NEWS - Archive October 2015

Headlines 16 October, 2015

Headlines 9 October, 2015

Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 41

Headlines 2 October, 2015

Headlines 16 October, 2015

Bulgaria: UNHCR Condemns Incident with Migrant near Border

16/10/2015- The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has strongly condemned the shooting which resulted in the death of a migrant near Bulgaria's border with Turkey, its local spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, has announced. "We condemn the fact that the death of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan occurred and that it happened while he was trying to reach safety in Bulgaria and to exert his universal right to seeking asylum," Cheshirkov told the Bulgarian National Radio, also urging an "immediate, thorough, transparent, and independent" investigation into the tragic event. Earlier, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry's Chief Secretary, Georgi Kostov, warned that migrants from Afghanistan (such as the total of 54 people of which the victim's group consisted) arrested at the borders are to be extradited to their homeland under FRONTEX regulations.
© Novinite

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Finland: Parliament condemns racism, mulls over its definition

15/10/2015- All parliamentary parties signed on Wednesday a declaration against racism and demonstrated the same solidarity while engaging in a topical discussion initiated by Member of Parliament Nasima Razmyar (SDP). The impetus for the discussion stemmed from the budding climate of intolerance and increasing incidence of hate speech. “We've witnessed too many times how few steps there are from hate speech to hate acts,” Razmyar stated. She urged her fellow Members of Parliament in her emotional speech to send out a clearly-worded message: “There is no room for racism and hate speech in Finland.” Her colleagues embraced the message but also emphasised that whipping up solidarity in the session hall is not enough without appropriate actions. Each and every one of us can demonstrate by ourselves that tolerance can overcome hate, Razmyar summarised, stirring up an emotional response even from veteran lawmaker Eero Heinäluoma (SDP).

While the session hall was full to bursting with goodwill, Members of Parliament also examined the definition of racism. Sampo Terho, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group, reminded that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights defines racism as discrimination based on race, colour, birthplace or national or ethnic origin. Petteri Orpo (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, estimated that some have been too eager to brand their fellow citizens racists. “You can be critical of the immigration policy or concerned about how Finland can cope with the high number of immigrants without being one bit racist,” he said. “It's tolerance to appreciate the concerns and different opinions of people under such difficult circumstances. Branding someone a racist is a harsh accusation.”

Tarja Filatov (SDP) defined racism as the subjugation of another population group. “You consider your own group of people superior to the other group.” Some make racist statements, while others advocate “an open-door policy,” said Peter Östman (Christian Democrats). “The Christian Democrats don't like either line. We don't tolerate racism, but we don't like decisions that include coercion [such as the obligatory re-settlement of asylum seekers].” Certain members of the opposition took the opportunity to criticise the spending cuts proposed by the Government. Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto (Greens) warned that the cuts in education funding will hinder the integration of immigrants. The chairperson of the Left Alliance, Paavo Arhinmäki, estimated that people have a just reason to feel disoriented and anxious about their jobs, homes and livelihood.

“However, this is not because of immigrants but because of the spending cuts and economic policy pursued by the Government that were drawn up before the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland started to grow,” said Arhinmäki. Razmyar estimated that it is also time to update the assessment of the risks posed by extremist movements and determine carefully how the legislation can be improved to prevent violent acts by extremist groups. Estimates drawn up by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) suggest according to Orpo that a few hundred people are currently affiliated with extremist groups. Finland, he added, has beefed up the monitoring of extremist groups and is currently updating the national action plan for preventing violent extremism.
© The Helsinki Times.

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Belgium charges French comedian over racist remarks

15/10/2015- The Belga press agency reports that controversial French comedian Dieudonné has been charged with using anti-Semitic, discriminatory speech during a performance in Belgium and faces prison time of up to six months without parole should he be convicted. "His performance is full of so many defamatory, offensive expressions that it makes one want to vomit," said Damien Leboutte, the prosecutor in Liège, when reading the indictment. Leboutte is also seeking to fine the comedian EUR 5 000. The verdict is expected on 25 November. According to the Belgian authorities, Dieudonné, a 49-year-old whose full name is Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, committed his offense during a performance in March 2012 in Liège. His words allegedly incited racial intolerance and expressed negativistic, revisionist ideas. Belgian daily Le Soir reports, for example, that the comedian called Adolf Hitler a "good-hearted braggart". Dieudonné is the son of a Cameroonian man and a Frenchwoman and was actively against racism during the 1990s, when he became famous as part of a duo with the Jewish humorist Elie Semoun. Later, however, he began to spend time with representatives of the French ultra-right and doing solo performances featuring speech that primarily took heavy swipes at Jewish people. He has faced several prosecutions, his performances have been cancelled, and the doors of the mainstream media have gradually been closed to him.

© Romea.

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EU Countries Not Meeting Commitments on Migrant Redistribution, Official Says

14/10/2015- European governments are failing to live up to their commitments to tackle the continent’s migration crisis, a top European Union official said on the eve of a summit on Thursday here where leaders will debate the issue anew. Thousands of people continue to arrive every day in Greece, even as temperatures drop, adding to the 710,000 refugees and other migrants that the EU border agency Frontex says have arrived in the bloc this year. Last month, after vitriolic debate, EU governments approved the redistribution of 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc. But so far, only a handful of capitals have given precise indications of how many people they will take in and when.

Governments in September also pledged to donate more money to aid organizations dealing with refugees, but have so far done little, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told the European Parliament on Wednesday. “The European institutions have delivered quickly, all we were supposed to do, we did. But member states have not done it to the same extent,” he said. Mr. Juncker said the commission, the bloc’s executive, has cobbled together a total of €9.2 billion to cope with the refugee crisis, a sum that national governments last month pledged to match. Out of that, so far only the U.K. has come forward with €225 million for the United Nations refugee agency.

Governments have also failed to live up to their pledges to dispatch border guards, asylum officers and translators to Italy and Greece to help with registration and fingerprinting of migrants. Out of the more 1,000 staff needed, only 130 have been put forward so far by member states. “I would have liked to see that what was promised in September will be delivered tomorrow. It is not enough to make promises; deeds are what count,” Mr. Juncker said. Thursday’s summit will discuss revamping the bloc’s asylum policies, improving control over the bloc’s external borders and relations with Turkey, the main transit country for refugees.

Mr. Juncker, who was the architect of the controversial refugee redistribution plans, admitted to shortcomings in making the program work. Among the challenges is finding people who are willing to go to countries they have never heard of. “It seems hard enough to find people in Greece willing to come to Luxembourg, even though it is one of the richest countries in the EU,” Mr. Juncker said. “Still, I don’t think it is outrageous to invite people fleeing from war to come to Luxembourg.” Greece—which has seen 450,000 migrants arrive this year—aims to transfer just 30 refugees to Luxembourg sometime this month. But “it was hard to find them,” a Greek official said.

Last week, Italy struggled to find the 19 Eritreans it eventually sent to Sweden, say officials and migrant aid groups involved in the process. Another problem is convincing migrants to remain in the country they are sent to. Most want to reach Germany or Scandinavia, but tens of thousands are earmarked for other countries where they may not want to settle. Indeed, France and Belgium last month tried to help Germany by taking 1,250 refugees from German reception centers. But many of them soon returned to Germany on their own. “This plan may have been too hopeful [in expecting] that people will go and stay where they’re told. But it’s early stages; it may still work,” one senior EU official said.

