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Headlines 29 April, 2016

Headlines 22 April, 2016

Headlines 15 April, 2016

Headlines 29 April, 2016

Spain: Homophobic attacks rising in Madrid region, says rights group

Police rolling out new measures to deal with problem. Experts say spike in reports due to greater social awareness.

28/4/2016- The Madrid region is experiencing a significant rise in homophobic attacks this year, according to gay rights group Arcópoli. The association said there had been 52 attacks since January, one every two days or so on average. Not every aggression was reported to the police. Arcópolis is asking for urgent measures to fight these hate crimes, while the government delegate in the region and the Madrid Attorney’s Office say they are using all the tools at their disposal to do so. The Spanish capital is by far the worst offender, with the highest rate of reported assaults located in Chueca, Madrid’s gay neighborhood, and in the surrounding areas of Callao, Cibeles, Colón and Alonso Martínez, according to Arcópolis, a university-based group. “Gay couples, mostly men, walk hand in hand in these areas, or kiss when they go out, without realizing that they are no longer in the safest area,” said Rubén López, the association’s hate crimes spokesman. Weekends and holidays typically register more attacks. The classic victim is a man between 18 and 25 years of age, who sustains bruising and, in fewer cases, fractures. “Except for two very serious cases, the rest were discharged [from hospital] within hours,” says López.

Greater awareness
Manuel Ródenas, who coordinates the Madrid regional government’s LGTB program, says that homophobia is not a new problem. In his opinion, there is now greater social awareness about it, and people are reporting it more often. “It didn’t get covered in the news before, and social media did not exist or did not have such an impact,” says Ródenas, a lawyer by trade. “Now people are losing their fear of reporting it.” The Madrid government has a special hotline (+34 917 010 788) for victims, and a department made up of psychologists, social workers and lawyers at their disposal. Government delegate Concepción Dancausa said that the work that remains to be done is basically getting people to report cases. “It’s not odd that complaints are on the rise,” she said. “In fact, I dare say that’s a good thing, because there is nothing worse than having the crime exist but people be afraid to report it, and for it to go unnoticed. In that case, we cannot roll out the necessary means [to fight it].”

Meanwhile, the National Police has appointed a coordinator to deal with homophobic crimes in the Madrid region. “One of the problems we are facing is the fact that many victims are not aware that they have experienced a hate crime,” says Inspector José Ramón Murillo, the coordinator. “In the case of homophobia, you have the added element that the victims do not want to draw attention to their sexual conduct. Often they prefer to preserve their privacy rather than report [the crime].” The issue of hate crimes, which include homophobia, has also created friction between the government delegation in Madrid and the city authorities. Dancausa noted that investigating these crimes falls to the National Police and the Civil Guard. Her remarks came shortly after a new master plan released by the Municipal Police included the fight against hate crimes. Sergeant David Martín Abánades is the coordinator of this new service by the Madrid police force.

“The main thing is to provide support for the victim, just like with gender violence, and to end hate speech. This can certainly be fought by the Municipal Police,” said Martín, who has been in active duty for 20 years. Martín sought to convey that they will work in coordination with the National Police. “There is no war, no confrontation,” he said. “We have more than enough work to keep both law enforcement agencies busy.”
© El País in English


U.N.'s Ban ki-Moon warns of 'growing xenophobia' in Europe

28/4/2016- Warning of “growing xenophobia,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on Thursday criticized increasing restrictions on safe haven for refugees in Europe, saying they tarnish commitments to international law. Ban did not name any country in his speech to Austria’s lower house of parliament. But considering the venue, his comments appeared to allude at least in part to ongoing Austrian moves to tighten and reduce the entry of migrants. The upper house is scheduled later in the day to vote into effect a law that would allow authorities to stop accepting asylum requests at borders if they decide such a move is necessary to “maintain public order and … protect internal security.” Asylum-seekers would instead be turned back. The draft law also mandates “temporary asylum” for all migrants who have applied for such status since Nov.15. They would have to leave Austria after three years if authorities determine that their home country is once again safe. If not, their status would be indefinitely extended. The proposed legislation also makes it more difficult for family members to join those granted asylum.

Expressing concern “that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies,” Ban said these “negatively affect” their human rights commitments under international and European laws. “We have a moral and legal … obligation to help those fleeing war, human rights abuses and persecution,” Ban told the legislators. “I’m alarmed … about growing xenophobia here and beyond.” Human Rights Watch criticized the pending law in a statement, saying it constitutes “a legal wall to asylum just as despicable as a razor-wire fence.” Austria welcomed migrants with few restrictions last year but has moved to tight limits after accepting about 90,000 asylum requests last year. Early this year, it orchestrated the closure of the West Balkan route used by those moving northward from Greece in hopes of settling in Austria and other prosperous EU nations. It also has re-imposed border controls and capped the number of asylum seekers it will accept at 37,500 annually.
© The Associated Press


UK: The Banality of Hate - Boycotts Because of a Wrong Strand of Religion


26/4/2016- In 1961, Hannah Arendt coined the term ‘the banality of evil‘ whilst covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem who repeatedly stated that he was “only following orders.” It was this inability to think beyond orders and directives that led to the mass genocide of people which led her to coin the term. Yet the term can be slightly amended to read as the ‘banality of hatred‘ which underlies evil and it seems to fit the open bigotry which some show to others just because they are different. There are many traits of human nature that leave much to be desired. Through our work over the last 4 years we have covered a range of topics from anti-Muslim bigotry, through to intra-Muslim bigotry.

Yet, we will keep highlighting how intra-Muslim bigotry and prejudice needs to be tackled as an ongoing concern, (whilst tackling anti-Muslim hatred), if we are to promote the core principle that people in our country should live free from fear and intimidation. Take for example, this post below which was reported into us today. The post highlights a boycott of alleged Ahmaddiya businesses and was posted on Facebook. The only reason for this boycott is that the shop owners are……wait for it…..a different belief system to the perpetrator posting the call for boycotts. In this instance, the people being discriminated against are Ahmaddiya Muslims. Now, imagine a boycott being called against Christian or Jewish owned businesses? Rightly we would all be outraged and this would be something of real concern for social justice activists. Yet, here we have the identical thing involving the targeting of a peaceful law-abiding community through boycotts of their businesses on the basis that they are so heretical that they must be punished.

Finally, the following needs to be said. Anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia is mainly and predominantly against Muslims, yet we cannot shy away or brush under the carpet such toxic intra-Muslim prejudice. Where we find it, we must call it out and highlight it. For far too long, it has gone unchallenged, and just as we will challenge anti-Muslim bigotry, we will also challenge the banality of hate perpetrated against minority groups within Islam. This also goes hand in hand with challenging all forms of hatred and prejudice. If anything, the example shown below really does reflect the vacuousness of those who think that they can discriminate against others and broadcast it across the Internet and social media. Hannah’s words still seem to carry a powerful wake up call to us all and to those who care about human rights and the future of integration and cohesion in our country.

Bradfordcase.jpg-large copy
© Tell Mama


UK: Pro-Brexit camp demands travel ban on French ‘ally’ Le Pen

Leaders of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union have shunned French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, going as far as to ask the government to ban her from travelling to the UK to support the cause.

25/4/2016- Gisela Stuart, co-chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, urged Home Secretary Theresa May to prevent the leader of the National Front party from entering the country in a letter sent on Friday. Le Pen backs a British exit from the EU and wants France to organise a similar referendum. She has planned to travel to Britain before the June 23 ballot to express support for the Vote Leave campaign. But Stuart and other eurosceptics don’t want her help. “[Le Pen] has previously made many divisive and inflammatory comments, including comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France," Stuart wrote in the letter, revealed by the BBC on Sunday. “Accordingly, I urge you to exercise your powers under immigration legislation to refuse her admission into the country if and when she attempts to visit the UK,” the Vote Leave senior figure said.

Le Pen said she forgave Stuart’s snub because the Socialist MP was “against the European Union”, but struck back during an interview with France 2 television: “After all, she’s a Socialist. Socialists have always had a slight problem with democracy.” “I am surprised that she didn’t say anything about [US President Barack] Obama’s visit,” the far-right leader added. “He came to interfere in Great Britain’s affairs. I am not going to interfere. If I go, I will go to speak about the people’s need to decide their relation to the European Union.” During a visit on Friday, Obama warned voters that the UK would find itself “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the United States if they chose to leave the European Union.

‘Valuable support’
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage also said he thought Le Pen's presence in Britain would be unhelpful to the cause, telling Sky News over the weekend he would “rather she didn't come”. Farage, who has shunned Le Pen in the past and accused her of “prejudice and anti-Semitism”, nevertheless said he opposed restricting her travel to the UK. An unnamed spokesman for the Vote Leave campaign also told British daily The Independent: “We don’t think she should come...We don't think her 'contribution' to the Brexit debate is helpful.” “Brits don't want these leaders lecturing them on how they should vote,” the spokesman said, presumably in reference to President Obama's call to keep Britain in the European Union.

Earlier, National Front Vice President Florian Philippot said Le Pen represented valuable support for Britons who wanted to leave the EU, claiming she had been “invited to go support the pro-Brexit camp”. National Front spokesman Alain Vizier last week told FRANCE 24 that “while no date has been set”, Le Pen would “definitely be going to London” to campaign for a Brexit. On Monday, Le Pen repeated previous claims that she wanted every country in the European Union to hold referendums on leaving the 28-member bloc.
© France 24.


Sweden: Building due to house child refugees been burned down by arsonists

Fire chief condemns 'sick people' behind the attack

25/4/2016- Arsonist have set fire to a building due to house child refugees in Sweden - the second time the site has been targeted in recent weeks. A local fire chief spoke of his anger following the attack on the former school in Härnösand, which has been converted into a home for young people fleeing war and persecution. The building had already suffered damage in an apparent arson attack on April 9 and was in the process of being refurbished in order to house young asylum seekers and their parents, according to The Local. Peter Hellstrom, fire and rescue unit chief in Härnösand, told the website: “It’s completely insane that someone is running around and lighting buildings on fire. It’s sick people doing this, that is clear.”

The fire follows a dozens of apparent arson attacks on buildings connected to refugee housing since October 2015.vIn October, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said: “It is very serious. It is not the Sweden we want to see.” Local authorities in Umeå municipality in northern Sweden announced in October that they would be keeping the locations of their refugee housing a secret after four fires occurred in one week. Ewa Klingfors, director of the council’s social services told local paper Västerbottens-Kurinen: “After the past week’s fire incidents in southern Sweden I don’t think it’s okay to expose the addresses. The risk is that thugs decide to burn down the premises here as well.”

© The Independent


Serbia's general election tests EU bid amid far-right surge

24/4/2016- The incumbent pro-European Union populists swept Serbia's parliamentary election in a landslide Sunday, leaving pro-Russia nationalists far behind, according to preliminary unofficial results. The triumph by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's Progressive Party means Serbia will continue on its path toward EU membership despite opposition from right-wing parties, which seek close ties with traditional Slavic ally Russia instead. "The election results today represent a strong support to our democracy, reforms and European integration," Vucic told supporters in his victory speech at party headquarters in Belgrade. "We have shown to ourselves and the world that Serbia is united in an attempt for a better future."

The preliminary results released by the independent CESiD polling agency show the Progressives winning 49 percent of the vote and their Socialists coalition partner with 11 percent. Two ultra-nationalist parties lagged far behind — the Radical Party with 8 percent and DSS-Dveri with 5 percent. Three pro-Western opposition parties fragmented their support and were each hovering around the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament. The polling firm based its projections on the actual vote count at representative polling stations. The first official results are expected later this week.

Djordje Vukovic from CESiD said there might be slight changes from the preliminary results, but he said it's clear that the Progressives will end up with a landslide victory. "We are not happy, but that is what the people decided. Our struggle will continue. Most important for us is that we have regained the parliamentary status," said the Radical Party's firebrand leader Vojislav Seselj, speaking to supporters at his party's Belgrade headquarters. Seselj, who was acquitted of war crimes last month by an international tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, will be returning to parliament after the Radical Party apparently cleared the threshold needed for parliamentary representation. Once the strongest party in Serbia, the Radicals failed to win any seats in the last election in 2014 at a time Seselj was on trial before the tribunal.

Other opposition parties claimed there were irregularities in Sunday's election. "We don't have the democracy that we had before 2012," said former Serbian President Boris Tadic, leader of the pro-Western Social Democrats. Vucic called the election two years early, saying he needed a new mandate to press ahead with tough reforms demanded by the EU at a time Serbia is facing deep economic and social problems. But his opponents said he really wanted to tighten his autocratic rule and win another four-year mandate while he is still popular. Pre-election polls predicted the Progressives would win most of the 250 seats in parliament. Turnout was around 53 percent one hour before polls closed, slightly higher than in 2014 when Vucic's party also swept the vote. Vucic was once an extreme nationalist himself, but has transformed into a pro-EU reformer.

There had been fears in the West before the vote that the election could tilt Serbia further to the right and toward Russia. Any rekindling of nationalism in the Balkans is considered more dangerous than in the rest of Eastern Europe because of the wars in the 1990s that claimed around 100,000 lives. Western countries have sought to pacify Balkan nations by keeping them on track for EU membership. "I am almost certain that we will carry on our European integration process and we will have to speed up the process of (EU) accession," Vucic said after voting earlier Sunday. "And of course, preserve our traditional ties with our friends (Russia) in the east." Vucic added that he was "not going to make any compromises with right-wing political parties" over the issue of EU membership which he considered to be in the strategic long-term interests of the Serbian people.

Seselj had called the vote a de-facto referendum on whether Serbia joins the "enemy" EU, or turns to some kind of a union with "our traditional ally Russia." While pro-Russian sentiments in Serbia are traditionally high because of close historic and cultural ties, many Serbs also want to see their country reach the economic and democratic standards of the rich EU nations. "Our membership in the European Union is something we have to fight for, because there is no other way for us," said Blazo Mitric, a Belgrade resident, upon casting his vote.
© The Associated Press


Czech Rep: Police examine four potentially extremist inscriptions in Prague

24/4/2016- Inscriptions having probably neo-Nazi symbolism appeared at several places in Prague during the night and Echo24 server wrote yesterday that the authors attacked catering and other facilities fighting hate in society. Police spokesman Tomas Hulan told CTK that the Prague police have been investigating four such cases and that the content of the inscriptions will be examined by extremism experts. According to Echo24, the vandals damaged a cafe promoting multiculturalism and a shop selling underwear which also strives to fight for a society without prejudices. The cafe was sprayed with a red colour and painted with symbols connected with the extreme right. "Stickers with the inscription 'Anti-antifa' which popular ite among far-right radicals, appeared close to the cafe," Echo wrote. Sprayed inscriptions reading "Antifa will pay" and "Refugees, clear off" were reported in the hall of a Prague metro station according to the media.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Austrian far-right party's triumph in presidential poll could spell turmoil

Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer, who won 36% of vote, has threatened to dissolve parliament before 2018 elections.

25/4/2016- Austria is braced for political turmoil with fears that the landslide victory for a rightwing populist and gun-carrying candidate in Sunday’s first-round presidential vote could trigger snap elections. Norbert Hofer, of the rightwing Freedom party (FPÖ), defied pollsters’ predictions to beat the Green party’s Alexander Van der Bellen into second place, gaining 36% of the vote. The two candidates will go head to head in a run-off ballot on 22 May. While the presidential post is mainly a ceremonial role, Hofer has threatened to make use of a right to dissolve parliament before the 2018 elections, warning other candidates in a TV debate that “you will be surprised by what can be done [by a president]”.

Hofer, a youthful 45-year-old who is partially paralysed after a paragliding accident, has campaigned for disability rights and is seen as having lent a friendly face to a party that balances virulently anti-immigration and Eurosceptic messages with leftist stances on welfare issues, led by firebrand Heinz-Christian Strache. Hofer, who claims to protect himself in the “uncertain times” of the refugee crisis by carrying a Glock gun, scored overwhelming victories in all of Austria’s states apart from Vienna. In Styria, Burgenland and Carinthia – border states most affected by the refugee trail from the Mediterranean to central Europe – Hofer managed to gain 40% or more. Some constitutional experts question whether Austria’s president would be able to dissolve parliament without the orders of the government, though since the presidential role has previously only ever been filled by politicians from the two main centrist parties, the situation is without precedent.

