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Headlines 27 May, 2016

Headlines 20 May, 2016

Headlines 13 May, 2016

News from the UK & Germany - week 19

Headlines 6 May, 2016

Headlines 27 May, 2016

Too fat for Facebook: photo banned for depicting body in 'undesirable manner'

Facebook has apologized for wrongly banning a photo of plus-sized model Tess Holliday for violating its ‘health and fitness’ advertising policy

23/5/2016- Facebook has apologized for banning a photo of a plus-sized model and telling the feminist group that posted the image that it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”. Cherchez la Femme, an Australian group that hosts popular culture talkshows with “an unapologetically feminist angle”, said Facebook rejected an advert featuring Tess Holliday, a plus-sized model wearing a bikini, telling the group it violated the company’s “ad guidelines”. After the group appealed the rejection, Facebook’s ad team initially defended the decision, writing that the photo failed to comply with the social networking site’s “health and fitness policy”. “Ads may not depict a state of health or body weight as being perfect or extremely undesirable,” Facebook wrote. “Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves. Instead, we recommend using an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike.”

In a statement Monday, Facebook apologized for its original stance and said it had determined that the photo does comply with its guidelines. “Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads,” the statement said. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.” The photo – for an event called Cherchez La Femme: Feminism and Fat – features a smiling Holliday wearing a standard bikini. Facebook had originally allowed the event page to remain, but refused to approve the group’s advert, which would have boosted the post.

The policy in question is aimed at blocking content that encourages unhealthy weight loss – the opposite intent of Cherchez la Femme, which was promoting body positivity. This is not the first time Facebook has come under fire for its censorship of photos. In March, the site faced backlash when it concluded that a photograph of topless Aboriginal women in ceremonial paint as part of a protest violated “community standards”. Critics said that ban was an obvious double standard, noting that Facebook allows celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to pose with body paint covering her nipples. Instagram and Facebook also have faced opposition for policies banning women from exposing their nipples, with critics arguing that the guidelines are prejudiced against women and transgender users.

Cherchez la Femme did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but has been venting its frustrations on its Facebook page. “Facebook has ignored the fact that our event is going to be discussing body positivity (which comes in all shapes and sizes, but in the particular case of our event, fat bodies), and has instead come to the conclusion that we’ve set out to make women feel bad about themselves by posting an image of a wonderful plus sized woman,” the group said. “We’re raging pretty hard over here.”
© The Guardian.

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Spain: Fearless gay couple stand up to neo-Nazis... with a kiss

A gay couple stood up to the homophopic and racist chants at a Madrid neo-Nazi rally in the bravest way imaginable.

23/5/2016- The two men showed their disdain for a far-right protest in Madrid on Saturday by kissing in front of the angry crowd, who were cheering for Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and chanting "Spain yes, refugees no!" Tensions were fraught between the neo-Nazi protestors from far-right group Hogar Social Madrid and local people as the protest got underway on Plaza del Dos de Mayo in Malasaña, one of Madrid hippest and most bohemian neighbourhoods. David Fernández and Gregor Eistert were just out for a Saturday stroll when they stumbled upon the demo. "We completely forgot the demonstration was taking place and just like any other Saturday we were looking for a terrace in the centre of Madrid when we stumbled across a huge political rally," Fernández told El Español.

The angry crowd started shouting homophobic abuse at the couple, such as "maricón!" (a derogatory Spanish word for a gay man similar to faggot) "You've got AIDS!" and "sickos" as they walked hand in hand. So they reacted in the best way they could think of, a way that was bound to rile the crowd even more: they began kissing. "It was completely spontaneous, it came from anger," David Fernández told Spanish newspaper El Español, adding that it was their way of showing their "repulsion" at the demo. A video taken at the protest shows the couple kissing until they are told "that´s enough" by a policeman and removed from the square. Fernández admitted to El Español it was easier to move them than a thousand neo-Nazis but said he could not comprehend the policeman’s actions at the time. "I couldn’t understand why they were kicking us out of the square when the ones committing a hate crime were them," he said.

Police had previously told locals to stay indoors and had warned local businesses to stay closed ahead of the demonstration. The kiss was met with widespread support on social media. "The best photo from the Hogar Social demo. Two men who love each other in front of nazis full of hate."
© The Local - Spain

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Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right

Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader running as independent, pips the Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer

23/5/2016- A leftwing, independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat. Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, defeated Norbert Hofer, of the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic Freedom party, a day after polling closed and only once more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account. The Austrian presidency is a largely ceremonial role but the outcome became hugely symbolic. Mirroring the rise of populist parties across Europe, the Freedom party exploited anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of the continent’s refugee crisis, and despite Hofer’s narrow defeat, the election has left a deep split over the direction Austria should now take.

The Austrian interior ministry confirmed that after postal votes were counted, Hofer’s final score was 49.7%, against 50.3% for Van der Bellen, the son of two refugees. In a post on Facebook, Hofer wrote: “Dear friends, I thank you for your fantastic support. Of course today I am sad. I would have liked to have watched out for you as president of our wonderful country.” Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Green party who announced after the result that he would put his party membership on hold during his presidency, is the EU’s second head of state with a Green party background after Latvia last year elected Green politician Raimonds Vçjonis as president. In a speech in the gardens of Vienna’s Palais Schönburg, Van der Bellen said the tight results put “even greater responsibility on me, but also on Mr Hofer”. The outcome showed the country was made up of two halves that were equally important. He added: “Together we make up this beautiful Austria.”

While the elections had revealed a great rift running through Austrian society, the 72-year-old said, “this rift has existed for some time, though perhaps we didn’t look at it that closely in the past”. The fact that people had debated the presidency so intensely was a positive sign that “people are not left cold by politics – they want to actively shape it”. Hofer and Van der Bellen were separated by just 31,000 votes out of more than 4.6m ballots cast. Before postal votes were counted, they were neck and neck, with Van der Bellen on 48.1% of direct votes and Hofer on 51.9%. Many Austrian websites were down under the weight of traffic as the country waited with bated breath for news of the final result of Sunday’s vote.

Hofer urged his supporters not to be discouraged but to see the campaign as “an investment in the future”. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom party, wrote on his Facebook page: “This is just the beginning. The start of a new era in our democracy, towards more direct democracy and binding referenda.” The chancellor, Christian Kern – a Social Democrat who had endorsed Van der Bellen – said the challenge for the new president was to ensure that no voter was left feeling like they had ended up on the losing side. “We have understood the protest and will orient our political course accordingly,” said Kern, whose own SPÖ suffered dismal losses in the election’s first round. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said: “While we are certainly satisfied with the result, there is little room to celebrate the high level of support for someone with such extremist views.”

In a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, the candidates of both the centre-left Social Democrats and conservative People’s party, which have dominated Austria’s politics since the second world war, were eliminated in the first round of voting in late April. Werner Faymann, the social democratic chancellor, then resigned earlier this month. After coming second in the first round in the presidential elections in April, Van der Bellen had not only managed to hold on to his voters but mobilised non-voters and gained the support of those who had previously backed the candidates of the centre-left SPÖ and centre-right ÖVP. For the election, Viennese coffee houses reportedly set aside separate areas for supporters of the rival candidates over fears of clashes.

Van der Bellen’s father was born in Russia to a family descended from Dutch immigrants and his mother was born in Estonia, from where the family fled when the former Soviet Union invaded in 1940. They eventually settled in Austria. A Vienna city councillor since leaving parliament in 2012, the staunchly pro-European Van der Bellen led the Austrian Greens from 1997 to 2008. In contrast, Hofer, whose cultivated, smooth-talking image has led to him being hailed “the friendly face” of the Freedom party, has said “Islam has no place in Austria” and warned that if he was elected he would not hesitate to dissolve the government if it did not act against immigration.

Florian Klenk, a leading Austrian commentator and editor of the weekly magazine Falter, said he could understand why the international media in particular had focused on Hofer’s stellar rise on an anti-immigrant ticket. “He has a sect-like following and a way of communicating that is quite disturbing. Then there’s his desire to win back South Tyrol, his Islamophobia,” he said. “But I’m interested to know, will there be as much focus and astonishment now that Van der Bellen, a candidate who is in favour of keeping Austria’s borders open, has won? I think probably not.”
© The Guardian.

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Greece gets ready to move refugees from Idomeni

Police claim operation to transfer thousands of people will be smooth and gradual

23/5/2016- The transport of migrants from Idomeni in northern Greece to other facilities was announced by the authorities on Monday. In a statement to ANA-MPA news agency, Giorgos Kyritsis – a spokesman for the Greek refugee coordinating committee – estimated that all would be transferred over the next 10 days starting from Tuesday. More than 8,400 stranded migrants remain at a camp in Idomeni, hoping that they can make their way into northern Europe. However, Macedonia and other Balkan countries have shut their borders since the beginning of March. There have been frequent riots due to the ongoing uncertainty and bad living conditions at Idomeni in recent months. Migrants have repeatedly tried to cross the border and blocked a local railway line. The Greek government has received a lot of criticism from opposition parties and domestic media for allowing the frequent blocking of goods to Macedonia and the rest of Europe.

Police say the new transfers will be similar to an operation back in November, when around 2,500 people were moved. The security forces say the procedure will be gradual and smooth and not a sweeping operation. There will also be an effort to persuade migrants to move on to other accommodation facilities. There are already six former industrial premises which can accommodate between 6,500-7,000 migrants Kyritsis was reported as saying. More will be added in Thessaloniki and the nearby city of Katerini according to police. Over a million migrants have entered Greece since 2015 in the greatest immigration wave to hit Europe since World War II. More than 50,000 people have remained in the country due to border restrictions applied by its Balkan neighbors.
© Anadolu Agency

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Cyprus: Ultra-right group wins seats

23/5/2016- A ultra-right party has won seats for the first time in Cyprus following parliamentary elections on Sunday (22 May). The National Popular Front (ELAM), which styles itself after the Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, now has two seats after winning 3.7 percent of the votes. In 2011, the nationalist party won just over 1 percent. Reuters quoted Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos in Athens as saying that "for the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament". The most recent election marks broader discontent with government policies after the financial meltdown in 2013, and, in part, on moves to reunite the island before the end of the year. Voter turnout hit historic lows with 67.3 percent. Cyprus, along with other EU states like Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, imposes compulsory voting. The ruling conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) still managed the most seats with 30.6 percent followed by the Communist AKEL with 25.6 percent.

But DISY will now have 18 seats, down from 20, in Cyprus’s 56-seat chamber. AKEL will have 15 down from 19. Other larger groups like the centrist Democratic Party DIKO and the Socialist EDEK also sustained losses. The DISY loss may make it more difficult for president Nicos Anastasiades to end the feud between the Greek and Turk Cypriots. Cyprus had split in two after Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974. In a joint statement released last week, Anastasiades and his Turkish counterpart Mustafa Akinci had vowed to reach an agreement before the end of the year. A reunified Cyprus would pave the way for Turkey's bid to one day join the European Union.

2013 financial crisis
The election results are largely attributed to the handling of the financial crisis imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The island nation had requested a bailout after its banking sector was drained of cash follow huge losses on Greek loans. The sector was some seven times larger than the size of Cypriot economy. The conditions of the bailout were also sharpened following the banking sector's dubious ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and wider allegations of money laundering. Some 40 percent of the €68 billion in Cypriot banks in 2013 was Russian held. Cyprus was also the first ever eurozone country to impose temporary capital controls after banks had been shut down for a week.
© The EUobserver

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Bosnia Fines Football Clubs for Nationalist Chants

Over the 2015-16 Bosnian football league season, the country’s clubs had to pay a total of more than 140,000 euros in fines, many for their supporters’ use of nationalist chants and slogans.

23/5/2026- The Bosnian Football Federation’s disciplinary commission told BIRN that clubs have been punished during the recently-concluded 2015-16 season with fines totalling around 140,000 euros for offences including nationalist, racist and political chanting by fans. According to the Football Federation, the club that accumulated the most fines is was Sarajevo Football Club, which was ordered to pay 22,000 euros. Tuzla-based club Sloboda came in second place with total fines of 17,000 euros, followed closely by Zrinjski from Mostar, Zeljeznicar from Sarajevo and Banja Luka-based club Borac. The data is for all the fines imposed over the season, but the disciplinary commission said that it issued very serious fines for “nationalist, racist or political chants or messages”.

The clubs with the most fines for these violations are Rudar from Prijedor Celik from Zenica and Slavija from Eastern Sarajevo. Rudar was fined several times over the past 12 months for nationalist chanting by its fans. After two fines totally around 6,000 euros, the club was ordered to play two games behind closed doors, without fans. The punishments came after Rudar fans waved flags with political or nationalist messages and chanted the names of war crimes convicts or defendants. They also carried the flags of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska and of Serbia.

The Football Federation’s disciplinary commission said that from the start of the 2015-16 season, the carrying of flags was no longer considered a violation. “After a lot of problems, we agreed that flags are no longer to be sanctioned,” said a member of the disciplinary commission, Mehmed Spaho. “Republika Srpska clubs often objected to Federation fans coming with flags with lilies. However, carrying that flag cannot be sanctioned since that was the official flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. It should not be confused with the Bosnian Army flag, which is different,” Spaho said. “The same situation applies for flags of Serbia, Croatia or Republika Srpska. They are official flags, so are considered acceptable,” he added.

Spaho said that since the start of the 2015-16 season, there has been zero tolerance for political or nationalist messages. FC Celik from Zenica was punished twice over the past season for racist chants. Their fans abused Germain Kouadi from the Ivory Coast, who was playing for Travnik, and Harmony Ikande from Nigeria, who was playing for Sarajevo. The club was fined a total of around 5,000 euros. Slavija from Eastern Sarajevo was fined 1,750 euros for chants about war crimes during their game with Sarajevo club Zeljeznicar. However the biggest single fine this year was paid by the Bosnian Football Association, after European governing body UEFA ordered it to pay 18,000 euros because Bosnian fans sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a national team match against Israel in June 2015 in Zenica.
© Balkan Insight

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Czech Rep: Guide to help foreigners targeted by hate

21/5/2016- The foreigners who have become targets of hateful attacks in the Czech Republic can be helped by a new guide that was posted online, the organisation In Iustitia, that prepared it, has told CTK. The guide says where the foreigners are to announce the crime and how the investigation and trial looks like. Thanks to the guide, the foreigners may gain the necessary contacts. The guide is in Czech, English, Arabic, Russian and Vietnamese and it may be downloaded from the Internet, In Iustitia said. The group wants to facilitate access to justice to immigrants and asylum seekers and to help them gain the feeling of security.

In 2014, In Iustitia recorded 86 cases of hate-related violence. The incidents mainly occurred due to ethnic origin or religion. The number of attacks perpetrated by "ordinary people" who are not extremists have increased, the group said. A growing Islamophobia is among the most prominent trends. In 2011, the group registered 57 hate-related cases. They include verbal attacks, intimidation, threats, physical, sexual and online attacks, damage to things and buildings and even murders. They are motivated by the colour of skin, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, denomination, age, political conviction and homelessness.

"The readers will learn what to do in the given situations. They will learn how to file a criminal complaint, what is the course of questioning and the duties in such a case, the rights of the damaged parties," Aneta Dufkova, from In Iustitia, said. The guide was created thanks to the project called Safely In New Home. The organisation has informed migrants about their rights and provided them with consultancy services and possibly also a lawyers. Since 2009, In Iustitia has focused on the prevention of hate-related violence and help to the victims. Now it is active in Prague, Brno, Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, and Kladno, central Bohemia.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Germany: Cologne police plan 'protection zone' at New Year celebrations

Following the sexual assaults at last year's New Year's celebrations, Cologne police have said they're planning a "protection zone" at this year's festivities. Upcoming summer events will test the city's security.

21/5/2016- With more than half a year to go until Germany - like the rest of the world - welcomes in 2017, police in the western German city of Cologne are already planning extra security measures at this year's public party. The increased security comes in light of a series of attacks on New Year's Eve by gangs of young men outside the central railway station, in the shadow of the city's Medieval cathedral. Investigators in Cologne received 1,170 criminal complaints of attacks - 492 of them related to assaults of a sexual nature. Eye witnesses and victims described the perpetrators as being mainly from North Africa and the Arabian peninsula; some were claimed to be Arabic speakers. The attacks were met with shock across Germany and sparked a debate, particularly among far-right parties, over Berlin's decision to accept more than one million asylum-seekers during last year's unprecedented influx of refugees. The commission investigating the incidents at last year's New Year's celebrations have now heard one-third of 100 scheduled testimonies.

Cordon still in question
Under the new measures at this year's celebrations, head of Cologne police Jürgen Mathies has said a "protection zone" will be implemented around the city's world-famous cathedral. "The cathedral is an area that particularly needs protection," Mathies and city director Guido Kahlen told the "Kölner Rundschau." "I don't want any firecrackers or rockets at the cathedral and the square in front of the train station," Mathies said.

Vacation unlikely
In an effort to deploy more officers across the city, Mathies also said it's unlikely that the city's police will be able to take a holiday during the New Year celebrations. Last year just 22 officers reported for duty. "We will definitely be working with a clearly structured organization," Mathies said, adding that lessons learnt from previous events should "flow together."

Tighter security at Carnival
The city's security was already put to the test in February at Carnival, which attracts over a million people every year. Around 360,000 euros were invested into the extra security measures, which included an increased police presence, mobile lighting masts to illuminate dark, potentially dangerous corners, and a security point where women could report to in case of an emergency. Authorities received reports of 22 sexual offences on "Weiberfastnacht" (Women's Carnival Day), which is celebrated on the last Thursday before Lent. During last year's "Weiberfastnacht," only nine cases of sexual assault were reported, and 10 in the previous year. Two of the 22 offenses were deemed "serious," one of which involved a Belgian TV reporter who was groped by a reveler live on air.

'The whole world's going to be watching'
The next events come on July 3 at the Christopher Street Day parade, and on July 16, when hundreds of thousands of people are due to turn out for the "Kölner Lichter" - Cologne's annual fireworks and music festival on the Rhine. Following the event, huge crowds are expected at the Cologne central train station as well as the nearby Deutz station. City organizers said security measures are already in place, including extensive extra lighting, not only to increase the safety of revelers, but also to provide clearer CCTV footage, in case of an incident. The main measures for New Year should be decided upon by September. Cologne city director Kahlen said: "We know the whole world's going to be watching to see if we've learnt our lesson."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK attitudes towards Islam 'concerning' after survey of 2,000 people

The majority of Britons questioned in a survey believe Islam is not compatible with British values.

23/5/2016- The poll also found almost a third of those asked believe Islam is a violent religion and promotes acts of violence in the UK. However, it also suggests that younger people have a better understanding of Islam, compared to older people. Just over two thousand British adults were questioned online by ComRes for the charity Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. Asked about their understanding of the traditions and beliefs of Islam, 41% of 18 to 24-year olds said they had a good understanding compared to just 27% of those aged over 45. When asked if they felt Islam promotes peace in the UK, 42% of adults aged between 18 to 24 agreed, compared to an average of 30% of adults over 25. The 2,000 questioned were asked if they agreed with the statement 'Islam is compatible with British values', 43% of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed while it was less than 31% for all other age groups.

Farhad Ahmad, 24, is an Imam and member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. He said he found the results 'very concerning'. "I think these findings are based on ignorance," he said. "I know the teachings of Islam, and I know there is nothing in Islam which hinders anyone from becoming an integrated member of society, Islam teaches loyalty to one's country. "As a Muslim this gives us more motivation to promote the true teachings of Islam, we need to be more active," he added.

Here are some of the other questions asked by ComRes:
· Islam is compatible with British values - 28% agree
· Islam promotes acts of violence in the UK - 31% agree
· Islam is a negative force in the UK - 43% agree
· Most people in the UK have a negative view of Islam - 72% agree
· I have a good understanding of the traditions and beliefs of Islam - 32% agree
· Islam is a violent religion - 28% agree
· Islam is a negative force in the UK - 43% agree

At the London Mosque in Southfields, a group of Young Muslims are preparing for an evening of 'leafleting'. They knock on doors, handing out leaflets about the teachings of Islam to non-Muslims. One of them is Umar Nasser, 24, a medical student in London. "We are trying to dispel the false notions around Islam, if people are engaging with you and they are having dialogue, then that's progress," he said. "If you talk to people, it will humanise you and humanise your belief systems to them and slowly their misconceptions may start to fall away. "I think British values are about tolerance of different people of different faiths. "There doesn't need to be a clash between your religious values and the values of your country." Haroon Khan, 21, is an economics student at the University of Surrey, he said "I find it difficult that people are not accepting of Islam. "There are lots of misconceptions about the religion, people think ISIS represents Muslims, which definitely isn't the case, "I feel it's my duty to let people know what the true Islam is."

The poll was carried out between 22 - 24 April 2016. The data was weighted by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of adults in Great Britain, over 18.
© BBC Newsbeat

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UK: Traveller and Roma families rally outside Parliament to challenge new planning policy

21/5/2016- Gypsy, Traveller and Roma families from all over the UK gathered in Parliament Square on Saturday 21st May to challenge new housing and planning laws that threaten their legal ethnic identity and lifestyle. Many brought their horses, carts and caravan to the rally, which was called 'Dosta, Grinta, Enough!' (the Romany and Gammon words for 'enough'). Musicians and singers took part in the event in front of the Houses of Parliament. At the end of the rally, four organisers handed in a 5000 signatures into Downing Street. In a statement, the organisers said, the petition, "protests against new planning laws that are being introduced that redefine 'gypsy status' to only classify those of us who 'travel' for work purposes, removing any cultural or ethnic dimension. the rally. A spokesperson for the march organizers said: "These new laws will will limit the development of new Gypsy and Traveller sites and potentially threaten those of us living on existing public or private legal Traveller sites. Many of us will be forced back into the road either because we will be made homeless, or in order to 'prove' our ethnic identity and heritage to retain our homes."

A Church group representing all denominations has expressed grave concern over the new policy in the following statement:

The Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma notes with concern the distress caused to Gypsy and Traveller communities by the new Planning Policy for Traveller sites issued in August 2015. As Churches we have a responsibility to affirm, welcome and celebrate the many diverse ethnicities and cultures and challenge all forms of social exclusion and marginalisation, and we share the concern of Gypsies and Travellers about the impact this policy will have on their lives. Of all the guidance in the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites, the part that has caused greatest anxiety is the definition of Gypsies and Travellers which effectively removes Gypsy or Traveller status for people who have settled permanently. This denies to people in "bricks and mortar" (houses) the aspiration to live within the customs of their culture.

To people on private or council-run Traveller sites it raises fears about the security of their tenure. In particular, people with temporary planning permission for a Traveller site are fearful that their home will cease to attract planning permission when the period of the temporary permission has expired, and that they will then face eviction. Travellers have seen this measure in the context of other guidance and legislation which has impacted on their way of life, and have expressed deep concern that there appears to be a political agenda of forced assimilation which would result in the loss of their culture and identity. That is why the demonstrators In Parliament Square on Saturday will meet under the theme of "Dosta Grinta" - "Enough is Enough".

Yours truly,

Revd Martin Burrell, Chair, Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma
Yogi Sutton, Chair, Catholic Association for Racial Justice
Dr Elizabeth Henry, National Adviser, Council for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns
Revd. Wale Hudson-Roberts, Racial Justice Advisor, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry, United Reformed Church
Lt-Col Melvin Fincham, Secretary for Communications, Salvation Army
© ICN

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Headlines 20 May, 2016

Greece: Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans

20/5/2016- Anwar Ismail Murad passed almost effortlessly along what has become known as the Balkan route, heading north from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through Serbia, Croatia and on to Slovenia. He reached there on February 14, when the border was still open, but that’s where his dream abruptly died. Slovenia denied the 19-year-old Yazidi from Sinjar in Iraq entry, citing a lack of documents even though four countries before had allowed him passage. Murad says authorities took him and others to a hotel near the border where they spent two days, before putting them onto a bus and sending them back to Croatia. From then on, against all expectations – and against official policy – Murad found himself kicked back across nearly all the borders he had passed through. “Just think that my friends passed a few hours earlier than me and now they’re in Germany,” he says wistfully, sitting in the sprawling refugee camp of Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, where thousands of refugees and other migrants have been stranded for at least two months since the borders definitively closed in early March.

As Balkan countries stopped accepting migrants crossing through their land borders, those who were on the route say they were the victims of countries desperate to get rid of those trapped by the new rules. Balkan countries along the route say they do not force potential asylum-seekers back across the border they just came from. But Murad’s case is by no means the only one. About 54,000 people are currently stranded in Greece, after the European Union and Turkey reached a deal designed to stem the flow of refugees into Europe’s prosperous heartland. Under the deal, new arrivals on Greek islands after March 20 face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. The vast majority of those in Idomeni and elsewhere in Greece never made it any further. But some say they were forced back, mainly through holes in the border fence with FYROM but also from further north – and show documents to back up their stories. Others even say they were sent to Greece despite bypassing it originally, having passed from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia.

Mohamad al-Baghdady, 33, from Syria’s contested town of Deir el-Zour, said he crossed the Greek-FYROM border with his wife and daughters, 3-year-old Line and 10-month old Bailsane, on March 3, just before the borders shut. They stayed in a FYROM refugee camp for just over a month, he said, before FYROM authorities destroyed their registration documents and pushed them back into Greece, through the fence FYROM erected along parts of its southern border. “We didn’t want to go back, but the police put us on a truck and drove us to the border with Greece. They opened a hole in the fence and pushed us through. It was 2:30 in the morning,” al-Baghdady said. To prove they were there, his wife, Kamar Darwish, 29, pulls out a handful of food coupons from the FYROM camp, notes with the names and telephone numbers of doctors there for their children, and FYROM currency. “If there was just one square meter that was safe in Syria, just one square meter, we would have stayed there, we wouldn’t have come here and gone through this hardship,” al-Baghdady said.

About another 30 Syrians who had been with the family that night were also in Idomeni, pitching their tents nearby. Darwish said the family told FYROM authorities they wanted to apply for asylum. “But they told us ‘there is no asylum in FYROM. This is not Europe.” She still doesn’t understand why they were returned to Greece. “Everything was OK, our papers and everything.” FYROM authorities denied claims that migrants have been forced back into Greece. “We categorically reject allegations that migrants have been pushed through the fence back to Greece,” FYROM police spokesman Toni Angelovski told the AP. “We also reject claims that migrants have not been allowed to apply for asylum.”
Further south, in the Petra refugee camp at the foot of Mount Olympus, a group of about 30 Yazidis say they had chosen an alternative route, using smugglers to get to Serbia through Bulgaria. They reached the Serbo-Croatian border in February, they say, but were denied entry. Then, inexplicably to them, Serb authorities sent them south to FYROM, from where they were pushed into Greece.

Serbia denies any organized attempts to send people back to FYROM. But officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said some individual cases could have happened. Dakhwas Al Hasan, 25, and Sarrad Shakir, 19, both from Mosul in Iraq, undertook the journey along with 14 others. Al Hasan said they crossed the Iraqi-Turkish border on January 23, staying in Turkey for about 25 days before crossing into Bulgaria. They walked for three days before reaching the capital, Sofia, and then heading into Serbia. Once in Serbia, they received registration documents and were put on a train to the Croatian border. But Al Hasan said Croatian authorities wouldn’t let them through without registration documents from Greece. They spent five days in a camp near the border, where they were beaten by Afghans and Iranians because they were Yazidi. “Then the Serb police put us onto buses and drove us to the Serbian-Macedonian border,” he said. After two days stuck in no-man’s land between Serbia and FYROM, FYROM authorities put them into a camp and a few days later “they led us to the fence near Idomeni, and pushed us through a hole into Greece.

Dilshad Omer, an 18-year-old from Dohuk, Iraq, now lives in the Petra camp with his mother, three sisters and four brothers. They also went through Bulgaria, he said, although his group of 23 people spent 11 days in jail there before reaching Serbia. He displays a photograph on his mobile phone of his Serbian registration document, which he says Serb authorities took off him and ripped up while sending the family back to the FYROM border, putting them on buses at 3 a.m. Eventually they too were taken to the border fence with Greece, Omer said. Al-Hasan still dreams of reaching Germany, where his sister and her family now live. While others have given up on the legal process and are seeking out smugglers to complete their journey, he still has hope. “We want to go to Germany legally,” he says. “And so, we wait.”
© The Kathimerini.

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Greek immigration tribunal: Turkey not safe country to send refugees back to

Turkey and the EU reached a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean Sea in March

20/5/2016- A Greek immigration tribunal has ruled that Turkey is not a safe country to send refugees back to – throwing an EU plan to return Syrians there en masse into jeopardy. The EU and Turkey reached a deal in March under which Turkey would close its internal border and prevent refugees from travelling to Europe under their own steam. Under the same plan, countries such as Greece that have borne the brunt of new arrivals would return refugees to Turkey, while asylum seekers in Turkey would be systematically found a home elsewhere in Europe – relieving pressure on the south of the continent. In exchange, the EU has offered Turkish people visa-free travel and an informally accelerated process of accession to the Union, which Turkey wants to join.

But Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that a secondary appeals panel on the Greek island of Lesbos found that Turkey was not a safe third country to send refugees back to, a decision it said was likely to set a precedent under the country’s legal system. More than a million refugees have travelled through Greece since 2015, according to UN estimates, and the country is one of the main spots on which Syrian refugees first make landfall in Europe. Repatriation from Greece was one of the main aims of the scheme, to relieve pressure on the already austerity-hit country. The EU is already likely to miss its June 2016 deadline of approving visa-free travel for Turkish citizens – meaning both sides of the deal are now in jeopardy.

The blow to the deal comes the same week as Conservative MP Peter Bone warned that a vote to stay in the EU would be a vote for “mass immigration” from Turkey. “The consequences [of Turkish accession to the EU] could be grave. We will open our borders to a rapidly growing Turkish population,” he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “It grew from under 50 million in 1985 to 77 million in 2015. It is projected to overtake Germany’s declining population by 2018 and reach over 95 million by 2050.” But asked on LBC Radio today about whether Turkey would join the EU, Boris Johnson said it was “not going to happen for the foreseeable future” – describing the odds as “between nil and 20 per cent”.
© The Independent

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Slovakia: Extremists behind teacher’s desks

Slovak teachers and lecturers more and more use vocabulary that seems to be taken from a neo-Nazi march.

19/5/2016- The State Inspectorate approached students of 160 elementary and secondary schools nationwide, with the goal of scrutinising the state of civic education concerning human rights. They found that around one-fifth of them experienced inadequate, or even extremist behaviour of teachers by their teachers. “Teachers with such opinions should not work in education system,” head of the New School Unions Ľudovít Sebelédi told the Sme daily. “If someone violates laws, they should not be teachers.” The situation is addressed also by the State Pedagogical Institute. In cooperation with the Education Ministry, they are preparing the Summer Academy on Human Rights and on Democratic Citizenship where they aim at further education of teachers.

There were several cases of teachers or lecturers openly promoting racist and anti-Semitic ideas, as well as homophobia and anti-democratic opinions. One of these was the secondary-school teacher at the Vocational School of St. Joseph the Labourer in Žilina. Tomáš Ondrovič openly wrote on his internet profile that “the World War II was caused by Anglo-Saxon and Jewish financiers”, called Jews names, and claimed that the Nuremberg trials were “a farce in history” while questioning the Holocaust. His ideas were stated also on the same page where he posted texts for students to study. Ondrovič’s case drew the attention of both police and State School Inspectorate, but immediately the profile and the website disappeared and the teacher denied ever having said or written these things.

Štefan Surmánek of the Political Science Institute of the Prešov University spread his extremist views, besides via internet, through his publications at the university. The lecturer who ran for the extremist ĽSNS party in recent election repeatedly cited “intolerable and alarming rise in Gypsy population” and “low quality of Gypsy teenagers”. His contract is up in August and the university will not prolong it.

Countryside is worse off
The enquiry of the inspectorate showed that it is more than just individual cases when teachers spread hatred and extremist views. They asked about 3,000 children of 81 elementary and 80 secondary schools. Almost 22 percent of pupils of elementary schools have an experience with inappropriate behaviour by at least one teachers. “More than one-fifth of the respondents said that some teachers tend to mock their performance during lessons, make shameful remarks about some students, and ridicule ethnic minorities,” according to the inspectorate. At secondary schools, around 17 percent of students met with such behaviour.

According to about 14 percent of elementary school pupils, teachers present themselves similarly also on Facebook. Pupils of schools in the countryside experienced this markedly more often, especially in the Košice region (12 percent and Trnava region (19 percent). Medical student Ingrid Szȕcsová complains about her elementary school teacher, a Slovak, who mocked her Hungarian accent. When talking about Roma children, teachers and headmasters rarely use the expression “our children”. The division into “us” and “them” is the prevalent perception of Roma/non-Roma world at schools, according to sociologist Elena Gallová Kriglerová. Roma children are often identified as those “others”, and are often defined as the opposite to “normal” children.

“To a great extent, this is subliminal; the border between open racism and mockery is very thin – and this is what happened in Slovakia, it got to the breaking point,” Gallová Kriglerová says, adding that teachers should be more sensitive and mindful also towards these more delicate shades of racism. “Students assume not just knowledge from the teachers but many of them also take on the manifestations of their behaviour,” Erich Mistrík of the Pedagogical faculty of Comenius University added. “Each and every teacher should bear that in mind.” A teacher who behaves in totalitarian way can talk about democracy for ages, but no-one will believe them.” Children’s psychologist Mária Tóthová Šimčáková notes that it is important for parents to encourage their children to compare data so that they learn at an early age to work with information. She stresses that children often let themselves be totally manipulated and can adapt easily.

Copy of society
The results of simulated students’ election also showed that students picked undemocratic parties. Part of secondary-school teachers ascribed this result also to the work of their colleagues who are close to these parties. A 2012 survey for the Open Society Foundation asked which public officials should leave office if it turns out they are supporters of the extreme right. According to respondents, a judge should definitely give up their job in such cases (70 percent) and police officer (67 percent). The teachers ended up just seventh (on 59 percent).
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Sweden: Is neo-Nazi activity decreasing?

Swedish neo-Nazi groups were less active in 2015, according to a new report. But it is getting more and more difficult to get a complete picture of the ideology, say the experts behind the new figures.

19/5/2016- According to an annual report by the Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo, neo-Nazi groups carried out 2,222 activities in 2015, down from a record 2,865 activities the year before. "The survey shows that the activity within the racist movement fell in 2015," Daniel Poohl, CEO of Expo Foundation, told Swedish Radio on Thursday. "It was primarily as a consequence of 'Svenskarnas parti' ('the party of the Swedes') – which mobilized massively during the election year [in 2014] and failed – closing down in 2015," he said. Instead the neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement ('Nordiska motståndsrörelsen') is growing, he said. The group was involved in attacks on an anti-racism protest in Kärrtorp in southern Stockholm in 2013.

“This is very much the most radical and violence-loving part of this environment,” said Poohl, adding that although neo-Nazi activities appear to be decreasing, the movement's operations have got more difficult to assess. “There are more small groups, and it is harder to get an overall picture of the political landscape. But perhaps the most interesting and alarming: the growing seed of vigilante movements connected to environments where there are extreme right-wing ideals,” said Poohl.

Sweden has been seeing increased tension after taking in an unprecedented number of refugees in the past year, including several dozens of asylum centres or future centres being set on fire. But the suspected arson attacks are not part of Expo's figures, because few people have been arrested. “This whole environment has partly praised but above all excused these attacks and seen them as legitimate means of opposing immigration. (…) The fact that many of these attacks are directed at planned accommodation indicates that there is a strategic awareness of when to hit. A kind of low-intensity terror,” said Poohl.
© The Local - Sweden

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Serbian Court Refuses to Extradite Wanted Radicals

A Belgrade court decided not to extradite three members of Vojislav Seselj’s nationalist Serbian Radical Party to the Hague Tribunal, where they are wanted for alleged witness intimidation.

18/5/2016- The Higher Court in Belgrade decided on Wednesday that the three Radical Party members - Vjerica Radeta, Jovo Ostojic and Petar Jojic - cannot be arrested and transferred to The Hague for trial because this is not in line with the Serbian law on cooperation with the UN-backed war crimes court. Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic are accused of being in contempt of court for threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY. They are also accused of blackmailing protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj’s trial. But according to the Belgrade court, Serbia can only arrest people wanted by the ICTY who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

According to Serbia’s Law on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Belgrade is not obliged to comply with all the ICTY’s requests. The government can deny any request if it believes that it violates Serbia’s sovereignty or national security. However, the Higher Court’s ruling on Wednesday was not final and a second-instance trial chamber can confirm, annul or overturn its decision. In February this year, the ICTY’s trial chamber accused Belgrade of failing to cooperate because it hasn’t arrested Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic. Presiding judge Alphons Orie ordered Belgrade to send “a report every two weeks describing in details the actions the government of Serbia is taking to fulfil its obligations and arrest the accused”.

But Belgrade reacted angrily to Orie’s statement, with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sending a letter of protest to the ICTY demanding that the UN court treat Belgrade with more respect. Seselj was acquitted of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia by the ICTY on March 31, but the prosecution has sought to appeal. The Radical Party leader was allowed to return to Belgrade in November 2014 after being granted temporary release by the ICTY on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment. The three wanted Radical Party officials have told media on several occasions that they will never go to The Hague court voluntarily. Seselj has also backed them, calling them “honourable citizens of Serbia”.
© Balkan Insight

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Bulgarian Racists Assault Iglesias Band Members

In an incident that has highlighted Bulgaria’s ongoing problem with hate crimes, band members say they were attacked because of their appearance on the eve of a concert in Sofia.

