1995. He studied and worked as an English-Russian translator in the Galilee Bible College in Haifa, and obtained a BA degree in Theology and Bible Studies in 2002.

He became known to many of us from about the turn of the century as founder and editor of the Roma Virtual Network (RVN). He collaborated with many civil society organisations and NGOs over the years and spent some time with us here at ERRC as an intern in 2010. His commitment, dedication to the cause of Roma rights, and his singular determination to see the good in other people remain an inspiration. Aged only 46, he left us far too soon. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and nearest ones. As we mourn his passing, we will cherish his memory.
© European Roma Rights Center

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Valery Novoselsky, Romani activist and founder of the Roma Virtual Network, has passed away

22/8/2016- The Roma Times news server cites a report published by the Romani editors of Swedish Radio that Romani activist Valery Novoselsky of Israel, who founded Roma Virtual Network, passed away on 20 August 2016 at the age of 46. Mr Novoselsky passed away while attending a Romani music festival in Riga, Latvia. Mr Novoselsky was born on 15 April 1970 in Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, USSR. He lived there until 1993. From 1993 to 1995 he lived in Moscow, after which he moved to Israel. In July 1999 Mr Novoselsky established Roma Virtual Network and pioneered Romani community presence on the Internet. Through several different listservs Mr Novoselsky distributed information from and about Romani communities to the entire world. In the year 2000 he became a member of the International Romani Union. He was also an active member in other European Roma institutions. In addition to Romani activism, Mr Novoselsky contributed to the work of many public initiatives, attending conferences and similar events.
© Romea.

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Bulgarian, Turkish Premiers Seek Solutions on Migrants

The prime ministers of Bulgaria and Turkey, Boyko Borissov and Binali Yaldirim, are meeting on Friday in Istanbul to discuss joint solutions to the continuing migration crisis.

26/8/2016- Bulgarian premier Boyko Borissov on Friday becomes the first leader of an EU member state to visit Turkey since the attempted coup on July 15, with migration issues set to dominate the agenda. After his arrival in Istanbul on Friday, Borissov announced he will also meet the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Borissov is expected to seek an agreement with Turkey to prevent migrants from entering Bulgaria, after he was openly critical of the lack of an effective common European approach towards the refugee crisis. “I do not see a perspective in Europe for solving the problem with the migration crisis. What I see is one country after another saving itself in panic,” Borissov said at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. He said there was an “absolute lack of solidarity” among EU members, and argued that Bulgaria has to seek “the best and most pragmatic relations with [its] neighbours”. “Serbia pulled out the army and closed the border so there is no longer an exit from Bulgaria… Unfortunately, the situation in Greece is not good either. All we have left is to seek partnership with Turkey,” Borissov told the ministers.

The formal occasion of Borissov's visit is the opening of a third bridge linking Europe with Asia across the Bosporus. After the failed coup in Turkey and the subsequent government crackdown on its alleged adversaries, Bulgaria has been acting cautiously in dealings with its southern neighbour. On August 10, the Bulgarian authorities handed over to Turkey a man called Abdullah Buyuk, a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Islamic cleric who Ankara accuses of being responsible for the coup attempt. The deportation provoked outrage in Bulgaria, as it was viewed as contrary to the rule of law and an example of Bulgaria submitting to the demands of its powerful neighbour, but in Turkey it has been welcomed warmly. On August 12 the Turkish government's press service announced that Prime Minister Binali Yaldirim had proposed a bilateral agreement on migration to his Bulgarian counterpart, as the EU-Turkey deal on the migrants has not come into effect.

Bulgaria’s government has confirmed that Borissov has spoken to Yildirim, but refused to reveal the details of their telephone conversation. On Wednesday, Borissov complained that refugee centres in Bulgaria are almost full and that the country is spending “huge resources” on managing the refugee crisis. He explained that as the EU-Turkey deal has not entered into force, Bulgaria cannot benefit from its readmission agreement with Turkey. But he added that, with the cooperation of Turkey, Bulgaria has actually returned over 26,000 migrants to its southern neighbour, masking the returns with the term “prevented entries”. “Officially we have sent back 24 people, but those ‘hindered’ or ‘prevented’ [from entering Bulgaria] are over 26,000,” he said.

He made it clear that all those classified as having been those ‘hindered’ or ‘prevented’ from entering had actually crossed the border and were then sent back to Turkey. Such a practice is not laid out in any formal agreement between the two countries, but it may be formalised following the meeting between Borissov and Yaldirim. Right after meeting the Turkish premier, Borissov will fly to Berlin, where on August 27 he is joining the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Austria, Croatia and Slovenia for talks on the refugee crisis.
© Balkan Insight

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Dutch far-right party says it will ban mosques, Koran

26/8/2016- The political party of Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, which is leading polls ahead of parliamentary elections next year, has vowed to close mosques and "ban the Koran" in its manifesto. "All mosques and Islamic schools closed, a ban on the Koran," said the document outlining the electoral program of the Freedom Party (PVV) ahead of March 2017 legislative elections, which was posted on Wilders' Twitter feed Thursday. The PVV says it will reverse the "Islamisation" of the country with a range of measures including closing the borders, shutting asylum seeker centres, banning migrants from Islamic countries and stopping Muslim women from wearing the headscarf in public.

On the back of Europe's migrant crisis, opinion polls have for months given Wilders' PVV the edge over the current coalition parties of the Labour Party and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Late last year polls predicted soaring support for the PVV saying it could gain as many as 38 seats in the 150-seat parliament. But that has slipped back. In August, a poll from Ipsos gave it 28 seats -- still way up on the 12 it currently has. The immigrant crisis has polarised the Netherlands, a nation of 17 million people, leading to heated debate and some attacks on refugee centres. Wilders, who will go on trial for inciting racial hatred in October, also said he would do all he could to hold a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the EU, despite an unsuccessful first attempt in June following Britain's shock Brexit vote. His party has also pledged to cut all foreign aid while boosting funding for police and security.
© AFP

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France: Islamís place set to dominate right-wing presidential primary

The contest to pick a presidential nominee among France’s right-wing camp is shaping up as a battle between former president Nicolas Sarkozy and Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, with Islam’s place in France the hot issue of the primaries.

26/8/2016- Around a dozen members of the main opposition Les Républicains party (formerly UMP) have declared themselves candidates in the November primary, which is widely expected to come down to a duel between Sarkozy, who lost his re-election bid in 2012, and Juppé, a defence and foreign minister under the former president. Sarkozy unofficial-ly kicked off his campaign this week by announcing his candidacy in a new book, with Juppé expected to dive into the primary waters with a speech on August 27. His talk is all the more anticipated since Juppé, the frontrunner according to opinion polls, was largely absent from public view this summer, even as France reeled from a deadly truck attack in Nice that killed 86 people during Bastille Day celebrations and the slaying of a Catholic priest in the town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. Juppé was vacationing in Quebec at the time of the attacks and then later travelled to French Polynesia, places less burdened at the present time with the threat of radical Islam than in mainland France.

Back home the fear and exasperation has nevertheless become all too palpable. Presidential elections are just eight months away, and it appears France’s entire political class is now faced with one salient question: In order to stem the rise of terrorist violence and promote peaceful co-existence among citizens, should France give its Muslim community more or less latitude in their religious practices? Some think more freedom could help Muslims better feel at home in France and counter recruiting propaganda by the IS group and other extremists, who regularly claim the country “persecutes” its Muslim population. But others argue in favour of a stronger clampdown of Islamic practices deemed too ostentatious, a position already reflected in the banning of “burkinis” or full-body swimsuits in a handful of French beaches this summer – and legal move that was later overturned by France’s top administrative court.

Looking to Canada
Juppé is known for supporting the former of the two views. In a 2014 book he co-authored with 12 other conservative political heavyweights (Les 12 travaux de l’opposition), he coined the term “happy identity” (l’identité heureuse). It was meant to counter the “unhappy identity” (L’identité malheureuse) theory set forth by Alain Finkielkraut. The divisive philosopher has blamed the so-called decay of French national identity on several modern trends, including immigration without assimilation. In the book, Juppé defended the need to “integrate” immigrants into French society rather than forcing them to “assimilate”. The veteran politician argued that it was both unrealistic and impractical to ask new immigrants to turn their back completely on their native cultures.

Juppé went so far as to recommend that France find some "reasonable accommodation" with Islam. Borrowed from Canada, a country the Bordeaux mayor lived in for many years, the concept consists of adjusting some of the established rules in society in order to provide more opportunities, or equity, for new arrivals in that society. In France, reasonable accommodation could lead to a loosening of staunch secularism in order to help Muslims enjoy greater participation in French society. But in recent months, and particularly in his new book “Everything for France” (Tout pour la France), Sarkozy has challenged Juppé on the subject. “There is no happy identity when thousands of French people, born and raised in France, come to hate their homeland so much… There is no happy identity when the laws are flouted to such a point. There is no happy identity when we accept ‘reasonable’ accommodations in order to appease the situation,” Sarkozy writes.

Competing visions
Many are now waiting to see if Juppé will continue to defend his multicultural and inclusive view of society in a country that has been regularly rattled by Islamic-linked terrorism since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015. If he does, it will be difficult for Juppé to avoid a messy showdown with Sarkozy. Le Havre mayor Philip Edward, one of Juppé’s closest allies, last week suggested the stage was set for such a scenario. He said he looked forward to “good debate” that would pit Juppé’s “confident” vision against Sarkozy’s gloom and doom. In the opposing camp, François Baroin, a former finance minister who is tipped as Sarkozy’s prime minister should he win the 2017 election, blasted the “happy identity” as pure naiveté.

It’s not an unfamiliar attack for Juppé, who last June rebuked Sarkozy loyalists in the following blog post: “They will call me naive... my long experience on the ground helps me avoid this trap. I know that the France I dream of is not France as it is today, not all of it. I see that France harbours doubt, pain, anger. We must provide answers to these real problems”. While Juppé wants to promote France’s “diversity” in order to protect its “unity”, it appears Sarkozy will double-down on reaffirming the country’s “Christian roots”. Juppé has stated that a reading of the Koran is “compatible with French democracy”; Sarkozy wants Muslims to blend into society – meaning to adopt all of France’s cultural habits.

But neither candidate has succeeded in putting theory into practice, and is therefore open to attacks. As Foreign Minister in 2011, Juppé initiated talks with the Muslim Brotherhood, an initiative that eventually failed after the Arab Spring. But Sarkozy, who has harsh words for Salafist and Wahhabist manifestations in France, may have trouble explaining his efforts to cosy up to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who more than any leader has bankrolled these archaic versions of Islam across the globe.
© France 24.

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France: Far-right veteran Le Pen to run against his daughter

26/8/2016- French far-right veteran Jean-Marie Le Pen said on Thursday his newly-formed party would field candidates in next year's parliamentary elections, in a direct challenge to his daughter who excluded him from the National Front (FN) party he founded. He said he would not hesitate to field candidates in constituencies where the FN is running, which would diminish the chances of any far-right candidate to win seats in France's lower house of parliament. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June next year, after presidential polls in April and May. Marine Le Pen, who now heads the FN, forced her father out of the party last year over comments playing down the Nazi Holocaust. The feud burst into the open after she sought to soften the anti-immigration party's image to help her quest for power.

"I will be present for the parliamentary elections, because the Comites Jeanne movement will field candidates, lots of candidates," he said on LCI television, referring to his new political movement bearing the name of national heroine Joan of Arc. "I call on all the people who think, as I do, that the line defended by the National Front is not what it used to be, to join me," the 88-year old added. Unlike her maverick father, Marine is not content with attracting protest votes and targets power. Following a strategy of "de-demonisation", she has sought to make the FN a mainstream party and more politically respectable - something her father regards as a mistake. Marine's growing popularity has not suffered from her father's expulsion. But while opinion polls see her topping the first round of presidential elections in April next year, she is seen losing a run-off vote whether it be against a centre-right or a centre-left candidate.
© Reuters UK.

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Sweden: Gay footballer's deportation halted by migration officials

The young footballer was informed of the decision just hours before he was due to be deported.

25/8/2016- Andrew Nagbe, 22, was arrested last month after attending Stockholm Pride, after migration officials told him there was not enough evidence that he is gay. He was due to be deported on August 23 and sent back to his native Liberia – where it’s illegal to be gay. “I want to play football and live as an openly gay man in Sweden,” he said following his arrest. Nagbe said he would be imprisoned, “beaten and raped every day” if he was sent back. “Everyone I know in Liberia knows I am gay now, so they won’t hold back.” However, hours before the footballer was due to board his flight back to Liberia, the Swedish Migration Board announced it would be re-opening the case. The board allegedly changed its mind because they received new documents, as well as the international attention the case has garnered.

“His case has received international attention, including from the BBC, and his sexuality is now even better known in Liberia,” said Stig-Åke Petersson – refugee officer at Swedish LGBT organisation RFSL. “Since then, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been informed about this and gone in with an opinion to Andrew’s advantage.” Nagbe was said to be “very happy” when he received the news, although his future remains uncertain. “After all that has happened, I don’t dare to have any idea about it,” Petersson added. ‘But given that they cancelled the trip, the chances increased.’ Nagbe originally came to Sweden on trial with a third-tier Swedish team, Umeå FC. At the time he was arrested, he had been playing for Södertälje FK.

Liberia was recently ravaged by the Ebola virus outbreak, which exacerbated pressure on local LGBT advocacy groups. The news is especially unusual given Sweden’s positive record on LGBT rights, including offering compensation for trans people who in the past were forced to be sterilised as a “cure”.
© The Pink News

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Austria: Up to 17 percent will vote differently in presidency re-run, poll finds

25/8/2016- The re-run of Austria's knife-edge presidential election could produce a significantly different result, a poll published on Thursday found, as 17 percent of respondents said they would or might switch sides in a runoff vote that includes the far right. Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly failed to become the European Union's first far-right head of state when he lost the second-round vote on May 22 to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen by less than one percentage point. But the Freedom Party (FPO) successfully challenged the result before the Constitutional Court, which found that several rules were broken in the handling of postal votes as officials rushed to count the ballots that eventually swung the election. Although there have been few suggestions of foul play and candidates' positions are largely unchanged, a Gallup poll for tabloid daily Oesterreich found five percent of respondents said they would vote differently and 12 percent said they might.

The survey of 600 people carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday gave a slight edge to Hofer ahead of the Oct. 2 re-run for the largely ceremonial post, but his lead was within a wide margin of error. Support for Hofer was between 48.5 percent and 57.5 percent, the mid-point being 53 percent, the poll said. Van der Bellen's backing was between 42.5 and 51.5 percent, or, on average, 47 percent. Oesterreich did not say how events since the original run-off vote in May have influenced public opinion. Britain's vote to leave the European Union appears to have worried voters, and Van der Bellen has sought to capitalize on Hofer's eurosceptic views. Militant attacks in Nice and Germany, however, as well as continuing concerns about Europe's migration crisis, are likely to play into the hands of the anti-immigration FPO, which has made law and order one of its central themes.
© Reuters

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Serbia: Afghan migrant 'shot dead by hunting party' in woods

24/8/2016- Police have arrested a member of a hunting party in Serbia after a young Afghan migrant was shot dead in the woods near the Bulgarian border.  Security forces in Pirot were patrolling the woods, in the southeast of Serbia, when they "heard a shot and then met six migrants, one of whom had been shot in the chest." They then came across four hunters at the scene and arrested one of them on suspicion of shooting the 20-year-old migrant. A Serbian defence ministry spokesman said: "Upon the arrival of emergency services, doctors could only establish the death of a 20-year old male citizen of Afghanistan." It gave no further details. The suspect, who was named only as M.M, lives in Pirot and is understood to be in his late thirties. Prosecutors ordered the man to be held in custody for 48 hours.

Serbia lies on the so-called Baltic route taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to reach central Europe. It comes a few weeks after Serbia's Interior Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, announced tough new plans to tighten its controls on the southern border in a bid to stem the flow of migrants. He announced the creation of a joint police and military force tasked with pushing economic migrants back across the border and cracking down on people smuggling. “Refugees do not want to stay in Serbia or to seek asylum here. However, in accordance with the law, we will provide asylum to those who seek it [in Serbia]," he told Serbia's public broadcaster RTL. Both Serbia and Hungary have been accused of turning a blind eye to some migrants and allowing them to slip through their borders into neighbouring countries.

Though a 110-mile-long fence has been set up across the Hungary-Serbia border, many people are able to sneak across with help from smugglers. It has led to the emergence of self-styled vigilante groups who patrol the borders of Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria in search of illegal migrants. Last May Dinko Valev, a Bulgarian vigilante, boasted of subduing 12 Syrian men, three women and a child after pursuing them with his quad bike near the border. Video footage posted on social media showed the migrants lying face-down on the ground while Mr Valev insulted them and claimed they came from Syria to "kill us like dogs." Mr Valev, who was declared a "superhero" in one national TV report after the incident, claims that 95% of Bulgarians approve of his methods. "[Migrants] are disgusting and bad people and they should stay where they are," he told the BBC in a recent interview.
© The Telegraph

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Norway readies fence on ex-Cold War border to deter refugees

24/8/2016- Norway is putting up a steel fence at a remote Arctic border post with Russia after an influx of migrants last year, sparking an outcry from refugees' rights groups and fears that cross- border ties with the former Cold War adversary will be harmed. The government says a new gate and a fence, about 200 meters (660 feet) long and 3.5 meters high stretching from the Storskog border point, is needed to tighten security at a northern outpost of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone. For decades, the Nordics have enjoyed the image of being a reliable haven for asylum seekers. But the erection of the fence, at a spot where 5,500 migrants mainly from Syria crossed into Norway last year, reflects a wider shift in public attitudes against refugees. This is seen too in Sweden, Norway's neighbor, which was once touted as a "humanitarian superpower", but is setting up border controls this year and has toughened asylum rules.

Refugee groups and some opposition politicians say Norway's fence will deter people fleeing persecution and is an unwelcome echo of the Cold War in a region where relations have generally flourished since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The fence will be erected in the coming weeks, before winter frosts set in, to make it harder to slip into Norway via a forest. Workers have so far done some preparatory work, clearing away old wooden barriers put up to control reindeer herds. "The gate and the fence are responsible measures," Deputy Justice Minister Ove Vanebo told Reuters, defending the move. Both Moscow and Oslo have cracked down on the Arctic route, one that a few refugees found less risky than crossing the Mediterranean by boat, since last year's inflow of migrants. So far this year, no one has sought asylum via the northern frontier, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.

"I can't see a need for a fence. There are too many fences going up in Europe today," said Rune Rafaelsen, the mayor of the Soer-Varanger region which includes the border, told Reuters, pointing to barbed wire in nations such as Hungary. Russia still maintains a fence the length of the 196 km frontier with NATO member Norway, sometimes several kilometers back from the dividing line. It has not complained about the Norwegian plans to build a fence. But Rafaelsen, of the opposition Labour Party, said the region had made great progress in improving civilian ties since an Iron Curtain divided Norway from the Soviet Union and he, and others, saw the plans for a fence as a backward step. "We've an obligation to be a country people can flee to," said Linn Landro, of the Refugees Welcome group in Norway. "The fence sends a very negative signal, including to Russia because it says that 'we don't trust you'."

Norwegians and Russians in the region can visit visa-free for short trips. About 250,000 people crossed the border last year, a decline from recent years but to be compared with just 5,000 a year in the Cold War. Norway's border Commissioner Roger Jakobsen said a weak rouble has made Norway more costly for Russians, road repairs have made crossings harder and ties have cooled after Norway and other Western nations imposed sanctions after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014. He doubted the fence would be a new deterrent and said there had been no complaints from Russia. "We shouldn't make a storm in a teacup out of it," he said.
© Reuters

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Italy: Attack on Egyptian boys 'xenophobia'

Offenders shouted 'stay away from our women'

23/8/2016- A violent attack on a group of underage Egyptian asylum seekers that has left a 16-year-old boy in a coma must be condemned as "an episode of intolerable xenophobia", the chair of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the treatment of migrants said Tuesday. "We must severely condemn and not underestimate what happened," said House MP Federico Gelli of the center-left Democratic Party (PD). The teenage victim named only as M.M. remains hospitalized in a coma with a reserved prognosis after three Italian men pistol-whipped and beat him and three friends with a baseball bat in the Sicilian village of San Cono on Saturday afternoon. The boy has undergone head surgery to drain a massive haematoma.

Two other Egyptians aged 16 and 17 were also slightly injured in the attack. One of them filmed the aggression on his mobile phone, allowing investigators to identify the attackers. Three men, Antonino Spitale, 18, and brothers Giacomo and Davide Severo, 32 and 23, were arrested on Sunday on charges of attempted murder conspiracy, battery, and illegal weapons possession. The Egyptians are residents at a reception centre for unaccompanied minors in San Michele di Ganzaria and were returning home from a weekly market in San Como when the attackers drove up on them in a car. The video shows the attackers shouting epithets at the victims, such as "Pieces of sh**, don't come back to town" and "stay away from our women" while the Egyptian boys can be heard pleading with them to stop.

Police are seeking another two men who remained in the car during the assault. "(The incident) must also lead us to reflect on the climate of mutual hatred and distrust in the small Sicilian village, where altercations between Italians and asylum seekers have been ongoing" Gelli added. "This latest episode appears to be just the tip of the iceberg of an atmosphere of revenge... We hope the young immigrant will soon be out of the coma". A judge is expected to confirm the detention of the three attackers later in the day.
© ANSA.

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Ireland: Black woman inundated with racist abuse while tweeting for @Ireland

Blogger and plus-size model forced to take a break from Ireland’s community Twitter account after being told to ‘return to your ancestral lands’ by trolls

23/8/2016- A black British woman who was chosen to tweet from the @ireland account for a week has been subjected to a barrage of racist abuse, forcing her to take a break from Twitter. Michelle Marie took over the account – which is curated by a different Twitter user in Ireland each week – on Monday. She introduced herself as a mother, blogger and plus-size model. Originally from Oxford in England, she wrote she had settled in Ireland and “it has my heart”. However, just hours after taking over the profile – which is followed by nearly 40,000 people – the abuse began. Marie responded by writing that being overweight “doesn’t mean I can’t be beautiful or worthy or happy” and described the impact body shaming had had on her mental health. However, that failed to stop the trolls abusing her because she was black. Marie received a lot of tweets of support, with many users urging her to report the abuse and block the users responsible.

James Hendicott, a Briton who had previously run the @Ireland account, said he hadn’t been trolled at the time and the treatment of Marie was “clearly racism”. By the end of the day the negative comments began to take their toll. She posted a statement saying that while she had expected “trolls, backlash and criticism” she had experienced “racism, sexism, fatophobia and homophobia to a degree I have never known.” After “8hrs of non-stop hate” she said she was hurt, shocked and appalled but promised she would try again tomorrow. Marie told the Guardian that the experience had been upsetting. “I’m saddened that such extreme racism and vitriol is still rife. I am fortunate that experiencing this level of hate is a rarity, but for too many it’s a daily reality,” she said. The @Ireland account was opened in 2012 and is run by Irish Central. Irish Central’s website says “as the Ireland of today is not confined to the island of Ireland, the varied voices of @Ireland come from Ireland and across the world.”
© The Guardian.

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Czech Rep: Prague City Hall Approved Anti-Islam Stunt

Controversial activist, previously charged with hate speech, brings his campaign against immigration to the city’s historic heart.

23/8/2016- A mock Islamic State invasion of Prague’s picturesque Old Town Square should never have received official approval, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova says. Well-known anti-Islam campaigner Martin Konvicka arrived for the Sunday afternoon stunt mounted on a camel and wearing the white garb of an imam. From the open deck of a Hummer that followed him on to the tourist-packed square, a man brandished a mock gun and another waved a black Islamic State flag. "This was the absolute failure of an official, and I want to draw personnel consequences from this," Krnacova told the CTK news agency yesterday. The performance included the mock stoning of a woman, the website Political Critique said, adding that terrified spectators fled at the shots from the men’s fake guns, although no such panic can be seen on this video posted to YouTube.

Police interrupted the performance, and the participants, including Konvicka, were detained but later released, Radio Prague reports. Police are investigating them for breach of peace and spreading a false alarm. Prague police spokesman Tomas Hulan confirmed to Radio Prague that Konvicka had a permit to stage a performance, including the use of imitation firearms. Krnacova said the clear mention of fake weapons ought to have been enough to have rejected the stunt. Konvicka, an entomology professor by profession, chose the date of 21 August to coincide with the anniversary of the 1968 Soviet Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. According to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Konvicka said the aim of the performance was to shock the city's residents, and confront them with “what is happening every day just a few thousand kilometers from Prague and is now starting to penetrate Central and Western Europe.”

# Konvicka is the head of the “Martin Konvicka Initiative,” successor to the Bloc Against Islam, an organization that shot to even greater notoriety when Czech President Milos Zeman  shared its podium to address a rally last November.
# The Bloc is likely to form a party to run in the parliamentary elections in 2017. The name “Alternative for Czech Republic” is being considered and the group has sought contact with Germany's far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany).
# Konvicka has staged anti-Muslim actions before, including the selling of pork and beer in front of a mosque in Brno, and the burning of the Quran in July.
# In November, Konvicka was charged with hate speech for inciting hatred against Muslims after he wrote on Facebook that Muslims should be put into concentration camps and that they should be made into meat and bone meal.

© Transitions Online.

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Finland: Former PS deputy councilman of Helsinki to be charged for ethnic agitation

Former Perussuomalaiset (PS)* deputy councilman for Helsinki, Olli Sademies, who suggested last year on Facebook that Africans should be forcibly castrated will be charged for ethnic agitation, according to Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest-circulating daily.

22/8/2016- Sademies, who is a retired policeman, was sacked from the PS in September. The former PS local politician denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was innocent. “Freedom of speech and expression also includes saying things that may even upset some population groups,” he was quoted as saying in Helsingin Sanomat. “I hope that the district court [of Helsinki] acquaints itself with the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights on this matter.” During 2009-2014, only 27 people have been sentenced for ethnic agitation, according to MTV, which cites Statistics Finland. The greatest number of sentences for ethnic agitation were given in 2012, which was 12. Ever wonder how people like Sademies were ever accepted in the police service and the PS? It says a lot about how much denial there is in Finland about racism.

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

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UK: Kent Police deny working with far-right group EDL

25/8/2016- Claims a group of far-right activists are "working alongside" Kent Police to patrol the county's coast have been denied by the force. Members of the self-titled English Defence League's Coastal Patrol group posted a message to supporters that "the lads are back on patrol". They claim their role is working with Kent Police to protect Kent's shores. n a post on the group's Facebook page it wishes "luck to the lads on duty". It was flagged up by a Twitter user to the police who replied: "We only work with partners such as the Border Force, Coastguard and RNLI when it comes to policing our coastline." The League's 'coastal patrol' has recently posted updates, videos and pictures of men being stationed on Dymchurch beach in a tent with "bacon sarnies". Speculation that five people who died yesterday after being pulled from the sea at Camber Sands were migrants has today been refuted by Sussex Police. The group were all day trippers from London and in their late teens and early 20s.
© Kent online.