Securing the bloc’s external borders is another area in which nearly no progress has been made, as Athens opposes an idea floated by Mr. Juncker to set up joint Turkish-Greek border patrols. “I proposed joint Turkish-Greek patrols in the Mediterranean. Turkey was fine with it, but Greece rejected the idea,” Mr. Juncker said. “This is about Europe, not bilateral relations. I ask Greece to revise its position.” Konstantinos Koutras, a spokesman for the Greek foreign ministry, said this week that Greece had never considered using its navy to confront war refugees “nor can it even discuss the novel ideas expressed lately, such as that of joint Greek-Turkish patrolling of maritime borders.” Mr. Juncker added that the Turkish route—where more than 450,000 people have come this year, according to the International Organization for Migration—needs to be closed “in a reasonable manner.”

But convincing Turkey to stem the migration flow in exchange for visa-free travel and other EU incentives is still a distant project. Mr. Juncker dispatched two of his deputies to Ankara on Wednesday to continue talks on the matter. Diplomats in Brussels say they are skeptical this will succeed. “Turks don’t feel treated very well by the EU. This has been an issue for years and has not changed. I have no illusions that there will be a very difficult bargain with Turkey on that,” said one official familiar with the discussions.
© The Wall Street Journal*

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Switzerland: Populist right seen boosting number of MPs

The Swiss head to the polls Sunday to vote in a new parliament, with the populist right seen as likely to strengthen its already dominant position amid concerns over migrants and asylum rules.

14/10/2015- The surging numbers of migrants and refugees moving through Europe have heightened the focus on the issue in Switzerland, even though the wealthy Alpine nation has yet to be significantly affected by the crisis. The last poll from the gfs.bern polling institute showed that 48 percent of those questioned thought migration was the most important issue facing the country. Power-sharing and consensus rule are the norm in Switzerland and elections rarely lead to major shifts in parliament or the makeup of the government, which does not directly reflect the power balance in the house. But the latest polls suggest the scale is tilting from the centre-left towards a centre-right majority in parliament, which has 200 seats in its lower chamber and 46 in the upper chamber.

"That could clearly impact future decisions," Andreas Ladner, a political scientist at Lausanne University, told AFP, suggesting a centre-right tilt in parliament could lead to "stricter immigration policies." About a quarter of Switzerland's eight million inhabitants are foreign nationals, and immigration and asylum policies tend to figure among voters' top concerns. Pollster gfs.bern said the country had not seen a campaign so dominated by a single issue for decades, with only nine percent choosing the runner-up issue — Switzerland's relationship with the neighbouring European Union — as the most important. Ties with the EU were badly hit by a narrow Swiss popular vote in February 2014 in favour of restricting immigration from the bloc.

Migration crisis boosts right
Switzerland's largest party, the populist rightwing anti-immigration Swiss People's Party (SVP), appears to be benefiting from the increased focus on its pet issue, mainly at the expense of the Greens and other smaller parties. The latest poll handed SVP nearly 28 percent support — up from the 26.6 percent it managed in the 2011 election and close to the record high 28.9 percent it won in 2007. "SVP is clearly benefiting from the European crisis," Ladner said. Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at Geneva University, however noted a heightened feeling of solidarity towards the migrants moving through Europe, which "may not benefit SVP".

He suggested the party, which in 2007 sparked outcry with posters of three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, had toned down some of its anti-immigrant rhetoric. The SVP, which championed the vote to restrict immigration from the EU, has demanded a new referendum aimed at tightening Switzerland's already strict asylum laws. The centre-right Liberal Party, Switzerland's third largest party, holds a very different view. The party, which has also seen a significant hike in support in the latest polls to 16.7 percent and which could help push the overall balance of parliament rightwards, stresses instead the need for more immigration to keep Switzerland's economy strong.

Lack of qualified labour
"There is no migration problem . . . the main problem facing Switzerland today is economic," Liberal parliamentarian Fathi Derder told AFP, warning the country, where unemployment stands at just over three percent, "is facing "a dire lack of qualified labour." The Socialists, Switzerland's second largest party, which in the last poll inched up slightly from the 18.7 percent of the vote they won in 2011, also want to broaden the debate to include cleaning up the Swiss banking sector and improving ties with the EU. Socialist vice-president Roger Nordmann warned a shift to the right in parliament could have dire consequences, especially if it hands more influence to SVP, who he accused of "playing to xenophobia". And politicians may have a hard time convincing voters that Sunday's vote is important — with major shifts in power a rarity, Switzerland's parliamentary elections generally fail to inspire much enthusiasm and turnout has not passed 50 percent since 1975.

Moreover the Swiss can have a more direct impact in referendums held every three months on different issues as part of the country's direct democratic system. But experts insist the stakes are high this time. In December the new parliament will elect Switzerland's Federal Council, or government, with the seven posts traditionally shared among the major parties from right to left under a tacit decades-old agreement dubbed "the magic formula". Despite being the largest party, SVP currently holds just one government post, but has its sights set on securing a second seat. "One out of seven seats may not seem important, but it is in fact, since that will determine the balance of power," Sciarini said.
© The Local - Switzerland

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Spanish archbishop warns against 'Trojan horse' threat from refugees

A Spanish archbishop has called into question whether Spain should be welcoming refugees, asking "are they completely trustworthy?"

14/10/2015- The Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, sparked controversy on Wednesday when he questioned whether welcoming refugees to Spain from Syria was such a good idea. "What’s happening in Europe?" the Catholic bishop asked. "This invasion of immigrants... are they completely trustworthy? Where will it leave Spain in a few years?" Cañizares was speaking during a forum on Europe and the Mediterranean organized by the New Economic Forum. He also raised the question of whether refugees were coming to Spain "because they were being persecuted" arguing that "many are not". He called for "clarity" and to see "who is behind all this". "We must be clear headed and not let everyone in, because today it could be someone who gets along very well, but it is in fact the Trojan horse for European societies and specifically Spain." Cañizares is so stranger to controversy and was criticised in 2009 for claiming abortion was worse than child abuse when he said:
"What happened in some schools cannot be compared with the millions of lives that have been destroyed by abortion. It has legally destroyed 40 million human lives."

Poverty in Spain
The Spanish archbishop also played down reports of increased poverty in Spain, arguing that "you don’t see any more people than before on the streets or living under bridges." He said claims were "exaggerated" and that Spaniards needed to "recognize the economic recovery" in Spain. The cardinal's words contradict those of his boss. Pope Francis recently urged "every Catholic parish in Europe" to take in a refugee family, setting the ultimate example by putting up a Syrian refugee family in a Vatican apartment.
© The Local - Spain

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Almeria Province political parties are urging councils to declare their towns ‘refugees welcome’ zones.