18/5/2016- Musicians from the band of pop star Enrique Iglesias say they suffered a racist attack in Sofia on May 14. Backing vocalist Celia Chavez and guitarist Sean Hurwitz said the incident took place in central Sofia late at night before Iglesias’s concert on May 14. Chavez reported the assault on Facebook, explaining that her friend, bass player Joe Ayoub, was “tackled... by two skinheads and subjected to a random beating”. When two other members of the band came to his aid, they were reportedly attacked, too. “The attackers clearly targeted my friend because of his appearance - the two men went swiftly and specifically to him at the start of the attack,” the singer wrote.

The news outraged Bulgarian fans of Iglesias who sent their apologies on social networks to the musicians and expressed their anger with the authorities for failing to tackle the problem of racially based aggression. “I am so sorry and ashamed this has happened to you here... Hate and racism are serious issues here... this is usually conveniently kicked under the carpet but the problems are glaringly obvious,” a Facebook user commented on Chavez’s page. The musicians explained that they managed to escape the attackers and made it safely to their hotel. On Tuesday, when the case gained publicity, Bulgarian police told BIRN that they had not started an investigation because the victims and their friends had not reported the incident.

Although racist violence is punishable as a hate crime under the Bulgarian penal code, rights groups complain that attacks are not adequately prosecuted and punished. In a report published in February 2015, Amnesty International accused Bulgaria of failing to adequately investigate and prosecute hate crimes, which it said was “fueling fear, discrimination and ultimately violence”. The latest year for which Bulgaria reported data on hate crimes to the OSCE was 2014, when 617 hate crimes were recorded by the police. Of that number, 114 cases resulted in court sentences. "I do not want to walk the streets of Sofia — or any city that invites me in the name of music — in fear, or resentment, or anger,” Chavez said, recalling the moment when she and her band found out that their manager had been killed in the Islamist attack on the Bataclan hall in Paris in 2015.

But she and her colleagues stressed that the latest incident would not change their attitude to Bulgaria and their Bulgarian fans. “ These things happen sometimes. They are senseless acts of violence and they unfortunately occur worldwide. They do not reflect my thoughts about Bulgaria in any way,” Sean Herwitz wrote on his website.
© Balkan Insight

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Netherlands: Empty Prisons Become Homes for Refugees

As plunging crime rates close prisons across the country, a government agency is using the space to house refugees.

17/5/2016- In an interesting take on reusing and recycling, a government agency in the Netherlands has opened empty prisons to accommodate the influx of migrants seeking asylum. As the country’s crime rate and prison population have steadily declined for years, dozens of correctional facilities have closed altogether. So when the number of migrants started to rise—more than 50,000 entered the Netherlands last year alone—the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) saw a solution. Photographer Muhammed Muheisen, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Associated Press chief photographer for the Middle East, has devoted the past few years to photographing the refugee crisis as people move across continents. “The question always in my head was, What happens next?” he says. “The journey doesn’t stop the moment they enter a country.”

Last fall, Muheisen started hearing rumors about the reuse of penitentiaries. “I didn’t exactly understand,” he says. “I thought they feel like they are in prisons.” It took six months to get permission to take photos inside of a prison. Eventually, Muheisen spent 40 days visiting three different facilities, getting to know residents and photographing their lives. “We’re talking about dozens of nationalities,” he says. “Dozens. The whole world is under this dome.” The refugees—who will live in the centers for at least six months while waiting to be granted asylum status—are free to come and go as they please. Muheisen says that some have forged friendships with their Dutch neighbors.

Refugees are not allowed to work, but they practice speaking the Dutch language and learn to ride bicycles (both skills are essential to life in the Netherlands). The fact that they do so inside a prison doesn’t faze most of the residents. Muheisen says when he asked what they thought about the arrangement, the typical response was, “We are here under a roof, in a shelter, and we feel safe.” One Syrian man told Muheisen that living in the prison gave him hope for his future. “If a country has no prisoners to put in jail,” he said, “it means this is the safest country that I want to be living in.”

© The Associated Press

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Czech Rep: ERTF supports NGOs seeking to fly rainbow and Roma flags at Terezín

18/5/2016- The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) has sent Jan Munk, the director of the Terezín Memorial who also chairs the Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration, a letter expressing its agreement with the 14 nonprofit organizations who asked that both the LGBT community's rainbow flag and the international Romani flag be flown during the commemorative ceremony at Terezín this year. Munk rejected the request at the beginning of May for the flags to be included alongside state flags during the 15 May event. Agnes Daroczi, director of the ERTF and an expert on the Romani Holocaust, asks the following in her letter, which was sent on 11 May: "If victims from one particular state can be honoured by a flag why cannot half a million Roma from all over Europe not receive the same honour?" In his rejection letter, publicized on 5 May, Munk invited people to bring their own flags and fly them from the audience during the ceremony, which some did.

The commemorative ceremony at Terezín this year was also controversial because of the bigoted and politicized nature of the speeches given by two of the invited speakers. Jewish representatives from around the country protested those speeches and a member of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union issued a public statement rejecting the speech given by the national chair of that organization.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Number of displays of antisemitism high

17/5/2016- The number of displays of hatred for Jews remained as high in the Czech Republic in 2015 as in the preceding year, and reached 221, the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities (FZO) says in a report released to CTK on Tuesday. In 2014, the number reached 234. Hatred was mainly spread via the Internet, the annual report says. The rising number of issued books is dangerous, since the revenues from their sale may help finance extremist groups' activities, the report says. "Although the Jewish community in the Czech Republic was not a target of terrorist attacks...we view this threat as very serious in the world context and we have adjusted our security measures accordingly," FZO Secretary Tomas Kraus said.

Nevertheless, the report says the Czech Republic still ranks among the countries where anti-Semitism is present only marginally. It says anti-Semitic books have mainly been issued by the ABB publisher linked to Adam B. Bartos, chairman of the ultra-right extra-parliamentary National Democracy (ND), and also the Guidemedia etc publishing house that issues translations of Nazi texts. Last year, re-editions of older anti-Semitic books appeared as well as new texts focusing on conspiracy theories and the Holocaust denial, the report says. Conspiracy theories are a new phenomenon that has emerged in connection with the migrant crisis. Their main motif is the Jewish-organised refugee flow to Europe, the consequent destruction of Europe and its values, and the gradual taking of control of Europe, the FZO writes in the report.

In 2015, the FZO also registered attempts at the economic and cultural boycotting of Israel, which is a new form of anti-Semitism, the report says. The forms of displays of hatred to Jews in 2015 were similar to those in previous years, including letters, e-mails, verbal attacks, harassment in the vicinity of Jewish sites, desecration and vandalism. No physical attack on people was registered last year, compared to one in 2014. Five attacks on property were registered, the same number as in 2014. The number of threat cases dropped to three and of harassment rose to 31.

Displays of hatred on the Internet were the most frequent like in the previous years. They made up 182 (82 percent) of the total of 221 incidents, the report says. The articles and comments tend to be more and more often spread on social networks and blogs instead of traditional websites. For example, a community "We Don's Want Jews in the Czech Republic" appeared on Facebook, which Facebook eventually removed at the critics' request, the FZO writes. The FZO's data may differ from those released by other institutions, which limit displays of anti-Semitism to acts that can be qualified as crimes. According to the Interior Ministry's report, the police registered 47 crimes with anti-Semitic subtext, two more than in 2014. Most of them were displays of support for movements aimed to suppress human rights and freedoms.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Activists ask EU to stop subsidising controversial pig farm

17/5/2016- Monday, 16 May was the International Day of Romani Resistance, a day to honor the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust and the heroic uprising of Romani people in the Auschwitz concentration camp. On that occasion the Konexe organization held a demonstration in front of the EU House, the headquarters of the representation of the European Commission and European Parliament in the Czech Republic. Representatives of Konexe delivered a message entitled "Europe, Stop Subsidizing the Pig Farm at Lety" to the EU House. News server Romea.cz broadcast audio and video of the demonstration live online. "We have nothing against the European Union per se, we are criticizing the state of affairs in which the European Structural Funds are subsidizing a specific agricultural enterprise located on places where genocide was perpetrated. In our view, this is absolutely incompatible with European values," Miroslav Brož of Konexe told news server Romea.cz prior to the demonstration.
© Romea.

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16 May 1944: Romani Resistance Day

16/5/2016- It seems that the denial of genocide and the denial of racism are communicating vessels. An ethnic group whose genocide is denied continues to be targeted with racism. Conversely, the recognition of genocide can start a healing process in society that can help it overcome racism. The Romani Holocaust, called the "porajmos" (destruction) in Romanes, is a part of history that is not only forgotten today, it is even denied. We do not know much about this aspect of the Holocaust. There are just a few books about it, and very little historical research. Be that as it may, some forgotten parts of the Romani Holocaust really deserve commemoration. Romani people did not always play the role of passive victims during that era.

What happened on 16 May 1944? In the extermination camp of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, section BIIe was called the "Gypsy Camp" (Zigeuner Lager). Some of the Romani people transported into the hell of Auschwitz by the Nazis were not gassed immediately upon arrival, but were placed in the Zigeuner Lager. BIIe was a "mixed" camp, which meant children, men and women were imprisoned there together. The Romani prisoners were forced into slave labor, observed and subjected to medical tests, and tortured. Dr Josef Mengele of the SS, a sadistic psychopath known as the "Angel of Death", chose Romani individuals, most of them children, to subject to perverse experiments.

During the night of 2 August and the early morning of 3 August 1944, all of the prisoners of the camp, without exception, were murdered in the gas chambers. Because of this known, official history, 2 August has been commemorated as Romani Holocaust Day. The Nazis had actually wanted to close BIIe and murder its Romani prisoners in the gas chambers earlier than that, on 16 May 1944. At the time there were more than 6 000 Romani prisoners there. On 15 May, the underground resistance movement in the camp warned the Roma of what the Nazis were planning. On the morning of 16 May, the Romani prisoners did not show up for the usual morning roll call and ceased cooperating with the SS guards. The Roma barricaded themselves into their shanties. They had broken into an equipment warehouse and armed themselves with hammers, pickaxes and shovels, taking apart the wooden sections of the bunks they slept on to make wooden stakes.

The children collected rocks. When the SS guards entered the camp in the late afternoon to take the Roma to the gas chambers, they began to fight for their lives. The Roma fought to the death. Children, men, and women all fought. Auschwitz had never experienced anything like it before and would not experience it again. There were losses on both sides. The SS were in shock because they had completely failed to anticipate this resistance. Concerned they might lose more men and that the uprising might spread to other parts of Auschwitz, they retreated from camp BIIe. No Roma died in the gas chambers that day. The Nazis subsequently put the prisoners of BIIe on a starvation diet.

On 23 May 1944, the Nazis moved 1 500 of the strongest Romani prisoners to Auschwitz I, many of whom were then sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. On 25 May 1944, 82 Romani men were transported to the Flossenburg concentration camp and 144 young Romani women were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Less than 3 000 Romani prisoners remained in the family camp at BIIe, most of them children. On 2 August 1944, the Nazis gassed them all to death in gas chamber V, although the Roma fought back on that dark night as well. Glory and honor to the memory of these Romani heroes!

You can find more information about 16 May 1944 on the following websites:
Documentation and Culture Center of the German Sinti and Roma
Everyone - Group for International Cooperation on Human Rights Culture 

Editors' Note: On the basis of our consultations with historians and our study of the expert sources on this issue, we have been informed that it is not actually possible to document any claims that what occurred between the guards and the prisoners of the camp on 16 May 1944 was a clash of the kind described here.
© Romea.

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Austria's far-right candidate softens EU views

17/5/2016- The far-right candidate for president in Austria has said he does not want an EU membership referendum and has no plans to exit the euro or Schengen areas. In an interview to Die Presse newspaper on Tuesday (17 May), Norbert Hofer tried to express moderate views on the EU and focused on migration. Hofer came top in the first round of the presidential election on 24 April, with 36 percent, and is the favourite to win the run-off on Sunday (22 May). According to the latest polls, voting intentions for Hofer are between 49 and 57 percent, with 43-51 percent for his opponent, Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. "Austria pronounced itself for [EU] accession. We have adapted our whole system to the EU. Therefore I am not for an EU exit,"Hofer told Die Presse.

Asked whether he shared the view of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen that the EU must be "destroyed", Hofer said he "didn't stand for that position". He said that he was against Austria's EU membership in 1995 because he wanted the country to "maintain its freedom". But now he had taken note of “the democratic result” and saw "no necessity" for an EU membership referendum. But Hofer said such a referendum would be "a last recourse" if the EU developed into a centralised state. He said he wanted a "subsidiary Europe" where more decisions could be taken at national or local level. "Should agricultural policy and aid be regulated at a European level? I think member states can do better," he said.

Migration limits
He did not say whether he supported the euro or not, but said that he would not support a unilateral Austrian exit from the single currency. "A euro exit cannot work if Austria is alone in doing it. If there is a problem with the euro, we could go only in unison with Germany," he said. A strong critic of EU refugee policies, Hofer said he did not want to abolish the Schengen free-travel area. "The model of Schengen with security at the external borders is the optimum. When it doesn't work we have to secure the borders," he said. At a domestic level, the far-right leader reaffirmed that he wanted to maintain the cap on the number of people allowed to file an asylum request imposed by the government of former social-democrat Werner Faymann.

Some 37,500 asylum requests will be accepted by Austrian authorities this year. "We cannot make it financially," he said, after more than 90,000 people applied for asylum in Austria in 2015. He said he wanted a "sectoral immigration break" that would also apply to EU citizens. "If a person can do something for which there is a demand, he can come. If someone has a job that offers him no chance, he cannot come," he said. Hofer said he doubted that integration could work in Austria and suggested he could organise a referendum to ban minarets in the country. But when asked whether people with origins outside the German cultural area could be Austrian, he said: “Of course.”
© The EUobserver

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Austria: Prosecution on cards for Islam comments

An Austrian middle school teacher may be facing criminal prosecution for comments which insult Islam as a religion.

16/5/2016- The female teacher from the Austrian town of Bregenz in Vorarlberg is alleged to have described Mohammed, the prophet and founder of the religion of Islam, as a child molestor, according to a report in Vorarlberg Online. Provincial education councillor Dr Bernadette Mennel said "yes, there is an allegation against the teacher." It was said that the comments came in a classroom, and were witnessed by the woman's students. The school forwarded the complaint officially to the local prosecutors for investigation. According to Mennel, further information would not be made available until the investigation was completed. "Such statements are unacceptable", she told local media. The woman's comments are frequently used by Islamophobes and right-wing activists, and are based on a tradition from some Hadiths that Mohammad consummated his marriage with his youngest wife, Aisha, when she was nine years old. Many contemporary Muslim scholars refute this, and claim that she was closer to 15 years old. In any case, marriage of underage woman was common during the Middle Ages. This is not the first time the accusations have been surfaced in Austria, as in 2009 a member of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), Susanne Winter, was convicted of religious incitement for making similar comments. Winter was officially expelled from the FPÖ in November for making anti-Semitic comments.
© The Local - Austria

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France: Taking on racism and hate speech

French authorities have rolled out their first campaigns to fight racism and anti-Semitism that offer hard-hitting messages against hate speech and workplace discrimination. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Paris.

19/5/2016- The only time Dieynaba Thioune usually wears a Muslim headscarf is during Friday prayers back in her home city of Dakar, Senegal. But on a recent sunny day in Paris, she donned one to make a point. "It feels very strange," said 19-year-old Thioune, who joined a 'hijab day' rally at France's elite Sciences Po University. "I have friends who wear the hijab here, and they sometimes get verbally attacked." A few miles north across the city limit, outside a state employment office, 29-year-old Yacouba Cisse describes the challenges of finding work as a restaurant cook. "When they see the color of my skin, they ask if I want to wash dishes," said Cisse, who is also from Senegal. Those are sentiments France's leftist government wants to change, under a massive, 100-million-euro ($113 million) bid to fight racism and discrimination, first announced a year ago.

In recent weeks, authorities have rolled out their first major communications campaigns: a pair of hard-hitting messages against hate speech and discrimination in hiring practices. "We cannot just sit and watch rising populism, extremism and radicalism in all its forms, to have this threat in the middle of our Republic," said Gilles Clavreul, head of DILCRA, a ministerial body overseeing the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. The three-year government plan includes an arsenal of proposals, from deepening sanctions and the Internet fight against hate speech, to launching school and citizen education programs.

Effort draws mixed reviews
France is hardly the only European country grappling with prejudice. Far-right groups are gaining ground across Europe, feeding on the immigration crisis and rising fears of militant Islam. Still, in March, the Council of Europe warned that hate speech in France has "become commonplace." In interviews with roughly a dozen anti-discrimination activists, experts and ordinary people, many applaud the campaign's overall intent, but give the communications campaigns mixed reviews. Some even suggested French authorities are part of the problem, pointing to the fractured political response to the Muslim veil as a leading example. Most observers, however, agree on one thing: it will take much more than a three-year crusade to bring about a more tolerant and egalitarian society. "There's a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success," said Christine Lazerges of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), a government advisory body. Major changes were needed in the country's educational system and in turning around France's disenfranchised suburbs, she added.

Government statistics also attest to a long road ahead. In 2015, hate offences overall jumped by more than one-fifth compared to the year before to more than 2,000. Anti-Muslim acts and threats alone tripled last year, while anti-Semitic ones remained high. Activists say the true figures are higher, since many acts go unrecorded. Despite an overall hike in hate acts in 2015, Clavreul cites signs of progress. New figures in May show a sharp drop in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts since a year ago. A study by the CNCDH found an increase in perceived French tolerance - a surprising fallout from a year bracketed by two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. "There is a need for fraternity and social cohesion that is making people open up to those who are different," the commission's president Lazerges said.

But other forms of discrimination are more subtle. A survey on French hiring by Paris think-tank Institut Montaigne found Christian men are four times more likely to get a callback from recruiters than Muslim ones - a discrepancy that actually increases among the more qualified. Jews also face discrimination, but to a lesser extent. "It's a very serious phenomenon," said Montaigne's deputy director Angele Malatre-Lansac, pointing to study estimates that discrimination against Muslims in France was far higher than against African-Americans in the United States. In many cases, she says, employers are fearful of flouting the country's staunchly secular laws, and are uncertain how to treat expressions of religiosity at work, like Muslim prayers. "It's not necessarily that racism is pervasive, but religious practice can make recruiters afraid," she said.

'Real life' hate acts
The French government has gone on the offensive. In March, it launched six 30-second TV spots re-enacting 'real life' racist and anti-Semitic acts: distraught Muslims finding a pig's head stuck to the mosque gate; a black man getting beaten up; 'death to Jews' scrawled on a synagogue door. "We had to create a shock, to say 'Hey, stop, we have to address these issues,'" said Clavreul of DILCRA, describing the publicity as a first, but crucial step. Still, some anti-discrimination groups criticize the spots for offering a narrow, overly violent take on discrimination. "It can be even counterproductive, because we've worked for years to show that racism is subtle, and even those who are not racist can have humiliating, wounding words," Lazerges of the rights body said. Others want results.

"Publicity spots are good, they can help educate people," said Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia. "But how many people were arrested, how many people were found guilty?" Officials argue all hate acts will be pursued and punished, and the campaign's sweep is both broad and local. The government has taken a different tack with its second campaign, rolled out in mid-April. Giant posters portray job seekers with their faces split in half - white and non-white - with the tagline "Skills First." Next to the white side are messages like, "You start Monday." On the non-white: "You don't have the right profile." Authorities also say they will test companies on their hiring practices, with plans to 'name and shame.' Some have said they find the posters unsettling rather than helpful.

What about veiled women?
The state's tough stance toward the Muslim headscarf also raises questions over whether its anti-discrimination drive will fairly defend veiled women, who are considered leading targets of anti-Muslim acts. Controversial remarks by top politicians - Women's Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol recently compared veiled women to "negroes" supporting slavery - have fuelled those doubts. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also takes a hard view, describing the veil as a sign of "enslavement" and criticizing the Science Po's recent hijab day, organized to protest Rossignol's remarks. "The number one culprit of Islamophobia in France is the state itself," said Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia. "If there's work to be done, it has to be done at the grassroots level." Sciences Po student Thioune is also skeptical. "I thought France was open-minded," she said, "but not when it comes to the hijab."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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French doctors charging migrants for medical certificates, charity alleges

16/5/2016- Doctors in France are illegally charging migrants hundreds of euros in return for certificates that state they suffer medical conditions entitling them to stay in the country, a charity alleged on Monday. The accusation came less than a week after a doctor at a leading Paris hospital was suspended and placed under investigation by public prosecutors for allegedly charging migrants for medical certificates. According to Cimade, one of the main agencies working with refugees, there is evidence that such practices are widespread. Some medical certificates are believed to state falsely that migrants have conditions that mean they cannot be deported under French law. Others are genuine, but charging for them is illegal under French law, which stipulates all migrants, including irregular migrants, should receive free treatment under the state medical aid system.

Last week a doctor at the largest public hospital in Paris, La Pitié Salpêtrière, was suspended after being accused of repeatedly taking money from migrants for such certificates. A charity volunteer informed hospital authorities, who referred the case to prosecutors. The hospital management said an internal investigation “led to the supposition that other patients in comparable situations may also have been induced to make such payments”. It did not specify the number of patients or doctors believed to be involved. Laura Petersell of Cimade told Le Parisien newspaper: “We’ve established that many doctors are extorting money from migrants. They demand that they pay several hundred euros for certificates stating that they have medical conditions that can give them the right to ask for legal residency in the country.”

Cimade has informed the Health Ministry of a number of cases and “expects a strong response,” Ms Petersell said. “The ministry has confirmed that it is unjustified for doctors to make these demands for fees.” She said the charity has obtained “numerous statements” from witnesses. Jean-Marie Faroudja, head of the ethics section of the French Medical Association, said doctors could face disciplinary procedures for charging "vulnerable patients". "These are intolerable practices.” A woman from Cameroon told Le Parisien she had been charged £70 by a doctor she found in a list provided by the authorities when she was applying for her residency permit to be extended to continue medical treatment in France. The woman, who requested anonymity, told the newspaper: “When I saw him, he just took my pulse and and my blood pressure, and asked me for €90. That’s a lot of money for me. I was very surprised.”

The free medical treatment accorded to migrants has been condemned by the far-Right leader Marine Le Pen, who has complained that the state “totally looks after them”. As well as medical care, asylum-seekers receive a daily allowance of €11.35, which amounts to an average of €340.50 (about £270) per month. Unlike other beneficiaries of free medical care, they do not have to prove they have resided in France for three months before making a claim. Even if their asylum applications are rejected, they can still obtain free medical treatment if they remain in the country illegally.

Refugee status
What makes someone a refugee?
A refugee is someone who has proven to authorities that "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country". (1951 Refugee Convention)

What is a migrant?
This broader term refers to someone who leaves their country for another one, to live for more than a year. Those leaving for work, or for a better life, are often called "economic migrants"

Is there a difference between the term 'asylum seeker' and 'refugee'?
'Asylum seeker' technically refers to a person who has applied for refugee status and is waiting to be assessed by the government. A refugee is a person who was an asylum seeker and has achieved refugee status

What happens when asylum seekers arrive in another country?
Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, those fleeing persecution are entitled to apply for refugee status and be given somewhere safe to live until their claim has been accepted or denied.

Why is the current situation different?
The UNHCR says that when there is a mass movement of refugees after war or conflict, big groups are often declared "prima facie" refugees and countries can decide to take them in automatically.
Source: Red Cross, UNHCR
© The Telegraph

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Croatian Journalist Sacked for Critiquing Nationalism

Tatjana Gromaca, a journalist for leftist Croatian daily Novi List, claims she has been fired for her 'criticism towards the nationalist point of view'.

16/5/2016- A well known journalist on cultural and social issues, Tatjana Gromaca, claims that her former employer, the Croatian leftist daily Novi List, has sacked her for opposing nationalism. “The rationale for my resignation, that they don’t need a correspondent from Istria [on the Croatian coast] is ridiculous," Gromaca told BIRN. Gromac explained that while she had been fired as a correspondent, her contract defined her as “a journalist-reporter and columnist”. Novi List disclosed on Thursday that it was ending cooperation with Gromaca, claiming it did not not need another journalist from the town of Pula in Istria, where Gromaca lives, since the new owner of the company also has a Pula-based daily newspaper, Glas Istre.

Before working for Novi List, Gromaca worked on topics of culture and social issues for the left-wing, anti-establishment satirical weekly newspaper, Feral Tribune. Gromaca insisted that her work was never locally oriented and that she had interviewed people from all over the region and the world. She believes she lost her job due to her “criticism of the nationalist point of view and because of the narrowness of people’s perception”. She further claimed that her writing had “unmasked” such views and showed them as “a sort of a fiction”, which was dangerous for the system. “Therefore, I am in fact a dangerous journalist, although someone maybe would not say so at first sight. But I am proud of it, as well as of the lay-off that I’ll soon get,” Gromaca concluded.

Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, HND, told BIRN that the reasons for firing Gromaca were far from logical. “They are firing her, saying they don’t need another person from Istria, although she’s not writing on Istrian issues and although she’s not a correspondent there,” he said. HND also sent a media release on Sunday, commenting on the spate of removals and lay-offs of journalists in Novi List, referring to them as degrading. The newspaper threatened to fire its journalist Boris Pavelic in June, after he published an interview with former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence officer and politician Josip Manolic. In it, he accused the Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko, also head of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, of having been a spy for the Yugoslav secret services in 1980s.
© Balkan Insight

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Scottish churches push forward on gay rights

Church of Scotland to decide on ministers and same-sex marriage, while Episcopal Church to vote on gay church weddings

20/5/2016- Scottish churches are pushing forward on gay rights, with the Church of Scotland to decide on Saturday whether to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages and the Scottish Episcopal Church likely to take a significant step next month towards permitting gay weddings in its churches. If approved, the changes will differentiate the two churches from the Church of England, which bans clergy from being married to partners of the same sex and has refused to allow gay church weddings. The Church of Scotland’s general assembly, which opens in Edinburgh on Saturday, is to vote on extending a law passed last May that permits ministers to be in same-sex civil partnerships. Over the past year, 29 presbyteries have approved such a move, and 19 opposed it. A vote by members of the church was closer: 1,207 approved the move with 1,096 against.

Saturday’s vote among the assembly’s 730 commissioners is also expected to be close, but church insiders suggested enough had been done to win over waverers. “A vote in favour is more likely than not,” said a source. A vote to allow ministers to be in gay marriages would not compromise the church’s traditional stance that marriage was a union of a man and a woman, the source said. Next year, the church’s Theological Forum is to complete a review of traditional church teaching on human sexuality and marriage. In an interim report to this year’s assembly, it said the issue had threatened to polarise the church. “Over the years we have come to see that it is unrealistic for either side to think that it can gain ‘absolute victory’,” it said. The Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to take the first step in a two-stage process at its synod next month towards changing church law to allow same-sex weddings in church. If passed, a second vote would be required next year. Such a move would invite de facto sanctions by the international Anglican Communion similar to the measures imposed on the US Episcopal Church earlier this year after it permitted clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

David Chillingworth, the primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “The canonical change would make it possible for our clergy to conduct same-sex marriages and to be in same-sex marriages – that’s the direction in which we’re moving.” However, he added, “there is also a significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church”. He said his job was “to preserve the unity of the church”. If the change to church law passed next year, he said, “we’re aware we will probably find ourselves in the same position as the US Episcopal Church. These are difficult issues; we are all in transition.” Same-sex marriage was legalised in Scotland in December 2014, with almost 500 gay couples getting married in the following three months. The Church of Scotland – known as the Kirk – is the largest church in Scotland with almost a third of the population claiming allegiance in the 2011 census. The Catholic church is the next biggest.
© The Guardian.

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UK: We must oppose the toxic far-right politics of fear (opinion)

By Phélim Mac Cafferty

20/5/2016- The lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community is still shaken following two violent homophobic attacks in the city in as many weeks. Such attacks are completely unacceptable and have no place in society. On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia this week it was heartening to hear the city’s most senior police officer, Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp, assure us that his officers take all forms of hate crime seriously. I was pleased to hear arrests had been made in these cases, but I share a sense of outrage with many residents that cowardly thugs have contributed to making many LGBT residents feeling less safe in their city. It is possibly tempting to see these as isolated incidents yet there were 175 homophobic incidents and crimes and 33 transphobic incidents and crimes in Brighton and Hove in the last year. The 2015 Crime Survey for England Wales revealed that 8 in 10 LGBT people reported being verbally abused or harassed, one in 10 suffered physical assault. Many more hate crimes go unreported.

What is sadly abundantly clear is that much still remains to be done to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and it is essential that we work together to stamp out hatred. As a Green, my vision is a city where our many diverse communities feel safe and welcome. Where no one need fear violent attacks due to their sexuality or because they don’t identify with the gender assigned at their birth. Greens have a long track record of tackling discrimination and promoting equality, and will continue to unapologetically support the right for all our residents to live free from hate and fear. This isn’t, actually, too much to ask. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we also have a tremendous amount to celebrate in our city. Our annual Pride celebrations are the biggest in the UK and support for the LGBT community can be found in all quarters and across the political spectrum. On 23 July, I will once again join in the city’s Trans Pride celebrations and stand with the Trans community.

Among the only people who shouldn’t feel welcome here are far-right protesters who on June 4 are descending once again on Brighton and Hove. Drawn by our rich heritage of proudly standing up for those on the margins, those fleeing asylum, their call to arms is ‘no more refugees.’ These are people who have historically had a problem with our city’s Jewish population, our LGBT population and our ethnic minorities. They have always had scapegoats for their toxic politics of fear. We must be clear: we can not allow openly racist organisations to hold demonstrations in our city unchallenged. Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear and that’s why we must counter their message of hate with one of hope. We must oppose those who seek to divide us. After all: an injury to any one of our city’s diverse communities is an injury to each and every one of us.
Councilor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.
© The Brighton and Hove Independant

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Italy: Beppe Grillo sparks outrage with terrorist joke about London mayor Sadiq Khan

Comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo has been highly criticised after making a terrorist joke about new London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

16/5/2016- The leader of Italy’s second-largest political party was performing at a show in Padua on Saturday when he praised the victory in the mayoral election of "Bangladeshi" Khan, who is British and whose family are originally from Pakistan. The comedian noted that London's first Muslim mayor is an example of what unthinkable surprises life can hold in store and as proof that one must never stop dreaming, only to proceed to joke: "Now I want to see when he blows himself up in Westminster." Mr Grillo's unwillingness to tune down his jokes could be detrimental to his populist M5S which he is trying to portray as a serious alternative to traditional parties, especially to the Democratic Party (PD), led by prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Racist and misogynist comments are not uncommon within extreme parties in Italian politics. In 2014, for example, Gianluca Buonanno, a Northern League MP, blacked up in Parliament, saying that all white Italians should do the same so as to receive benefits. The previous year a councillor, also belonging to the Northern League, called for the country's first black minister to be raped after reading an article about an alleged attempt by a Somali man to rape two Romanian girls. The remark by the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), an anti-establishment party founded by Mr Grillo in 2009, came at a sensitive time as his own party’s candidate, Virginia Raggi, is the leading contender to become the next mayor of Rome.

Stefano Esposito, a PD senator, demanded to know what the mayoral candidate Raggi thought of the joke: “What does Raggi think of the racist insult that her boss directed at the mayor of London? Pretends nothing is going on?” he asked on Twitter. Same question asked by Ettore Rosato, the PD's leader in Parliament: "Racism and generalisation by Beppe Grillo is not funny and offend integrated people and free voters. What does Virginia Raggi say about Westminster?" The PD’s candidate for mayor of Rome, Roberto Giachetti, also attacked the one-liner, saying on Twitter that “It didn’t make me laugh.” “The Five Star Movement is now distinguishing itself for its racism and xenophobia,” Andrea Romano, PD lawmaker, added on Sunday, according to Italian daily La Stampa.

Mr Romano said that he believes the remark was an attempt to distract the public from internal problems within the M5S, including a scandal involving the mayor of Parma, Federico Pizzarotti, a member of Grillo’s party who is under investigation for abuse of office. Filippo Nogarin, mayor of Livorno, is also M5S member under investigation, this time for fraud. Whilst both politicians denied any wrongdoing, the investigations are particularly painful for a party that rose to prominence partly thanks to its anti-corruption stance. The comment may also cause issues for Ukip as leader Nigel Farage has developed a close connection with Mr Gillo in the part few years. The Five Star Movement and Ukip share membership of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy bloc in the European Parliament. In March, Mr Farage said Mr Grillo was “doing amazingly well … here’s one of the great paradoxes: Eurosceptic parties across Europe are dominated by young people.”
© The Telegraph

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UK: Leading EDL figure says far-right group is protesting to ‘protect’ Coventry

20/5/2016- A leading figure in the English Defence League has told the Observer the far-right group will march this weekend ‘to protect the public’. Speaking ahead of their Coventry demonstration this weekend, national lead for the EDL, Ian Crossland, said the group were marching to force Coventry to recognise ‘serious issues’ in the city. The 42-year-old from Sheffield, who will join hundreds of far-right supporters in the city this weekend, claimed: “Coventry has gangs grooming youngsters and a high rate of young people being radicalised and sent to fight for jihad. “There are Muslim imams and clerics in the city who are actively preaching hate and recruiting for extremism. “This is a blatatent Muslim issue and an issue within Islam. “While not all Muslims are extremists, there are people that are.”

When asked about the group’s message potentially causing offence to Coventry’s diverse communities, Crossland claimed the EDL were doing a ‘service’ – helping bring the problems in particular problems areas including Foleshill, Radford, and Edgewick Park to the surface. He added: “Counter groups are just sticking their heads in the sand – what are they doing to combat the problem of extremism and the sexual exploitation of children? “They are living in ignorant bliss by simply spouting the politically correct line without actually broaching the issue. “Being politically correct does not help anyone – we are doing this to protect the public. “I’d happily meet with the Bishop of Coventry and the leading people from Unite Against Fascism to have a frank public debate on the matter.”

Mr Crossland also blamed the media for creating the EDL’s notorious reputation and fueling a ‘witch hunt’ against members. Claiming most people arrested at EDL demonstrations were actually from counter-protest groups, he argued the EDL had worked hard to move away from their murky, violent past. The group will meet at the Litten Tree pub where Mr Crossland said drinking will not be banned entirely – attendees instead encouraged to enjoy alcohol in moderation. “At the end of the day, we are in Coventry to do a job,” he said. “Yes, it is an emotive subject that people are passionate about, but we are standing up for a cause.”
© The Coventry Observer

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UK: The shocking reality of racist bullying in British schools

19/5/2916- This week, a 16-year-old girl was tragically found dead at her school in Cornwall. It's believed that Dagmara Przybysz, originally from Poland, had suffered racist bullying. Two years ago, she'd spoken about experiencing racism on social media site Ask.fm and after her death this week, her friends suggested that the bullying had continued:
"It is so sad what people do to make people do this stuff,” wrote one. "Such a beautiful girl, died a such a young age because of absolute p***ks,” said another. A coroner will look into Przybysz’s death at a later date and it is currently unclear whether racist bullying played a part. But the tragic case does shine a light on the torment that goes on everyday in British schools. “Even though we have made tremendous progress, bullying is still a major issue in schools and there’s still a lot around race,” says Anastasia de Waal, chair of Bullying UK. “Appearances and differences have always been an easy thing to latch onto.”

A recent survey from anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found 1.5 million young people have been bullied within the past year in the UK, and those who had an ethnic minority profile were at a much higher risk of being bullied than a young Caucasian person. This is something Billie Gianfrancesco has direct experience of. The 26-year-old PR manager is half-Caribbean, and when she was at school in rural Norfolk, found herself the target of bullies. “I experienced ignorant racism, which wasn't really an issue as I just ignored it," she says. "But then one of the senior girls at my private school started targeting me and calling me a 'Paki', telling me to go back to where I came from (which was Norwich). “Once she locked me in the changing rooms for the whole of a PE lesson because I was slow getting changed and a 'paki bitch'. I was 13 at the time.”

When she was 16, a boy in Gianfrancesco's school year began “a racist bullying campaign” against her after she rejected his advances. “My social media accounts were hacked and all my photos changed to pictures of monkeys, and there were messages talking about my mother as ‘having aids because she was a black monkey.’” What happened to Gianfrancesco is shocking, but it is by no means an anomaly. Liam Hackett, CEO of anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label, explains: “Young people are now being bullied in their safe spaces, like at home or at the dining table, because of online technology. It makes it more traumatic for young people because it’s overwhelming and they can’t escape it. “It’s often verbal but physical bullying is quite common as well. Guys are a lot more physical but girls are more verbal and indirect. It can be direct racist comments or taunts. It can be humiliating someone in a classroom or rejecting someone from social activities. One of the biggest issues is cultural differences.”

For Gianfrancesco, it was obvious that her bullying was rooted in racism. Her skin colour was targeted in direct ways, but other young people have more subtle experiences. De Waal says she has come across children and teenagers bullied for cultural clothing, habits and even the food they eat. “A lot of people might think it’s just about the skin colour but if a kid has an accent, the bullying might centre on that. It’s not always tangible - like being a different colour or having different hair. “We know if children use racist terms that schools react swiftly, but if they’re being teased for the food they bring to school – which we know in the past is a fairly common issue – then it’s much harder. Parents and schools need to work together to make sure it’s nipped in the bud.” Ultimately it comes down to adults to act – both guardians and those in schools – to ensure bullying ends immediately.