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UK: Black people in Britain twice as likely to be murdered as whites

Race is a motive in eight out of ten hate crimes recorded in England and Wales as a Government body warns the country’s hard-won “reputation for tolerance” is under threat following the Brexit vote.

23/8/2016- And black people were found to be more than twice as likely than white people to be murdered, and three times as likely to be prosecuted and sentenced, according to a new report which calls on the UK to “urgently” tackle the issue of racial inequality. In a broad overview of life in Britain for black people and ethnic minorities, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report found the situation has worsened on a number of fronts in the past five years. Healing a divided Britain – the most extensive review on race equality ever undertaken – looks at whether UK society lives up to its promise to be fair to all citizens with soundings taken from the EHRC’s five-yearly report on human rights’ progress.

EHRC chair David Isaac admits the comprehensive review paints an “alarming picture of the challenges to equality of opportunity that still remain in modern 21st century Britain”. There have been “encouraging signs” with important changes to the criminal justice system and new Prime Minister Theresa May’s early statements on modern slavery, he said. But despite a 50 per cent hike in an increase in the number of ethnic minority police officers in England and Wales (from 3.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent since 2006), Mr Isaac says the aftermath of the decision to leave the EU has thrown up issues of “even greater concern”. He warned: “Our nation’s hard-worn reputation for tolerance is arguably facing its greatest threat for decades, as those who spread hate use the leave result to legitimise their views. “The evidence demonstrates inequalities experienced by ethnic minority communities across many areas of life in modern Britain.”

Mr Isaac stressed the Government needs to urgently address race inequality, noting that previous efforts have been “piecemeal and stuttering”. “So far the government’s economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity,” he said. Last year's general election saw the proportion of MPs from ethnic minorities increase from 4.2 to 6.3 percent, although the EHRC said much more progress was needed. "The combination of the post-Brexit rise in hate crime and deep race inequality in Britain is very worrying and must be tackled urgently," added Mr Isaac. "If you are black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you're living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society," he added.

The report also reveals as well as being more likely to be a victim of hate crime, ethnic minorities and migrants are much more likely to experience disadvantage in the criminal justice system. The latest Home Office figures on stop and search, for example, show that a black man is still five times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than a white man in England and Wales. The rate of incarceration for ethnic minorities is over five times that of white people. Ethnic minorities in police custody in England and Wales were significantly more likely to be physically restrained than white people. In England, ethnic minorities were around twice as likely to be stopped and searched as those who were white. This has fallen since the year ending March 2011.

Race remains the most commonly recorded motivation for hate crime in England and Wales, at 82 per cent of recorded motivations. Just over three-quarters of hate crimes reported to the Welsh police forces were racially motivated, with black people most likely to be the victim. In Scotland, racially motivated hate crime is falling but remained the most commonly reported hate crime in 2014/15 (when it was at its lowest since 2003/04).
© Police Professional

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UK: Sadiq Khan hit with anti-Semitic messages for not backing Corbyn to lead Labour

The London Mayor was subject to a barrage of hateful abuse, including anti-Semitic vitriol.  

23/8/2016- Sadiq Khan has been on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse including anti-Semitism after backing Owen Smith to be Labour’s next leader. The London mayor was highly critical of the current leader and his role in the EU referendum campaign in an article for the Observer, hours before ballot papers were sent out in the two-way leadership contest. Soon after his article was published, he received a number of messages suggesting he had been influenced by Jews. One asked “Who owns you @sadiqkhan?”, alongside a picture of a kippah-wearing mayor eating matzah during an event ahead of Pesach. Another said Khan “spends his time writing articles to help his masters in Tel Aviv”, while a further tweet attacked the mayor as a “Zionist” together with an image of Khan in front of a London Jewish Forum banner. Khan repeatedly condemns cases of anti-Semitism within the party during the race for City Hall, saying he wore a “badge of shame” over the scourge and suggesting the Labour leadership could have taken a tougher stance. A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “Jeremy has consistently spoken out against anti-Semitism in all its forms and condemned all abuse. He has repeatedly called for a kinder, gentler politics, and recently launched “Respect and Unity”, a code of conduct calling on all Labour members and supporters to conduct themselves with a high standard of behaviour.”
© Jewish News UK

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UK: Corbyn in racism row over treatment of black MPs

22/8/2016- Jeremy Corbyn was embroiled in a racism row last night with one of his frontbenchers over his treatment of minority ethnic female MPs. Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, said she would she would have taken the Labour leader to an industrial tribunal if she had been in any other job. She levelled the charge at Mr Corbyn – which he strongly denied – as the first ballot papers in the Labour leadership contest were sent out to an estimated 640,000 members and supporters.

Backing Smith
Although she has remained on the Labour frontbench as shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, Ms Onwurah is backing Mr Corbyn’s challenger, Owen Smith. In an
article for the New Statesman, she protested over his handling of a decision to split her post with another BME (black and minority ethnic) MP, Thangam Debbonaire. “Jeremy made it impossible for two of the very few BME women MPs to do their jobs properly, undermining both us and Labour’s role as the voice of opposition to the government,” she said. “If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in – given that only five per cent of MPs are black and female, picking on us two is statistically interesting to say the least.

Disputed
“Indeed as Thangam was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time he could have faced disability action as well.” Her version of events was disputed by a spokesman for Mr
Corbyn. He said: “When Thangam Debbonaire was appointed as a dedicated shadow minister for the arts in January, there was a negotiation about the division of responsibilities with Chi and Thangam, but at no point was anyone sacked. We regret that Chi feels she was singled out, but this was clearly not the case.”
© I News

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British want EU migrants to stay after Brexit, says poll

Post Brexit, a ‘moderate core’ backs controls on the unskilled but are happy to welcome key workers

21/8/2016- More than eight out of 10 people in the UK believe EU migrants already living in Britain should be allowed to remain after Brexit, including 77% of Leave voters. The figures are revealed in new poll for the British Future thinktank which wants a “national conversation” on immigration as part of a comprehensive review of a system in which, it says, “the public has lost all confidence”. In its new report, “What next after Brexit? Immigration and integration in post-referendum Britain”, British Future claims that its ICM poll confirms that the majority of people in post-referendum Britain fall into what calls the “anxious middle” – while concerned about the pressures of high migration, they also accept the benefits that migrants bring to the economy and wider society. Before the release of the latest immigration statistics on Thursday, the first since June’s referendum, the poll suggests that the public would be happy to see some flows of immigration increase but want reductions in other areas, notably the number of unskilled workers.

It finds that three-quarters of those polled agree with the call for a “sensible policy to manage immigration that controls who comes to the UK, but still keeps the immigration that is good for our economy and society, and maintains Britain’s tradition of offering sanctuary to refugees who need protection”.

Other key findings include:
Ā° 84% say EU citizens already living in the UK should be able to stay. This includes a majority of both Leave voters (77%) and Ukip supporters (78%);
Ā° Only 12% want to cut the number of highly skilled workers migrating to Britain; nearly half (46%) would like to see an increase, with 42% saying that it should stay the same;
Ā° Almost two-thirds (62%) want numbers of low-skilled workers reduced.
British Future argues that opening up a public debate about immigration now would bring about a new consensus on the divisive issue. “There are sure to be changes to immigration policy once we know what shape Brexit takes,” said Jill Rutter, director of strategy for British Future. “That will bring challenges but it also presents an opportunity – for a comprehensive review of a system that is widely believed to be failing and in which the public has lost all confidence. Rebuilding public trust, in an immigration system that is competent, effective and fair, must be part of this process. Engaging the public in the decisions we make, through a national conversation on immigration, would help to start rebuilding that trust.

“It will also cut through an overheated, polarised debate to reveal the moderate core of public opinion on immigration. Most people have more nuanced views than those found in our public discourse. Given the choice, voters would be content with much immigration staying the same and some of it increasing, if they had faith in the system and could see reductions in other areas.” The poll reveals that the public is split roughly down the middle on refugees. Just over half (53%) think the number of refugees offered protection should be reduced while 33% think the country should offer sanctuary to about the same number of refugees as it does currently and 14% would like it to take more. The poll also suggests the public makes clear distinctions between different immigrant worker groups. Only a quarter of people want fewer migrant care-workers, with 27% saying they would like more and 48% saying the number should stay the same.

Four in 10 welcome more migrant engineers, compared to only 17% who want fewer. More people said they would like to see more migrant IT professionals, doctors, nurses and scientists than would prefer a cut in numbers. It also confirms that even Leave voters are keen on some forms of migration.Only 15% of Leave voters want a reduction in the numbers of highly skilled workers migrating to Britain, while 45% want an increase and 40% want numbers to remain the same. When asked about migrant IT specialists, engineers, scientists, care workers, doctors and nurses, the majority of Leave voters wanted an increase or the numbers to remain the same. Only when asked about unskilled workers, construction workers and hospitality staff did they prefer to cut numbers. Thursday’s immigration statistics are expected to show a rise in EU nationals applying for British citizenship. Experts suggest this may reflect worries about their status in a post-Brexit UK.
© The Guardian.

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Turkey calls Austria Ďcapital of radical racismí

Amid a growing diplomatic spat, Turkish foreign minister has called back its ambassador to Austria for 'consultations and to review ties.’

22/8/2016- Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Austria, the Turkish foreign minister said Monday, amid a growing diplomatic spat. Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ambassador Hasan Gogus was called back to Ankara for “consultations and to review ties,” citing Austrian authorities’ decision to allow alleged supporters of Turkey’s Kurdish rebels to hold a demonstration in Vienna over the weekend as well as rising anti-Turkish rhetoric in Austria. Ties between Turkey and Austria have been tense for several weeks, with a top Austrian official saying Turkey was heading toward a dictatorship and other leaders calling for an end to Turkey’s European Union membership talks. Turkey, in turn, has described Austria as the “capital of radical racism.” “We saw that ... the PKK and its supporters were given permission to stage a demonstration in Vienna,” Cavusoglu said.

“This does not comply with honesty or sincerity. We couldn’t stay inactive against this attitude which supports terrorism.” He was referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey and its allies consider a terror organization. Fighting between the PKK and Turkey’s security forces resumed last year after a fragile peace process collapsed. The group has stepped up attacks targeting police and military in Turkey and at least a dozen people were killed in a string of bombings last week. Cavusoglu said Austria’s top diplomat in Ankara was also called to the ministry over the demonstration in Vienna. There was no immediate response from Austrian officials. “Unfortunately, the ground for our bilateral relations and co-operation to continue as normal has disappeared,” Cavusoglu said.
© The Associated Press

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Turkish protestors demand justice after brutal transgender murder

Hundreds of protestors have called for justice after a transgender woman was brutally murdered in Istanbul. Turkey ranks number one in Europe in transgender murders.

21/8/2016- Demonstrators in Istanbul gathered on Sunday calling for justice and a hate crime law after the murder of a transgender woman earlier this month. The body Hande Kader, a LGBT activist and sex worker, was found burned beyond recognition in a forest outside Istanbul after she was last seen getting into the car of a client. She was prominent figure in Turkey's LGBT rights scene. About 200 protestors held banners reading "We will not diminish [the value] of one more person. Justice for Hande. Justice for everyone." Other placards read "transgender murders are political" and "the state is the perpetrator." They were joined by two opposition parliamentarians. Police with water cannons and tear gas stood by, but the protest passed peacefully. In the past, LGBT rights activists and police have clashed during protests.

According to a report published in March by the rights group Transgender Europe, Turkey is first in Europe and ninth in the world in transgender murders. Between January 2008 and December 2015, 41 transgender people were killed in Turkey. The Turkish Human Rights Association documented in 2015 at least 21 transgender hate murders or assaults, including attacks involving guns, knives and clubs. Hande's murder was the most recent act of brutal violence against transgender people since Syrian refugee Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found decapitated last month in Istanbul. Police often harass transgender people and their murders are seldom thoroughly investigated. Homosexuality and licensed sex work in government-run brothels is legal in Turkey. Many transgender people in Turkey are involved in sex work on the streets or in illegal brothels, putting them in danger of violence.

LGBT activists have said they are often harassed and discriminated against and subject to homophobic statements from the government and society that lead to hate crimes. They have demanded the government pass a hate crime law.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Spain: Referee stops Sporting vs Athletic game due to racist chants

The Asturias club have previously been fined for racist abuse towards an opposition player

21/8/2016- A match in La Liga has been stopped by the referee due to racist chants aimed at a visiting player. Sporting Gijón's game with Athletic Club was stopped after around half an hour when the home fans began to abuse Athletic's young forward Iñaki Williams. The 22-year-old is Spanish born from Liberian parents and became the first black player to score for the Basque-only club in 2014. When chants broke out at Sporting's El Molinón ground, referee Clos Gomez halted proceedings as some of the home side's players pleaded with fans to cease. The Gijón club have previously been fined for racist and abusive chanting after a 2008 incident involving Getafe winger Joffre Guerrón, albeit a paltry €3000. Former president Manuel Vega Arango said at the time, "we want to continue being very proactive and Sporting will always root out any type of racist behaviour. "You can't have a policeman for every fan, but we have to try and make sure this doesn't happen again." In January, La Liga investigated alleged racist chants aimed at Barcelona forward Neymar by supporters of cross-town rivals Espanyol.
© The Daily Mirror

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Hungary to Build Another Fence on Serbian Border

Hungary will build a second fence along its border with Serbia, and is offering Serbia help protecting its borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia.

26/8/2016- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Friday that Hungary will erect a second fence at its border with Serbia in case an EU-Turkey deal on migration falls through. "Technical planning is under way to erect a more massive defense system next to the existing line of defense which was built quickly (last year)," Reuters quoted Orban saying. Orban said it was a response to a potential change in Turkey's policy to migration that could see a new influx of migrants arriving in Europe. "[We] will have to stop them with force, and we will do so," Orban said. In March this year, Turkey pledged to stop refugees crossing to Europe, while the EU promised financial aid and visa-free travel for Turks in return. However, negotiations for a final deal are still in progress. The day before Orban revealed his plans for a new fence, Hungary and Serbia’s respective interior ministers Sandor Pinter and Nebojsa Stefanovic met to discuss migration. Relations between the two countries had deteriorated at the peak of the refugee crisis.

Last August, Hungary unilaterally decided to build a fence along its border with Serbia and directed water cannons into Serbian territory, in attempts to keep refugees from entering the country. However, Stefanovic said relations have now improved, while Pinter offered Hungarian police to help Serbia enforce its borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria. "Hungary proposed to help Serbia guard its borders with police and legal help," said Pinter. The number of refugees in Serbia has risen steadily since Hungary tightened security at the Serbian border early in July. Hungary has now ruled that any migrants or refugees found inside the country, up to eight kilometres from the border, must be sent back to a designated “transit zone” beyond the border fence. As a measure to stop the increase of refugees in Serbia, the government in Belgrade has sent a joint military and police force to its southern borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia.
© Balkan Insight

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Hungarian MEP suggests 'Put pig heads on border fences to deter Muslim refugees'

Just 146 of 177,135 asylum applications to Hungary were approved last year

20/8/2016- An MEP has proposed putting pigs' heads on Hungary’s border fences to deter refugees trying to enter the country. The country’s right-wing government has been criticised internationally following its perceived harsh attitude towards refugees. As part of measures to block refugees seeking to enter the country, Hungary erected a vast border fence in the hopes of stopping movement into their borders. It recently emerged security forces have begun making scarecrows in crude attempts to deter refugees trying to enter. In response to criticism over the tactic, Hungarian MEP for the Christian Democratic European Peoples’ Party Gyorgy Schopflin tweeted: “Human images are haram… pig’s head would deter more effectively.” The Twitter account is listed on the official website of the European parliament as Mr Schopflin’s account. The MEP’s suggestion prompted anger online.

Andrew Stroehlein from Human Rights Watch said: “Your words are disgusting. I would expect that from anonymous neo-Nazi trolls but you’re an MEP. Act like one.” In return, Mr Schopflin said criticisms of him were “beginning to resemble hate speech” and refused to apologise. Hugary has been criticised for appearing to hold unduly harsh attitudes towards refugees and for failing to take its fair shair of asylum seekers along with European neighbours. Local politicians have cited concerns that to do so would cost too much financially and compromise Hungary's Christian culture. Of 177,135 asylum applicants to Hungary in 2015, just 146 were approved, according to government statistics. In March of last year, the Hungarian government declared a state of emergency in the country due to Europe’s refugee crisis and deployed an additional 1,500 security personnel to the country’s Serbian frontier in a bid to deny refugees entry.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has defended the country’s stance on refugees, citing his desire “to keep Europe Christian” and announcing: “We are experiencing the end of a spiritual-intellectual era. The era of liberalism. [This] provides the opportunity for the national-Christian thinking to regain its dominance not only in Hungary, but in the whole of Europe.”
© The Independent

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Greece: Neo-Nazi MP and friends beat officer over traffic violation

22/8/2016- Golden Dawn deputy Constantinos Barbarousis has been implicated, along with a relative and at least three other men, in a violent beating of a police officer at a coffee shop in the village of Fiteies in the region of Aetoloacarnania in central Greece Monday. According to reports, the incident followed an altercation between one of the extreme-right lawmaker’s relatives and the officer over a traffic violation earlier in the day. The policeman was off duty when he was attacked by his assailants, who, according to witnesses, pulled up outside the cafe in two cars, with Barbarousis and four other men inside. All five barged into the shop and attacked the victim using clubs, brass knuckles and bats. The officer suffered head injuries and required stitches, while his brother and a friend, who were also present during the incident, suffered light injuries.

Witnesses also said the attackers were only stopped after the intervention of other customers at the shop, which they left hurling abuse and threats. No arrests had been made up until late Monday, while local police have launched an investigation. Barbarousis and the other attackers are expected to face charges of battery and violating the law regarding the use of weapons. Barbarousis was notoriously implicated in a raid by at least 10 people on an open-air market in the town of Meslongi in September 2012, during which market stalls run by migrants were smashed. Video footage at the time had shown the deputy for Aetoloacarnania walking through the street market apparently demanding that the traders display their licenses. A Mesolongi court later cleared Barbarousis and another 10 suspects of any involvement.
© The Kathimerini.

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Greece: Refugees in camps targeted by mafia gangs

Aid workers warn of imminent disaster as centres become breeding ground for criminal activity, including drug smuggling, human trafficking and violence

20/8/2016- Fresh evidence is emerging that refugees stranded in camps across Greece are falling victim to rising levels of vice peddled by mafia gangs who see the entrapped migrants as perfect prey for prostitution, drug trafficking and human smuggling. Details of the alarming conditions present in many of the facilities comes as the Greek government – facing criticism after the Observer’s exposé of sexual abuse in camps last week – announced urgent measures to deal with the crisis. A further four refugee centres, it said, would be set up in a bid to improve severe overcrowding, a major source of tensions in the camps.

Aid workers say an estimated 58,000 migrants and asylum seekers in Greece are increasingly being targeted by Greek and Albanian mafias. Tales of criminals infiltrating camps to recruit vulnerable women and men are legion. “If nothing is done to improve the lifestyle of these refugees and to use their time more productively, I see a major disaster,” warned Nesrin Abaza, an American aid worker volunteering at the first privately funded camp known as Elpida (Greek for hope) outside Thessaloniki. “These camps are a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, gangs and violence. It seems like the world has forgotten about them. They are not headline news any more, so therefore they do not exist … but the neglect will show its ugly head.”

With an estimated 55 centres nationwide – including “hotspots” on the Aegean islands within view of Turkey – Greece has effectively become a huge holding pen for refugees since EU and Balkan countries closed their borders to shut them out earlier this year. In private, many Greek officials express alarm that numbers are growing amid worrying signs that the five-month-old deal signed between Ankara and the EU to keep the flows in check is on the verge of collapse. Although nowhere near the level of last summer – when at its height 10,000 people streamed into Lesbos in a day – arrivals have risen visibly since last month’s failed coup in Turkey. In the 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday some 261 migrants and refugees – nearly double the normal number – were picked up on islands.

Unable to move on, frustration has mounted among the thousands now stuck in limbo. On the back of uncertainty and anger over delayed asylum processes, marooned migrants say they have become sitting ducks for criminals as they move in. “I never knew a thing about drugs and now I am doing drugs,” said a 17-year-old Syrian youth detained in a camp that stands in a defunct Softex toilet-roll factory on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. “This camp is horrid. We live like animals in tents in burning heat.” Drugs, he ventured, had become the central cause for violence, with brawls erupting frequently. “The Greek and Albanian mafia come here and push the drugs,” he explained conceding that he financed his own habit by illicitly sneaking into Macedonia, where he bought cartons of cigarettes to sell in the camp. “The police are non-existent. They see drugs, stabbing, fighting and do nothing. They do not care. The world does not care.”

The testimony, which is backed up by human rights groups that have deplored the appalling conditions in Greek detention centres, comes after the EU released €83m (£71.8m) in April to improve living conditions for refugees stranded in the country. The UN refugee agency, the International Federation of the Red Cross and six international NGOs were given the bulk of the funding. Greece by then had already received €181m to help deal with the crisis from Brussels. Announcing the emergency support, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, claimed the assistance was “a concrete example of how the EU delivers on the challenges Europe faces”. “We have to restore dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible,” he said.

But four months later, as allegations of sexual abuse and criminal activity envelop the camps, questions are mounting over whether the money was properly administered. In addition to bad sanitary conditions and lack of police protection, the latest revelations have shone a light on whether the humanitarian system is working at all. “There is no emphasis on humanity, it is all about numbers,” Amed Khan, a financier turned philanthropist who founded Elpida, told the Observer. Elpida, also established in a former factory near Thessaloniki, has a tea room and yoga centre and, seeing itself as a pioneering initiative, encourages refugees to regard it as a home. In the month since the camp opened its doors, it has won plaudits for being the most humane refugee centre in Greece. “Nobody is using money here efficiently or effectively,” lamented Khan. “The humanitarian system is the same one that has been in place since the second world war, it lacks intellectual flexibility and is totally broken. The real question to be asked is, has the aid that has been given been appropriately utilised?”
© The Guardian.

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Czech student spies on radical Muslims in Germany

22/8/2016- A Czech student wore niqab and was going to mosques in Germany for two years in order to gain information about radical Muslims for the German intelligence, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes on Monday. The 24-year-old woman created a list of 52 Muslims who were the most radical, including their names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail contacts, the paper writes. When she arrived in Berlin, she wanted to get acquainted with the Salafi fundamental version of Islam, although she is a Christian. She decided to go to the Al Nur mosque in which hatred of unbelievers was preached according to German media. In the Al Nur mosque, she addressed girls in niqab, the full-faced veil, and told them she was interested in Islam. "All were mistrustful of me at first, suspecting that I am a journalist, but as soon as I said I would like to convert, their mistrust disappeared. I was afraid, of course," she told the paper.

After several weeks of going to prayers and to the Quran school she formally converted. As she believed that some imams and other Muslims praised Jihadism, she contacted the secret service. "For example, Aziza from Algeria who taught the Quran was among the most radical. She defended armed jihad, hated democracy. Nobody condemned it there," she said. The German counter-intelligence provided the student with an audio recording device, a special cell phone and two of its officers had regular secret meetings with her. The German counter-intelligence BfV writes in its latest annual report that it had dozens of informants from the Muslim environment. According to its data, the number of German radical Islamic Salafists increased to 7000 and more than 1000 of them were ready to commit terrorist violence. After one year, the Czech student moved from Berlin to Munich where she continued to go to a mosque and cooperate with the BfV.

The Muslim community repeatedly tried to find a husband for her, the last one of whom was a jihadist who probably went to fight in Syria for Islamic State, but she always managed to reject the offer, saying she still felt too young or that she wanted to marry a Muslim in her homeland. In Germany, she learnt Arabic, made pictures of the mosques, maps of their interiors and audio recordings of the lectures. At present, back in the Czech Republic again, she is hunting for people who recruit for the Islamic State terrorist organisation on the Internet and she decided to focus on security studies, MfD writes. "People are connected by their faith in the mosque and it is a venue for social contacts and getting to know others. These contacts are then maintained through the social networking sites," she told the paper, adding that she mostly operates on Facebook and various discussion forums.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Germany: AfD accused of using neo-Nazi symbols on campaign car

The Leipzig branch of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has come under fire for seemingly using Nazi symbols on a campaign car.

23/8/2016- A Facebook group dedicated to opposing far-right groups in Leipzig posted a picture on Facebook on Sunday that has been riling up anger in the eastern city. The picture shows what appears to be an AfD campaign car decorated with the official party logo and pictures of candidates parked at an outdoor festival with a front license plate that reads “AH 1818”. The group NO LEGIDA - a reference to a local section of anti-Islam movement Pegida - points out that AH refers to the initials of Adolf Hitler and 18 refers to AH again as the first and eighth letters of the alphabet. These are common symbols used by neo-Nazi groups and such a combination of the letters and numbers on license plates is forbidden in Bavaria. The post has been shared more than 750 times over the past two days. Some seemed shocked that such a license plate combination would be allowed. “Is that license plate real or faked?” wrote one Facebook user.

“I must ask myself, who could be so stupid?” “The fact that it’s with the AfD doesn’t leave any doubt for me that this was not a coincidence,” wrote another. In response, the Facebook page for the AfD in Leipzig wrote: “Our friends from the left-spectrum are stirring up hatred again about what a vehicle says, and they’re seeing Nazis everywhere, like paranoid.” The chair of the local party branch, Siegbert Droese, tried to distance the party from what he said was a mistake. He explained in a statement on Monday that the car did not belong to the AfD, but rather was only for him to use, according to local broadcaster MDR. He also said he did not notice the license plate’s significance. “Thanks to social media, we discovered the meaning of the letters and numbers and their politically explosive nature,” Droese said. “We want to very clearly distance ourselves from these kinds of far-right scene codes.”

Saxony state parliament representative for the AfD Uwe Wurlitzer told Vice magazine Germany that the car belonged to Droese and that he planned to discuss the matter with him. Vice also points out that this isn’t the first time the party in Leipzig has been caught connected to neo-Nazi symbols. Last year social media also reacted strongly to a picture of an AfD campaign car with the license plate “L-GD 3345”, which people said stood for “Großdeutschland 1933-1945”, or Greater Germany 1933-1945. The party also has experienced divisive infighting recently after a book by one of its members surfaced which described the Holocaust as “certain infamous actions” and Holocaust deniers as dissidents. Critics saw this reference as a trivialization of the Holocaust, and one prominent AfD member called it “a clear case of anti-Semitism”.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Report: Number of neo-Nazi rock concerts on the rise

The first half of 2016 has already seen some 98 far-right musical events in Germany, with some concerts drawing thousands of fans, reported "Die Welt." Authorities have warned that such events serve as recruitment tools.