14/10/2015- Nijar and Almeria City have already done so and they are now joined by Mojacar, where a plenary session voted unanimously to assist refugees from war zones. “Conscious of the grave situation, the town of Mojacar should remain true to its tradition as a meeting place where different nationalities and cultures live in harmony as well as its tradition of unquestionable humanitarian goodwill and international cooperation,” the council declared. The town hall will create a register of families who wish to take refugees into their homes or other properties that they own and support them during the time they are in Mojacar. Residents interested in collaborating are asked to contact the town hall’s Social Services department. Nijar Town Hall voted in September to become part of the network of ‘refugees-welcome’ towns. The motion proposed by Alexis Pineda, Deputy Mayor and IU party spokesman, was approved by all parties on the council. “This is least we can do when faced with the destabilisation and destruction of prosperous countries like Syria or Libya,” Pineda said at the time.
© Euro Weekly News

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New reports on combating racism and intolerance: AUSTRIA, CZECH REPUBLIC and ESTONIA

13/10/2015- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published monitoring reports on Austria, the Czech Republic and Estonia, analysing recent developments and outstanding issues and providing recommendations to the authorities. Despite certain positive developments, ECRI notes, there are challenges ahead.

AUSTRIA
ECRI reports, among the main problems, antipathy towards migrants and online hate speech at worrying levels, despite integration policies and awareness raising. 
Fifth report on Austria

CZECH REPUBLIC
ECRI expresses serious concern over the lack of progress in eradicating segregation of Roma children in schools and the prevalence of anti-Roma hate speech in political discourse.
Fifth report on the Czech Republic

ESTONIA
Concerns remain, such as higher unemployment in regions which are predominantly Russian-speaking, or the unsatisfactory implementation of the new linguistic policy in the upper secondary school 
Fifth report on Estonia
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

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EU Commission concerned by Hungary's migration laws

The EU Commission has expressed concerns over Hungary's new and amended migration laws in a letter sent last week which asked for clarification.

13/10/2015- The letter, published earlier by Hungarian media and now on Statewatch, a non-profit organisation committed to transparency, was sent on 7 October and was signed by the Commission's director general for migration and justice. The letter challenges recent Hungarian legislation that seems to fast-track people seeking refuge back to Serbia with a ban on entering the EU for a year. "Applications for international protection made at the border in a border procedure are systematically declared inadmissible on the basis of the fact that applicants have transited through Serbia," the letter states. It asks the Hungarian authorities to explain how the new border management is compatible with EU law, as reportedly only around 100 people are registered at the transit zone daily along the Serbian border and a decision dismissing their request can be made within an hour.

The Commission is concerned that asylum seekers are not interviewed by the authorities, their story is not being heard and they have no means to challenge the concept of Serbia being a "safe country". The EU executive is also worried about reports that people are not given proper information free of charge and have difficult access to free legal assistance, or interpretation. It also questions the circumstances of detention for asylum seekers, who are not told why they are being detained and how can they appeal against their detention. The Commission expresses serious concerns over how asylum seekers can fully exercise their right to challenge the rejection of their application, given the lack of information, legal assistance and short deadlines. The letter also asks for figures on how many requests for international protection were dismissed, how many of them were appealed, and how many concern children and other vulnerable asylum seekers.

The Hungarian authorities have two weeks to reply, and further communication is expected before the Commission could open an official investigation into whether the Hungarian legislation is in line with EU law. The Commission is concerned about the lack any specific procedure or safeguards for children, and whether illegal border crossings are not dealt with unproportionally, with the possibility of up to eight years prison sentence for damaging the border fence. The Commission is also concerned about the use of military in managing the borders and says that their conduct must respect EU rules. Hungary's government tweaked legislation in July and September to set up and protect the border fence along the Serbian frontier, sped up asylum procedures and gave extra rights to police and military in border management.

More than 320,000 people fleeing war and persecution have crossed into Hungary so far this year, with most headed to Austria and Germany. Since Hungary put up the razor fence in August, hundreds continued to climb over or crawl under it even after the new legislation came into force on September 15. There have been more than 400 fast-track trials of migrants since then, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, charged with the crime.
© The EUobserver

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European Parliament Set to Lift Immunity of Hungarian MEP

12/10/2015- The European Parliament on Wednesday is set to take an unprecedented step and lift the immunity of one of its members accused of spying for Russia. Hungarian prosecutors over a year ago asked the European Union’s parliament to waive the immunity of far-right politician Béla Kovács, so he can be put on trial for espionage, facing up to eight years in prison if found guilty. At a parliamentary hearing behind closed doors on Monday, members in the legal affairs committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of lifting Mr. Kovács’ immunity. The full assembly of the 751-strong European Parliament on Wednesday is expected to endorse that decision.

Mr. Kovács, 55, hails from the far right Jobbik party in Hungary and was re-elected last May as member of the European Parliament. A Hungarian parliamentary committee in May 2014 found there was “solid” evidence he spied for Russia, an accusation which he strongly denies. Hungarian security services tracked Mr. Kovacs for four years, Hungarian government officials say, during which time they said he met covertly with Russian diplomats and traveled to Moscow on a monthly basis. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, Mr. Kovács was one of a handful of MEPs who traveled to Crimea, at the invitation of local pro-Russian authorities, to observe the so-called independence referendum. The U.S., the EU and the United Nations condemned the vote as illegitimate.

Péter Krekó, director at the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest-based research center looking at party funding, says Mr. Kovács made his fortune in Russia and Japan and was instrumental in turning Jobbik into a pro-Russia party. “In its early days, Jobbik was quite anti-Russian. But after Mr. Kovács joined, in 2005, and became one of the main donors, the party gradually shifted in favor of Russia,” Mr. Krekó says. Mr. Kovács has not hidden his pro-Russia sympathies throughout his political career, but says they are benign, not a sign of spying activities. “The least we can say is that he was a strong lobbyist for Russia and possibly brought Russian money into Jobbik… But I am not sure he is a real spy, because as an MEP you do not have access to important information,” Mr. Krekó says.

Political machinations by the conservative government of Viktor Orban also complicate the matter further. The timing of Mr. Kovács’ being exposed as a spy, just before the EU elections last year, “had certainly political motives, to cause some reputational damage to Jobbik,” says Mr. Krekó. Kremlin’s ties with the far right are not a Hungary-specific phenomenon. Similar suspicions of Russian money bankrolling the anti-EU, xenophobic parties exist in several EU countries, notably in France where Marine Le Pen’s Front National is being investigated about its party funding. None of its MEPs — neither Ms. Le Pen nor her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen — have been accused of spying for Russia, however.
© Wall Street Journal - Real Time Brussels Blog

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Hungary: A Race To The Far Right In Politics

12/10/2015- One afternoon last summer, economics professor Gyorgy Malovics opened his mailbox at home in the leafy provincial town of Szeged, in southern Hungary, where he lectures at the local university. Inside, he found a two-page letter from Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, along with a questionnaire. The packet was mailed to every Hungarian household. The questions asked citizens how they believe the government should handle Europe's migration crisis. "Basically, it framed the whole question as, 'We have to protect ourselves against people who come here for economic reasons and to carry out terrorist acts,' " Malovics recalls. "For me, to be honest, it was shocking. I'm aware of how dirty or dark politics can be. But I was still surprised that the Hungarian state could officially use such language."