But Gianfrancesco says she felt let down by her teachers. When she reported the head girl calling her a ‘Paki’, she says “nobody took any action because she was senior”. “One teacher told me that I should just ignore it because I wasn't Asian and couldn't understand why I was bothered,” she says. When her social media account was hacked a few years later, the police became involved and confiscated her laptop but “nothing was ever done.” In the end, faced with a campaign of bullying at the hands of the male pupil she'd rejected, Gianfrancesco took action into her own hands, supported by her mother. “I started a petition and got people at school to sign it who had witnessed the racism or experienced bullying themselves. After collecting a page of signatures my head of year expelled him on the spot. I didn't take further action (even though my mum was pretty adamant that I did), because I actually felt very sorry for the boy in the end. He was clearly very sad and confused.”

Gianfrancesco’s determination meant she was able to stop the bullying and make sure the perpetrator was punished, but not every young person is capable of that. It’s why Hackett says they need the support of an adult. “It’s important to encourage the young person to talk about it and have an honest dialogue with them,” he stresses. “Be pro-active and don’t just wait for something to happen. Look out for behavioural changes, such as the child isolating themselves, losing their appetite or becoming aggressive. It’s important the young person understands they’re not being bullied because of the colour of their skin – it’s because the bullies have their own issues.” He says parents should speak to teachers to crack down on the bullying, but in the long term, the answer to prevention lies in education. De Waal agrees: “The main thing is continuing to make sure we’re educating young people about bullying being a problem and that they understand racism. "Young people need to recognise the impact it has and that attacking someone’s identity is harmful to them.”
© The Telegraph

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UK: Claims Cambridgeshire Tories have ‘ingrained racism’ towards gypsies & travellers

17/4/2016- A discrimination storm surrounding top Tory politicians will go under the spotlight amid claims the local party has an "ingrained racism" against gypsies and travellers. Lib Dem Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer is calling for answers at South Cambs District Council after two recent incidents that prompted allegations of discrimination against two senior Tories in the county. Former South Cambs leader Cllr Ray Manning is at the centre of one of these rows, where a long-running saga with a gypsy and traveller family in his village recently came to a head. There have been a number of clashes at parish council meetings in Willingham between Cllr Manning – also a parish councillor – and Phoebe Buckley, whose mum and dad Tom and Susan are facing eviction.

The couple are fighting the district council over their plans to stay at a site in Meadow Road, and could be forced to move from the village after 30 years if the council does not grant them planning permission. A planning appeal was heard by a government inspector last month and a decision is due by the end of May. But Phoebe Buckley – one of the country's top equestrian riders – has made a series of allegations against Cllr Manning, including over some speaking notes he passed to a fellow parish councillor making all sorts of claims about traveller families. These included the fact they had "a poor health record" and that these children only attended school regularly until the family got planning permission. Cllr Manning's conduct has recently been reported in satirical magazine Private Eye. He told the magazine he has both written and anecdotal evidence to back up the claims in the speaking notes from the likes of school governors. Cllr Manning announced he was standing down as leader last week.











This issue also reared its head recently when a Facebook post from 2010 resurfaced, where new Tory police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite used the word 'pikeys' in a comment on a photo. Mr Ablewhite has since faced calls to quit from gypsy and traveller groups, but defended the comment as private "light-hearted banter" between friends. "This seems to confirm the impression that the Conservative leadership in Cambridgeshire suffers from an ingrained racism, in particular towards gypsies and travellers," Cllr Van de Weyer says in a question to a meeting of South Cambs full council on Thursday. He goes on to call on the planning decisions to be made "on the basis of truth and evidence not prejudice and distortion", and that measures are taken to address public concern about racism in the council's leadership.

Cllr Van de Weyer told the News: "It is very frustrating that our council has once again featured in Private Eye, through the actions of our recently resigned leader Ray Manning. "At first sight, this appears to be an attempt to manipulate the planning appeals process by giving misleading or distorted information to an appeals inspector. "In the notes which, we are told, were written by Cllr Manning, a parish councillor was asked to suggest that the local school and surgery could not cope with the impact of this family being given permission. "In fact, there is no evidence for this. Also, the notes claim that traveller sites are about to become available in South Cambs. Again, it just isn't true that enough sites are in the pipeline to make a dent in the serious shortage.

"Many residents feel that the planning system allows gypsies and travellers to get permissions that others would not be able to get. Many gypsies and travellers find that all possible obstacles are put in their way when trying to find homes for their families and businesses. "The problems are made more acute by the general housing pressures and high property prices in the area. "It is therefore crucial that our political leaders take particular care when intervening in these issues. The language used by some of our leaders, as we saw last month in the PCC campaign, exacerbates tensions, whereas our role should be to work for the benefit of all residents. "The perception that councillor are not playing straight further undermines confidence in the planning process in the eyes of all residents, whether they are gypsies and travellers or not."









© The Cambridge News
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UK: New Mayor of London flies rainbow flag from City Hall

The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is flying the rainbow flag from City Hall today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).

17/5/2016- The annual event is observed on May 17 across the world, aiming to raise awareness of the discrimination that still faces LGBT people at home and around the world. Labour politician Mr Khan, who became the Mayor of London earlier this month, is one of the country’s most prominent pro-LGBT Muslim politicians. He has been candid about receiving death threats from some hardline Islamist preachers after voting in favour of same-sex marriage in 2013, and is a strong voice for tolerance. To mark IDAHOT, the politician today ordered the Pride flag be flown from City Hall today, alongside the Union Flag. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told PinkNews in a statement: “I could not be more proud to help celebrate IDAHOT 2016 by flying the Pride flag here at City Hall. “I was elected on a pledge to be Mayor for all Londoners and I will work with the LGBT+ community – as I will with all communities – to do everything I can to make London a more tolerant, fairer place to live. “This is personal to me because I have been on the receiving end of hate crime, which has no place in our city, and I know how devastating it can be.”

Speaking to PinkNews earlier this year, Mr Khan pledged to take a tough stance on homophobic hate crimes as Mayor. He said: “I’ve been the victim of hate crime – anybody who is a minority is potentially the victim of hate crime. “Whether you’re an ethnic minority, you’re lesbian gay, trans, religious minority, a woman, disabled, to me it’s personal because I have been on the receiving end.” He added: “It’s a badge of shame – that in spite of the progress that we have made over the last 20, 30 years if you’re a Londoner who happens to be LGBT, you make yourself vulnerable to hate crime. “It’s heartbreaking that as the father of two children, that almost half of LGBT young people have self harmed or tried to kill themselves, just think about that for a second.” Mr Khan also said he would restore the Mayor’s role attending Pride in London – which Boris Johnson has missed every year since 2010.
© The Pink News

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UK: Chakrabarti Hits Out At Tory 'Islamophobia'

‘I consider myself to be independent’

16/5/2016- Shami Chakrabarti has vowed to fast-track Labour’s inquiry into anti-semitism - and hit out at the Tories for not staging their own investigation into Islamophobia. The former director of civil liberties group Liberty dismissed claims that she was not fully independent, as she revealed that she had joined Labour on the same day she was appointed to review allegations of anti-Jewish conduct within the party. Formally launching the probe, she announced that it would be completed by the end of June, telling HuffPost UK that she didn’t want it to end up like the Chilcot report or other lengthy investigations. The inquiry will have just three weeks from its June 10 deadline for evidence submissions until it is completed. There will be no cross-examinations, no evidence sought from Ken Livingstone and just ‘two or three seminars’ for public discussion, she said.

Chakrabarti said she had joined Labour on April 29, to prove to party members that she had “their best interests and values at heart”. Asked if her party membership risked making the probe less impartial, she replied: “I’m not qualified to answer questions on the Warsi inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Is there one? No there isn’t. “I do hope that this inquiry and its findings set the kind of standard that all democratic parties might seek to follow.” Baroness Warsi has slammed her own party’s campaign against Sadiq Khan in the London Mayor race, claiming it undermined its emphasis on alleged links to ‘extremists’ was “dog-whistle, nasty politics”. Warsi had made clear her unease at the tactic of attacking Khan for sharing platforms with Muslim clerics and at the language used by Zac Goldsmith and others.

Chakrabarti was unabashed about having joined Labour just three hours before her appointment to chair the anti-semitism inquiry was announced last month. “I was appointed by the Leader of the Labour party. I consider myself to be working for, and in the best interests of, the Labour party,” she said. “I consider myself to be independent. I don’t think myself to be any less independent for making it absolutely clear that I share the values of the Labour party constitution. It’s a judgement call… I just wanted to be honest. “It was my judgement as a Labour supporter who had previously not been affiliated to any party.” Chakrabarti stressed that she did not want her inquiry - whose findings “will be mine and mine alone” - to cut across or interfere with separate investigations such as the NEC’s into the conduct of Ken Livingstone.

The former Mayor of London was suspended after he claimed Adolf Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad and murdered six million Jews”. Chakrabarti said: “I will not positively solicit a submission from him because I don’t think it’s fair given his position pending an investigation.” Jeremy Corbyn will, however, be invited to appear to give evidence. Pressed on why her inquiry would be so short, Chakrabarti made clear she did not want a repeat of the Chilcot Inquiry, which will only be published this summer, six years after its evidence sessions ended. “You can tell from the timescale that this is not comparable with some formal judicial inquiries of recent years…It will be interesting to see whether we can get ahead of some of those inquiries that are still pending. “It’s not a question of calling judicial hearings with people represented by counsel, examinations and cross-examinations and so on.

She added that the main work would consist of gathering material, rather than public hearings. “It is primarily an attempt to solicit submissions from members and supporters of the Labour party on the one hand, and members of the minority communities who are particularly affected. That evidence will will receive ideally by email. “In addition to that, we have a duty to follow up on particular submissions in writing and in person. Being sensitive to the material that comes in, we propose perhaps two or three seminars that allow for public discussion or debate around the issues.” One Labour MP today warned against the report being a rushed “whitewash” to protect Corbyn’s leadership. Inquiry vice chair Baroness Royall revealed that her separate report into allegations of antisemitism among Oxford University Labour Club members would be presented to party’s National Executive Committee on Tuesday and then made public.

Chakrabarti confirmed that Labour’s code of conduct was expected to be reformed by the NEC this week too, to provide tougher treatment of those with anti-semitic or other racist views. But she said that she hoped to further update the code once her report was ready by June 30. Chakrabarti announced a deadline of June 10 for submissions to her inquiry, meaning there will be only three weeks for any hearings or evidence sessions with witnesses. There have been claims of dozens of suspensions of party members for anti-Jewish conduct, from individual members to councillors and Ken Livingstone temporarily excluded from the party for remarks they have made. Asked by HuffPost UK if she was prepared to extend the deadline should there be an avalanche of material, Chakrabarti replied: “I think it would be very dangerous for me to talk about delaying the inquiry.

“The history of inquiries, public and others in this country is too often there has been an issue of delay. “I am ambitious and hope to report on time by the end of June.” When asked if she had been attracted to join Labour by Corbyn’s leadership, Chakrabarti said: “I joined a Labour party that has Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. I joined the party on the day that I accepted this chalice that may or may not contain…water. “Talk to me about that on the 1st of July”.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: Far-right plan to stage rock concert in Dover

Far-right groups are planning to stage an anti-immigration rock concert in Dover this month, say Kent Police.

16/5/2016- Organisers refuse to reveal where the "Rock against Immigration" event will be held but claim it will go head on May 28. Facebook advertisements for the event reveal it will be headlined by extremist bands such as Redneck 28 and Gentleman Thugs. Redneck 28 has been linked to neo-Nazi organisation Blood and Honour which has been banned in Germany and Russia for its anti-democratic, and neo-Nazi ideology. Some of the band's toxic lyrics include: "This is our land in which we are proud, we will stand and fight and raise our right hand, Seig Heil, Seig Heil." A Kent Police spokesman said they have been notified of a planned concert but added: "The exact details including the location of the event are not yet known."

Fascist groups plan to stage the concert alongside a series of marches planned across Dover on May 28 and May 29. They also claim the event will bring "thousands and thousands of pounds" to local businesses and that they back regeneration in Dover. Past marches in January and April resulted in multiple arrests when far-right groups and anti-fascists clashed. The brutal marches in January also led to a seizure of weapons, broken bones and heavy damage to the town when paving slabs and bricks were torn up and lobbed. Town centre businesses have branded demonstrations by both the far-right and anti-fascists as "organised anarchy" and economically damaging to shops.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke blasted the planned concert and two days' worth of marches as "unacceptable". He said: "I met with the newly elected Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and asked him to use all his powers to limit this marches. "The people and businesses of Dover have the right to go about their daily lives without being disrupted by the selfish and uncaring actions of an extremist and violent minority." Kent Anti-racism Network told the Express it is planning to stage a counter-protest against the concert and far-right marches.
© The Dover Express

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UK: Two men taken off Rome flight for 'looking suspicious'

Two passengers were removed from a Rome-bound flight on Sunday after a couple complained that they “looked suspicious”.

16/5/2016- The Monarch flight, which had been due to leave the British city of Birmingham at 5.30pm GMT, was delayed for two hours as a result. The two men were taken off the jet after all the passengers had boarded. “It was crazy,” Marsha De Salvatore, an American who lives in Rome, told The Local. “Not only was the plane delayed but I witnessed the sad reality of racism as these men were escorted off a boarded plane because others suspected them to be terrorists. "The pilot told us 'what happened today was an act of total racism'."

De Salvatore explained that a British couple, who were standing in front of her in the queue to board the flight, became agitated. “The husband was anxious and kept saying to his wife, ‘I’m not getting on the plane’. I thought perhaps he had a fear of flying. But just as they were about to hand over their boarding pass, they stepped out of the queue.” About half an hour after the flight was due to leave, the pilot came out of the cockpit to explain to passengers the reasons for the delay. “He said that while he believed the accusations were totally wrong, the police were called and the two men, and their luggage, had to be taken off the plane because two other passengers, who refused to get on the plane, thought they looked suspicious.”

Monarch, a UK-based airline, confirmed that two passengers “voluntary offloaded” themselves from flight ZB5408 and that “police were in attendance for two further passengers, who subsequently chose to travel today [Monday]. “Following an additional security check, the flight left 90 minutes later,” the company added in a statement. De Salvatore said that while some other passengers became anxious, there was relatively little panic on board, and the air stewards were very reassuring. The captain told passengers that the two men would be travelling to Rome the next morning as it was too late for them to make Sunday's flight.  “The pilot was so lovely," she said. “While I’m happy that safety measures are in place, these people need to be careful about who they wrongly accuse.”

The incident came on the same day passengers on board a Ryanair flight from Norway to Manchester were evacuated after two men were acting suspiciously. Shortly before the flight was due to take off from Moss airport in Rygge, just outside the Norwegian capital Oslo, passengers were asked to disembark and police carried out a search of the aircraft. Two men were detained by police for suspicious behaviour but were later released. Police said that the two men, one British and one Sri Lankan, had been heard arguing loudly in the toilet, and some passengers thought they heard the word 'bomb', according to media reports. Meanwhile, a passenger was removed from an easyJet flight in Pisa in early April after another passenger complained of “suspicious behaviour”. On the same day, Meghary Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, from London, told Britain’s ITV news that he was the victim of racial profiling after being asked to leave an easyJet plane that was readying for take-off from Rome on March 29th because another passenger “felt uncomfortable”.
© The Local - Italy

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As Germany's far right rises, so does its radical left

In Leipzig's Connewitz neighborhood, hundreds of left-wing radicals try to live outside Germany's system, butting heads with both police and far-right extremists.

19/5/2016- Thomas Noack tells anybody that will listen that Connewitz, his neighborhood in this half-million-resident city, is a charming place with lots of ordinary taxpayers, traditional bakeries and butchers, and even a famous Catholic hospital. But Mr. Noack's vocal enthusiasm for his native home is rooted partially in his frustration with Connewitz's less conventional residents: far-left radicals, known as "autonomists," opposed to the government. Connewitz is an alternative society, a neighborhood that may be home to many ordinary Leipzigers but whose nationwide reputation is dominated by its many far-left residents. The latter have for years tried to turn Connewitz into an enclave free of government intervention. They have occupied buildings about to be taken over by developers, attacked the city’s administrative office in the neighborhood, and even assaulted its new police station.

And though small in number – just a few hundred by one count – their vocal presence has thrown them back into the political limelight, especially as far-right extremists have gotten louder in Germany amid the refugee crisis and reactionary movements like Pegida. The right-wing radicals take particular delight in squaring off with Connewitz-style extremists, who are themselves fervently anti-Nazi – resulting in street fights and riots, in a kind of microcosm of Western Europe’s political polarization. “A generation is growing up that has no appreciation of values,” he explains at a Connewitz fair-trade café. “[Connewitz radicals] get unemployment benefits from the government, and when something is stolen they report it to the police, and yet they attack the police station and the unemployment office.... It’s completely illogical.”

The radical left
Though it receives less media coverage than its far-right foe, Germany’s far left is remarkably widespread. According to a recent study by the Free University in Berlin, one sixth of all Germans – and 28 percent of those residing in the former East Germany – hold far-left opinions. And whereas seven percent of Germany’s population support politically motivated violence, 14 percent of far-left and extreme-left Germans do so, according to the Free University study. “They’re anti-capitalist, they have radical opinions on moral issues such as justice, individual liberty, solidarity, and anti-racism,” explains Dieter Rink, a professor of urban studies at the University of Leipzig and a leading expert on social movements. “In the past, they would have been called anarchists.” Today, however, they’re commonly referred to as extreme left, and their activities in Connewitz attest to their political opinions. Many live commune-style, in cheap, unrenovated buildings, while others squat in derelict properties to keep developers away.

They run Linxxnet, a bookstore and community center (Links is German for left), and its soccer enthusiasts of all ages play for the Roter Stern soccer club. (Roter Stern translates to "red star," a communist symbol.) Younger residents gather at Conne Island, a community center that features a library, sports facilities, and a practice room for female DJs. Connewitz’s autonomists have even declared an Autonomous Republic of Connewitz. Connewitz autonomists have long marked their domain by means of graffiti and political stickers, using public spaces to decry various practices. “Stop the Nazis,” one slogan declares, while another one advertises the “Anti-Fascist Street-Fighting Connection.” Yet another popular slogan is ACAB – "All cops are bastards." And recently autonomists have taken to attacking Connewitz’s two-year-old police station. A particularly vicious attack took place last year, when some 50 autonomists threw Molotov cocktails, rocks, and paint cans at the police station. Two officers doing the night shift narrowly escaped injury but were traumatized.

A foe for the far right
This air of radical-left power has made Connewitz Germany’s preeminent left-wing enclave. But even though they mostly stay in their neighborhood, their left-wing radicalism has made them a particular hate object for right-wing radicals – and made Connewitz a lawless bastion begging to be conquered. “For right-wing radicals, Connewitz has taken on mythical proportions,” says Sascha Lange, an independent historian in Leipzig who has written a book about Germany’s youth subcultures. In scenes resembling eastern Germany’s chaotic early 1990s, right-wing radicals rail against Connewitz and sometimes stage marches through the neighborhood. In January, some 250 far-right radicals marched into the neighborhood, smashing windows as they went along. Fortunately, many of the autonomists were in the city center, taking part in a protest against the far-right Pegida movement, so a direct confrontation was avoided.

“Far-right groups are willing to use violence as a political tool,” says Dr. Lange. “When the government doesn’t deal with the far right, the far left says, 'OK, we’ll do it.' That’s what’s happening now.” Connewitz radicals have also turned up as a volunteer protection force when far right protesters march on halls where asylum seekers live. And when they encounter far-right groups, they use violence. “The clashes have been going on for six years now, but recently they have become more violent," says Professor Rink. "It’s part of the political polarization in Germany. Pegida has created a pogrom-like atmosphere.” And when the far left and the far right clash, they beat each other up. “It’s man against man,” says Rink. “But unlike the far right, to date the far left hasn’t killed anybody.” Still, the escalation is alarming. What makes the left-right clash all the more serious is the fact that the radical right is also strong in Saxony, the state where Leipzig lies. And like the Connewitz scene, Saxony's far right attracts supporters from other parts of the country.

Community in Connewitz
For his part, Noack says he has seen far-left radicalism increase in Connewitz over the past several years. But he and other non-radical residents of the neighborhood still try to maintain a normal, convivial atmosphere there. For 24 years now, Connewitz’s churches and locals have organized a street party. Last year, he proudly reports, no less than 70 groups and companies participated. Noack does have some sympathy for Connewitz radicals worried about gentrification, and suggests a round table where people of all stripes can discuss problems facing Connewitz and Leipzig. But he has a clear message to the most radical of his neighbors: Anyone who isn't happy with Germany “should simply emigrate.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

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German AfD 'nationalistic, authoritarian, misogynist,' says justice minister

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called for a substantive debate with the right-wing Alternative for Germany. The Social Democrat warned that the AfD's manifesto is a road map to a "Germany of yesterday."

17/5/2016- In a guest commentary for "Spiegel Online" on Tuesday, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that instead of "demonizing the AfD, we must carry out a substantive examination of it." The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany has enjoyed a surge in support in recent months, with opinion polls suggesting that the AfD now holds 12 to 14 percent of public support nationwide. The AfD's strong gains have coincided with public debate over refugees, as well as with renewed discussion of Islam in Germany. The AfD now holds seats in eight of the country's 16 state parliaments - and looks on course to claim national representation in next year's general elections. Reflecting upon the AfD's first official manifesto, which was presented in the western city of Stuttgart earlier this month, Maas said the party must "be held to their word."

Anti-Islam manifesto
Included in the AfD's manifesto were calls for a ban on minarets, public calls to prayer and headscarves in public schools. AfD members also voted to include a position against the euro currency, the European Union as a political entity, the presence of nuclear weapons in Germany, and the deployment of soldiers overseas. "The AFD manifesto is the roadmap to another Germany, to a Germany of yesterday," the justice minister warned on Tuesday. "Our country has a murky past, but our parents' generation has created a modern Germany: cosmopolitan and liberal domestically, good neighbors and peaceful partners abroad," he wrote.

'Nationalism and isolationism'
The right-wing populists are "not a good alternative for Germany," Maas said, adding that the party's supporters were "spiritual brothers of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Nationalist, authoritarian and misogynist." Since 1949 the target of a "united Europe" has been firmly anchored in the German constitution, Maas wrote, adding that overcoming nationalism was the great lesson of two world wars on German soil. The AfD, on the other hand, is demanding the dissolution of the European Union or Germany's withdrawal from it, Maas wrote. "Nationalism, isolationism and new limits are their responses to globalization," Maas wrote. "That would not only be politically fatal for our export nation, but also economically, as 60 percent of German foreign trade goes to EU countries. It would cost many people their jobs."

A discriminatory manifesto
The justice minister wrote that the biggest problem with the AfD is the party's stance on religious freedom. "How else should the sentence 'Islam does not belong to Germany' be understood?" Maas wrote. "If there are claims of a 'below-average level of education' of Muslims and warnings of an 'ethnocultural change' as a result of a high Muslim birth rate, then the line to biologistic racism has clearly been overstepped," he added. Despite their controversial policies, AfD politicians and party members insist that they're not far-right, but merely injecting "healthy patriotism" into a political landscape that lacks it.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Convicted neo-Nazi terrorist attends AfD Munich meeting

A convicted neo-Nazi terrorist was among the audience at a high-profile speech by Alternative For Germany (AfD) leader Frauke Petry on Sunday, with the right-wing populist party scrambling to distance itself.

17/5/2016- “AfD's Petry speaks in front of terrorist Nazi” was not the headline Alternative for Germany might have hoped for about their leader's appearance in the Hofbräukeller in Munich on Friday evening. But that was exactly the way mass-market tabloid Bild reported the story that Thomas Schatt - condemned to one-and-a-half years' jail in 2005 for planning to bomb a Jewish community centre – had attended the rally. The right-wing populists had already had to fight a legal battle against the renowned beer hall's owner after he attempted to cancel their booking, saying he feared violent counter-protests. But over the weekend Petry and her team found themselves fighting to distance themselves from Schatt and the clutch of far-right friends who joined him at the beer hall's tables. “People who represent such ideas don't have a political home with us,” Petry told Munich's Merkur newspaper on Monday. “As event organizers we'd love to do without these extremists,” agreed local AfD leader for eastern Munich Wilfried Biedermann. “They give a wholly false image of the event.” Local AfD leaders say that despite the fact that every guest had to register in advance by email and pay €18 for entry, they did not spot Schatt's name on the guest list. “We have no connection to any neo-Nazis,” said Petr Bystron, the chairman of AfD's Bavarian branch. “How should we know people like that?” Bystron added that far-left activists had often been present at AfD rallies without party leaders knowing of it in advance.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Proposed Erfurt mosque challenged by xenophobia (opinion)

Muslims want to build the first dedicated mosque in the state of Thuringia. PEGIDA and Alternative for Germany are rallying opposition to the project. They cannot be allowed to succeed, DW's Naomi Conrad writes.

17/5/2016- What exactly is the problem? A religious community wants to build a house of worship in an industrial park near Erfurt - miles from anywhere. The local press reports that the establishment's neighbors would be the Erfurt fire department, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the DEKRA technical inspection association. The 70 congregation members who would pray there would not likely cause traffic jams, take up public parking spaces or pick wildflowers from the farm field across the street. Nevertheless, Björn Höcke, the state parliament party leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Thuringia, suspects that the proposed building is simply a cover for a "long-term land grabbing project" and has ominously announced that he will present a "set of measures" to thwart the endeavor. Official opposition to the project will kick off with a concert this Wednesday. The motto is "Our Land, Our Culture, Our Decision." The event will feature a welcome speech by representatives of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement.

When such illustrious xenophobes stand arm in arm, one knows that the house of worship in question is not a Christian church or a local headquarters for Scientologists. The proposed development in Erfurt is, in fact, a relatively small mosque with a minaret; according to information provided by the Muslims who intend to build it, their modest place of worship will be about the size of a two-family house. The mosque would be the first constructed in Thuringia and, with the exception of Berlin, the third built in all of the former East Germany - the others being in Leipzig and Chemnitz. One should think that land-grabbing would look different. Nonetheless, AfD, PEGIDA and similar organizations would prefer that Muslims in the east continue to pray in apartments or former office buildings. But the worshippers complain that such spaces are often overcrowded.

Part of Germany
Why are Muslims treated like they should be ashamed of their religion or need to apologize for it? Some Germans act as if they were guests here and not neighbors and fellow citizens. One cannot prohibit people from being racists - or even from propagating the ridiculous prejudices against Islam and Muslims that often result in hate crimes and violence. But, thankfully, we - and, above all, our politicians - do not have to listen to them. Islam, Muslims and their houses of worship are part of Germany. Let's not allow AfD and others to convince us that they do not. If we do, the country will soon be a lot less livable for everybody - and that would be the real problem.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: More arson at refugee centers, police say

The chief of the Federal Police Office in Germany said growing numbers of xenophobic attacks on refugee centers is concerning as there have already been 45 arsons reported so far this year

16/5/2016- German authorities on Saturday reported an increase in the number of arsons at shelters for refugees who arrived in Germany last year, raising concerns about anti-migrant violence. "This year, there have already been 45 arsons," said Holger Muench, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). "What is particularly worrisome is the increasing scale of the violence," he said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group. In 2015, when Germany opened its doors to 1.1 million migrants mostly from war-torn Syria, 92 arsons at centers for asylum seekers were reported, compared with only six in 2014, according to BKA statistics published in late January. Muench said he did not have any knowledge of large-scale far-right groups being behind the fires, adding the majority were set by men from the areas near the torched shelters. He did however say he was worried about rising hate speech on the Internet about refugees, which could be a trigger for arson.

Several major German media outlets, including the online edition of the Der Spiegel magazine, have closed down their discussion forums related to the influx of refugees due to the flood of insults posted. The mass influx of migrants last year sparked a backlash in Germany, including the rise of the xenophobic and anti-Islam Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) movement, which bitterly opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal migration policy. This year Germany has seen a sharp drop in arrivals of new refugees since it reintroduced temporary border controls and took other steps to reduce numbers. The EU has also since agreed on a deal with Turkey to stop refugees crossing to Greece by boat.

Arsons at refugee shelters and xenophobic sentiment in the country are not new phenomena. According to government data released last summer, 150 arsons or other attacks have been recorded in the first six months of 2015, damaging or destroying newly renovated shelters for refugees, who are mostly from Syria and Iraq. The attacks, often erupting from local protests against the shelters before refugees arrive, have tarnished the image of a country that has done so much to atone for its Nazi past. They have also caused tensions as many Germans support the refugees. In February, a former hotel, which was being modified to be used as an accommodation for refugees, caught fire as a result of a suspected arson in the eastern German town of Bautzen in Saxony. A crowd reportedly cheered as the hotel was burning and the work of the fire brigade was massively hindered by a few, mostly drunk, onlookers. The officials said that they had to expel three people from the scene of the fire because of this. "Some people reacted to the arson with derogatory comments and undisguised joy," police said in a statement.

Despite warnings from political figures against xenophobia, the trend continues across the country. Critics assailed the government for failing to move quickly and decisively enough to counter the violence and of indirectly encouraging attacks through inaction or, worse, populist comments against foreigners who abuse asylum policies. In April, a German anti-terror unit carried out dawn raids to capture five far-right extremist suspects accused of attacking refugee shelters and political opponents, federal prosecutors said. The suspects, four men and a woman, are accused of belonging to a far-right terrorist organization called the Freital Group, named after an eastern town that has seen a rash of racist protests that have shocked the country. "According to preliminary investigations, the aim of the group was to carry out explosive attacks on homes for asylum seekers and political enemies," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement. It said the suspects stockpiled hundreds of fireworks from the Czech Republic to use in attacks. The assaults included using fireworks to blow out the windows of the kitchen of a refugee shelter in Freital in September 2015.

The far-right has benefited greatly from public discourse with a slant against Muslims. In recent days, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as well as the xenophobic and PEGIDA movement has surged. Anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments have become more visible in the country as a result of this. These sentiments have increased across Europe as well. There has been a shift toward right-wing parties, which have been gaining popularity amid rising public fears regarding the refugee influx. Recently, polls indicate a rise in support for right-wing populist parties in France, Austria, Poland and Switzerland.
© The Daily Sabah

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Germany: Brawl at migrant shelter leaves 14 injured

Fourteen people have been injured after two separate fights broke out at a migrant shelter. Police are investigating an attempted homicide after a 14-year-old Afghan boy was critically injured.

15/5/2016- The 14-year-old Afghan boy suffered severe head injuries after being punched and stomped on during a Saturday night brawl that involved at least 50 people, police said. The free-for-all followed a fight on Friday night at the same shelter in the northern German district of Verden, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) northwest of Hanover. The Friday night clash saw at least 30 Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish migrants going at each other with iron bars and fire extinguishers, police said. Police were able to put down the riot after a large deployment of officers. It is unclear what exactly triggered the second clash, but police said it was likely a continuation of Friday night's violence, which was allegedly caused by the theft of a speaker. Police said they had set up a commission to investigate the violence and attempted homicide. One 19-year-old suspect has been temporally detained. Germany took in nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, a number that has stressed resources and accommodations.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Finland says refugees can return to safe Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia

17/5/2016- Finland tightened restrictions on giving residence permits to asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia on Tuesday, saying it was now largely safe for them to return to their war-torn homes. Authorities in Helsinki, where anti-immigration political groups have been on the rise, said security had improved to such an extent that refugees would generally not be at risk in any parts of the three countries, despite the running conflicts. There was no immediate reaction from refugee agencies. But the statement by the Finnish Immigration Service came in the face of a string of international assessments of the scale of the ongoing bloodshed and refugee crisis. "It will be more difficult for applicants from these countries to be granted a residence permit," the immigration service said in a statement. "It is currently possible for asylum seekers to return to all areas in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia without the ongoing armed conflicts as such presenting a danger to them only because they are staying in the country."

Asylum seekers would now only be allowed to stay if they could prove that they were individually at risk. Somalia has been slowly recovering from more than two decades of war. But the government is still fighting an Islamist insurgency by the militant group al Shabaab, which regularly launches gun and bomb attacks in the capital Mogadishu and other cities. Islamic State still holds key cities and vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq which it seized in 2014. Despite battlefield setbacks over the past year, the militants have continued to attack civilians in areas under government control including a string of attacks last week in and around the capital that killed more than 100 people. The Taliban launched a spring offensive in Afghanistan last month, vowing to drive out the Western-backed government in Kabul and restore strict Islamic rule.

Finland's center-right coalition government – which includes nationalist Finns party – has tightened its immigration policies since the influx of asylum seekers last year. Groups of self-proclaimed patriots have launched regular patrols and marches, saying they want to protect locals from immigrants. Around 32,500 people applied for asylum in 2015 from 3,600 in 2014, with most of them coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Numbers have come down significantly this year.
© Reuters

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Finnish right-wing group dealt trademark blow

The name representing the anti-immigrant street patrol group Soldiers of Odin is now a registered trademark.

17/5/2016- The application was filed with the Finnish Patent and Registration Office PRH in February - the same month in which the group achieved association status - by the Finn Riikka Yrttiaho, who is currently studying in Sweden. The trademark application was approved just under one month ago. An Yle search of the PRH database revealed that the trademark was approved for garments, footwear and headgear. "There are plans underway to manufacture high quality local handicraft, and there’ll be no lack of unicorns and glitter," Yrttiaho said.

Trademark registration an anti-racism protest
It turns out that Yrttiaho is not a card-carrying member of the self-proclaimed security outfit, but has registered the trademark as an anti-racism protest. Yrttiaho said her move also aims to question the February decision by PRH officials to accept Soldiers of Odin as a legally-registered association. "As long as a racist street patrol group is allowed to operate in Finland as a registered organisation, there may also be room for harmless groups to register and organise," Yrttiaho declared. In February Yle reported that the PRH accepted the group’s application to become a registered association in February. The new status allows the organisation to legally engage in publishing activities, organise lotteries, run coffee shops and sell clothes. The former chair of the Kallio chapter of the Left Alliance said that she crowdsourced the 215 euros required for the trademark application.

The window for objections to the application is still open and during this time anyone may attempt to reverse the PRH trademark decision. Once the objection period ends however, requests for changes will have to go before the Market Court. Opposition to Soldiers of Odin has also spawned a clown-filled spoof group known as Loldiers of Odin. The far-right group formed under the guidance of truck driver Mika Ranta in Kemi last autumn after the arrival of asylum seekers in the northern town. At the time Ranta told Finnish media that concern for the community prompted him to round up like-minded individuals also professing a desire to protect locals. Local and international media have reported widely on the group's Nazi links and on Ranta's previous brushes with the law - in 2005 he was convicted of a racially-motivated attack against two immigrants.
© YLE News.

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Finland: Repentant Nazi: "What I was doing was crazy"

About two years ago the co-founder and leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM), Esa Holappa, quietly left Finland’s most militant neo-Nazi group. Explaining the reasons behind his departure for the very first time, he tells Yle’s Spotlight programme that he simply could not reconcile raising children while continuing to work for the hate group.

15/5/2016- "I thought about my time in the Nazi movement," the 31-year old Holappa says now. "And I suddenly realised that what I was doing was crazy." While he seems confident that it was the right decision to leave the racist group he helped establish, his departure has not been trouble-free. "Of course I cannot erase my past days as a neo-Nazi—even if I wanted to," Holappa says. "I can’t deny my past and say it never happened. On the other hand I can be proud that I grew up and left behind all the anger and distrust. I left once I took a long look at myself in the mirror; I was able to see how wrong racism and white power truly are." He says that he’d been exposed to those divisive ideals at a young age and that he freely allowed them to become part of his life. Until a couple of years ago he says he did not permit himself to consider questioning his overt nationalism and racist ideas.

Murderers and violent criminals
For years, he says, he believed what he was doing was right. During that time Holappa invested a lot of effort building a comprehensive international network in order to form the FRM, which was formally established in 2008. His list of international contacts included people from notorious neo-Nazi groups and scores of other racist and nationalist organisations. In his four years at the helm of the hate group Holappa says he kept company with murderers and violent criminals from around the world and that he even helped a wanted German neo-Nazi hide from authorities in his own home. Officially, Holappa was listed as the leader of the FRM but he now says that his position was mostly as a figurehead - the real leaders worked secretly behind the scenes. While the group still has only a few dozen active members and supporters, the group is an arm of the umbrella organisation the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM).

Based in Sweden, the NRM says its goal is to create a national socialist republic across the Nordic and Baltic countries. The group also has factions in Norway and Denmark but they are significantly less active than their Swedish and Finnish counterparts. The FRM is Finland’s most militant neo-Nazi group. Like their Nordic brothers, violence is a central part of FRM’s ideology. Finnish law enforcement is well aware of the FRM and keeps a close watch on the group. The number of FRM members has nearly doubled in the past few years. The group expanded from about 30 to 40 members only a few years ago to an estimated 60 to 70 activists, members and supporting members being involved today. Members of the Nordic Resistance keep in touch with each other, travel to meetings and participate in each other’s actions and activities.