On Sunday night, while describing the result as a “rendezvous with history”, Hofer made clear that he regarded the result as an “intermediary step” on the way to a wider challenge to Austria’s political system. The FPÖ is also leading polls for the parliamentary elections, with about 30% of the vote. Should the FPÖ manage to return to government, it would ring alarm bells across the continent, with Austria joining a growing bloc of countries led by authoritarian and Eurosceptic governments , which includes Hungary and Poland. Hofer has signalled he would refuse to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the US even if it was passed by his government. Sunday’s result was welcomed by far-right politicians across Europe, including Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and France’s Marine Le Pen, as well as politicians from Italy’s Lega Nord and Germany’s National Democratic party. Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, warned that the result could have consequences for the border region between Austria and Italy. “It would be a problem for Europe if the Brenner pass would be closed,” he said.

Whatever the outcome on 22 May, it will be the first time since 1945 that the country’s president has not come from the two centrist parties, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s party (ÖVP), who barely managed to scramble together a quarter of the vote. Second-placed Van der Bellen is an outsider candidate in his own right who ran for office without the official endorsement of the Green party and has criticised the Austrian government’s cap on asylum seekers. The 72-year-old veteran will now hope for endorsements from the mainstream parties to block Hofer’s rise to power. Johannes Pollak, a political scientist at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Vienna, said Van der Bellen was a marginal favourite to win. “The established parties will do their best to stop a rightwing populist from coming to power. But after this political earthquake, it is hard to make a certain prognosis.”

Reinhard Heinisch, professor of political science at Salzburg University, said the momentum was on the side of the rightwing candidate. “Especially if the FPÖ manages to frame the next round of the election around a polarising issues – for or against refugees, for example – the establishment parties face an uphill battle,” he said. “On the surface, the situation may look similar to that in the US, but in America even the leftwing candidate Bernie Sanders has embraced a reformist agenda. In Austria, only the right has spelled this out.” Columnist Gerfried Sperl in Der Standard wrote: “A weakening of the parliament, an end to the division of powers, opposition to Brussels and a curtailing of the freedom of press: Vienna would not only be geographically located east of Prague, but politically too.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, described the Freedom party’s rise as “deeply troubling”. “That a country at the heart of Europe can show such support to the far right barely 70 years on from the Holocaust shows that our collective memories are failing,” he said. Austria’s Social Democrat prime minister, Werner Faymann, who faced calls to resign after the vote, said the result was a “clear signal to the government that we have to cooperate more strongly”. But many commentators say the crisis of the political establishment in Austria has much to do with the fact that the two centrist parties have governed the country in a “grand coalition” for the past 10 years. “The message for SPÖ and ÖVP is simple: your time is up,” Viennese daily Die Presse commented. “After this Sunday we know for good: voting patterns in this country have radically changed. At least half of all votes are up for grabs and have nothing to do with factions and alliances. The candidates or groups that win are the ones who offer solutions, or at least pretend to offer them, or at least provide the right characters at the right time.”

Some critics say the Austrian government lost its credibility during the refugee crisis. After initially supporting the German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s open-border stance last October, the coalition government and in particular the conservative foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, emerged as key drivers behind the closure of the Balkan route earlier this year.
© The Guardian


Austria presidential election: Far-right Freedom Party 'comes top in vote'

Norbert Hofer has run a pro-gun, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe campaign

24/4/2016- Austria’s far-right, anti-immigrant party has come out comfortably on top in Austria's presidential vote. Early results released by the country's election authorities appear to show the candidate of the right-wing Freedom Party taking 35 per cent of the vote, leaving his two establishment rivals with not much more than 10 per cent each. Norbert Hofer has run on a pro-gun manifesto, carrying his Glock pistol with him on the campaign trail and declaring that the public arming themselves is a logical reaction to the influx of refugees as part of the pan-European crisis. The initial results showed great voter dissatisfaction with Austria’s main political parties, and came as part of a wider trend of anti-establishment lurches across the continent.

Opinion polling prior to Sunday’s vote had put Alexander Van der Bellen, a radical environmentalist and himself the son of refugees, marginally ahead of Mr Hofer. He and fellow independent Irmgard Griss took around 20 per cent each, according to the early results. One of those two is expected to face Mr Hofer in a run-off on 22 May. The results of that election are expected to be much closer, with moderate voters rallying around the remaining candidate. Sunday's exit poll, if confirmed, would represent the Freedom Party's best ever result in national elections. If Ms Griss were to come through to take victory, meanwhile, she would be Austria's first female president.

Mr Hofer's success reflects recent polls showing Freedom Party popularity. Driven by concerns over Europe's migrant crisis, support for his party in general has surged to 32 per cent compared with just over 20 per cent for each of the governing parties. But voters were unhappy with the main Social Democrats and People's Party even before the migrant crisis last year forced their coalition government to shift from open borders to tough asylum restrictions. Their bickering over key issues — most recently tax, pension and education reform — has fed perceptions of political stagnation.
© The Independent


Headlines 22 April, 2016

Polish monument to Roma Holocaust victims hacked up

Police are investigating the vandalism of a monument to Roma victims of the Holocaust, after the devastated memorial was found in Borzêcin Dolny, southern Poland.

22/4/2016- The wooden monument had been knocked from its concrete base and then set upon with what appears to have been an axe. A plaque that had been attached to the monument, recalling the mass shooting of local Roma by the Nazi German occupiers during World War II, was likewise hacked off. The plaque had included a verse by celebrated Roma poet Papusza, subject of an award-winning recent film. The monument had been unveiled in July 2011 during the 12th International Roma Caravan Memorial (Miêdzynarodowy Tabor Pamiêci Romów), in a ceremony attended by the Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Consul of the United States, among other dignitaries. Estimates of the number of European Roma victims of the Holocaust range from 220,000 to 500,000. Between 8000 and 35,000 Polish Roma perished.
© The News - Poland


Hungary: Far-right leadership revamp ahead

22/4/2016- Hungary's far-right Jobbik party will revamp its top ranks in an attempt to present itself as a credible alternative to the ruling center-right Fidesz and Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2018 elections, the party's leader said on Friday. That includes sacking half of the party's board of six vice chairs at a congress due in a month and a half. Jobbik has been the strongest opposition party since the last elections in 2014 and has gradually moved toward the political center from its hard-line roots that have included anti-Semitic and xenophobic elements. Fidesz, whose standing was bolstered last year by a tough line on immigration, has considered Jobbik its chief rival.

Jobbik's Gabor Vona told a news conference he would sack the vice chairs at the congress where he will have a veto over their candidacies. "We have new goals for the next two years: assume power and govern," Vona said. "We would like to have a leadership that can do that. I would like to include in our board some of the Jobbik mayors, people who have practical leadership experience." The decision caused a turmoil in the party and infuriated some in Jobbik's radical base. "This is a slaughterhouse for radicals," Viktor Szlavik, a former Jobbik candidate in southern Hungary, wrote on Facebook. "This is just toeing the Fidesz line."

Elod Novak, one of the vice chairmen to be forced out, said he felt "stunned" and said he might be forced to leave Parliament too. "We will cease to be the heirs of Attila the Hun if becoming a people's party means embracing a politically correct, careful traditionalism," he said. "We will become the same servants of big money as every party and government since (1989)." Political Capital analyst Peter Kreko said Vona's maneuver was risky but held a big potential gain. "Vona was the face of the very radical Jobbik and is now the face of a milder Jobbik. That is a difficult maneuver, a risky step that could cost the party its unity," Kreko said.

He added there were signs that Vona was disarming opponents rather than making an ideological shift. He left in place former skinhead leader Tamas Sneider as a vice chairman, for instance. "This has more to do with publicity and gutting his internal opposition than ideological cleansing. Vona is gambling: he can win big and become a more serious challenger to Fidesz in 2018, or lose big, even wrecking the party in the process."
© Reuters


Finland: Asylum transfers to Hungary get the axe

22/4/2016- A high court in Finland this week issued the latest in a string of European rulings on suspension of asylum seeker transfers to Hungary. The verdict comes amid a renewed EU-level push to lift a similar pan-European transfer ban on Greece in June despite the deteriorating conditions of some 46,000 people, mostly women and children, stranded in the country along the border with Macedonia in Idomeni. Courts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland have issued similar judgements against Hungary. "Some rulings only relate to vulnerable people rather than a blanket halt on removals. Also, practice is changing a lot in recent months," a spokesperson from the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) said on Thursday (21 April). Sweden had also suspend transfers to Hungary but may now back track. Last September, the Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal described the Hungarian asylum system as "draconian". Courts in Austria say Hungary's political rhetoric against seekers is "xenophobic". Hungary's hard-line stand against asylum seekers is steered by its right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, who has championed razor-wire fences to help stem the flows from Serbia.

EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos was unaware of the latest decision against Hungary. The commissioner was in Luxembourg along with EU interior ministers to discuss broader issues on security and migration. Asked to comment on the Finnish case on Hungary, Dutch justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff told reporters it had not been discussed. "But it is good you told us," Avramopoulos told the reporter, who had asked the question, at a joint press conference on Thursday. Meanwhile, plans to lift the transfer ban on Greece have drawn sharp criticism from the human rights body, the Council of Europe. In a report published Wednesday, it said talks about resuming so-called Dublin transfers to Greece "is close to irresponsible." Reports of poor treatment of people arriving on the Greek islands, blanket detentions, as well as lack of access to medical care, poor hygiene, and insufficient food for babies has cast a long shadow over the EU's migrant swap deal with Turkey.

Despite poor conditions in Greece cited by numerous aid organisations and media, the EU commission maintains the agreement with Turkey has shown positive results with outstanding issues likely to be resolved in the coming days. "I believe it is a question of days to have a fully normal situation on the islands," Avramopoulos said on Wednesday. The Brussels executive wants Greece to start processing up to 200 asylum cases per day by mid-May but Greece has yet to receive all the extra staff pledged by member states to meet the demand. Only 63 asylum officers, out of some 470 required by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), have been posted to Greece. Of the 400 interpreters needed, EASO received 67. The commission is also hoping member states will relocate up to 20,000 people from Greece and Italy, also in May. But out of the 66,400 asylum-seekers pledged to be relocated from Greece in September 2015, only 615 had been transferred to other EU member states as of mid-April.
© The EUobserver


Sweden: Nazi flag sparks anger on Hitler's birthday

A Swedish town has hit out after a Nazi flag was hoisted at the town hall building on Wednesday.

20/4/2016- Residents were shocked to see the flag, understood to have been a Nazi swastika banner, flying from one of the official flagpoles next to Vetlanda town hall in southern Sweden in the morning. The local authority reported that a security guard had contacted council janitorial staff after discovering it at around 6am and that it had been taken down shortly thereafter. When The Local contacted Vetlanda council's administrative manager Magnus Färjhage we were directed to a press statement already published on the authority's homepage. "We take this very seriously. Vetlanda should be an open and welcoming council and these types of symbols are completely unacceptable to us. We're reporting it to the police," Färjhage said in the statement. It was not known by the afternoon who had hoisted the flag, but it was believed to have been intended to mark the birthday of German dictator Adolf Hitler, who was born on April 20th 1889.

Last year a Nazi flag was raised at the Njudung school in Vetlanda on the same date. "[This] is a clear assault on our open democracy and our fundamental values," said the council executive committee's chairman Henrik Tvarnö of the Social Democrat party and deputy chairman Jan Johansson of local party Vetlanda Framåtanda in a joint statement. Mean-while, residents took to social media to voice their disgust after a picture purporting to be of the flag at the town hall was posted on Facebook. "What a horrible affront to all people who have fallen victim to this dreadful ideology. Awful that the echo of history does not reach all residents in our little town," commented one user under the picture, which was posted in the group 'You know you're from Vetlanda when'. "Hope whoever has it now burns it," wrote another one after it was removed. Police meanwhile said they had launched an investigation into incitement of racial hatred.

It is not the first similar incident in Sweden recently. Last month a man who made Hitler salutes in Umeå was fined for inciting racial hatred. And earlier this year The Local reported that a Swedish Nazi group had tried to block the entrances to two schools in Örebro, with tape featuring their logo. Far-right swordman Anton Lundin Pettersson who walked into a school in Trollhättan and stabbed three people to death in October last year had also expressed Nazi sympathies ahead of the attack. Swedish anti-racist foundation Expo has said that neo-Nazi activities are growing in intensity in Sweden, although the organizations propelling far-right propaganda are declining in numbers.
© The Local - Sweden


Sweden: EU 'financing Nazi meeting in Stockholm'

One of the legislative arms of the EU, the European Parliament, is funding a neo-Nazi meeting in Stockholm this summer, according to Swedish anti-racist magazine, Expo.

17/4/2016- According to Expo, the European Parliament had already granted 3.6 million kronor (€400,000) to Europa Terra Nostra, a foundation linked to the pan-European fascist association Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), this January. Now it's paid out an additional 1.8 million kronor (€196,000) in contributions to the Europa Terra Nostra. The money will be used to organize "Manhem Day" - a meeting in Stockholm this summer, in which a number of Nazi and fascist organizations will participate. The chairman of the Europa Terra Nostra is Swede, Dan Eriksson, a stalwart of the Swedish Nazi scene. These contributions come in spite of a recent tightening of rules meant to prevent aid being given to anti-democratic groups. In 2014, the European Parliament tightened up its rules governing funding for European-level political parties.

The aim was to prevent economic support going to parties that contravene the EU's fundamental human rights principles. In particular, politicians claimed the new rules would deprive the far-right party Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) of the EU funding it was receiving. However, in spite of the new rules, the European Parliament this January granted some €400,000 to APF in January. The APF is an association of European Nazis, fascists and Holocaust deniers. Their chairman is Roberto Fiore, a terror convict and veteran of the European far right. The Swedish Nazi Stefan Jacobsson is secretary general of the APF. Previously, he led the Nazi Svenskarnas parti (Party of the Swedes) and has a long history in the white-power movement. In the early 2000s, he held a leading position within the militant Nazi Svenska Motståndsrörelsen (Swedish Resistance Movement).
© The Local - Sweden


Swedish minister 'had dinner with Turkish fascists'

The Swedish Minister of Housing, Mehmet Kaplan, has sparked controversy after a photograph of him emerged having dinner with members of the far-right Turkish organization, Grey Wolves, according to Swedish daily newspaper, Aftonbladet.

16/4/2016- In the photographs leaked to the Swedish media, Kaplan, a member of the Green Party which forms part of the coalition administration with the Social Democrats, can be seen sitting at the same table as notorious extremist Barbaros Leylani and Ilhan Senturk, the president of the Swedish branch of the Grey Wolves. According to Aftonbladet, the pictures were taken at a dinner last year. Leylani caused controversy last week by making inflammatory remarks when speaking to a small crowd of Turks in Stockholm’s central square. Leylani urged Turks to “awaken”, and to kill what he branded "the Armenian dogs.” Leylani also said, “Let us show Sweden, Scandinavia and Europe what Turkey stands for. We do not like blood, but we can let the blood flow when it is needed,” the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported The Grey Wolves organization has been accused of participating in thousands of politically and racially motivated murders over the past few decades, said Aftonbladet.

Kaplan came under immediate heavy criticism from the Iranian-born Moderate member of parliament, Hanif Bali. “It is very inappropriate. I do not understand why the Green Party associates with these kinds of organizations”. Kaplan has denied having extremist links, insisting he was a guest at the event and held no responsibility. Speaking through a press officer, he accused the Swedish media of “low journalism”. This is not the first time that Kaplan has been in embroiled in controversy. In 2014 Social Democrat politician Nalin Pekgul accused Kaplan of having a hidden Islamist agenda. And earlier that year Kaplan compared Swedish jihadists in Syria to Swedish freedom fighters in Finland during World War Two. He later apologized and said his comments had been misinterpreted.
© The Local - Sweden


Online Hate Monitor: Anti-Semitic Posts Reaching 'Thousands' a Day

Anti-Semitism is single most common form of bigotry on internet, followed by Islamophobia, online watchdog says.

19/4/2016- Thousands of incidents of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are registered each day on the internet, according to the co-founder of a leading international network of organizations engaged in combating cyberspace bigotry. “It is very difficult to make exact calculations because the internet is much bigger than most of us think,” said Ronald Eissens, who serves as a board member of the Dutch-based International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH), which encompasses 16 organizations spanning the globe. “A thousand a day would certainly be true, and 5,000 to 10,000 a day worldwide could also be true.” In an interview with Haaretz, Eissens said the number of complaints about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial submitted to his network of organizations tends to rise when Israel is the focus of international media attention. “During the last Gaza War, we saw a big fat spike in online anti-Semitism, and I’m talking about pure anti-Semitism – not anti-Zionism,” he said.