The prime minister's letter opened with a warning of Charlie Hebdo-style killings in Hungary. The first question mentioned ISIS. Malovics says he'd heard that rhetoric before — but only from Jobbik, the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic party that now has the second-largest bloc in Hungary's parliament after the ruling Fidesz party. "Jobbik can allow itself to be openly oppressive, anti-Semitic, openly nationalistic," Malovics says. "But until now, Fidesz hasn't done it, because on one hand, Fidesz wants the votes of people who vote for Jobbik — but they also need the votes of people who basically think that Jobbik is a far-right Nazi party."

About 1 million Hungarians filled out Orban's questionnaire and sent it back. The government says their answers are the basis for its hard-line policy against migrants — building fences and using force to keep them out. This fall, new billboards along Hungarian highways read: "The people have decided. The country has to be protec-ted." Meanwhile, the prime minister's right-wing party, Fidesz, has surged in the polls. Hungary's crackdown on migrants has been a boon to the government's popula-rity. It's co-opting messages from the far-right Jobbik party — and winning. By moving to the right, it seems to be putting the far-right fringe out of business.

When Jobbik organized an anti-immigrant rally last week in Szentgotthárd, a rural factory town near the Austrian border, only about 20 people showed up. Guarded by police, they waved anti-European Union placards and Jobbik flags. One sign read, "Why have a fence if the gates on it are open?" — in reference to how some migrants are still allowed to pass through openings in Hungary's border fences. Another bore a photo of Budapest's Keleti train station — crowded with Middle Eastern migrants last month, awaiting trains to the Austrian border — with a caption saying, "Is this a Middle Eastern train station or is it Hungarian?"

A Jobbik lawmaker, Adam Mirkoczki, told the crowd at the Szentgotthárd rally that most of the more than 350,000 migrants who've entered Hungary this year are actually Muslim fighters here to wage jihad. People nodded their heads, saying, "Yes, the government warned us about them!" "Fidesz asked us to stand with them on the issues most important to the nation, and we did," Mirkoczki told the crowd. "And then they stabbed us in the back!" He's upset that Fidesz has co-opted an issue — fear of migrants — that has long been his party's centerpiece. Hungarian politics is suddenly a race to the far right. "We're all upset Fidesz is taking our issues," says Lajos Deak, another Jobbik supporter at the rally. "We identified ourselves as right-wing radicals first. And now, the big mainstream party is radicalizing."

This tactic seems to be working for Fidesz, even in the progressive college town of Szeged. Some young Fidesz supporters here say they'd never consider voting for Jobbik. "Jobbik has quite a bad reputation," says graduate student Istvan Kiss, 24. "They also don't have the experience that Fidesz has in governing." Kiss says he thinks Jobbik members are far-right radicals. But when their same anti-immigrant message comes from the prime minister, he's more open to it, he admits. "I support our prime minister because I think Mr. Orban is one of the persons who can really protect the borders," he says. "The question you have to decide is to protect the borders or to be politically correct for Europe — that's the question [the Fidesz] party had to consider. I think Europe did not realize so many immigrants would come. We were the first country on the border; we realized it more quickly."

If Orban and Fidesz coopted Jobbik's anti-immigrant rhetoric, it was a smart political move, Kiss says. "They stole this issue. But if it was a good idea, then why not steal it?" he says. "Even if Jobbik hadn't said it first, I think our prime minister would have done the same." He says other mainstream political parties across Europe should take a page from Orban's playbook — and move to the right — if they want to win elections and stay in power.
© NPR

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The centre-left SPÖ has won the Vienna state election but the far-right Freedom Party has made significant gains and recorded its best ever result in the capital.

11/10/2015- The Social Democrats (SPÖ), which have ruled Vienna uninterrupted since 1945, scored 39.4 percent, down 4.9 points, while the Freedom Party (FPÖ) rose 5.3 points to 31 percent. The Green party is projected to have won 11.6 percent (down 1 point) and the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) 8.7 percent (down 5.3) - its worst ever result. The ÖVP's top candidate Manfred Juraczka has said he will step down. The moderate Neos party made the most gains and looks set to win 6.2 percent and its first seat in the city council. Opinion polls before the election had forecast a much closer result, with even a victory for the FPÖ on the back of unease among voters about Europe's refugee crisis.

The result, if confirmed, would in theory make possible a continuation of the SPÖ's coalition in Vienna with the ecologist Greens - together they would have 54 seats in the city council. "Of course we would have preferred a neck-and-neck result, but this didn't happen. At the same time it has to be said that this is the SPÖ's worst result in its history," said FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache, 46. "I said before (the election) that I was ready to assume the responsibility of becoming mayor. Today it wasn't enough yet, but we took a step closer," he said. Opinion polls before the election had forecast a much closer result, with even a victory for the FPÖ a possibility.

Voter turnout was high, at around 74 percent. A major issue for voters - mirrored across Europe - has been the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees into the continent this year. A survey released on Sunday, which was commissioned by Austria's national public broadcaster, showed that for 65 percent of voters in Vienna, the migrant crisis was a major issue in deciding whom to vote for.

Help 'our poor'
Austria has seen more than 200,000 migrants enter the country since the beginning of September, most of whom travel onwards to Germany or Scandinavia. But the government still expects some 85,000 asylum claims this year, making the Alpine country of 8.5 million people one of the highest recipients in Europe on a per-capita basis. Strache, a former dental technician, has called for Austria to copy Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and put fences up on the borders - something rejected by Chancellor Werner Faymann of the SPÖ. "Every property owner does this with his house, putting a fence around his garden and not leaving the doors and windows open, so unwelcome guests don't come," Strache said earlier this year.

But emulating Marine Le Pen, the head of France's far-right National Front, Strache has also toned down the anti-immigration rhetoric seen in earlier campaigns in his ten years as FPÖ head. Gone are the slogans vilifying Islam. The posters all over Vienna were more subtle: "Help for our poor", they declare, adding in smaller letters "Instead of open doors for economic migrants". "Security for our people," reads another, below a grinning Strache. "Instead of open borders for criminals". At the same time, Strache campaigned on traditional SPÖ issues like alleviating poverty and more affordable rents, while even encroaching on liberal topics like slashing bureau-cracy. "He has shifted his political discourse," political analyst Anton Pelinka told AFP. "The xenophobic root was still there, but in a more latent form."
© The Local - Austria

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Sweden thrown into political uncertainty

10/10/2015- Sweden faces political uncertainty after the small Christian Democratic Party dropped out of a deal that has kept the minority left-wing government in power. At their party congress, the Christian Democrats voted to exit the so-called December Agreement in which the center-right opposition pledged to not block the Social Democrat-led government's budget proposals. The deal was designed to sideline the far-right and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, which became Sweden's third-largest party in elections last year. Many center-right lawmakers criticized the deal because it compelled them to allow the government to impose tax increases and other policies unpopular with the opposition. The move by the Christian Democrats raised the potential of the December Agreement collapsing, in which case Sweden might have to hold new elections.
© WAOW

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Netherlands: Verbal assault: MP's cautioned in asylum debate as Wilders abuse continues

14/10/2015- The parliamentary debate on asylum seekers in the Netherlands once again fell into chaos Wednesday afternoon. Party leaders flung insults back and forth, with PVV leader Geert Wilders simultaneously on the attack and receiving end of most remarks. It devolved to the point where Tweede Kamer president Anouchka van Miltenburg had to tell her colleagues not to curse each other out. As in the previous debates touching on the refugee crisis, Wilders has once again managed to cause an uproar with his anti-Islam, anti-refugee statements. According to him, the parties VVD, PvdA and D66 have thrown the doors wide open to immigrants. “Come on in Ali, with your servant”, is the message The Hague is sending, he said.