"Patriots", not Nazis
But, unlike non-extremist groups, the NRM says that in order to achieve its goals, bloodshed and violence would likely be key ingredients. The group praises the likes of Adolf Hitler and the forefather of antisemitism Corneliu Codreanu. At this point, the number of neo-Nazi groups in Finland do not appear to be growing at an uncontrollable pace. But since the European refugee crisis began to unfold last summer, there has been a notable uptick in interest in racist and xenophobic notions and organisations across Europe and in Finland, too. The FRM promptly took note of this potential wave of new members and began softening its harsher image as a neo-Nazi group. Instead of neo-Nazis, members of the group now characterise themselves as "nationalists" or "patriots". Some members say they aren’t necessarily against the presence of foreigners in the country; instead they claim to be "defending Finns". Members of the FRM created a "Finns first" group called Finnish Aid Suomalaisapu. According to its own press releases and photos, members distributed food to needy Finns and carried out other apparently-benign services like cleaning up graffiti from a statue of national hero Carl Gustaf Mannerheim.

Not an imminent threat--but strengthening all the time
With only a few dozen members, law enforcement authorities say that FRM does not pose an imminent threat to Finnish society or democracy. But not for lack of trying. Through demonstrations, riots and spreading of propaganda and anti-immigrant stickers, the organisation continues to unite and strengthen the development right-wing nationalist and racist groups throughout the country. Not long after the first of more than 30 thousand asylum seekers began to arrive to Finland last year, an FRM member in the city of Kemi decided to start a citizen vigilante street patrol. After asking permission to start the patrol group, FRM member Mika Ranta founded the Soldiers of Odin. Their patrols of cities and towns across the country are carried out by black-jacketed volunteers, purportedly to keep the streets of Finland "safe".

During interviews with the media, Ranta has insisted the SOO is not a neo-Nazi group, but a nationalist one. However the two organisations appear to be at least casually intermingled. Each group refers to one another positively on their respective websites. The FRM called the street patrol group a "patriotic organisation."Additionally the SOO’s online videos often feature the FRM’s unmistakable logo of a green diamond and upwards-pointing black arrow.

Odd bedfellows - Russian allies
In recent years the Nordic Resistance Movement has grown friendlier towards Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In an internet radio interview Swedish Resistance Movement member Emil Hagberg said that he would rather see Sweden occupied by Russia rather than be under its current government. Klas Lund, the Swedish group’s leader at the time, agreed, dismissing the threat of Russia as nonsense, saying the real threat existed to the south and the west - rather than to the east. Holappa explains that members who criticised Putin and Russia - or those who defended the Ukraine - were branded as "Jews" or "Zionists," with the effect of silencing any dissent about the movement’s leadership.

Last year, members of the NRM attended the far right-wing International Russian Conservative Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The annual meeting was organised by the Russian political party Rodina, also known as the Motherland-National Patriotic Union, and during the conference participants adopted a resolution to coordinate what they characterised as "conservative forces" across Russia and Europe. Given Finland’s troubled history with its giant Russian neighbour, far-right groups in Finland have traditionally been hostile towards Russia, a situation that has caused the FRM to be more cautious in supporting Russian issues than their Swedish counterparts.

Holappa quietly leaves FRM in 2014
After about four years of being the co-founder, figurehead and ostensible leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement, Holappa quietly left the group in the year 2014. "I began to ask myself whether I really want to raise my children to become part of this movement," he says. "Did I want them to live a life as closed off as mine was; I saw enemies everywhere I looked. I thought about my time in the Nazi movement. And I suddenly realised that what I was doing was crazy." These days when he hears about new things his former colleagues have carried out, he says that he still feels somehow responsible. He says that he thinks about his past every single day, and that he is unable to just forget about it. "I was 13 or 14 years old when I became interested in national socialism. The more I read, the more ‘truths’ I found. My reading confirmed what I believed." "I became a Nazi wholeheartedly. Now I have to redefine my life and get to know myself again. Who and what am I?" Holappa says.

This story originally appeared in Swedish as part of a series of articles on Holappa's spell in the FRM by Marko Hietikko. You can read the originals here, and Finnish translations here.
© YLE News.

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Poland: Protesters call for near-total ban on abortions

Activists backed by Catholic church want parliament to allow terminations only when needed to save a woman’s life

15/5/2016- Anti-abortion groups have held marches across Poland in support of calls for a near-total ban on terminations in the staunchly Catholic country, where abortions are already heavily restricted. The current law adopted in 1993 bans all terminations except in pregnancies that result from rape or incest, pose a health risk to the mother, or where the fetus is severely deformed. Now activists backed by the Catholic church want to table a citizens’ bill in parliament that would allow abortions only when necessary to save a woman’s life. The proposal would also increase the maximum prison sentence for people who perform unauthorised abortions from two years to five. “Today we are calling on our state authorities to guarantee full legal protection of unborn children,” Paweł Kwaśniak, the head of the Warsaw-based anti-abortion NGO that organised the protests, told more than a thousand people at a rally in the capital. Organisers said similar rallies were held on Sunday in 140 towns across the country.

Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was elected in November, has endorsed the restrictive bill at the risk of alienating voters. The petition needs 100,000 signatures to be examined by parliament. The organisers have said they will continue trying to gather signatures until the end of June. However, an opinion poll published in March found that, far from supporting further restrictions, 51% of Poles want wider access to abortions. Thousands of people have attended protests against the proposed tightening of the law, with opponents launching their own plan to garner 100,000 signatures supporting a bill liberalising abortion. Three former Polish first ladies have denounced the citizen’s bill, insisting that making it harder to access abortions would only “aggravate women’s tragedy”. Fewer than 2,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. There are no official statistics on the number of illegal abortions performed, or on the number of women who travel abroad for the procedure to countries including Austria, Germany and Slovakia, which women’s rights organisations estimate to be between 100,000 and 150,000 a year.
© AFP

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Ukraine: Human rights festival carries on despite anti-gay threats

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Journalism of Tolerance project by the Kyiv Post and its affiliated non-profit organization, the Media Development Foundation. The project covers challenges faced by sexual, ethnic and other minorities in Ukraine, as well as people with physical disabilities and those living in poverty. This project is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development and Internews. Content is independent of the donors.

14/5/2016- The Equality Festival, an event focused on the rights of the minorities, took place in Kyiv on May 14 despite the anti-gay activists' attempts to disrupt the event.
The event was organized in support of the disrupted Equality Festival in Lviv. The Lviv festival was planned for March 19 but was stopped when some 150 radical anti-gay activists tried to attack the participants. Several participants were beaten but police made no arrests. The festival was paused because of the bomb threat call when about 70 participants were evacuated from the MediaHub, an event space in central Pechersk district. The festival resumed after the police checked the building and found no bombs.

Some 20 radical anti-gay protesters gathered near the festival place, but no violence has erupted. Police surrounded the place to keep the protesters out. More than 50 riot police officers and National Guard guarded the site of the festival. Soon after the festival started a man in a military uniform who called himself a member of the Azov volunteer battalion handed the participants a skin antiseptic, telling them to "treat their wounds," and a Vaseline lubricate, implying a sexual act between gay men. The festival participants included Norwegian Ambassador to Ukraine and Belarus Jon Elvedal Fredriksen and Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine Judith Gough, and activists of LGBT organizations, representatives of Ukraine's feminist movement, groups for ethnic minorities’ rights and the rights of the people with disabilities.

The festival program featured lectures, discussions, film screenings and music performances that were originally supposed to take place at the Lviv festival. “We speak out not only for the rights of the LGBT people, but for human rights in general,” said Olena Shevchenko, the head of Insight, the LGBT rights group behind the festival. The Kyiv authorities supported the festival, saying that "there is no place for any kind of discrimination in a developed democratic society," according to the website of Kyiv City Administration.
© The Kyiv Post

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World: Rape, murder and abuse: The penalty for being a gay woman today

14/5/2016- Despite a general global trend towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality, it is still illegal to be a lesbian or bisexual woman in almost a quarter of countries across the world today, according to a new report. Barbados, Morocco, Dominica, Maldives, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are just a few of the places where homosexuality is classified as a criminal act. A survey by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT), a charity that supports challenges to anti-gay laws worldwide, has revealed the devastating ways in which the laws against homosexuality impact millions of vulnerable homosexual women. In some countries, women had endured sexual and physical violence, rape and abuse from the police as well as state-sanctioned family and community abuse – all purely based on their sexual orientation or being a suspected homosexual.

Seventy-eight per cent of women surveyed in India said they had felt suicidal, or had experienced some form of violence, just for being gay. Lesbian and bisexual women are particularly vulnerable to violation of their human rights, a result of their sexual orientation and gender. Most have no option but to be forced into heterosexual marriages, meaning they may have little or no control over their sexual and reproductive choices – and resulting in a life time of undocumented and state-sanctioned rape. Economically, homosexual women are also disadvantaged as a result of their gender. In the majority of countries that still see homosexuality as a criminal offence, men are the breadwinners. They also tend to be limited when it comes to education - and even if they did earn money for themselves, the gender pay gap is incredibly restrictive. All these factors combined, see millions of homosexual women dependent on husbands they never wanted in the first place.

One woman in Cameroon described how she couldn't visit her children because she was a lesbian. “My brothers told my children’s fathers that I was a lesbian. Immediately a family meeting was convened, and it was decided that I should not bring the children up. I had no say, because I am a lesbian. I still try and contact my children to visit them, but the fathers deny me visits,” she said. Tea Braun, legal director of the HDT said women were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. "The point is that while a lot of the types of discrimination and abuse can happen to anybody in the LGBT community, often women are more vulnerable to sexual violence such as ‘corrective rape’ as well as family abuse and control. "Gay men may in some cases find it easier to have a sham marriage but still meet with other gay men. There is more control and restrictions over a woman’s freedom," Braun added.

Britain was originally responsible for criminalising homosexuality during the 19th century, enforcing the law upon the Commonwealth. While the UK has moved forward and laws have been changed, 80 per cent of Commonwealth countries still view homosexuality as a crime. 'Breaking the Silence', the report from HDT, aims to address this LGBTI persecution and cater to the specific needs of female homosexuality, with the aim of eradicating violence against women. Baroness Barker, a Liberal Democrat peer said: “There is not another document in existence that looks so comprehensively at the legal and social impact of anti-gay laws on women. The effects are heart-breaking.” The report contains harrowing accounts. One Burundian woman whose female lover, Mou, was killed by her husband said: “Mou was stabbed to death by some miscreant hired by my husband. That fateful night that Mou was killed, my husband raped me. During the forced intercourse, my husband depicted to me how Mou was killed.”

Justice Edwin Cameron, of the constitutional court of South Africa, said: “The HDT report reminds us that LGBT people are not a homogeneous group. Lesbians and bisexual women, as a sub-group experience distinct and additional human rights violations from those of gay men.”
© The Telegraph

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Headlines 13 May, 2016

Greece: Ex-aide to former PM forms far-right party

13/5/2016- Failos Kranidiotis, a lawyer and former aide to ex-prime minister Antonis Samaras, launched a political party called New Right Friday, aimed at drawing voters from the hard right of the political spectrum. Kranidiotis launched the new party a few weeks after he was ousted from conservative New Democracy by leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis over controversial online comments he posted in response to a diplomatic faux pas by Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. New Right is the second hard-right party to be launched in the past few weeks, following the announcement of National Unity, formed by former nationalist LAOS chief Giorgos Karatzaferis and ex-Samaras cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos.
© The Kathimerini.

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Greece: Migrant arrivals drop amid EU-Turkey pact tensions

13/5/2016- The number of migrants arriving in Greece has plummeted thanks in part to the European Union’s pact with Turkey, the EU border agency said Friday, amid signs that the widely-criticized agreement to stop people heading to Europe could unravel. The Frontex border agency said fewer than 2,700 people had entered Greece in April, a 90 percent drop from the previous month. It attributed the decline to the effect of the EU-Turkey deal and tight border controls at the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which has been shut to migrants since early March. “The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic,” Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said, adding that April’s total was well below the daily figure arriving on the island of Lesvos alone during the peak months last year.

Officials say the agreement for Turkey to stop migrants heading to European shores and take back thousands who have arrived since March 20 is working, but the government in Ankara is opposing an EU demand that Turkey’s anti-terror law be modified. The demand is part of EU requirements to secure visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens. The visa waiver is an incentive – along with up to 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and fast-track EU membership talks – for Turkey to stop migrants reaching Europe and take back thousands more. But given the recent spate of suicide attacks, Turkey refuses to change the law. “If there is a difficulty in this particular element then perhaps all of the elements of the package we have discussed and decided in the last months will be at stake,” Turkish European Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said Thursday.

The aim of the deal, agreed on in March, was to stop the flow of hundreds of thousands of people from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, which had become by far the most popular route for refugees and migrants into Europe. Under the agreement, those arriving on Greek islands on or after March 20 faced deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully applied for asylum in Greece – something the vast majority are reluctant to do in a financially stricken country where about a quarter of the workforce is unemployed. On Friday, 118 people reached the islands of Chios and Kos, Greek government figures showed. The EU-Turkey deal and Balkan land border closures have left more than 54,700 people stranded in Greece, with the country scrambling to build enough refugee camps to house them all. More than 9,300 remain at the Greek-FYROM border near the village of Idomeni, in a makeshift unofficial camp, with most living in small donated tents pitched in fields and along railway tracks.

According to Frontex, most new arrivals on the Greek islands were from Syria, with far fewer numbers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency said the number of migrants along the Balkans route from Greece north toward preferred destinations in Austria, Germany and Scandinavia had also dropped as a result of the border closures. It also said that the number of people entering Italy from across the Mediterranean surpassed those arriving in Greece for the first time in almost a year.
© The Associated Press

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Bulgaria: Police Arrests Migrants and Smugglers Across the Country

Bulgarian police have captured 55 migrants and ten suspected smugglers in a large-scale operation against illegal migration carried out on Friday.

13/5/2016- Bulgarian police have detained 33 people for 24 hours in the operation, which is still ongoing in 11 cities and in border areas with Turkey and Serbia, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. Over 1,400 officers have been involved in checks on hostels, restaurants, shops, vehicles and other locations across the country. “This is a part of our approach for managing migration pressure – not only border protection, but checks and registration of the illegal immigrants inside the country”, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova told National Television. She added that it was a routine operation and of a kind are carried out regularly, “when a need is identified”. The largest action against illegal migration until now was undertaken in November 2015, when police arrested 320 people after raids across the whole country.

Bulgaria has applied tough measures to halt illegal migration, including allowing the army to participate in border patrols. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/police-arrests-migrants-and-smugglers-across-bulgaria-05-13-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=1aab073fcc-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-1aab073fcc-308289045#sthash.DyJLDV8X.dpuf


Bulgaria has applied tough measures to halt illegal migration, including allowing the army to participate in border patrols. Since 2014, the authorities have been building a 132-km-long barbed wired fence along the border with Turkey, which is still incomplete. The construction of the so-called “temporary prevention facility” has been criticized by human rights groups and by the opposition in Bulgaria. One complaint is that the work has gone on for a long time and has already absorbed tens of millions leva from the budget. On Friday, the government announced that it has allocated new 6.2 million leva (around 3.1 million euros) for the fence in the area around the southeastern city of Burgas. At the end of January, another 34 million leva (around 17 million euros) were added up to the initially planned 30 million leva (around 15 million euros) for the facility.

The police added that on Friday charges were pressed against a man with criminal record, arrested with a group of 25 migrants, all from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including three children. They were captured in a village house near Dimovo, a town close to Bulgaria’s northeast border with Serbia, allegedly waiting for smugglers to transfer them across the border. Twelve of the migrants had documents from the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees, which means they had applied for asylum in Bulgaria, but decided to continue on their way to Western Europe. Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to ŕ protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on May 5.
© Balkan Insight
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Czech Rep: Pig farm at Lety will apparently remain on Romani Holocaust site, talks going nowhere

13/5/2016- The pig farm currently occupying the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety by Písek will apparently remain there. Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who has led several negotiations with the owner, says no concrete conclusion has arisen from the dialogue. At the sites occupied by the pig farm today there was a camp during the Second World War in which more than 300 Romani people perished. The victims today were remembered at the nearby memorial by the surviving relatives and the public during a commemorative ceremony at Lety, which was attended by Dienstbier and by Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán (ANO). "We are acting on this matter, but at this moment there is no fundamental change to discuss. We want a dignified sacred site here. It is understandable that for the surviving relatives of the victims it is unacceptable that a pig farm is standing at such a place. Try to imagine something of the sort, for example, at Auschwitz," Dienstbier said.

The costs of buying the farm are estimated in the hundreds of millions of Czech crowns. The camp at Lety was opened in August 1940, first as a disciplinary labor camp. The same sort of facility also existed in Hodonín by Kunštát. In January 1942 both camps were changed into transit camps, and in August, "Gypsy camps" were established at both locations. From then until May 1943 a total of 1 308 Romani children, men and women passed through the Lety camp, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom were transport-ted to Auschwitz. Less than 600 Romani prisoners ever returned to the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from the concentration camps. According to estimates, 90 % of Czech Roma were murdered by the Nazis. Today the commemorative site at Lety is administered by the Lidice Memorial.

Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), which holds the commemorative ceremony every year, said he would welcome the appointment of a different entity to take care of the site. Last autumn he sent a letter to the Czech Government to that effect, stating that he would prefer the commemorative site be administered by the VPORH itself. "It is probably appropriate to respect the wishes of the relatives of the victims. I personally would consider it most logical if the administration of such a site were performed by the Museum of Romani Culture," Dienstbier said.
© Romea.

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Dutch Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding

13/5/2016- A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation. Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had per-mission to stay in the Netherlands. After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported. According to the NRC, the woman, her children and brother fled Syria while her hus-band was in prison. In Germany, the men were separated from the women and her brother made it clear he wanted to go the Netherlands. The woman, who is 24, was registered as a refugee in Germany but all five ended up at the refugee centre in Weert. Under EU law, refugees are supposed to go through the asylum procedure in the first country they reach. It is not clear how the family made it to Germany. The mayor said that separating the family would have serious consequences as the brother had taken on the role of father. But the Dutch Society of Mayors (NGB) said Heijmans had put himself ‘above the law’ through his actions.

Court
Heijmans, from the centrist-Liberal D66 party, said he had started new legal proceedings to keep the family in the Netherlands. ‘They would have been put on a train to Germany on May 3,’ he told reporters later on Friday. ‘I am 100% behind my actions and I have visited them in hiding a couple of times. They are doing well.’ The local branch of the right-wing Liberal VVD has criticised Heijmans, saying his actions are not in the interests of the family, Weert and its residents. ‘We want the mayor to explain himself,’ a spokesman said. Local party Weert Lokaal, which is the biggest party on the town council, said it understood the mayor’s actions. ‘From a human point of view, we can understand what he has done,’ party leader Leon Kusters said.
© The Dutch News

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Hungary's anti-migrant policies may violate international law: UNHCR

12/5/2016- Hungary's actions to keep out migrants, including fast-track trials to punish those who breach its border fence, may conflict with international refugee and human rights conventions, the United Nations said on Thursday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken an increasingly anti-foreigner stance since migrants began pouring into Europe last year, building a heavily guarded border fence and rejecting an EU quota system to share out migrants among member states. Despite strong criticism from EU headquarters in Brussels and some major EU members including Germany, the right-wing Orban's approach has gone down well in Hungary, a country with few immigrants and little experience of multiculturalism.

A new report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that legislation recently passed in Budapest has limited and deterred access to Hungary for those seeking refuge from war and persecution. "UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns regarding compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country's international and European obligations," it said. By "obligations", the UNHCR was referring to protection for people fleeing the threat of war or persecution in their home countries, and prompt processing of asylum applications.

The U.N. refugee agency criticized Hungary's fence and a procedure whereby migrants arriving at the frontier must submit their asylum requests in so-called "transit zones". "The asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union and international standards, in particular concerning procedural safeguards, judicial review and freedom of movement," the report said. A Hungarian government spokesman was not immediately reachable for comment on the UNHCR's remarks. Hungary also introduced legislation in September 2015 that allows courts to order the expulsion of migrants for illegally breaching the border fence.

The UNHCR said prison sentences had been "imposed following fast-tracked trials of questionable fairness, and (the sentences) are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application". The report said the UNHCR was also concerned about a number of migrants kept in detention without clear time limits pending expulsion to neighboring, non-EU Serbia, which had accepted only two people per week on average since January. Orban's government rejects a plan, agreed by a majority of EU governments last year, to redistribute 160,000 migrants around the 28-nation bloc to ease the burden on Greece and Italy, where most migrants first set foot on EU soil.

Hungary erected a steel fence along its border with Serbia and Croatia to bar migrants, many of whom have fled war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. After domino-like closures of borders across the Balkans between Greece and Hungary, the heavy northwards flow of migrants - most of them bound ultimately for wealthy western EU countries like Germany and Sweden rather than smaller central EU states like Hungary - seen in 2015 has since subsided. But Hungarian officials say migrant numbers have risen again somewhat with warmer summer weather arriving, with some trying to cut through the fence despite a heavy police presence.
© Reuters

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Iceland: Bookstores Hide controversial Book About Hatred Against Muslims

A former MP known for his anti-immigrant stance has accused a major book store of censorship for not shelving a controversial book he translated.

11/5/2016- Former MP of the Liberal Party Magnús Þór Hafsteinsson recently translated the book Islam. Den 11. landeplage, by Norwegian author Hege Storhaug, into Icelandic. This book – whose title means Islam, the 11th national plague – has sparked considerable criticism for being bigoted. Magnús Þór now accuses bookstores in Iceland of censorship. Stundin reports that bookstore Mál og menning – one of the two biggest in Iceland – kept the book under the counter and not visible for customers to see. According to the bookstore, the book spreads hate and is therefore not appropriate to put on the shelves. The back cover of the book reads: “Islam, the 11th national plague, is a book with educational material. In these threatening times, it carries an extremely urgent message for everyone. Do not miss it!” Furthermore, the book contends that Muslims and asylum seekers threaten the freedom of Western civilization. “It is absurd to call this book hate speech,” Magnús Þór told reporters. “Where is the freedom of printing if they do not want to sell your book?”

This is not the first time Magnús Þór has stated his opinion on asylum seekers. In 2008, he objected to Akranes welcoming 30 asylum seekers from Palestine. Furthermore, the Liberal Party was often accused of spreading Islamophobia and bigotry during the 2006-7 parliamentary election season. The Norwegian author Hege Storhaug has caused a lot of commotion in Norway as well, and not only because of this book. She is the head of Human Rights Service, an organisation that has been accused of Islamophobia and racism by Antirasistisk Senter in Norway and by author Sindre Bangstad, who wrote Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia. Magnús Þór and Hege Storhaug both state it is censorship not to have the books visible for the public in the bookshops. Due to complaints from the publisher, the book has been put onto the least visible shelves of the store.
© The Reykjavik Grapevine

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France: Rap star show at war centenary pulled after far right objects

13/5/2016- French authorities have pulled the plug on a popular rap star's show during war commemorations in the town of Verdun after a clamor of criticism, notably from far-rightists who said the singer's presence was inappropriate. The rapper, Black M, was to have performed after a late-May memorial ceremony where Germany leader Angela Merkel and French counterpart Francois Hollande are set to mark the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of World War One. Verdun Mayor Samuel Hazard told local newspaper l'Est Republican he was sorry to have canceled the concert on grounds of concerns for public order. "Kids love him ... it hurt to see our country riven by so many divisions," he said.

Florian Philippot, second in command to far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, said the decision to abandon the show was welcome, and that he failed to understand how it could ever have been programmed in the first place. Day's earlier, Marine Le Pen's niece Marion Marechal Le Pen, also a National Front politician, condemned the Black M concert plan, saying the singer had in the past sung songs that spoke of France as a country of infidels. "It's inadmissible to involve an 'artist' who has insulted France so violently in any official commemoration whatsoever of our history and homage to out fighters," she said earlier this week.

The rhetoric in question was reminiscent of terminology used by the Islamic State, she said, referring to the Islamic militant group that controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria and claimed responsibility for the attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers that killed 130 people in Paris last November. Public support for the anti-immigrant National Front has grown over recent years in France to the point where it garnered more votes than any other party in the first round of recent regional elections.
© Reuters UK.

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French Campaign Takes on Hate Speech, Discrimination

11/5/2016- First came the videos, half a dozen graphic spots re-enacting "real life" racist and anti-Semitic acts. Then giant posters appeared along roads and transportation hubs literally offering a black-and-white message about workplace discrimination. A year after France’s leftist government announced a three-year, $115 million plan to fight racism and anti-Semitism, a pair of national publicity campaigns are taking aim at the issue. “We had no choice but to act very thoroughly and effectively against increased threats,” notably far-right hate speech and virulent anti-Semitism from a “tiny minority” of radical Muslims, says Gilles Clavreul of DILCRA, an inter-ministerial office that works to counter racism and anti-Semitism in France. The government plan includes an array of proposals, from deepening sanctions and the Internet fight against hate speech, to launching school and citizen education programs.

Despite an overall increase in hate acts last year, Clavreul cites signs of progress. New figures in May show what he calls a "significant" drop in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts. A report released by France’s National Consultative Commission of Human Rights (CNCDH) also finds an increase in French tolerance of diversity, even after a year bracketed by two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. “There is a need for fraternity and social cohesion that is making people open up to those who are different,” says the commission president, Christine Lazerges. Looking more closely at last year’s figures, she adds, anti-Muslim acts peaked after each terrorist attack, but were generally on par with previous years.

Long road to tolerance
France is not the only European country grappling with intolerance. Far-right groups are gaining ground across Europe, feeding on the immigration crisis and rising fears of militant Islam. In March, the Council of Europe warned hate speech in France has “become commonplace.” The issue is all the more sensitive since France has the region’s largest commu-nities of Muslims and Jews, many of North African extraction. While the government's communications campaigns have drawn mixed reviews, most observers agree on one thing: it will take much more than a three-year crusade to bring about a more tolerant and egalitarian society. “There’s a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success,” Lazerges says, describing major changes needed in the educational system and in turning around France’s disenfranchised suburbs.

Backing her assessment are 2015 government statistics that show hate offenses jumped by more than one-fifth in 2015 to more than 2,000, compared to the year before. Anti-Muslim acts and threats tripled last year. Activists say the true figures are higher, since many acts go unrecorded. Other forms of discrimination are more subtle. An October survey on French hiring by the Montaigne Institute, a Paris-based research group, finds Christian men are four times more likely to get a call back from job recruiters than Muslims. Jews also face discrimination, but to a lesser extent. “It’s a very serious phenomenon,” said Montaigne’s deputy director, Angele Malatre-Lansac, pointing to study estimates showing discrimination against Muslims in France was far higher than against African-Americans in the United States. In many cases, she says, employers are fearful of the country’s staunchly secular laws, and uncertain how to treat religious expression, like Muslim prayers, at work. “It’s not necessarily that racism is pervasive, but religious practice can make recruiters afraid,” she said.

In March, the government launched six 30-second TV spots re-enacting "real life" racist and anti-Semitic acts including: distraught Muslims finding a pig’s head stuck to a mosque gate, a black man being beaten up, and “Death to Jews” scrawled on a synagogue door. “We had to create a shock, to say, ‘Hey, stop; we have to address these issues,’" said Clavreul. Nonetheless, some anti-discrimination groups have criticized the spots as offering a narrow, violent take on the subject. “It can be even counterproductive, because we’ve worked for years to show that racism is subtle, and even those who are not racist can have humiliating, wounding words,” adds Lazerges. “Publicity spots are good; they can help educate people,” says Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia. “But how many people were arrested; how many people were found guilty?”

Others look for results
Roger Cukierman, president of the Jewish umbrella group CRIF, says education is what’s needed must. “The task is immense, because the atmosphere is such that Jews are not sending their children to French public schools anymore,” he says, describing cases of Jewish students who do attend being insulted and beaten. “It’s impossible to change the atmosphere just by a ministerial decree.” The government has taken a different approach with its second campaign, rolled out in mid-April. Giant posters portray job seekers with their faces split in half, white and non-white, with the tagline, “Skills First.” Next to the white side are messages like, “You start Monday.” On the non-white: “You don’t have the profile.”

While awareness-raising efforts are “excellent,” Malatre-Lansac says, “The question is how will this action be followed in the long term?” “If there’s work to be done, it has to be done at the grassroots level,” says Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia, who believes state-organized campaigns to fight it cannot work. Clavreul notes efforts in southern France to get businesses to hire locally, and to harness volunteerism for school education and job mentoring programs. “We don’t have a one-sided strategy,” he adds. “We are very pragmatic. We have to be holistic in our approach.”
© VoA News.

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Spanish magazine boss punched over anti-Nazi cover

The editor of Spain's biggest satirical magazine was assaulted on Wednesday after the publication ran a front cover decrying the rise of far-right politics in Europe.

12/5/2016- Mayte Quílez, director of Spain’s El Jueves magazine, was punched by a hooded figure outside her home in Barcelona, Catalan news site El Nacional reports. Quílez received only light injuries and has since reported the incident to police. The attack came the day after the highly popular magazine shared images of the front cover of its latest issue on various social media platforms. That cover shows a mother and son watching on during a demonstration of neo-Nazis. “Why are all these men bald? Do they have cancer?” the boy asks his mother. “I hope so,” she replies. The cover created a stir in Spain after the magazine ran the image on Facebook with a message inviting “Nazis, idiots and/or voters of (political party) Vox” to send their complaints to a dedicated email address. The magazine received numerous threats after publishing the post, but Quílez said in a tweet on Wednesday that she refused to be intimidated by a “moron”.

El Jueves is not in the habit of shying away from controversy. It made headlines across Spain in 2014 after the company which owns it binned 60.000 copies at the last minute because their front cover showed Spain's King Juan Carlos putting a dung-filled crown on his heir Prince Felipe's head. A new version of the magazine carried a cover showing the image of the leader of Spain’s Podemos party Pablo Iglesias with the picture of the royals relegated to the inside of the publication. El Jueves was also forced to pull a front cover in 2007 which caricatured Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia having sexual intercourse as the image was deemed “disrespectful”.
© The Local - Spain

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Spain’s first openly gay referee walks away from football after abuse

Spain’s first openly gay referee has walked away from the game, insisting he “cannot take any more”.

10/5/2016- Jesús Tomillero, who has been a referee from the age of the 11 and was working near the foot of the Spanish football pyramid in the Andalucían regional league, took the decision after he was subjected to abuse following his decision to give a penalty during a match between Portuense and San Fernando Isleño on Saturday. Tomillero came out publicly last March as he presented a formal complaint against a kit man from Peña Madridista Linense in the under-19 league in Andalucía, which resulted in a nine-game ban and a €30 fine. He told the newspaper El Español he has been subjected to abuse since and that last weekend he reached breaking point. Soon after Tomillero gave a penalty, he says someone from among the visiting supporters shouted: “That’s that poof who was on the telly,” adding, “you can stick the goal up your arse, you fucking poof”. The referee said the worst thing was that “everyone in the crowd laughed”. He communicated his decision to quit football to the Andalucían football federation soon after.

Support has come from local political parties in La Línea, near Gibraltar, and Tomillero says he has been backed by first division referees, but lamented that officials from the Andalucían federation ignored him following his decision to come out publicly in March last year. He has presented a formal complaint about Saturday’s events, with the hope stiffer action will be taken this time. Tomillero described it as “absolutely incredible” that Peña Madridista Linense’s kit man got only a nine-game ban when “football is educating 14- and 15-year-olds”. The matchday delegate from San Fernando will testify on his behalf this time but that will not return him to the field.
© The Guardian.

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Italian right seeks referendum to overturn gay unions

A group of mostly right-wing Italian politicians announced on Thursday they will seek a referendum to overturn the introduction of gay civil unions, a day after parliament approved the landmark law.

12/5/2016- Lawmakers from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the far-right Northern League and various other factions told a press conference they would begin work to raise the 500,000 signatures required to force a referendum as soon as the new law is signed by President Sergio Mattarella. For a referendum to happen, the signatures have to be verified by the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court must then approve the validity of the proposed ballot question. If these obstacles are overcome, opponents of the law would then have to win a referendum in which at least 50 percent plus one of eligible voters cast a vote. If the quorum is not met, the referendum result is invalid.

Monica Cirinna, the Democratic Party senator who guided the legislation through parliament in the teeth of fierce opposition led by the Catholic Church, said she would welcome a popular vote. "Italian citizens have never voted for discrimination," she said. "They have always confirmed major civil rights advances which have already happened." Carlo Giovanardi, a member of the Italian senate who was one of the most prominent opponents of the unions bill, said the referendum move was a protest at the way the legislation was pushed through parliament, not motivated by homophobia. "We are not against the recognition of rights but we are resorting to a referendum because (Prime Minister Matteo) Renzi prevented us from amending and debating the law," he said.

To short-circuit blocking or delaying amendments Renzi ordered confidence votes on his government's stance on the bill in both the Senate and the lower house Chamber of Deputies, prompting accusations of authoritarianism.
© The Local - Italy

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Catholic Church says civil unions in Italy is ‘creeping fascism’

The Catholic Church is furious with Italy’s government after same-sex civil unions finally passed in the country.

12/5/2016- Yesterday, Italy’s Parliament finally passed a bill creating same-sex civil unions, in the face of strong opposition from the powerful Catholic church and rebellions from Catholic lawmakers. The law – which came about after the European Court of Human Rights upheld complaints of discrimination over the country’s lack of recognition for same-sex couples – was passed by votes of 369-193 and 372-51 – as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote in himself to force the issue through. Italy was the last country in Western Europe with no recognition for same-sex partnerships. The change only passed after Renzi made concessions, ditching proposals for same-sex adoption rights that were opposed by the church. The unions are also strictly civil – and same-sex religious unions remain banned, even for pro-LGBT denominations. However, despite the government going out of its way to appease the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church in Italy has attacked the decision.

Speaking to La Repubblica, Archbishop Michele Pennisi attacked the bill and the way it was passed. The Catholic leader said: “There is a big slice of the country that this law does not want it. I believe this way of doing is creeping fascism.” Meanwhile, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Bruno Forte, who headed the church’s ‘Synod on the Family’ rejecting LGBT rights, told a local newspaper: “It is certainly a defeat and also an impoverishment of democratic life on a question that can have an enormous impact on the future of society.” He added that all families need “the fundamental reciprocity between man and woman” at their core. Forte said: “On the Church’s part, there will always remain the proclaiming of the Gospel of the family as a fundamental institute of human, social and Christian life.”

The Pope himself has not directly addressed the issue happening directly outside his gates – with the Vatican news office prioritising a story about the Pontiff’s table tennis equipment. Pope Francis recently claimed that teaching kids about safe sex is “promoting narcissism” – and that transgender teens should be taught to “accept their own body as it was created”.
© Pink News

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Italy becomes 27th European country to legally recognise same-sex couples

11 May is now a significant date for the Italian LGBTI movement.

11/5/2016- Their persistent advocacy work was rewarded today as the Italian Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of a civil union bill in a final vote. This means that same-sex couples in Italy are legally recognised for the first time. ILGA-Europe warmly welcome this news and are looking forward to the imminent signature of the civil unions bill by President Mattarella. The news of the civil union vote comes only 24 hours after ILGA-Europe’s latest Rainbow Europe package was launched. Before the vote in the Chamber of Deputies today, Italy achieved a score of 20% (one of the lowest scores among the 28 EU members) when ranked on its legal and policy situation for LGBTI people.

The new legislation provides for equality in matters of tax, social security and inheritance. However, the situation of rainbow families in Italy was overlooked as proposals to include second-parent adoption in the civil union bill were removed prior to the Senate’s vote on 25 February. ILGA-Europe realise the significance of today’s vote but also urge Italian lawmakers to examine ways to protect rainbow families and their children without delay. As part of yesterday’s Rainbow Europe 2016 launch, ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis had stressed the need for European governments to guard against the ‘complacency curse’ and to keep working for greater equality for all LGBTI people.

Legal recognition for same-sex couples is a great step forward for Italian society – but it cannot be the final step. The Italian LGBTI community, their families and friends deserve to be fully protected and recognised by their state. Another point raised by ILGA-Europe in our Rainbow Europe 2016 package is the need for governments to ensure that laws actively improve the daily lives of LGBTI people. The true value of today’s vote will be found in how effectively this new legislation is implemented.
© ILGA Europe

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Growing EU-Turkey tensions fuel fears for migrant deal

11/5/2016- Concerns rose on Wednesday regarding the fate of a deal between the European Union and Turkey that has radically reduced the influx of migrants toward the bloc via Greece as a dispute over Ankara’s refusal to adopt EU anti-terrorism laws escalated. The migrant deal is facing “a very dangerous moment,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said at a news conference with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Strasbourg. Bozkir said Turkey had basically fulfilled the terms of the deal, even though Brussels is insisting that Turkey overhaul its anti-terrorist legislation before Turkish nationals can enjoy visa-free travel to Europe. Schulz expressed his conviction that the agreement between Turkey and the EU would hold.

However, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Burhan Kuzu, expressed Ankara’s impatience on his Twitter account, indicating that Turkish authorities would “send the refugees back” to Europe if Turkish citizens are not granted visa-free travel. In Athens, officials are concerned that a flow of migrants across the Aegean that has slowed in recent weeks may intensify again in view of the growing tensions between the EU and Turkey. The government also faces some internal dissent as regards the migration crisis as some cadres, particularly in leftist SYRIZA’s radical Group of 53 faction, are not happy about migrants being returned to Turkey from Greece as part of the Turkey-EU deal.