Eissens, who also serves as director-general of the Magenta Foundation – the Dutch complaints bureau for discrimination on the internet – was a keynote speaker Tuesday at an international conference on online anti-Semitism held in Jerusalem. The conference, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by INACH and Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, a local organization. Anti-Semitism, said Eissens, is the single most common form of bigotry on the internet, accounting for about one-third of all complaints registered with his organization, followed by Islamophobia. In 2015, though, for the first time, he said, Islamophobia surpassed anti-Semitism as the most common complaint in two countries: The Netherlands and Germany. Eissens attributed the rising number of complaints about Islamophobia to the refugee crisis in Europe.

Since its establishment in 2002, said Eissens, INACH succeeded in removing somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 hateful posts on the internet, about 25,000 of them anti-Semitic in nature. In past years, noted Eissens, anti-Semitic posts were found mainly in dedicated neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites and forums. “Nowadays, most of the stuff has shifted to social media. It’s much more scattered, but also much more mainstream. You still find it on those traditional anti-Semitic sites, but more and more on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.” Although his organization does not monitor anti-Zionist posts on the internet, Eissens said he believed there was often a blurring of lines. “Nowadays, anti-Zionism has become part and parcel of Jew hatred, and often when people say they are just anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic, that is a cop out,” he said. “I’m not sure all those who identify as anti-Zionists are really anti-Semitic, but I think it’s heading in that direction, and that is dangerous.”

Asked whether he considered supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel to be anti-Jewish, Eissens said: “My problem with BDS activists is that almost all of them are of the opinion that Israel should not really exist. They’re talking about a one-state solution. They’re talking about giving Palestine back to the Palestinians, and they’re talking about all of traditional Palestine. When they say things like that, I often find BDS activists to be anti-Semites because what’s supposed to happen to Jews who are living in Israel if that happens? “But if they say they’re in favor of a two-state solution, with Jews and Palestinians living side by side, that’s a whole other stance. But I don’t hear that nuance a lot among BDS activists.”
© Haaretz


Finland: No charges against 16 in neo-Nazi riot

19/4/2016- The Finnish News Agency STT reports that public prosecutors have ended an investigation into the actions of 16 people suspected of participating in rioting during a white supremacy demonstration in Jyväskylä last August. The preliminary investigation failed to establish enough evidence for charges to be brought. Another 14 people are still under investigation. The neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement (SVR) held a demonstration in Jyväskylä, Central Finland on the 1st of August last year that turned violent and was broken up by police. Police arrested 30 people. According to District Prosecutor Elina Mäntylä all of those arrested took part in the demonstration.However, the office of the district prosecutor for the region has decided to end the investigation into the actions of 16 of those arrested. According to the Finnish News Agency STT, officials say that in addition to a lack of evidence against them, none of them played a significant part in the events of last August.The remaining 14 are still under investigation and may face charges of violent rioting, leading a riot, assault, and resisting the authorities.
© YLE News.


Latvia Wants to Ban Face Veils, for All 3 Women Who Wear Them

19/4/2016- With her niqab, a face-covering Islamic veil that reveals just the wearer’s eyes, Liga Legzdina stands out amid pine trees, grasslands and wood-paneled cottages in the Latvian hamlet of Zaube. Villagers stare. Ms. Legzdina is one of a tiny handful of women — generally estimated at three — to wear the niqab in this Baltic nation, whose population of less than two million people includes about 1,000 practicing Muslims, according to government estimates. But for Latvia’s Ministry of Justice, that is three niqabs too many. Citing a desire to protect Latvian culture and to address security concerns at a time of rising migration to Europe, the government is working on proposed legislation, inspired partly by similar restrictions on head coverings in France, that would ban face-covering veils from public spaces. The proposal would not ban the wearing of head scarves that do not cover the face, like hijabs, the coverings most commonly worn by Muslim women.

“A legislator’s task is to adopt preventive measures,” said Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs, a member of the anti-immigration National Alliance party, who predicted that the law would win overwhelming backing in Parliament and would be in place at the start of 2017. The legislation in Latvia is one expression of a broader concern about immigration in general and Muslims in particular across Central and Eastern Europe, as migrants flock to the Continent from Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have been among the countries most strongly opposed to taking in large numbers of migrants, reflecting anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim strains in their societies. Even in remote Latvia — hardly a top destination for migrants, given its frosty winters and threadbare welfare system — a darkening swirl of fear has emanated from politicians, the news media and the wider population.

Take the case of Ms. Legzdina, 27, who is not a migrant but a native Latvian who converted to Islam after a trip to Egypt as a teenager. Now a medical student at a university in Riga, the capital, Ms. Legzdina, who goes by Fatima, comes to Zaube each spring and summer on vacation with her two young children. Her husband, Viesturs Kanders, followed her into the Islamic faith on their wedding day. Other than her clothing, prayers and regular fasting, her life in Zaube matches Latvian country life almost to the point of cliché, including picking flowers or mushrooms depending on the season, a strong Latvian tradition. “I love my country,” she said with pride. Yet she said she felt threatened by the way people responded to her appearance. “People have become much more aggressive than before,” she said. When she is not vacationing in Zaube, she lives in a suburb of Riga, where her daily commute, she said, is becoming littered with verbal abuse. Interactions on buses and trams, she said, often involve her being told to “go back to where you come from,” and tend to end with awkward moments when she replies to the person confronting her in perfect Latvian. “If they are so afraid,” she said, “it shows they are not strong, and they don’t believe in their own culture.”

Mr. Rasnacs, the justice minister, said the law was not about the number of people covering their faces in Latvia, but had more to do with ensuring that prospective immigrants respect the norms of this small and homogeneous country. Sitting by the crimson and white of a Latvian flag during an interview in Riga, Mr. Rasnacs added, “We do not only protect Latvian cultural-historical values, but the cultural-historical values of Europe.” Like other countries in the region, Latvia has been reluctant to take in sizable numbers of the migrants who have arrived on the Continent over the last year, with more than a million ending up in Germany. After protracted negotiations, Latvia agreed to accept up to 776 refugees over the next two years, under the European Union’s faltering effort to resettle refugees among all of its 28 member states.

So far, just six of the 776 have arrived. But practical policy questions of housing and integrating the rest remain submerged by increasingly fearful discussions of Islam — propelled by regular news coverage associating the religion with terrorist attacks, sexual assaults and civil wars — and by an absence of historical experience with Muslims among the population, combined with traumatic memories of the country’s past under Soviet rule. For nearly 50 years, the country had no control over its migration policy, leading to a large Russian-speaking minority. With a tiny minority of Muslims to join the dialogue, the public debate has splayed outward to the extremes. Leons Taivans, a religious studies professor at the University of Latvia in Riga, has reflected the broader fears in the region about the influx of Muslims, especially on the far right, by predicting “Islamic invasions.”

At the same time, a spokesman for the Latvian Islamic Center, Roberts Klimovics, has provoked consternation by drawing parallels between the Latvian NATO troops who are fighting in Afghanistan and Mali and Europeans who have traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. He even predicted that Shariah law could be established in Latvia. In an interview at his farmhouse outside Riga, Mr. Klimovics, who is also a filmmaker and a former dating show host on Latvian television, said that his views had left him ostracized, and that the plight of Muslims in Latvia was becoming similar to that of Jews in Germany before World War II. “Now, I don’t feel like a local here,” Mr. Klimovics said. “I feel like a stranger. Now it is much easier for me to leave.” This sense of alienation, he said, is the reason that one of his friends, the former chairman of the Latvian Islamic Center, Oleg Petrov, who now goes by Imran, has gone to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.

Mr. Klimovics said he was disappointed by this decision. “I told him, ‘You were, for me, one of the best people in the world,’” he said, adding that he now viewed Mr. Petrov as being “like all those people who kill other people because they think they should control the world.” Although worshipers at the Riga Mosque say that volunteers for the Islamic State represent a minuscule minority within an already small minority — and that any radicalization is strongly discouraged by most of the mosque’s few hundred active worshipers — local news outlets have played up the news, and have set nerves on edge. Those who have traveled to Syria, though exceptions, are enough to convince many of Latvia’s politicians that the arrival of Muslim immigrants could present new security threats. “I think that covering one’s face in public at a time of terrorism presents a danger to society,” said Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a former president of Latvia whose family fled the country when it was taken over by the Soviet Union during World War II. “It’s as simple as that.” “Anybody could be under a veil or under a burqa,” she said. “You could carry a rocket launcher under your veil. It’s not funny.”
© The New York Times


Bulgaria: Romani Boy Attacked for Declaring Himself Equel

19/4/2016- A 17-year-old Romani boy Mitko from Ovchepoltsi village was brutally beaten yesterday by a 24-year-old man, Angel Kaleev, after telling Kaleev that they are equal, despite their different ethnicities. Kaleev considers himself an ethnic Bulgarian nationalist and filmed the attack himself. The footage features Kaleev’s attack, which he accompanied with a racist rant. During an interview on BTV, a national broadcaster, Kaleev admitted what he did and his racist motivation. According to media sources, Kaleev was arrested today, after hiding from police.

“This act of violence against a Romani minor is an attack on all Roma and an alarming sign of the increase of hate crimes against us, in Bulgaria and elsewhere. We will be closely watching how the Bulgarian authorities investigate this case” said Ðorðe Jovanoviæ, President of the European Roma Rights Centre. “It is time for the Bulgarian authorities to take measures to prevent such incidents from recurring as well as to fully use the justice system to punish such cases of racial abuse targeting Romani individuals. We will be willing to see an adequate indictment under art. 162 of the Penal Code, which prosecutes racially motivated violence and incitement to discrimination” added Daniela Mihailova, of the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association, a Bulgarian NGO.
© European Roma Rights Center


Slovak Far-right party urges remembrance of hanged Nazi-era president

18/4/2016- A Slovak far-right party demanded a minute's silence in parliament on Monday to mark what it called the murder of the head of the Slovak wartime Nazi puppet state who was hanged for treason in 1947; the chamber's head refused the move. The People's Party-Our Slovakia party shocked many in a March election when it won three times as many votes as expected to enter parliament for the first time, mirroring a rise in far-right support around Europe and becoming an unwanted partner for other Slovak lawmakers. On Monday, the party led by Marian Kotleba called for a commemoration of the 1939-45 State president and Catholic priest Jozef Tiso in an open letter to the parliament's chairman. Tiso allowed tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to be deported to Nazi death camps and was tried for treason after the war. "Today is the 69th anniversary of an abominable judicial murder (of Tiso) who is rightly seen by every patriot as a martyr of Slovakia's sovereignty and a defender of Christianity against Bolshevism," People's Party-Our Slovakia said.

Parliament Chairman Andrej Danko denied the request, which was made as parliament began debate on the program of a new four-party government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico. Kotleba's party, which is in the opposition, has rejected suggestion of links with Nazi ideology. In the past, members of Kotleba's former 'Slovak brotherhood' party, dressed in black uniforms reminiscent of the Nazi-era Hlinka guard and appeared at rallies commemorating the 1939-45 Slovak State. The party was disbanded for spreading hatred in 2006. Support for the far right has risen in the European Union as the bloc lurches from crisis to crisis, including an influx of asylum seekers from war-torn regions of the Middle East, which topped 1 million people last year. Slovakia has taken a tough stance against migration and quota systems to redistribute asylum seekers among member states. Analysts say the far right has capitalized on concerns over immigration as well as corruption among mainstream parties and poor public services.
© Reuters


Austria: Women targeted in anti Muslim attacks

There were 156 assaults against Muslims in Austria in 2015, with the vast majority of incidents targeting women, according to the first ever anti-Muslim racism report presented yesterday in Vienna.

22/4/2016- Around 95 percent of the incidents were aimed at women, according to the report presented by the Documentation Office for Muslims in Austria in partnership with the Islamic Faith Community in Austria (IGGiÖ). The organisation documented incidents from December 2014 up to the end of 2015 and said they expect the number of assaults to increase in the future. Around 40 percent of the reports related to verbal attacks, 12 percent were physical attacks on people, five percent were related to discrimination and three percent graffiti. Further incidents involved hate crimes or hate speech, and a quarter of the documented Islamophobia was aimed at Muslim institutions. One incident involved a Muslim student being spat at the AKH hospital in Vienna by a pensioner and called a terrorist. In another, a five-year-old being picked up from kindergarten by her Muslim mother was spat at by a man who then imitated a machine gun with his hands.

The organisation said they have noticed a clear decline in the inhibition about attacking Muslims, which they framed in the context of the refugee movement. Austria saw 90,000 asylum applications last year, with society divided over whether to welcome refugees and protest against accepting them. This year the country has set an upper limit of 37,500 applications they are prepared to accept and is now adopting a more hardline approach to its migrant policy. The latest data follows statistics released by the Austrian Interior Ministry at the end of last year that confirmed the country saw a massive increase in xenophobic crimes in 2015.

Austria's police intelligence agency (Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung) received 1,201 criminal complaints about racist and xenophobic crimes between January and September, compared to 750 in the same period last year - a jump of 60 percent. Recent weeks have seen incidents involving the anti-Muslim Identitarian movement, who stormed a theatres in Vienna where a play was being performed by refugees, a video of which was shared by the leader of the mainstream right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) Heinz Christian-Strache. An expert recently quoted in the Kurier said the growing support for Freedom Party (FPÖ), who have increased their percentage in recent elections, creates an atmosphere in which more extreme right-wing groups can flourish.

“FPÖ and Identitarian movement are not in competition with one another, in fact the opposite: They compliment each other. The Identitarian activism on the street and in the social media mobilises younger layers for freedom aims.,” said Bernhard Weidinger, historian at the University of Vienna and the anti-fascism organisation Documentation Archive for Austrian Resistance.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Far right criminal activity on the rise

Austria has seen a 54 percent increase in the number of criminal incidents involving far-right extremism since 2014, according to figures issued by the Interior Ministry.

19/4/2016- Responding to a parliamentary enquiry, the Ministry released figures showing that there had been 1,156 such cases in 2015, 323 of which had a racist or xenophobic background.  That is nearly three times as many in 2014, when there were 111 incidents with a racist or xenophobic background. These data show "the criminal tip of our society‘s shift to the right that was triggered by the debate about refugees," the Green‘s justice spokesman Albert Steinhauser told the Austrian Press Agency. The refugee crisis has been a divisive topic in Austria, where large numbers of volunteers and citizens have been welcoming refugees arriving in the country. Meanwhile the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) have seen an increase in voter support for their anti-migrant mandate.

FPÖ supporters take to the streets
The latest FPÖ-organised march took place last night in the district of Floridsdorf in Vienna to protest against a refugee home in the area. Around 450 protesters on the side of the FPOe were met by roughly 500 counter-demonstrators, according to the ORF. Three Freedom Party supporters were arrested in the event for assaulting police officers. The march follows a similar one in the district of Liesing in March, when hundreds of people led by FPÖ politicians took to the streets to protest against a refugee home there. Far-right extremists from the Identitarian movement also stormed a theatre stage last week where asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were performing an award-winning play about failed asylum seekers being deported from Austria. Members of the same group also scaled the Green party's headquarters in Graz a week earlier as part of an anti-Muslim protest. However an attempt by the anti-Muslim right-wing extremist group PEGIDA to hold a rally in Vienna over the weekend had to be called off after failing to attract as many supporters as previous rallies, with only 20 people showing up.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Pegida demo in Vienna short on numbers

A rally organised by the far-right anti-Islamic group PEGIDA in Vienna was called off by organisers after hardly any supporters showed up on the day.

18/4/2016- The event was organised by the Vienna branch of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA), a far-right movement founded in Germany in 2014 to protest against what they see as the ‘Islamisation’ of the western world. The group have organised previous events in Austria, with rallies in February in Vienna and Graz attracting several hundred supporters. At the latest event on Saturday evening in Vienna’s Favoriten neighbourhood only around 20 people showed up and after a few minutes the participants called off the event. One organiser of the event told Heute newspaper that he thought Viennese were “a bit lazy”. Writing later on the PEGIDA Vienna Facebook page, one supporter wrote: “Where were you all then? Us 20 people felt lonely. Many thanks to the other 19 patriots.” Anti-PEGIDA protesters also showed up on Saturday evening for a counter demostration against the far-right rally waving banners that read ‘Muslims and refugees welcome!’ One protester from a the counter-demonstration told Heute that they want to “make it clear that racism will not be successful in Austria”. According to Vice, one anti-PEGIDA demonstrator was arrested, possibly for trying to throw eggs at the rally.
© The Local - Austria


UK: The vile poster girls for Scottish neo-Nazi movement revealed

The Paisley siblings regularly front sickening race-hate campaigns for the Scottish Defence League, with one sister even serving jail time for desecrating a mosque.