20/8/2016- Right-wing rock concerts, far-right party meetings with musical acts, and so-called "Liederabende" (song recitals) are on the rise across Germany, "Die Welt" newspaper reported on Saturday. In the first six months of 2016, a total of 98 such events have already taken place, the newspaper said, citing an Interior Ministry response to an information request from the Left Party. Of that total, around 40 were rock concerts and 49 "Liederabende" - where right-wing extremist singers and songwriters perform to small audiences.

'Safe haven' for the far-right scene
Although the events take place all over Germany, the central state of Thuringia was the uncomfortable home to 14 events so far this year, according to data from the Interior Ministry. In fact, a right-wing music festival called "Rock gegen Überfremdung" - which roughly translates to "Rock against foreign infiltration" - is set to take place in the small Thuringian village of Kirchheim on Saturday. The migrant crisis-themed rock festival is expected to draw around 800 neo-Nazis - more than the number of inhabitants in Kirchheim, "Die Welt" reported. "There is a risk that Thuringia will become a safe haven for all types of extremists, since they must feel less exposed to persecution here," Thuringia state parliament member Andreas Bühl told the newspaper. He criticized a lack of security personnel for the rise in right-wing extremism in the state.

A troubling trend
Compared to the first half of 2015, the number of right-wing musical events has risen sharply in the first half of this year. Between January and June in 2015, a total of 63 right-wing musical events took place. With this year's figures already up to 98 events, 2016 is possibly on track to surpass last year's record. The number of right-wing extremist musical events taking place in Germany has hit a four-year high, Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) reported. Last year, the agency clocked 199 musical events. However, 2016 has already surpassed last year's records. In May of this year, the largest far-right musical event in recent years took place in the Thuringian town of Hildburghausen, the BfV reported on its website. Around 3,500 visitors from Germany and some neighboring European countries traveled to the festival "Rock for Identity - Music and Speeches Against the Abolition of Germany." In comparison, the largest right-wing rock concert last year drew 650 visitors.

Rock concerts as 'gateway drug'
The data on right-wing musical activities goes back years, which begs the question: Why keep tabs on right-wing musical activities? In its government information request, the Left Party cited "numerous studies" which prove the importance of music to right-wing extremists. They said right-wing rock music and concerts served as a "gateway drug" for newcomers and especially teenagers. The Left is not alone. On their website, the BfV says the "right-wing extremist music scene" has been under strict surveillance since the 1990s. Recent crime statistics released by the BfV show a spike in far-right violence in Germany last year, as well. The agency also noted the importance of musical events for establishing first contacts with possible new recruits and for maintaining party relationships. According to the BfV, live concerts for right-wing extremists are "a means of self-expression," a place of belonging. They are spaces to communicate not only about values, but enemies as well.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Call-to-arms by populist right AfD

Populist right-wing AfD party co-leader Frauke Petry has encouraged Germans to carry firearms. She claims the government has lost its state monopoly to protect the public, especially in thinly populated areas.

20/8/2016- Petry, who caused an uproar January by suggesting German police could use firearms to deter incoming refugees, on Saturday called into question Germany's policing and stringent gun ownership law in the wake of deadly attacks last month. There were no grounds for concern when citizens armed themselves for self-protection in areas where austerity measures by national and regional governments had "systematically ruined" police services, Petry told the Funke Media Group based in Essen. "Every law-abiding person should be in the position to protect himself, his family and his friends," Petry said. Greens co-leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt promptly accused Petry of negligently stoking anxiety and said trained recruits should be hired where Germany's "good" police forces were depleted. That would improve public perceptions of safety, "not weapons for all" as advocated by Petry, said Göring-Eckardt. "Weapons don't belong in the wrong hands."

Police slow, Petry claims
The AfD co-chairperson had asserted that any further tightening of Germany's Weapons Ownership Act would disadvantage citizens. "We all know how long it takes for police, especially in sparsely populated areas to arrive at the scene of deployments," said Petry, just days after the AfD wrangled over its leadership. This would harm "reputable" citizens and not those who obtained weapons in the "darknet" [hidden Internet], she added. "Many people are increasingly feeling unsafe." Petry was referring to a 31-year-old man arrested by police last Tuesday in Marburg on suspicion of supplying a modified Glock 17 pistol used by a deranged 18-year-old German-Iranian to shoot dead nine mall visitors in Munich on 22 July. Many were teenagers. Seven of the nine had migratory origins. Authorities said that attack did not appear to be linked to Islamic extremism and instead was inspired by the 2011 mass killing by Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik.

Two regional state elections pending
Petry's call-to-arms remarks precede a September 4 election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany's thinly populated Baltic coast region of 1.6 million residents, currently led by a Social Democrat (SPD) premier, Erwin Sellering. It is also where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her federal Bundestag electorate and a region where neo-Nazis have been challenged by liberal citizens in townships such as Jamel. An Infratest survey published Friday showed Sellering's SPD polling 26 percent, followed by 23 percent for Merkel's CDU, 19 percent for the AfD, 16 percent for the Left party and 6 percent for the Greens. On 18 September, Berlin city-state goes to the polls, with the SPD mayor Michael Müller and CDU interior minister Frank Henkel seeking re-election. Earlier this week, Henkel and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania's CDU interior minister, Lorenz Caffier, were the leading advocates of controls on women wearing burqas, full-body clothing that obscures even the face but hardly worn in Germany.

Gun ownership law tightened
In the wake of a 2002 massacre in eastern Germany's city of Erfurt, where a 19-year-old shot dead 16 people, Germany tightened its firearms ownership law several times. It established a federal weapons registry in 2013. The law now requires tight regional council supervision of licensed hunters and sporting shooters, psychological suitability tests, proof of the need to own a weapon as well as weapons and munitions expertise. The minimum age is 18. The latest figures show that there are some 1.9 million gun licenses issued to sporting shooters, hunters and collectors in Germany, and some six million legally registered weapons. The number of illegal weapons is speculative. Germany rules out any automatic right to weapons ownership akin to Article 2 in the US constitution. A German's gun license can be withdrawn in the case of a criminal record or unsafe storage. Residents have, however, resorted to seeking the so-called "small arms license" to allow them to carry blank guns and pepper spray. In the first half of 2016, such authorizations jumped 49 percent, to 402,301 individuals, according to the Federal Statistics Office.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Headlines 19 August, 2016

Slovakia to ban far-right train patrols by vigilantes

Slovakia's justice ministry has drafted a law to stop nationalist vigilantes patrolling trains.

18/8/2015- Since April, green-shirted members of the People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) have been mounting their own "security patrols" aboard trains. On its website the LSNS said it had had to act after a 21-year-old woman was "assaulted by a hooligan gypsy [Roma]" on a train near Levice. Train security is the job of police and rail authorities, the ministry says. Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska said nobody could replace the police in protecting citizens. A legal amendment will go before parliament to stop the vigilante patrols. The LSNS organised patrols on the Zvolen-Levice line, in central Slovakia, alleging that the police were failing in their duty to the public. The new timetable of the Slovak Railway Company says that nobody can perform activities aboard its trains, unrelated to passenger services, unless they have written authorisation.

Echoes of Nazi era
In March the LSNS won more than 8% of the vote in Slovakia, entering parliament for the first time, with 14 seats. Party leader Marian Kotleba is an admirer of Slovakia's wartime existence as a Nazi puppet state, and used to wear a uniform modelled on that state's pro-Nazi militia. On its website the LSNS says it wants a Slovakia "safe for all decent citizens so they are not terrorised by gypsy or other extremists and corrupted politicians". It also names pro-Nazi wartime leader Jozef Tiso among "our national heroes". Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest who persecuted Jews in line with Nazi policy, was hanged for treason after World War Two.
© BBC News

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Bulgaria: Syrians Alarmed by Mediaís Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

The Syrian community in Bulgaria wants the state authorities to investigate the growing number of xenophobic media articles that denigrate refugees and migrants. -

18/8/2016- The Bulgaria-based Free Syria Association and the Association of Syrian Refugees warned at a press conference on Thursday that the country’s media was negatively distorting the image of refugees. “We feel obliged to thank [Bulgarian society] for the tolerance and empathy it demonstrated so far, but also to note that propagating xenophobia and intolerance towards others… is a precondition for new conflicts and divisions,” the Syrian organisations said in a joint declaration. Their reaction was provoked by an article, broadly shared on social networks, in which someone identified as a 16-year-old Syrian girl claimed that the majority of the Syrian refugees hate Christians and “only think about how to cut their throats”.

But Akram Nayuf from the Free Syria Association said this was completely incorrect. “A real Muslim thinks that Christians are his brothers and sisters and would never hurt them,” Nayuf said. Mohamed Yusuf from the Association of Syrian Refugees added that “someone wants to spread fear in Bulgarian society and such propaganda has to be stopped”. The Syrian organisations insisted that the controversial article had been fabricated and that no such attitudes existed among refugees. “We live in this country, we feel it is our homeland,” said Mohamed Ez, another member of the Association of Syrian Refugees. Such articles are not uncommon in Bulgarian media, where hate speech against refugees and migrants has been on the rise in recent years. According to a recent study by the Sofia-based Media Democracy and the Centre for Political Modernisation, website owners see hate speech as a tool to increase traffic.

The Open Society Institute in Sofia has also registered a rise in hate speech, claiming that negative attitudes towards Muslims have grown from 11 per cent in 2014 to 38 per cent in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of refugees who remain in refugee in Bulgaria has grown in the recent months, as a result of the closure of the so-called ‘Balkan route’ to Europe. Currently, almost 2,700 asylum seekers live in the six refugee camps in Bulgaria, while in February they were 540, the latest data from the State Agency for the Refugees shows. “The measures at our western border [with Serbia] have been boosted, so it is normal that the channels have been closed and that they [migrants] cannot leave for Western Europe,” the director of a refugee centre in the southern Bulgarian town of Harmanli Yordan Malinov told Nova TV on Thursday. The representatives of the Syrian community said that some refugees have even started backtracking to Bulgaria from Germany and Sweden, after realising how difficult it would be to integrate there. “All we ask for is some help for those people who want to stay here, so that they can survive,” Mohamed Ez told BIRN.

Political Modernisation, website owners see hate speech as a tool to increase traffic. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/syrians-alarmed-by-hate-speech-against-refugees-in-bulgarian-media-08-18-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=a85f5c12b4-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-a85f5c12b4-308289045#sthash.zZFheZTX.dpuf

© Balkan Insight
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Russia: Outrage after religious leaders back female genital mutilation in Dagestan

Two prominent religious leaders in Russia have provoked outrage after suggesting female genital mutilation could help reduce sexual promiscuity.

18/8/2016- The scandal erupted on Wednesday when Vsevolod Chaplin, a former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, rushed to the defence of Ismail Berdiyev, a senior Muslim cleric from Dagestan who said “all women” should be subjected to the practice to eliminate sexual depravity. Mr Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Centre of North Caucasus Muslims, made the controversial comments when asked to comment on a report into the practice published earlier this week. “All women should be circumcised so there would be no debauchery on earth, so that sexuality is minimised,” Mr Berdiyev, a prominent figure in Dagestan, told a correspondent from Interfax, a Russian news agency. “The Almighty created woman to bear and raise children,” he added. “[Circumcision] would not affect that. Women would not stop giving birth. But there would be less promiscuity.”

He went on to clarify that although Islam does not prescribe the practice, “it is necessary to reduce female sexuality. If it was done to all women, it would be very good.” Mr Berdiyev was commenting on a recent study that found female genital mutilation is common in remote mountain villages in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s north Caucasus. Research by the Russian Justice Initiative, an NGO, found that in areas where the practice continues female genital mutilation tends to be carried out on girls up to three years old, without anaesthetic and often in unsanitary conditions. The researchers said most cases they came across involved removal, or part-removal, of the clitoris and labia.

Archpriest Chaplin, one of the most prominent Orthodox priests in Russia, rushed to the mufti’s defence after outraged headlines splashed across Russian media and social networks. “What feminist howling!” he wrote in a Facebook post defending the right of minorities to preserve religious traditions. “Circumcising all women probably isn’t necessary. Orthodox women don’t need it because they are not promiscuous,” he wrote. “Of course God created women to bear and raise children. Feminism is a lie of the 20th century,” he added. Mr Berdiyev himself later said he had been misquoted. The United Nations estimates 200 million women and girls across 30 countries where the practice is concentrated are victims of female genital mutilation. The practice can cause severe pain and long term health problems and is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights.

# The report authors found that the custom is mainly practiced among peoples who adopted Islam later, which might suggest that it has pre-Islamic, tribal roots.
# The issue of FGM barely enters the public sphere, as it is either heavily tabooed, or is considered a part of local tradition to be preserved, the report says. Gathering exact numbers is difficult, but RJI's researchers estimate that tens of thousands of Dagestani women have been affected.
# The operation is usually carried out by the female elder of the family, in the homes, and it is done to girls up to the age of three, but sometimes as old as 12.
# Not only medical and legal, but also religious experts of Dagestan disagree on the permissibility of FGM. Intizar Mamutaeva, the Ombudsman for Children's Rights in Dagestan, however, called the practice a violation of children's rights.
# Perhaps 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation, the UN estimates. The practice is concentrated in parts of Africa and the Middle East but is also known in Asia and Latin America.
Above # compiled by Anna Azarova for TOL news.
© The Telegraph

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French authorities report Ďspectacularí rise in Calais migrant camp population

Local authorities in the French port city of Calais on Friday said the number of migrants living in the infamous “Jungle” camp has seen a “spectacular” rise over the summer, increasing by 53 percent in just two months.

19/8/2016- At the middle of August, authorities counted more than 6,900 people in the camp – the highest number since it was created sixteen months ago. In June 2016, an official census reported 4,480 people. Earlier this month, however, local humanitarian aid groups, L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees, took their own census, which counted more than 9,100 people. Local authorities have previously said their goal was to reduce the number of camp inhabitants to about 1,500. Most of the refugees and migrants in the Calais camp come from conflict zones like Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq or other countries with poor human rights records, and have come to Calais with the hope of sneaking across the English Channel to Britain, where many have relatives or the hope of obtaining work.

Aid agencies say the recent increase can be attributed to an influx of migrants who have travelled from southern Europe. The Jungle camp, which sprung up in April 2015, quickly grew into a slum village consisting of mainly tents and makeshift huts. In winter 2016, authorities decided to dismantle the southern part of it in a bid to encourage the displaced to instead move into heated containers or tents on the northern rim of the camp, or accept bus rides to welcome centres elsewhere around France in an attempt to ease the pressure on Calais. Some 750 shipping containers, including heating and sockets for electricity, have been set up.
© France 24.

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France: Orthodox Jew stabbed in Strasbourg

18/9/2016- An Orthodox Jew was stabbed in the stomach in broad daylight in the French city of Strasbourg on Friday, local authorities said, by an attacker who several witnesses said shouted an Islamic religious phrase. The 62-year-old man was recovering in hospital and his life was not in danger, a Strasbourg rabbi told Reuters. His assailant was a man with a history of psychiatric problems, the local prefecture in the eastern French city said. It did not confirm he had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the stabbing, which took place on a street. French regional newspaper Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace said the attacker had been arrested and was being questioned by police. No one at the Strasbourg prosecutor's office or local police was available for comment. France, home to both the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe, has been under a state of emergency since November when militants killed 130 people in Paris coordinated attacks claimed by Islamic State. The group also claimed an assault on a Jewish supermarket in the capital in January last year in which four people died.
© Reuters

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France: Three more migrant camps evacuated in Paris

Over 800 migrants were peacefully moved out of three camps in north-east Paris on Wednesday morning.

17/8/2016- The makeshift camps had only been set up a few days earlier; and are regularly evacuated but often reappear shortly after. "Eight to nine hundred migrants from three camps situated at the Quai de Jemmapes, Place Stalingrad and Avenue de Flandre," Paris police chief Yann Drouet confirmed to Le Figaro. "Sixty to 70 women and children were evacuated as a priority." The operation began at 8am and continued through the morning. Drouet said that the migrants, who were of Afghan, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali origin, had been taken to the local police station where they would receive any necessary report. Since the end of July, police have carried out over twenty operations to evacuate camps in the 19th arrondissement, where many camps have sprung up. During some of these evacuations, riot police were drafted in to help and police turned tear gas on the migrants. Nearly 80,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2015, but it has been affected less than its European neighbours by the mass influx of migrants over the last 18 months. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo pledged at the end of May that the city would get a humanitarian camp, built to UN standards, in the coming months.
© The Local - France

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Sweden: Gay footballer deported after being arrested at Pride event

A young gay football player will most likely be deported after not providing enough “evidence” that he’s gay.

17/8/2016- Andrew Nagbe, 22, had his residency application rejected, and is currently in a detention centre awaiting deportation. On the August 23 he will be sent back to his native Liberia, where it’s illegal to be gay. “I want to play football and live as an openly gay man in Sweden,” he said. Nagbe says he is worried he will be imprisoned for being gay and abused if he’s sent back. “In prison I’ll be beaten and raped every day until I am released and leave the country again,” he said. “Everyone I know in Liberia knows I am gay now, so they won’t hold back.” The midfielder came to Sweden originally on trial with a third-tier Swedish team, Umeå FC. At the time he was arrested, he had been playing for Södertälje FK, a popular town for migrants. He attended the Stockholm Pride festival in July, where he was arrested by migration officials, who told him there was not enough evidence that he’s gay, despite his claims that his life would be danger if he returned to Liberia.

Liberia was recently ravaged by the Ebola virus outbreak, which exacerbated pressure on local LGBT advocacy groups. The news is especially unusual given Sweden’s positive record on LGBT rights, including offering compensation for trans people who in the past were forced to be sterilised as a “cure”. Metin Rhawi, a major politician from the ruling social Democratic party, called the decision “heartless”. “Should someone scared for their life be deported so cold-heartedly?” The UK Home Office recently issued guidance banning caseworkers from asking LGBT asylum seekers for explicit details about their sex lives – but they can still be quizzed about local gay bars.
© The Pink News

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UK: 289 Islamophobic tweets were sent every hour in July

In total 215,246 Islamophobic tweets were sent from English-speaking accounts in July

18/8/2016- The number of times anti-Islamic insults are used on Twitter is rising month-by-month, a new report reveals. Analysis of the social media site found 215,246 Islamophobic tweets were sent in July this year – a staggering 289 every hour. Spikes in offensive language correlated with acts of terrorism, with the largest number of abusive tweets sent the day after the devastating Nice attack, the research says. Researchers at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the Demos think tank, said identifying tweets that were hateful, derogatory and anti-Islamic was “a formidable challenge”. They first collected all tweets that contained one of a list of terms that could be used in an anti-Islamic way, including ‘Jihadi’ and ‘Terrorist.’ Most are too offensive to be published. Between 29 February and 2 August, 34 million tweets meeting the criteria were collected, but most were not anti-Islamic or hateful.

Algorithms were built and used to identify Islamophobic context within a tweet. For example, classifiers were built to separate tweets referring to Islamist terrorism from other forms of terrorism and then distinguish between messages attacking Muslim communities in the context of terrorism, from those defending the communities. The researchers found many of the tweets, which were identified as derogatory and anti-Islamic, included specific references to recent acts of violence and attacked entire Muslim communities in the context of terrorism. The largest of the spikes within July was the day following the Nice terrorist attack, with 21,190 tweets on 15 July. Not far behind, was the day after the shooting of police officers in Dallas on 8 July, when 11,320 Islamophobic tweets were sent. The 17 July was the next worst date, with 10,610 Islamophobic tweets sent the day after the attempted military coup in Turkey, followed by the end of Ramadan on 5 July, with 9,220 tweets.

The day of an IS attack on a church in Normandy on 26 July, 8,950 upsetting tweets were posted, according to the study. The think tank has been monitoring Islamophobic activity on the social network since March and said July recorded the highest volume of derogatory tweets of any month yet. It found an average of 4,972 Islamophobic tweets were sent a day since March. Demos geo-located locate many of the tweets collected and found Islamophobic tweets originating in every EU member state. As only tweets in English were recorded, the majority were traced to English speaking countries. However outside the UK significant concentrations were identified in the Netherlands, France and Germany. In December 2015, Twitter updated its policies to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time. The move has been followed-by agreements with officials in the EU – as well as Facebook and YouTube – to remove hate speech from their networks.

"Our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others," a Twitter spokesperson told the BBC. "We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it's happening and prevent repeat offenders."
© Wired UK

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UK body calls for urgent action to tackle racial inequality

A UK government body has called for urgent action to tackle racial inequality in Britain. It said the country's reputation for tolerance was under threat, accentuated by xenophobic attitudes in the post-Brexit period.

18/8/2016- A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission found the situation has worsened for black people and ethnic minorities on numerous fronts over the past five years. Race it found was the motive behind 82 percent of hate crimes recorded in England and Wales, adding that there was an "unprecedented spike" in hate crimes after Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU. Black people are more than twice as likely than white people to be murdered in England and Wales than white people and three times more likely to be prosecuted and sentenced, the report found. "The combination of the post-Brexit rise in hate crime and deep race inequality in Britain is very worrying and must be tackled urgently," said commission chair David Isaac. "If you are black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you're living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society," he added. Britain can expect widening social divisions and increased racial tensions unless the government takes urgent action to tackle deep-rooted inequalities, the new chair of the watchdog warned.

May or may not
Isaac said he was encouraged to hear commitments to tackle inequality made by Theresa May in her first prime ministerial statement in July, but warned that the government must back this up with a race equality strategy. Previous efforts to address race inequality had been “piecemeal and stuttering” and had amounted more to “one nation platitudes” rather than policies, he said. “So far the government's economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity.

As unequal as ever
In work, black employees with degrees are paid on average 23.1 percent less than their white counterparts. White people are more likely to be employed, better paid and in positions of power, the commission said. The unemployment rate for white British people was recorded as 6.3 percent, compared to 12.9 percent for ethnic minorities. The parliamentary commission said there had been some progress, with an increase in the number of people from ethnic minorities gaining degree-level qualifications. Meanwhile, white working-class boys had the worst GCSE results overall – while conversely Chinese and Indian educational achievement was improving. Just 6 percent of black school leavers attended a Russell Group university compared with 12 percent of mixed and Asian students and 11 percent of white school leavers.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK: BBC Islamophobia discussion interrupted by Islamophobia

‘If you’ve got something to say, then you can say it.’

18/8/2016- A Muslim student was forced to confront Islamophobic abuse in front of BBC cameras, after being interrupted during an interview for a documentary on anti-Muslim hate crimes. Ruqaiya Harris, 23, was being interviewed by journalist Catrin Nye for a BBC report on social media abuse when the incident happened. Talking of the frequent calls for Muslims to condemn acts of terror by so-called Islamic State, Harris said it had now come to the point where “I don’t really think that me condemning these kind of attacks is going to change people’s opinions.” But after making the point, Harris was interrupted by a man called Paul. After repeated interjections, Nye asked the man to keep his voice down, but Paul responded that he was exercising his freedom of expression, before adding “There’s no Sharia law here”. Harris immediately stood up and confronted the man, and is seen on video calling him out for the comment.

“If you’ve got something to say, then you can say it. Do you want to talk about Sharia law. You want to talk about Sharia law to me? We’ll talk about Sharia law. You obviously said it for a reason.” Paul’s defence was that he “wasn’t talking to you”, but the claim failed to convince Harris, who asked: “Who were you talking to? Who were you talking to, Sir?” Paul responded that he felt he and others were losing their freedom of expression, and when quizzed on why, responded: “Because we are. We’re being told to be politically correct when we don’t want to be politically correct.” Harris went to sit down next to him and responded: “Okay listen, political correctness is one thing; I understand that you feel that you want to have a right to say certain things. But we don’t want Sharia law.” Paul responded “Conjecture, whatever”, before saying that Islam was not a religion but an Ideology and walking off.

In a longer video of the incident (incident at 5.45), Harris said she was saddened by the “normalisation” of Islamophobia. “It’s almost like I can’t sit in a park with you and have a conversation without some kind of Islamophobe wanting to get a word in,” she told Nye. Harris also added that many people often “struggled to differentiate” reports they hear and see in the news media on Muslims from everyday Muslims. The footage was released to coincide with the revelation that Islamophobia on Twitter has increased month on month. Think-tank Demos found significant spikes in the use of anti-Islamic language in the immediate aftermath of news events, particularly terrorist attacks. It also discovered that more than 215,000 Islamophobic tweets were sent in July 2016 – an average of 289 per hour. Demos geo-located many of the tweets collected and found Islamophobic tweets originating in every EU member state. As only posts in English were recorded, the majority were traced to English-speaking countries, but outside the UK significant concentrations were found in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: How Brexit brought UKIP to its knees

Leaving the EU was the far-right party’s finest hour — now its future looks bleak.

17/8/2016- Britain may be on its way out of the European Union, but the party that did more than any other to make it happen is in crisis. Since the referendum, the United Kingdom Independence Party has descended into open warfare. After a series of internal disputes, plots and alleged backroom stitch-ups, not a single leading figure in the party made it on to the leadership ballot to replace Nigel Farage, who stood down shortly after the vote for Brexit. If Brexit was the apogee of UKIP power, the party’s decline since then has been dramatic. The prospect of Brexit was the glue that held the party together. Without it the UKIP machine looks dangerously fragile, especially since Prime Minister Theresa May declared “Brexit means Brexit.” The party’s future as an electoral force in British politics is not only of interest to hardline Euroskeptics. UKIP’s electoral prospects will have dramatic implications for British and European politics more widely, from the future of the Labour Party to the prospects of another Conservative victory and any future Brexit deal that might emerge under May’s premiership. All sides in the UKIP civil war admit the party is at a crossroads, and some senior figures are openly saying it might be time to call it a day.

Making plans for after Nigel
There are five candidates in the race to succeed Farage, but almost every senior party figure believes it will be a battle between Lisa Duffy — a local councilor who attracts anti-Farage types of all stripes — and Diane James, a member of the European Parliament who appeals to “mainstream Kippers.” Steven Woolfe, the runaway favorite who was seen as Farage’s chosen successor, was blocked from standing after failing to send in the relevant paperwork on time — he missed the deadline by 17 minutes — and is said to be considering a legal challenge to get back into the contest, two senior party figures in regular contact with him said. Woolfe’s supporters — backed by Farage — are also vowing to call an emergency general meeting to purge those in charge of the party’s internal bureaucracy.