More than 50,000 migrants are currently living in reception centers across the country, with around 10,000 at a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni close to Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. With tensions often sparking brawls in the camp, local residents have started losing patience with the situation. On Wednesday, six local residents, including the leader of the local community, Xanthoula Soupli, brought a legal suit against Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, referring to “a complete absence of state control” at the camp and claiming that camp residents often vandalize homes in the broader community.

Also on Wednesday, Europe’s top human rights watchdog called for urgent action to address overcrowding and poor living conditions in refugee and migrant camps in Greece and called for the closure of the Idomeni camp. In its report, which was compiled following a visit by inspectors in March, the Council of Europe said some camps in Greece were “substandard” and provided only the most basic needs, such as food and blankets. It said migrants were detained, in violation of international human rights standards, and lacked access to legal advice. Separately on Wednesday, the Greek ambassador to Austria, Chryssoula Aliferi, returned to Vienna three months after being recalled to Athens following Austria’s decision to tighten its borders along with other countries on the so-called Balkan trail eyed by migrants seeing a better future in Western Europe.
© The Kathimerini.

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European Parliament poised to tackle racism, xenophobia against migrants

10/5/2016- European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) on 3 May 2016 launched a ‘Clinical Legal Education in Europe’, a forum to discuss issues of racism and xenophobia that faced migrants in Europe. The event, attended by various legal clinics in Europe, was on the theme ‘Creating a new generation of lawyers to promote equality and access to justice’. The panel discussion was led by Ms Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, ARDI co-president; Prof. Clelia Bartoli, University of Palermo; Maxim Tomoszek, presidentof the European Clinical and Legal Education (ENCLE); Ulrich Stege, executive secretary; and Alagie Jinkang of the Human Rights and Migration Clinic at the International University College of Turin, Italy.

Ms Kyenge said the European Parliament showed its commitment to fighting racism by selecting ARDI as one of the 28 inter-groups to promote racial equality, counter racism, and educate about non-discrimination in the work of the European Parliament. She called for more clinics to support the disadvantaged and underprivileged migrants, saying the clinic is the right source of justice to those in desperate need. Prof. Clelia Bartoli, University of Palermo, said although many clinical activities are doing well, many others are facing difficulties such administrative and funding challenges. ENCLE President Maxim Tomoszek said there is a need for a collective clinical and legal education in order to propel justice to those in need.

Ulrich Stege, executive secretary, said clinical and legal education is paramount in promoting racial equality and non-discrimination in Europe. Alagie Jinkang of the Human Rights and Migration Clinic at the International University College of Turin said clinical education is instrumental to the European society as it promotes social justice.It also builds the capacities of students who will most probably be lawyers in the nearest future. He said the clinic at their university has been in existence for more than five years working on topical issues such as supporting asylum seekers by preparing their asylum stories, searching for relevant information, and preparing them for the interviews in local courts.

Mr Jinkang said through the numerous ground breaking activities of the legal clinic, they were able to integrate, educate and provide asylum for many disadvantaged and underprivileged persons. Mr Jinkang also brought to fore the political atmosphere in The Gambia which he said is compelling many Gambians to seek for asylum. However, he lamented that the asylum procedures are not paying attention to situation at play in The Gambia as many Gambians are continuously denied asylum. During the different panels, speakers stressed that racism and xenophobia are direct violation of the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Many of the speakers alluded to the fact that terrorist attacks and the so called ‘refugee crisis’ have created new opportunities for xenophobic and racist groups, including political parties, to push racist and xenophobic agenda.
© The Point

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Danish far-right MEP ordered to return €400,000

10/5/2016- Danish nationalist MEP Morten Messerschmidt has been ordered to repay over €400,000 to the European Parliament. The move follows a unanimous decision on Monday (9 May) by the parliament's bureau, a body that oversees the assembly’s work. A 13-page internal report, seen by this website, accuses Messerschmidt's anti-immigrant and eurosceptic Danish Peoples Party of mismanaging parliament grants. But Messerschmidt, who is the party’s outspoken leader, has denied any wrongdoing and says the demand for a refund is politically motivated. The report, signed off by parliament secretary-general Klaus Welle and dated 26 April, says the Danish Peoples Party siphoned off money from EU grants for its own political ends last year.

The money had been awarded in 2015 to an alliance of far-right groups known as the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (MELD). Messerschmidt sat on its board. Funds were also given to its political affiliation, the Foundation for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (FELD). MELD disbanded near the end of last year. But at its height, it counted among its ranks former MEPs such as Belgian Flemish nationalist Frank Vanhecke from the Vlaams Belang party and Italian Claudio Morganti from the Lega Nord. Messerschmidt is accused of using some €296,679 given to MELD by the European Parliament to help finance a video, released in April last year, and a follow-up campaign asking the Danes to vote No in a December 2015 referendum on whether to join EU justice and home affairs policies.

The campaign included adverts with slogans like "Keep the opt-out - keep Denmark safe” and “Say no to EU parties' deceit on the Danish opt-out. More Denmark, less EU - it's possible." Messerschmidt himself and the president of the Danish People's Party Kristian Thulesen Dahl featured prominently in the adverts. "Such promotion is understood as an indirect support of a national party, which is forbidden," notes the bureau’s report. MELD, for its part, says the video was not linked to the referendum because it had been produced before the Danish government had set an official date. "It is our interpretation that there cannot be interference in a national election or a referendum that does not exist or is not yet scheduled," it said. The video had featured a MELD logo with a banner saying vote No in the referendum.

The parliament grant money to MELD had been used to finance boat trips and a €130,000 consultancy fee. MELD and FELD also helped pay an advertising campaign on EU social dumping, which also featured Messerschmidt and Dahl. Thulesen-Dahl told Danish radio the party was not subject to the same criteria as other parties because of its critical views of the EU. He also said the case would not have political consequences for Messerschmidt.
© The EUobserver

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Turkey: Syrian refugees beaten, shot by border guards

10/5/2016- Turkish border guards have beaten and shot Syrians trying to reach Turkey, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday, as fighting in the border province of Aleppo intensifies threatening to force more people to flee. HRW said in a report based on interviews with victims, witnesses and Syrian locals that in March and April 2016, five people, including a child were killed and 14 were seriously injured as a result of border guards' shootings and beatings. In response to the report, a senior Turkish presidency official said the authenticity of the video could not be verified. Reuters was not able to verify the report. A video released by HRW purporting to show the victims of the beatings and shootings depicted a bloodied body with bandages around his exposed torso. Another male corpse is shown with red and purple marks all over his back and arms.

A recent surge in fighting in Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war, wrecked a 10-week-old partial truce sponsored by Washington and Moscow that had allowed U.N.-brokered peace talks to convene in Geneva. Ankara says it keeps an "open door" policy for those fleeing the five-year conflict. For over a year, only those requiring emergency medical treatment not available on the Syrian side have been able to cross legally while others rely on expensive smugglers to guide them on the dangerous route. Tens of thousands are instead interned in camps on the Syrian side, a version of the "safe zone" policy long championed by Turkey, but one which is not internationally sanctioned or recognized. "Turkey admits refugees at designated points of entry if and when there is an imminent threat to civilian lives across the border," the official said.

Heavy Price
HRW published excerpts of interviews with four victims, five witnesses, and six local Syrian residents who described seven occasions in March and April in which Turkish border guards shot or assaulted 17 Syrian asylum seekers and two smugglers. Footage of some of the victims and bodies was taken by a security guard of a local internally displaced people camp, HRW said. In its press release, the rights group recognizes Turkey's right to protect its border, which includes the border town of Kilis increasingly targeted by rocket fire from Islamic State areas in recent weeks, but says it must respect international norms on use of lethal force as well as the right to life. Earlier this year, Turkey and Europe agreed on a plan to send back migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey from the Greek Islands, with Brussels committing six billion euros to help support refugees in Turkey. The legality of the deal, aimed to stem the flow of migrants to European shores, hinges on Turkey being a safe country of asylum, which rights groups and NGOs have said was not the case.

Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW said:
"EU officials should recognize that their red light for refugees to enter the EU gives Turkey a green light to close its border, exacting a heavy price on war-ravaged asylum seekers with nowhere else to go."
© Reuters

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EU proposes Minority Report-style facial recognition for refugees

In its attempts to bring the refugee crisis to heel, the European Commission wants to expand its fingerprint database, introduce facial recognition software, store the information for even longer than before and include minors in the process. EurActiv Germany reports.

9/5/2016- The EU is planning wholesale changes to the bloc’s asylum law. In addition to a “fairer” distribution system for refugees and an extension of border controls within the Schengen area, the Eurodac fingerprint database, which is currently used to identify asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is to be enlarged. The system is set to be supplemented with facial recognition software and personal data will be stored for a longer period of time, with the aim of ensuring that irregular migrants stay on the authorities’ radar; the information of underage refugees will also be kept. The upgrade will cost some €30 million. Eurodac was introduced at the turn of the millennium to support the Dublin System. The database is updated with the fingerprints of asylum seekers so that the relevant migration body can determine where an applicant first entered the EU and so that duplicate applications are not submitted.

In its plan, the Commission criticised the current rules for restricting the collection of asylum seeker data too much. Member states cannot check the fingerprints of apprehended migrants that have no residence status and have not submitted an application yet. The executive’s proposal states that an upgrade of the Eurodac database could be just what the member states need to bring irregular migration under control and increase “the effectiveness of the EU’s returns policy”. It is intended that the database be used as a centralised tool to collect the biometric data of all non-EU citizens on European soil. Besides increasing the amount of time data can be stored, from 18 months to five years, border authorities will be allowed to use facial recognition tools as well. The scheme insists that police and border guards will be able to establish the identity of people more efficiently and quickly using the specialist software.

In the Commission’s view, fingerprint collection is no longer sufficient, as third country nationals often use means “to deceive” the curent system. Biometric technology is therefore a “central component” of the new European asylum system. Fingerprint collection and facial recognition of minors will allegedly be “child-friendly” and “empathetic”, with special officers charged with carrying out the process. Literature will also be produced that will explain in “age-appropriate language” the process. To ensure that the data is collected, member states are also set to be authorised to use measures against non-compliant individuals. Penalties should be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”, as well as being in line with existing national laws. Detaining people should only be used as a “last resort” and only when all other means of identifying the individual have been exhausted. These sanctions will not apply to unaccompanied minors though.

It has also been proposed that the minimum age of refugees whose biometric data can be collected be lowered. Instead of the current rules, in which the minimum age is 14, unaccompanied minors as young as six years old will be eligible to be included, as research has now shown that fingerprint recognition of such young people can be carried out with a “satisfactory level of precision”. The Commission insisted that such a measure would improve the legal situation of the minors. Many unaccompanied child refugees that arrived in Europe over the last year have disappeared off the grid and have no access to utilities as a result. When facial recognition software will be rolled out on the borders remains unclear. According to research carried out by netzpolitik.org, the EU does not actually have the software necessary to process digital facial images and it will be 2020 at the earliest when the Commission will have a feasability study ready on which computer programmes are suitable for EU-wide rollout.

Security officials will be allowed to take photographs under the new amendment though. But until automated software is rolled out, border guards will have to rely exclusively on their own judgement when identifying individuals.
© EuroActiv

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EU blocks Austria on Italy border checks

12/5/2016- Austrian authorities pushed to extend their internal border control checks to include all of Italy but were shot down by other EU states. The Council, representing member states, on Thursday (12 May), agreed to extend existing border control checks in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway for another six months. Member states approved a recommendation by the EU commission to extend existing checks because of "deficiencies" in the protection of EU external borders in Greece. The recommendation authorised Austria to continue checks at its borders with Hungary and Slovenia. Two EU officials confirmed Vienna had at an EU ambassadors meeting on Wednesday attempted to expand the scope of its existing controls to also include Italy. "The question came from Austria: 'What about all of our borders, what about our border with Italy? Can we not use controls there?' The commission said ‘No' and the council said ‘No'," said the EU official. Another EU official said Austria had also attempted it "but didn't get support". A diplomat in Brussels said the Austrians had wanted to have some flexibility, but the EU commission insisted the extension would only apply to checks already in place.

Brenner Pass
Austria's interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka in April had threatened to seal the border at the Brenner Pass with Italy over fears refugees would seek to enter from Italy. Plans are in place to erect a 370 metre chain-link fence with four checkpoints on the Alpine highway that links the two nations. "The plan is to be ready to put into practice a border management like between Austria and Slovenia, if necessary," noted a diplomat. Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has critised any barrier along the pass by the Austrians as "flagrantly against European rules, as well as against history, against logic and against the future". But the move by Austria point to growing fears in Vienna that a sudden influx of people will cross from Libya into Italy over the summer months.

Austria can invoke a different set of rules under the Schengen Borders Code to impose controls with Italy, should it so choose. "They [Austria] can unilaterally introduce controls for eight months if they are proportionate and justified by the evidence," noted the EU official. EU law allows member states to impose a two-month control in unforeseen circumstances if there is an emergency. It can then impose another six months for foreseen circumstances. The EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos has no desire to see any controls at the Brenner pass. Last week, he sent a letter to the Austrian authorities outlining EU rules on the matter. "I have sent a letter that we do not agree with the introduction of border controls or border checks," Avramopoulos told euro-deputies in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Greek deficiencies
The existing internal controls in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway will be maintained despite a dramatic drop in the flow of refugees into Europe when compared to April and May last year. The move to extend the checks was launched following an unannounced visit by experts from the EU border agency Frontex to verify Greek border controls last November. They said Greece had "serious deficiencies" on how it manages its borders, posing a larger existential threat over the entire passport-free Schengen area. The threat gave the EU the legal basis to prolong the checks. Greece, for its part, denies that it cannot manage its own borders and notes it has met some 43 out of 50 recommendations from the EU commission to plug the gaps.
© The EUobserver

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Austrians urged to fight right-wing extremism

Events have been taking place in Austria to mark 71 years since the end of WWII in Europe, and liberation from the Nazi regime.

9/5/2016- On Sunday evening the Vienna Symphony Orchestra performed a free concert on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, as part of a “Festival of Joy” - including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) and Arnold Schönberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. Speakers at the event stressed that people must remain vigilant in the face of rising right-wing extremism - and made reference to Austria’s presidential election, in which the far-right Freedom Party’s candidate Norbert Hofer is the bookies’ favourite to be elected in the May 22nd run-off. Willi Mernyi, chairman of the Mauthausen Committee, criticised Hofer for saying that May 8th was not a day of joy, as so many people had died during the war. "For us, May 8th is a day of joy, because the killing stopped,” Mernyi said. Hofer has since clarified his statements, saying that he meant that the end of the war was a day of joy, but war itself was no cause for joy because of the suffering of its victims.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) said it was a day to remember when suffering and injustice came to an end in Austria, but that there are still people who have a different view on this and that a growing right-wing extremist movement must be “fought with great strength”. He added that in 1933 events had been kicked off with right-wing graffiti and that this could be seen today. Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser (SPÖ) said that Austria had given tens of thousands of people refuge from war and persecution last year and now the task was to enable people to live together with mutual respect and appreciation. Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, who is also the head of the ÖVP, emphasized the European Union’s peacemaking role and warned that “nationalism is dangerous, and is often the basis for conflict and war”. He said that member states must act in solidarity, and prevent Europe from breaking apart.

Holocaust survivor Rudolf Gelbard remembered the waves of arrests and killings as the Nazis took power in Austria and stressed the need to learn from history: "We survivors are not only committed to the dead, but also to future generations. We need to share our experience, so that they can learn from it… We cannot be wrong a second time and view as harmless what could end in catastrophe," he said. On May 8th, 1945 Germany’s armed forces surrendered unconditionally. A few days earlier, on May 5th, Allied troops liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp in Upper Austria.
© The Local - Austria

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Austrian chancellor quits over far-right election triumph

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann quit Monday, bowing to intense pressure two weeks after the opposition anti-immigration far-right dealt his coalition a historic blow in the first round of presidential elections.

9/5/2016- The centre-left Faymann, 56, chancellor since 2008, said in a statement that he no longer had “strong backing” in his party, the Social Democrats (SPOe). “As a result of this insufficient support I am drawing the consequences and resign my functions as party leader and chancellor, effective today,” he said. The SPOe and its coalition partner since 2008, the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP), have dominated Austrian politics since World War II but their support has been sliding in recent years. At the last general election, in 2013, they only just scratched together a majority, and polls suggest doing so again at the next scheduled vote in 2018 will be difficult.

Mirroring similar trends across Europe, the two main parties have been bleeding support to fringe groups, in Austria’s case in particular to the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the former party of the controversial, late Joerg Haider. The far-right has tapped into growing unease about immigration after Austria last year saw 90,000 people claim asylum, and around 10 times that number pass through at the high point of Europe’s migrant crisis. But the two parties have also presided over a rise in unemployment, with Austria losing its crown as the EU member with the lowest unemployment. The coalition has also squabbled over structural reforms.

Far-right on the rise
The FPOe is leading national opinion polls and on April 24, in the first round of elections to the largely ceremonial post of president, the FPOe’s Norbert Hofer came a clear first with 35 percent. Hofer, 45, who presents himself as the friendly and reasonable face of the FPOe, will now face Alexander van der Bellen, a former head of the Greens who came second, in a runoff on May 22. The two hapless candidates from the ruling coalition parties were relegated into distant fourth and fifth places, failing to make it through to the runoff with just 11 percent of the vote each. This historic failure means that for the first time since 1945, there will not be a president from within these two parties in Vienna’s Hofburg palace. This in turn could mean that the new president might make use of some of the considerable powers afforded to the head of state under Austria’s constitution that until now have been not been used.

In theory the Austrian president can fire the government — as Hofer has threatened to do if elected — or dissolve parliament. It was unclear on Monday who would succeed Faymann, with the government in theory having two more years to govern. The popular mayor of Vienna, Michael Haeupl, will take over from Faymann on an interim basis as party chief, saying the SPOe needed a “phase of reflection”. Christian Kern, currently the head of the national railways company, and Gerhard Zeiler, former chief of national broadcaster ORF, have been touted as possible replacements.
© France 24.

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Slovakia: Roma Children becoming victims of discrimination

10/5/2016- Romani people originally belong to northern India but now are living in all continents mostly Europe, North Africa and North America. They are called ‘gypsies’ as they have migrated throughout the world. The Roma community makes up about 8% of Slovakia’s population. Being a minority community, they face lot of discrimination. Racial tensions continue to make their lives difficult. In the Ostrava town in eastern Slovakia where the Roma people reside; there is extreme poverty, life expectancy is below average and unemployment being 80% has made their lives worse. But besides all that, there is extensive racism and discrimination. Not just adults, but even the children are targeted. Walls have been built to separate the Roma kids to mingle with the white kids and to stop steal fruits from their neighbor’s gardens. Watch this video.

Even in schools, there is a sense of separateness. There are separate classroom and buildings for the Roma and white children. In 2004, a strong anti-discrimination law was passed in Slovakia but however there is reluctance to obey this law. The Education minister of Slovakia says that officials are working to eliminate discriminatory practices from schools. In 2013, schools were forced to conduct integrated classes for both Roma and white children but resistance still prevails among the people. A number of schools had pressure from the normal parents who don’t want their children to be together with Roma children. However, there are some schools that provide a positive model and have same classrooms for children.There is an opening of a new preschool for children so that social inclusion can be embedded from an early age. These schools provide a ray of hope for putting an end to segregation of Roma people in Slovakia.
© Newsgram

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Slovak customs officers shoot and injure Syrian migrant woman

9/5/2016- Slovak customs officers injured a Syrian woman on Monday when they shot at a car carrying migrants from Hungary into Slovakia, authorities said. Police in Europe have sometimes used water cannon and tear gas to prevent migrants from crossing borders but this may be the first reported incident inside the continent's passport-free Schengen zone where migrants have been shot at. The officers stopped four passenger cars entering Slovakia from Hungary in the early hours of Monday, the Financial Administration that runs the customs service said in a press release. Three cars complied with an order to stop but the fourth tried to escape and endangered three officers, it said. "The officers fired warning shots and when the car did not stop they fired at the car, injuring one person," it said, without further details.

A hospital in Dunajska Streda, southern Slovakia, said the injured person was a Syrian woman aged about 26 and that she was in a stable condition after undergoing surgery to remove a bullet from her back. The hospital said it had also treated two migrants suffering from dehydration. The cars and the passengers were handed over to the border police, the Financial Administration said. Slovakia has so far seen only a trickle of migrants trying to cross its territory to reach Germany, the favoured destination for people fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond. But the government fears tighter border controls by neighbouring Austria could prompt more migrants to use Slovakia as a stepping stone from Hungary as they head west.
© Reuters UK.

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Russia: Kyrgyz Leader Slams Russian Skinheads for Brutal Attack

Trend of attacks and killings by nationalists continues, rights groups say.

11/5/2016- Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambaev has urged Russia to respect the dignity of the large numbers of Kyrgyz migrants there. During World War II commemorations in Bishkek on 9 May, Atambaev said hundreds of thousands of Russian evacuees were welcomed in the then-Soviet republic during the war, while now Kyrgyz nationals face racially motivated assaults from nationalists in Russian cities. “Simple Kyrgyz families shared their last scraps of bread and clothes. Many evacuees remained in the country for good and became citizens of Kyrgyzstan. So today I would like for this to be remembered by citizens of our brotherly nation, Russia, where modern fascists – skinheads – are raising their heads,” Atambaev was quoted by EurasiaNet.org as saying. The statement comes after a group of assailants attacked Kyrgyz citizens in the Moscow metro earlier this month, which Russian state-run news agency RIA said was racially motivated.

# At least 18 people in Russia were hurt in attacks by nationalists this year, and one died, according to the human rights group Sova.
# Nine people died and 80 were hurt in attacks by skinheads and nationalists in 2015. In 2014, 36 deaths and 133 injuries were reported, according to Russian-language TV station 
Nastoyashchee Vremya (Current Time), a joint project of RFE/RL and Voice of America.
# For the past three years, more than half a million migrants have been deported from Russia, according to Civic Assistance Committee, a charitable organization aimed at helping refugees and migrants in Russia.
© Transitions Online.

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Russia: Who’s Killing Gay Journalists?

With two journalists dead at the hands of strange men—including a Hitler-loving ultranationalist—Russia’s LGBT community is worried about a string of possible hate crimes.

11/5/2016- Alexander Rubtsov was hip, talented, and handsome—a charismatic radio presenter and journalist well known around Moscow. Over the past two years, 1.5 million Russian radio listeners could hear his voice daily, presenting news on NASHI radio, Rock FM, Best FM, and Radio JAZZ. The 35-year-old was supposed to host his mother at his home during Russia’s May holidays last week. But when she arrived at his apartment, she found the door curiously unlocked—and Rubtsov on the floor inside, dead in a puddle of his own blood. His body was covered in at least seven stab wounds, mainly on his back. In the wake of the murder, Russia’s LGBT community has actively floated the theory that Rubtsov was the victim of a hate crime. “It looks like we have the second homophobic murder in recent times,” Igor Yesin, an LGBT activist, wrote in a Facebook post. “Four of his and my friends have confirmed that he [Rubtsov] was dating men but was hiding that from public circles (although some say he was not hiding it too hard).”

Tragically, Rubtsov’s murder is almost identical to another recent killing: A month ago, the well-known journalist Dmitriy Tsilikin was stabbed to death in St. Petersburg. His alleged murderer, a 21-year-old student named Sergey Kosyrev, was an ultra-nationalist; the attacker stabbed the 54-year-old Tsilikin at least 10 times in the back with a knife. Police detained Kosyrev on the night of April 6. Ominous details about Tsilikin’s murder were released by Human Rights Watch, which noted that “the attacker reportedly told the police he had met Tsilikin online and planned to blackmail the journalist about his homosexuality, but killed him after an argument.” Before the alleged murder, Kosyrev posted images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler on his social media accounts, according to a Fontanka.ru report.

Tsilikin and Rubtsov are just the latest in a long line of fatal attacks on journalists inside Russia—many of which remain unsolved. “Neither Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, nor the attack on Oleg Kashin, have been investigated, although everybody understands everything [about what happened to them]. But we still do not see public resistance in reaction to these attacks,” Stanislav Belkovskiy, a Moscow-based analyst, told The Daily Beast. “People have got used to journalists’ murders.” Earlier this spring, Russia was listed 148th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Boarders ranking of world press freedom. Russian journalists are frequently abused, attacked and beaten; at least 17 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2012. Reporters outside of Russia are often shocked to hear that these murders rarely cause a public outcry. “A gay reported stabbed to death would be all over the news for weeks—everybody would talk about it, it would be shocking [if it happened in the West],” noted Brad McEwan, a well-known sports presenter at Australia’s Channel Ten.

Yet many Russian journalists remain convinced that Rubtsov’s murder is not a big story. “The story is about what makes young men come from Ukraine or Central Asia to sell themselves for 2,000 rubles,” said Anton Krasovskiy, an openly gay activist and reporter. “The market of commercial sex has never looked as hellish as now—I have seen dozens of murders similar to Rubtsov.” “There is nothing to investigate,” added Alexander Raskin, a reporter at Lifenews. “Police have already investigated Rubtsov’s murder and arrested the suspect.”

Longtime Moscow radio presenter Sergey Dorenko believed that the motive for Rubtsov’s murder was a personal relationship gone sour. “These [gay] guys are insufficient girls,” he said. “Whereas girls would cry into their pillows, these [guys] jump around with knives.” Another radio presenter for Radio Echo of Moscow, Ksenia Larina, echoed this belief that Rubtsov was not assassinated for his journalism. “Judging by the modest information we have, the murder was connected to [Rubtsov’s] untraditional sexual orientation, not about our profession, so there is not much to say,” Larina told The Daily Beast. Meanwhile, Rubtsov’s former boss at the National News Service, managing editor Sergei Gorbachev, told Sobesednik.ru that reports connecting Rubtsov’s murder to his alleged sexual orientation were “insulting.” “Both my colleagues and I receive view such hints in a negative light,” he said.
© The Daily Beast

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Russia and 5 neighbors plagued by Violent homophobia

9/5/2016- Homophobia, often violent, is a problem in Russia and five nearby countries that have enacted or considered imposing anti-“gay propaganda” laws. None of these countries has a specific law against same-sex intimacy, with the exception of the internationally unrecognized Moldovan break-away territory of Transnistria. But each of them has prohibited or considered imposing prohibitions on positive depictions of LGBTI people. Two (Russia and Lithuania) have enacted anti-“gay propaganda” laws; two (Kazakhstan and Ukraine) seriously considered but ultimately rejected proposals for such laws; one (Moldava) enacted such a law but then repealed it, and one (Kygyzstan) is currently considering enacting such a law.

LGBTI rights in those six countries are the focus of the following excerpts from the 2015 edition of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The complete reports cover a variety of human-rights issues beyond those excerpted here, including workers’ rights; discrimination against women, children, minorities, indigenous people and others; torture; and civil liberties. They’re all written from the perspective of the United States, although the U.S. is far from blameless with regard to human rights. Among many current examples, at least 14 U.S. states keep unenforceable anti-gay laws on the books the United Kingdom has just issued a travel advisory warning about the discriminatory new laws imposed in North Carolina and Mississippi; and the U.S. still struggles to end its historic mistreatment of indigenous people and of racial, ethnic and other minorities.

This blog is reprinting LGBTI-focused excerpts about human rights in:

Asia # Sub-Saharan Africa # Middle East and North Africa # The Americas (Caribbean nations only) # Oceania, with a separate post about Indonesia, because of the length of the report. # Russia and nearby countries that have considered or adopted anti-“gay propaganda” laws.

Excerpts from the recently published U.S. State Department reports from 2015 begin here:
Kazakhstan 
While the law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, the government did not effectively enforce the law. There were reports of violence against women, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and LGBTI persons. According to the constitution, no one shall be subject to any discrimination for reasons of origin; occupational, social, or property status; sex; race; nationality; language; religion or belief; place of residence; or any other circumstances. The country does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. During the year a law on “protecting the child” that included a provision that would have prohibited “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” was discussed in the parliament. The Senate chairman sent the law to the Constitutional Council, which declared it unconstitutional.

Although gender-reassignment documentation exists, the law requires a transgender person to fulfill three steps before being able to receive identity documents that align with the person’s outward gender: 1) a month of inpatient psychiatric evaluation, 2) a course of hormone replacement therapy, and 3) approval and completion of gender-reassignment surgery. Those who receive gender-reassignment surgery outside of the country fall outside this process. Many individuals lived with nonconforming documents for years and reported problems with securing employment, housing, and health care. According to a survey conducted during the year, half of transgender persons indicated that they experienced physical abuse due to prejudice against transgender individuals or did not experience such abuse because their gender identity was unknown. The KIBHR [Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law] noted in a 2015 report, “To this date we have no knowledge of any court cases regarding discrimination [against] sexual minorities.”

Although there were no government statistics on discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were reports of such actions. According to representatives of international and local organizations, negative social attitudes towards members of marginalized groups, including LGBTI persons, impeded the willingness of the latter to come forward, organize, or seek access to HIV/AIDS programs. Hate crime legislation or other legal mechanisms do not exist to aid prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community. There were no prosecutions of anti-LGBTI violence. NGOs reported members of the LGBTI community seldom turned to law enforcement agencies to report violence against them because they feared hostility, ridicule, and occasionally violence. They were reluctant to use mechanisms such as the national commissioner for human rights to seek remedies for harms inflicted, because they did not trust these mechanisms to safeguard their identities, especially with regard to employment.

Kyrgyz Republic
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, ethnic origin, creed, age, political or other beliefs, education, background, property, or other status. The government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. Although women were active in government, education, civil society, the media, and small business, they encountered gender-based discrimination. Rights activists claimed authorities failed to investigate or punish perpetrators of crimes of discrimination during the year. Members of the LGBTI community reported systematic-police led harassment and beatings. NGOs reported ethnic Uzbeks were attacked by ethnic Kyrgyz because of their ethnicity.

LGBTI persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of jobs, and unwanted attention from police and other authorities. Inmates and officials often openly victimized incarcerated gay men. Doctors sometimes refused to treat LGBTI individuals. Members of the LGBTI community said their families ostracized them when they learned of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Forced marriages of lesbians and bisexual women to men also occurred. The Labrys Public Foundation noted the practice of “corrective rape” of lesbians to “cure” their homosexuality. The practice was underreported, and its extent was difficult to estimate.

Labrys, Kyrgyz Indigo, and Grace–three established LGBTI support NGOs–reported numerous acts of violence against members of the LGBTI community. For example, on April 3, unknown assailants threw three Molotov cocktails into the offices of the LGBTI rights organization Labrys. Two of the explosives ignited in the courtyard, while another that landed on the roof did not ignite. No one was injured in the attack. On May 17, 25 anti-gay protesters forcibly entered an event in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and assaulted and photographed attendees. Police arrested 20 of the attendees and five of the protesters. Police held the LGBTI attendees in the same cell as the protesters, who made offensive, anti-gay comments towards the LGBTI men and women in detention. All were released the same day. In the week following the attack, the newspaper Delo Nomer published an article with photographs of the event attendees.

Members of the LGBTI community reported an increase in attempts to forcibly “out” gays and lesbians on social media. In one widespread incident, police forced a transgender woman to undress on camera. The video was posted on the social media site Odnaklassniki.ru with the title “woman with a surprise.” In 2014, HRW [Human Rights Watch] released They Told Us We Deserved This: Police Violence against Gay and Bisexual Men in Kyrgyzstan, a 65-page report based on interviews with 40 LGBTI persons chronicling instances of extortion, beatings, and sexual assault on them. The report described in detail how police patrolling parks and bars frequented by gay men would threaten them with violence and arrest or threaten to reveal their homosexuality to their families if they did not pay bribes. These practices, according to representatives of the LGBTI community, continued. NGO leaders in the southern part of the country reported an even greater threat. High-level members of the government made public statements that dehumanized and degraded the LGBTI community.

Lithuania
Lithuania has banned the children's book "Gintarinë širdis" from anywhere it could be accessible to children under age 14. On the basis of its anti-“gay propaganda” law, Lithuania banned the children’s book “Gintarinë širdis” from anywhere it could be accessible to children under age 14. Among the forms of discrimination prohibited by the law are race, sex, gender, social status, age, ethnic background, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and disability. The antidiscrimination laws apply to LGBTI persons. Society’s attitude toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative, and LGBTI groups claimed that official bodies that govern publishing and broadcast media took prejudicial action against certain works with LGBT themes. The few NGOs focusing on LGBTI problems did not face legal impediments. The Lithuanian Gay League and Tolerant Youth Association continued to promote an inclusive social environment for LGBTI persons.

The media reported acts of violence against LGBTI persons. The Lithuanian Gay League reported that in the first eight months of the year, 18 persons claimed they experienced physical attacks because of their sexual orientation. An antipropaganda law enacted in 2009 served as a rationale for limiting LGBTI awareness-raising efforts. In July the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content, and Technology began a formal investigation of a 2014 ruling by the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics that blocked television broadcast during regular broadcast hours of an LGBTI awareness video produced by the Lithuanian Gay League. The office cited the law on protection of minors to block the broadcast. In June, when a prominent disk jockey posted homophobic messages on social media, President Dalia Grybauskaite stated, “the sooner Lithuania becomes more open and tolerant, the better it will be for the country.”

Moldova
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, language, religion, belief, age, opinion, political affiliation, or social status, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions effectively. The law prohibits discrimination on 11 characteristics, including gender, race, and disability, as well as employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity continued during the year. As of October the NGO Genderdoc-M reported nine cases of violations of the rights of the LGBTI persons examined in court, including three hate crimes, three cases of discrimination, two cases of instigation to hatred, and one case regarding the change of identity documents for transsexual persons. Three other cases were under investigation.

Most crimes were perpetrated against gay men, but verbal and physical abuse against lesbians was also reported. In most cases police officers were reluctant to open cases against the perpetrators. In one instance Genderdoc-M reported that it required intervention by its lawyer before police acted. In June a lesbian, who a neighbor had continually harassed, was beaten and insulted. The perpetrator allegedly stated that persons like her did not deserve to live and claimed that, even if he beat her up, authorities would not hold him accountable. The victim filed a complaint with police, who refused to accept it. According to Genderdoc-M, the intervention of their lawyer compelled police to accept the complaint. When the victim returned home, she was assaulted again. Police were alerted and detained the perpetrator. The case continued at year’s end.

Civil society organizations reported that transgender individuals were unable to change identity documents during or following gender reassignment, and they experienced employment discrimination. On May 17, more than 150 individuals attended the third officially sanctioned march for the rights of LGBTI persons in central Chisinau. There were no reports of significant incidents, but Orthodox Christian groups and Occupy Pedophilia members held a counterdemonstration close to the march’s perimeter. Heavy police presence prevented altercations. Counterdemonstrators, among them young men covering their faces, threw eggs at the marchers and set off firecrackers. Police detained at least six persons. Following the march a group from Occupy Pedophilia walked towards the Genderdoc-M premises, but police stopped them before they reached the building.

While authorities allowed individuals to change their names (for example, from a male to a female name), the government did not allow persons to change the gender listed on their identity cards or passports. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Justice issued a nonbinding recommendation to lower courts that transgender individuals be permitted to change the gender on their civil documents. In 2012 the Ministry of Health established a commission to determine gender identity and issue certificates that can be used to apply for new documents. In Transnistria consensual same-sex activity is illegal, and authorities subjected LGBTI persons to governmental and societal discrimination.

Russia
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property and official status, place of residence, religion, beliefs, membership of public associations, or other circumstances. The law also protects various rights of persons with disabilities. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, and HIV-status or other communicable diseases is not explicitly protected, although these categories could be construed as falling under “other circumstances.” The government did not universally enforce prohibitions on discrimination. During the year hostile rhetoric and propaganda against some groups disseminated through state-run media outlets contributed to discrimination and xenophobia.

A 2013 law criminalizes the “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. The law effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wish to advocate publicly for rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal. Examples of what the government considered LGBTI propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of persons who are in nontraditional sexual relationships.” Antidiscrimination laws exist but do not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. During the year there were reports of killings motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim. In one case two men confessed to killing a gay man in the Vsevolozhskiy district outside St. Petersburg on February 23. The two attackers reportedly stabbed the man repeatedly after he allegedly sexually harassed them. No information was available regarding any official action taken against the attackers.

Human rights groups reported continuing violence against LGBTI individuals. Openly gay men were particular targets of attacks, and police often failed to respond. In July several young men conducted a social experiment in which they secretly videotaped themselves walking around Moscow while holding hands. The publicly available video of the experiment showed the men being verbally and physically assaulted multiple times by passersby. LGBTI activists experienced threats and attacks in public. Police were often unwilling to assist, and victims sometimes chose not to report crimes for this reason as well as due to concerns about retaliation. On August 18, unknown assailants attacked LGBTI activist Irina Fedotova-Fet near her home in Moscow. The attackers shouted epithets referring to her sexuality during the attack, which left her cut and bruised.