18/4/2016- Today we name and shame the sisters who have become poster girls for the neo-Nazi movement in Scotland. Chelsea and Samantha Lambie are at the forefront of Scottish Defence League race-hate campaigns. Chelsea has been jailed for crimes against Muslims while her Hitler-loving sister fronts anti-refugee marches. Both women appear on online propaganda posters promoting neo-Nazi causes. The Paisley pair are both mums and they are both engaged to men who support the right-wing bigots of the SDL. Chelsea, 20, lists her interests on social media as “blowing up mosques”. When she was 16, she was fined for hurling racist abuse at an Asian shopkeeper, calling him a “black b*****d”, pushing him and threatening to slit his throat. Two years later, aged 18, Chelsea became a cause celebre for the European neo-Nazi movement when she was jailed for desecrating an Edinburgh mosque by throwing pork into the place of worship and wrapping strips of bacon on the door handles.

On her release from Cornton Vale jail near Stirling, her father proudly posted pictures of Chelsea and her son outside the prison with the caption “Freedom!”. Samantha, 25, who refers to refugees as rapists, is a regular at SDL marches, where she proudly poses for the cameras as she brandishes banners bearing bigoted slogans. Mari McKinlay, who helps run the Scotland United Against the Racist SDL page on Facebook, said: “Samantha Lambie is an eye-catching young woman but there are some ugly views behind the pretty face. “Samantha has been pictured in a T-shirt bearing the badge of the SS unit responsible for administering Hitler’s concentration camps. It is hard to get more sickening and offensive than that.” Samantha has posted pictures adorned with symbols of Nazi death masks and the insignia of white supremacists.

Chelsea lists her favourite book as Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Extremism is in the pair’s genes.Their parents Craig and Ann Marie were named on an alleged list of supporters of Blood and Honour, a neo-Nazi organisation. Ann Marie knits disgusting golliwog baby blankets and her email is dessa 1488. Dessa is a reference to the Nazis’ underground network Odessa and 1488 is a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. The first symbol is 14, which is shorthand for the “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The second is 88, which stands for “Heil Hitler”, H being the eighth letter of the alphabet. Even Craig’s pitbull is named Dessa. Abhorrent pet names are the Lambies’ idea of a joke. Chelsea's cat is called C***, a highly offensive term for black people.

Chelsea’s fiancé is Josh Wood, who has an SDL tattoo. He attends SDL rallies, refers to Muslims as scum and jokes about burning mosques and having a party when all Muslims die. Samantha refers to black people as n*****s and signs off posts with the Heil Hitler reference 88. Among her “likes”, she lists the British Movement Scotland, a white supremacist organisation, and Fascist is a Gentleman, who idolise fascist leaders Mussolini, Mosley and Hitler. Samantha is engaged to Ryan McCue, one of the SDL’s inner circle and most enthusiastic activists. He is a white supremacist and follower of the National Front and groups including White and Proud. Samantha and Ryan have fronted SDL anti-refugee marches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries. She also attended a rally in support of the Greek neo-Nazi movement Golden Dawn. Mari added: “In the years we have been monitoring the SDL’s activities, we have seen a lot of people come and go.

But Samantha seems to have been a constant and in fact she and her partner Ryan McCue currently seem to be central figures. “The SDL as an organisation are all about hate, which is mainly directed at people of the Muslim faith. “On top of that, there are a number of people at their core who also hold racist and neo-Nazi views, including, it would appear, Samantha and her partner. “The SDL claim to be supporters of those serving in our armed forces. They make a big thing of Remembrance Day, while at the same time some of them are glorifying Nazism and Hitler. It’s a huge insult to those who suffered and died fighting the Nazis during World War II.”
© The Daily Record


Fears 400 refugees have drowned in Mediterranean after boats capsize

Reports say the refugees were fleeing to Italy from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea

18/4/2016- Hundreds of refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boats capsized. Italy's President, Sergio Mattarella, said there seemed to have been "yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean". His comments followed a report by BBC Arabic quoting the Somali ambassador to Europe that 400 people had died crossing from Egypt to Europe. Reports said the refugees were fleeing to Italy from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in four boats which were ill-equipped for the journey. "2016, the Mediterranean is a mass grave," Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tweeted in response to the news. The original flurry of reports have, however, yet to be confirmed by either Egyptian or Greek officials. The Italian coastguard has also said it knew nothing about the reported disaster. Médecins Sans Frontières has also been unable to confirm to The Independent whether the tragedy has taken place.

Earlier on Monday morning, the Italian coastguard said 108 refugees had been saved and six bodies recovered from a semi-submerged rubber dinghy on Sunday. Separately, 33 refugees were rescued overnight off eastern coast of Sicily. A year ago, a fishing boat crowded with refugees sank in the Mediterranean with around 800 people trapped inside. Italy has now vowed to raise the shipwreck from the sea floor, to recover the corpses. Almost 6,000 refugees sailed from Libya to Italy last week, in what appears to be the beginning of a wave of 100,000, the International Organisation for Migration said. EU policymakers have been criticised of "killing by neglect" after they cut rescue missions in the Mediterranean. The scaling back of search and rescue operations "created the conditions that led to massive loss of life," according to a report. Tanya Steele, CEO of Save the Children, said: “The lack of concrete measures to protect children who gamble and lose their lives to reach the perceived safety of Europe should weigh on all our minds. A year on from one of the greatest migration tragedies in the Mediterranean, safe and legal routes have not been properly implemented.

"Europe continues to see this migration crisis as primarily about safeguarding its own borders. A third of those desperate enough to make this perilous journey are children. Even though the European Commission has identified children as one of the most vulnerable groups, recommending relocation measures as a priority, in effect, this is only happening on paper.v“This gruesome anniversary must not be purely symbolic. It is an insult to the thousands of men, women and children who have drowned on Europe’s shores if action is not urgently taken to prevent the further loss of human lives. Europe’s leaders must invest in search and rescue at sea and offer safe and dignified means of applying for asylum, in line with its legal obligations.”

© The Independent


Romanians Fear Living Near Refugees, Poll Says

Recent terror attacks and an upsurge in right-wing discourse are reflected in polls showing growing opposition to refugees settling in Romania.

20/4/2016- Few refugees have reached Romania from the Middle East – but that does not stop Madalin Dumitrescu from worrying. Living in Bucharest with his wife and their four-year-old daughter, he believes the risks of a terrorist attack in Romania are growing thanks to the recent influx of migrants to Europe. “I don't think we will stay safe here with all these migrants coming to our country,” the 34-year-old said. Many Romanian politicians agree, including former president Traian Basescu, who has warned that supporters of Islamic State, ISIS, may be hidden among the refugees entering the continent. Dumitrescu says refugees are a threat to Romanian traditions. “They are so different from us, have such different ways of living and know so little about our culture that I don't think they can be integrated,” he added.

The far-right party, United Romania, PRU, recently protested against the first refugees coming to Romania. “We are very surprised that while the government doesn't care about the monthly child allowance, which is less than 100 lei [22 euros], or the unemployment benefit [about 110 euros], it does care about a wave of migrants within the so-called humanitarian plan, which has nothing to do with Romania’s interests,” the PRU said lately. An opinion poll carried out shortly after the March terrorist attacks in Brussels shows that the number of Romanians who do not want refugees or migrants in their country is increasing. In September 2015, polls showed 56.2 per cent of Romanians did not want their country to accept any refugees. Last month, the figure has jumped to 84.6 per cent. Furthermore, more than 88 per cent of Romanians do not want refugees or migrants settling where they live in, up from 81.9 per cent last November and 67.1 per cent last September.

“The challenges the EU faces in managing the refugee crisis, and intensified anti-immigration messages, both at a European and local level, have most likely enhanced Romanians’ opposition to refugees,” an INSCOP and newspaper “Adevarul” poll showed. In reality, very few refuges have come to Romania, or are likely to in future. Last month, Romania received only 15 refugees in compliance with an EU relocation scheme. They have been accommodated in the eastern city of Galati, near the border with Moldova. In 2016 and 2017, Romania has agreed to receive a total of 6,205 refugees. Romania has not been hit by the wave of refugees and migrants crossing the Balkans towards Germany and northern Europe. Only 913 people applied for asylum in Romania last year, 12 per cent more than in 2014.
© Balkan Insight


Romania: Mayoral Candidate Says Local Jews Lied About Holocaust

The Romanian politician has said in a press statement that local Jews lied for money about the number of their brethren killed in the Holocaust.

18/4/2016- A Romanian watchdog group on anti-Semitism said it was worried by the mayoral candidacy of a Bucharest politician who said local Jews lied for money about the number of their brethren killed in the Holocaust. Marian Munteanu of the National Liberal Party, Romania’s second largest, made the accusation in a press statement he co-signed in 1994, when he was part of the Christian-nationalist Movement for Romania organization. Jewish groups put the number of Romanians killed in the Holocaust at 420,000 to “obtain illicit moneys from Romanian people through disinformation and manipulation of public opinion, with the complicity of treacherous elements who infiltrated the Romanian institu-tional structures,” the statement read, the online edition of Evenimentul Zilei reported on Thursday.

The Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust warned that Munteanu “presents a concern” not only because of his nationalist rhetoric and “statements minimizing or denying” the Holocaust, but also for “misrepresenting” reality today, according to the Agerpres news website. The institute cited an April 13 statement by Munteanu, who, in criticizing legislation from last year which proscribes anti-Semitic speech and Holocaust denial, said the law itself was anti-Semitic because it singles out Jews. In Romania, he said, “there is hardly anti-Semitism, rather xenophobia. We are all philo-Semites because we are Christians.” Romania, where Jews were killed during World War II by troops loyal to Ion Antonescu, Adolf Hitler’s ally, has seen numerous cases of Holocaust denial, including in academia and government.

In 2012, a politician who denied that Jews had suffered in Romania during the Holocaust was appointed to a ministerial post despite protests by Jewish groups. The politician, Dan Sova, later apologized and said his statement was the result of ignorance. A few months later, a Romanian member of the European Parliament denied the Holocaust on television. The following year, a prominent historian said it was a “huge lie” that large numbers of Jews were killed in areas under Romanian control during the Holocaust, leading to his firing from a teaching post at a German university. Also that year, a Romanian state television channel was fined for broadcasting a Christmas carol celebrating the burning of Jews.
© JTA News


France: Le Pen Hails New Nationalist Party in Romania

Attending a summit of far-right politicians in Romania, the French National Front leader has praised the programme of a new anti-EU, nationalist party in the country.

18/4/2016- While far-right parties have been gaining strength across the EU for years, Romania has for some years prided itself on having no such equivalent in its mainstream politics. That may change, however, as Romanian nationalists prepare to launch the "National Force”, a party that models itself on France’s far-right National Front. "We support the idea of increased sovereignty for Romania as well as rethinking the basic principles of the European Union,” MEP Laurentiu Rebega stold a press conference in Sinaia in southern Romania on Saturday. Rebega, the only Romanian member of extreme right "Europe of Nations and Freedom" group in the European Parliament, added that the new party will better promote Romania and ensure its citizens "benefit from the same treatment as other Europeans”.

The new party enjoys strong support from Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s powerful National Front, who came to Sinaia to join an international conference of right-wing politicians. Other guests included Dutch MEP Marcel de Graaff, Edouard Ferrand from France and Franz Obermayr from Austria. "The European Union is not adapted to the realities of our time. We need a different type of cooperation between European people, which respects their history, sovereignty and liberty. The EU is unable to resolve the current crisis,” Ms Le Pen said. "That’s I am here: to promote our patriotic coalition from the European Parliament and that from Romania. I urge all Romanians to join the National Force,” she added. Both politicians are controversial. While Le Pen herself is accused of dubious finances and of flirting with Moscow, her party is often accused of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

Rebega faces prosecution in a case in which Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate, DNA, is investigating money-laundering and bribery. While attacks on politicians as complacent and insulated are common in Romania, the anti-EU discourse of Marine Le Pen raises more concern. "The authorities should take action against such extremist, anti-European discourses ... Romania is not and must not be a space where a far-right discourse is welcomed,” MEP Viorica Dancila, a member of Romania’s mainstream Social Democrat Party, PSD, said. Romania has long been one of the most pro-EU members of the bloc, but growing economic and cultural insecurity is pushing more and more people to review their support for Brussels, especially on issues related to centralising economic decisions and on refugees seeking asylum in Europe.

The far-right movement was traditionally represented in Romania by the Greater Romania Party, PRM, which holds strongly nationalist and xenophobic views and has focused on alleged anti-Romanian conspiracies among the ethnic Hungarians of Transylvania, while insulting Jews, Roma and liberal-minded Romanians. However, the PRM failed to enter parliament at the last general election.
© Balkan Insight


France sees huge drop in anti-Muslim acts and threats

France has seen a massive drop in the number of anti-Islam acts, according to the National Observatory against Islamophobia, although Muslim leaders sounded a note of caution.

22/4/2016- The number of anti-Islam acts in France has finally fallen after having rocketed in recent years. New figures from the National Observatory against Islamophobia revealed that in the first three months of 2016, the number of reported anti-Islam acts dropped by 83 percent compared to the first three months of last year. That drop bucked a recent trend that has saw a huge spike in Islamophobic acts last year. The observatory found that there were 20 acts recorded in the period this year, compared to 56 in the same period of 2015. There were also 20 threats made, compared to 166 last year. The report found that the 2016 statistics were in line with the figures from 2014.

2015 saw a massive jump in Islamophobic acts following the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in January. There were several incidents of mosques being attacked as well as individuals being attacked. There were further shocking anti-Islam incidents following the November terror attacks including one incident that saw protesters burn copies of the Koran at a Muslim prayer room in Corsica. Despite the fall in the number of anti-Islam acts this year the president of the Observatory called for caution fearing the number could easily rise again. “We believe that as the future elections approach and given the current political climate, with the declarations of certain politicians, that it is highly likely that the situations may deteriorate and there will be a rise in anti-Muslim acts,” said Abdallah Zekri.

While the numbers may have fallen this year has seen some pretty shocking acts of racism and Islamophobia. In March two pigs' heads were found Thursday attached to the fence of the Moroccan ambassador's residence in a chic suburb of the French capital, police said. "The pigs' heads were discovered by security staff on Thursday at 9am. The ambassador was present," a police source told AFP.


France: Mass street brawl erupts at Paris migrant camp

A huge fight broke out at the temporary migrant camp in Stalingrad, northern Paris, pitting migrants armed with poles and pieces of wood against unknown missile-throwing attackers.

18/4/2016- A video was taken from a window overlooking the Stalingrad Metro station in the 19th arrondissement, which has long been a base for migrants passing through Paris. In the clip, which was filmed on Thursday night, migrants can be seen hurling objects, apparently at each other, while damaging the camp they are living in. Soon after, it becomes apparent that there are unknown assailants throwing objects at the migrants from across the street. The migrants respond by chasing them away with large pieces of wood and poles. Riot police were quick to the scene, where they used tear gas to disperse the crowd, reported Le Parisien newspaper. At least four migrants were injured in the melee, repor-ted the paper. It remains unknown exactly who started the brawl, and if indeed there was any connection to the protesters who have recently been causing police trouble at the République square during night-time protests against planned labour reforms. Stalingrad Metro station was home to almost 1,000 migrants last month, but the camp was evacuated by police at the end of March. As has happened in the past, the migrants soon returned to camp in the area, which is not far from the Gare du Nord station, where many try to catch a train to Calais - the final camp site before potentially crossing to the UK.
© The Local - France


Belgium: Stigmatising and offensive comments by Minister Jan Jambon fuel division

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns recent declarations by the Belgian Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon, which are fuelling stigmatisation of certain communities, and calls for more accountability of politicians and members of government.