As in previous debates, Wilders’ colleagues were having none of it. The debate devolved from there. Wilders called D66 leader Alexander Pechtold a “fat zero”, according to RTL Nieuws. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called Wilders a “fake democrat”. He offered to retract the statement, if Wilders will agree to retract his earlier statement that the Tweede Kamer is a “fraudulent parliament”. Wilders obviously refused to do so. The Telegraaf reports that Wilders visibly irritated all the other parties when he started reading emails from citizens expressing their concern about the influx of asylum seekers. This ranged from a woman who was approached by a refugee for sex and was called a whore when she refused, to someone on a scooter being intimidated by refugees. As if on cue, Wilders colleagues took their turn to once again tell him that he is not offering any solutions to the problem.
© The NL Times

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Netherlands: Up to 60,000 refugees expected this year: minister

14/10/2015- The Dutch cabinet expects between 50,000 and 60,000 people will apply for asylum in the Netherlands this year, junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff has told parliament in a briefing. Up to last month, 35,900 people had come to the Netherlands and applied for refugee status, Dijkhoff said. Of them, almost 2,000 are being put up in temporary accommodation such as sports halls and some 37,000 are living in official refugee centres. By the end of this year, accommodation will be required for 50,000 people, Dijkhoff said. Earlier this week the ruling coalition of the VVD and PvdA reached agreement on changing the way refugees with residency permits are treated. They will no longer have priority on the social housing waiting lists and will be given reduced social security benefits. MPs are due to debate the refugee situation with ministers later on Wednesday.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Refugee crisis requires decency, not political point-scoring (column)

The current refugee crisis is not about being for or against asylum seekers, but about being decent human beings, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe.

13/10/2015- There is something particularly sick about a group of men in balaclavas attacking a sports centre where 150 refugees, including 51 children, are living for a few days. That this happened in Woerden, a nice little town near Utrecht which can trace its roots back to Roman times, is even sadder. Because Woerden represents a sort of quintessential Dutchness and what happened there says a lot about the mood of the moment. The attack was not only cowardly but shows just how cruel some sections of our society have become.

Last week Elsevier magazine – which is far from left-leaning – published a round-up of incidents against refugees over the past few weeks. A banner hanging from a bridge over the A15 motorway reading ‘refugees not welcome’ and ‘shut the borders’. Swastikas painted on a hospital which may become a refugee centre. A threat to burn down a town hall if refugees are allowed to live in the locality. Rich people clubbing together to buy land to stop a refugee centre being built. Demonstrators carrying banners with ‘go home. Holland is not your country’. A house in Deventer allocated to a Syrian family daubed with ‘own people first’. It is a long and nasty list. 

Decent
I don’t for one minute believe that the majority of the good folk of Woerden or the Netherlands agree with the behaviour of a handful of thugs and banner-wavers. 
The Dutch are, in general, decent and generous people. But those with good hearts and good intentions are being swamped – not by refugees, but by people out to cause trouble, not to make the best of a difficult and complicated situation. Last weekend, right-wing rabble rousers from Britain and Germany came to Utrecht to stir up trouble, and our own blonde bombshell Geert Wilders is about to head off to Australia to do the same thing. But then who needs Geert when we’ve got Halbe Zijlstra, party leader of the VVD, spouting utter rubbish in the newspapers and on TV about plans to stop refugees getting free cosmetic surgery in Dutch hospitals?

The heir-apparent to the VVD leadership thinks refugees should be happy with a few euros a month and a home in a converted shipping container. They should not, he says, be allowed to have their eyelids lifted or their breasts enlarged at Dutch taxpayers’ expense – a crass, fatuous and absurd statement which shows just how low some people will sink to score points. If not exactly forgivable, this VVD stance is perhaps predictable. But what are we to make of the Labour party which yesterday voted in favour of the VVD’s ‘more sober’ approach towards the refugees? Should we take solace from the fact that Labour party leader Diedrick Samson at least had the decency to look shamefaced defending his party’s support?

Point-scoring
But this is not a time for political point-scoring and trying to out-Wilders Wilders. This is a time for politicians, indeed for all of us, to work together and to treat
refugees with decency, no matter how they got here or why they came. How must those people in Woerden have felt when thugs dressed in black tried to force their way into their temporary home? If you’ve left your old life and fled from a country which has been torn apart by brainwashed and murderous nutcases, all you want is to live without the fear of violence and bombs and for your kids to go to school and have a future. Some refugees will go back, some will move on and some will make their new home in the Netherlands. Trying to discourage them by making their unhappy lives even more uncomfortable is not the way decent human beings behave.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: EDL founder, who quit group, now filmed at anti-Muslim rally

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson quit group 2 years ago; He said he was embracing multiculturalism & joining anti-extremist group; But now Mr Robinson has been filmed rabble rousing at anti-Muslim rally; Appeared he was returning to his roots, but he says he's not rejoining EDL

13/10/2015- Two years ago the English Defence League's founder Tommy Robinson quit the far-right group to join forces with an anti-extremist think-tank. He announced he was embracing multiculturalism and would work for greater tolerance in what was seen as a dramatic reversal of attitude. But now it appears Mr Robinson may have gone back to his roots after being seen at a demonstration that German chancellor Angela Merkel has branded xenophobic and racist. The 32-year-old was filmed rabble rousing at an anti-Muslim rally in Holland at the weekend, where he told those who gathered that he was 'proud' to have set up the EDL and described his former colleagues as 'brave and fearless'.

It was part of a day of protest across Europe which saw Mr Robinson appear alongside the leaders of the group which organised the rally, the anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (Pegida). He told the protest in the Dutch city of Utrecht: 'Six years ago I formed the English Defence League and I'm proud of forming the resistance in my home country to the Islamisation of my town and my country. 'Angela Merkel says, as does my Prime Minister David Cameron, they say multiculturalism has failed. When Angela Merkel says multiculturalism has failed what she really means is Islam is failed. But she's too cowardice to say Islam has failed.'

Mr Robinson told the rally that European culture was being put at risk by 'fake refugees who have no intention of integration and no intention of assimilation'. He said: 'There is a reason why the state fears me in England. It is because we can bring people together and we are going to enter into a new era in Europe where everyone is going to unite against the Islamisation of our countries.' Having launched in Dresden, Germany, Pegida has attracted to its protests thousands of people who support calls for a stricter enforcement of the country's asylum laws. Some of Mr Robinson's comments at the Pegida march seemed to contradict those he made in October 2013 at a press conference to announce he was leaving the EDL.