On April 13, assailants sprayed an odorous gas into the Maximum Center for Social, Psychological, and Legal Assistance to Victims of Homophobia and Discrimination in Murmansk, causing choking and vomiting among those in the office. Police refused to open a criminal investigation. In July a lawyer for one of the victims filed a legal complaint of police inaction. There were reports that authorities targeted NGOs and activists representing the LGBTI community for retaliation. LGBTI rights activist Aleksandr Ermoshkin suffered a head injury during an assault in May at a LGBTI rights demonstration in Khabarovsk. According to HRW, Ermoshkin was also forced to resign from his position as a schoolteacher shortly after the country enacted the 2013 law banning propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. In June a nationally televised story on the state-owned Russia-1 channel accused him of collaborating with foreign intelligence services during a meeting arranged by the television station with reporters posing as representatives of a foreign embassy in Moscow.

LGBTI persons reported heightened societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to increasing official promotion of intolerance and homophobia. Activists asserted that the majority of LGBTI persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear of losing their jobs or homes as well as the threat of violence. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBTI persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice. There were reports that employment discrimination against LGBTI persons increased and that LGBTI persons were increasingly seeking asylum abroad due to the domestic environment.

There were reports that authorities harassed venues frequented by LGBTI persons. On February 26, police raided the lesbian nightclub Infinity in St. Petersburg, purportedly due to reports of drug use and minors being present. Earlier in the month, Kseniya Infinity, one of the owners of the club, had intentionally taken a picture of herself kissing her partner with antigay St. Petersburg assemblyman in the background. After the picture was posted online, Milonov threatened to close the club. In Moscow authorities refused to allow a gay pride parade for the 10th consecutive year, despite a 2010 ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] ruling that the denial violated the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination, and otherwise violated free expression, association, and assembly rights of LGBTI persons.

On October 2, the LGBT Sports Federation, a nationwide network of organizations promoting athletic engagement for LGBTI individuals, held the opening of the fifth annual athletic event, Together in Sport, outside Moscow. In September, St. Petersburg’s seventh annual Queer Festival of Russia drew more than 2,500 live and online spectators. Despite last-minute venue cancellations prior to both of these events, they were allowed to proceed with far less outside interference than in 2014. Activists noted the government’s strategy involved limiting such events’ exposure to the broader public rather than banning or severely interfering with them.

Although the law allows transgender individuals to change their names and gender classifications on government documents, they faced difficulties because the government had not established standard procedures and many civil registry offices denied their requests. When their documents failed to reflect their gender accurately, transgender persons often faced discrimination in accessing health care, education, housing, and employment. A homophobic campaign continued in the state-controlled media, in which officials, journalists, and others called LGBTI persons “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal,” and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia.

Ukraine
While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases, the government lacked effective legal instruments to enforce the prohibitions, and both governmental and societal discrimination persisted. The law covers discrimination, although experts raised concerns the definition of discrimination was too narrow and the law lacked meaningful enforcement mechanisms. During the year the country updated its labor code to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No law, however, prohibits discrimination on this basis in other areas. LGBTI groups, along with international and domestic human rights organizations, criticized the lack of such language in the National Human Rights Strategy.

According to the LGBTI group Nash Mir (Our World), there were both positive and negative developments in the situation of the LGBTI community in the country. The group reported an improvement in social attitudes towards homosexuality and a decline in homophobic rhetoric from churches and leading political figures, and some members of the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] voiced their support for LGBTI rights. The group reported, however, that the level of homophobic aggression from right-wing nationalist groups increased, and government agencies consistently avoided any discussion of problems facing the LGBTI community. On June 6, several dozen men, including members of Right Sector, attacked the Equality March in Kyiv, beating protesters and police and throwing firecrackers laced with shrapnel. The attackers injured nine participants and 10 officers. While law enforcement authorities protected the march, the Kyiv City State Administration had initially discouraged march organizers from holding the event. Law enforcement authorities arrested more than a dozen persons on charges of hooliganism. In July several men attacked two LGBTI activists holding hands in central Kyiv.

On August 13, the district administrative court in Odesa prohibited a march supporting LGBTI rights at the request of the Odesa City Council. Our World stated that violence against LGBTI persons was underreported. During the year the group recorded 16 assaults and four killings related to the victims’ sexual orientation. Our World indicated that victims and families were reluctant to pursue hate crime charges in these cases due to homophobia. They reported an additional 52 cases of discrimination and abuse, mostly in the cities of Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, and Zhytomir. According to the Ukrainian Gay Alliance, an assailant killed a man in Odesa on December 12 due to his sexual orientation. The accused killer reportedly confessed to police that he killed his acquaintance due to his hatred for persons of a “nontraditional sexual orientation.”

LGBTI victims also suffered from discrimination in court proceedings. On November 11, a Kharkiv court handed down a sentence of only eight years to a man who murdered another person solely due to his homosexuality. According to HRW [Human Rights Watch], transgender persons in the country faced discrimination. They must undergo mandatory psychiatric treatment and an examination before a state medical board prior to receiving treatment for sexual reassignment. Transgender persons found the process humiliating and claimed to have difficulty obtaining official documents reflecting their gender. According to Our World, the situation of LGBTI persons continued to deteriorate in Russia-occupied Crimea and the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Crimea (Ukraine / Russia)
Occupying Russian forces created an atmosphere of impunity, creating a hostile environment for members of ethnic and religious minorities, and fostering discrimination and hostility against LGBTI persons. Human rights groups and local gay rights activists reported most of the LGBTI community fled Crimea after the Russian occupation began. LGBTI individuals were verbally and physically assaulted for their sexual orientation, and members of the LGBTI community reported that they were “completely underground.” Russian occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTI groups from holding public events in Crimea. LGBTI individuals faced increasing restrictions on their right to peaceful assembly as occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.
© Erasing 76 Crimes

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Netherlands: Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor more popular than Mark Rutte with PVV voters

8/5/2016- Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Abouteleb is more popular among supporters of the anti-Islam PVV than current prime minister Mark Rutte, according to a new Maurice de Hond opinion poll. The poll gave Aboutaleb, a Labour party member, a seven point lead over the VVD‘s Rutte among PVV voters when asked which of the two men they preferred as prime minister. Aboutaleb is also more popular among PVV voters than D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and Christian Democrat chief Sybrand Buma. Even 7% of the VVD back Aboutaleb over the prime minister and their own party leader. Aboutaleb, a Muslim, is known for his outspoken stance on radical Islam. In November he broke with the Labour party line and said Dutch nationals who have decided they want to travel to Syria to join Islamic militias should be allowed to go but should be banned from coming back to the Netherlands. And after last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris he said that the time is right to wipe out ISIS.

Trump
The poll also showed a majority of PVV voters back Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential elections – making the anti-Islam group the only Dutch party to favour the Republican candidate, by 49% to 40%. PVV leader Geert Wilders has said he plans to attend the Republican party convention to show his support for Trump, who he has declared to be ‘brave’ and ‘good for Europe’. Among all other major Dutch parties, Clinton is the clear favourite.

No change
The poll shows no change in support for the major Dutch political parties over the past week. The PVV remains the biggest with 37 seats in the 150 seat Dutch parliament, but this is five down on the party’s high point earlier this year. The VVD is in second place on 23. The next Dutch general election takes place in a year’s time.
© The Dutch News

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Ireland: Afghan family assaulted in apparent racist attack

Rathfarnham assault perpetrated by gang of five assailants who threatened to kill family

7/5/2016- An Afghan man fears for his family’s safety after his son (13) and two young brothers were punched in the face, kicked and beaten unconscious in an apparent racist attack near Marlay Park in Dublin. The assault, which was launched on the three by a gang of five men, occurred after the family had spent a few hours on Thursday evening in the Rathfarnham park enjoying the sunshine. The 32-year-old man, who moved to Ireland from Afghanistan six years ago when he was granted refugee status and became an Irish citizen in 2013. The man’s 18- and 20-year-old brothers, Naqeeb Ahmadzai and Fazalrahman Ahmadzai, decided to cycle home with the man’s 13-year-old son, while the rest of the family returned home, The Irish Times was told. As the three cycled along Nutgrove Way, a car with five adult men slow down beside them. “They rolled down the window and started shouting the F-word many times, swearing a lot and saying, ‘Why are you here? Go back to your country,’” he said. “The men drove the car across in front of them, blocked them in,” he said. “They didn’t check their pockets for money or take their bikes – they went straight to punch them. ”

Metal object
Some of the attackers used “a black metal object” to beat the men, the man said. “Both my brothers fell unconscious after they were punched in the face. “At the end of it, they punched my son in the face and head. Everything happened in four to five minutes.” The men then got back into their car. “They stuck up their finger saying, ‘We’ll see you again. Go back to your own country. This is a warning, next time we’ll kill you.’ They used the F-word about being Muslim too.” The family spoke to The Irish Times yesterday outside St James’s Hospital emergency department as the man’s brothers continued to receive medical treatment for their injuries.

‘This is my home’
“Irish people have been lovely. This is my home. I can’t believe this attack has happened. Why would people want to hurt my son like this? Nothing has ever happened like this,” he said. “From what the men said, I can see it’s racism.” He said that the family have not had any trouble with people in the area before. Gardaí arrived within minutes and all three victims were taken to hospital. “My son has bruising and cuts around his face and above his eye, but thankfully he seems to be okay,” he said. His brothers are still in hospital. “ They don’t feel very well,” he said. When asked if he and his family feel safe in Ireland, the man reluctantly shook his head and turned away to cry.  “I can’t believe this has happened. This is like a dream. I think it’s not happening but then I go to the hospital to my brothers, I see what they are going through, I see my son’s face and I know it’s real,” he said. “We’re speaking out so hopefully this will not happen again.” he said. “We were happy to be here... Now I don’t know what to do, should I leave or stay.” Gardaí are investigating the incident.
© The Irish Times.

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Poland will not accept refugees: ruling party leader

Poland will not accept refugees because they pose a threat to the country’s security, the head of the ruling, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party said on Saturday.

7/5/2016- Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński also said that Poland would oppose European Commission proposals that would see EU member states having to pay EUR 250,000 per refugee if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers. Answering questions from internet users, Kaczyński said: “After recent events connected with acts of terror will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security. “This is the position of the prime minister and the whole of PiS.” Kaczyński also addressed the migration crisis buffeting Europe in a Law and Justice broadcast on YouTube on Saturday entitled "A Strong Poland in Europe." He said: "As PiS, from the beginning we felt that this issue should be resolved, assisting refugees outside the EU. “Politicians from the current opposition not so long ago claimed that Poland is able to accept any number of refugees. Those who are marching today - supposedly in defence of democracy - wanted to impose on us the forced acceptance of immigrants," he added, referring to Saturday’s anti-government protest in Warsaw.

Kaczyński also referred to recent European Commission proposals that could see EU member states face huge fines if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers. He said: "Such a decision would abolish the sovereignty of EU member states - of course, the weaker ones. “We don’t agree to that, we have to oppose that, because we are and we will be in charge in our own country.” The Polish government has sent out various messages on the issue of taking in asylum-seekers in recent months, on one occasion stating that the intake of refugees would be stalled, and later appearing to indicate the process was open again.



Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński also said that Poland would oppose European Commission proposals that would see EU member states having to pay EUR 250,000 per refugee if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers.

Answering questions from internet users, Kaczyński said: “After recent events connected with acts of terror will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security.

“This is the position of the prime minister and the whole of PiS.”

Kaczyński also addressed the migration crisis buffeting Europe in a Law and Justice broadcast on YouTube on Saturday entitled "A Strong Poland in Europe."

He said: "As PiS, from the beginning we felt that this issue should be resolved, assisting refugees outside the EU.

“Politicians from the current opposition not so long ago claimed that Poland is able to accept any number of refugees. Those who are marching today - supposedly in defence of democracy - wanted to impose on us the forced acceptance of immigrants," he added, referring to Saturday’s anti-government protest in Warsaw.

Kaczyński also referred to recent European Commission proposals that could see EU member states face huge fines if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers.

He said: "Such a decision would abolish the sovereignty of EU member states - of course, the weaker ones.

“We don’t agree to that, we have to oppose that, because we are and we will be in charge in our own country.”

The Polish government has sent out various messages on the issue of taking in asylum-seekers in recent months, on one occasion stating that the intake of refugees would be stalled, and later appearing to indicate the process was open again.

- See more at: http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/251850,Poland-will-not-accept-refugees-ruling-party-leader#sthash.9rgAgYrY.dpuf

© The News - Poland
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News from the UK & Germany - week 19

UK: Two brutal homophobic attacks on Brighton seafront in just seven days

The LGBT community in Brighton and Hove has spoken out after two violent homophobic attacks in the city.

13/5/2016- On bank holiday Monday (May 2), Dain Louis, 21, and his partner James Loxton, 23, were attacked on Kings Road, Brighton. Mr Louis suffered fractured eye sockets, cheeks and a broken nose, and is now recovering his sight despite initial fears that the attack may have blinded him. Two 18-year-old men from Crawley were arrested in connection with the incident. Just before 5am on Sunday (May 8), Aaron Carey, 26, was approached just outside Legends Bar in Marine Parade by a man using homophobic language, who punched him and broke his jaw. A 21-year-old man from London was arrested on suspicion of GBH with intent, and has been bailed until June 13. In both cases the victims have begun to recover, but the violent nature and timeline of the attacks have spurred a movement of support and awareness in Brighton’s LGBT community.

Rory Smith, Brighton LGBT liaison officer, said: “Incidents of this nature are very concerning for the local LGBT community and to visitors to the city. “While alarming, these recent incidents are thankfully not related and violent crime of this nature is relatively uncommon. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant to anti-gay sentiments by reporting incidents to police and our partners.” Sergeant Peter Allan, hate crime officer at Sussex Police, said: “While we have not seen an increase in homophobic hate crimes, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage those who have been victims of hate crime to report them to us by phoning 101 or, in an emergency, 999.”

According to Billie Lewis, chair of the Brighton and Hove LGBT Community Safety Forum, Sussex Police figures state the total number of all recorded hate crimes rose from 1,352 in 2014/15 to 1,728 in 2015/16, an increase of 28 per cent. He said: “It is important that the community stay vigilant and continue to report hate crime and anti-social behaviour. “Whether it’s name calling or physical abuse it must be reported and challenged. All forms of abuse including homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, HIV stigma, racism and disability hate crime cannot be tolerated.” The safety forum runs regular meetings, including an event next Tuesday at Old Steine Gardens to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
To find out more about the event, visit: www.lgbt-help.com
© The Brighton and Hove Independant

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UK: Man spent three days in hospital after homophobic attack

A man spent three days in hospital after he was beaten up with a knuckleduster in a homophobic attack in Brighton.

12/5/2016- Aaron Woods, 26, and his friend Katie Ripley, 21, were approached by a man hurling anti-gay abuse during a night out. Aaron tried to ignore the abuse but ‘within seconds’ he was attacked and knocked unconscious. Aaron’s jaw was broken in three places and he spent three days in hospital undergoing reconstructive surgery. ‘A guy started hurling homophobic comments towards me as I was walking to the train station and within seconds the guy ran up to me and punched me in the face with a knuckleduster,’ he said.‘The next thing I knew, I woke up in hospital covered in blood and felt as if my jaw was hanging off my face.’ The postman was taken to the Royal County Sussex Hospital following the attack, which took place just before 5am outside the Legends pub on Brighton’s promenade. He said he is now ‘absolutely terrified of leaving the house.’ Sussex Police said that a 21-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of assault and grievous bodily harm. ‘While we have not seen an increase in homophobic hate crimes, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage those who have been victims of hate crime to report them to us by phoning 101 or, in an emergency, 999,’ said Sergeant Peter Allan, the force’s hate crime officer.
© Metro UK

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UK: BBC omits refugee tribute from Eurovision

The BBC decided not to air a powerful Eurovision Song Contest intermission centred on the refugee crisis… in favour of a skit about eating meatballs.

10/5/2016- Tuning into the first Eurovision semi-final on Tuesday evening, millions of viewers from across Europe were treated to dance performance piece ‘The Grey People’ – designed as a tribute to the refugee crisis. However, viewers in the UK tuning into the BBC Four live show won’t know anything about it… as the UK feed instead cut away to a pre-recorded comedy segment featuring Mel Giedroyc cooking and eating meatballs. The BBC also filled time with an interview with UK act ‘Joe and Jake’, and did not reference the powerful intermission taking place.

To viewers outside the UK, hosts Petra Mede and Mans Zelmerlow explained: “Right now Europe is facing one of its most difficult challenges in a very long time. “Not only in Europe but around the world, 60 million people are at this moment refugees in search of a new home.” The moving segment included dozens of performers attempting to interpret the crisis through dance, conveying the powerful emotion and confusion involved in fleeing your home. A Eurovision statement explains: “With Europe going through its worst crisis in decades, we stop for a moment and think about that identity truly means. “What home truly means. This contemporary dance act tries to depict the people behind the tabloid statistics.

“The people that have left war torn countries behind in search for a brighter future. The people that risk everything to find a new home, on a new continent, with hope of restoring their identity. “The idea is from the choreographer Benke Rydman.” The BBC has frequently cut away from Eurovision intermission acts in the past, but the decision to not air the refugee segment is surprising due to praise heaped on it by those who did see it. Though under the Eurovision rules broadcasters must show all competing acts, intermissions are not covered – and are sometimes used for ad breaks or interviews in other countries.
© Pink News

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UK: The problem with racism that you won't hear Trevor Phillips

Britain is ‘sleepwalking to catastrophe’ over diversity; Phillips’ clumsy, top-down prescriptions seem out of touch with the reality we see on the ground’

10/5/2016- A leading anti-racism charity has rejected the “dire” claims made by the UK’s former equalities chief Trevor Phillips that Britain is sleepwalking towards catastrophe over complacency about diversity, countering that his views are “out of touch with what we see on the ground”. Mr Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, used his newly published essay ‘Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence’ to paint a grim picture of future community tensions and conflicts in Britain unless a “more muscular” approach to integration is adopted in place of the existing “laissez-faire” attitude.

Mr Phillips wrote in his essay: "In my view, squeamishness about addressing diversity and its discontents risks allowing our country to sleepwalk to a catastrophe that will set community against community, endorse sexist aggression, suppress freedom of expression, reverse hard-won civil liberties, and undermine the liberal democracy that has served this country so well for so long. "Worst of all it may destroy popular support for the values that have, in my opinion, characterised the greatest political advances in my lifetime: equality and solidarity." He adds: "Any attempt to ask whether aspects of minority disadvantage may be self-inflicted is denounced as 'blaming the victim'. Instead, we prefer to answer any difficult questions by focusing on the historic prejudices of the dominant majority. In short, it's all about white racism. "This stance just won't do any more. In fact, in today's superdiverse society, it is dangerously misguided."

But anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate has called Mr Phillips’ vision of diversity “dire” and called his “clumsy, top-down prescriptions” out of touch with the reality it sees on the UK’s streets and within the communities it engages with. The charity argues that its Fear and Hope 2016 report shows that young people are becoming increasingly tolerant about issues such as race and immigration, adding that in a study of over 5,000 people only eight per cent felt “strongly hostile” towards immigration – down from 13 per cent five years ago. A spokesperson for the charity said that it believes “the majority of people want to solve the problems our society faces constructively and peacefully, and the Muslim community – or rather, the Muslim communities – are also evolving rapidly”. “We work with Muslims across the country, including with many independent Muslim women. Even some conservative mosques are beginning to appoint women to management boards, and London now has a Muslim mayor – so things are changing.

The spokesperson added: “Attention does need to be paid to extremists on all sides, and also to the plight of the white working class in de-industrialised areas, who are often abandoned to the likes to UKIP. “But the picture is by no means as grim as Phillips paints and his clumsy, top-down prescriptions seem out of touch with the reality we see on the ground." Mr Phillips’ essay has been published by the right-wing think tank Civitas, in which he claims there is "no shortage of public condemnation of 'racism"', referring to complaints about discriminatory behaviour, the "alleged fear of backlash against Muslims after each terrorist incident", campaigns to remove symbols of colonialism, and social media campaigns against "supposedly offensive" language. But these are not the issues that generate public unease, he claims. "Rather it is the appearance of non-English names above the shop-fronts in the high street; the odd decision to provide only halal meat in some schools; evidence of corruption in municipal politics dominated by one ethnic group or another," he writes.

"Such headlines, frequently misreported, but often grounded in some real change, provoke muttering in the pub, or grumbling at the school gate. They become gathering straws in a stiffening breeze of nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment. "And still, our political and media elites appear not to have scented this new wind. We maintain a polite silence masked by noisily debated public fictions such as 'multiculturalism' and 'community cohesion'. "Rome may not yet be in flames, but I think I can smell the smouldering whilst we hum to the music of liberal self-delusion." He observes that Britain is changing at "an extraordinary pace", adding: "We are now remaking our nation at speed." Mr Phillips suggests a number of steps should be taken in the UK, including placing a duty on institutions to promote integration, ending the construction of production teams in factories by nationality and ensuring English is the standard working language.

He also believes that schools should be required to demonstrate they are making efforts to give their pupils a "real experience" of living in a diverse society - spelling an end to "the kind of ethnic takeover of state schools" seen in Birmingham during the "Trojan Horse" scandal, and that legal curbs on freedom of expression should be done away with and replaced with legislation ensuring only speech and gestures that directly encourage physical harm are restricted. A Government spokesman said: "This Government is committed to creating an integrated society. "The Prime Minister has commissioned a review to see what more we can do to create cohesive communities in England. "The review will look at how we integrate all communities in Britain around a common set of values."
© The Independent

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UK: Family threatened after Bath racism video goes viral

A mother and daughter claimed they have received online abuse after posting a video showing them confront a man about his racist comments.

12/5/2016- Sharon Forbes and her daughter Savannah filmed the man, Alex Davies, at a National Action rally in Bath. The video has been viewed thousands of times since they shared it. Mr Davies subsequently told the BBC that he did not condone intimidation but had a right to say his views in public. National Action is a far-right group that describes itself as fighting for a free white Britain. Ms Forbes said she felt she had to confront Mr Davies, who was speaking at the rally: "I was so incensed and so angry at the views that he was spouting that I thought I just have to get them on video." Since the video was posted on social media they have received abuse but Ms Forbes said the views of the people who had posted "are not going to intimidate us - not at all". Savannah, who is mixed race, said: "We feel too strongly to be scared of people with such a small-minded view." She added: "I didn't know that people like that still existed... and that people still had that mind set." Mr Davies said he accepted his group had racist views and the rally was "low-key" until Ms Forbes began filming.
© BBC News

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UK: Girl, 15, shuts down neo-Nazi protesters making 'bigoted' speeches

10/5/2016- Sharon Forbes and her daughter Savannah were shocked to see a group of men apparently making bigoted speeches using a megaphone on Saturday. A man wearing a baseball cap told Sharon he was advocating a ‘free, white Britain’, so the outraged mum replied: ‘My daughter’s mixed race – should she be booted out?’ The racist protester, in the centre of Bath, looks flummoxed and said: ”I don’t know, she looks white to me… you’re saying that (she’s mixed race) but you could be saying that for argument’s sake.’ Surrounded by shoppers and tourists, he continues to tell Savannah and Sharon that Britain has ‘always been a white country’. Savannah, 15, points out that times have moved on and ‘people have progressed so much since then’.

The man can think of little else to say and marches off with the rest of the group – to the jeers of the crowd. Sharon said she was ‘very proud of Savannah for ‘confronting the racists in Bath’. She said: ‘Savannah is mixed race and is so proud of her heritage. Her grandfather is Jamaican and works as a paediatrician in Africa. He’s an expert on treating malaria. ‘She’s a lovely person and a happy girl, but when we saw those men we had to act. ‘We were so shocked – it’s the first time we’ve ever witnesses directly racism. There were lots of tourists there from all over the world and I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking. ‘People were upset but weren’t doing anything. I think that happens more and more now – society tends to turn a blind eye.’

The men are believed to be from a group called National Action, a neo-Nazi British nationalist youth movement. Sharon said that Savannah, who is studying for her GCSEs, had a strong social conscious and cares deeply about LGBT rights, racism and animal rights. The post has been shared widely on social media and been watched nearly 100,000 times. People have congratulated the pair for their stance on Facebook and condemned the men. Colin Forbes said ‘Well done! What’s a bunch of mutants doing in Bath…must have come in through the sewers!’, while Andrew Bottomley commented: ‘You go girls, well done…sadly, you won’t change the mind of someone who doesn’t possess one but hats off anyway!’
© Metro UK

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UK: Devastating 'anti-Semitic' arson attack caught on CCTV

The footage was taken shortly before Ta’am Deli and Grill in Prestwich turned into a blazing inferno

10/5/2016- Callous arsonists have been caught on CCTV dousing a kosher restaurant dining room in petrol before setting it alight. The footage was taken shortly before Ta’am Deli and Grill in Prestwich turned into a blazing inferno. Its owners say the attack could be motivated by their Jewish heritage. Then as the footage continues a huge fireball erupts all around the restaurant as flames engulf the interior. The fire is spotted leaping out of the bathroom of the deli – which was due to reopen on Monday after a move to new premises – and then through the restaurant’s kitchen. As the clip continues the fire rages and at one point there seems to be an explosion, and smoke quickly fills the room, reports Manchester Evening News. But amazingly the attack only caused ‘minimal’ damage to Ta’am’s interior, says its owners, who say the fact the whole building didn’t burn down is a ‘miracle’.

They say they are now ‘terrified’ after being deliberately targeted by two men, who were also spotted on CCTV ‘casing’ the eatery an hour before the attack, as well as kicking the front window through to get in. They say that they could have been targeted because of their Jewish heritage. Martine Vaizman, one of the co-owners, said: “It is a miracle there wasn’t more damage done. “We were observing Shabbat and so our phone’s were off. When my husband Amos turned his back on we got a notification telling us that the alarm had gone off. “When we got to the restaurant we couldn’t work out what had happened, but then we looked at the CCTV. "It is horrific, we have no idea who could have done this." “The fire has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and we don’t know when we’re going to be able to relaunch now," she continued. "We just spent months and months getting set for the new opening – we’ve redeveloped the whole building. It’s just awful.”

Greater Manchester Police have launched an investigation into the incident, which took place between 10pm and 11pm on Friday, May 6, and are reviewing the CCTV from around the area. Martine said: “We don’t know if they are going to strike again or what’s going to happen. I just hope that whoever did this is caught as soon as possible.”
© The Mirror

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Britain will not accept child refugees for up to seven months, No. 10 admits

9/5/2016- Britain will not accept any refugee children from camps on the European mainland for up to another seven months, Number 10 has admitted. The news prompted an outcry from Conservative MPs who had campaigned for the Government to with one saying that public expected “an urgent response”. Last week David Cameron, the Prime Minister said the UK would accept unaccompanied child refugees from camps on the Continent in the face of a large scale rebellion by Conservative MPs. However Number 10 said on Monday that the Government’s “expectation” was that children from the camps would only be allowed come to the UK by the end of this year. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It is a new scheme so we need to work with councils to get it up and running and that is why we expect we will have the first children arriving by the end of this year.”

The delay was criticised by Conservative MPs who said the public “expects an urgent response”. David Burrowes, one of the left of centre Tory MPs who had helped force the Government to accept the children, said: “The PM's decision last week was a response to an urgent humanitarian need and demands and public expects an urgent response. “We were able to relocate 1000 vulnerable refugees from Syria in three months so it should not take seven months before we relocate vulnerable children from Europe.”


In numbers | Child refugees
3,000
The number of unaccompanied child refugees living in camps across Europe that David Cameron is being asked to consider allowing into the UK. The Prime Minister says he will take more but has not committed to a specific figure

157
The number of unaccompanied child refugees in Calais by the end of April 2016, waiting to cross the border , according to Citizens UK

20,000
The total number of refugees from Syria accepted by UK over the next five years

3,000
Additional refugees, mostly vulnerable children, who can come to UK from the Middle East and North Africa by 2020 after a concession by David Cameron in April 2016

185
The number of UK asylum applications by unaccompanied Syrian minors in 2015, according to Eurostat
© The Telegraph

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UK: London Mayor Bombarded by Anti-Semitic Abuse After Attending Holocaust Event

10/5/2016- London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s attendance at a Holocaust commemoration event last week inspired praise by many, but did not sit well with some in the Twittersphere, with some responding with virulently anti-Israel comments and even Holocaust denial. On Sunday, Mayor Khan, the London-born son of Pakistani immigrants and first Muslim mayor of London, tweeted: “So important to reflect, remember and educate about the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust,” referring to his visit to the Holocaust memorial event, his first official mayoral act. As of Monday evening, the post had attracted more than 1,500 “likes” and was shared 950 times, with responses such as: “Thank you for attending the Yom HaShoah event. The event made me proud to be British for so many reasons. We are all one.”

But among the other responses was blatant Holocaust denial, including a comment that “much of the so-called ‘holocaust’ has been faked, including the post-1945 Auschwitz construction,” suggesting that much of the Auschwitz site was built after World War II. Another commentators challenged Khan with: “Have you plucked that figure of 6 [million] out of thin air? What was the total population of Jews in 1940? Don’t distort history. Max 1 [million].” An anti-Muslim reaction was also among the Twitter barrage: “The cult followers of Muhammad have killed 270 million people in 1,400 years.”

Khan made Sunday’s appearance at a London ceremony following a racially charged election campaign during which Conservative Party opponents sought to portray him as an apologist for Islamic extremism and to highlight cases of alleged anti-Semitism within the ranks of the mayor’s Labour Party. The annual Holocaust commemoration, which was held in a rugby stadium, brought together thousands from London’s Jewish community, including more than 150 Holocaust survivors and a combined choir from five Jewish elementary schools. Khan attended alongside Lord Michael Levy, one of Labour’s most senior Jewish supporters and the party’s former lead fundraiser.
© JTA News

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UK: Nazi thug who chanted 'Allah is a paedo' is exposed as child sex pervert

Kristopher Allan, 32, is an active member of the Scottish defence league and it has now emerged that he was previously convicted for having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in 2006.

7/5/2016- A far-right thug who terrorised his former partner and mouths off about paedophiles at anti-Islamic rallies can today be exposed as a child sex offender. Kristopher Allan, 32, was last week sentenced after admitting behaving in a threatening and abusive manner towards his ex at her Edinburgh home. He is an active member of the Scottish Defence League and was pictured at a rally last October. Despite the council trying to put a ban on the march, Allan was one of a group of around 40 protesters who were reported to have chanted “f*** off refugees” and “Allah is a paedo” on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. But now it has emerged that lowlife Allan has a conviction for sending indecent messages and photos and having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl at his home 10 years ago. Allan admitted the offence in 2007 and was given a two-year probation order and had his name added to the sex offenders’ register for the same period. He was banned from having any contact with under 16s and ordered to carry out offence-focused work to address his sexual offending.

A source said: “This guy goes to rallies to sound off about Muslim paedo-philes. He’s a hypocrite.” Though Allan, of Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, was wearing a Union flag mask and hood at the rally in October, he has been identified by a source by his distinctive arm tattoo. Just three months later, he was arrested for causing fear or alarm to his partner by shouting and swearing and making threats of violence to a police officer. Allan was sentenced to a community payback order with two years’ supervision and a 30-month non-harassment order. He was also ordered to attend a programme for men who have abused their partners. A source said of his ex: “Her trust is shattered – she had no idea about his past. He has no shame.” Allan could not be contacted for comment yesterday. A neighbour said he had not been seen for weeks.
© The Daily Record

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Germany declares three countries that criminalize gay sex to be ‘safe’ for gay asylum seekers

The country's leading LGBTI organization called the decision a 'human rights-related declaration of bankruptcy'

13/5/2016- Germany has declared three homophobic North African countries to be safe, making it nearly impossible to claim asylum when fleeing from them. The government announced today (13 May) they would, from now on, consider the so-called Maghreb states of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to be safe countries of origin. ‘Helping also means being able to say no,’ Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thomas de Maziere, told BILD. Under German federal law, this means asylum seekers from these countries will see their applications rejected as ‘manifestly unfounded’ unless they produce facts or evidence proving they face persecution in their home country. ‘For a state to be declared a safe country of origin, there has to be nationwide safety from political persecution for all citizens and demographic groups,’ a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court states.

Homosexuality is illegal in all three countries and can be punished with prison sentences of up to three years. In Morocco, anyone found guilty also faces a fine of 120($18.25) – 1200 dirham ($124.38). In Algeria, the maximum sentence is two years also a fine of 500 ($4.56) – 2000 dinars ($18.25), but it increases to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dinars ($91.28) if one of the partners is under 18. The government’s decision was met with protests from both the opposition as well as LGBTI organizations. Volker Beck, part of the Green Party’s faction in the Bundestag and openly gay himself, published a statement on Facebook – signed by himself and other members of his party – condemning the decision and declaring they would not be voting in favor of the change. ‘Consensual same-sex actions come with the threat of high prison sentences,’ the statement reads. ‘Lesbians, gay men, bi, trans and intersex people are exposed to discrimination and violence in their everyday lives, without being able to rely on protection from the authorities.

Germany’s biggest LGBTI organization, the Lesben- und Schwulenverband Deutschland (LSVD)  called the government’s new stance a ‘human rights-related declaration of bankruptcy’ and called upon the Bundesrat (upper house) to stop the law. ‘Whoever declares Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to be safe countries of origin vindicates frequent human rights violations,’ said Henne Engels, the organization’s spokesperson. ‘[In doing so] they complicit with people falling victim to political persecution, incarceration and abuse just because they love differently. ‘ The LSVD also accused the government of being cynical after they advised LGBTIs in those countries to ‘lie low’. ‘Just two days ago, Minister of Justice Maas announced he’d present a proposed law outlining the rehabilitation of those charged under $175, rightly calling the former persecution of homosexuals “disgraceful deeds of the constitutional state”,’ Engels said. ‘Today, the black-red coalition (Conserative-Labour coalition government) issues the disgraceful deeds of the persecution of homosexuals in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia a certificate of non-objection.’

It’s partly influenced by what has become known as the Cologne attacks, where a group of 50 men – the majority allegedly from North Africa – sexually assaulted women in and around Cologne main station during the New Year celebrations.
© Gay Star News

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Germany: Unease as Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ back on best-seller list

Hybrid of memoir and political rant sells 70,000 copies, to historian publishers’ alarm

13/5/2016- It sounds like a remake of the Mel Brooks’s farce The Producers, but set in the publishing world. A group of historians republish Mein Kampf in Germany for the first time in 70 years and look on – first with pride, then with alarm – as the book sails to the top of Germany’s book charts. Five editions and 70,000 copies later, historian Christian Hartmann admits mixed feelings on turning the Nazi dictator into a posthumous best-selling author. “We couldn’t have imagined it would be this successful and are delighted, because it is an edition that is meant for all,” he said. “But some people have no end of difficulty with it because Mein Kampf is, in many ways, a relic from the Third Reich.” During Hitler’s lifetime Mein Kampf, a two-volume hybrid of memoir and political rant, sold 12 million copies in 18 languages. But after his suicide in in 1945, this Nazi relic was effectively banned in Germany.

With no heirs, Hitler’s German-language copyright was transferred to the Bavarian state government in Munich. It put the book in its poison cupboard and refused to issue publication licences. Bavaria had no influence on the trade in second-hand editions, e-book versions or English and other foreign language editions. As Bavaria’s copyright on Mein Kampf neared its end last January, seven decades after the author’s death, Dr Hartmann of Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History won approval for a team of historians to produce a scholarly edition. Their ambition was to demystify the book and, with research and reason, take apart the dictator’s rants. They also hoped to pre-empt any neo-Nazi groups producing tribute editions. The critical edition’s first print run of 5,000 copies sold out immediately – a surprise given the heavy, two-volume work costs €59. As it enters its sixth edition, does Dr Hartmann feel congratulations or commiserations are in order?

Reputation
The historian laughs nervously. He operates in the elitist world of German academia, where too much popular success can ruin a professional reputation. “The humanities are not normally showered with public attention, which makes some people suspicious of success, particularly of our project,” said Dr Hartmann. “But I hate an elitist approach to know-ledge, I find it extremely undemocratic – particularly knowledge financed by public money.” Dr Hartmann says his institute will make no profit from the book. Decontaminating the dictator’s poison took years of work; the €59 purchase price only covers the research, publishing and warehouse costs. The man behind the success of Mein Kampf has one regret – and it’s not bringing Hitler back to the bestseller lists. The project almost failed because Bavarian politicians pulled their funding. But the critical edition of Mein Kampf struggled on with other financing. “It is rather strange but we’ve heard nothing at all from the Bavarian state,” said Dr Hartmann. “For those people we solved a big problem.”
© The Irish Times.

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Germany: Far-right rock festivals are returning

12/5/2016- Far-right rock concerts are making a return in Germany, with one in the state of Thuringia on Saturday attracting around 3,500 people, according to German media. “Rock for Identity,” brought crowds of young right-wingers to the town of Hildburghausen to watch bands with names like “ Übermensch” and “Blitzkrieg,” Die Welt reported. According to a report seen by the paper, the popularity of such events is growing, with 15 concerts, attracting over 1,500 visitors, taking place in the first three months of this year, more than took place in the same period for the past three years. Left-wing MP Ulla Jelpke told Die Welt the concerts act as a “gateway drug,” leading people into more committed activism. Such events were popular in 1980s and 90s but were thought to have declined.
© Newsweek Europe

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Germany: 1,000s of gay men still live with criminal records

Homosexuality hasn’t been a crime for decades. But thousands of men still have criminal records based on a law that was wiped from the books in 1969.