18/4/2016- The Belgian minister of the Interior this weekend claimed that “a significant part of the Muslim community in Belgium danced after the terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March”, whereas only one case involving a few persons has been reported to the authorities and dealt with adequately. Last week, the Minister had also compared the terrorists who hid in Brussels for months to “the Jews who hid during the Nazi occupation,” later clarifying that his comments pertained to "the mechanism of hiding." Sarah Isal, ENAR Chair, said: “Offensive and stigmatising speech is symptomatic of the political discourse prevalent in many EU countries, such as France, Slovakia or the United Kingdom. It does nothing to bring constructive solutions to current challenges and contributes to a climate of intolerance and mistrust towards ethnic and religious minorities and migrants in Europe. It reinforces policies and practices based on emotions and the false division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, in a context where we need solidarity and inclusiveness.” Such comments are particularly damaging when they come from politicians. ENAR calls on Jan Jambon to apologise. Politicians should live up to their responsibilities as elected representatives to provide for all their citizens on an equal basis and not indulge in dangerous, baseless and divisive statements.
© EUropean Network Against Racism


Czechs do not rule out legal action against permanent migrant quotas

17/4/2016- The Czech Republic cannot rule out legal action if the European Union tries to put in place any permanent quota system for distributing asylum seekers, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday. The country was one of four central and eastern European states to oppose an EU quota scheme approved by member states last year to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers. Now the European Commission wants a permanent re-distribution system in place. The Czech leader said he thought it was unlikely the bloc would approve a permanent quota plan. "I expect the line of opposition will be wider (against permanent quotas)," Sobotka said on a Sunday debate show. "Let us talk about legal action against the proposal when it is necessary," he added. The Czechs swiftly rejected the idea of compulsory quotas when they were included in the European Commission's proposed strengthening of the bloc's common asylum rules this month. Sobotka reiterated it was important that a permanent quota system is not included in the reform.
© Reuters UK.


Germany: Fights break out at far-right march on Hitler's birthday

Fighting broke out at a far-right march in Thuringia's second city Jena on Wednesday evening – the day of Adolf Hitler's birthday.

21/4/2016- The march had been called by Thügida, a Thuringian offshoot of Dresden-based anti-Islam movement Pegida. Police reported that 15 officers were hurt while trying to calm the violence as around 3,000 counter-demonstrators sought to break through their lines to reach the roughly 200 right-wingers. Several hundred officers used pepper spray to control the crowd and took down at least 35 crime reports related to demonstrators from both sides. There were no figures available on the number of demonstrators hurt by late on Wednesday evening. Counter-protesters threw rocks and bottles at the far-right demonstration, damaging several vehicles including three belonging to the police. Video posted by a freelance journalist on the scene showed a large crowd of demonstrators booing the far-right marchers under the protection of large numbers of police officers and a water cannon. Marchers appear carrying torches and the black, white and red colours of the former German Empire. Attempts by the city to block the demonstration or to move it to the following day - so as to avoid the Hitler anniversary - failed in state courts.
© The Local - Germany


German refugees use ads to target anti-immigration YouTube videos

German YouTube users searching for anti-immigration videos are being shown adverts of refugees talking about prejudices against them.

20/4/2016- Clicking on the ads redirects users to a website with more information about the refugees' stories. The campaign uses YouTube's advertising system to target search terms associated with far-right content and anti-immigration groups. The organisation behind the initiative says the video clips cannot be skipped. Firas Alshater is one of the nine refugees in the adverts. The Syrian actor came to Germany almost three years ago and has become an internet sensation by posting YouTube videos about his everyday life as a refugee. He said the campaign started when he realised that a right-wing party used his videos on the platform for advertising. "I don't think the 30-second clips will disturb anyone. It's a chance to reach people who want to watch these far-right videos because they are afraid and need someone to help them," he told the BBC. In his advert, Firas tells viewers it was not true that Germans and refugees could not live together peacefully.

'Admirable courage'
Refugees Welcome, the organisation behind the campaign, says the adverts can currently be seen before 100 videos. "I think the courage of the refugees is admirable and it's important to give them the chance to present their perspective," said Jonas Kakoschke, one of the co-founders of the organisation. Refugees Welcome is an association that tries to find flatshares for refugees in private homes. "We won't be able to change everybody's opinion, but we do believe there is a smaller part of people we can have a dialogue with and who are open to arguments," he said.

'Refugees out'
Advertisers can use keywords to make their ads appear in front of specific videos on YouTube. The search terms targeted by the campaign include the name of the leader of Germany's anti-Islamist Pegida movement, Lutz Bachmann, who has gone on trial on hate speech charges this week. Other keywords are "Refugees out", "Refugees terrorists" and "The truth about refugees". Video uploaders receive part of the money paid by advertisers. They cannot influence which ads are shown before their video, but can disable them. "Of course, it's painful that the uploaders are getting money from our campaign, but at the moment they only earn a few cents," said Jonas Kakoschke. "Ultimately, we hope that some of these groups will disable advertising and therefore lose out on YouTube ads altogether."

What is Pegida?
# Acronym for Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)
# Umbrella group for German right-wingers, attracting support from mainstream conservatives to neo-Nazi factions and football hooligans
# Holds street protests against what it sees as a dangerous rise in the influence of Islam over European countries
# Claims not to be racist or xenophobic
# 19-point manifesto says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture
© BBC News


Germany: Culture Confronts Pegida in Battle for Dresden’s Reputation

The eastern German city’s fine-arts establishment says the fallout from the weekly protests has been massive.

20/4/2016- On a recent night, hundreds of protesters were calling for foreigners to leave Germany, waving anti-Muslim banners, and singing the national anthem in the Theaterplatz, a square surrounded by this city’s august temples of high culture.vWithin spitting distance, concertgoers were filing into the Semper Opera to hear Baroque music performed by an orchestra that dresses in white tie and ranks among the world’s 10 finest. “People come to experience art,” not to confront a bristling, flag-waving mob, said Wolfgang Rothe, the managing director of the opera. “Our public feels uncomfortable.” These days a culture war is playing out in the Saxon capital, pitching one of Germany’s most rarefied art and cultural scenes against its most notorious populist movement. The prize: The reputation of Dresden, the city Germans call their Florence. Destroyed during World War II and restored to its past grandeur, the city is known across Germany and beyond as a pinnacle of architectural and artistic refinement. It is also a rare story of economic renaissance in the country’s former Communist East.

But for the last year-and-a-half, Dresden has also been the headquarters of the populist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. Known by its German acronym, Pegida, it combines a hostility toward Muslim immigrants, the press and mainstream politicians with admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin—who was stationed in Dresden as a Soviet spy. A speaker at one of the Pegida rallies, which take place every Monday on the square, lamented the closure of concentration camps. Others have referred to people such as Jewish financier George Soros as “puppet masters.” The city’s establishment says the fallout from the protests and Dresden’s association with Pegida has been massive, especially among German visitors. Dresden’s State Art Collection, an array of museums near the Semper Opera, suffered a 6.5% decline in total ticket sales last year, or €750,000 ($854,000) in lost revenue. German visitors made up a big part of the drop, according to Managing Director Dirk Burghardt. “It’s caused by, you could say, the new reputation,” Mr. Burghardt said.

The State Collection includes Raphael’s Sixtine Madonna, the second-most precious stone in the world and the archive of painter Gerhard Richter, Germany’s most renowned living artist. On President Barack Obama’s visit to Germany in June 2009, Chancellor Angela Merkel received him inside one of the Collection’s museums. Tourism more broadly has fallen off in the city. The number of nights spent by German tourists, who visit the city by the millions every year, slid more than 5% last year, according to Dresden Marketing GmbH, the city’s official promotional organization. To make up for the lost income, Dresden officials have resorted to a hotel tax of as much as €7 per night that they hope will raise €6 million this year. Jason Beechey, the headmaster of the distinguished Palucca Dance School, whose students range from grade school to the post-graduate level and study classical, contemporary and improvisational dance, said parents overseas often ask him if their children will be safe in Dresden. “People imagine that it’s 24-7 overrun with neo-Nazis,” Mr. Beechey said.

Pegida says it isn’t to blame for the drop in visitors and points to Germany’s sanctions against Russia, which have caused the ruble to tank, as a more plausible explanation for the decline. “They’re all looking for a scapegoat,” said Lutz Bachmann, co-founder of the Pegida movement, who appeared in court in Dresden on Tuesday to face charges for hate speech based on Facebook comments in which he called asylum-seekers “scumbags,” “animals” and “trash.” “More than anything, I would say it’s related to the universal anti-Russian policies,” he said. There were more than 200,000 Russian visitors to the State Collection in 2014 but 40% fewer last year, according to the Collection’s records. As for the neo-Nazi reputation hanging over the city, “the press is to blame,” Mr. Bachmann said.

Dresden’s fine-arts community is at a loss about how to turn the tide. The museums and opera have put out colorful flags with slogans such as “Eyes open. Doors open. Hearts open.” They have staged exhibitions and performances that address racism. In December 2014, the neoclassical opera house on the square began turning off its lights on Monday nights to keep Pegida from gaining gravitas by using it as a backdrop in photographs. But to Frank Richter, the director of the State Office for Political Education in Saxony, the art world is bringing the equivalent of a knife to a gunfight. “This is high culture,” Mr. Richter said of the various efforts to counter Pegida. “It has no chance of changing any of this.” “You have to be even more active to do something against these idiots,” said Martin Roth, who led the State Collection for a decade as director-general before leaving in 2011 for the top job at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. “I mean, wow, they switched the light off.”

Hartwig Fischer, an influential curator and Mr. Roth’s successor as director-general of the State Collection, left his post this month to run the British Museum in London. In his final months in Dresden, Mr. Fischer opened the Collection’s Renaissance Revival-style Albertinum museum for an event where refugee families could make friends with locals. The event, Mr. Fischer acknowledged, captured “less of the limelight than all these people demonstrating every Monday with these horrid slogans and Nazi catchwords.” The Semper Opera now turns on its candelabras outside the building in the square when there are Monday night concerts so that audience members, many of whom are elderly, can see on their way inside past the rallies. Culture and art “can only do their part,” said Eva-Maria Stange, Saxony’s minister for culture and science. “And we shouldn’t ask too much of them.”
© The Wall Street Journal*


German counterterrorism unit arrests far-right terror suspects

An elite German police unit has arrested five people in the Saxony town of Freital on suspicion of attacking refugee shelters, media report. Last year, the town became known for weeks of xenophobic protests.

19/4/2016- Police officers from Germany's elite GSG 9 counterterrorism unit arrested the five people in an operation in the eastern town of Freital in the early hours of Tuesday morning, according "Spiegel Online." The website reported the arrests of four men and one woman aged 18-39. They were detained on suspicion of forming a far-right terrorist group, causing grievous bodily harm and attempted murder. The arrests come in the wake of a number of attacks on shelters for refugees. Among other things, the group is suspected of attacking asylum-seeker homes in Freital with stones and fireworks, and of carrying out an explosives attack on the car of a Freital alderman.

Store of fireworks
"Spiegel Online" reported that officers found a large number of fireworks from Eastern Europe during their raids. Federal prosecutors have been investigating the members of the  far-right group for some time. Since November, police have found explosives and Nazi memorabilia during raids on several apartments in Freital and in Dresden. Two men who are alleged to be the leaders of the group have been in remand for some time. The town, which is near the Saxony state capital of Dresden, hit the headlines last summer during weeks of xenophobic protests in front of a refugee home in a former hotel.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Pegida founder faces trial for hate speech

The founder of Germany’s far-right, anti-Islam Pegida movement goes on trial in Dresden Tuesday on hate speech charges after he called refugees “cattle” and “trash” in a Facebook post.

19/4/2016- Lutz Bachmann, a 43-year-old convicted burglar and cocaine dealer who founded Pegida in 2014, could face between three months and five years in prison if found guilty. He was charged with inciting racial hatred in October last year after a series of widely shared Facebook posts in which he described foreign immigrants and asylum seekers as “cattle”, “riff raff” and “a pack of dirt” and concluded: “There is no such thing as real war refugees.” The trial in Dresden, a stronghold of Pegida support, will take place amid tight security. Known for its frequent rallies against immigration, often met by counter-protests, Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, has seen support surge in recent months amid an influx of refugees to Germany. The movement has also spawned offshoots in several other European countries, including France, the UK and Spain. Bachmann, who denies being racist or extremist, was forced to resign as leader of the party in January last year after he posted a photo of himself online appearing to pose as Adolf Hitler, with a side-parting haircut and toothbrush moustache.
© France 24.


Germany: Islam not compatible with constitution, says AfD party

17/4/2016- The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) said on Sunday Islam is not compatible with the German constitution and vowed to press for bans on minarets and burqas at its party congress in two weeks' time. The AfD punished Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats in three regional elections last month, profiting from popular angst about how Germany can cope with an influx of migrants, over a million of whom arrived last year. "Islam is in itself a political ideology that is not compatible with the constitution," AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "We are in favor of a ban on minarets, on muezzins and a ban on full veils," added Storch, who is a member of the European Parliament.

Merkel's conservatives have also called for an effective ban on the burqa, saying the full body covering worn by some Muslim women should not be worn in public. But they have not said Islam is incompatible with Germany's constitution. The AfD's rise, which has coincided with strong gains by other European anti-immigrant parties including the National Front in France, has punctured the centrist consensus around which the mainstream parties have formed alliances in Germany. Last month, the party grabbed 24 percent of the vote in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, surpassing even the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel's coalition partner in Berlin. The AfD, founded in 2013, also performed strongly in two other states.

The party's rise has been controversial. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, has said Germany's far-right, led by the AfD party, is using language similar to that of Hitler's Nazis. Such accusations have not swayed the party from its anti-immigration course. "Islam is not a religion like Catholic or Protestant Christianity, but rather intellectually always associated with the takeover of the state," said Alexander Gauland, who leads the AfD in Brandenburg. "That is why the Islamization of Germany is a danger," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
© Reuters UK.


Germany: Saarland minister wants intelligence tests to pick out talented refugees

Saarland's interior minister has said his state is considering intelligence tests for refugees to speed up integration. The report comes amid efforts to improve the integration of migrants and refugees in Germany.

16/4/2016- In an interview with the German newspaper "Rheinische Post" on Saturday, Klaus Bouillon said the government of the southwestern state of Saarland was considering implementing intelligence tests for refugees. "We also want to start a pilot project in which we use an intelligence test to find where [a refugee's] talent lies and in which occupa-tion we can put them or educate them," Bouillon said. When asked who would participate in the program, the interior minister said anywhere between 600 and 700 refugees would voluntarily take part in the beginning. "It's in cooperation with the Federal Employment Agency and other renowned labor experts," Bouillon said.

A 'high-risk situation'
During his interview with the newspaper, he also discussed the threat of terrorism that comes with the taking in so many people, saying that there are many dangerous people who enter the country disguised as refugees. "Let's face it: We do not know exactly how many troublemakers in the country there are," he said. "We in Germany find ourselves in a high-risk situation." Bouillon emphasized the need for more Muslim sources within Germany to help locate potentially threatening individuals. German officials recently touted a draft law designed to help improve the integration process in Germany. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called the legislation a "historic step."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Headlines 15 April, 2016

Austrian police investigate far-right storming of refugee play

Police have launched an investigation after several right-wing extremists stormed the stage of a Vienna play featuring asylum-seekers as actors. The group sprayed fake blood on spectators, and several people were hurt.

15/4/2016- Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said some 30 people, who claimed to be members of the Identitarian movement, were involved in the protest on Thursday evening. The group took over the stage shortly after the opening of a play, Die Schutzbefohlenen (The Protected). The production, featuring asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as actors, was being staged at the University of Vienna. Between 30 and 40 protesters, mainly men, ran onto the stage in front of some 700 audience members waving flags and unfurled a large banner featuring the words: "Hypocrites: Our resistance to your decadence." The group also threw fake blood into the audience, as well as flyers bearing the slogan "multiculturalism kills." A scuffle followed between audience members and protesters. The group members were thrown out and subsequently fled from the scene. Austrian Culture Minister Josef Ostermayer described the incident as "shocking," adding that it was the latest in a series of attacks by the Identitarian group. "The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the arts and freedom of speech are as untouchable as the protection of minorities," he said.

Drama protests asylum law
The play, written by Austrian Nobel Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek, was first staged in Germany in 2014, and is an attack on what the author sees as Europe's inhumane treatment of asylum-seekers. It is about the occupation of a Viennese church by 60 asylum-seekers who were due to be deported. The Identitarian movement started in France in 2002, deriving from the youth wing of the anti-immigrant Bloc Identitaire. Austria, which took in 90,000 asylum-seekers last year, has adopted an increasingly tough immigration stance to discourage potential migrants. The anti-immigration Freedom Party has polled above 30 percent since May last year, posing an electoral threat to the ruling coalition of social democrats and conservatives.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Spain: Far-right anti-corruption crusader arrested on extortion charges

Manos Limpias chief was instrumental in getting Spanish royal tried for tax fraud.