Allies of Woolfe expect his support to transfer to James as long as he remains out of the contest, as most expect. “If Steven was on the ballot, he would’ve won it comfortably,” one close ally said. “In terms of people who are going to vote in this election, it really isn’t a contest.” Senior figures say the party has split into factions: UKIP’s MP Douglas Carswell, party leader in Wales Neil Hamilton and MEP Patrick O’Flynn — all of whom will likely back Duffy — on one side and the bulk of the party loyal to Farage’s vision on the other and likely to support James. “You’ve got the Farage wing of the party, the Hamilton wing and the Carswell wing,” one Woolfe ally said. “The Carswell-Hamilton wing are being quite successful in promoting their candidate Lisa Duffy and are doing reasonably well in media terms. But the actual feeling in the membership is so strong — at least 80 percent is Faragists. That vote would’ve gone to Woolfe, it will now go to Diane James.”

But Raheem Kassam, Farage’s former right-hand man and election supremo, warned against complacency. He said: “It looks to me [like] Lisa Duffy is gaining momentum and endorsements, which is absolutely shambolic.” Part of the reason for that surge, he believes, is the recent backing of veteran UKIP MEP Gerard Batten. “What Gerard brings is a different wing of the party. She’s got the Hamiltonians, she’s got the Carswellites, she’s got the Suzannites [supporting Suzanne Evans, one of the party’s most prominent figures], she’s got the O’Flynnites. Now she’s got the Battenites, who are the people who really want UKIP to go in a more [Dutch far-right leader] Geert Wilders direction,” Kassam said.

Kassam was brutally dismissive of Duffy’s ability. “Lisa is fighting a campaign to win. She’s not fighting a campaign because of anything she believes in. The only thing she genuinely believes in is a KFC bargain bucket.” “The thing about Lisa is she is doing what she is being told to do. She’s saying what she’s being told to say to get the endorsement of other people.” Exactly the same charge is leveled at James. “If Diane is leader I think it will be a nine-month holiday,” one UKIP MEP said. “I would think post next year’s electoral cycle, Arron [Banks, UKIP’s main donor] would have a decision whether it’s Steven [Woolfe] or Nigel [Farage, to take back control of the party]. It will depend on Nigel’s disposition. The danger is you’ve got a seat-warmer rather than a leader.”

Another senior figure in the party and Duffy supporter agreed that Farage casts a long shadow over the party. “Nigel will remain UKIP leader in Brussels. UKIP as a party has very little money and very little patronage and employs very few people. Much of what people think of as UKIP is funded through off-balance-sheet funding and a lot of that goes back to various Brussels-based funds. If he remains in charge of those funds, he will retain enormous patronage.” “He may not be the leader of UKIP, but all those little goons who run around the UKIP office [will be loyal to him]. I suspect that will be his game plan. You notionally take a back seat, but you’ll have all the people in the press office and God knows what else doing what you want. That means you get all the best gigs on Marr [the BBC’s flagship political show] and elsewhere.”

Over and out?
Farage himself is adamant he will not interfere — unless the government renege on Brexit. “I’ll support the party in what it does to keep the pressure up on Brexit. But in terms of being involved in party politics I shan’t be,” he said Tuesday. “My intention is not to stand for election again — any form of election. But if Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit then I’m going to have to. But do I see myself coming back to the party leadership? No, I really don’t.” Farage insisted he would back whichever candidate was elected and would not be a backseat driver. “I’m just not going to do that. That would be very, very foolish and I’ve no intention of doing it.” “I will continue to pop over to the European Parliament to give the odd speech over there, which I enjoy more than they do. As far as UKIP is concerned, I will support the leader, I will support what they want to do.”

But he was scathing about the party’s officials and backed calls from Banks and allies of Woolfe for UKIP to be dramatically overhauled. “We’ve frankly gone backwards over the last year or so,” he said. Farage believes one future for UKIP could be working closely with Leave.EU, the referendum campaign group led by Banks that has developed into a powerful online force in its own right. He said: “I think Leave.EU should morph into a very active political pressure group. After all, the Left have got one — it’s called Momentum [a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting campaign group].” “Banks has got nearly a million people signed up. Of those a large number are pretty active. As an organization, lobbying for causes, keeping up the pressure on Brexit, Banks is in a great position.”

Blame Farage
One senior figure insisted that while the party needed reforming, Farage was to blame for the current state of UKIP. “Nigel was a very overbearing leader. There was a little clique of minions which Nigel would keep, who would run around saying ‘the boss wants this, the boss wants that.’ Which means there’s no corporate competence. That’s been on display recently.” “Anyone [not] slavishly loyal to Nigel, they were dissed at every opportunity. That’s where we are this summer.” Regardless of internal party management there’s no doubt Farage has been electorally indispensable for UKIP. Tom Mludzinski, from the respected pollsters ComRes, said the basis of the party’s success was “the strength of Nigel Farage’s personality.”

“They’ve come a long way in the last few years. Now is a really testing time. They’ve got what they wanted in terms of the referendum. Their battle to stay relevant is going to be quite tricky.” “Where are they looking to be competitive and how they do it? Is it in Conservative seats or Labour heartlands? It looks like they are moving to Labour heartlands, but it’s difficult to see how they can get a leader who could garner as much attention. Without him they are going to have to rethink their strategy.” Unsurprisingly, Farage’s supporters agree. “Look at what’s happened to UKIP since Nigel left,” Kassam said. “The entire thing is crumbling. Nigel was the glue that kept them together. Without that guy there would’ve been no UKIP. They would’ve torn each other limb from limb. They love nothing more than going after each other — I think they love it more than Brexit.” In the end, this is perhaps the one thing which binds UKIP together after Brexit. Whoever wins, the infighting will continue and Farage will remain the most important figure in British Euroskeptic politics.
© Politico EU

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Italy: Amid Fear Of Radical Islam, Opponents Try To Block Construction Mosque

18/8/2016- The construction of a mosque close to Italy’s famous leaning tower of Pisa has come under fire as opponents gather signatures trying to stop the project, claiming it could become a focal point for Islamic radicalization. “According to a recent poll, 57 percent of Pisans are against the mosque,” said politician Gianluca Gambini, one of the leaders of the campaign, the Telegraph reported Thursday. “It’s not just that it would be built in the wrong location, just 400 meters from the Leaning Tower, but also because people know that mosques are places where there is a risk of radicalization.” The construction of the mosque was provisionally approved by the city council, but a petition has gathered 1,800 signatures, according to the Express.

Italian politician Magdi Allam, who is a convert to Christianity from Islam, called the petition as “Italian revolution” and has spoken out against Islam in the past. The petition comes at a moment of heightened attention and debates over Islam in Europe. Terror attacks by members and sympathizers of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Paris and Brussels over the past year have led to heightened security and debates over radicalization. Italian authorities deported a Tunisian national last week who they said was planning an attack on the leaning tower of Pisa. A police report on the case said there was “evidence the Tunisian sympathized with extremism and ISIS,” AFP reported. Italy has not been hit by a large-scale terror attack.

The petition in Italy is just the latest case of controversy and backlash surrounding Muslims in Europe. In Germany the far right Alternative for Germany party tried to block the construction of a mosque earlier this year. In France, five towns have banned women from wearing burkini, full body bathing suits worn primarily by Muslim women, at the breach. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls voiced his support of the ban Wednesday saying the clothing was part of “the enslavement of women.”
© The International Business Times

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Swiss-Italian frontier becomes flashpoint in Europe's migrant crisis

16/8/2016- Nine months pregnant and desperate to cross from Italy into Switzerland after fleeing Ethiopia, a young woman along with her husband are among hundreds stranded by a Swiss border clampdown that is drawing international scrutiny. Swiss authorities reject accusations they are violating would-be refugees' rights to seek asylum. But a growing throng of migrants waiting near Como in northern Italy and aid workers tell a different story: The Swiss border is effectively closed. "Wait here until we understand the situation," volunteer Lisa Bosia Mirra told the Ethiopian couple, who did not give their names, after they sought her help with Swiss asylum applications. "One week at least."

Mirra, a member of the regional parliament in Switzerland's Italian-speaking Ticino region that borders Italy, told them not to try to cross until then, since to be registered and deported could dash any hope of winning Swiss asylum. Still, the pair, fearing the prospect of the mother giving birth in a Como park without shelter or sanitation, said they would try their luck anyway and enter Switzerland, a longtime haven for refugees, by train. Several hundred migrants have slept on towels and blankets in the park near Como's train station since the Swiss clampdown began in mid-July, separating people from relatives or friends who had crossed some months before. Non-governmental and human rights groups like Amnesty International and Bosia's Associazone Firdaus have called for clarifications from Switzerland over migrants' claims that they were denied a chance to speak to border authorities and that requests to seek Swiss asylum went unheeded. Swiss left-wing politicians are checking for possible violations of Swiss asylum law.

With the migrant crisis now in its third year, more people are arriving and more are dying on often dangerous journeys to Europe from northern Africa and the Middle East. For many migrants, Italy has become the gateway into Europe now that - in response to a public backlash over the more than one million who streamed to the continent in 2015 - borders have slammed shut along the Balkan corridor and an accord between Turkey and the EU has stemmed an influx into Greece. More than 140,000 asylum seekers are now housed in Italian shelters, up sevenfold from 2013. Italy has increasingly struggled to cope as Austria, France and Switzerland have turned back migrants seeking onward travel.

"Failure of Dublin System"
In Switzerland, asylum requests fell by more than a third year on year in July, even as those trying to enter rose. Last week alone, Swiss border guards swept up nearly 1,800 people trying to cross from Italy without permission. More than two-thirds have been turned away since July, up from one in seven through June this year. Swiss Customs said this upholds the law - under Europe's so-called Dublin System for handling refugees, migrants can be returned to their first country of registry - and reflects a rise in migrants aiming to transit elsewhere in Europe. Under Swiss law, its Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must process anyone requesting asylum. That means border officers or police must put asylum seekers in SEM's care even if they are ultimately deemed ineligible to stay.

But many of Como's migrants, including minors, told Reuters in interviews that they were rebuffed directly at the border despite presenting documents showing they sought to join family in Switzerland. It remains unclear if people were being rejected en masse under any formal policy, Bosia said. Norman Gobbi, the local Swiss police director, has told local media of a more restrictive practice where only plausible asylum requests were being considered. Those requesting asylum only after being rebuffed for initially saying they wanted to travel onward were being returned to Italy, he said. "This situation is an expression of the failure of the Dublin system," Swiss parliamentarian Carlo Sommaruga said last week as he met young Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis, many of them children, who traveled across Egypt and Libya to Europe.

These young people told stories of persecution at home - a father jailed, an uncle murdered, women raped - which they said made fleeing necessary. Abdurre Dire showed scars on his hands, face and wrist he said came from police in his native Ethiopia. "If I had not left, they would have killed me," he said.
© Reuters

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For left-behinders, populists paint a picture of a better future

The new normal is unlikely to be a return to settled party rule, writes John Lloyd

16/8/2016- Too much attention is being paid to how bad populist leaders such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Jeremy Corbyn are, and to how their programmes, left or right, will ruin the countries they aspire to govern. There is too little focus on the hope and optimism they give their many millions of followers. It is true, for example, that Mr Corbyn, leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, cuts no figure as a prime minister-in-waiting, as most of his parliamentary colleagues have discovered. But the minority support he attracts to Labour — and more importantly the signal sent by the Brexiter majority in June — speak clearly of frustration and resentment at being “left behind”. It is the constituency to which Hillary Clinton spoke in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination in the US presidential race: “Some of you are frustrated — even furious. And you know what? You’re right.”

Other EU countries are not faced with Frexit, Itexit or Deuxit but their political establishments also have “left-behinders” who refuse to support the mainstream parties. The popularity rating of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, rose to 27 per cent, according to a BVA opinion poll published last month, surpassing François Hollande, the Socialist president, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, of the centre-right Republicans. In Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic party lost the mayoralties of Rome and Turin in June to the Five Star Movement, an inchoate populist party that demands a referendum on the euro and leads, narrowly, in several opinion polls. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) won seats in some state legislatures this year and is calling for a vote on EU membership. The anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats have been challenging the Social Democrats, who lead the government, in opinion polls. In Austria, the re-run of April’s election in October may put Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom party in the presidential palace.

In the US and Europe, rising inequality, wage stagnation and workplace insecurity merge with concern about fragmenting communities, exacerbated by fear of unregulated immigration and terrorism. The fusion of these forces produces a popular energy that in America went rightwards, to Mr Trump of the Republicans, and left to Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton’s former rival for the Democratic nomination. In Europe, it mainly goes to the right. A large part of working class voters in the leading states of the democratic west favour rightwing politics as a bulwark against immigration, as a protest against the ending of secure work with steadily rising incomes and as a poke in the eye of their elites.

After the June referendum in the UK, mainly working and lower middle-class people appeared in interviews lamenting the loss of community, the presence of immigrants who did not become part of it, and the threat of the EU displacing Westminster as a sovereign power. Such talk is often dismissed as a search for better yesterdays but it also speaks to a wish to make the UK a better place than it has, for these respondents, become. Mr Corbyn wants to make his country a better place through socialism; Mr Trump favours America First; Ms Le Pen, national revival outside the EU. Too few critics recognise that for millions these are sketches of a better society. The established parties will probably prevail. Mrs Clinton is probably the next US president. Mr Corbyn is not expected to occupy 10 Downing Street. Ms Le Pen may make it into the second round of the presidential election — only to be beaten heavily in the final vote, just as her father was in 2002. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government still commands the centre, right and left.

But the new normal is not likely to be a return to settled party rule. Political elites have neither vigorously enough renewed their offerings to the electors nor shared their disillusionment. The moderates in the UK Labour party, for example, have failed to produce a vision for a new relationship between social democracy and a much changed capitalism and globalisation since the Third Way debates under Tony Blair in the 1990s. In Europe, the future of the euro is threatened by EU ambivalence about where sovereignty should lie and the failure of the single currency to be either stable or a mechanism for closer union. This is a fearful time, with popular authoritarian leaders to Europe’s east probing for advantage. Liberals of left or right cannot emulate the populists but their leaders have no choice but to work harder at shaping a politics of freedom that does not feel like in-difference to left-behinders on the part of out-in-fronters.
John Lloyd is an FT contributing editor
© The Financial Times*

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Germany treads cautiously in court case to ban far-right party

18/8/2016- In his decade as a neo-Nazi skinhead in eastern Germany, Manuel Bauer says he beat up foreigners and disabled people, stabbed a cigarette in the eye of a 12-year old boy and assaulted a Muslim man and his pregnant German wife. Bauer, who led two racist gangs, the "League of Aryan Fighters" and "Revenge Act", says groups like his carried out violence on behalf of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which has a seat in the European Parliament and five seats in one of Germany's 16 state assemblies. Bauer was jailed on a 22 month sentence for extortion, causing bodily harm and arson, before he quit the right-wing scene with the help of a support group. Today he works with refugees from Afghanistan and Syria. He says the NPD should be banned. "There is too much democracy if you allow anti-democratic forces like (the NPD) to exist," said Bauer.

The NPD denies that it is behind violence, and says it is being unfairly targeted as a group over the behavior of some individuals. Reuters was not able to verify independently any relationship between the party and Bauer's former groups. The upper house of parliament is trying to impose just such a ban. It has lodged a court case which alleges the NPD is inspired by the Third Reich, believes in ethnic German supremacy and incites people to torch refugee hostels. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule in coming months. Germany recorded 1,408 violent acts carried out by right wing supporters last year, a more than 42 percent rise from the previous year, and 75 arson attacks on refugee shelters, up from five a year earlier, according to an annual report by the BfV domestic intelligence agency published in June.

But at a time when far right parties are winning votes across Europe, and Germany itself is struggling to integrate an unprecedented influx of more than 1 million foreigners last year, some experts in right-wing extremism say a ban could be counterproductive. Germany's federal government, while officially supporting the case, has declined to sign on as a party to it. A ban would deprive the NPD of around 1 million euros it receives in public funds as a lawful political party, and prevent it from contesting future elections, although it is not clear what would happen to its existing seats. The party would be barred from holding rallies in public, and the authorities could punish people who persisted as members. But in practice, followers could avert punishment by forming new organizations, or take their activities under ground, making them harder to detect.

That would “make it even more difficult to recognize right-wing extremist players and to develop appropriate ways of countering them,” said Matthias Quent, director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society in Jena, in eastern Germany. “Bans can easily lead to people and small groups being criminalized and being driven underground and then they radicalize. Then the danger, which is already large, from right-wing terrorism would increase.”

Federal Government Stays Out of Case
The NPD publicly disavows violence and rejects accusations by the authorities that it is connected to skinhead gangs like the ones Bauer used to lead, or to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) blamed for the murders of nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. NPD lawyer Peter Richter said it was wrong to judge the party based on the actions of individuals. "No one can predict whether an acquaintance who seems completely normal today will tomorrow commit a terrible crime," argues Richter in his defense to the court, which he sent to Reuters in response to a request for comment. Individual NPD figures have fallen afoul of German laws that ban Holocaust denial and punish praise of the Nazis.

The NPD's European lawmaker Udo Voigt has described Hitler as a "great German statesman". Before being elected to the European parliament, he was found guilty of incitement, including honoring Hitler's SS. He was given a 10-month suspended sentence which was upheld on appeal. The case to ban the NPD is being brought on behalf of the Bundesrat, parliament's upper house, which represents Germany's 16 regional state governments. The federal government's decision not to sign on as a party to the case is seen by some as a sign that Berlin is uncertain of the wisdom of pursuing a ban. The government denies it is half-hearted. "The German government, in particular the BfV domestic intelligence agency, supports the Bundesrat case for a ban and is contributing its expertise. The government therefore does not deem it necessary to have its own motion," said a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry.

She also noted however that a ban's impact would be limited since it "cannot eliminate the extremist mindset". Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, justice minister from 2009-2013 when the federal government was considering its position in the court case, said there was a high risk the trial could conclude without a ban, making it counter-productive. “The NPD is an appalling party. But that is not sufficient for a case to ban them,” she has said.

Banning Difficult
Despite Germany's strict laws against hate crime and expressing Nazi sympathies, it also sets high hurdles for outlawing political groups. Only two parties have been banned since World War Two - the Socialist Reich Party, a successor to Hitler's Nazis, in 1952, and the Communist Party in 1956. "A ban is a heavy weapon and the hope was, after the war, it wouldn't have to be used. But it is there if necessary," said Christian Pestalozza, a law professor in Berlin. The NPD has been around since 1964 and survived a previous government lawsuit to ban it, which collapsed in 2003 as some of the party officials used as witnesses turned out to be government-paid informants. To ban a party, the Constitutional Court has to find that a party's aims or behavior seek to undermine or abolish German democracy. But it also has to find that it poses a genuine, serious threat. Declining public support for the NPD may make this harder to prove, said a senior legal source.

Support for the NPD has dwindled as Germany's migration crisis has changed right wing politics, with parties that express dissatisfaction with immigration growing far bigger than ever before, but also trying to distance themselves from the radical right fringe to win over more mainstream voters. This past year, a new group, the AfD, founded in 2013, has seen its support in opinion polls swell to about 12 percent by adopting an anti-immigrant stance, while disavowing the far-right trappings and rhetoric of groups like the NPD. The NPD is too small to appear in most opinion polls, but German officials estimate its support has ebbed to just 1 percent from closer to 1.5 percent. NPD membership has fallen to just 5,200 from around 7,000 a decade ago. The AfD now has seats in eight state legislatures, compared to the NPD's one.

Removing The Swastika
For Bauer, banning the NPD is necessary to stop far right politicians from using racist gangs as muscle. After prison, fearing reprisals, he left his home in the state of Saxony, gave up his nickname "Pistol" and removed tattoos including a swastika. He spoke to Reuters at a location he asked to keep confidential to protect his security. NPD lawyer Richter said he had never heard of Bauer and had no comment on his allegations. Bauer was never a member of the NPD but says some members of his racist gangs were linked to the party, which provided them with vehicles. While party figures would keep their hands clean, they would use gang members to carry out violence, he said, without naming the party figures involved. "If I've got a business and want to harm my enemy I can get someone else to do it for money or for a promise. That's how the NPD does it," said Bauer, between long puffs on a cigarette. "It was racist. We were against people with mental and physical disabilities. Everything the Third Reich targeted."
© Reuters

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Germany: Merkel's deputy flips bird at far-right protesters

16/8/2016- A top German politician has received applause — and some criticism — after making an unambiguous gesture of disdain toward far-right protesters. A video posted online late Tuesday shows Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel flipping the bird at a group of neo-Nazis in the central German town of Salzgitter on Friday. The clip shows about 10 far-right protesters holding placards accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy of being a “race traitor” and praising Gabriel’s late father, a committed Nazi. At first, the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party is seen laughing at the demonstrators before raising his middle finger and turning away. While some on social media criticized Gabriel for his coarse reaction, many praised the gesture, with one user on Facebook commenting: “I can’t like that often enough.”
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Berlin cuts ties with refugee housing firm after 'unspeakable' emails

A guillotine to behead migrant children? Berlin has fired a company operating shelters for asylum seekers after senior managers exchanged remarks to that effect - and more.

15/8/2016- In a flurry of emails, they went on in great detail about children to be beheaded by a guillotine, the corpses later to be burned in a "large-volume crematorium." The senior PeWoBe employees seem to have greatly enjoyed their fantasies. Now, perhaps, they no longer find it a laughing matter: The city of Berlin has canceled its contract with the refugee housing management company. PeWoBe, which stands for "Professional Housing and Assistance Company," runs 11 refugee shelters in the German capital, and several more in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. The firm prides itself on offering residents an "adequate support service by professionally trained staff," a glance at its website shows.

Far beyond gallows humor
Now that the internal correspondence full of macabre remarks has merged, professionalism is the last thing that comes to mind in connection with PeWoBe. Via email, several senior employees discussed what they should do with a 5,000 euro ($5,600) donation. A sandbox was out of the question because the residents "would quickly turn it into an ashtray or a local toilet," wrote Peggy M, director of one of the shelters. Instead, she suggested getting a "child guillotine." Other employees sent her photos of guillotines and decapitated heads. Beheadings are so messy, another female colleague warned: "There's always splatter." They also discuss a crematorium for which they would award an environmental certificate because the waste heat "is used for a cause." "We're so good," the employee concluded, adding that the "maximally pigmented" refugees could do the cleaning up.

The email correspondence was leaked to the city of Berlin, and over the weekend, the media began to pick it up. "The current handling of the unspeakable - and as far as I'm concerned inexplicable and unjustifiable - email correspondence shows that we can no longer work with PeWoBe," Berlin Social Affairs Minister Mario Czaja said. Apart from the emails, indications of deficiencies in several shelters had led to doubts concerning the company's "suitability" for the job, he said. "Even after repeated inspections, the problems hadn't been solved," Czaja said. The contract was canceled without notice, he added: "We're looking for a new management company. None of the shelters will be closed."

Litany of complaints
PeWoBe first made the headlines three years ago when crowds including far-right extremists protested for weeks against the company's refugee housing in Berlin's eastern Hellersdorf district. The local "Hellersdorf Hilft" (Hellersdorf Helps) initiative has long complained about conditions at the shelter - and more recently, about the shelter's new director. Peggy M. has a far-right background and ran for a far-right party in local elections the town of Bernau in 2008. It turns out this is the same woman who raved about guillotines for children. At the Hellersdorf shelter, she is said to have introduced herself to the refugees with the words "Me boss, you nothing." The initiative says she immediately disconnected Wi-Fi at the shelter. "It's unfortunate that it took this email scandal for the company to be dismissed," the initiative's press spokesman Stephan Jung said, adding that there had always been sufficient grounds.

The refugees regularly complained of an atmosphere of intimidation, Jung said, but declined to give more details because PeWoBe has filed for injunctive relief, threatening a lawsuit against the initiative. "We're a small group of volunteers," Jung said, adding that "Hellersdorf Hilft" can't afford to go to court. A look into the archives of local Berlin newspapers reveals irregularities in connection with PeWoBe. The company allegedly forged employee lists in order to conceal the fact that they had far fewer staff than the city of Berlin stipulates. Also in connection with the company, the suspended head of Berlin's Department for Health and Social Affairs is being investigated for allegedly having referred assignments to PeWoBe because his godson was head of a firm entangled with PeWoBe through shareholdings.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Far right in uproar after police break up 'political' BBQ

Local officials say the group hid their political reasons for meeting from the city in order to rent out a space to grill.

15/8/2016- Police reported on Saturday that officers had called an end to a grillside gathering of around 50 “openly right-leaning people” in Ebersburg near Fulda, Hesse. A police spokesman told The Local that someone from the group had rented out the space, saying they were going to celebrate there, but hid the group’s political leanings. Officers then noticed that the group had banners with such statements as “Kaiserreich” (German Empire) and paratrooper-style jump boots - typical apparel of far-right scene members. “It was clear that they only had political purposes in meeting,” the spokesman said. “If officials had known the political reasons, they would not have allowed them to rent the space.” After consulting with local authorities who said the gathering should not be permitted, “strong police forces” then arrived to put an end to the event. Police said that the group was cooperative and left without any confrontations or need for arrests. The spokesman explained that local officials have the final say in who is allowed to rent out such spaces, so long as they do not discriminate against certain protected minority groups. But journalists at the right-wing newspaper Junge Freiheit criticized the police action on social media. Editor Felix Krautkrämer took issue on Twitter with how the police report stated that the group had "withheld their views" when they booked the grilling space. "Notice: if someone is 'right-leaning', that must always be honestly specified when renting a grill space," he writes.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: At least 10 injured in huge fire at Hessen migrant centre

14/8/2016- Shocking photos shows a huge plume of black smoke rising from the site, which is made up of dozens of accommodation units. At least 20 of the containers were believed to be ablaze in the central German state of Hessen. Eight-hundred migrants are currently living at the site, with accommodation buildings housing 120 of them damaged in the devastating fire. Most of those injured are suffering from smoke inhalation. There have been hundreds of arson attacks on migrant centres or organisations in Germany in recent months. At least 665 centres have been attacked in 2016 alone, according to a recent police report, who said the majority were “clearly” far-right inspired. However, police investigating the cause of the fire have already ruled out arson. They believe the fire started accidentally within the site itself.
© The Express

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German far-right leader wants to send refugees to islands outside Europe

13/8/2016- The head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) says Berlin should send rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to islands outside Europe and turn its refugee office into an emigration bureau. The influx of over one million migrants last year fueled support for the AfD, which now has seats in eight of Germany's 16 state assemblies and is expected to make a strong showing in state votes next month in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Party leader Frauke Petry made the suggestions in an interview with the Bild newspaper published on Saturday. "Illegal migrants and asylum seekers whose applications are rejected will be accommodated on the two islands outside Europe that are protected by the United Nations," Petry added, without naming the two islands she had in mind.