11/5/2016- The head of the Federal Anti-discrimination Office, Christine Lüders, called on the government on Wednesday to repeal convictions made against gay men under paragraph 175 of the criminal code, a law which was lifted in 1969. “The law makers need to act,” Lüders told the Funke Media Group, explaining that over 50,000 men were prosecuted in the decades after the Second World War based on their sexuality. “The essence of their human dignity” was injured by the rulings, Lüders said, but still the men have to live with their criminal records. Lüders' words are backed up by a legal study published by her office which concluded that the government has a legally obliged to repeal the convictions.

The Gay and Lesbian Association (LSVD) welcomed the study's conclusions, saying that it shows the government “not only can but must clear the names of the men who were convicted under paragraph 175.” Calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet “to act against this injustice” before next year’s general election, the LSVD demanded that individual compensation be paid to victims as a collective settlement. Die Zeit reports that compensation could be made in the form of investment in educational projects which aim to explain and foster tolerance for sexual diversity, with individual claims for compensation unlikely to be successful. Paragraph 175 was part of the German legal code from 1872 onwards. Under Nazi rule the sentence was raised considerably, with men who were convicted sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

But after the war the government in the communist east and democratic west both took decades to wipe the law from their books. In East Germany the law was only annulled in 1968, after thousands of convictions. In West Germany police arrested gay men en masse. More than 50,000 were convicted, and Die Zeit reports that many of those convicted killed themselves, while others went to prison or lost their jobs. The law was annulled in 1969. In 2002 the government cleared all convictions dating back to the Nazi era. But men found guilty after that time have yet to see their names cleared.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Methods For Reforming Neo-Nazis Help Fight Radicalization Of Muslims

10/5/2016- Imagine this scenario: A young Muslim leaves home to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Thousands of young men from Europe have done exactly that in the past two years. But here's the twist: Imagine that just weeks after arriving, the young man realizes he's made a terrible mistake. What does he do now? If he's American, his options are few. Even attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS is considered providing support to a terrorist organization, a federal offense that carries a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison. But if the young Muslim is German, he might be in luck. The German government is looking at new ways to work with what are essentially ISIS dropouts, and it is drawing from its previous work with right-wing extremists. It appears many of the same methods used to reform neo-Nazis are directly applicable to young people who are taken in by violent Salafist groups like ISIS.

"We got a phone call from a family who told us their son had gone to ISIS, and after two weeks, he realized, 'OK, that's not for me, that is not what I expected, that is not what I wanted to do. I want to come home,' " says Julia Berczyk, a counselor at a Berlin-based rehabilitation program called Hayat-Germany. Hayat means "life" in Arabic, and in many ways, counselors at this program are trying to provide a new lease on life for young Muslims who radicalize and then regret it. The process usually begins with a phone call. In the case Berczyk cites of a young man who wanted to return, Hayat advised his family to contact German authorities. Parents are typically reluctant to do that, Bercyzk says, because reporting on their children could send them to jail. But given the alternative — the possible death of a relative on the battlefield — parents tend to follow Hayat's counsel.

"We've found that calling the authorities early can be quite an advantage in the court later on," says Berczyk. "Because the authorities see, OK, this guy was really trying to get out of there, and the family was willing to cooperate with us and they were open about it. That can actually have a very positive effect on sentencing later on." According to official tallies, some 700 Germans have traveled to Syria to join groups like ISIS since 2012; hundreds are believed to have returned. So it isn't surprising that German authorities are eager to use all means available — whether it is parents or hotline calls or friends and friends of friends — to identify ISIS followers in Germany and possibly de-radicalize them before they turn violent. Hayat-Germany is part of that official effort; it is funded by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Just this spring, an ISIS defector returned to Europe and turned over a thumb drive that contained thousands of the group's job applications. German authorities have the documents, and officials there tell NPR that the information has been very helpful in their effort to locate returnees in Germany. Similarly, an American ISIS defector from Virginia turned himself in to Iraqi Kurdish forces back in March. Officials expect such defections will only increase. Hayat says there could be more cases for leniency. If someone who traveled to Syria didn't fight, for example, but instead helped ISIS with IT or translated for the group, German authorities take that into account. (So far, U.S. authorities haven't made those kinds of distinctions.).

Hayat-Germany grew out of a program called Exit-Deutschland, which targeted neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, groups that German authorities have been working to de-radicalize and fold back into German society for years. Berczyk says the Hayat program is premised on the belief that the lessons from working with right-wing extremist programs can be applied to radical Islamists as well. "There is a commonality between extremist ideologies," she says. "But also, if we are talking about sects and cults, there are certain things that all these groups have in common." That's good news because it means authorities can mine their long experience with neo-Nazis and apply it to the relatively new problem they face with ISIS now. Of course, each case is different, which is what makes de-radicalization complicated.

But in a general way, Hayat-Germany says, the key component in these programs is family. Studies have shown that by strengthening family ties, parents and siblings end up providing the support young people were missing and subsequently sought and found in extremist groups. Among other things, Hayat counsels the families to avoid confrontation when they are trying to convince relatives to come back from Syria. Recruiters in the jihadist camps tell new arrivals that conflict with their families is inevitable. They warn them that if they reach out to those they have left at home, they'll be chastised and ordered to return. The problem with their families, the recruiters say, is they just don't understand ISIS followers and the depth of their faith. If families get angry — even if it comes from worry — this plays right into the recruiters' hands.

That's why Hayat tells parents not to demand a return, but instead to suggest their relatives leave Syria and settle in a third country, far away from the battlefield, and start a family and a new life. Once the young people are out from under ISIS' spell, families have a better chance of convincing them eventually to come home. Strategies to make this happen come from counselors at Hayat.  Quintan Wiktorowicz, an academic who did field studies on radicalization in Jordan and the U.K., now runs Affinis Labs, which tries to use innovation and entrepreneurship to solve community problems like radicalization. He was responsible for engagement programs at the White House and developed counter-radicalization initiatives for the State Department. He says Hayat's remedies — from hotlines people can call to engaging the families of radicalized youth in counseling sessions — are strategies that have been effective across ideologies. "Although there are different pathways to radicalization and the ideologies vary across extremists groups, the underlying drivers are very similar," he said.

The drivers usually come in three parts: an extreme level of frustration, a sense of powerlessness, and exposure to an ideology that not only resonates emotionally, but also offers a solution to the frustration. "The mechanics, whether you are a right-wing extremist or embracing ISIS, are very similar," he says. Wiktorowicz says the one constant in successful programs is that they are very individualized in order to address the grievances that drove someone to extremist groups in the first place. "It is incredibly labor intensive to do rehabilitation and de-radicalization because you have to take into account what experiences and psychological needs lead them down the path to extremism in the first place," he says. The bright spot in this is that not all of ISIS' followers are such hard cases. "For individuals who join for social reasons or because of an identity crisis, then you have a better chance of customizing the rehabilitation intervention," he says.

When it comes to ISIS followers, particularly those from the U.S., there's a general sense that young men and women have traveled to Syria as part of a group of friends. Or they think traveling to Syria will help them bear witness to history and be part of what ISIS has called a homeland for Muslims. Setting them straight on that is possible with counseling. Hayat's hotline for families and would-be returnees has become so popular, its reach has gone beyond Germany. Denmark has a hotline. The U.K. and France have been setting up something similar too. Hayat-Germany says it has counseled some 200 extremists from all over the world. Berczyk wouldn't say if any calls had come in from America.
© NPR

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German court tells Munich Hofbraeukeller to host right-wing AfD

12/5/2016- A Munich beer hall where Adolf Hitler launched his political career has been ordered to overturn a ban on a meeting by right-wing populist party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD). AfD had booked the Hofbraeukeller for an address by party leader Frauke Petry to hundreds of supporters. But the beer hall cancelled the booking after the party agreed a policy that Islam was "not part of Germany". Landlord Ricky Steinberg said he feared protests outside the venue. He said that under the terms of the contract he was entitled to call off Friday evening's meeting on grounds of security. "I could really do without the hullaballoo," he was quoted as saying. But the Munich district court ruled on Thursday that the beer hall was tied to the rental contract. AfD officials said they had already paid a €6,100 (£4,800; $7,000) deposit for the event. AfD officials have suggested that the beer hall was leant on by the mainstream political parties to ban the event. They argued that they had offered to provide the venue with security and insisted that no protest against the meeting had been planned.

Shooting migrants
Mr Steinberg has run the Hofbraeukeller for almost 20 years and it has been widely used by mainstream parties in the past, including Bavaria's centre-right CSU and the centre-left SPD. However, its historical connection to Adolf Hitler is particularly relevant in Germany now, with the AfD adopting policies that are synonymous with the far right. Hitler gave his first political speech at the Hofbraeukeller in September 1919. The AfD's founder, economics professor Bernd Lucke, resigned in July 2015 as the movement - originally focused on pulling Germany out of the euro - moved farther to the right. The new leader, Frauke Petry, said in January this year that police should have the right to shoot at migrants "if necessary", to prevent illegal border crossings. Then, on 1 May, an AfD conference adopted a ban on minarets, the Muslim call to prayer and the full-face veil, with a motion that said Islam was "not part of Germany". While the AfD has gradually embraced right-wing, populist policies, it is also forging ahead in opinion polls. Latest polls suggest it commands 15% of the vote, five points behind the centre-left SPD.
© BBC News

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Germany: AfD battles to use beer hall that launched Hitler's career

Right-wing populist party the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has refused to accept a ban from the Munich beer hall where Adolf Hitler gave one of his first political speeches.

9/5/2016- The AfD had booked the Hofbräukeller in the Bavarian capital for a meeting featuring party leader Frauke Petry on May 13th. But landlord Ricky Steinberg called off the event last week, saying that he feared the party might attract violent counter-protests outside his doors. “I fear for the reputation of the Hofbräukeller and its security,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday. Now the AfD's eastern Munich branch says that it will go to court, seeking either tens of thousands of Euros in damages or the right to go ahead with the party meeting, unless Steinberg backs down. They argue that they had already signed a contract and made an advance payment of €6,100 for the use of the venue. Other political parties including the traditionalist, conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) have regularly used the Hofbräukeller for meetings in the past. “I'll wait for the court case to come in,” landlord Steinberg said on Sunday, adding that “my decision is definitely final”.

Dark history
There is more than a touch of far-right history to the Munich beer institution, as it was the scene of Adolf Hitler's first speech as head of the German Workers' Party in 1919. It was a significant enough event to the future dictator that he later recalled it in his manifesto Mein Kampf. But the more famous of the dictator's beer hall speeches took place in the Bürgerbräukeller, since destroyed, where he launched the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" in 1923. The Bürgerbräukeller was also the scene of a 1939 attempt on Hitler's life using a bomb by Georg Elser, made famous in a 2015 film.
© The Local - Germany

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German activists decry attacks on Christian refugees in asylum centers

Muslim migrants discriminate against religious minorities in German refugee centers, a Christian group has said. According to their report, Christians refugees are being harassed, insulted and attacked.

9/5/2016- German refugee centers need to offer more protection to non-Muslims, Christian organization Open Doors Germany said on Monday, while presenting a new report in Berlin. The organization's head, Markus Rode, spoke of a rising climate of "fear and panic" among the newcomers. The group, which supports prosecuted Christians worldwide, interviewed 231 Christian migrants residing in Germany, most of them from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. According to survey, an overwhelming majority (88 percent) said they have been targeted by other migrants because of their religion. Additionally, almost one-half of survey participants accused guards of discriminating against religious minorities or harassing them. In Germany's refugee housing, both the migrants and the security personal are mostly Muslim. Out of 231 Christian migrants, 42 percent have reported insults, 37 percent said they suffered a physical injury, and 32 percent allegedly received death threats. The reports is only "the tip of the iceberg," said Open Doors' chief Rode.

Mandatory prayers
At the Monday press conference, Syrian refugee Fadi S. said he was "shocked" to meet Muslim fundamentalists in a German refugee home after fleeing his country to escape religious extremism. According to a Protestant minister from Berlin, Christian refugees had been threatened after refusing to take part in an Islamic prayer with other migrants. In the past, church and state officials have described attacks on Christians as an individual, and not a systemic problem. However, activist and preacher Gottfried Martens said this viewpoint is playing down the extent of the problem. Martens added he was "speechless, that people are still holding on to this 'individual' perspective," and asked if the "very last Christian needs to be attacked," before this position is abandoned.

Pushing for separation
Open Doors Germany and other activists groups urged politicians to protect religious minorities and lump non-Muslims in large groups. Others have suggested that Christians, Yezidis and other minorities should be housed separately from the Muslim refugees. Activists also suggested that the state hire more translators and security guards that are not Muslims, and to have mediators that would handle complaints from Christian refugees. In 2015, Germany received over one million immigrants, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East. The rate of influx has slowed down significantly since January.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Headlines 6 May, 2016

Bulgaria: Clashes at Anti-Roma Rally in Radnevo

Several policemen and protesters have been injured during clashes at an anti-Roma rally in the southern town of Radnevo that was held after an alleged assault by Roma men on ethnic Bulgarians.

5/5/2016- Three policemen and four protesters suffered injuries after violent clashes broke out the rally in Radnevo, the Bulgarian interior ministry said on Thursday. Around 2,000 people joined the protest on Wednesday evening, following an incident in which four men of Roma origin assaulted three Bulgarians in a street row on Monday. The violence erupted when the crowd, shouting “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians”, “Bulgarians – heroes”, “Bulgaria above all” and various anti-Roma slogans, reached the Roma neighbourhood of Kantona, which was cordoned off by interior ministry special forces. Some of the protesters tried to break through the barricades and enter the Roma neighbourhood, throwing stones and fireworks at the policemen, who responded by dispersing the crowd with batons. According to Radnevo’s mayor Tenyo Tenev, the people who tried to break through the barricades were football hooligans from the nearby city of Stara Zagora.

Speaking to public broadcaster BNT on Thursday, Tenev called on the people of Radnevo, a town of around 13,000 inhabitants, to protest peacefully. Tenev alleged that the incident that sparked the tensions was caused by one Roma family. “The people are fed up with the wrongdoings of this family, of their shameless, aggressive and arrogant behaviour,” he told media on Wednesday. The family has so far made no public response to the mayor’s allegations. Four people - a Roma man called Kalcho Ivanov and three of his relatives - were arrested and charged with attempted murder after they allegedly beat up three young men from Radnevo on Monday. One of the victims was admitted to hospital with a life-threatening knife-stab wound.

The suspects' lawyer claimed however that one of the Roma men, Stefan Ivanov, was severely beaten up by the Bulgarians. People in Radnevo are now organising another rally, scheduled for Thursday evening. Meanwhile, people from the Roma neighbourhood told media that they are afraid for their lives and most of its inhabitants have temporarily left, moving in with friends and relatives outside Radnevo. Wednesday’s clashes were not unprecedented in Bulgaria, where in recent years tensions between people from Roma and ethnic Bulgarian backgrounds have erupted several times, usually over crime-related issues. The most violent clashes took place in 2011, when anti-Roma protests were held all over the country following tragic accidents in the southern Bulgarian village of Katunitsa which led to the deaths of two young Bulgarian boys. In 2015, protesters also occupied Roma ghettos in the southern Bulgarian village of Garmen, as well as in Sofa’s Orlandovtsi neighbourhood, but police prevented any violence from breaking out.
© Balkan Insight

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Network of Armenian, Jewish, Roma and Assyrian Diasporas launched

On Monday May 2 a coalition of Jewish, Armenian, Roma and Assyrian organizations launched a charter “For a Europe of Diasporas” at a conference in the European Parliament. The document is a call for Europe to rediscover and value its diasporas. To support the Charter for a Europe of Diasporas.

5/5/2016- The document emphasizes that diasporas “are a product of Europe’s history, [a] part of the European tapestry, have contributed to making European civilization what it is today and will continue in the future”. It defines diasporas as “transnational communities [that] share a common cultural heritage transmitted through generations.” Says Ismael Cortez of the UNESCO Institute of Philosophy: “many believe that there is an original European ethnic group. That is nationalist thinking. The perspective of the project “A Europe of Diasporas” is that Europe has always been a mosaic of peoples. […] My people, the Roma, are truly European as much as the rest.”

Conference panels discussed two areas of concerns in particular: education and the need for “inclusive narratives”. The charter’s call for “children affiliated with a diaspora [to] have an opportunity to learn of their background and heritage” was backed by the representative of the European Commission, Ms Kristina Cunningham: “we are arguing that schools today need to take the mother tongue of every child into account to support the development of children’s individual multilingualism.” The panel on “inclusive narratives” addressed the effects of the near absence of diasporas in the narratives that shape people’s understanding in the media, history teaching, the entertainment industry and public discourse. This theme also addressed the importance of remembrance of genocides and the toxic effects of their denial.

“We need wider recognition of the specificity of diasporas as a phenomenon. We need a very clear commitment on this”, said Vicente Rodriguez of TernYpe International Roma Network. Jordi Sebastia MEP, co-chair of the Parliament’s intergroup on National Minorities, Traditional Communities and Languages, believed it can and should be done: “it is possible to preserve the identity of [diasporas] and also to share common values about human rights and democracy in Europe, but we need to make the effort. ” Says Nicolas Tavitian of the Armenian General Benevolent Union Europe: “people’s identities have been instrumentalized for power, oppression and conflict. We urgently need a new ethic of diasporas. This is what the charter has to offer.”

The conference also featured the award ceremony of the photo competition “A Europe of Diasporas”. Andreea Tanase was announced as the winner of the competition for her photo “Holy Thursday”. The best 20 pictures of the competition selected by the professional jury members were exhibited in the Parliament during the conference. The exhibition illustrates the life and legacy of the Jewish, Armenian, Roma and Assyrian diasporas in Europe. It can be made available upon request.

The project also produced a map available online and a mobile application that display the heritage of diasporas in Europe.
© Public Radio of Armenia

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Polish PM abolishes anti-discrimination council

Prime Minister Beata Szydło has abolished Poland's Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, it emerged on Tuesday night.

4/5/2016- The council was abolished by a Law and Justice government decree on 27 April. The body had been established in 2011 under the tenure of Prime Minister Donald Tusk (current president of the European Council), of the centrist Civic Platform party. Among other factors, the council was tasked with ensuring coordination between government institutions and local government bodies, as well with other groups involved in preventing racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The council also monitored and analyzed spheres where such discrimination was occurring. The decree to abolish the council comes into force on 1 June. It is not clear at present whether the prime minister intends to establish a body that carries out similar work. In March, Poland's human rights Ombudsman outlined that in recent months there has been an upsurge in hate speech and violence against foreigners. Besides the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism objected to the abolition, but they were overruled. Deputy Minister of Sport Ryszard Szuster had argued that the council “is currently the only body providing coordination of governmental institutions, local government bodies and other entities in preventing and combating discrimination and intolerance."
© The News - Poland

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Spain: Anti-Semitic Graffiti Appears After Village Changes Its Name

Two years ago, a tiny Spanish village gained fame for deciding, finally, to break any possible link to the persecution of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.

4/5/2016- It held a referendum in which the village’s 56 registered inhabitants agreed to shed its medieval name — Castrillo Matajudíos, which roughly translates as Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers. Instead, it is now called Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or something like Little Hill Fort of Jews. Since then, however, the village has become a victim of repeated acts of vandalism, mostly anti-Semitic graffiti, that the mayor attributes to unknown far-right extremist groups that, he believes, have no direct connection to his village. The mayor, Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, filed a police complaint on Tuesday after the latest aggression, in which the village’s brand-new road signposts were sprayed over the weekend with anti-Semitic and fascist graffiti, he said. The signposts will need replacing, the mayor said. They had been erected last October, when his village officially completed its name change after the May 2014 referendum.

In a handful of recent incidents, he said, extremists painted offensive graffiti onto the facade of the town hall, and damaged public benches and other parts of the village. “A name change, sadly, doesn’t only bring about positive consequences and the respect it deserves,” Mr. Rodríguez Pérez said. “There are some people who want us to forget the Jews — and certainly not get closer to Israel — but we will not bow to any attempt to create a threatening environment here.” As part of the overhaul, the village’s authorities have also been promoting its Jewish roots. There is an archaeological project to dig up the remains of a synagogue and other buried evidence of the historic settlement. And in June, Castrillo’s mayor will lead a delegation of seven officials from the village on a weeklong visit to Israel, during which Castrillo is to be named the twin village of an Israeli community, Kfar Vradim.

Since the village announced its name change, the Israeli ambassador to Spain, as well as representatives of the Jewish community in Spain, have visited Castrillo. The rapprochement and official visits have generated some protests by pro-Palestinian activists, the mayor said. “We have respected such protests and expect others to respect the choice of people here to change our name,” the mayor said. “But there is always a portion of people who are too intransigent to understand such basic rights, even in a democratic country like Spain.”
© The New York Times

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Netherlands: Four in 10 refugee deportations are called off at last minute

4/5/2016- Almost 40% of the deportations of refugees who have lost their appeals to stay in the Netherlands are called off at the last minute, the NRC says on Wednesday. Last year, 1,225 out of 3,165 plane tickets were unused, the paper says. It bases its claim on justice ministry figures. In 2013, some 30% of deportations failed to take place. A ministry spokesman told the paper that since 2013 some groups of refugees cannot be held in a detention centre prior to being deported. This makes it easier for them to disappear, the spokesman said. In other cases, deportations are cancelled because of administrative errors or because military police escorts are stuck in traffic. The spokesman said that most people whose deportations are cancelled do leave the Netherlands but did not provide any figures.

Missing
Last November, broadcaster Nos said that 4,000 of the 8,000 asylum seekers who had lost their claim to refugee status in the Netherlands in 2015, returned to their country of origin, either voluntarily or via deportation programmes. The whereabouts of the remaining 4,000 is unknown, and they may have remained in the Netherlands without papers, the broadcaster said. The Netherlands has a policy of evicting failed asylum seekers from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate with their deportation and refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are turned out onto the street every year. Several hundred high profile failed asylum seekers are currently squatting or living in temporary accommodation in Amsterdam and other cities. They say they cannot return home because it is unsafe or because they don’t have proper papers.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Reject Remembrance Day in face of rising fascism, Islamophobia: Activist

3/5/2016- Activist Christa Noella is calling for a boycott of Remembrance Day with the Dutch hashtag #geen4meivoormij (no 4th of may for me) on social media. According her, “Remembrance Day lost its value due to the hypocrisy of society” and May 4th is “meaningless we just let the rise of fascism and Islamophobia in the Netherlands take its course”, she writes on Facebook. “I can not with a straight face commemorate the victims of fascism when each month we let Nazis march around in Dutch cities under the guise of freedom of expression. How can we agree that this awful past must never happen again while we throw bombs on Syria”, Noella writes.

The activists also wants “the history of my ancestors” to be remembered in the Netherlands. “I do not want to take part in a Eurocentric society where white history is more important than the non-white history.” Noella’s call was met with much criticism, both from politicians and on social media. According to VVD parliamentarian Fred Teeven, the call to boycott May 4th “shows no respect for our liberation”, he said to the Telegraaf. “Now even 4 May is racism… #geen4meivoormij is nothing more than attention seeking by people without historical awareness”, D66 member Jeroen Adema said on Twitter.
© The NL Times

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Netherlands Sees 'Worrisome' Rise in Antisemitism in Schools

3/5/2016- An anti-Semitism watchdog warned on Monday about a “worrisome trend” of anti-Semitic incidents at schools in the Netherlands despite an overall drop of incidents on the country’s streets. The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) reported that there were 16 incidents of anti-Semitism in Dutch schools in 2015, the highest recorded number in the country for a decade. One such incident included a non-Jewish woman married to a Moroccan Jew who was pursued and confronted by parents of her daughter’s classmates in her school about her relationship with the Jewish man, the report said. A father of one of the classmates is said to have grabbed her by the throat and called her a “Jew’s whore.”

In reaction to the report, Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress and president of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, said that European countries must do more to protect Jewish students in their education systems. “Schools should be bastions of security and safe-havens for all students and it is therefore very worrying that the CIDI is reporting an increase in anti-Semitic incidents at schools," he said in a statement to Newsweek. "This is extremely concerning because these people are the future leaders of Holland and if they are being taught to act this way during their educational and formative years this will only bode ill for the future," he added. "I call on all governments around Europe to guarantee the security of Jewish students and impress greater tolerance on Dutch students."

The CIDI reported a 26 percent decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands in 2015 compared to the year before, down to 126 from 171. The 2015 figure still represents the second-highest toll since 2010, demonstrating that levels of anti-Semitism remain high. Nearly a fifth (24) of the total count were insults shouted at Jews on the street, 12 were cases of online harassment, six were cases of vandalism and five were incidents of physical violence. In 2014, CIDI recorded a 71 percent increase, from 100 to 171, in anti-Semitic incidents compared to the year prior. Half of all of the incidents occurred during the seven-week Gaza conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian militant groups, with many other European countries also reporting notable rises in anti-Semitic incidents in the same period.

The Netherlands has a Jewish population of 30,000 and Jews outwardly displaying their faith have represented many of those targeted in the country in recent years. The leader of the Jewish community in the Netherlands, Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs, told Newsweek in 2015 that he had had “dirty Jew” and “Hitler” shouted at him, while bricks have been thrown through his windows. He added that security measures outside Jewish institutions, such as schools, homes and museums, would not solve the problem and were akin to taking an aspirin for a headache.

Jewish immigration from European countries to safer pastures is on the rise, with many leaving for Israel or for cities such as London. Dutch Jewish immigration is low compared to France, however. In 2015, just 95 Dutch Jews made aliyah to Israel while French Jews making the same journey numbered almost 8,000.
© Newsweek Europe

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Northern Ireland: The N word means Never, for Gerry Adams too

3/5/2016- In the insular world of Irish political reporting, it takes a huge event to knock the current obsession - government formation - off the front page. But Gerry Adams’ by-now notorious tweet, “Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy N*****r!” did just that. Especially because he not only referred to the ‘N’ word but spelled it out. Adams has come out with some very strange tweets in his time, but the misjudgement and inappropriateness involved in this one was galling and immediate. The word is racist and a slur. It is not appropriate to use it in any circumstances. Full stop.

Adams (or those who advise him) knew it was wrong and the tweet was hastily removed after ten minutes. The Sinn Féin leader should have issued a contrite apology for the appalling gaffe (and by any yardstick, the tweet was crass). Instead, we witnessed a drawn-out, self-serving series of tweets and statements, putting it all into context over the next 12 hours. The subliminal message: Anyone who knows Gerry knows he does not have a racist bone in his body and is never wrong and can never be challenged on anything he says. It was pretty numbing stuff. It shows either how much Adams’s mistakes (and they are mounting) are indulged within Sinn Féin; or how out-of-touch he and his kitchen cabinet are.

First up was a tweet: “Any1 who saw Django would know my tweets&N-word were ironic.Nationalists in Nth were treated like African Americans.” The thesis behind this ‘context’ tweet was that the experience of Northern nationalists was somehow equivalent to the experience of African Americans. Cromwell and 800 years of perfidious Albion were drawn in. And in a statement released in the early hours of Monday morning, as the controversy went international, Adams implied those who took offence had only themselves to blame. “If anyone is genuinely offended by my use of the N-word they misunderstand or misrepresent the context in which it was used. For this reason I deleted the tweets.” So they were wrong. Not him.

The penny finally dropped on Monday with a reluctant apology. But what followed was a blitzkrieg of ‘context’ and self-justification that diluted the apology to almost nothing.

Here is a sample:
Like African Americans Irish nationalists were denied basic rights. The penal laws, Cromwell’s regime, and partition are evidence of that. In our own time, like African Americans nationalists in the North, including those from Ballymurphy and west Belfast, were denied the right to vote; the right to work; the right to a home; and were subject to draconian laws.

“This changed because we stood up for ourselves. We need to continue to do that. The civil rights movement here, of which I was a founding member, was inspired and based its approach on the civil rights campaign in the USA
.”

That reference to him being there at the start of the civil rights movement raised more than a couple of eyebrows, giving the uncivil nature of what he was involved in the next two decades of his career. Aine Lawlor nailed it on RTÉ’s News at One yesterday, when she told Adams he could not even begin to compare those who were treated as second-class citizens in the North with those who were treated as possessions, were slaughtered, enslaved, maimed in their millions, and were treated as not belonging to the human race. And still, the party’s legion of supporters on social media made it into a ‘them versus us’ story, attacking anybody who had the temerity to criticise Adams. That was truly depressing.

Jam Tomorrow
We are going to have a Government this week. I know we wrote that last week, and the week before, and the week before that. But we really, really think it is going to happen this week. Sure, what could go wrong? Fine Gael has squared it with Fianna Fáil. They only need to get a handful of Independents on board. Easy peasy, isn’t it? Well, we will see. It is a bit like the conversation Alice had with the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.” “It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”’ Alice objected. “No, it can’t,” said the Queen.” Look at Spain. An election on December 10th, 2015. First it looked like Rajoy would form a coalition government. Then the Socialists looked poised. Now they are all heading back to another election after failing to get anywhere.

There will be ongoing problems. If water charges are gone forever, and there is some inept doomed-to-fail scheme to collect arrears, there is going to be blowback from those who were compliant and paid, and feel bitter that those who did not bother paying will get away with it. And it will be Fianna Fáil which might be the more obvious (and deserving) target of that ire. On the actual date, it was interesting to hear Michael Fitzmaurice yesterday express a note of caution about it all being done on Thursday, saying that target was too ambitious. Meanwhile, things grind on. The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parliamentary parties are meeting today. Both will get sight of the document and are expected to approve it.  It will then have to be distributed to the Independents. If there is any major impediment for that motley collection in the document, it will be back to square one.

Here is our latest update on the talks. Jam tomorrow. Jam yesterday. But no jam today.
© The Irish Times.

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UK: I went undercover at a Britain First conference

If you're worried about the video of their members invading a halal slaughterhouse this week, you need to read this
By William Morgan

5/5/2016- In November 2015 I went undercover to the Britain First party conference, posing as one of the group’s many young Facebook supporters. I had expected a big conference hall full of young xenophobes, I had expected debate and I had expected to fear for the future. Instead I ended up sat in on what I can only describe as Islamophobes Anonymous, a gathering of about 30 people with greying hair and loose polo shirts talking about how much they hate and/or fear Islam. They searched my phone, emptied my pockets and interrogated me about my beliefs before I could gain access. There was some loose conflict symbolism, with the meeting choosing to change Paul Golding’s role of leader to “Commanding Officer”. At one point Golding even warning of "a bloody civil war". The rhetoric sounds scary. But after leaving, I found it difficult to fear Britain First.

It consists of only about 30 to 40 real members, many of whom I recognise from the conference in this week’s video of them invading a halal slaughterhouse. None of them struck me as very physically or mentally threatening. In fact, what I found most interesting about the group was that it seemed almost a parody of itself. When you expect militaristic nationalism, they march in with army regalia and do the Lord’s Prayer. When you expect soft filler music, they play the Shire theme from Lord of the Rings in an un-ironic attempt to hark back to a whimsical England about as real as Tolkien’s middle-earth. Thankfully I may not have to convince people of Britain First’s irrelevancy for much longer, as Golding’s run for London mayor looks set to get less than 1 per cent of the vote, despite the campaign begging for money since April. Even at the end of their videos they’re telling people to focus on the slightly more winnable, but still unattainable, London Assembly seat.

So the best way to view the racist and Islamophobic invasion of a slaughterhouse is as the death throes of a small and nasty far-right group, who just so happen to have a strong social media presence including 1.3 million Facebook likes. Hell, in a world where the video of a man singing in Korean and doing that strangely iconic horse-riding dance can get 2.5 billion views on YouTube, 1.3 million becomes a bit of an empty number, doesn’t it? Pressing like on a Facebook page requires less thought, less commitment and less accountability than signing up to a political party. A tiny fraction of them would ever actually mobilise. So maybe Paul Golding was sad when only 0.003 per cent of his supposed support turned up to the conference. But more likely, Golding knew they wouldn’t turn up and didn’t care. Fully aware that the majority of the 1.3 million don’t have to agree with their policies, that they just have to agree with the xenophobic memes they put out, and that this gives Britain First the power to call themselves a political movement rather than a racist drinking group, too old and overweight to do anything but intimidate members of the public and lose elections.

It’s tempting to look at the social media clout of Britain First and convince yourself that you see a genuine threat, especially as this number amounts to more than three times any other political party’s membership. It’s easy to envision 1.3 million racists going to the ballot box and making Britain First a new political force. As I have learned, the best way to deal with Britain First is to completely ignore it, see it as a group project and an online message board for the angry and bitter, and move on. Trust me: we have very little to worry about.
© The Independent -Voices

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UK: Former Jewish refugees urge prime minister to accept 3,000 Syrian children

UPDATE: May 4, 2016, 1:05 p.m. BST
Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled a partial climbdown on an amendment to accept 3,000 Syrian refugee children in the UK. Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron says he wanted to stick to the principle that Britain would not take in new children stranded in Europe because he believed that it could act as a "pull factor." But on the Dubs amendment, he said that he wanted to "proceed with as much support across the House as we can." "We are going to speak to local authorities to see what we can do,” Cameron told MPs, adding that the government is working with Save the Children to look at ways to bring in more refugees who came to Europe before the new deal with Turkey. After the announcement, Lord Dubs - the Kindertransport refugee who tabled the refugee plan - said: “I trust the Prime Minister will be true to his word and move swiftly to ensure the Home Office works closely with local authorities to find foster families to give these young people a stable and secure home.” 

3/5/2016- A group of former Jewish refugees who came to the UK from Nazi Germany as part of the government-backed Kindertransport program has strongly urged Prime Minister David Cameron to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Syria. The Kindertransport-Association of Jewish Refugees said Cameron should "demonstrate compassion" and do more to "help some of the most vulnerable victims of an internecine conflict". In the letter seen by Mashable, Sir Erich Reich, chairman of the Jewish association, said it was "incumbent on us to provide sanctuary to those in need." Reich, who was born in Vienna in 1935, was brought to the UK from Nazi Germany ahead of World War II as part of the government-backed Kindertransport. Last week, MPs voted against a bill introduced by another former Kindertransport refugee, Alf Dubs, to accept 3,000 Syrian child refugees stuck in Europe.

The Home Office convinced potential Conservative rebels that the government was already doing enough to help child refugees in Syria and that the plan would encourage more asylum-seekers to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The bill is set to return to the Commons and the government has come under increased pressure to admit the refugees. In the letter, Reich said he learned of the rejection of resettlement proposals “with great sadness.” He said: “I strongly urge you and your colleagues to reconsider how we can intervene to help some of the most vulnerable victims of an internecine conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced millions. “The echoes of the past haunt many of my fellow Kinder and I whose fate similarly rested with members of the British parliament. “I feel it is incumbent on us to once again demonstrate our compassion and human-kindness to provide sanctuary to those in need.”
© Mashable

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UK: Northumbria Police was a 'boys' club' rife with sexual discrimination

3/5/2016- An employment tribunal is expected to hear claims today that one of Britain’s biggest police forces was a “boys' club” where sexual discrimination was rife. The allegations against Northumbria Police, including sexual misconduct and misuse of public money by senior officers, have been made by Denise Aubrey, its former head of legal services. Ms Aubrey, 54, was sacked for gross misconduct after being accused of passing on confidential details of sensitive matters involving senior officers to fellow solicitors employed by the force. She denies the allegations and is suing the force, where she worked for more than 20 years until 2014, for wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal following protected disclosures, victimisation, disability discrimination and sexual discrimination. Unusually, the retired chief constable who was in charge at the time Ms Aubrey was dismissed is due to give evidence in her support.

Sue Sim left the force a month after she was cleared of misconduct over allegations of bullying made by a number of other senior officers. She later called for a police watchdog investigation into allegations of sexual discrimination in the force. According to documents seen by The Times, the tribunal is expected to hear evidence that public money was spent on legal advice for a senior officer who was accused of having an extramarital affair. Lawyers for several former senior officers are thought to be seeking a reporting ban on their identities being revealed during the hearing. During her time with Northumbria Police, Ms Aubrey dealt with several high-profile cases including that of Raoul Moat, who shot dead the boyfriend of his former partner before shooting and blinding a police officer while on the run in 2010. Northumbria Police have been contacted for comment.
© The Telegraph

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Computer to make EU asylum decisions

4/5/2016- The European Commission wants a computer to instruct member states how many asylum seekers they must host based on their population size and wealth. The plan is aimed at depoliticising a toxic decision-making process on asylum, following failed EU-level efforts to relocate asylum seekers across member states. "Whenever a member state has to face a disproportionate number of asylum applications, responsibility for new applicants of all nationalities will be transferred to other member states," EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans told reporters on Wednesday (5 May). An EU official said the computer was needed because the current EU decision process on distributing people in times of crisis was too complex and required too many lengthy debates with national governments. "This system will kick in when there is a disproportionate level of applications, above a certain threshold, and enable the distribution to other member states under less pressure," said the official.

Refuseniks must pay €250,000
Hosted by the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the computer will monitor the number of asylum applications in each member state as well as the number of refugees resettled from outside the EU. The computer will link up to a network of national systems, and authorities in each country will add data on asylum applications. The machine will then decide if a member state has received a disproportionate number of applications, and if so, it will redistribute the applications among other states. Should an EU state refuse to accept the asylum seekers, it will face a €250,000 "solidarity contribution" to the hosting member state. All EU states except the UK, Ireland and Denmark have to participate. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have no say in the latest scheme but also have to accept it because they are not in the EU but they are part of the EU’s so called Schengen free-movement zone.