15/4/2016- The head of an obscure far-right organization involved in several high-profile court cases in Spain over recent years has been arrested in Madrid on extortion charges. Miguel Bernad, head of Manos Limpias (Clean Hands)  was detained on Friday morning along with Luis Pineda, the president of Ausbanc, a financial consumer association. Both men are thought to have been lodging complaints against a number of individuals, institutions and businesses and then demanding money in return for withdrawing legal action, say judicial sources. The suspects are being investigated for extortion, subsidy fraud, tax crimes, money laundering and criminal association. Police expected to make around 14 arrests in connection with the case; the offices of Ausbanc and Manos Limpias were also searched on Friday morning. Both Bernad and Pineda have been involved in the past with shadowy neo-fascist groups. Bernad set up Manos Limpias in the mid-1980s, ostensibly as a labor union for Spanish public service employees with a mission to root out corruption in the country.

Ausbanc was set up as a consumer rights organization focusing on the finance and banking sector. In 2000, it won a case brought against banks for "rounding up" interest rates. Manos Limpias has brought several private prosecutions over the last decade, the most recent against Princess Cristina, who was charged with tax fraud in the Noos case and became the first Spanish royal to take the stand in a criminal trial. High Court sources said Manos Limpias allegedly asked Banco Sabadell and La Caixa for three million euros in exchange for dropping the charges against Cristina de Borbón. Friday’s arrests follow a number of leaks to the media about the judicial investigation into Ausbanc and Manos Limpias, which has been ongoing for several months. Several Spanish banks had complained that they have been “obliged” over the last two decades to place advertisements in Ausbanc’s magazines to avoid the publication of articles criticizing them. Caja Madrid and BBVA finally spoke out about the alleged blackmail, prompting a number of abusive articles in Ausbanc publica-tions. In 2007, Crédit Services reported Ausbanc’s chairman, Pineda, to the authorities, accusing him of extortion.
© El País in English


EU relocates just 208 refugees from Greece after deal with Turkey

Union fails to honour pledge to help with fallout from agreement, taking in a fraction of 6,000 people it should have welcomed

15/4/2016- European countries have failed to uphold a pledge to help Greece cope with the fallout from the EU-Turkey deal, relocating less than 3.5% of the refugees they promised to accept when the deal was first agreed. According to figures released by the EU this week, just 208 refugees have been relocated from Greece to other countries in Europe since 16 March, a small fraction of the 6,000 that European countries promised to welcome by this point. It is an even smaller proportion of the 160,000 that EU members promised to relocate from Greece and Italy last September. The slow progress leaves Greece bearing the brunt of the deal, which involves detaining all asylum seekers arriving in Greece from 20 March onwards. Coupled with the closure of the Macedonian border, which once allowed most migrants to move onwards to northern Europe, this has led to a logjam of about 50,000 asylum seekers in Greece, which does not have the resources to care for them.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s migration commissioner, said in a statement: “We cannot be satisfied with the results achieved so far. Relocation efforts have to be increased dramatically to reply to the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and to prevent any deterioration of the situation in Italy.” Aid workers and lawyers say the situation for the detained asylum- seekers in Greece is dire, with many of them without access to adequate legal representation. Thirteen are already feared to have been deported without being given the chance to apply for asylum. This week, one Greek lawyer said that he was being consistently denied access to clients in the Moria detention centre on the island of Lesbos. “Someone must inform the police … about the rights of the people that are detained in that camp,” said Emmanouil Chatzichalkias in a written statement.

Responding to the situation on Friday, three major aid groups – Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Solidarity Now – called for deportations from Greece to Turkey to be halted, and for detained asylum seekers to be freed. Explaining the call, Farah Karimi, Oxfam’s executive director, said: “Thousands of people are being held in squalid European detention centres. Shame on the EU for prioritising detention and deportation over people’s rights to safety and dignity. The returns deal was pushed through to the detriment of these stranded, suffering people.”
© The Guardian.


Ireland: President warns over anti-Muslim prejudice

President Michael D Higgins believes prejudice against the Muslim community is fuelled by a lack of understanding of the Middle East.

15/4/2016- Mr Higgins called on Irish people to engage with Islamic culture at the opening of an exhibition featuring one of the most valuable Korans in the world at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. The Koran was created by calligrapher Ruzbihan Muhammad al-Tab'I al-Shirazi in Iran in the mid 16th century. It is believed only five Korans signed by Ruzbihan have survived, and historians consider this to be one of his masterpieces. Mr Higgins said the increasing number of visitors to the library will gain a "deeper understanding" of different cultures across the world. "For Irish and European audiences, the opportunity to encounter Islamic and Persian culture directly is all the more important, in a context where Islamophobia and other insidious forms of prejudice against Muslims are rampant throughout Europe," said Mr Higgins.

"Such prejudice is often fuelled by an ignorance of the politics and history of the Middle East, a blindness to the many ways in which our Muslim citizens and residents enrich European life, and a misrepresentation of the tenets of the Islamic faith itself." Mr Higgins said the advocates of a "distorted and hateful" version of Islam are "persecuting those of other persuasions" with the view to destroy the cultural trace of previous generations. He said: "That the epicentre of such devastation, which reaches out to Africa, Asia, and even to the heart of our European cities, should affect one of the cradles of civilisation, the holy lands of Iraq and Syria, is particularly tragic."
© The Irish Independent


Belgium’s vice PM likens terrorists escaping capture to Jews hiding from Nazis

14/4/2016- In explaining how terrorists in hiding could avoid capture, Belgium’s vice prime minister compared their situation to that of Jews who hid from Nazis. Jan Jambon made the analogy last week during an interview with VTM, a Flemish-language television station, the news website Knack reported Wednesday. Claude Maroniower, a Belgian-Jewish alderman in the city of Antwerp, complained earlier this week on Facebook that Jambon’s comparison was inappropriate, prompting Jambon’s spokesperson to issue a statement saying he “did not mean to equate in any way” Holocaust victims and terrorists. During the VTM interview Jambon said: “Someone who hides and receives support from the population can stay hidden for a long time. I sometimes make the comparison of a large number of Jews during World War II. There are Jews who stayed hidden for four years, and it was a horrible regime that was constantly searching for these people. Luckily they never found them.” Jambon has strong ties to Jewish groups in Belgium and recently spoke at a Jewish event in the Netherlands about street celebrations in Belgium following the slaying of 32 people in terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22. His reference to Jews in hiding was in response to a question on how suspects implicated in the attacks could avoid capture for weeks and detection for many months.
© JTA News


Islamophobia threatens democracy in Europe, report says

13/4/2016- In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia. Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of "illiberal nationalism" in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House's annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It uses the organization's specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row. "The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics," details Freedom House's press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees. Leaders in these countries, the report states, "exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain." The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, which faces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe. “Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. "This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees."

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.
© The Washington Post


Russia: Gay journalist stabbed to death by ‘Hitler-loving homophobe’

A homophobe has been arrested in Russia over the murder of a gay journalist he allegedly planned to blackmail for money.

13/4/2016- Dmitry Tsilikin, a popular arts and theatre critic who had written for Kommersant, Moscow News, Vogue and Elle, was found dead in his St Petersburg home earlier this month. The journalist had been stabbed with a knife a dozen times – and by the time his body was found, he had bled to death in a pool of his own blood. Though Mr Tsilikin was not open about his sexuality, a number of Russian newspapers have posthumously outed him as gay, after 21-year-old Sergei Kosyreva was arrested over the murder. The country’s newspapers speculated it was the latest in a “series of high-profile murders of homosexual men”, and noted that Kosyreva displayed an obsession with Hitler imagery on his social media pages.

A Human Rights Watch researcher who examined the case wrote: “The attacker reportedly told the police he had met Tsilikin online and planned to blackmail Tsilikin about his homosexuality but killed him after an argument. The attacker’s social network accounts contain images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler.” They continued: “It’s critical the prosecuting authorities do not ignore evidence of all possible “Russia has hate crime laws on the books that can be applied. “I have reason to be skeptical: of the several dozen anti-LGBT attacks I’ve documented in recent years, none were investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes, even the ones that most blatantly involving a hate motive.” They added: “Until Russian authorities rein in their own hateful rhetoric, acknowledge their obligation to protect those who identify as LGBT and their supporters, and act on that obligation, the attacks will continue. And some, like Dmitry Tsilikin, will pay with their lives.”
© The Pink News


Spain: Hate crime against Muslims rises tenfold

Anti-Islam hate crimes jumped more than tenfold in Spain in 2015, a key Islamic federation said on Tuesday following a series of attacks on mosques.

13/4/2016- A total of 534 anti-Islam incidents including online abuse were recorded last year, up from 48 in 2014, the president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities, Mounir Benjelloun, told AFP. "These types of aggressions increase whenever there is an act of violence in a European country" carried out by Islamic extremists, he added. He cited as examples the attack in January 2015 against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police and a kosher supermarket in Paris that killed 17 people and the simultaneous assault on restaurants, a concert hall and football stadium in the French capital in November 2015 that left 130 dead. Spanish police said Tuesday they had identified 14 people linked to far-right groups who took part in a protest outside of Madrid's main mosque after last month's deadly Brussels airport and metro attacks.

The protesters gathered at the Omar mosque in Madrid and placed a large placard that read: "Today Brussels, tomorrow Madrid?" Police said prosecutors were investigating to determine if the 14 could be charged with hate crimes. The Union of Islamic Communities of Spain issued a statement at the time saying "extremist groups" were determined to "manipulate public opinion by trying to group together and channel hate towards Muslims." Also on Tuesday, police in Parla, a southern Madrid suburb, said they had arrested a man linked to the far-right on suspicion of throwing red paint on the entrance of a mosque and painting swastikas on its door. Since the Brussels attacks mosques have been vandalised in other Spanish cities such as Salamanca in the west and Granada in the south, said Riay Tatary, head of the Islamic Commission of Spain, which represents the country's 1.89 million Muslims.

Spain's interior ministry recorded 70 hate crimes linked to religious belief last year, up from 63 in 2014.  Benjelloun said the ministry's figure was lower because in many cases victims are often reluctant to file complaints with police and some police stations label attacks on Muslim property as vandalism instead of as a hate crime.
© The Local - Spain


EU sees 'alarming' migrant buildup in Libya, warns Italy

13/4/2016- "Alarming" numbers of migrants are reaching Libya to cross the Mediterranean, a senior EU official said on Wednesday, adding a warning that Italy must be ready for them to avoid new border chaos inside Europe. "The numbers of would-be migrants in Libya are alarming," European Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament a day after Austria said it planned tighter controls on its Italian border in anticipation of a summer migrant surge. Noting that anarchy in Libya ruled out for now the kind of deal made with Turkey to block what was last year's main route into Europe via Greece, Tusk said EU allies must be ready to help manage new arrivals within Italy, as well as on Malta.
But in referring to last year's chaotic movement of nearly a million people from Greece that saw EU states closing borders with each other, threatening the bloc's cherished Schengen zone of passport-free travel, Tusk warned of a similar threat if Italy and its EU partners did not cooperate to contain flows. "As regards the Balkan route, we undertook action much too late, which resulted among others in the temporary closure of the borders inside Schengen," he said of the many months it took to enforce EU rules obliging asylum seekers to remain in Greece. "This is why our full cooperation with Italy and Malta today is a condition to avoid this scenario in the future."

Austria, which with France and Germany has long complained that Italy simply "waves through" migrants heading north, has said it expects double last year's 150,000 to reach Italy and will tighten controls on the Brenner Pass frontier. Rome has rejected criticism but some EU diplomats are concerned that Italy, which saw arrivals fall last year, may not be able or willing to accommodate a new surge and to hold people while asylum claims are assessed, as Greece is now doing. Nearly 10,000 people reached Italy last month, compared to fewer than 2,300 in March 2015, U.N. data shows. Arrivals in Greece from Turkey have fallen significantly since Ankara agreed to take back all migrants, including Syrian refugees. Reaching Italy is much riskier than Greek islands off the Turkish coast.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the same parliamentary session that implementing the EU-Turkey deal remained a "Herculean task", for practical reasons as well as disputes with Ankara over human rights. In rare public rebuke to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, whom Brussels has assiduously courted in seeking his help to curb migrant flows, Juncker criticized Ankara's summoning of the German envoy to complain that Erdogan was mocked on German TV. "I simply cannot comprehend that a German ambassador should be summoned over an admittedly outrageous satirical song," Juncker said. "This does not bring Turkey any closer to us but rather drives us further apart." Among incentives for Turkey to take back migrants from Greece is a pledge to revive talks on Turkish EU membership.
© Reuters


Croatian Jews Hold Separate Death-Camp Commemoration

15/4/2016- Representatives of Croatia's Jewish community have held a commemoration at Jasenovic, the site of the country's most notorious Nazi-era death camp. The April 15 commemoration was held because Jews decided to boycott the official commemoration scheduled for April 22 to protest what they say is the government's refusal to react to efforts by nationalists to downplay the crimes of the Nazi-era Ustasha government. About 300 Jews gathered and held prayers at the site of the "Croatian Auschwitz," near the country's border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia's Serbian National Council has also said it would boycott the official ceremony next week. There have been many complaints that Croatia's center-right government, which took office in January, has been courting extreme nationalists. Many Croats have called for the resignation of Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, who they say sympathizes with the Ustasha regime. There have been several incidents of extreme nationalists shouting Nazi slogans at public events in recent months. It is estimated that 700,000 people -- mostly Serbs, Jews, Roma, and anti-fascist Croats -- were killed at Jasenovac.


Croatia Violating Refugees' Rights, NGO Claims

As Croatia dismantles its last refugee camp in the eastern town of Slavonski Brod, the remaining 62 refugees are being transferred to the asylum centre in Zagreb.

13/4/2016- Croatian authorities are closing down the last camp for Middle-Eastern refugees and have transported the 62 remaining refugees to the asylum centre in Zagreb. From the camp in the eastern town of Slavonski Brod, the refugees were transported by a bus and police vans to the asylum centre, where they will be accommodated in joint rooms. The government decided in early April to close the camp, which opened in November, claiming that there was no longer need for a camp that large in the current situation. From the start of the refugee crisis in Croatia in mid-September 2015, only 157 people have been granted asylum in Croatia, while another 157 applied for it – a fraction of the number moving through the country towards Western Europe.

“Unfortunately, a major part of those who sought asylum [in Croatia] will now have problems because if they sought asylum in Croatia, they cannot seek asylum in any other EU state according to the Dublin Protocol,” said Emina Buzinkic, an activist from the organisation Initiative Welcome. “Some of them will be devastated, since their families are already in Germany,” she added. The Dublin Protocol says refugees must register in the first EU country they reach. It is designed to stop refugees from picking which country they would most like to claim asylum in on the basis of its wealth and benefit system. Since Serbia, the country from which the refugees in Croatia came, will not receive them back, refugees moved to Zagreb will most likely be deported to Greece. From there, they will be moved to Turkey under the terms of the recent EU-Turkey deal. Some may be deported to their country of origin.

Buzinkic said deportations to Greece and Turkey would breach the rights of the refugees as both countries, especially Turkey, “aren’t considered 'safe' countries by international standards. “You can see that from the number of asylum seekers from Turkey in the world, owing to their treatment of the Kurds and other minorities, besides other issues,” she concluded. From the beginning of the crisis a total of 658,000 refugees and migrants have crossed Croatia on their way to Germany and northern Europe. Over 340,000 passed through the camp in Slavonski Brod that opened on November 1.
© Balkan Insight


Bulgaria announces investigations into several ‘migrant hunters’

Government to search for further vigilantes targeting refugees after arrest of wrestler Dinko Valev, following claims it was turning a blind eye to assaults.

12/4/2016- Bulgaria has announced investigations into several “migrant hunters” after being accused of turning a blind eye to vigilantes targeting refugees travelling to Europe from Turkey. The interior ministry said on Tuesday that Dinko Valev, a semi-professional wrestler who boasted earlier this year of detaining migrants, had been summoned for questioning. In separate developments on the same day, the ministry said it had detained a vigilante responsible for a video released this week that showed armed civilians tying up refugees, and begun searching for others. It follows an international outcry over the footage, which shows the individuals tying the people’s hands behind their backs, forcing them to lie facedown and shouting: “No Bulgaria! Go back to Turkey!” The video amplified claims that the Bulgarian government has not been doing enough to clamp down on vigilante activity along its border.