Flanked by members of the counter-extremist Quilliam Foundation, he said at the time he would be working to help combat Islamism. He added: 'I have been considering this move for a long time. Whilst I want to lead a revolution against Islamist ideology, I don’t want to lead a revolution against Muslims. ‘I believe that the revolution needs to come from within the Islamic community and they need to stand up.’ Yesterday, the group's co-founder Maajid Nawaz told The Independent: 'We never said [Robinson] changed views. We said we helped him resign as leader of EDL, leaving them leaderless and less effective.' Mr Robinson said he does not intend to rejoin the EDL but believes that 'the time has come to unite across Europe because we have to save our culture'.

The EDL was set up in response to protests by Muslim extremists against soldiers marching in Luton - Mr Robinson's home town. The EDL – thought to have 25,000 to 35,000 ‘genuine’ supporters – led protests after the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, and there was a dramatic rise in reported attacks on mosques. Group leaders denied any involvement.

THE ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE FOUNDER'S MOST NOTORIOUS OUTBURSTS
'If something was set fire and someone wrote "David Cameron" on the side of it, does it mean he did it?' - EDL leader defends his organisation after an Islamic Centre in north London is set on fire and 'EDL' is found written at the scene.

'Our tactics are completely questionable, yes, and I understand people who say you are going about it the wrong way' - Mr Robinson admits he understands why the EDL are criticised.

'This is a day of respect for our Armed Forces. They've had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English Spring' - Outburst after Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich.

‘I class everyone in my community as everyone who is non-Islamic’ - The offensive words of Tommy Robinson who in 2013 insisted he was not anti-Muslim.

'Complimentary lunch, manager's a top lad, couldn't be more apologetic' - EDL leader Tweets his delight after Selfridges offer him a free lunch after previously refusing to serve him.

'You obviously haven't read the article properly - there is nothing in common with what you have to say' - Mr Robinson is slapped down by Tony Blair's office after he Tweets in support of an article the former Prime Minister wrote.
© The Daily Mail.

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Netherlands: New tensions flare over refugees

New tensions flared in the Netherlands Sunday over the sensitive issue of taking in migrants only hours after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sharply condemned a’cowardly’ attack on a refugee shelter

12/10/2015- Police were forced to intervene in the central city of Utrecht on Sunday when hundreds joined a rally organized by the far-right German PEGIDA movement, short for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident." Some 10 people were arrested after a smoke bomb was thrown, and scuffles flared between PEGIDA supporters and those demonstrating against the group, Dutch media reported. Tensions are rising in the Netherlands over the thousands of refugees due to be given shelter in the country under a European Union scheme.

Dutch police are also investigating a Friday night attack by men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas on a sports hall in the central city of Woerden where some 150 refugees, including 51 children, are temporarily housed. No one was hurt in the incident, but police on Sunday were still questioning 11 men aged between 19 and 30 who allegedly tried to storm the building, attacking it with fireworks and pelting it with eggs. "This cowardly action is totally unacceptable," Prime Minister Rutte said on his Facebook page, after visiting the group on Saturday who he said had been very "shocked" by the incident.

Over the next two years, the Netherlands will take in more than 7,000 people, as EU nations share out the migrants flooding into the continent, mainly from Syria and Iraq, in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II. Last week, an angry crowd in the tiny village of Oranje tried to block the car of Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff after he revealed the small hamlet was to house some 1,200 refugees, twice the number initially planned. A woman was injured and hospitalized after she threw herself against Dijkhoff's car. Rutte, who on Friday had already called for calm over the refugee situation, vowed after his visit to Woerden that those behind the attack would be severely dealt with.

Some local mayors have reacted angrily at government plans for temporarily housing refugees in their villages, saying they were being "overruled" by ministers based in The Hague. A poll published Sunday in the De Telegraaf newspaper showed that the Freedom Party (PVV) of firebrand far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders appears to be shooting up the polls amid the refugee crisis. His party won 15 seats in the last elections in 2012. But according to the daily De Telegraaf, if elections were held today his party could snatch as many as 35 seats in the 150-seat lower house.

Despite refugee-friendly campaigns and rallies across Europe, several European cities have been witnessing increasing attacks and rallies against refugees, fueled by xenophobia. Following the refugee influx into the continent, many far-right and populist parties have shown an increase in their votes. Last week, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned of a "massive" increase in attacks on asylum seekers. "We are witnessing a massive increase in xenophobic attacks on asylum seekers," de Maiziere said in an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. "This year, more than 490 criminal attacks have been committed against asylum centers." Last year, 162 attacks on shelters were recorded by police across Germany. In 2013, it was 58 and 24 the year before. Anti-immigration ideology and xenophobia have become more visible in the country as a result of the efforts of political parties like the NPD and Alternative for Germany (AFD), as well as anti-Islam and anti-immigrant initiatives like PEGIDA, which have staged anti-immigrant rallies and drawn thousands of people throughout Europe, especially in Germany.
© The Daily Sabah

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Netherlands: Police question gang who attacked refugee centre with eggs, fireworks

12/10/2015- Eleven men aged 19 to 30 are being questioned in connection with the attack on a refugee centre in Woerden near Utrecht on Friday night, police said on Sunday. The men, dressed in black and wearing balaclavas, were part of a group of some 20 people who hurled eggs and fireworks at the centre and ripped down fences. Officials say it was the worst incident of anti-refugee violence in the country since the new wave of asylum seekers began arriving from Syria. Several locals from the town were involved in stopping the gang and helping police detain them, news agency ANP said. The centre, a converted sports hall, is being used to temporarily house 148 Syrians, of whom 51 are children. Woerden mayor Victor Molkenboer said the attack had had an ‘enormous impact’ on the refugees, many of whom had already gone through traumatic experiences. Prime minister Mark Rutte visited the centre on Saturday afternoon and met residents and officials. He described the gang’s action as ‘cowardly’ and ‘totally unacceptable’. ‘The people responsible for this must be severely punished,’ the prime minister said.

Investigation
Police are now questioning the 11 men who were arrested and say they hope the information received so far will lead to the remaining members of the gang being
identified. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Dutch association of mayors has said councils need more security capacity at refugee centres and that the use of private security firms could be one option. ‘The security level needs to be increased,’ said Bernt Schneiders. ‘Refugees need a bed and board but they also need safety.’
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Coalition agrees to cut provisions for asylum seekers

12/10/2015- The Dutch coalition government has agreed that refugees will no longer have priority over other residents when it comes to rent-controlled housing. ‘This means that people on waiting lists will not lose out because of refugees,’ prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters following Monday’s weekly coalition meeting. The coalition has also agreed to built more ‘sober’ housing units to reduce the pressure on refugee centres. This will include housing in converted shipping containers and empty offices, Rutte said. Some 13,000 refugees with residence permits are still living in official asylum seeker centres because there are no alternatives available. Pressure has been mounting on the coalition to tackle the housing issue as a matter of urgency as more refugees continue to arrive.