German media interpreted her remarks as a reference to Nauru and Manus, two Pacific islands where Australia funds camps to hold asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach its shores by boat. They are told they will never be settled in Australia. "I propose the transformation of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees into an office for emigration, which ensures that all illegal migrants leave this land as soon as possible," Petry added. The refugee office has been overwhelmed since last year with hundreds of thousands of asylum applications. Known for her fiery speeches to AfD supporters, Petry sparked an uproar earlier this year when she called for German police to be allowed to use firearms against illegal migrants. Most of the more than one million migrants who arrived in Germany last year are refugees escaping war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
© Reuters

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Austria: Arson attempt on Turkish center, 2 arrested

15/8/2016- Two suspects were arrested after they threw Molotov cocktails at the offices of a Turkish association in the Austrian city of Wels late on Sunday. The attack on the Avrasya Culture and Sports Association comes at a time of rising anti-Turkish sentiment in Austria fueled by far-right politicians. Police said the two suspects may have links to the PKK, and the head of the association complained that they were a target of both the PKK and far-right groups. Mustafa Arslantaļ said the attack left some windows of the building shattered, but police said the Molotov cocktails did not light the building on fire. "Turks currently face prejudice all across Europe. We are targeted by both the PKK and the far-right," Arslantaļ said, without elaborating on threats they had received.

An investigation is underway into the motives of the arson attempt. Those of Turkish origin in Austria faced reaction from authorities after they staged rallies against the coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey. Austrian politicians criticized the demonstrations in favor of Turkey and a town banned the display of Turkish flags in residences. Wels is governed by the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Norbert Hofer, a presidential candidate who is known for his staunch opposition to Turkey's European Union membership. Hofer said in a recent interview that Austria should remove citizenship for Turks after he questioned their "loyalty."
© The Daily Sabah

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Austria: Hofer proposes burka ban and Turkish passport blocks

The far-right presidential candidate has kicked off his election campaign with an interview in which he supports a ban on burkas in Austria, as well as blocking Turkey's proposed EU membership.

14/8/2016- In an interview published on Sunday with the mass circulation Oesterreich tabloid, Norbert Hofer, the far-right Freedom Party's (FPÖ) candidate for president of Austria, outlined his position on several topics, including a proposed burka ban, similar to the one in France. Matching a similar position to this political opponents, Hofer also supports a block on negotiation with Turkey over an EU accession. He goes further however by suggesting that if Turkey does join, or the EU doesn't reform to allow more freedom for member states, then he would support an Austrian exit from the EU institutions. After recent security incidents in neighbouring countries, Hofer is now leading in the polls for the re-run of the presidential elections, due on October 2nd.

When asked if he was confident of victory, he responded: "I'm not sure of victory. But I am an optimistic and life-affirming human being and hope it ends well. When I meet people on a mountain bike tour who want to be photographed with me, the response is always positive." He characterized his independent opponent, Alexander Van der Bellen, as both a Green, and a former communist, while describing himself as a Libertarian. When asked about Brexit, and the far-right parties in France and Netherlands who are adamant for an EU exit by their countries, Hofer admitted that they are not in agreement on all points, such as nuclear power, which he opposes. In any case, he suggested that if he is elected as President, he will suspend his membership of the FPÖ, and focus on working solely at a federal level, in the interests of Austria as a whole.

Hofer also called for an investigation into the rapid mobilization of Turkish residents in Austria, which saw over 5,000 demonstrators on the streets of Vienna in the wake of the failed coup attempt in Turkey. In particular, he was concerned about how many of those Turks kept their Turkish citizenship, which is illegal due to Austria's strict dual-citizenship laws. He specifically called for a ban on naturalization of Turks resident in Austria, until the dual citizenship issue can be resolved. In a related question, Hofer talked about Germany's discussion on a possible ban on religious clothing, such as a burka. "Yes, and I think [a ban] makes sense. It's not the case that someone says, 'Wow, I want to go to Austria and must not wear my burqa.' No. I need to know in advance that there is a burqa ban and then I can decide if I want to come."
© The Local - Austria

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Denmark: Muslim school vandalised with anti-Islam graffiti

“Fuck Islam” and “Islam out of DK” sprayed on school walls

14/8/2016- Denmark’s first Muslim boarding school, which is located near Fuglebjerg in southern Zealand – was on Wednesday night vandalised with anti-Islam graffiti. The walls of the school were sprayed with hate messages such as “Fuck Islam” and “Islam out of DK”, while several windows were painted with targets. The school staff were shocked and shaken, and the Danish Islamic Community (DIT) has called on Danish politicians to distance themselves from Islamophobia.

Condemn racist hate crimes
“This is the most uncomfortable thing I have experienced,” Ahmet Deniz, the school’s headteacher, told sn.dk. “When a Muslim boarding school is openly harassed as grossly as in this case, politicians should distance themselves from it and condemn racist hate crimes of any kind,” stated DIT. Local police said they were treated the vandalism as a serious case. “We don’t know if it was just a boyish prank, but we would rather not have this developed into something extremist,” Peter Haslund, a police officer from Næstved Police, told DR.
© The Copenhagen Post.

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Czech tour bus owner removing Auschwitz design following uproar

18/8/2016- The owner of a Czech tour bus that advertised the Auschwitz extermination camp as an emotion-packed holiday destination will remove the vehicle’s controversial design showing oversized pictures of inmates from the Nazi extermination camp and a massive yellow Star of David. The action comes following an outcry from Czech Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders. “I’m taking it off today and tomorrow, and it will be gone,” the owner of the tour company that operates the bus, Svatopluk Strava, told JTA on Thursday. “Most of it has been removed already.” The design completely covered the vehicle. Along with the inmates’ photos and the Star of David, it featured a picture of the notorious Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) inscription as well as the slogans “Let’s Go to Auschwitz,” “A Journey through Emotions” and “Our Guides Speak Czech.”

The design was applied in June when the vehicle, owned by Balkanbus, a small tour agency based in BluŤina, some 135 miles southeast of Prague, was used as a prop in a “stylized documentary” depicting the life of a Czech neo-Nazi and his family. The film, titled “The World According to Little Dalibor,” includes a scene of the main characters visiting the Auschwitz memorial, according to the film’s director, Vít Klusák. “While working on the scene, we came across the strange world of the adventure tourism industry in the former death camps,” Klusak told JTA. “Our bus was a critical reflection of this phenomenon. I think it is extremely absurd and tasteless that Auschwitz and Terezín are being advertised just like Disneyland or Niagara Falls.”

After the filming concluded, however, the filmmakers and the bus owner failed to make sure the satirical design was taken down. Klusák said the producers would pay for the removal, but Strava was concerned the paint on the bus could be damaged in the process and decided to keep the design. He used the bus for several trips to Auschwitz, but soon heard from the Czech Jewish leaders. “We wrote letters in mid-July to the film production company and to the bus operator telling them that we considered the design of the bus offensive and tasteless, and we asked the bus owner to remove it,” said Petr Papoušek, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic. “But we didn’t hear back from either of them, and we were considering legal action.”

The uproar stunned Strava. “I didn’t realize it was going to be such a scandal,” he said. “I’m no Holocaust denier, I regularly take Czech schoolchildren to Auschwitz, and I always get goose bumps thinking of what had happened there. So I just removed it, and if the paint is damaged, I’ll be considering suing the filmmakers for the costs.”
© JTA News

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Czech Rep: Uproar over Ďsatiricalí bus advertising Auschwitz vacations

Old movie prop promoting the Nazi death camp as fun holiday destination decried by local Holocaust survivors, Jewish leaders

16/8/2016- A “satirical” tour bus in the Czech Republic advertising the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a fun holiday destination has been condemned by Holocaust survivors and local Jewish leaders. The camp’s notorious sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work sets you free”) is seen emblazoned on the side of the double-decker bus alongside a large Star of David and images of real Jewish victims murdered by Nazi Germany. Text along the side of the bus cheerfully urges people to “Come to Auschwitz — A journey through emotions,” and notes, “Our guides speak Czech!” The bus was originally made as a film prop for a satirical movie by Czech director Vit Klusak examining the emerging Holocaust tourist industry in Eastern Europe. However, after filming was completed the bus was sold to a local tour company that has refused to remove the decorations.

Critics have slammed the bus advertisements as insensitive and have called for the bus to be repainted. Holocaust survivor Erika Bezdickova, whose entire family were murdered at Auschwitz, said she was “absolutely appalled when I spotted the bus,” according to Britain’s Daily Mail. “I think that only a person with no moral decency could make a business out of the Auschwitz catastrophe,” she added. “Not only is it reprehensible, but those responsible should be punished too.” According to the report, Prague Jewish Museum Director Leo Pavlat has contacted the bus owner requesting the images be removed immediately. The owner, Svatopluk Xaver, said he cannot afford the $1,670 it would cost to remove the stickers and repaint the vehicle.
© The Times of Israel

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Czech Rep: Pride Parade gets 40,000 marchers

14/8/2016- The annual Prague Pride parade on Aug. 13 saw some 40,000 participants, according to preliminary estimates from the Czech Police as well as a private security firm. If confirmed, this would be a record for the event. There were very few counter protesters, just a few stray individuals with signs, and no reported clashes. This was the sixth annual parade, the first one in 2011 had some 7,000 participants and it has grown more or less each year, depending on the weather. While most people missed it, at the end of this year's parade there was a tribute to the victims of the massacre at an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida. A sign saying “We are Orlando” hung from the bridge »echýv most, and 49 black balloons, one for each victim, were released as the parade approached the entry to Letná Park.

The parade, which began in Wenceslas Square and ended in Letná, was headed by Omar Sharif Jr, the grandson of the famous actor. The younger Sharif has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights in the Middle East. Following him in a separate car were two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of gay men and trans women who wear flamboyant versions of nuns' habits but also do a lot of charitable outreach to for the gay and trans community, as well as the homeless and those afflicted with HIV. Sister Roma and Sister Vish before and after the parade were available for selfies. Sister Roma claims to be the most photographed nun in the world. The two nuns came from San Fransisco. The lead banner of the parade said (in Czech) “I love _____,” which was one of the themes of this year's Pride Week.

Marching unofficially in front of the parade — between the police vanguard and the first banner — was a man in a Batman costume. Whether he had any message or just simply enjoyed a good parade was not clear. Another prominent vehicle in the parade was from the US Embassy. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro and other embassy staff gave out flags, pins, beads, roses and candy to people at the start of the parade and along the route. He and other volunteers sported shirts saying that LGBT rights are human rights. At the party at Letná the staff distributed a quiz of LGBT milestones, and gave out pins and similar prizes. Some Czech political parties also had a big presence in the parade. The Greens and the Pirates both had contingents behind banners and carried signs showing support of LGBT issues and rights. A group marching under an anarchist red banner with a raised fist had signs calling for free love, not a free market.

The NGO Amnesty International had people with signs calling for more respect of human rights. Several companies also had a prominent presence including tech firms Microsoft and IBM and PR firm Ogilvy. Local gay-friendly establishments like Erra Cafe had a visible presence. Signs could be seen from foreign groups coming from Germany and Norway, among other places. Religious people who were pro-LGBT had a large presence this year, with signs saying the two ideas did not have to be contradictory. Most people, however, marched in small groups of friends with signs carrying their own messages about LGBT rights. Wearing a rainbow flag as a cape was a popular accessory this year, even more so than in previous years. Flower garlands also were visible, with one small group turning it into a Hawaiian theme with a ukelele. Several dogs also sported rainbow flower necklaces and seemed to enjoy the excitement even if the issues were over their heads a bit.

Perhaps because the turnout was even higher than last year, the percentage of flamboyantly dressed or underdressed people seemed small compared to those in regular street clothes with some rainbow decoration. A few people had leather animal masks, and small handful wore outfits of leather straps and metal rings. There was a Conchita Wurst impersonator and handful of old-school drag queens with elaborate wigs and makeup. Signs offering free hugs were prominent. The parade ended with a party in Letná Park, with two stages and a ring of stands offering everything form food and beverages to free and confidential HIV testing. Pride Week did not end with the parade. There was a picnic on Sunday, Aug. 14, and some other final events.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Greece: Helping refugees get facts, not rumors

Many refugees are at a loss in their makeshift camps in Greece. Volunteers have set out to help them get the information they need and debunk false rumors. Marianna Karakoulaki reports from Thessaloniki.

13/8/2016- When refugees were stranded in Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border, new rumors about the border being open again emerged every other day. People would pack their belongings and run towards the Macedonian fence only to be pushed back - oftentimes with force. Although most refugees are now in official refugee camps in Greece, those rumors have not stopped. There is a new story almost every day about the re-opening of the Balkan route, organizations supposedly giving refugees pocket money or how long people will have to wait in Greece. These rumors then lead to heated arguments among refugees. With an estimated figure of more than 57,000 refugees in the country, and new arrivals of approximately 70-170 people per day, the task of informing people of their rights and options is challenging. Volunteers have set out to help them get the right information they need.

The "Mobile Info Team" provides answers to the refugees' most pressing questions. Those who initially created the team sometime in March were part of a soup kitchen in Idomeni at the time. "While delivering soup we had the feeling that there were so many questions, but very few answers," Michael, one of the volunteers here, told DW. Michael, 36, from Germany initially planned to stay in Greece for two weeks. He has been here for almost seven months now. He arrived in Idomeni in January and was chopping off vegetables at a soup kitchen that was providing healthy food to refugees before joining the Mobile Info Team. They decided it was important to have a place "where people could come and learn anything they need," he added.

Different kind of aid
Several times a day, they go out and meet with refugees at ten different camps around Thessaloniki. Due to restricted access for independent volunteers to several camps, the team holds the sessions outside of each camp. By now, refugees know when to expect "the people who have the answers" as many say. The team also has a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and a blog where they share information in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu - the languages most of the refugees here speak. The seven members of the self-funded group spend a lot of time researching, evaluating and cross-checking the information they give out. They share details from news sources to official reports by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Greek authorities and information they get from direct contact with groups of lawyers and other NGOs. "We try to always provide reliable information and refute misinformation with every way that we can," Giorgos Kyritsis, the government's spokesman for the migration crisis, told DW. "Anyone [who] arrives in Greece is fully informed of their status in English and where possible in their mother tongue," the government official added. He said Greece couldn't have predicted the need of interpreters, "but volunteers and NGOs provide a helping hand and we do everything that is possible," Kyritsis said.

'No one explained the details'
As the Mobile Info Team sets up their mobile "office" - a white plastic table, some chairs and wooden boards - groups of refugees start approaching. The team's blue van moves from camp to camp; today, the volunteers are outside the refugee camp of Softex near Thessaloniki. "We do have some information from the UNHCR, but everything makes much more sense after talking to the Info Team and reading their flyers," a Syrian refugee who lives at Softex told DW. "For example we were told that relocation might take several months, but no one explained all the details." Khalid, 34, is the heart of the team. He's a refugee himself from Iraq who arrived in Lesvos in early March waiting to be relocated in Europe. As soon as he got to Greece, Khalid started helping out volunteers, doctors, and oftentimes the police with translations. "Unfortunately, the most common questions we get are the most difficult to answer," he said. As Khalid explains, most refugees want to know how long they will have to wait in Greece - but there is no clear and specific timeframe and it may take from two months from the time of their relocation interview till six or more.

The volunteers say face-to-face meetings are more important than the online resources they share. Michael adds it's getting more and more difficult to leave the people they are helping as they've formed close relationships with some of them. "It is difficult to let go when there is so much need." Khalid on the other hand believes that those who, in an unfortunate turn of luck, found themselves stranded in Greece should help one another because they are all in the same situation. "While living in the makeshift camp of EKO near Idomeni I noticed there was a serious lack of translators, that's why I started helping volunteers," Khalid said. "I was living in uncertainty; I know how it is and how people feel." He also said they often have negative news for the refugees - especially when they need to inform people that they might need to stay in the refugee camps for a long time as their relocation may take several months. "But it is something that needs to be done," Khalid added.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Headlines 12 August, 2016

France: Human rights groups vow to challenge burkini ban on Cannes beaches

Muslim organisations also among those to decry ruling signed off by mayor David Lisnard outlawing full-body swimsuits

12/8/2016- A French human rights association and Muslim groups have said they will take legal action against the mayor of Cannes for issuing a decree banning burkinis from the resort’s beaches. David Lisnard signed off on a ruling last month preventing women from wearing the full-body swimsuits in the Côte d’Azur town. The decree was introduced shortly after the Bastille day attack in Nice in July, where a delivery driver killed 85 people when he ploughed into crowds celebrating the French national holiday on the seafront. The decree states that Muslim women wearing burkinis could be a threat to public order and will be cautioned and fined €38 (£33). “Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent,” it says.

Thierry Migoule, the head of Cannes municipal services, said: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach ... but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us.” Lawyers, human rights groups and Muslim associations have described the decree as illegal and preposterous.  In a statement, Hervé Lavisse from the Cannes-Grasse section of the French Human Rights League said: “This is an abuse of law and we will take it to court.” Rightwing politicians needed to calm their “discriminatory fervour and defend the spirit of the republic,” he said. France has some of the toughest legislation on headscarves in Europe, including a law passed in 2004 on religious symbols that bans girls from wearing the hijab in state schools, but no current laws ban anyone from wearing a headscarf or full-body bikini at a public beach. Wearing a burkini remains legal in France as a whole.

The niqab, or full-face veil, was banned in all public spaces in 2011 by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a law against anyone covering their face in public. But a burkini, which covers the head and body for swimming while leaving the face uncovered, does not contravene that law. State workers must by law be impartial and neutral, and so cannot show their religious belief with an outward symbol such as a headscarf, but this applies only to public service workplaces such as hospitals and town halls. “Wearing a burkini, headscarf, G-string or feather cabaret costume is not banned by the law,” tweeted Feiza Ben Mohamed of the Federation of Muslims in the South. She said the organisation, based in Nice, had lodged court papers with the intention of annulling the decree.

Marwan Muhammad, the executive director of the Collective against Islamophobia in France, said he would go to court to get the decree scrapped. His organisation succeeded in legal action in 2014 to overturn a mayoral decree seeking to ban headscarves and religious symbols from summer events in Wissous, near Paris. Serge Slama, a public law lecturer at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense told France Inter radio that the decree had no legal basis and was merely a “political message ... tinted with Islamophobia, racism and anti-religious feeling”. Questioned by newspaper Nice-Matin, Lisnard, of the centre-right Les Républicains party, said: “I don’t have time for controversies ... I’m simply banning a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist extremism.”

Lionnel Luca, another hardline member of Sarkozy’s Les Républicains, signed a similar decree banning burkinis in the nearby area of Villeneuve-Loubet. Islamic head coverings have long been a highly contentious political issue in France. In the run-up to the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections, the topic is increasingly being raised, not least by Sarkozy, who this week insisted that Muslim headscarves should be banned from universities and in private companies.
© The Guardian.

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French Court Rejects Bid to Shut 72 Migrant Camp Eateries, Shops

12/8/2016- A French court rejected a demand Friday to close 72 eateries and shops in the makeshift migrant camp in the northern port city of Calais, but the prefecture said it will continue legal action against what it calls a dangerous underground economy. The Lille court turned down the demand of the Prefecture of the Pas de Calais region, the state representative, to permanently close the operations which humanitarian organizations contend are a lifeline for the estimated more than 7,000 migrants in the camp, commonly known as "the Jungle." A statement by the prefecture said the installations don't respect sanitation rules, risk fires and are a source of public disorder. "Administrative inspections of the underground commerce and judicial actions will be continued," it said.

Later, the prefect for Calais, Vincent Berton, announced that the state was lodging an appeal against the court decision. Thousands of free meals are legally handed out daily to migrants by a state-backed association at the camp and others. However, humanitarian organizations contend that this is not enough food for the growing number of migrants in the camp, and migrants can stand in line for hours for a meal. The prefecture sent inspectors into the camp in July to check shops and restaurants, including hairdressers, seizing and destroying numerous products and detaining 19 people. Shops and restaurants were then ordered closed — though some reopen quietly at nightfall.

Maya Konforti of Auberge des Migrants, or Migrants Shelter, a mainstay aid association for migrants, said the court decision allows aid groups and migrants to buy time. "We're going to see ... how we can improve things," she said by telephone. But, she added that "a restaurant in the jungle will never be legal." The court action, she said, is "sheer harassment." The prefecture razed the southern half of the Calais camp in July, after a court gave the green light — but barred the destruction of houses of worship and schools. Most migrants in Calais, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa, travel to northern France to try to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.
© The Associated Press

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Russia: Where Itís Illegal to Make Noise in Churches and Cemeteries

Who are the Russians being tried for ‘hooliganism’ under Article 213 of the criminal code?
by Elena Shmaraeva


In this recently published article, Russian news site Mediazona explains how Article 213 in the Russian criminal code has changed over time, and why it won’t be used to arrest the “golden youth” who race elite-preferred luxury SUVs. Instead, the law applies to participants in mass fights, neo-Nazis, environmentalists, punks, activists from the opposition, and assorted other malcontents – around 1,000 per year say the statistics.

11/8/2016- On 14 May, in Moscow’s Khovanskoe cemetery, a bona fide battle took place: several hundred people settled scores using a variety of weapons. Three died and dozens were arrested. According to the official investigation, labor migrants from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan had been “defending” themselves, aided by members of their respective diasporas. The “attackers” were Russians, mainly from Chechnya and Dagestan, who wanted to take control of the cemetery’s income and demanded half the migrants’ pay, earned from grave-digging and other services. Most of the people involved in the armed conflict were arrested under section two of Article 213 – “Hooliganism committed by a group of persons.” The maximum sentence: seven years.

A month before the events at Khovanskoe cemetery, on 16 April, Moscow’s Khodynka Field was the site of a meeting of automobile enthusiasts. The media called them “street racers” but, as it turned out, they were members of the organization “Fighting Classics” – restorers of old Soviet vehicles. Their page on social media site VKontakte laconically describes the organization as “Zhiguli – that’s what we’re about” (Zhiguli is a Lada model produced by the Russian factory AvtoVAZ.) Giving the cars a tune-up was a loud process and, as it was about 10 p.m., neighborhood residents called the police. The car lovers didn’t heed the first request from police officers to leave the area and, in protest, surrounded a police car “shouting insults at the officers.” As a result, the drivers, who had “organized a group of no fewer than 10 people on Khodynka Boulevard to show off their vehicles,” had a criminal case opened against them by Moscow police – under Article 213, section two.

How the Article Was Toughened
“The ‘Hooliganism’ statute appeared in Soviet Russia’s criminal code in the 1960s and, as far as I know, it was the subject of much debate: it had fairly broad wording that assessed not the scope of damage the injured party sustained, but the nature of the acts committed – the violation of public order,” explains Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the SOVA information and analysis center [which works on human rights issues, as well as nationalism and racism]. In the 1990s, a case was opened against Nazi skinheads under this law: even if the victims were not seriously hurt, the attackers’ actions thoroughly met the definition of “contempt for society.” “In 2003 this statute was transformed, and the determining factor became the presence of ‘weapons or objects used as weapons,’ ” Verkhovsky continues. “This wording applied mostly to group fights, where the law was applied most often. Waving a broken glass bottle, shards facing out, falls under the category of ‘object used as a weapon.’ And Nazi skinheads were also arrested under this law, because brass knuckles and even heavy-duty boots could be considered ‘arms’ in a fight.”

In 2004, Article 213 was used to try National Bolsheviks who had stormed the Health Ministry. The Tver city court found them guilty of hooliganism and destruction of property. The “NatBols” were protesting the monetization of healthcare benefits and, according to investigators and the court, used a nail gun as a weapon. In reality, the party members used the power tool to nail shut the doors to the office, but a witness believed it was a real gun. The seven people who found themselves on the defendants’ bench were sentenced to five years in prison. In 2007, Article 213 was revised again, after legislators passed the law “On amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation in relation to the improvement of state administration in the sphere of countering extremism.”

“The key signifier of a crime, what actually qualified something as a crime, was still the disturbance of public order,” says Verkhovsky. “But section one now had parts ‘a’ and ‘b’ – respectively, the use of weapons or objects as weapons; and a motivation based on ideological or religious hatred. A crime didn’t need to have both parts, either one was enough. If the ‘motivation’ clause had been in section two, that would have been clear. But the way it turned out – it can be either this, or that. That meant that it became possible to criminalize acts as ‘hooliganism’ even if there was no bodily harm or damage, no weapons – only the motivation of hatred or enmity.”

In November 2007, just a few months after the amendments to Article 213 passed, a plenum of the Russian Supreme Court issued a ruling on how the law should be applied. The document noted, in particular, that “a subject’s clear disrespect for society is expressed by the premeditated violation of generally recognized norms and rules of conduct, driven by the guilty party’s desire to counter others, and to demonstrate his or her contempt for them.” Judges were instructed to indicate in their verdicts exactly how a defendant had expressed contempt for society. The Supreme Court also ruled that a weapon is any object used to physically or psychologically injure someone, “as well as actions indicating the intent to cause harm using the weapon or object.” This included faulty or toy weapons. A hooligan attacking someone with a dog or other dangerous animal also falls under point “a” of section one in Article 213 – as an armed attack.

Pussy Riot, the Biker in the Metro, and the ‘Skyscraper Stunt’
“The updated wording of Article 213 essentially creates a new tool for selective law enforcement,” the SOVA center wrote in 2007. Human rights activists believed that this version of the law would be a new instrument for persecuting the political opposition. As of now, if an individual engages in what the administrative code describes as trivial hooliganism and is motivated by ideological or religious hatred, he or she could earn up to five years in prison, or seven years behind bars when a group is concerned. “The ‘hooliganism’ law has been constantly transformed,” says lawyer Dmitry Dinze. At one point [lawmakers] wanted to leave it in the Code of Administrative Offenses, but when anti-extremist laws were intensified, Article 213 started being used to prosecute various extremist acts: for example, massive fights between nationalists and anti-fascists in public places. And in general, if someone is yelling loudly in a public area, behaving outside of social norms – he can be arrested under this law, because of his action’s intent: to disturb public order with some ideological motive. Authorities started using this article more and more for ambiguous situations.”

He gives the “loudest” example of such a situation – the criminal case against members of the group Pussy Riot, opened after their performance of a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior in February 2012. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and committed by an organized group. On 17 August 2012, the defendants were sentenced to two years of incarceration. Samutsevich received a conditional sentence after she appealed. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were amnestied and released in December 2012. In September 2013, Greenpeace activists aboard the ship Arctic Sunrise climbed up Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea to protest oil production in the Arctic.

Authorities arrested 30 people. At first, they were accused of piracy, then the case was reworked to fall under the scope of section two of Article 213 – hooliganism committed by an organized group. In December 2013, the accused protesters were amnestied. Amnesty has been given to yet another person arrested under Article 213 – motorcyclist Pavel Volkov, who was charged with hooliganism for a motorcycle ride in the Moscow metro’s Voykovskaya station. At first he was held under part “a” of section one – investigators said he was using the motorcycle as a weapon. That accusation was revised and placed under section two – conspiratorial hooliganism. Volkov’s friend Artem Lakhtionovy was charged with the same thing, for holding the door open for the rider.