In an interview with the Guardian, the deputy interior minister, Philip Gounev, said the government was deeply opposed to citizens taking the law into their own hands. Announcing the investigations as evidence of this stance, he said: “Arresting people is only in the power of law enforcement and the police. Any attempts by citizens to arrest other citizens is illegal. Any kind of illegal detention of citizens by other citizens is treated as such.” More than 30,000 people were recorded attempting to pass through the country from Turkey last year, despite a fence being erected along part of the border, and more may have passed through undetected. In response, groups of Bulgarian civilians have started to patrol the border, where they detain and rob those who are found. Valev, 29, was described as a “superhero” in a state television report for his vigilante work. He later told the BBC: “These [migrants] are disgusting and bad people and they should stay where they are.”

That Valev was not summoned until Tuesday has been interpreted as a sign that the government was not initially serious about preventing vigilante arrests. This feeling was heightened when the prime minister, Boyko Borissov, made comments that were interpreted as being supportive of vigilantes. “Any help for the police, for the border police and for the state is welcome,” he said. “Anyone who helps deserves thanks.” The Bulgarian border police chief, Antonio Angelov, was also perceived by some to have spoken out in favour of vigilantes after he said of Bulgarians who had reported migrants to authorities: “I want to encourage them, because they have reacted very appropriately.” Gounev told the Guardian that his colleagues had been grossly misinterpreted. Borissov and Angelov were not talking about vigilantes, he said, but very specifically about good-natured people who had fed a group of lost migrants and helped them make their way to police. “We consider this a noble act, and there is nothing indicated that they did anything illegal or detained migrants by force,” Gounev said.

Rights activists believe the government has fanned the flames of the situation. Margarita Ilieva, from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said the prime minister should be arrested “for openly inciting the commission of crimes, and inciting violence and discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity or race”. Ilieva claimed Borissov had knowingly praised vigilantes acting outside the law. “Borissov repeated many times that he thanked the ‘boys’ and that they only deserved thanks for the ‘help’ they were offering, and that the border police would cooperate with them,” she said. “This is a despicable insult to the very idea of a republic based on laws, due process and institutions. “For the past three years, domestic officials at the highest levels … have engaged in deliberate, sustained, targeted propaganda [out] of fear of the refugees, with words such as ‘danger’, ‘threat’, ‘risk’, ‘wave’, ‘wall off’ being central to their discourse. As a result, now 60% of Bulgarians consider the refugees a threat to national security.”
© The Guardian.


Hungary Readies to Build Fence on Romania Border

Hungary is taking first steps to construct a barrier along its border with Romania in its latest attempt to deter refugees and migrants.

12/4/2016- Hungary has started marking the route of a future fence along the border with Romania to prevent refugees and migrants from entering the country, according to media reports. Last week, specialists put different marks on the ground at a distance of some 50 km from each other. "It looks like a barbed-wire fence could be installed any time soon,” Antal Erzenyi, mayor of Bedo village, on the Romanian-Hungarian border, said. The neighbouring countries share a 250 km-long border. Budapest has not officially confirmed the news but previously said a fence could be built "the next day" if necessary. Last year, Hungary built fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia in an attempt to block a major potential route for refugees and migrants from the Middle East.

In a related development, last month Romania received its first 15 refugees in compliance with an EU relocation scheme. They have been accommodated in the eastern city of Galati, near the border with Moldova. In 2016 and 2017, Romania has agreed to receive 6,205 refugees. As yet, Romania has not been hit by the wave of refugees and migrants crossing the Balkans towards Germany and northern Europe. Only 913 people applied for asylum in Romania last year, 12 per cent more than in 2014.
© Balkan Insight


Hungary: Court backs woman’s complaint against authorities’ failed ‘Roma-phobia’ inquiry

12/4/2016- Judges ruled today that a failure to investigate adequately threats and insults made during an anti-Roma march in Hungary, breached European human rights law. In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of R.B. v. Hungary (application no. 64602/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the inadequate investigation into the applicant’s allegations of racially motivated abuse. As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Hungary was to pay the applicant Ms R.B. 4,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,717 in respect of costs and expenses. The case concerned the complaint by the woman of Roma origin that she had been subjected to racist insults and threats by participants in an anti-Roma march and that the authorities had failed to investigate the racist verbal abuse. The court considered in particular that, given that the insults and acts in question had taken place during an anti-Roma march and had come from a member of an extremely right-wing vigilante group, the authorities should have conducted the investigation in that specific context. However, they had failed to take all reasonable steps to establish the role of racist motives.
© Human Rights Europe


Report Shows Underreporting of Hate Crimes Among OSCE States

A report jointly released today by Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that hate crimes in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region continue to go unreported by participating States, which consistently fall short on their commitments to combat hate crime.

12/4/2016- The report, “Scorecard on Hate Crime Response in the OSCE Region” identifies a number of recommendations for participating countries, including the United States. The report comes days before the OSCE meets in Vienna for a conference on the promotion of tolerance and nondiscrimination. “In some OSCE countries there has been a rise in anti-Semitic hate crime,” noted the report. “This alarming development can be traced to both incitement from neo-fascist groups and the growth of violent Islamist extremist groups. Anti-Semitism is a virulent thread that runs through the ideologies of many extremist groups, even though their worldviews converge on little else.”

Today’s report analyzes data submitted by countries to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for its annual hate crimes report. This annual report is an important tool for understanding the nature and frequency of hate crime across the region, and to craft responsive policies. However, the organizations note that the report only provides a partial picture, as many countries either do not collect such data or fail to transmit their findings to the ODIHR on a timely basis. In the current environment—with the refugee crisis, the rise of far-right parties and movements espousing hatred, and an increase in hate crimes—there is an urgent need for the OSCE’s participating States to make reporting a higher priority. Only 36 of the 57 participating States submitted information to the ODIHR for 2014. Half of participating States either did not report at all or reported zero crimes for their country.

Human Rights First and ADL caution that this lack of reporting and underreporting is simply not acceptable or credible. Both Human Rights First and ADL have developed recommendations for the United States to aid its European allies in combating the rise of anti-Semitic and extremist violence, specifically in France, Germany, and Hungary. In a report released earlier this year by Human Rights First, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France,” which is based on months of research and analysis on anti-Semitism and extremism in France, Human Rights First examines how the rise of the far right and Islamist extremism are converging in a vicious cycle to fuel intolerance and violence. The report focuses on ways that U.S. government leaders can work with their French counterparts to prevent future attacks, promote greater tolerance and inclusiveness, and chart a path forward that upholds our shared commitment to human rights as an integral part of national security.

The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism, released in 2014, surveyed 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories in an effort to establish, for the first time, a comprehensive data-based research survey of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment across the world. The poll found that anti-Semitic attitudes are persistent and pervasive around the world. In a follow-up to ADL’s 2014 groundbreaking survey, the League conducted additional polling in Europe, which noted concern about violence against Jews increased significantly by 20 percent in France, 31 percent in Belgium, and 33 percent in Germany. In France, Germany and Belgium, the results indicate that heightened awareness of violence against Jews fosters a sense of solidarity with the Jewish community and that strong condemnation by political and civic leaders makes expressing anti-Semitism less acceptable.

Human Rights First is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3), international human rights organization based in New York and Washington, DC.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
© Human Rights First


Netherlands: PVV plan flops: Labour leaders won’t face trial for anti-Moroccan comments

12/4/2016- Efforts by the anti-immigration PVV to have Labour party leader Diederik Samsom and party chairman Hans Spekman prosecuted for discriminatory remarks about young Dutch Moroccans have failed. Judges in Amsterdam said the complaints about the comments by PVV senator Marjolein Faber and MEP Marcel de Graaff were invalid because neither was directly affected. PVV leader Geert Wilders called for supporters to complain about the Labour leadership after thousands of protests were lodged about his own anti-Moroccan comments in 2014. Wilders’ trial for discrimination and inciting hatred will begin this autumn. Samsom’s comment was made in the NRC newspaper in 2011, when he said that Moroccan youngsters had an ‘ethnic monopoly’ on causing trouble. Spekman told Vrij Nederland magazine in 2008 that Moroccans who did not behave should be humiliated. The PVV claimed the comments reminded them of statements made about the Jews during World War II.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Amsterdam schools increasingly segregated

Different social classes rarely mix.

11/4/2016- Amsterdam secondary schools are becoming increasingly segregated and children from families with well-educated parents rarely mix with those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a new report by the city council’s research department. Pupils at one in four schools are almost exclusively from highly-educated parents, while in four out of 10 schools, children from low-skilled families make up 80% or more of the school population. For example, twice as many pupils go to schools in the districts of Centrum and Zuid as actually live in the city’s wealthiest districts, the report said. In just eight schools is there a 50/50 split, which accurately reflects the city’s general population, the OIS statistics office said. Two years ago, 11 schools had the ‘ideal’ mix.

One reason for the segregation is the rise in single stream schools in the city. In the main, Dutch pupils are divided into pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo) streams at the age of 12 but an increasing number of schools only offer one type of education. ‘This means that children from different social classes rarely come into contact with each other,’ Amsterdam university professor Herman van de Werfhorst told the Parool. The rise of schools which only cater to pre-university or pre-vocational training streams is increasing the divisions, he said. ‘The best children go to the best schools, with the best teachers,’ he said. ‘This inequality is only increasing and no one seems to find it an issue.’ Research also suggests that children with low-skilled parents are more likely to be sent to vocational schools.
© The Dutch News


UK is turning a blind eye to refugees’ suffering, say aid agencies

Groups say that Britain should become a ‘safe haven’ and take its fair share of refugees already on the move

14/4/2016- The UK is turning a blind eye to suffering on its doorstep and needs to “accept its moral responsibility” to help refugees in Europe, 13 aid agencies have said. In a strong condemnation of the Government’s handling of the refugee crisis, Oxfam, the British Refugee Council and David Miliband’s International Rescue Committee, along with 10 other organisations, said that the failure of the UK and European governments to adequately respond to the arrival of more than a million refugees in Europe had “compounded the suffering” and contributed to a humanitarian crisis. Britain’s response to the refugee crisis has focused on supporting Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon – the countries hosting the most refugees. A donor conference in February hosted in London led to £7.7bn in aid being pledged to support refugees in the region fleeing the civil war in Syria. But the charities said that such support for refugees in the Middle East was not enough, and that Britain should become a “safe haven” and take its fair share of refugees already on the move.

Maya Mailer, Oxfam’s head of humanitarian policy, said: “The UK is trying to pretend that this is someone else’s problem, and that refugees and migrants could and should be dealt with elsewhere. But people who are desperate will take huge risks to reach safety. “The UK needs to accept its moral responsibility to offer a safe haven to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – men, women and children who have been made homeless by war, violence and disasters.” Britain has pledged to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. This will not include refugees already in Europe. However, a number of unaccompanied child refugees on the Continent will be given sanctuary. The charities said the UK should create new safe and legal avenues for refugees to claim asylum in the UK, while contributing more in humanitarian aid to improve conditions for refugees trapped at borders and in transit, particularly in Greece.

British Refugee Council chief executive Maurice Wren said: “While European leaders demonstrate a collective failure of political leadership and moral courage, people who have escaped war and tyranny are met with barbed wire and tear gas, mums are forced to bathe their infants in dirty puddles, and yet more refugee children drown on Europe’s shores. “European governments, including the UK, must take a long hard look at themselves and ask is this the best they can do? We say that it doesn’t have to be this way. Today we’re presenting a roadmap for change which prioritises saving lives, solidarity and safe passage.”
© The Independent


UK: Violent clash at far-right protest outside east London mosque

Footage has emerged of a clash between Muslim worshippers and far-right activists at a protest outside a mosque in east London.

11/4/2016- Videos shared on social media showed Britain First protesters being driven away from the East London Mosque amid scuffles in the street, shortly after they had assembled. In one clip, a man can be seen fly-kicking the retreating protesters. Another man can be heard shouting “come on!” and several police officers were pictured at the scene. The fight broke out after members of the right wing group attempted to hold an anti-mosque demonstration outside the building in Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, on Saturday afternoon. The group had arrived at the building with union flags and a large banner saying “no more mosques”.

The mosque tweeted that members of its community were “provoked and attacked” by the protesters. Britain First claimed on social media that it was set upon by “around 150 aggressive Muslims” while trying to stage a peaceful demonstration. Two people were arrested after police were called at about 3.30pm. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Police were called following reports of a protest outside the East London Mosque on Whitechapel Road. “Officers attended and spoke with the group. A short time later, a counter-protest commenced. Two men were subsequently arrested.” One man was held on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Another was arrested on suspicion of going equipped to cause criminal damage.
© The London Evening Standard.


UK: Muslims Creating ‘Nations Within Nations’ Says Former Head Equalities Commission

11/4/2016- The former head of Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Trevor Phillips, has admitted he “got almost everything wrong” regarding immigration in a new report, claiming Muslims are creating “nations within nations” in the West. Phillips says followers of Islam hold very different values from the rest of society and many want to lead separate lives. The former head of the U.K.’s equalities watchdog also advocates the monitoring of ethnic minority populations on housing estates to stop them becoming “ghetto villages.” He says schools may have to consider a 50 per cent limit on Muslim, or other minority pupils, to encourage social integration. And he says disturbing survey findings point to a growing chasm between the attitudes of many British Muslims and their compatriots.

Phillips’ intervention comes after he was asked to analyse the findings of a major survey on Muslim attitudes in the U.K., which will form the basis of Channel 4’s documentary, What British Muslims Really Think, which is due to air on Wednesday night. An ICM poll released to the Times, in Britain, ahead of the broadcast reveals:
• One in five Muslims in Britain never enter a non-Muslim house
• 39 per cent of Muslims, male and female, say a woman should always obey her husband
• 31 per cent of British Muslims support the right of a man to have more than one wife
• 52 per cent of Muslims did not believe that homosexuality should be legal
• 23 per cent of Muslims support the introduction of Sharia law rather than the laws laid down by parliament
The documentary will portray the U.K.’s Muslims as a “nation within a nation” that has its own geography and values.

Phillips commissioned a report into Britain and Islamophobia in 1997 which, according to both Phillips himself and academics across the country, popularised the phrase which has now become synonymous with any criticism of Islam or Muslims. “It’s not as though we couldn’t have seen this coming. But we’ve repeatedly failed to spot the warning signs,” he now writes in The Times, in response to new data collected. “Twenty years ago… I published the report titled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, we thought that the real risk of the arrival of new communities was discrimination against Muslims. “Our 1996 survey of recent incidents showed that there was plenty of it around. But we got almost everything else wrong.”

In an article for the Daily Mail, Phillips warns of a “life-and-death struggle for the soul of British Islam.” “Britain is in many ways a better place than it’s ever been—more prosperous, more diverse, more liberal. “But for some of our fellow citizens, we’re heading in entirely the wrong direction. So much so that some of them would rather live under a wholly different system. “Indeed, a significant minority of Britain’s three million Muslims consider us a nation of such low morals that they would rather live more separately from their non-Muslim countrymen, preferably under sharia law. “This sobering conclusion comes from the most comprehensive survey of British Muslims ever conducted, commissioned by Channel 4. “Having been asked to examine its results, I believe it holds a grim message for all of us. “There is a life-and-death struggle for the soul of British Islam—and this is not a battle that the rest of us can afford to sit out. We need to take sides.”
© Newsweek.


UK: Inter-Muslim faith a small issue compared to intolerance of Muslims (editorial)

The discovery of a hate literature against Ahmadi Muslims at a London mosque is chilling, but it does not infer the emergence of an internecine war in Britain

11/4/2016- One of the greatest myths – and a monstrous and dangerous one – that has grown up in recent times is that British and Muslim values are somehow incompatible. It has been encouraged by ignorant voices in the media, by bigots with their own evil intent, on all sides, and by the activities of preachers of hate. The discovery of a hate literature at a London mosque that calls for the murder of Ahmadi Muslims, who extremists regard as apostates and thus liable to the ultimate penalty, is certainly disturbing. It is especially chilling in the context of the recent death of an Ahmadi shopkeeper in Glasgow, allegedly stabbed to death by a Muslim for "disrespecting" Islam. Those responsible for the leaflets need to be found and made to account for what they seek to do.