VVD
VVD parliamentary party leader Halbe Zijlstra said at the weekend refugees should be provided with only very basic facilities. Those on temporary residence permits ‘can live on €20 in container-like accommodation,’ Zijlstra told the AD. During today’s talks, the parties also decided that refugees’ rent and insurance premiums will be paid directly by the government. This will reducing their basic benefits and remove the need for supplementary benefits, Rutte said. It is unclear if this will actually result in cost savings, the Volkskrant pointed out.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: New tensions over refugees

11/10/2015- New tensions flared in the Netherlands Sunday over the sensitive issue of taking in migrants, only hours after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sharply condemned a "cowardly" attack on a refugee shelter. Police were forced to intervene in the central city of Utrecht on Sunday when hundreds joined a rally organised by the far-right German PEGIDA movement, short for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident". Some 10 people were arrested after a smoke bomb was thrown and scuffles flared between PEGIDA supporters and those demonstrating against the group, Dutch media reported. Tensions are rising in The Netherlands over the thousands of refugees due to be given shelter in the country under a European Union scheme.

Dutch police are also investigating a Friday night attack by men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas on a sports hall in the central city of Woerden where some 150 refugees, including 51 children, are temporarily housed. No one was hurt in the incident, but police were on Sunday still questioning 11 men aged between 19 and 30 who allegedly tried to storm the building, attacking it with fireworks and pelting it with eggs. "This cowardly action is totally unacceptable," Prime Minister Rutte said on his Facebook page, after visiting the group on Saturday who he said had been very "shocked" by the incident.

Over the next two years, the Netherlands will take in more than 7,000 people as EU nations share out the migrants flooding into the continent, mainly from Syria and Iraq, in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II. Last week, an angry crowd in the tiny village of Oranje tried to block the car of Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff after he revealed the small hamlet was having to house some 1,400 refugees, twice the number initially planned. A woman was injured and hospitalised after she threw herself against Dijkhoff's car. Rutte, who on Friday had already called for calm over the refugee situation, vowed after his visit to Woerden that those behind the attack would be severely dealt with.

Some local mayors have reacted angrily at the government plans for temporarily housing refugees in their villages, saying they were being "overruled" by the ministers based in The Hague. A poll published Sunday in the De Telegraaf newspaper showed that the Freedom Party (PVV) of firebrand far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders appears to be shooting up the polls amid the refugee crisis. His party won 15 seats in the last elections in 2012. But according to the daily De Telegraaf, if elections were held today his party could snatch as many as 35 seats in the 150-seat lower house.
© AFP

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EU leaders to discuss offshoring asylum centres

12/10/2015- EU leaders plan to discuss offshoring asylum reception centres and giving Turkey more money, according to an internal document. The leaked paper outlines the broad conclusions set to be made following an EU summit in Brussels later this week. The paper states that the European Council, representing member states, will "explore possibilities for developing safe and sustainable reception capacities in the affected region". On Turkey, it says the "EU stands ready to step up substantially its political and financial engagement." The draft paper is dated a day before twin explosions killed almost a hundred people in Ankara. In a statement, EU council president Donald Tusk said the attack on "a peaceful march cynically exploits a sensitive moment for Turkey and the region." He said the EU "stands side by side with Turkey, its people and authorities in its efforts against terrorism and for reconciliation".

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, earlier this month in Brussels agreed to help the EU better manage the asylum crisis. The two sides agreed on a deal to cooperate. Among other things, Turkey is set to register migrants, step up border surveillance, and readmit people with no chance of asylum in the EU back to Turkey. In return, the EU agreed to accelerate plans to scrap visas for visiting Turks and roll out a €1 billion fund to "weaken the push factors", such as sub-standard conditions in refugee camps. Summit leaders on Thursday and Friday in Brussels will also outline plans on beefing up external borders and returning unwanted migrants back to their home countries. It includes setting up an "integrated management system for external borders" and allowing the EU's border agency Frontex to initiate returns on its own.

No European solidarity tax
The internal document makes no mention of a rumoured European solidarity tax to assist refugees. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported over the weekend that Berlin and the European Commission were discussing a possible tax increase to help fund refugee projects. The paper said a surcharge on petroleum and other tax hikes would be levied to finance the influx of asylum seekers. But both the European Commission and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday refuted the report. "We want neither a tax hike in Germany nor the introduction of an EU-tax", said Merkel's government spokesman Steffen Seibert, reports Reuters. For its part, the European Commission also denied it. "There is no such proposal currently on the table or under preparation and the Commission never comments on rumours in the press", said a European Commission spokesperson.
© The EUobserver

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Germany reprinting Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf 70 years after death

Nazi bible Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's hate-filled anti-Semitic manifesto, is to be republished 70 years after its last release.

14/10/2015- Copyright on the infamous book - whose title means "My Struggle" - is due to expire next year and German and French editions are already being planned. Publishers will have free reign to print the far-right diatribe as the seven-decade anniversary of its author's death has now passed, meaning the Bavarian State, which owned the copyright, can no longer control where it is disseminated. Hitler dictated the lengthy tome during his time in prison in 1923 while leader of the Nazi party. It set out in sickening detail his hatred of the Jews, which eventually led to the Holocaust and the slaughter of tens of millions of innocent people. Although a variety of translations are available in English, French-language copies haven't been published since 1934 and the book was banned in Germany after the Nazis were defeated in the Second World War.

The government-funded Institute of Contemporary History in Munich will oversee the publication of a highly-controversial German language version. Fayard, a French publishing company, also plans to print an annotated version of the manuscript. It said in a statement: "The publication of this book central to the history of the 20th century will be accompanied by a critical analysis established by a scientific committee of French and foreign historians." Fears have been raised that Mein Kampf could enter the bestseller charts. Germans are permitted to own the book, which originally came out in two volumes in 1925 and 1926 and was printed 12million times, but reprinting after 1945 was banned.

Officials from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution have defended the move, saying modern neo-Nazis share little in common with Hitler, aside from his anti-semitism. The body insists that the memory of the Third Reich plays a "much smaller role than even 20 years ago" in fascist groups operating in Germany today.
© The Daily Express

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Germany: Firefighter Accused of Arson at Syrian Refugees' Home

A firefighter who told authorities he was "scared" of refugees has been accused of setting a blaze in the attic of a house where Syrians were living.

14/10/2015- A pregnant woman was among seven who fled the burning dwelling following an arson attack in the western German town of Altena on Oct. 3. "One bystander said something like, 'just let it burn down' when the fire department arrived on scene," said 67-year old Christel Foerste, who helped the refugees escape from the flaming house. No injuries were reported. A 23-year-old later turned himself in while a 25-year-old local firefighter was later arrested in connection with the deliberate blaze. The latter said his motive was that "he was scared about refugees living in his neighborhood," prosecutor's office spokesman Bernd Maas told NBC News. Amid Europe's migrant crisis, Germany is expected to take in more than 1 million asylum seekers this year, Germany's vice-chancellor said Sunday. The country has already seen a sharp rise in attacks on refugee homes and officials have repeatedly warned about tensions emerging. Police say the fire alarm system had been disabled by the culprits.