Article 213 was also behind two criminal cases whose defendants were featured on “Memorial,” a website dedicated to tracking the justice proceedings of political prisoners. A Soviet star, perched at the top of a Stalin-era skyscraper on Moscow’s Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, had been painted over with the Ukrainian flag’s blue and yellow colors. And a German flag appeared on the garage of the Kaliningrad office of Russia’s Federal Security Service. The “skyscraper stunt” culminated in a surprise acquittal in September 2015 for four of the high-rise helpers: Alexander Pogrebov, Alexei Shyrokozhuhova, Evgeny Korotkovoy, and Anna Lepeshkina. Moscow’s Taganka District court delivered a guilty verdict for 20-year-old St. Petersburg recreational roof climber Vladimir Podrezov, along with a two-year prison sentence. However, Podrezov was acquitted for his hooliganism charge, and he was charged with vandalism in the end.

Those involved in the German flag operation – Kaliningrad-based activists Mikhail Feldman, Oleg Savin, and Muscovite Dmitry Fonarev – were found guilty in June 2015 of group hooliganism motivated by “political hatred or enmity” by Kaliningrad’s Central District court. They were sentenced to imprisonment, but released at the end of the trial, as they had already effectively served their terms in pre-trial detention. “The key players in cases like these are expert witnesses who establish the presence of an ideological motive, and answer affirmatively to questions raised during the investigation,” says Dinze. The German flag case had specialists from the Volgograd voluntary association “Southern Center of Expertise” determining the defendants’ motive. They concluded that placing the flag had been a political act, as bolstered by “the participants’ political activism, their preparedness and organization, and because their actions were oriented toward changing the political opinions of authorities and political institutions,” and confirmed by the fact that they filmed the whole thing.

Others charged under Article 213 include a client of Dinze’s – nationalist Danyl Konstantinov, who was amnestied after his initial murder charge was changed to hooliganism. There’s also anti-fascist Alexei Sutuga (currently serving a three-year term in the Irkutsk oblast) and an activist from The Other Russia party, Oleg Mironov, who used pepper spray at an Andrey Makarevich concert (sentenced to three years of incarceration). The law was invoked in a number of charges filed against former banker Matvei Urin. Those charged with group hooliganism – Article 213, section two – include soccer fans who got in a fight on Moscow’s Bolshaya Pirogovskaya street. The injured parties in the case are people who live nearby, and were offended by seeing the fight.

Shooting Passersby and the ‘White Carriage’
Every year approximately 1,000 people, sometimes more, are charged with crimes under Article 213: in 2015 – 998 cases, in 2014 – 991 people charged, in 2013 – 1,456 charges, in 2012 – 1,373 cases, and in 2011 – 1,504. An additional 200 people are tried each year in cases where “hooliganism” is a supplementary, not principle charge, according to statistics from the Russian Supreme Court Justice Department. In 2015, 796 people were tried for violating section one of Article 213, and 202 were tried under section two. The Justice Department does not have statistics for the additional parts of the law, such as the presence of weapons or motivation of hatred. That same year, 271 people were incarcerated under the article – the rest received suspended sentences, mandatory correctional labor, and fines. Courts amnestied 208 people who had been found guilty. There were even a few acquittals: two for section one charges, and eight for charges under section two.

People who open fire in a public place are usually charged with “hooliganism.” A 40-year-old resident of Moscow’s Strogino district who fired a pneumatic weapon at a yard worker was charged under Article 213, as well as a resident of Tyoply Stan who shot passersby with an airsoft rifle, and an Angarsk resident who shot at 10-year-old schoolchildren. This article was applied to an AK-47 and Makarov pistol shooting on Moscow’s Ring Road, and to the case of a United Russia deputy who shot up a village discotheque with a weapon designed to be non-lethal. A security guard in Yakutsk was charged with “hooliganism” for firing a shotgun in a school after arguing with the principal.

It’s also fairly common for Article 213 to be used in cases of neo-Nazi attacks, like those perpetrated by the so-called “white carriage,” whose members beat up people of “non-Slavic appearance” in metro trains and outer-city public transport. The most recent example happened this April in the Moscow metro station Bitsevsky Park: around 10 people attacked two visitors from Tajikistan, pepper-spraying one in the eyes. Earlier in January, similar attacks were perpetrated by 18 people in suburban Moscow stations Silikatnaya and Chekov – the attackers were tried under section two of Article 213. Section two also underpinned a criminal case this March, when journalists and human rights activists were attacked in Ingushetia. The attacks were originally billed as hooliganism and destruction of property; later, charges of theft and obstructing journalism were added.

Complaints and Increased Severity
“After the Pussy Riot verdict, which became the definitive example for the use of the ‘hooliganism’ law, a discussion began about what should be considered public order in an area populated by some kind of closed subcultures or societies – because the behavior of the guilty girls was, in effect, a disruption of normal behavior in a church,” says SOVA’s Verkhovsky. “Let’s say that in a night club, where everyone is dancing to techno music, someone starts dancing in a new way or doing something different from the rest – would that be called disruptive, dramatically divergent, or unacceptable?” It was this reasoning that brought the Pussy Riot defendants to the Constitutional Court of Russia. Article 213, in its current form, violates Russian citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of self-expression, violates the principle of equality before the law, and violates the government’s secularism, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote in her official complaint. Maria Alyokhina noted in her appeal that Article 213 practically recognizes that a disruption of public order in a secular state is a disruption of religious norms.

The Constitutional Court refused to consider either appeal, and ruled that Article 213 was constitutionally sound. The court also noted that Russian public order, and the corresponding signs that order is being disrupted, “are determined by taking into account the historic and cultural heritage of Russia’s peoples, in combination with society’s current stage of generally recognized behavioral norms.” At the end of 2014, Article 213 was expanded again – this time to intensify punishment for selling or buying illegal explosive devices. The amendment, called section three, was added for hooliganism “committed using explosive materials or devices.” The maximum punishment is eight years of incarceration. The first case filed under section three was that of 36-year-old Alexander Rul, a former employee of the Russian conglomerate Sistema, who dropped a hand grenade from his apartment onto the street below. According to the official investigation, Rul was crafting a handmade grenade late at night on 7 December 2015. Afraid that it would explode after he accidentally pulled out the safety pin, Rul could not think of a better solution than to throw it outside. The blast injured five people.

Hooligans Don’t Drive ‘G-Wagens’
Early morning on 22 May, Ruslan Shamsuarov, the son of Russian oil giant LUKoil’s vice president, and three of his friends (including Mara Bagdasaryan, infamous among Moscow’s so-called drag racers), orchestrated a street race with the police. The youth, driving a Mercedes-Benz ‘G-Wagen’ SUV, live broadcast the race on the video app Periscope. The police and Russia’s Investigative Commission tried in vain several times to open a case against the young people under Article 213, but the prosecutor’s office refused. For now, Shamsuarov and Co. are charged with violating Article 319 – insulting a government official or authority.

Commenting on the scandalous affair, Russia’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said that the “hooliganism” law was crafted by legislators in a way that makes it impossible to implement. “What do we have here today? We have a law that is difficult to apply in practice. Hooliganism – the crude disruption of public order, rooted in obvious disrespect for society, carried out with a weapon, and motivated by political, ideological, racial hatred, or by hatred toward a social group. But just try and apply Article 213,” Chaika complained. He was speaking in front of the Russian parliament, asking for new amendments to the law.

“Article 213 wasn’t applied in this case because Russia doesn’t have a unified way of dealing with cases of hatred against police as a social group,” the lawyer Dinze explains, “For example, in the Kursk region, police are considered a social group and in St. Petersburg, a case was closed citing this motive in regard to the hooliganism of a group known as ‘War (Voina).’” In Dinze’s opinion, the criminal charges against the G-Wagen’s drivers can only be filed under Article 319 – provided that the investigative committee finds and identifies the specific police officers who were involved in the arrest, and were disrespected by the drag racers.

“Attempts to use the ‘hooliganism’ law are useless here precisely because of the amendments to the law made after 2003 – about the use of a weapon,” says Dinze. “There is also no motivation of hatred, I agree on that point with human rights lawyer Verkhovsky. Here’s where the legislator has to decide either to categorize such crimes that are ‘counter to society,’ but without injury, in the criminal code, ideally without expanding their applicability ad infinitum. Or to accept the fact that we can’t treat this as a criminal act, and that an administrative punishment is enough.”

Elena Shmaraeva is a journalist with Mediazona. Begun with a focus on the Russian criminal justice system, Mediazona has grown to cover all areas where citizens meet the state. Two members of Pussy Riot were among the site’s dozen or so founders.
The translation and illustration are used with permission of Mediazona. Translated by Anna Bisikalo

© Transitions Online.

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Finland: University plagued by Islamophobic notes

The University of Eastern Finland is resuming its effort to find of source of anti-Islam notes that have been spread around its Joensuu campus and slipped between the pages of university library books. Police investigated the matter last spring, but did not determine who is responsible.

10/8/2016- So far ten variations of the notes have been found on campus, the first last spring and the most recent on Wednesday. They contain texts such as "Islam is a threat to Finnish culture". "We became increasingly concerned when one of the notes mentioned the name of a university researcher. When that happened, it became one degree more serious," the Joensuu campus head of security, Heikki Loikkanen, told Yle. The notes have been found in several university buildings, at information desks and brochure racks. Some have been slipped between the pages of books in the university library and some left beside a library printer. The researcher named in one note has been involved in activities in aid of immigrants.

No tolerance of racism
Last spring the university contacted police about the notes. Police did not identify who was responsible for writing and distributing them and closed their investigation. Chief Inspector Sami Joutjärvi of the Eastern Finland police says, however, that the case can be reopened. The Rector of the University of Eastern Finland, Jukka Mönkkönen, told Yle on Wednesday that the university is taking a very dim view of the matter and that it does not tolerate any political or racist propaganda on campus. Head of Security Heikki Loikkanen said that personnel have been instructed to keep a watch on the situation and to intervene if they see these kinds of notes being distributed or left in university facilities.
© YLE News.

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Swiss borders face increased migrant pressure

So far this year Swiss authorities have picked up 22,181 people who entered Switzerland illegally, a third of those in July alone. Guards on the Italian border have been particularly busy, turning away 4,149 people last month.

10/8/2016- In July alone, 3,560 people who had made it across the border into Ticino, the Italian-speaking southern canton, were immediately sent back to Italy – more than the number of people for the whole first seven months of 2015. The Swiss Border Guard said on Wednesday that since the beginning of this year, 8,298 people had been stopped at Swiss borders, up from 3,526 people for the same period in 2015. The number of illegal immigrants found in Switzerland – 22,181 – had also increased from 13,213 for the same period last year. Most of these people came from Eritrea. Many others, including those stopped at the border, had travelled from Gambia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia.

Guards could not determine the nationality for 1,284 people, who had either lost their identity papers in conflicts or the long and risky journey, or had thrown them away or hidden them. So far this year Ticino has been the main point of entry for 60% of illegal arrivals, whose final destination is thought to be Germany or Scandinavia – although the Swiss Border Guard didn’t provide figures for this. It is also striking that just under 85% of the 22,181 people picked up by border guards came by train. Some 13% came by road and only 2.25% by plane. Eighteen people tried to find a way into Switzerland aboard a boat.

African influx
On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned of a build-up of migrants on Italy’s border with Switzerland and demanded clarification from Swiss authorities over reports by children that they had been sent back when trying to join their parents there. Switzerland said the build-up was due to an influx of African migrants seeking passage to north European countries such as Germany. Any individual requesting asylum would be granted the opportunity. Martin Reichlin of the State Secretariat for Migration said he would expect any child arriving at the border and attempting to join relatives in Switzerland to be delivered to the care of his organisation. Several hundred migrants have been sleeping near the train station in Como, Italy, since July after a Swiss clampdown on crossings.
© Swiss Info

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Out of sight, out of mind? Europe's migrant crisis still simmers

10/8/2016- A year after hundreds of thousands of refugees snaked their way across southeastern Europe and onto global television screens, the roads through the Balkans are now clear, depriving an arguably worsening tragedy of poignant visibility. Europe's migrant crisis is at the very least numerically worse than it was last year. More people are arriving and more are dying. But the twist is that, compared with last year, a lot of it is out of sight. Take the border between Greece and Macedonia. Summer crops have replaced the city of tents at the border outpost of Idomeni, even if some locals are convinced there is an unseen population hiding in the surrounding forests, waiting for smugglers to assist them on their onward journey. The tiny Greek village was a focal point of the migrant flow north toward Germany and other wealthy countries, with thousands of refugees squatting for months waiting for sealed borders with Macedonia to open

Elsewhere in the Balkans, a Reuters photographer, revisiting the people-packed locations where he and his colleagues captured last year's diaspora, found empty roads, unencumbered railway tracks and bucolic countryside. The comparison is stark. To see the pictures, click More than one million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan made their way to Europe last year, with the majority of them crossing the precarious sea corridor separating Greece and Turkey, the temporary home for more than 2 million refugees displaced from Syria. They came carrying their worldly belongings in plastic bags and hauling babies on weary shoulders, a visual exodus of the kind not seen in Europe since the end of World War Two. Many have since reached their destination in northern Europe, but with the borders closed and the European Union now attempting to contain the numbers, thousands are stuck at holding centers in Greece and Italy. They are not so nearly visible there - nor are the ones still coming.

Visibility Down, Arrivals Up
According to data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), arrivals are up 17 percent on last year, stoked mainly by a spike at the start of the year through Greece. Deaths among those trying to get to Europe, mainly due to drowning, are up more than 15 percent. "This is not a blip," said David Miliband, a former British foreign minister who now heads the International Rescue Committee, an aid group set up by Albert Einstein - himself a refugee - to rescue Europeans before the outbreak of World War Two. "The forces that are driving more and more people from their homes - weak states, big tumults within the Islamic world, a divided international system .. None of these things are likely to abate soon." Some of the mantle of accepting huge migrant flows that was carried by Greece last year and the beginning of this one has been taken up by Italy. This follows a resurgence of migrant flows from northern Africa. More than 140,000 asylum seekers are now housed in Italian shelters, a seven-fold increase on 2013, with the migrant crisis in its third year.

In Greece, where arrivals plunged in the wake of an accord between Turkey and the EU to stem the flow in March, an estimated 57,000 migrants were still stuck in the country by Aug.8. Campaigners say the accord has lulled policymakers into a false sense of accomplishment by allowing them to believe that Europe's migration problem has been solved. "By outsourcing the responsibility to Turkey and to Greece, European governments are basically saying 'we have solved the crisis because we don’t see it, and we can't smell it and we can't hear it," said Gauri van Gulik, deputy Europe director at Amnesty International. "The crisis is as big as ever, and as yet unsolved by governments," she told Reuters. IOM data says that 258,186 people arrived in Europe by the end of July, compared with 219,854 over the same period in 2015. There were 3,176 fatalities by Aug. 7, outpacing the 2,754 who died in the first eight months of last year, a slightly longer period. "Its absolutely incredible because if you think about the panic this caused last year and the incentive there was to really get some policy changes in place, nothing has happened," Van Gulik said.
© Reuters

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Sweden: Death threats force band to hire bodyguards

A Swedish band says it has received anonymous threats after pulling out of a festival organized by nationalist party the Sweden Democrats (SD).

9/8/2016- Black Ingvars were originally booked to play the SD-backed Sommarfestivalen festival in southern Swedish town Sölvesborg on August 26th. They later cancelled the appearance however, saying they were unaware it was being organized by the far-right party. And after pulling out of the concert, a member of the group now claims he has received multiple anonymous threats in response. “I have received e-mails where people write that they hope I die in a car crash or that I get cancer,” singer Magnus Tengby told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. According to the musician, the threats have been so bad that the band now stays at secret locations while touring and has taken the measure of having bodyguards on stage while they perform.

The Sweden Democrats tell a different version of events however. They claim that the band is lying, and that the party had e-mail exchanges with them before the festival which made the details of the event clear. “Tengby said explicitly that he didn’t have any problem with it, which they also wrote in a Facebook post,” SD’s head of press Henrik Vinge told Aftonbladet. Singer Tengby has refuted that suggestion, insisting he was aware that Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson would speak at the festival, but not that the party was behind the entire event. The Local has contacted the Sweden Democrats and Black Ingvars for comment.
© The Local - Sweden

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Italy: Milan pushed to its limits as migrant numbers soar

The mayor of Milan said he had not ruled out the possibility of accommodating migrants in tents, as numbers in the northern Italian city reached a record high.

9/8/2016- Mayor Giuseppe Sala made his comments at a press conference after a further 200 migrants had arrived in the city over the weekend, bringing the total number to 3,300, La Stampa reported. As well as new arrivals transferred to Milan from reception centres across the country, the city is facing the task of accommodating those sent back from the country's borders with France, Austria and Switzerland.

More migrants than beds
This means there are now more migrants than there are beds at the reception centres. There has been huge pressure on Milan's centres, with 400 people staying at the reception hub at the central station which is only intended to accommodate 150. Several local charities have mobilized to accommodate refugees, including the Jewish community which has accommodated 70 refugees each night at the Holocaust Memorial, near the station. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the city's councillor for social services, Pierfrancesco Majorino, sent an urgent request to all reception centres in the area and was able to find space for 200 migrants to spend the night, but the challenge to find accommodation space is ongoing.

'No other spaces can be ready quickly'
Sala has suggested the use of former prisons, where there are large amounts of empty space, and adequate security, adding: "This is a possibility because objectively, there are no other spaces which can be ready quickly." He also said at a press conference that he had "not ruled out" the possibility of accommodating the migrants in tents, though he later issued a statement to confirm that no tent camp was planned for the city, as several Italian publications had reported, but rather that if necessary, some tents would be made available as a first port of call. Sala added that the situation "is being confronted and will be resolved with good sense and a lot of work". However, not all of the regional authorities have been as committed to resolving the lack of accommodation.

Sala expressed frustration at the resistence of Lombardy's regional president, Roberto Maroni, to the use of the former base camp for the Milan Expo as refugee accommodation. Maroni, a member of the Northern League party, has been vocal in his opposition, saying the refugees are "illegal immigrants" and should be deported. More and more migrants are arriving in Italy as a final destination rather than simply using it as a transit stop, and many of those in Milan have been turned back at Ventimiglia or Como. La Stampa recently reported that in 2014, just 0.4 percent of arrivals stayed in Italy, a number which swelled to 4.8 percent and this year has reached almost 50 percent of the total number of migrants who have landed in Italy since January. The average length of stay in reception centres has increased over the past year too, from six days to 20.

'Ventimiglia will not be our Calais'
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday that the Italy-France border town of Ventimiglia “will not be our Calais” following days of tensions over the migrant situation there. Over the weekend, 200 migrants, who had managed to swim across the border to France, were sent back to Italy. The weekend also saw clashes between police and activist group No Borders, with police turning tear gas on protesters and several members of the group being arrested for weapons possession. Tensions are also high at Italy's borders with Austria and Switzerland. Five hundred asylum seekers are camping at the train station in Como - best known as a holiday hotspot favoured by actor George Clooney - after having been turned away at the Swiss border, from where many had hoped to travel on to Germany, Caritas said on Monday.

A volunteer at the station said the sudden increase - just two weeks ago there had been 150 migrants - had led to a health emergency, including cases of scabies, according to Il Messaggero. In April, Austria threatened to build a fence at the Brenner crossing point unless Italy stemmed the flow of migrants across the border, prompting protests from activists. The situation there has been calmer in recent months after hundreds of Italian officers were dispatched to guard the crossing. Over 94,000 migrants have arrived at southern Italian ports so far this year, while 3,176 have died trying to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migrant (IOM) said on Tuesday.
© The Local - Italy

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Bulgaria Took 6 Migrants In under EU Relocation Scheme since 2015

9/8/2016- Bulgaria has only received six migrants under the EU relocation plan adopted in the autumn of last year, the State Agency for Refugees (DAB) has said. DAB has told news website Dnevnik.bg in a statement that Bulgaria extends inquiries to receive foreign nationals applying for protection in line with the September 2015 decision on relocation taken by the Council of the EU. As many as five inquiries were made to Greece and three to Italy between November 04, 2015 and July 2016. Greece sent six people to Bulgaria as a result, which the agency described as "nationals of Syria and Iraq". Greece and Italy were the countries most affected by the migrant crisis that peaked last year, with tens of thousands of migrants still within their territories.

Bulgaria was to received a total of 1600 migrants under a relocation mechanism last year, numbers which compare to other EU member states in Eastern Europe. Separately, as many as 357 have been sent back to Bulgaria since early 2016 under the Dublin II Regulation, most of these being nationals of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Syrian national who blew himself up in Ansbach, Germany last month was also to be deported to Bulgaria, the country that had granted him humanitarian status in 2013, but DAB turned down the request, saying it had held on to its commitments under the regulation. DAB has not published official statistics about migrant arrivals to the country since early in July, when it did so for the previous month. But Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova warned last week that an increased activity of people smugglers using Bulgaria as a transit destination was being observed lately.
© Novinite

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Ireland: 240 racist incidents reported last year, a fifth took place on public transport

Drivers 'spat at, punched and kicked' in racist incidents on public transport

9/8/2016- There was an 11% rise in reports of racist abuse to the Immigrant Council last year, compared to 2014. There were 240 racist incidents reported in total in 2015, up from 217 the year previously. Of these, 37 reports involved physical violence, 99 instances involved verbal harassment, 68 were incidents of discrimination, and 31 were of physical violence and intimidation. There were also 13 incidents of written harassment. A fifth of all racism reported was on public transport, while almost a third occurred while the victim was at work. There were 23 incidents of racism reported that took place in an educational institution, and 19 incidents that occurred on the street. Some 13% of all reports involved physical violence. Four out of 10 victims identified were from the Muslim community, while a third identified themselves as African.

White European
Other victims identified themselves as immigrants (23 incidents), central and eastern European (19 incidents), from the Indian subcontinent (3%) or white European (five incidents). The statistics come as the Immigrant Council of Ireland, National Transport Authority and nationwide public transport providers launch a #StopRacism campaign encouraging people to report racism when they witness it. There were 49 reported incidents of racism on public transport last year, mostly relating to passengers abusing staff. “Elements of physical violence were also quite often reported,” a spokeswoman for the Immigrant Council of Ireland told TheJournal.ie. The spokeswoman added that two incidents of racist abuse involving the victims suffering mistreatment from the staff of transport providers, and said passengers have also reported being victimised by fellow passengers.

Dublin Bus
Dublin Bus is the largest public transport provider in the country, and has an increasingly multi-ethnic workforce. Over one in every six employees at the transport provider are from outside Ireland – 16% of the total workforce, from 68 different countries of origin. “Dublin Bus does receive complaints periodically regarding incidents of racism from employees and customers and actively encourages such incidents to be reported,” a spokeswoman told TheJournal.ie. She said Dublin Bus takes such incidents very seriously, and has an “equality, diversity and non-discrimination” strategy, to ensure full equality and inclusion for employees and customers from minority groups. The Immigrant Council also detailed another incident of a young female of African descent who was subjected to racist abuse by a couple in their 20s, who were asked to leave a bus by the driver. “The driver intervened, and asked the couple to stop the abuse or leave the bus,” a spokeswoman said. The Immigrant Council also said that taxi drivers of African origin report being passed by four or five passengers in a taxi rank. They also reported a high level of damage to their vehicles.
© The Journal Ireland

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Turkey 'unsafe' for LGBT people after murder of Syrian refugee

Friends and relatives of Mohammed Sankari say they have little hope that police investigation will bring killers to justice

8/8/2016- Mohammed Wissam Sankari, a 25-year-old Syrian refugee and aspiring poet, was found beheaded, his body mutilated beyond recognition, two days after he disappeared in Istanbul on 23 July. Friends who went to identify him only recognised his body by his clothes. Amid the shock over the brutality of his murder, campaigners say the killing highlights the perilous situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, a country listed by the EU as "safe" for asylum seekers to return to. “Wissam was a good guy, very shy,” his friend Mohamed Masri told Middle East Eye. “He didn’t have much formal education, but he had a passion for poetry. That’s why he set up his Facebook page, Poetry Is My Goal. “Of course, he had problems with writing so every time he wrote a poem he would have to send it to a friend before he published it, to get the spelling checked.”

Sankari had been working at a factory producing cardboard boxes until just before he disappeared, but quit to join family members in Gaziantep, a major hub for Syrian refugees in Turkey and more affordable than Istanbul. “He was coming to join us in the first days of August,” his mother Khadija Sankari told Middle East Eye. “But before August came, he was murdered. And in such a monstrous way.” His family say they don’t know why he was killed, and fear he was singled out because he was a Syrian refugee – but friends and campaigners say that he was targeted for being an openly gay man. Sankari grew up in a poor family in Latakia, and then Damascus, before fleeing to Turkey three years ago.

Friends told Kaos GL, an LGBTI support organisation active in Turkey since 1994, that Sankari had faced threats and violence because of his sexuality before he was killed. “He was kidnapped and raped five months ago, and the police did nothing,” Yildiz Tar, a local co-ordinator for Kaos GL who has worked with Sankari’s friends, told Middle East Eye. “Police are now investigating his murder, but I don’t hold out much hope that it will be objective.”

'Turkey is not a safe country for LGBT people'
Since its founding as a republic in 1923, Turkey has never criminalised homosexuality. But, says Tar, LGBT victims of hate crime rarely find justice in an atmosphere of state-sanctioned homophobia. “There are large numbers of hate crimes in Turkey, but there is no official mechanism for recording them as such. In 2014, at least five murders of LGBT people were reported in the media and came to court. In the same year there were 32 other incidents reported in the media as anti-LGBT hate crimes. “But even when cases come to court, the accused often gets a reduced sentence – he can claim it was a crime of passion, and that the victim provoked him by being gay.”  Kaos GL says members of the LGBT community complain that homophobia is becoming “more institutionalised,” and that morality laws are being used to surreptitiously criminalise homosexuality.

Authorities in Istanbul cancelled this summer’s Pride celebration for the second year in a row, citing security fears. And since April, Kaos GL has been unable to use its own office since a leaked ministry document showed it was a target for IS bombings. The group says it asked for police protection after the plot was uncovered, but was refused. For LGBT Syrian refugees, though, the situation is far worse. “Firstly you are discriminated against because you are a refugee,” says Tar. “And secondly you’re LGBT. “Usually non-LGBT Syrians travel here with relatives – this creates a solidarity network. But LGBT people usually come alone, knowing nobody. “Turkey is not a safe country for LGBT people – the basic agenda for LGBT Syrians here is survival.”

Sankari’s relatives and friends told Middle East Eye that he had been trying for over two years to leave Turkey to claim asylum in Europe – but with illegal smuggling routes costing thousands of dollars, travel outside the country was out of reach. “He was under too much pressure in Turkey,” his mother said. She holds out little hope her son’s killers will be brought to justice, and instead is desperate to find a way out of the country. “I’m not hopeful about the outcome of the investigation. A victim of injustice has the world against him. “We fled death and destruction to be killed here. Now we are afraid. But we’re a poor family – we can’t pay to be smuggled across the Mediterranean.”