Grim though such discoveries are, they have always to be placed in perspective. If it were really the case that Muslims were conducting an internecine war in Britain we would, by now, know about it. If they were intent on killing their neighbours, then again we would know about it. The overwhelming majority simply are not. Meanwhile we have, in the UK, quite a number of what might be termed “extremist” Christians, whose intolerance for other varieties of their faith has few parallels – in Northern Ireland, though not as virulent as it once was, and in other pockets of sectarianism. And we still have the far right and the far left. All that said, the Government is right to continue to co-operate with Muslim networks in the constant struggle against extremism and the preaching of violence and war. But they should not be punished for holding views simply because they are, sometimes, at variance with other British values.

For example, individual Muslims and Muslim groups are as entitled to their opinions on homosexuality as anyone else; all they should be required to do is obey the law. In fact, many Christians from African and Caribbean backgrounds often hold similar views, yet far fewer seem to want to single them out for attention as being somehow un-British  Britain, in many ways, is a more tolerant place than it has ever been before; people are more mindful than ever about gender issues, LGBT sensitivities, race and religion. Much the biggest problem in society is in fact the intolerance of our Muslim fellow citizens by the majority. They are entirely compatible, and the peaceable lives of millions of decent Muslim people in this country bear witness to that fact. All they wish to do, and have ever wished to do, is to make a life for themselves and their families as best they can – the same as everyone else. Terrorists and hate preachers should not be given the attention or space to succeed in dividing us.
© The Independent


Germany unveils integration law for refugees

Asylum seekers face cuts to support if they reject mandatory measures such as classes in language and culture

14/4/2016- Germany has announced new legal measures requiring migrants and refugees to integrate into society in return for being allowed to live and work in the country. Under the coalition government’s measures, announced on Thursday morning, asylum seekers face cuts to support if they reject mandatory integration measures such as language classes or lessons in German laws or cultural basics. According to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the aim of Germany’s first ever integration law is to make it easier for asylum seekers to gain access to the German labour market, with the government promising 100,000 new “working opportunities”, expected to include low-paid workfare jobs. A law requiring employers to give preference to German or EU job applicants over asylum seekers will be suspended for three years. The vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, described the agreement as a historic step, saying he was convinced that “in a few years’ time this law will be seen as a milestone for our immigration law”.

More than 476,000 asylum applications were registered in Germany in 2015, with officials putting the total number of arrivals at over a million. Yet the number of asylum seekers arriving in central Europe has dropped off considerably in recent weeks due to Balkan countries sealing off their borders and the European Union and Turkey agreeing on a deal to return refugees arriving in Greece. Germany announced earlier this month that the number of refugees entering the country via Austria had dropped off seven-fold. Switzerland said on Thursday the number of people seeking asylum in the country had dropped for the fourth consecutive month, with officials registering 1,992 requests in March, roughly 25% fewer than in February. “The reason for this development is the continuous decline of migration via the Balkan route,” the Swiss migration office said. “Since March, affected countries along the Balkan route have brought transit traffic to a virtual standstill.”

On Thursday Austria announced it was ready to step up measures to discourage people from making the journey to Europe from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil told Austrian broadcaster ORF that his country would close off the Brenner Pass border crossing if Italy refused to accept people turned back by Austria. Austria has announced a cap of 37,500 asylum applications for 2016. After receiving about 90,000 applications for asylum last year, the country has so far registered between 16,000 and 17,000 applications in 2016. Doskozil expressed skepticism about the EU-Turkey agreement, saying: “We don’t know how long the deal will last.” While the numbers of people arriving in central Europe have dropped off, witnesses report desperate scenes in camps on either side of the Mediterranean. The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, warned on Wednesday that “alarming” numbers of potential migrants were gathering in Libya to cross the Mediterranean. Around 4,000 people were rescued from the Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily on Monday and Tuesday.

Pope Francis will visit a camp on Saturday on the Greek island of Lesbos, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived via the sea from Turkey in the past year. The island is at the centre of the controversial refugee deal between the EU and Turkey. “During his visit, Francis will shed light on the crucial role of local and international solidarity to help some of the most vulnerable people amid the refugee crisis,” said Gauri van Gulik, deputy director for Europe at Amnesty International. “But he must also speak out about the violations, fear and uncertainty suffered by thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in limbo on Lesbos and elsewhere in Greece.” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters the pope would make the visit to call “all communities of believers to solidarity and responsibility” amid a “situation of intense suffering”.
© The Guardian.


German conservatives call for Islam Law

The CSU aims to ban foreign funding of German mosques to stave off extremism. The proposal has Muslim supporters, but opponents say the regulation violates a key constitutional right.

13/6/2016- The sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU has called for stricter regulations of Islam in Germany. CSU General Secretary Andreas Scheuer laid out his proposals in an interview with German daily "Die Welt" that was published on Wednesday. "German must become the language of the mosques," Scheuer said in the conversation that covered integration issues, among other topics.

No more training or money from abroad
The CSU leader says Germany needs an Islam Law because certain political schools of Islam "prevent people from integrating" in Germany. Scheuer has two main measures in mind for a potential new law. First, mosques, Islamic cultural centers and other Muslim institutions, like kindergartens, should not be allowed to take money from abroad anymore. The CSU hopes that this ban on foreign funding would stop the influence from countries like Saudi Arabia and other gulf states where a more radical form of Islam is the state religion. In the same vein comes Scheuer's second proposition: all Imams who intend to work in Germany also need to be trained in Germany, in German, and "share our basic values," Scheuer said. He explained that he wanted these rules instated because it was "not acceptable that other value systems, some of them extremist, are imported from abroad." Europe, Scheuer said, "must develop its own kind of Islam."

Muslims call proposal 'discriminatory'
The conservatives' suggestions are similar to Austria's Islam law. The contentious paragraphs got a make-over in February 2015 to include a ban on foreign funding for Muslim associations and mosques. "The new version of the Austrian Islam law includes rules that spell an encroachment on Muslims' religious self-determination," Germany's Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB) said in a statement in March 2015. Back then, an Islam law was also discussed in Germany. DITIB stressed that the German constitution grants religious groups the right to make their own decisions concerning religious training and a suggestion to impose regulations on Christian or Jewish groups would be met with outrage. The general secretary of DITIB, which is one of the largest Muslim associations in Germany, remains very much against an Islam law of the kind proposed by the CSU. "It still violates the constitution," Bekir Alboga told DW. "It's still discriminatory and it's still populist."

Limiting extremist influences
There are several Islam experts, however, who support Scheuer's suggestions. One of them is Ralph Ghadban, a political scientist and expert on Islam. He says that stopping the inflow of foreign money could limit the influence of Islamist extremists. "The Islam of Saudi Arabia, for example, is pure Salafism and not conducive to integration at all," Ghadban told DW. "German mosques that are financed by money from a country like this don't work toward integration." He also supports the training of Imams in Germany, as opposed to a rotation of Imams from abroad who only stay in their assigned mosques for a few years. "They have nothing to do with the concerns of the people in their congregation," Ghadban said. He is convinced that the four universities in Germany that have a chair in Islamic theology can train all the Imams that Germany needs.

Approaching the right end of the political spectrum
For DITIB, it's not so much about the question of whether the CSU-proposed measures could be implicated, but about the fact that they perceive them as an infringement of their religious rights. They also say that Scheuer's statement puts the CSU in one corner with groups on the right edge of Germany's political spectrum, like the "Alternative for Germany(AfD). "On top of all the other problems, [the proposed Islam law] is playing into the AfD's hand," Alboga said. The AfD had gone a step further than regulating training and funding. A group on the party's right wing had included a ban on "building and using mosques" in their proposal for the AfD party manifesto last month. They said that Islam wasn't part of German culture and society and that mosques were places where unlawful teachings were spread.
© The Deutsche Welle.


German far right AfD MEP who said shoot illegal immigrants joins Farage's EU group

10/4/2015- A German MEP who caused a furore over claims that police should shoot illegal immigrants has joined a UKIP group in the European parliament chaired by Nigel Farage. Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD), has joined the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) after a spat with the mainstream European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). The AfD, an anti-immigrant party that is gaining support in Germany, was suspended by the ECR earlier this year over comments made by its chairwoman, Frauke Petry, who said police should shoot immigrants who enter Germany illegally. Von Storch endorsed the comments and later clarified that while firearms should not be used against children, they could be used against women.

"The use of firearms against children is not permitted," she said before adding that "Women are a different matter. The use of weapons against them can therefore be permitted within the narrow legal framework," she told the German newspaper, Deutsche Welle. In a statement issued Friday, EFDD said: "We are pleased that such a prominent and respected member of the AfD Party subscribes fully to our charter and will work with us for a Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. "We are in favour of freedom and co-operation among people of different states, as well as respect for Europe's history, traditions and cultural values. The group rejects xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other form of discrimination." Von Storch said that the ECR, which was set up by British Conservative MEPs in 2009, was trying to distance itself from the AfD ahead of the 23 June referendum on European membership.

An EFDD source told the Telegraph: "Beatrix has agreed to uphold the charter of the group, publicly apologized and issued a statement that neither AfD nor herself want to shoot people at the border. "We are pleased that such a prominent and respected member of the AfD subscribes fully to our charter and will work with us. The group rejects xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other form of discrimination."
© The International Business Times - UK


Macedonian Police 'Relentlessly Tear Gassed' Migrants and Refugees Greek Border

10/4/2016- Macedonian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to push back hundreds of migrants and refugees from a border fence at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek side of the frontier on Sunday. Tensions that have been simmering for weeks at the sprawling Idomeni camp boiled over when more than 500 people gathered at the fence to protest and demand entry to Macedonia. More than 10,000 migrants and refugees have been stranded in Idomeni since February due to cascade of border shutdowns throughout the Balkans. More than 1 million people fleeing conflict poured into Europe mainly through Greece in the past year. The European Union recently began implementing an accord under which all new arrivals to Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they don't meet asylum criteria.

An unnamed Macedonian official told Reuters that a large group of migrants left Idomeni on Sunday morning and stormed toward the fence. "They threw rocks at the Macedonian police. The police fired tear gas in response," the official said. "The migrants were pushing against the fence but standing on the Greek side of the border. The fence is still there, they have not broken through." Aid organizations said they were treating people for tear gas exposure. The Swedish organization Lighthouse Relief, which works with refugees arriving in Greece, described a "horrific scene" in Idomeni, and said the camp was being "relentlessly tear gassed." The organization reported that border guards also fired water canons to disperse the crowd, and said that four babies and toddlers were rushed into clinic for treatment after being exposed to tear gas. "We have injuries and are extremely busy," a senior official for medical charity MSF told Reuters. Another aid organization also confirmed injuries among the migrant population.

Witnesses said that the clashes began after a small group of individuals attempted to talk to Macedonian border guards and ask for the outpost to be opened. After they were told no, other individuals — including some with packed bags — started walking toward the fenced border. Migrants and refugees at Idomeni are demanding that the border with Macedonia be opened, but no migrants have been allowed through for weeks. Greek authorities have been trying to convince the population to move to reception camps, but most people have refused to move.  Last month, several hundred refugees and migrants — including people carrying babies — dashed for the Macedonian border after hearing rumors that the crossing would be reopened. People in the camp had apparently heard that journalists and Red Cross officials were going to help refugees force their way across the barricades at the border, a young Syrian refugee told the Athens News Agency.

Greek authorities broadcast messages over loudspeakers at the camp to dispel "irresponsible rumors" that the border crossing was about to reopen. "We are trying to step up efforts to address refugees and migrants in their own language and without an intermediary," said Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for the government's coordination panel on migration. In February, the Associated Press reported that the refugee camp in Idomeni is "beginning to take on a form of semi-permanence," with residents seemingly unconvinced that they will be allowed to enter Macedonia any time soon. Food and clothing donated by local Greeks are spread very thin among the thousands stranded. On Sunday, men, women and children were reportedly scrambling to receive whatever supplies they could. Hundreds of people reportedly begin lining up early in the morning to receive a sandwich for lunch.
© Vice News


Czech Rep: President Zeman is architect of hatred, NGOs say

11/4/2016- Czech President Milos Zeman is an architect of hatred that is poisoning society and he should act responsibly, five NGOs said in an open letter they released yesterday.
The letter, an analogy to the letter former president and Czechoslovak dissident Vaclav Havel wrote to Communist President Gustav Husak in 1975, was signed by the Prague Academic Club 48, the Edvard Benes Society, the Antonin Svehla Society, Mene Tekel and the Centre for Documentation of Totalitarian Regimes. The signatories of the letter called on Zeman "to consider the extent of his historical responsibility and to act in accordance with it." As a top politician, Zeman is one of those deciding on the atmosphere in society, the letter said. Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said this was a continuation of an anti-Zeman campaign. Zeman unites society and is enjoying a high public approval rating, he added.

"Such events as your speech in Prague-Albertov on November 17 and your recent statements at meetings with the public have unfortunately convinced us that you not only foment hatred, but that you are its deliberate architect," they added. On the anniversary of the overthrow of the Communist regime on November 17, 2015 Zeman was on the same rostrum along with Martin Konvicka, head of the Bloc Against Islam, now facing charges of inciting for hatred. "The signs of the current crisis are more and more frequent. The rallies accusing the leading politicians of treason are becoming a normal part of the public space, the aggressiveness is escalating," the letter said. Czech society is totally divided because some people are afraid of the threats published in the media, it added. The fear of the unknown is being turned into hatred that is infiltrating society. the letter said. In such time, servile people without scruples can see their opportunity. They are most visible in Zeman's immediate environment, the letter said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Czech Rep: Radicals protest against Prague's migration policy

9/4/2016- About 250 supporters of the Czech extra-parliamentary radical National Democracy (ND) demonstrated in Prague Saturday against the migration policy pursued by Prague and the EU, and further 400 people attended a symbolic blockade of three border crossing for similar reasons. The blockade of the Czech-German border crossings in Kraslice and Cinovec and the Czech-Austrian crossing in Ceske Velenice was organised by Dawn - National Coalition, which is a small opposition party, together with the extra-parliamentary Bloc Against Islam and representatives of Pegida, a German anti-migrant movement. Out of the three border crossings, the largest number of protesters met in Cinovec, where over a half of them came from Germany. They included representatives of Pegida.

In Ceske Velenice, the rally was addressed by Bloc Against Islam leader Martin Konvicka, whom a state attorney charged with fomenting hatred of the Islamic religion by his statements on Friday. Konvicka, together with Dawn lawmaker Marek Cernoch, called on the Czech government to start defending the Czech border, otherwise it should resign.
Following the speakers' appearances, the protesters symbolically blocked the respective border crossings for several minutes and then left. The police did not have to intervene.
Speeches similar to those at the border crossings could be heard at the rally the NG staged outside the headquarters of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka's Social Democratic Party (CSSD) in the centre of Prague.

In his speech, ND chairman Adam B. Bartos criticised CSSD leaders for their approach to tackling the refugee crisis. They betrayed their own voters who want no aliens in the Czech Republic, Bartos said. "We would not allow our nation, with its thousand-year history, to be destroyed either by an invasion by illegal aliens or a group of amateurs, good-for-nothings and traitors," Bartos said. The police suspect Bartos of unlawful fomenting of hatred and inciting to a restriction of people's rights in connection with a March demonstration in Prague where he called for "the supreme penalty" for politicians. Saturday, he said he is not threatening politicians with a "bullet," since it would be too merciful a punishment. He said the traitors should be jailed and forced to work.

The demonstrators carried banners with mottos such as "Sobotka, repeat after me, the Czech citizen, Czech family, Czech country and the right wing stand above all" or "On the path to hell together with Sobotka, the EU and Merkel." They waved Czech and ND flags and flags reading We Do Not Want Islam in the Czech Republic. After two hours, the crowd set out for the Old Town Square where they chanted "We don't want multi-culti," and some of them verbally attacked foreign tourists. When the police intervened, several dozens of the participants left for the Wenceslas Square. After another two hours, they ended their protest outside the nearby seat of the EC mission. The police detained one of them who sprayed the mission's shop window with cream.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Romania: Racist graffiti on Roma tent in Bucharest is criticized

9/4/2016- A Romanian minister and the World Bank have criticized racist graffiti that appeared on a tent erected to mark International Roma Day in Bucharest. Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said Saturday "such acts of racism aren't being tackled. A message that says 'death to Gypsies' should oblige the state to punish" the perpetrators. A large white tent was put up in Bucharest on Friday, which was International Roma Day. Racist and obscene slogans appeared on it overnight. The World Bank on Saturday called it "an act of discrimination incompatible with Europe's core values on human rights." Officially, Romania has more than 600,000 Roma, also known as Gypsies, but there are believed to be more than 1 million. Roma are among the poorest people in Romania and face widespread discrimination.

© The Associated Press


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