A second EU source said the idea was "a lesson learned from the relocation experience". EU states last September had agreed to distribute some 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece. But only around 1 percent have been relocated. The Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia opposed the quota systems. All four had voted against the September plan. They were later joined by the new Polish government. Hungary and Slovakia are challenging it in the EU court. Hungary is also to hold a referendum on future European Union quotas. The opposition, combined with the failure of the relocation policy, has helped hatch the latest commission plan, which is part of a much larger revamp of the so-called Dublin regulation, also presented on Wednesday.

Asylum nerve centre
The Dublin regulation stipulates that the country through which asylum seekers first entered the EU has to process asylum applications on behalf of all other member states. But most asylum seekers had in the past slipped through Italy and Greece before ending up in northern states like Germany and Sweden. "This Dublin looks, for the Game of Thrones fans among you, this Dublin looks like Jon Snow stabbed on a table and dead for a couple of days," said Timmermans, referring to a popular TV show. The commission says its newest Dublin plan will prevent asylum seekers from moving by imposing geographical limitations on their rights. It says the plan imposes an "explicit obligation" to require asylum seekers to lodge their applications where they first entered or in the EU state where they now live. "We either face this challenge together or we give up on facing it at all, with dire consequences for all," said Timmermans.

The new rules are packaged with a plan to expand Eurodac, a biometric database for asylum seekers, to include personal data from non-EU nationals and from stateless people, such as Palestinians, tens of thousands of whom also came to Europe last year. It also includes turning EASO into the EU's asylum nerve centre by expanding its remit, increasing its budget, and creating a pool of 500 asylum experts that can be posted to states in emergency situations. "EASO will now be called the European Union Agency for Asylum," said an EU source.
© The EUobserver

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Danish national intelligence boss accused of racism

Former Zealand police chief and current PET head reported to Police Complaints Authority

2/5/2016- Flemming Drejer, the head of the PET intelligence agency, has been reported for racism and a breach of procedural law to Den Uafhængige Politiklagemyndighed, the independent police complaints authority. The complaint was sent by a group of anonymous officers from North Zealand Police, of which Drejer was formerly the chief superintendent. It is based on an internal mail sent in 2011, reports Radio24syv, in which the management of North Zealand Police called all eastern Europeans from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria “swindlers”, stating that arresting them was a good “starting point”.

Management guilty of crimes
According to the mail, Drejer said he was ready to pay compensation if it later turned out that any arrests were unjustified. The complaints authority has confirmed to Radio24syv that it has received the complaint, which names Drejer and other management at North Zealand Police. “It is unacceptable that the management of a police department commits crimes, and totally unacceptable when that management encourages employees to carry out criminal acts,” reads the complaint. When questioned earlier about the case, North Zealand Police called the wording of the internal message “regrettable”, while the national police department Rigspolitiet called it “unacceptable”.
© The Copenhagen Post.

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The far right is weaseling into the mainstream, dressed up in suits (opinion)

It may be Austria’s democratic right to elect a cleaned-up fascist as president, but it is our right to suspend the country from the EU
By Paul Mason


2/5/2016- One of the genius touches in Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel was to set it, not in Budapest, but in a generic eastern European country from central casting, between the wars. The fictional state of Zubrowka starts out as a decadent monarchy, becomes a mafia state, goes fascist, gets conquered, is absorbed into the Warsaw Pact and then, as a form of closure in the movie, becomes the classic, inconsequential member of the EU, somewhere east of the Alps. But in the real-life countries of eastern Europe, there is no closure with the past. In fact, with the rise of rightwing nationalism and outright fascism, Anderson’s film begins to look less funny and more prescient. On 22 May, Austria faces a presidential run-off, where the choice is between the leader of the far-right Freedom party and a Green standing as an independent. In the first round, the combined votes of the two main parties that govern Austria – the socialists and the conservatives – would still have had them running third. The far-right won in every region except Vienna, and, even then, won half of the Austrian capital’s sub-districts.

The swing happened despite the centrist coalition government putting razor wire on Austria’s border with Hungary, deporting thousands of refugees and demonstratively excluding Greece from the summit that effectively closed the Balkan route. Police in Austria report a 60% year-on-year rise in racist incidents, while those who monitor racism online report numerous instances of Nazi-glorification linked to anti-migrant hate speech. Take a 60-minute drive from Vienna to Bratislava, the capital of neighbouring Slovakia, and you’ll find in the parliament 14 MPs from an outright fascist party and another 15 from a cleaned-up rightwing nationalist grouping. The socialist prime minister, Robert Fico, had fought the March election on a platform of accepting “not one Muslim” refugee and defying the EU quota system, and has now taken the rightwing nationalists into a coalition government. Two hours away is Budapest, where the rightwing nationalist prime minister, Victor Orbán, is under challenge from the far-right Jobbik party. Jobbik once had a jackbooted militia but is now, too, trying to clean up its fascist image. An opinion poll last year found 24% of Hungarians willing to express open antisemitic views, with the figure rising to 49% in the capital.

Go north to Poland and the rightwing conservative Law and Justice party is busy altering the constitution to suppress judicial oversight of the government and stifle the press. Of course, the emergence of rightwing conservative parties that oppose migration and want to break up the EU is not confined to eastern Europe. We’ve got Ukip here and Marine Le Pen’s Front National, which is currently hovering just under 30% in the run-up to next year’s presidential election and would come first in two out of three likely scenarios next April. But the combined rise of authoritarian nationalism, outright fascism and anti-minority racism in the east of Europe should alarm us more. First, because it’s happening in immature democracies, where the media is oligarchic and under state manipulation, graft is endemic and levels of democratic consciousness and traditions are low. When a far-right politician in eastern Europe wants to make the kind of transition Le Pen has made for the FN – from squadism to Chanel suits – it does not have to travel so far.

Second, because it is not being driven by the normal driver of extremism – economic failure. GDP per head in Slovakia, for example, rose sharply after EU membership in 2004. And while unemployment there remains high, at 10%, it’s fallen by a third in the past three years. This is, instead, an existential swing away from centrism in eastern Europe – based on anxieties about traditional lifestyles, above all in response to the refugee crisis. Third, the rise of the far-right in eastern Europe is part of a geopolitical game. A report for the Martens Centre last year pointed out, despite the differences between the patchwork fascisms of the region, “their astonishingly similar stance towards Putin’s Russia”. The European far-right not only shares Putin’s goal – the breakup of Nato and the EU – but sees his authoritarian, socially conservative nationalism as a model for how their own countries should be run. While the far-right in Europe is not simply a creation of the Kremlin, the concrete ties are manifest: regular appearances on the Russian media, regular visits, invitations to monitor elections in Russia and its allied states, and then money, with Marine Le Pen’s €9m (£7m) loan from a Russian bank the best known example.

Faced with these developments, the EU and its centrist governments seem paralysed. Article 7 of the EU Treaty allows a country to be sanctioned or suspended if it commits a severe breach of fundamental rights. But it needs two-thirds majority in the parliament and has never been invoked. This month it must draw the line in Austria. Europe must make clear it will refuse to recognise a far-right president in Vienna. It’s their democratic right to elect a cleaned-up fascist; it’s ours – by treaty – to suspend Austria from the EU. We know the EU can act ruthlessly against a government it does not like – because we watched it try to smash the most anti-racist, pro-social justice government ever elected, in Greece last summer. Today the countries that stood alongside Germany in its attempt to boot Greece out of the euro are the same ones who refuse to take refugees, whose media and judiciaries are under threat. As Europe dithers in the face of the authoritarians and racists, the populations in the mature democracies that founded the EU should insist: our grandparents didn’t defeat fascism in 1945 to see it weasel back into the mainstream now, dressed in suits instead of uniforms, but trailing the same pathetic victimhood that excused the crimes of the past.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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Czech Rep: Terezín Com. refuses to officially fly the LGBTQ and Romani flags at commemoration

5/5/2016- Jan Munk, the director of the Terezín Memorial who also chairs the Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration, has refused a request from 14 organizations that the LGBTQ (rainbow) and Romani flags be flown next to the flags of various states during the 15 May event. "At the national cemetery in Terezín where this commemoration takes place, the flags of all the nations whose members fell victim to Nazi persecution and who passed through the concentration camps are flown during the commemoration ceremony. For many of those people, their distressing journey began by being transported to Terezín. To our great surprise, there is no Romani flag flown at Terezín even though, together with Jewish people, it is the Roma as a group who were affected most by Nazi persecution in the Czech lands," the organizations said in an open letter.

According to Munk and the rest of the Commission, however, there has been a misunderstanding. "The flags under discussion are not flags of nations whose members were the victims of Nazi persecution, but the flags of states that were part of the coalition of countries fighting against Nazism and countries whose citizens were imprisoned and murdered in the repressive facilities in nearby Litoměřice and at Terezín," the Commission responded in a letter which news server Romea.cz publishes in full translation below. Munk told news server iDNES.cz that the problem is also the number of flagpoles at the cemetery. Each one is intended for a specific country. "There is no more room there, we would have to take down one of the official flags, which is unthinkable," Munk said. According to him, the ceremony organizers do not want to open up space for the placement of flags that are not state flags at the National Cemetery because there is no doubt that would lead to other requests in that direction and would cast doubt on the overall concept of the commemorative assembly.

"Under no circumstances does this mean we are suppressing the commemoration of Romani victims or victims who were persecuted on the basis of their minority sexual orientation," the Commission says in its response. In closing, the Commission also says it will not prevent anyone from bringing either the LGBTQ (rainbow) flag or the Romani flag to the commemoration.

Response of the Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration to the open letter

Dear Friends!

The Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration reviewed the letter from your organizations at its session on 28 April 2016. We have come to the conclusion that the critical reservations and proposals in your letter are based on a misunderstanding. The flags under discussion are not flags of nations whose members were the victims of Nazi persecution, but the flags of states that were part of the coalition of countries fighting against Nazism and countries whose citizens were imprisoned and murdered in the repressive facilities in nearby Litoměřice and at Terezín. This principle has been upheld for the entire time that the Terezín Memorial has organized commemorative ceremonies to honor the memory of the victims of Nazi occupation together with organizations of former prisoners (the Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters and, after the democratic transformations in our country, the Union of Freedom Fighters).

As for your observation that the "Jewish flag" was flown at the cemetery from 1945-1948, we would like to note that up until 1951 the annual May commemorative ceremony was organized by the Society for Maintaining the National Cemetery, based in Litoměřice. In 1952 it was managed by the organization of former prisoners, and then from 1955 the National Cemetery was transferred to the management of the Memorial of National Suffering, the predecessor to today's Terezín Memorial. In the photographic documentation available to the Memorial there is no "Jewish flag", but Yugoslav flags are repeatedly seen there and confusion in this area cannot be ruled out, even though this point is not critical, give the overall nature of this matter.

What is critical is that the ceremony organizers do not want to open up space for the placement of flags that are not state flags at the National Cemetery, because there is no doubt that would lead to other requests in that direction and would cast doubt on the overall concept of the commemorative assembly. Under no circumstances does this mean we are suppressing the commemoration of Romani victims or victims who were persecuted on the basis of their minority sexual orientation. Should such persons come to the Terezín Commemoration with rainbow flags, Romani flags, or the flags of other movements and societies who want to commemorate this suffering and the victims from various groups of people during the time of the fight against the Nazis and their collaborators, it is decidedly the case that nobody will prevent them from doing so.

We look forward to being able to welcome you soon among those participating in the traditional commemorative assembly in honor of the victims of this past violent regime and to recall the necessity of defending democratic values in the present.

Yours in friendship,

PhDr. Jan Munk, CSc., chair of the Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Neo-Nazis try to provoke local Roma in Přerov during 1 May protest

The neo-Nazi Pavel Sládek Matějný was the main organizer of an anti-Romani demonstration in the town of Vítkov on 3 August 2013. Vítkov is the place where neo-Nazis firebombed a Romani home in 2009, almost burning an infant to death.

2/5/2016- An assembly and march by about 30 neo-Nazis from the National Regeneration (Národní obroda - NO) group took place yesterday in Přerov. The leader of the NO, Pavel Matějný, gave a speech very similar to those he has given to previous such assemblies. Matějný's speech attacked domestic nonprofit organizations such as Konexe and ROMEA, the European Union, NATO, and refugee reception. When the speeches were over, the march left the square and marched past the bus and train station. Riot police guarded the area around the station. A police monitoring vehicle also followed the march the entire time. The neo-Nazis attempted to provoke local Romani residents by marching directly past their homes. Local Romani crime prevention assistants contributed to making sure there were no conflicts.

"The guys have been here since 9 AM and have gradually been visiting families to warn them this march will be going past their homes. They have done their best to make sure no conflicts happen," Pavel Grim, who works as a mentor for the crime prevention assistants with the Municipal Police there, told news server Denik.cz. "We have previously monitored the activities of this convener and we anticipated a low turnout. Our security measures were set up according to that. The riot officers were just here as backup, the situation outside was monitored by uniformed officers and members of the anti-conflict team," Michaela Sedláčková, the Contact Officer for National Minorities at the Regional Police Directorate in Olomouc, told news server Denik.cz.
© Romea.

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Germany: Founder Pegida movement found guilty in racism trial

3/5/2016-  The founder of Germany’s rightwing populist Pegida movement was found guilty on Tuesday of inciting racial hatred amid intense debate on immigration policies and the social integration of foreigners. Lutz Bachmann, who denied wrongdoing, was fined €9,600 but avoided jail after the court rejected prosecution demands for a seven-month custodial sentence. The 43-year-old activist was accused of calling refugees “cattle”, “scumbags” and “filth” in posts on his Facebook page.  The verdict leaves Mr Bachmann free to remain at the helm of Dresden-based Pegida, the largest of scores of local groupings that have sprung up in the past two years, campaigning against immigration and against what they call the “Islamisation” of Germany.

Mr Bachmann’s trial in Dresden has taken place against a background of rising support for rightwing politics fuelled by the arrival of more than 1m mainly Muslim refugees. Last weekend, the more mainstream Alternative for Germany party, which secured big gains in regional elections in March, backed a manifesto declaring that “Islam is not part of Germany”. Party members gathered in Stuttgart called for bans on minarets, the Muslim call to prayer and the wearing of the full veil in public. The party has generally scored around 12-14 per cent in opinion polls, making it Germany’s third largest.

Chancellor Angela Merkel denied reports that her CDU/CSU bloc, which has moved to the centre in recent years, would now change tack to counter the AfD. “There is no change in strategy whatsoever,” she said on Tuesday. The AfD has so far kept its distance from Pegida and similar protest movements at an organisational level, even though many Pegida protesters also support the AfD. Mr Bachmann briefly stood aside as Pegida leader last year after pictures emerged of him posing as Hitler, but he retained control and has returned to his role as Pegida's public face.

Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, emerged in late 2014, mustering tens of thousands of supporters for marches in Dresden that were later copied in other German cities. The sudden appearance of a rightwing populist group was particularly unsettling for many Germans, given the country’s Nazi past. Mr Bachmann has had previous brushes with the law. He was convicted for theft and assault in his youth, given a suspended sentence after being found in possession of two small amounts of cocaine in 2008 and, more recently, fined for failing to keep up with maintenance payments for his son.
© The Financial Times.

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Germany's right-wing AfD to adopt anti-Islam manifesto

1/5/2016- Germany's right-wing populist AfD was Sunday set to adopt a party manifesto calling for sharp restrictions on immigration and the practice of Islam, as a poll showed it is now the country's third strongest party. Formed only three years ago on a eurosceptic platform, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has gained strength as the loudest protest voice against Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcome to refugees that brought over one million asylum seekers last year. With the migrant influx sharply down in recent months, the AfD has shifted focus to the signature issue of the far-right Pegida street movement, whose full name is Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident. AfD leaders have stated that "Islam is not part of Germany" and on the second day of the party's congress on Sunday were also expected to demand bans on Muslim symbols in Germany such as minarets on mosques, the call to prayer and full-face veils for women.

"We must not repeat the mistakes of the 60s and 70s and look abroad for labour migration," reads a line from the party platform taking shape at the meeting in the western city of Stuttgart. More broadly, the AfD is presenting itself as a nationalistic-conservative force that also questions climate change, would push traditional "family values", reintroduce military conscription and take German out of the euro. Having entered half of Germany's 16 state parliaments, the AfD -- seen as the country's answer to France's National Front and Austria's Freedom Party -- has now firmly set its sights on national elections next year. "In the summer of 2015, they gave us up for dead," a triumphant AfD co-chair Frauke Petry told the 2,400-odd delegates, declaring that the party does not intend to settle for the role of opposition group or junior coalition partner. Instead, its new programme should allow the AfD "to win majorities", she told the meeting in the western city of Stuttgart.

Support for the AfD stood at 13 percent, narrowly beating the ecologist Greens as Germany's third strongest party, according to an Emnid institute survey for the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

- 'Germany watching us' -
The party has been at pains to distance itself from the hardcore far-right and neo-Nazi movements, which are a stubbornly persistent but fringe phenomenon in a country where collective shame over the Nazi era and the Holocaust run deep. Alexander Gauland, leader of the party in Brandenburg state in the former communist East, cautioned delegates to generally temper their statements and "keep in mind that all of Germany is watching us". To drive home that message, the congress voted with 52 percent support to dissolve the Saarland regional party chapter because of its deep links with right-wing extremists groups. To its many critics, however, the AfD represents xenophobia and a backward-looking isolationism.

On Saturday hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators rallied outside the convention centre, with some burning tyres and hurling firecrackers. Heavily-armoured riot police used tear gas to hold off the protesters, many of whom were dressed in black and wore face masks. Police temporarily detained 500 of them as officers escorted AfD members into the congress hall. In another act of harassment, a left-wing media site overnight published the names, addresses and telephone numbers of some 2,000 party members. AfD co-leader Joerg Meuthen pledged to file criminal charges against the unknown hackers behind the data leak. Aside from drawing the anger of far-left groups, the AfD has also attracted near-universal condemnation from Germany's major parties.

The general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democrats, Peter Tauber, told the Bild am Sonntag: "The debates at the party congress show that the AfD wants to return to a Germany that never existed in that form. "That isn't conservative, it's reactionary."

© AFP

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Germany: 400 Protesters Detained While Blocking Entry To AfD Conference

30/4/2016- German police arrested 400 protesters Saturday for trying to block people entering a far-right party conference in the city of Stuttgart in southwest Germany. Several protesters demonstrated against the national convention of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. Police reportedly fired pepper spray at crowds who had temporarily blocked a nearby highway and burned tires on another road leading to the convention center. The meeting, where AfD was expected to rebrand itself as openly anti-Islamic, began as planned despite the protests. About 1,000 police officers were deployed to prevent violent clashes between the far-right party members and protesting demonstrators. Protesters were shouting slogans like "refugees can stay, Nazis must go," German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.

AfD recently protested against mostly-Muslim migrants and refugees, more than a million of whom entered Germany after fleeing war-torn regions last year, and also slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's "catastrophic" decision to accept a million migrants and refugees in 2015. AfD deputy leader and European parliament member Beatrix von Storch last week reportedly sparked outrage after calling Islam a "political ideology that is incompatible with the German constitution." von Storch reportedly said the party meeting would call for a ban on Islamic symbols and the burqa, and for outlawing minarets of mosques in Germany.
© The International Business Times

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French Muslim sent home from school over long skirt

A teenage Muslim girl was barred from entering her school grounds for wearing a long black skirt seen as too openly religious.

6/5/2016- The 16-year-old was sent home this week after her headmaster took a dislike to her skirt. The skirt - popular among some Muslim women who cover their whole body - reportedly reached beyond her knees and down to her sneakers, reported the Nouvel Obs newspaper. The headmaster of the Seine-et-Marne school, in the outer suburbs of Paris, reportedly deemed that the skirt "conspicuously" showed religious affiliation, which is banned in schools by France's strict secularity laws. According to the 2004 law that governs secularity in schools, veils, the Jewish kippa or large Christian crosses are all banned in educational establishments, but "discreet religious signs" are allowed.

The mother of the teenage girl has since returned to the school to complain. After a chat with the headmaster, the school has promised to discuss the matter further with the family on Monday. "Yes, my daughter, who is Franco-Portuguese and from a Catholic family, has converted to Islam," Marie-Christine de Sousa told the paper. "I've always supported her choices and decisions. Earlier this year, I allowed her to wear the veil, which she takes off before going into the school. She wears long dresses for school." The family of the girl is already planning legal action, the paper reported. In the meantime, the teenager, who converted to Islam a year ago, will have to find something to wear to school instead of her black H&M skirt.

France was rocked by a similar case to this in April last year when a girl with a long skirt was also barred from class. Her story trended on Twitter across France with the hashtag #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux, translated into English as "I wear my skirt as I please." Some suggested that long black skirts were nothing out of the ordinary provided they're worn by non-Muslims. "Wearing a long skirt is nothing ostentatious. This is more due to mass hysteria," Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, said at the time. The CCIF Islamophobia watchdog said this week that some 177 students were rejected from class in 2015 for outfits deemed too openly religious.
© The Local - France

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French are more 'tolerant' despite rise in racist acts

An important annual survey that measures levels of racism in France has revealed the French are becoming more tolerant despite a steep rise in the number of racist incidents.

2/5/2016- The survey, carried out by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), revealed the French are more tolerant compared to previous years. The annual survey by the rights commission linked to the government is carried out to get an idea of levels of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in the country. After the studies of 2014 and 2015 suggested levels of racism were on the rise, the 2016 survey has shown the trend reversing, despite the tensions caused by two devastating terror attacks in France. "The tensions around identity issues, which have risen in recent years, have greatly improved", concluded the authors of the report. "The conflicts within French society are dwindling and racist behavior and remarks are deemed increasingly intolerable."

The conclusion of the survey, which is based on the results of 69 questions, was that tolerance was increasing although there is still perhaps a long way to go. For example one in two French people said they were “not at all” racist”, compared to 43 percent the previous year. The results of the survey surprised researchers who thought the two terror attacks in 2015, the record score for the far right National Front party in elections, and the resulting tensions from the elections would be reflected in a further rise in racist views. Researches expected to see their survey reveal a further rise in intolerance and xenophobia but “it appears that French society refuses to make an amalgam between terrorism and Islam and promotes the acceptance of others.”

Indeed the researchers believe the attacks, whilst heightening tensions, also reaffirmed among for the French the need to stay united. “Faced with extreme difficulty of fighting against terrorism, there is a real need for social cohesion in the Republic. It needed to unite,” said the commission’s Christine Lazerges. “The Republican marches that took place across France after the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher store attacks are proof of this,” she added. The moments of national union actually helped to promote tolerance the authors said. However it would be inaccurate to suggest all is well in France given the huge rise in the number of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks and threats last year.

In one year the Ministry of Interior recorded a rise of 22.4 percent in the number of acts characterized as racist, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim. In all there were 2,034 incidents – the highest number since the surveys began. A total of 429 anti-Muslim threats or hate crimes were reported last year, up from 133 in 2014. The rise was mainly due to the number of anti-Islam acts rocketing. Last year a Muslim prayer hall was set alight in Corsica and other incidents saw pig’s heads thrown at mosques and even the Moroccan embassy. While the number of anti-Semitic incidents dropped slightly the survey revealed that the Jewish community in France, which represents just 1 percent of the population, was the victim of 40 percent of the racist attacks.

"Several gauges indicate an ebb in the anti-Semitism that marked France in 2015," said the commission, referring to the terror attack on a Paris Jewish supermarket in January 2015 that killed four people. "It is as if the violence against Jews prompted compassion and solidarity with them in public opinion," it noted. Researchers say it is too early to tell whether the rise in tolerance will continue throughout 2016. The fact a Muslim prayer hall was burned to the ground at the weekend in what appears to be an act of arson suggests there is plenty of work to be done and tensions will remain high.
© The Local - France

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French far-right family rivalries exposed at May Day rallies

1/5/2016- There were barely enough statues of Joan of Arc to go around in Paris Sunday as feuding factions of France's far-right National Front (FN) held rival May Day rallies at the feet of their heroine. Traditionally, the FN gathers on May 1 in front of a gilded bronze statue of the peasant girl – who fought against the English occupation of France during the Hundred Years War – on the Place de Pyramides square. However, bitter infighting which saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year's presidential elections. "There has been no sign sent in the direction of reconciliation," said the firebrand father of the FN, adding that without unity the party "would be beaten in the second round, maybe even the first." "We must all make an effort to only focus on that which unites us against decadence and adversity," he said, warning against the "fatal" danger of mass immigration.

After taming the FN's racist rhetoric, Marine Le Pen has overseen an unprecedented rise in the party's fortunes and many pollsters predict the FN will make it to the second round of the presidential election. This has only happened once before in a shock breakthrough in 2002 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was later beaten by Jacques Chirac. Meanwhile Marine Le Pen led the official FN gathering at another Paris statue of Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc, burned at the stake in 1431, was later made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and became a symbol of French resistance adopted to the cause of the anti-immigration FN. Last year Marine Le Pen had her May Day ruined when her father strode onto the podium uninvited, and bare-chested Femen feminist activists later disrupted her speech with Nazi salutes and a "Heil Le Pen" flag. This time Femen was back in action: half a dozen bare-chested activists in gold skirts protested in front of the venue where the FN was holding a banquet, spraying champagne and chanting "Long live the end of the FN."
© AFP

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Russia: LGBT activists banned from May Day parade, but not neo-Nazis

2/5/2016- Russian gay-rights activists were arrested Sunday for demonstrating during a May Day parade in St. Petersburg, while a neo-Nazi group reportedly participated in the event without incident. About 20 members of St. Petersburg’s LGBT community were detained during Sunday’s march after they unfurled a rainbow flag on the city’s main thoroughfare, reported FlashNord, a Russian news agency headquartered in the country’s former capital. Although various trade unions and political parties were authorized to participate during Sunday’s event, authorities in St. Petersburg decided two days before the march to ban representatives of the city’s LGBT community from taking part, reported Meduza, an English-language news site that covers Russian affairs. “For the first time in the history of the movement in Russia, [representatives from the LGBT community] will miss out on the biggest street event of the year,” LGBT organizers wrote on VKontakte, a Russian social networking site.

Two groups that were authorized to march — Free Trade Unions and Green Activists — ultimately told gay rights activists that they could join their ranks during Sunday’s parade as long as no rainbow flags or LGBT banners were used, organizers wrote on VKontakte. Fontanka, an online newspaper based in Russia, reported that the activists agreed, but eventually unfurled rainbow flags and were promptly arrested. Those arrested will likely face charges for violating a Russian law prohibiting unsanctioned gatherings, meetings, demonstrations, marches or rallies. According to Fontanka, those persons face potential penalties of up to $300 USD and 40 hours of community service.

While gay-rights activists were prohibited from demonstrating, St. Petersburg officials had no issue allowing Slavic Power Northwest, a local neo-Nazi group, from taking part in the march. According to Russian media, members of that group participated in the event under the slogan “For the unity of the Slavs and the White race.” “In Putin’s Russia, LGBT activists are arrested on the 1st of May, neo-Nazis are allowed to march,” tweeted Anton Shekhovtsov, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, an Austrian-based think tank. About 600 demonstrators marched with LGBT groups during last year’s event, and organizers expected more than 1,000 at Sunday’s parade before their application to partici-pate was rejected by authorities, organizers with the gay-rights group Rainbow MayDay wrote on VKontakte. According to the organizers, Russia’s internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, blocked access to the group’s official website and VKontakte page ahead of the event.
© The Washington Times

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Russia takes one step forward, two steps back

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which direction the Russian government is going in. Fiona Clark looks at some recent policy decisions that bode well, but are duly dashed by the next government move.

30/4/2016- One step forward and two steps back is often the way with policies in any country, but with Russia the path is far more random. Let's take HIV/AIDS as an example. The number of diagnosed cases in Russia is now more than 1 million, and after decades of doing very little to avert the crisis the government is on the verge of delivering a new policy that will go a considerable way toward addressing the problem. While it has its faults, the draft policy has been universally hailed by NGO's and health organisations as a positive step forward by a government that has until now shown little more than indifference toward those with HIV - especially among vulnerable groups such as intravenous drug users and sex workers. Its shortcomings include its continued failure to sanction standard practices in the West, such as needle exchanges and opioid substitution therapy like methadone programs, but it's the first time in years that the health ministry has sets its mind to addressing the epidemic in a meaningful way and getting it under control. And when you see a seismic shift in a positive direction like this it makes you think that things in Russia might be turning around and that a more humane face may begin to emerge. After all there will even be a sex-education course that university students can take part in that aims to teach about how the virus is spread - and that's a huge step forward when the Orthodox Church is preaching abstinence as the best form of prevention.

Short-lived optimism
Unfortunately though that feeling of hope and optimism was shortlived. The appointment of Tatyana Moskalkova as Russia's ombudsman for human rights snuffed out that spark of light at the end of the very long tunnel very quickly. Moskalkova was a major general in Russia's interior ministry and was awarded an engraved pistol for her efforts there. She then joined the pro-government party, Just Russia, and won a seat in the parliament where she supported laws such as the ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans. She also supported the imprisonment of the two girls from Pussy Riot after they sang an anti-Putin song inside a Moscow cathedral. Shortly after that she proposed a bill thatwas intended to punish 'violations of morality' but it was rejected by lawmakers. She also proposed renaming the Federal Security Bureau after the Cheka - the first incarnation of the Soviet secret police that was synonymous with widespread killings including the 1921 'Red Terror' campaign under Lenin. Estimates for the number of people killed during that period range from 50,000 to over one and a half million.

Countering western influences
Defending her appointment, Moskalkova said one of the important tasks she would undertake as commissioner for human rights would be to counter the "Western and American structures" that use human rights as a "weapon of blackmail, speculation, threats, and attempts to destabilize and put pressure on Russia." The appointment is so left-of-field that even the far-right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky - not usually known for his empathy - questioned the choice. AP reports him as saying Moskalkova "is a great person but her work in the Soviet police and in the police under [President Boris] Yeltsin cannot give us any reason to think that she is able and wants to defend human rights." She says she is going to focus on protecting Russians' socio-economic rights such as salary payments, pensions and medical care - an agenda that is in line with the issues most Russians are concerned about. But it doesn't bode well for NGOs, human rights groups and civil rights activists. Her previous support for labelling NGO's (who mostly work with Russia's disenfranchised including the disabled, chronically or mentally ill, orphans, sex workers, drug addicts and other vulnerable groups) that receive foreign funding as foreign agents lends weight to the fear in the human rights community that this is indeed a very big step in the wrong direction.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Sweden: Fury as sacked employment agency boss gets job with migration agency

Staff at Sweden's migration agency workers have reacted angrily to the appointment of a scandal-tainted former head of the employment agency.

4/5/2016- A trade union spokeswoman claimed employees were gobsmacked to learn that Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist had been tasked with coordinating work placement schemes for asylum seekers. “People were screaming in the corridors,” said Sanna Nordblad, branch chairwoman of ST, the Union of Civil Servants. A dentist by trade, Bermudez-Svankvist led the jobs agency for five years before she was forced out after reports she had racked up more than 300,000 kronor ($37,000) in mobile phone charges. Surveys showed that employees had lost confidence in her over the years, while media reports at the time of her dismissal suggested that her huge roaming charges were just part of a wider problem that also included wildly excessive expenses claims. She also encouraged employees to portray a deeply controversial labour market scheme in an unrealistically favourable light.

In her new job Bermudez-Sankvist is expected to liaise with the employment agency, much to the dismay of union representatives there. “Our members are concerned,” ST branch chairman Fredrik Andersson told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. “They remember what it was like when she was the boss here. Now they’re afraid of having to come into contact with her again.” The migration agency’s operations manager, Mikael Ribbenvik, is now facing a storm of criticism for having hand-picked Bermudez-Svankvist without advertising the position externally. “I take responsibility for that. Formally it is wrong, yes,” he told the ST union’s magazine Publikt. The union’s representatives at the migration agency view the appointment as entirely inappropriate. “We are unhappy with everything about the recruitment. I think it will be difficult for her to do a good job in view of her history,” Sanna Nordblad told Svenska Dagbladet.

Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist was born in Mallorca in 1963. She moved to Stockholm at the age of 16. In 1999 she was named Sweden’s manager of the year after a string of successes in the public and charitable sectors. She began her new job in March and is earning 80,000 kronor a month.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: One Person Protested - Then the Refugee Shelter Was Closed

Everything was ready. Staff had been hired, and the refugee accommodation for unacompanied minors was almost ready for the teenagers to move in. Then it was stopped at the last minute. Refering to an oral "gentlemen's agreement" the city folded because a single neighbour protested.

2/5/2016- Due to last autumns refugee crisis, the city of Örnsköldsvik, on the High Coast in northern Sweden, has 3 houses with a total of 45 places for unaccompanied minors. In February the municipality was about to open a new one, for 12 unaccompanied minors, in Överhörnäs, just outside the city. Furniture had been bought, staff had been hired and started work to put the finishing touches in the building. Suddenly the plans were cancelled at the last minute. It was after a neighbour of the new accommodation made it clear to the municipality that the teenage refugees were not welcome.

The Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC has talked to employees working with unaccompanied minors in Örnsköldsvik. They are critical about the fact that the city had the opinion of one single person stop the whole accommodation. How can It be, that one single person has the power to shut the whole thing down. That way you can say no to everything. It shouldn't work that way, says a person working with unaccompanied minors in the city.

The initiative failed
Originally the plan was that the shelter would focus on unaccompanied minors in the lower teens. Now that initiative has failed. "We wanted to place the 14-year olds together, so that they would develop better and connect better with an adult", says another person working with the teenagers. In the documents concerning this case it is hard to get a clear picture why the shelter was stopped. When Dagens ETC asks Mats Gidlund, manager of the social support-department in Örnsköldsvik, his explanation is that the owners of the hostel where the accommodation was planned didn't fulfill their part of the contract. "The contract says that the property owners would inform at least the closest neighbour, and they didn't".

But is it proper to stop an accommodation just because one single neighbour is protesting?
"You're the one saying a neighbour protested. We had a contract with the property owner where he has certain obligations, we broke the contract since those obligations weren't fulfilled", says Mats Gidlund. Fredrik Edlund, the municipal real estate manager and responsible for the contract says: "That's something that isn't in the leasing contract, and not in any other contract either".

How did Mats Gidlund get the perception that there is such a contract?
"There is a contract that gives us the possibility to break the contract if it shouldn't work out for different reasons".

Where can I find that contract?
"It's an oral agreement, not a written agreement".

Mats Gidlund refers to a binding contract. But when Dagens ETC reviewed the lease contract between the municipality and the property owner there is nothing there saying neighbours will be informed by the owner.

A person that is pleased with the accommodation being cancelled is the protesting neighbour, Hans-Erik Edstrand.
He says he has nothing against refugee accommodation, but the place is a bad choice. He says that the properties is only 50-60 meters apart and have been confused previously. He also says that the municipality changed their minds as soon as they came to the place and saw that it was inappropriate. "We have had guests from the hostel in our porch and in our courtyard. Now there's many teenagers with problems and many different cultures and a lot of things happen at those accommodations. Concerning that our properties have been confused earlier, well of course I wonder who's knocking the door next time". He hasn't been complaining earlier when guests from the hostel has come too close. Now he regrets that. "I've been too kind and then you get run over again and again. Eventually you're out of patience", he says.

A Tangle of Explanations
In the document where the municipality terminates the contract March 4 2016, the reason is said to be that they "don't assess the operation to be feasible due to very strong expostulations from people in the vicinity". It also says that there have been a "gentlemen's agreement" between the city and the owner of the hostel that the contract can be terminated. In a weekly information letter to the personnel it is written that the accommodation is cancelled since "there is parts of the contract that hasn't been fulfilled". In another letter Mats Gidlund, municipal manager of social support, writes that the contract was terminated because the managers felt unsecure whether deficiencies in the contract could affect the teenagers and the personnel, thus the contract were terminated and they're searching for a place that is "safe for our youth and employees".
This article originally was written by Stina Berglund for the Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC. A concerned citizen has been so kind to translate it for I CARE the original is here.
© email source

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Italy/Libya: Dozens missing after migrant dinghy sinks

An NGO has said 84 people are missing after an overcrowded dinghy sank between Libya and Italy. The closure of the Balkan route has authorities worried that more migrants will attempt the far more dangerous crossing.

30/4/2016- Following a late-night rescue at sea, some 84 migrants were still feared missing off the coast of Libya on Saturday. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that though 26 refugees were saved from the sinking inflatable craft late on Friday night, dozens of their fellows were still unaccounted for. "According to testimonies gathered by IOM in Lampedusa, 84 people went missing," IOM's spokesman for Italy, Flavio Di Giacomo, wrote on Twitter. Earlier Saturday, the Italian coastguard had confirmed that 26 people were rescued by an Italian cargo ship that spotted the flimsy boat foundering between southern Italy and Libya. They were then escorted to the island of Lampedusa, a onetime tourist island near Sicily now known as a flashpoint of Europe's migrant crisis. The nationalities of the migrants has not been made public.

Thousands of dead
With the land route from Greece to Western Europe across the Balkans now shut to migrants, officials expect many to attempt the longer and far more dangerous water crossing to Italy. More than 350,000 people running from war and poverty have reached Italian shores, often on rickety, overcrowded boats, from Libya since the beginning of 2014. How many thousands have drowned in the process is unknown as Italy's coastguard and volunteer vessels grapple with a large part of Europe's most massive refugee crisis since World War II.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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