I buried my heart in a graveyard called The Cemetery of Forgetfulness.

And I hid my sorrows behind a smile, so that nobody would see them.

My bulwarks will stay high, lest my tears become a torrent,

My longing will burn out in its own flame, hotter than the flame of any volcano.

And my wounds will be healed, even if they overflow like a flood
.

Sankari's last known poem, published on April 1
© The Middle East Eye

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Czech Rep: Anti-migrant parties run in regional polls

8/8/2016- At least seven of the parties running in the Czech regional polls rely on an anti-immigration approach, present themselves as anti-Islamist, anti-refugee and nationalist and some have included anti-migrant slogans in their names, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Monday. Most of them are opposed to the Czech acceptance of any refugees, the paper writes. These parties include well-known groupings such as lawmaker Tomio Okamura and his Party of Direct Democracy (SPD), the Dawn movement, the far-right Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) and the Republicans, but also a completely new group named "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our People." "After migrants arrive, it will cost money. As members of the regional assemblies and possibly also regional governments, we would influence this by trying to prevent immigrants from being offered social housing. Besides, we would have programmes tailored for particular regions," the paper quotes Petr Hannig, from the new grouping, as saying.

Sociologist Daniel Prokop says these protest groups do have a certain chance to succeed in the 7-8 October elections to the assemblies of the country's 13 self-rule regions. "Nevertheless, I think they will be harmed by the fact that there are many of them," Prokop told MfD. "For us in the SPD, the number of [rival] anti-refugee parties is unimportant, as I was the first to start warning of the problem of Muslim migration," Okamura is quoted as saying with self-confidence. Experts say, however, that the parties that would primarily build their campaign on anti-immigration issues may fail, also because voters seems to be more interested in issues linked to their respective regions, the paper continues. At the same time, the success of such parties will depend on the approach that mainstream parties will take to migration, it writes, adding that big parties' election campaign masterminds have rejected migration as the main election topic.

Nevertheless, they know well that they cannot avoid the migration issue within the campaign completely, MfD writes. Already now, the acceptance of any refugees has been opposed by Andrej Babis, Finance Minister and head of the government ANO movement, and a tough approach in this respect has also been taken by the other big government party, the Social Democrats (CSSD), through its Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, the daily writes. Out of the mainstream opposition parties, the Civic Democrats (ODS) have included migration policy as one of the main issues in their election manifesto. As a result, the small anti-immigration parties cannot present themselves as sharply opposed neither to the government nor the parliamentary opposition, the paper writes.

In the north Bohemian Usti Region alone, four parties with names expressing their anti-immigration position are running in the elections, including two with almost identical names - "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our People" and "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our Children," the daily continues. Jaroslav Foldyna, the CSSD's election leader in the Usti Region, however, said migration is an election "pseudo-topic." He personally prefers focusing on unemployment. "I have seen no refugees in Usti so far. All this is a pseudo-problem while social injustice persists here and the social policy has been wrong...These are problems that the protest parties do not address at all," Foldyna told MfD. "We want money from our welfare systems not to be misused against our people, which has been the case in France, for example, as the mass murder attacks there prove. However, we are basically no xenophobes," Hannig, a pop singer and music producer, said.

The number of the parties running in individual regions ranges from 17 to 25.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Germany: ew far-right group comes under gaze of state spies

The far-right Identitarian Movement is growing in popularity in Germany to the extent that the main federal intelligence agency has started watching them.

12/8/2016- Up until this point, the movement, which originated in France and has been present in Germany since 2012, had been observed by spy agencies at the state level. “We are seeing in the Identitarian Movement indications of efforts to undercut the democratic order,” said Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - Germany's domestic security agency. He added that the group seems to have become more radicalized in its anti-asylum efforts in the time since Germany started accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees last summer. “Immigrants with Muslim backgrounds or people from the Middle East are being slandered by them in the most extreme fashion. Therefore we are also surveilling this movement,” the spy chief stated. The Identitarian Movement is active against what it describes as “multicultural madness”, “uncontrolled mass migration” and “the loss of our own identity through foreign infiltration”.

State level spy agencies are already surveilling the organization in nine states including Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia. Recently there have also been media reports of contact between the Identitarian Movement and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party. But the spy chief said he had no evidence to support this, adding that, even if there was evidence of talks between the AfD and the far-right movement, this would not necessarily be relevant to the intelligence agencies. “It depends if the party in question - in this case the AfD - has its political orientation changed to an extremist one through certain people. We act when such people start to have an influence on the party.” He said there was no evidence this was the case with the AfD.
© The Local - Germany

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German proposals could see refugees' phones searched by police

Checking smartphones of those without passports among measures announced by the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière

11/8/2016- Refugees moving to Germany may in future have to give police permission to search their social media accounts for suspicious posts, the interior minister has announced. Presenting a raft of anti-terror measures at a press conference on Thursday, Thomas de Maizière announced that border police would pilot a scheme whereby refugees resettled in Germany under the deal between Turkey and the EU would have to hand over their smartphones for security checks if they did not have passports. “If you want to come to Germany, we have to make safety checks on you. And to make safety checks, we will ask you to show us your Facebook contacts from the last few months, which are public in principle anyway,” he said. However, De Maizière admitted that it remained to be seen whether the time and cost would justify the effort. The scheme points to a growing frustration with traditional means of establishing a person’s identity at border crossings. “We frequently encounter cases where refugees often don’t carry identity documents, but do nearly all carry their smartphones,” the minister said.

The system whereby refugees are fingerprinted upon registering in the EU has also proven fallible, De Maizière said. In the case of the 16-year-old who attacked a group of people on a train near Würzburg, a fingerprint had been taken, but it could not be matched with the Europe-wide Eurodac database. Smartphones, by contrast, are valuable tools for many refugees, allowing them to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and gather potentially lifesaving information. Earlier this week, German police arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of planning to carry out an attack at the start of the Bundesliga football season. According to Südwestrundfunk radio channel, photos showing fighting in Syria had been found on the suspect’s phone and computer, although it was unclear whether he had taken them himself. Authorities in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands routinely take and examine mobile phones to help establish a refugee’s identity if they have no formal documents with them when they enter the country.

Danish immigration law authorises officials to temporarily confiscate phones if the devices are “presumed to be of importance in establishing a foreigner’s identity”. The provision predates a raft of tougher immigration controls introduced in Denmark earlier this year, including one that allows police to seize migrants’ cash and some valuables to help pay for their accommodation. Speaking to Politiken newspaper, Richard Osterlund la Cour, a police spokesman, said: “If you come to the country and say you are from Syria, but have nothing but your face to prove it, your mobile phone is the best way to determine if you are telling the truth.” The Danish practice made headlines earlier this year when a Politiken investigation revealed that immigration officers had confiscated the mobile phones of 55 unaccompanied migrant children, with many having to wait up to a month for them to be returned.

The pilot scheme is one of a number of anti-terror measures that De Maizière proposed after a spate of violent attacks in southern Germany at the start of August, which have raised security fears in the country. Other measures include increasing the number of police and surveillance staff, speeding up the deportation of foreign criminals and revoking German citizenship from dual nationals if they have been found fighting for militant groups abroad. De Maizière said he would explore ways of using recognition software for surveillance in public spaces and discuss ways in which to make it easier for doctors to tip off authorities about potential terror risks. The minister crucially distanced himself from calls to ban the full face veil for women and abolish dual citizenship. The proposals are thought to be part of a 27-point Berlin declaration set to be presented to the public on 18 August by Christian Democrat state interior ministers, some of whom are holding regional elections next month.

De Maizière insisted the declaration, details of which were leaked to the press on Wednesday, had been merely a draft and he considered some of the more controversial measures to be problematic. “You cannot ban everything that you disapprove of. And I disapprove of the wearing of the burqa,” he said. A report produced by the Bundestag’s scientific service, and circulated among German MPs, points out than a move to ban the full-face veil would most likely be incompatible with the German constitution and likely to be rejected by the constitutional court.
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Politically Motivated Crimes; The Story Behind The Numbers

By Cas Mudde

10/8/2016- Yesterday I tweeted this graph of “politically motivated crimes” in Germany in the period 2006-2015. The graph comes from Rote Linie and is based on data provided by the Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA), the two state agencies responsible for politically motivated crimes. It is a powerful graph, but clearly also a very confusing one, based on the many interpretations and responses I saw in my Twitter feed. So, I decided to provide a quick and concise clarification and context.

What the graph does say
First and foremost, the graph shows that, at least since 1996, the far right has been consistently responsible for the vast majority of politically motivated crimes in Germany. While politically motivated crimes by foreigners and the (far) left hover between 0 and 20 percent of all politically motivated crimes in the period 2006-2015, that of the far right is never under 50 percent and regularly constitutes the majority of politically motivated crimes in Germany. Note: not all politically motivated crimes can be assigned to one of these three main groups!

Second, while there are some fluctuations, the pattern is extremely stable. Overall, politically motivated crimes by foreigners have decreased somewhat, while those by the far left and far right have increased somewhat. But the far right has been responsible for three to four times as many politically motivated crimes than either the far left or foreigners in each individual year! Third, contrary to some alarmist media reporting, politically motivated crime by foreigners has not spiked as a consequence of the “refugees crisis” — at least not in 2015, the last year that is covered by the data. This clearly has created significant cognitive dissonance among my (many) Islamophobic and xenophobic Twitter followers, who refer to all kind of imagined and real crimes by foreigners and asylum seekers, preferably the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

What the graph does not say
Leaving aside the fact that the Cologne assaults (and robberies) were mostly committed (and reported) in 2016, and not in 2015, they were not politically motivated — except when you operate on the (racist) premise that (non-white) foreigners sexually assault (white) German women to make a political point! In other words, this graph says little about the crime rates among citizens and foreigners in Germany — let alone among “natives” and “others” (Muslims) in Germany. However, we do have other studies that show that the crime levels are, in general,  among foreigners than among citizens in Germany, but that foreign workers are less criminal if socio-demographic factors like class and gender are taken into account. Similarly, recent data show that asylum seekers are overall not more criminal than Germans and that the recent spike in the number of asylum seekers has not led to a proportional spike in crimes by asylum seekers — leaving aside the specific “crime” of illegal entry.

Moreover, while certain groups of asylum seekers are overrepresented in crimes (mostly those from the Balkans and the Maghreb), asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are “clearly underrepresented.” The graph also does not say that the (far) right is more violent than the far left! The numbers refer to all “politically motivated crimes” and the vast majority of these crimes are non-violent. The main difference between the crimes of the (far) left and the far right is with regard to so-called account. “hate crimes“  (Hasskriminalität): in 2014 there were 4,983 far right and “just” 94 far left hate crimes in Germany. In 2015 far right hate crimes had exploded, to a staggering 9,426, whereas far left hate crimes had remained stable (96).

It is important to note, however, that this is at least in part a direct consequence of the specific legal context of Germany, which, as a so-called “militant democracy” (Wehrhafte Demokratie) is particularly repressive towards the far right and has strict anti-discrimination legislation that targets almost exclusively the right. For example, while it is illegal to deny Nazi crimes like the Holocaust, it is not illegal to deny communist crimes like the Cambodian or Ukrainian genocides. This explains, at least in part, the significantly higher number of so-called “propaganda crimes” (Propagandadelikte) of the far right in Germany. Somewhat surprisingly, the actual number of violent crimes is often higher for the far left than for the far right. In 2014 they were roughly equal (990 and 995, respectively), but in 2015 both exploded to 1,408 far right and 1,608 far left. They do differ strongly in their targets, however.

While the majority of far left violence is directed at the police and security authorities (1,032), the far right mainly targets “foreigners” (918). In addition, they target each other: there were 833 far left attacks on (real or supposed) right-wing extremists and 252 far right attacks on (real or supposed) left-wing extremists. Note: attacks can be counted to have multiple targets! Finally, the graph doesn’t say much about the deadliness of the different groups. With regard to the last two years, the number of attempted homicides has been very low among all groups. Again, the far left was highest, with seven in 2014 and eight in 2015. But where attempted homicides by foreigners decreased significantly, from six in 2014 to three in 2015, among the far right they exploded, from one to eight, equaling the number of the far left.

Conclusion
Germany is one of the few countries in the world that has a very effective and transparent registration of politically motivated crimes. Sadly, this often leads to the impression that such crimes are more common in Germany than in other countries, just because they are more conscientious in collecting and publishing these data. But however advanced the German state might be, there are still more than enough problems. Most importantly, crimes by foreigners, politically motivated or not, are more likely to be registered than those by citizens — and those by “immigrants” (a term also often used for second- and even third-generation) more than those by “natives” (often meant for white Germans). Similarly, as the disastrous case of the National Socialist Underground (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund, NSU) has recently showed again, far right crimes are most likely much more under-registered than other politically motivated crimes. All this being said, we can make at least the following observations:

1. There is no doubt that far right crimes are much more numerous than other politically motivated crimes.
2. The overrepresentation of the far right is almost exclusively in non-violent crimes.
3. This is to a large extent a consequence of the specific legal situation.
4. The “refugees crisis” has indeed led to a rise in crime, but more so by the German far right than by the (Syrian) asylum seekers. 
Cas Mudde is Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) at the University of Georgia and Researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo.
© The Huffington Post

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'Countries with strong public service media have less rightwing extremism'

EBU report finds countries that have popular public broadcasters also have better voter turnout and press freedom

8/8/2016- Countries that have popular, well-funded public service broadcasters encounter less rightwing extremism and corruption and have more press freedom, a report from the European Broadcasting Union has found. For the first time, an analysis has been done of the contribution of public service media, such as the BBC, to democracy and society. Following Brexit and the rise in rightwing extremism across Europe, the report shows the impact strong publicly funded television and radio has had on voter turnout, control of corruption and press freedom. The EBU, which founded Eurovision, carried out the study across 25 countries after noticing that the more well-funded a country’s public service outlets were, the less likely the nation was to endure extremism.

The report says that in “countries where public service media funding … is higher there tends to be more press freedom” and where they have a higher market share “there also tends to be a higher voter turnout”. It also says there is a strong correlation between how much of a country’s market its public service broadcaster has and the “demand for rightwing extremism” and “control of corruption”. “These correlations are especially interesting given the current public debates about low participation in elections, corruption and the rise of far right politics across Europe,” said EBU head of media intelligence service Roberto Suárez Candel, who conducted the research. “A strong and well funded public service media is not only about providing people with news, documentaries and entertainment – it’s also about contributing to democracy. While we can’t say that strong public TV and radio directly leads to greater democracy and less corruption, we have been able to show, for the first time, how these factors are connected.”

He told The Guardian: “One of the core functions of public service media is to deliver news, which is supposed to be independent. If they have appropriate resources they can invest in journalism and provide more quality news and the audience will trust them more.” Other research carried out by the EBU’s media intelligence service also revealed that radio is the most trusted medium in the UK and across most of Europe. Analysing data across 33 countries, 55% of European citizens trust radio the most, 48% trust TV, with the internet and social media less trusted in most countries, including Britain, than other sources. “It doesn’t surprise us that TV and radio are the most trusted media sources”, said Suárez Candel. “People maintain a strong relationship with radio and TV, which are still their primary sources of information and entertainment. It is also not surprising that in countries with a high level of funding for public service TV and radio there tends to be more trust in the media in general – they produce good quality content and provide valuable information for society.”

The EBU is an alliance of 73 European broadcasters whose members include the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Church accused of 'starving out' refugees in Regensburg

An ugly stand-off at a church in Regensburg has now ended, after the local diocese filed charges against four families of Roma refugees who took shelter inside. The refugees left after police turned up in force.

8/8/2016- A month of talks, several protests, and a hunger strike have finally ended at the Catholic St. Emmeram community center in Regensburg, Bavaria, where four Roma families from various Balkan countries had taken shelter since early July. In a final, and apparently successful, attempt to force the refugees out over the weekend, the church had pressed trespassing charges, stopped providing food and barred refugee helpers from bringing provisions themselves. Late on Monday, the refugees left the community center voluntarily with a police presence outside. The diocese confirmed that what it called a "protest action" had now ended. "The final 16 people have left the community center and are on their way to the authorities, who will clear up the remaining business," a statement released Monday read. "The community center is now once again available for church use. The necessary restoration work can begin."

On Friday, the local Catholic diocese issued a statement saying that it had been left with "no other choice than to increase the pressure" by pressing trespassing charges, though it added that "an emergency doctor is reachable." Some 16 people were still in the center at that point, including five children and a six-month-old baby, down from a peak of 50 sheltering inside in mid-July. The situation, which had become increasingly fraught over the past month, escalated last Thursday, when talks ended in a stalemate because the Roma made what the church described as "non-satisfiable conditions" - in other words, as Stephan Dünnwald of the Bavarian Refugee Council explained, the refugees had asked for some kind of guarantee that they could stay in the country.

No alternatives
But by Friday, the remaining families inside the church said they were willing to leave. According to a statement from Sunday by the Bavarian Refugee Council, three families said that, for "lack of alternatives," they would like to return to their home countries (Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo), while the fourth said they would like to go back to the state of Baden-Württemberg, where they have "residential tolerance status." In return, they asked the church to supply food until their voluntary return can be organized, as well as help from the Catholic Caritas charity and the foreigners' registration office. In its statement condemning the church's actions as "outrageous," the Refugee Council accused the church and the authorities of showing a lack of will in helping the refugees to leave. "The apparent claim of the central foreigners' authority of the Oberpfalz region that a voluntary departure could not be organized from Regensburg is factually wrong," the statement read.

"They could find a way if they wanted to guarantee the voluntary exit from the country," said Gotthold Streitberger of the Bavarian Refugee Council. Streitberger told DW that he had been prevented from entering the center at the weekend, and that the church had threatened the security guards with dismissal if they did not stop food being taken in. "Some people came with food, and the security guards said politely that it can't be taken in, so they tried to set it down outside, and the children wanted to come out and take it, but that was banned too," he said.

Tense situation
"The refugees are very tense and nervous at the moment," he said on Monday. "They don't understand why they are being starved out now that they've said they want to leave." The "Bayerische Rundfunk" broadcaster quoted an unnamed volunteer saying they had managed to smuggle food inside over the weekend, but Streitberger could not confirm this. For his part, the church's priest, Michael Fuchs, angrily accused the refugees of exploiting their own children: "While parents in need normally try to keep their children out of conflicts and publications, these children have been used from the beginning as banner holders, as photo objects on the protest front, and yes, in concrete threats even as potential orphans through the suicide of their parents," he said. "Just for the sake of the children, the parents' actions must now end quickly."

Streitberger said such angry exchanges were all the result of the tense month-long stand-off. "You have to remember there was a period of around eight or ten days when the area was completely kettled by police - a huge police presence, and there was no access possible at all," he told DW. "And in that time of course [the refugees] were in despair, and it came to some escalation, and someone did say that then they would only leave as a corpse and that their children would be orphans ... but that was about ten days ago and they took that back." Stephan Dünnwald admitted that the church had provided humanitarian care at first - food and shelter - but it had not made use of the legal privilege that allows churches in Germany to take people in its protection. "The church has let its role be dictated by the Interior Ministry," he told DW. "They haven't offered the refugees anything - one Caritas charity worker went there to look at their cases and see if it made sense to find a lawyer for them or something, but he was withdrawn and wasn't allowed to go back."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Most Germans want to end EU migrant deal with Turkey - poll

7/8/2016- Most Germans think the European Union should scrap a landmark migration deal with Turkey, also scuppering negotiations on its accession to the bloc, according to a poll published on Sunday. The deal, agreed by Ankara in exchange for the revival of financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the EU and accelerated membership talks, has sharply cut the number of refugees entering Europe via eastern routes. Last year Germany took in around 1.1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, far more than any other EU state, creating conditions that have led to a rise in social and political tensions in Europe's powerhouse economy. But the Emnid survey for mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag showed 52 percent were in favour of the migration deal being terminated, compared with 35 percent who wanted it to continue.

More than two thirds of the 502 people surveyed on Aug. 4 also wanted an immediate freeze of aid payments to Turkey and 66 percent wanted the EU accession talks broken off. Under the migration pact, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians who cross by sea to Greece illegally. The reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara's crackdown following a failed coup. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last weekend Ankara would back out of the refugee agreement with the EU if the bloc did not deliver visa-free travel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Chief of Staff, Peter Altmaier, said on Friday there was "no Plan B" for the migrant deal and told the Berliner Zeitung he was convinced it would remain in place. On Friday, Germany's foreign minister resisted a push by Austria to halt the EU accession talks with Turkey on joining the EU, saying the bloc needed to think more broadly with how to frame its relationship with Ankara in troubled times.
© Reuters UK.

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Germany: Small town celebrates as neo-Nazis abandon march

Far-right extremists have held marches in the small German town of Bad Nenndorf for years. But this time, persistent counterprotesters seem to have won the day with a cheerful display of resistance.

7/8/2016- The town of Bad Nenndorf in the German state of Lower Saxony is celebrating what would seem to be a victory over neo-Nazis after a far-right march was called off. Peaceful opponents of far-right extremism were the only protesters to be found on the town's streets on Saturday, as many years of resistance to neo-Nazis apparently bore fruit. A "funeral march" planned for the day by neo-Nazis was cancelled three weeks ago, with no reason being given. But organizers from the local alliance "Bad Nenndorf ist bunt" ("Bad Nenndorf is diverse") said the cancellation was largely due to years of creative protest by citizens against the event, which has been taking place in the town since 2006 - and is theoretically scheduled to occur until 2030. This year, Bad Nenndorfers held a church service, bicycle parade and street festival in the town, "more like a party with a summery, peaceful atmosphere than the protest event that was originally planned," said police chief Michael Panitz.

Imaginative protests
Previous years have seen the neo-Nazis being greeted by German folk music and confetti. On one occasion, they even became unwilling participants in a fundraiser, with 10 euros ($11.09) donated to "Exit," an organization that helps people break with far-right extremism, for every minute they spent in the town. Right-wing extremists from all over the country have formerly converged on the town for the march, which commemorates the reported abuse of Nazi prisoners by British occupying forces between 1945 and 1947. Critics of the neo-Nazis say that the poor treatment of some of the prisoners at the former Wincklerbad internment camp in the town is taken out of proportion by the far-right extremists, who regularly compare the abuse with mass murder carried out by the Nazi regime.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Britain First could be Ďfinishedí if High Court bid to ban them from every mosque

Group leader Paul Golding claims they are facing a 'direct challenge to exist as a political party'

12/8/2016- Britain First could be “finished” as it faces a High Court attempt to ban it from entering any mosque in England or Wales for the next three years. The injunction, which has been requested by Bedfordshire Police, could also ban the group from entering Luton town centre or its predominately Asian neighbourhood, Bury Park, without permission. The terms of the order, seen by The Independent, means it would also be banned from directing its activists to the area or publishing images or films showing any member of the group inside the exclusion zone. The far-right group claims Luton is a “hotspot” for Islamic extremism. The injunction would mean they would not be allowed to enter a mosque in England or Wales "without written permission". The application comes after Britan First was widely criticised for its "mosque invasions".

Group members have filmed themselves going into mosques to confront imams or worshippers. They have also previously handed out Bibles outside mosques. But Britain First said the ruling, which is expected next month, could spell the end of the group as they cannot afford to continue to fight legal actions. In a video message last month the group’s leader, Paul Golding, said the group risked being “bled dry” by “endless court appearances and injunctions”. He condemned the injunction saying: “What we are dealing with here is a direct challenge to exist as a political party. Why do I say that? It’s simple. “If Luton police can achieve an injunction against a legally registered party then what’s to stop then what’s to stop every other town obtaining similar injunctions”.

Separately, Golding and his deputy, Jayda Fransen, have faced legal trouble of their own. Last week, Golding was fined £450 for “wearing a uniform with political objectives” after the Britain First fleece he wore during a rally in Luton in January was deemed “intimidating”. In a separate case Fransen is facing charges of alleged religiously aggravated harassment during the rally. The case is still ongoing. Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constable Mike Colbourne defended the order. He told the International Business Times: "The injunction is being sought due to concerns that their presence in these areas could increase the possibility of disorder and anti-social behaviour. "I would like to be clear that it is not our intention to ban any demonstration and we will always facilitate peaceful protest where possible." Britain First has claimed it is defending the country from creeping “Islamification” and has been widely criticised – and derided – for its “Christian patrols”.

A “hapless” protest organised outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel was caught on camera in March. Fransen and two others were the only people to show up while spectators quietly laughed at them. They have also been criticised for their attempts to align their cause to the armed forces. A photo taken with two young Sea Cadets in Nottingham was removed from Facebook in November last year after one of the girls’ mothers and the organisation complained. They have also been attacked by the family of Lee Rigby, the soldier killed by Islamist terrorists in Woolwich in 2013, for using their son’s image without their consent on multiple occasions.
© The Independent

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UK: The 'yellowface' Snapchat filter is nothing new

Several reputable studies have concluded that the ethnic group that suffers the highest rates of unreported racist hate crime in Britain is East Asians. When the butt of the joke is dehumanised in this way, it’s only a matter of time before that butt gets kicked
By Daniel York


12/8/2016- Snapchat is being defensive about its “anime” filter which is (rightly, in my opinion) being called out as an example of “yellowface”. Yellowface is of course nothing new and neither is the defensiveness around it. People tend to dig their heels in about yellowface a lot. Indeed, I’ve argued previously that yellowface is the last acceptable bastion of racist caricature and racial appropriation. Like blackface and brownface, there are two basic forms of yellowface. There is the type that enables actors (nearly always of Caucasian descent) to portray characters who are supposed to be East Asian. Some of these actors have even been nominated for awards for dressing up in exotic costumes and perfecting stilted hybrid accents. This type of “performance yellowface” completely perpetuates the notion that actors of Caucasian descent are inherently more talented, more intelligent, more nuanced and more skilful practitioners of the thespian arts – an utterly ludicrous premise which has had to be (and continues to be) fought very hard.

After all, let us not forget that once upon a time women were not allowed on the stage either and were portrayed by young men. If anyone seriously wants to try and posit the argument that men playing women is somehow preferable to watching the likes of Judi Dench, Halle Berry or Juliet Binoche in action then good luck with that one. The other type of yellowface – the Snapchat variety – is obviously meant to be fun but also points up and exaggerates certain perceived ethnic “traits” which enforce stereotypes and are used to ridicule and dehumanise. It encourages people to pull back their eyes into thin slants, pronounce their l’s as r’s and force their teeth to protrude in the guise of the “comedy oriental” a la Mickey Rooney in the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

It is of course entirely false. Many, many East Asians have very large eyes, there is no greater occurrence of buckteeth in certain racial groups and, as for the r’s and l’s, let’s face it, there are sounds in all “foreign” languages that the majority of English speakers will struggle with hopelessly. But the whole point of yellowface is it reinforces a certain perceived cultural superiority: you can’t speak our language perfectly so you’re obviously a bit strange (even though you probably speak our language with far more command and dexterity than most of us would ever have yours). Both types of yellowface render people of East Asian descent as invisible ciphers with no personality or individual characteristics. Like blackface or brownface, they reinforce White Western Caucasian as the supreme “norm”; the default setting to which every other type of ethnicity is at best a quirky exotic counterpoint and, at worst, some form of hateful deviation, to be scorned, dominated and kept in its place lest it claim some form of parity in the wider “Caucasian” world.

If anyone reading feels this in any way over-sensitive it might be worth googling some Nazi caricatures of Jews in the 1930s. I’m sure that was all good fun back in the day but we all know how that ended up. It’s also worth remembering that several reputable studies have concluded that the ethnic group that suffers the highest rates of unreported racist hate crime in Britain is East Asians. Traditionally the most unassertive and disparate racial group lacking any kind of media voice or presence, this is really no coincidence. When the butt of the joke is dehumanised in this way, it’s only a matter of time before that butt gets kicked. It’s sometimes argued that this kind of ridicule cuts both ways and is a basic component of humour that goes on in all cultures – but a recent Chinese detergent advert featuring a black man being “washed” Chinese rightly attracted mass social media disapproval. Interestingly, the one East Asian country where you can find regular racist caricatures of white people is...North Korea.

Any other ways we want to emulate the Democratic People’s Republic? Then start caring about racial caricatures in Snapchat filters.
© The Independent -Voices

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UK: Nigel Farage boasted about his National Front initials and chanted Nazi song

‘I knew you – I remember your interest in the National Front. I want the nation to see you as I do.' New claims of former Ukip leader’s ‘dark’ past

12/8/2016- Nigel Farage was proud at the height of Britain’s far right movement that his initials NF also stood for National Front, according to a close school friend who after years of silence says he now wants the public to understand more about the man. He also claims the teenage Mr Farage sang “gas ‘em all, gas ‘em all”, a neo-Nazi song about Jewish people. The former friend attended fee-paying Dulwich College in south London with the ex-Ukip leader in the late Seventies and early Eighties and says he has kept quiet about his memories until now, in part out of a sense of loyalty. For many years, he observed the rise of the politician’s career proud they had shared schooldays together. At times he even cheered Mr Farage’s trademark onslaughts in the European Parliament by saying “good on Nigel”.

But over the past several months the successful professional has become alarmed by divisions he believes are being created in Britain partly as a result of the rhetoric and imagery used by the MEP. When he saw him standing in front of a Leave.EU poster of refugees with the words “Breaking Point” during the latter stages of the Brexit campaign, he thought it was time to speak out. At that moment, he remembered the teenage Nigel who he says would provoke and “enchant” teachers and pupils alike and supported the British 1930s fascist Oswald Mosley. His former friend initially planned to identify himself, but after the killing of MP Jo Cox in June he claims he is fearful of potential repercussions from fanatics.

He has now written an open letter to Mr Farage in The Independent. In it, he says he does not believe his former classmate and confidant has any sympathy with fascist views today but he has been considering how much his views have evolved between his youth and middle age. He argues it was wrong of their former headteacher, the late David Emms, to brush off his extreme views as “naughtiness” and that there are lessons to be learned for how schools deal with extreme behaviour today. He said were a Muslim pupil were to express extreme Islamist views at school now, they would be dealt with immediately and referred to mentoring programmes. He said it is to be hoped the same applies to non-Muslim extremism. “Let’s hope schools are now taking action on the kind of comments you made at school,” he writes in his letter.

He says they were close friends in their teenage years. “I remember the way you enchanted people at school — senior teachers and fellow pupils alike,” he writes. “Your English project on fishing enthralled everyone. I remember mine being particularly boring. You were and are a great speaker, for sure. “But I also remember other, darker things about you. There was a time when I used to look back and dismiss much of them as the amusing naughtiness of teenagers as we were, much like our old headmaster David Emms did. “I haven’t chosen to write before, but I simply have to now. I now wonder if there is a connection between you at 16 and you at 52. There are things that tell me your views might not have changed that much despite the many years.”

It is not the first time Mr Farage has faced accusations of holding fascist views at school. In 2013, a letter emerged from a former Dulwich College teacher, Chloe Deakin, to then headteacher Mr Emms, who died earlier this year. According to the letter written in June 1981 – two months after the Brixton riots a couple of miles away – she pleaded unsuccessfully with Mr Emms to reverse his decision to make Nigel a prefect. She said colleagues had told her he held “publicly professed racist and fascist views” and that he had once marched through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs. When confronted by these accusations in 2013, Mr Farage said: “I don't know any Hitler youth songs, in English or German… . Any accusation I was ever involved in far right politics is utterly untrue. “Of course I said some ridiculous things, not necessarily racist things. It depends how you define it.”

Other former pupils of the school told Channel 4 in 2013 that Mr Farage’s views were “merely Thatcherite”. Another man who also knew him at school has told The Independent Mr Farage became a target for some Left-leaning teachers because he would embarrass them in pupils versus staff debates. However, Mr Farage’s former friend now suggests there may have been more to the story. He writes today: “But I do remember you singing the song starting with the words ‘gas them all, gas ‘em all, gas them all’. “I can’t forget the words. I can’t bring myself to write the rest of it for it is more vile than anything the teachers at Dulwich would ever have been aware of.” He said the lyrics were sung to the George Formby tune 'Bless ‘em all'. He adds: “We hear much of ‘due diligence’ in today's financial world, but had the teachers and headmaster of Dulwich investigated the concerns around your appointment as a prefect with your peers - as they would hopefully today in similar circumstances - they might have made a very different decision.

“They might not have brushed them under the carpet; they might have made you think a little more about your rhetoric; history might be a little different today. “For I vividly recall the keen interest you had in two initials of your name written together as a signature and the bigoted symbol that represents from the many doodles over your school books. Nigel Farage, NF, National Front. I remember watching you draw it. Just a laugh, eh, Nigel? “…In April 1981, we had the Brixton riots. They happened just up the road from our school. The images of rioting people, many of them from the racial minorities, made it easy to discriminate; many people did back then. “The National Front was hugely popular by comparison to today. So, turbulent times back then… but have you not moved on?”

The neo-Nazi National Front was at its peak during the years Mr Farage was at school in the mid-late Seventies when it had 14,000 paid-up members. They were frequently involved in violent clashes with the police and the organisation had developed sister groups in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Canada. It had also campaigned against Britain’s membership of the EEC. Mr Farage’s former friend told The Independent his decision to speak out was not motivated by any anger over June’s vote to leave the EU. He said although he voted Remain, he was a “reluctant Remainer” and that he sympathised with some of Mr Farage’s concerns on immigration. However, he writes: “From being a real fan, I found myself thinking more and more with every appearance of yours on television that we must be aware of false prophets. Notably, the image of a desperate line of refugees, photographed not even in England, showed me that Nigel Farage has perhaps not changed that much.

“These people were used as live currency to further your cause to represent Britain being at breaking point from European immigrants – although those people were from outside of Europe. The imagery of a loss of control, hopelessness, of our own politicians not caring for us is the stuff of two world wars. I can hear you say “useless” in the way you used to. “As I have said, the immigration issue surely needs fixing, but you have shamefully used this picture. “Seeing your gloating display post referendum at the European Parliament just rammed home the point: it seemed here we had a bit of the Nigel I knew at school. Yes, you’ve fought 20 years and no one took you seriously – but let us have some humility.” Mr Farage stepped down as Ukip leader days after the victorious Brexit campaign in June. He is due to start a tour of European countries next month when he will advise other Eurosceptic parties on how to follow Ukip’s lead.

His former friend writes today: “I’m sure the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn in Greece will cheer you loudly. The people of Greece, beware. “…I think you’re a troublemaker. You were at school, you are now. But we need to beware of what’s being whipped up.” Mr Farage did not directly respond to the claims made by his former friend. Instead, he said: “To say that this is going over old ground is an understatement. The period during which I was at Dulwich was highly politically charged with the rise of Thatcherism to the Brixton riots just down the road. “There were many people of that time who were attracted to extreme groups on both sides of the debate.” He added: “Whoever sent you this must be a little of touch to say that I supported Oswald Mosley as he believed in a United States of Europe. Some people need to get over Brexit.” Dulwich College did not respond to a request for comment.
© The Independent

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UK: Gay couple holding hands 'thrown out of Sainsbury's after holding hands'

A gay couple were shown out of a Hackney Sainsbury's after being spotted holding hands, it is claimed.

11/8/2016- Thomas Rees and his boyfriend Joshua Bradwell were allegedly told by a guard that a customer had made a complaint about them "touching inappropriately". Mr Reese said they were then escorted off the premises, leaving the couple shocked at their treatment. The 32-year-old design graduate told the BBC: “It’s really knocked me for six and I’ve spent the last day or so analysing how I’m perceived. “We weren’t celebrating good news, we weren’t all over each other, we weren’t in the throes of passion – it was essentially just holding my boyfriend’s hand as I do every day. “I’m very much in love and that’s how I express my love.” Mr Rees added that Sainsbury's offered the couple a £10 gift voucher to try and apologise for the incident. But he added that the company should have called him for an apology, rather than just send him a Twitter message. A Sainsbury’s spokesman said the company wanted to offer the couple their sincerest apologies. He added: “We are an inclusive retailer and employer and do not tolerate discrimination in our stores. a“We will take appropriate action once we’ve concluded our investigation with our security contractor.”
© The Evening Standard.

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UK: Prince Harryís former regiment investigated for racism

Soldiers in Prince Harry’s former regiment are facing dismissal after pictures emerged of squaddies mocking black colleagues using the N-word.

10/8/2016- Military police have launched an investigation into members of The Blues and Royals over racist slurs, sparked by the selfie. Cavalryman Ashley Parker shared a selfie on Whatsapp with the caption: ‘What’s going on here then! Band of brothers.’ A friend ‘Neil’ answers with the N-word, and the others add comments about the black soldiers from The Life Guards. Within minutes, ‘Halstead’ replied about how he had apparently overheard the men taking about ‘how little money they get paid’. Neil then replied: ‘Better than being back home walking 20k for water’. It is understood appalled colleagues of the soldiers became aware of the photo, and reported it to a superior. A friend of one men in the background said he was furious but that he felt powerless to do anything about the racist remarks.

The black ex-military man said: ‘It has been reported and they guys are being dealt with, and the police are involved. It is exactly why I left the army. ‘I loved my job, and all of these guys do, but I could not stand the racist remarks. I think these messages are disgusting and something needs to be done.’ The photo was taken at Combermere Barracks near Windsor during a leaving do attended by the Household Cavalry – the two most senior regiments of the British Army – formed by the Blues and Royals and the Life Guards. The MOD Police are investigating, and Army bosses warned the men involved faced potential dismissal from the forces.

Brigadier John Donnelly, head of Army Personnel Services Group, said: ‘This is a very serious allegation which is subject to an on-going Service Police investigation, and it would be inappropriate to comment further. ‘However, I want to make it very clear that the Army will not tolerate this type of behaviour, and anyone who is found guilty of committing such an offence will be punished in accordance with our disciplinary processes, which can include dismissal.’
© Metro UK

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UK: Kent Police ordered to pay in race discrimination case

British Asian policeman Angus Bowler says he suffered a ‘nightmare’ as tribunal rules that the ‘loyal and successful’ constable was ‘worn down by the conduct of his senior officers’

9/8/2016- Kent Police have been ordered to pay aggravated damages after a tribunal found senior officers had subjected a British Asian constable to racial discrimination and police witnesses had “suffered a collective memory loss” while giving evidence about a key aspect of the case. Angus Bowler, 53, a “long-serving, loyal and successful officer, was worn down by the conduct of his senior officers,” the employment tribunal ruled. Because of the discrimination and victimisation, the father of three went from having hardly any sickness absences in 25 years to needing time off for stress, suffering dizzy spells and chest pains, and feeling sick on the way to work. Yet the panel ruled that after an earlier judgement produced findings of racial discrimination and victimisation, “there was a complete lack of action” from Kent Police. Mr Bowler, the tribunal found, was “fobbed off” by the force’s professional standards department when requesting an investigation into the findings.

The tribunal also said that an apparent letter of apology sent by Chief Constable Alan Pughsley five days before the tribunal’s compensation hearing was “half-hearted and late” and “smacked of an attempt to avoid aggravated damages.” The tribunal included the letter as one of the reasons for awarding £5,165 in aggravated damages. In a judgement entered on 5 August, the tribunal also ordered Kent Police to pay Mr Bowler’s £1,450 tribunal fees, plus £20,822 in compensation. Its damning ruling comes amid a series of Black Lives Matter protests in both UK and the US, in which demonstrators have complained of alleged police racism. Mr Bowler claimed race discrimination after failing to get promotion to sergeant in March 2014 while working for Kent’s special branch frontier operation near the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

The initial employment tribunal ruling, made in April this year after a hearing in Ashford, Kent, cleared Detective Inspector Nicholas Staddon of racially discriminating against Mr Bowler, partly because the evidence indicated that he had also been “rude and abrupt” to a white officer. The tribunal found, however, that once Mr Bowler lodged a grievance complaint over his lack of promotion, he was subjected to both victimisation and racial discrimination. The tribunal heard that Detective Chief Inspector Andy Somerville had found race relations legislation “convoluted”, so his investigation of the grievance consisted of him quoting the Oxford dictionary definition of racism to Mr Staddon, who assured him he wasn’t racist. Ruling that such “sheer incompetence” amounted to racial discrimination, the tribunal panel said: “The lackadaisical approach by Mr Somerville indicated he held a stereotypical view that the claimant [Mr Bowler] was being oversensitive about being treated badly because of his race.”

When Mr Bowler appealed, the tribunal added, Superintendent Martin Very “brushed aside” his arguments and “rubber stamped” the earlier report, failing to take the complaint seriously because he viewed the British Asian constable “stereotypically, as oversensitive.” The tribunal ruled that Mr Very had been “disingenuous” in claiming in evidence to the hearing that Mr Bowler’s representative Wendell Henry, of the National Black Police Association, had told him there was "no racial element" to the grievance. “It was so unlikely that he would have told Mr Very that the grievance was not about race as to be incredible,” the tribunal observed in its judgement. Although Mr Bowler arrested a suspected terrorist in October 2014 – the first such arrest by his unit in 11 years – neither Detective Sergeant Scott Wilson nor his successor Det Sgt John McClean mentioned it in their appraisal reports.

Mr Wilson said the arrest happened after he had written his hand-over report. Mr McClean said it took place before he became Mr Bowler’s line manager. In its judgement, the tribunal found: “It was indicative of their grudging attitude that neither of them mentioned it.” The tribunal also found that Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson victimised Mr Bowler by making written criticisms which unfairly questioned his honesty. The tribunal made the key legal point that both men did this after discovering he had initiated a grievance procedure against them, adding the pointed observation: “Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson were vague in their evidence about when they became aware of the grievance; it was one of the few things they were unable to remember.” The tribunal accepted as one of the grounds for awarding aggravated damages that “witnesses suffered ‘collective memory loss’ about the date they became aware of the grievance, despite being able to recall other matters well.”

The tribunal also found that Kent Police had been slow to disclose emails written by Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson about Mr Bowler, adding that as a result he “felt, with good reason, that [Kent Police] was not being forthcoming and was trying to hide the more damaging emails which would show what really happened.” The tribunal added that this led to Mr Bowler forming the “not unreasonable” impression that had he not been aware of the emails and asked for them, they would not have been disclosed. Ruling on the amount to award Mr Bowler, the tribunal noted that after its initial racial discrimination verdict was delivered in April, “There was a complete lack of action.” Mr Bowler, who is still serving with Kent’s special branch frontier operation in France, told the tribunal he had hoped there would be an immediate change of attitude and “the next day I would go into work, and we would have a meeting and return to a productive working relationship.”

Instead, with the force expected to seek leave to appeal against the race discrimination and victimisation verdicts, no-one at Kent Police mentioned the judgement to Mr Bowler. When he contacted Kent’s professional standards department to see whether an internal investigation would be launched in relation to the original judgement, he was, the tribunal ruled, “fobbed off by requests for reports or allegations to be put in writing.” Chief Constable Pughsley did send a letter to Mr Bowler in July, three months after initial judgement was issued in April, in which he promised Kent Police would learn from what happened, admitted that “processes were not handled as well as they should have been” and apologised “on behalf of the force, for what happened.”

The tribunal, however, agreed with Mr Bowler in dismissing the letter as something that “appears to be [an] apology, but it is not clear what the apology is for.” “The tribunal found,” the ruling added, “That the letter was a half-hearted and late attempt to reduce any compensation payable.” The tribunal recommended that Kent Police set up an independent review of the force’s grievance procedures and training, and consult with the Black Police Officers Association about any resulting recommendations. The tribunal also said that the five senior officers named in its judgements should receive formal equality training. Mr Bowler refused to discuss the case in detail because of the pending appeal. He would only say: “It’s been a nightmare.” Kent Police said the force was in the process of appealing against the findings of race discrimination and victimisation.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Whilst Kent Police accepts that there are points within the grievance and appeals procedures that could be improved, it does not accept that the officer was treated differently due to his race, and Kent Police has been granted an appeal against the tribunal’s decision. "Having submitted the appeal, Kent Police requested that the remedies hearing be adjourned pending the conclusion of the appeals process. However, this was rejected. "The Chief Constable did send a letter to Mr Bowler apologising for the way in which the matters were dealt with. There was concern that Mr Bowler might be staying at two different addresses therefore to ensure prompt receipt the letter was sent via his solicitor. Kent Police now awaits the result of the appeal. Recommendations submitted by Mr Bowler for improvement to procedures will be considered by the force."
© The Independent

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UK: Exploring the Controversy Around the Government's Inquiry Into Sharia Law

8/8/2016- Back in May, then-Home Secretary Theresa May announced what would be one of her ast significant steps on the job: an independent inquiry into the uses – and alleged abuses – of Islamic "Sharia courts" in the UK. In many ways, the news was a long time coming. Sharia courts have been legal in the UK as "mediation and arbitration bodies" since the Arbitration Act of 1996 and, along with the Orthodox Jewish Beth Din, have a mandate to oversee family disputes – particularly divorce. For a while, the growth of these types of bodies was accepted as an inevitability by many in the British establishment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to Justice Secretary Jack Straw. But in the last few years things have changed. Following a controversial undercover investigation by the BBC's Panorama, as well as a campaign by Baroness Cox and others against alleged violations of women's rights taking place in the country's Sharia councils, the tide seems to have turned.

The NGO One Law for All – run by, among others, the Iranian-born activist and leftist Maryam Namazie – has long alleged that they contravene women's rights, and that they represent an extension of the hard-right project of political Islam to undermine secular law and divide communities. "The greatest human rights violations against black and minority women are taking place in these courts," says Namazie over the phone. "From our perspective this is all part and parcel of the Islamist project, and you have many examples internationally to prove this. It's not just terrorism that is an issue for people in countries in the Middle East and North Africa, but also a sort of terrorism promoted by Sharia laws and violence against women."

Even proponents of the practice agree that reforms need to happen. Maulana Muhammad Shahid Raza, executive secretary of the Wembley-based Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK told VICE that he welcomes the decision to launch an inquiry, and that arbitration bodies should only refer to themselves as "councils" and not "courts", as they have no statutory legal authority. "There is a need for some sort of regulating the services of these Sharia councils in the country," he says. "Within the last five years or so, many, many Sharia councils have cropped up; a few of them are... doing things in a way which are not accepted. I know that some of the Sharia councils in this country are geographically in this country and ideologically in a different country, which we do not like, and which we would not accept or agree with at all."

While you'd assume that groups like One Law for All would welcome the news of an independent inquiry, many activists now plan to boycott it, arguing that, with its theological focus and emphasis on "best practice", it doesn't confront the root of the problem. "What we're saying is that this is not a theological debate; this is not about moderate versus extreme forms of Sharia law – it's about women's rights, minority women's rights and their right to access justice," argues Namazie. "It needs to be judge-led, it needs to look at the wide variety of human rights violations that are taking place, whether it's being condoned by these courts or even promoted by these courts." Getting a clear picture of the use of Sharia councils in the UK isn't always easy: for one thing, the debate has been dominated by the far-right. From the English Defence League and Britain First, to more mainstream groups like UKIP, the boogeyman of "Sharia law" has come to be used as proof by many on the right of some sinister Islamic conspiracy to ban bingo and real ale – and to set up a sinister parallel legal system that can contravene British law.

The right-wing connection has been such a problem that groups like One Law for All have had to officially distance themselves from organisations like the EDL with a report called "Enemies Not Allies", which called on activists to take greater care to avoid cooperation with Islamophobic groups. It doesn't help that groups such as One Law for All haven't always sidestepped the more inflammatory members of the right-wing commentariat. Namazie has shared a platform with Douglas Murray, a Spectator columnist with a history of flirting with inflammatory racial politics – though has criticised his anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past. On top of this, criticism of arbitration councils are often framed in a critique of "multiculturalism" and of the "cultural relativism" of the left – catnip to the far-right.

That said, evidence gathered by grassroots campaigners is impossible to ignore. It's hard to pin down specific accusations by women against specific councils (many are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution from their communities), but human rights organisations point to numerous cases where Sharia councils have made getting a religious divorce – often from abusive husbands – harder for women, causing unnecessary psychological trauma as a result. Proponents of these institutions argue that the opposite is true. Shahid Raza says that in immigrant communities, where marriages are not recognised by civil law in the UK, Sharia councils are the only recourse for women trying to escape troubled relationships. "If the government or the judiciary provided the provision for the dissolution of the Islamic side of the marriages, within the mainstream system, I think 99 percent of the work of Sharia councils would come to an end," he argues. "It is an additional burden on the shoulder of communities to run Sharia councils."

Far from being weighted in favour of men, he argues, the councils he has worked on will often find themselves attracting the ire of the some 70 percent of husbands who refuse to accept divorces. "They will react and respond very angrily," he says. "Some of them will be branding us agents of America and Jews; some will say to us that we are kafirs, that we are not Muslims." One organisation that disagrees with Raza is the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which has also heavily criticised the government's inquiry as a "farce" and has compiled numerous examples, gleaned from interviews with women, of abuses by courts. "Patriarchy is a massive issue with all of the women that we're working with," argues Sara Browne, a campaign officer for the group. "The courts represent a massive problem for us: it's an unbalanced, dangerous system."

A report for the IKWRO – and submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee – by clinical psychologist Dr Savin Bapir-Tardy, who interviewed dozens of women in their native languages about their experiences, details many cases where Sharia courts are alleged to have been enablers in the abuse of women. In evidence, she describes a "very religious" Kurdish patient of hers, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who had been a victim of female genital mutilation. "She explained that she did not feel anything positive during sexual intercourse. Her husband accused her of withholding sex," she writes. "The 'Sharia court' told her that her husband's physical and verbal abuse was the result of her not fulfilling her wifely duties sexually."

In another case, a woman subject to financial and psychological abuse by her husband, with whom she had a child, was told by an arbitration council that she would lose her dowry and would be left without financial help. "She was not informed by the religious arbitrator to seek advice on her financial rights under UK family law," writes Bapir-Tardy. "The religious arbitrators were effectively acting as a barrier to her understanding or accessing her rights under UK law. 'Sharia courts' use the power of women's faith to gain a psychological hold over them through guilt. This guilt is used to make any woman who challenges the orders of the religious arbitrators feel as if they are the perpetrator and are responsible for destroying the family's reputation."

With the inquiry set to release its findings by the end of next year, but with major activist groups set to the boycott the panel, it's hard to see what it will actually achieve. With a focus on the theological angle of these arbitration councils and not on the complex legal arguments made by both sides, what seems most likely to happen is that it will become what the government seemed to want it to be in the first place: a politically expedient non-solution to a complex issue. The ones who will really suffer, of course, will be the communities where Sharia councils are prevalent, whether they're the community leaders asking for civil recognition of Islamic marriages, or, much more distressingly, the vulnerable women stuck between several bad options.
© The Vice

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UK: Schools ban 20 pupils a day for racism

Twenty pupils are excluded each school day for racially abusing classmates, an analysis has found.

8/8/2016- The figures show a need for more cohesive schools to be set up in areas where there is a social need for greater diversity, according to the New Schools Network (NSN) which advises groups opening free schools. The number of incidents of racial abuse in schools rose by a fifth from 2009 to 2015. Since 2009 there have been more than 27,000 exclusions for racial abuse. Last year alone there were 4,000 cases serious enough to warrant a fixed or permanent exclusion. Racist abuse in schools is defined as derogatory racist statements, racist bullying, graffiti, taunting and harassment or swearing that can be attributed to racist characteristics. A tenth of the exclusions occurred in primary schools; the remainder in secondaries.

Many incidents were recorded in northern, midlands and coastal towns, although Richmond, in southwest London, was at the top of the table and Islington in north London came fourth. NSN has successfully argued for a new category of “social need” to be part of the free school application criteria. This means that free school proposals will be considered if there is a proven social need. The network hopes that proposals will be brought forward for more integrated schools in areas where schools are segregated on racial lines. In Oldham, for example, historically there have been schools at which 99 per cent of pupils are white and others at which 99 per cent have Asian heritage. Collective Spirit, in Oldham, is a multi-faith free school built around a faith-sensitive ethos which encourages the cohesion of diverse and often segregated communities. It attracts more applications than there are places.

Sarah Pearson, of NSN, said: “The addition of a ‘social need’ category in the criteria opens the door further for schools, charities and other community organisations to come forward with ideas to create schools designed to build community cohesion. We are in discussion with a number of groups who have particular interest in community integration, and we anticipate that more will now follow in their footsteps.”
© The Times

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UK: Rotherham Mosque Receives Neo-Nazi Bomb Threat

6/8/2016- As we have mentioned time and time again, the Rotherham grooming scandal has been seized by on by extremist and far right groups like Britain First and further whipped up to create racial and religiously based divisions, which assists no-one but extremist groups themselves. In fact, there have been a series of very disturbing incidents in Rotherham that we have highlighted here, here and here. Rotherham remains a flash point for tensions with South Yorkshire police, civil society groups and faith groups picking up the pieces of what has been a soul-searching time for the town and its statutory agencies. The current threat against a mosque in Rotherham, raises anti-Muslim hatred to another level and with the neo-nazi terminology of 1488 also listed on the threat. The text on the threat states: “Next time it will be a bomb, you Muslim scum, 1488.” We will be passing on this material to the police and urge members of the public in Rotherham to remain vigilant. Please report in any material, threats or intimidation that is targeted at mosques or other institutions and we are here to assist and to work with police forces.
© Tell Mama News

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