However, the decision by prosecutors to charge the men with severe arson instead of attempted murder has drawn criticism. They were also released on bail, pending trial. Maas said that "under German law, we could not detect enough evidence for intentional homicide." The two men were also not charged with political hate crime, as prosecutors did not identify a connection with Germany's far-right scene or organized crime. "The main suspect is integrated into a normal, solid family in the town and has no criminal record," Maas added. But the decision to not pursue more serious charges was branded "absurd" by Green's party lawmaker Omid Nouripour. "If the prosecutor's office plays down such crimes, then there will soon be 'reasoning' for every infamous action," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Dirk Wiese, a member of parliament from Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), called the prosecutor's assessment "simply wrong." "Similar cases in the past have lead to attempted murder charges," Wiese told NBC News. The case has triggered intense debate in Germany and prosecutor's office spokesman Maas has even received a threatening email warning that his home would be burned. Following the incident, Christel Foerste and her husband Ruediger donated dishes, blankets and an old refrigerator to the Syrian refugees for their new home across town. "I do not understand at all why some people are so hostile," Foerste said. "I was simply shocked that someone would set a fire because these people could have easily suffocated in their sleep."
© NBC News

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Germany-EU: Officials deny talks of solidarity tax

Officials have dismissed a report saying that Berlin and Brussels want a new tax to help with the refugee crisis. The report had said the tax would have been a Europe-wide initiative.

10/10/2015- German and EU officials denied the newspaper report on Saturday, insisting there was no interest in a European solidarity tax to assist with the ongoing refugee crisis. "The fact remains: we don't want tax increases in Germany or to introduce an EU tax," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. A European Commission spokesman also released a statement denying such a proposal existed. Earlier on Saturday, a major German newspaper reported that discussions have been taking place between the government and EU authorities on creating a European solidarity tax to help carry the costs of the ongoing refugee crisis. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, additional revenues from the tax, which could come in the form of a surcharge on petroleum or by raising sales tax, would go directly into the EU's budget.

Some of that money would go to countries such as Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece, to help secure their open borders. Another portion of the money would go to countries that serve as popular destinations in order to provide for the refugees there. Finally, a portion of the money would go to the refugees' countries of origin, in order improve living conditions there, the paper said. Germany has pushed for a more pan-European approach to solving the refugee crisis, an attitude also supported by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and some other member states.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Criticism of Munich police over Pegida rally at Hitler putsch site

Anti-fascist groups say officers stood by as speech linked Nazis and Pegida movement

13/10/2015- Munich police have come under fire for allowing an anti-Islamic group to hold a rally – and deliver a Nazi-glorifying speech – at the site where Adolf Hitler’s 1923 uprising failed. His so-called “beer hall putsch” began on the evening of November 8th, 1923, and ended the following morning when police confronted Hitler and his supporters at Munich’s Feldherrnhalle and led him off to prison. Now, almost a century on, Munich police are struggling to explain why they allowed a speech from the local branch of anti-Islam group Pegida on the same site last Monday. Anti-fascist groups say police stood by as about 180 demonstrators from the local branch of Pegida, founded in Dresden a year ago, heard a speech drawing a line between the Nazis and their own movement.

According to Micky Wenngatz, organiser of a counter-demonstration, a Pegida speaker noted that another movement had once started at the site of their demonstra-tion and said the time has come for a “march of thousands” from this square in Munich to Berlin. “Nazis and right-wing extremists in front of the Feldherrnhalle, that was unthinkable even weeks ago,” said Mr Wenngatz to the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily. “Pegida is deliberately underlining the historical connection to this site.” The Pegida group had applied to hold a rally at the adjacent Theatinerkirche but, at the last minute, police on the scene decided to shift the barriers to in front of the Feldherrenhalle. It was built in the 19th century by Bavaria’s King Ludwig I to honour the Bavarian army. In the early hours of November 9th, 1923, Hitler and about 2,000 supporters marched there from the Bürgerbräu beer hall.

Nazi salute
Their plans to overthrow the government in Munich and Berlin were quashed by police in a battle that left some 16 Nazis and four policemen dead. After the Nazi takeover in 1933, the Feldherrnhalle was transformed into a place of pilgrimage to the 16 Nazi “martyrs” of the putsch. Anyone passing the building was obliged to give the Nazi salute. Ahead of another Pegida rally on Monday night, registered to be held before the nearby interior ministry, Bavarian city official Marian Offman criticised the “historical amnesia” that allowed the rally before the Feldherrnhalle. Others have asked questions about why authorities permitted a demonstration involving at least four well-known neo-Nazis.

The demonstration was registered by Heinz Meyer, a 55 year-old who has been under investigation for three years on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist organisation. “We are no Nazis,” said Mr Meyer in a letter to state parliament officials last month. “We are not even stalwart patriots – just decent, considerate citizens.” Germany’s growing refugee crisis has left 51 per cent of people “fearful” of the influx of asylum seekers and boosted Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”. Support for the group fell earlier this year after its founder dubbed immigrants “trash” on social media. But, a year after its founding in Dresden, Monday-evening marches there are once again attracting up to 10,000 people.
© The Irish Times.

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Germany: a Turkish Muslim educates immigrants not to hate Jews

Aycan Demirel’s nonprofit Kiga fights rising national prejudices by teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in classrooms

13/10/2015- Dervis Hizarci is a practicing Muslim, a German citizen of Turkish origin, and a guide in Berlin’s Jewish Museum. His services aren’t available to just anyone: Hizarci’s job is to guide teenagers from the surrounding Kreuzberg neighborhood, one of Berlin’s main migrant districts. Today, his visitors are a class of mostly Muslim students from a nearby high school. Hizarci begins the tour with a question: How long does German-Jewish history span? For reference, he adds that Turkish-German history is about 50 years old. A student volunteers: 350 years? Hizarci tells them the answer: 2,000 years.

Next, he talks about another number: six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. To give the students a sense of scale, he adds that today there are around three million people of Turkish origin living in Germany. The teens seem surprised and moved. Fostering these kinds of conversations is the mission of the Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, whose German acronym is “Kiga.” The nonprofit fights prejudice among migrant teens, many of them Muslim. It has been awarded prizes by Germany’s Jewish Community and the Anti-Defamation League, but despite the plaudits, it remains virtually the only organization doing this type of work in Germany.

Kiga teaches pupils about contemporary Jewish life in Germany and similarities and differences between Judaism and Islam. But it also educates them about Islamist groups and the image of Islam in German media. Its activities range from neighborhood walks tracing former Jewish life to educational trips to Israel for German Muslim youths. Most importantly, since much of the anti-Semitism Kiga deals with is Israel-related, the nonprofit tackles the issue head-on with curricula about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — an issue not addressed in German public schools. The organization’s work is groundbreaking in taking on a problem that’s hardly restricted to this migrant minority of Middle Eastern origin. A 2014 survey by Friedrich-Ebert, a foundation aligned with a major center-left party, found that Israel-related anti-Semitism is widespread in German society at large.

Kiga teaches its classes at select high schools, sometimes in week-long workshops and sometimes as a component of year-long elective subjects. Its programs are not a regular part of the school system and the organization teaches where it can, and when asked to do so. Working with short-term funds and within a rigid educational system doesn’t make this an easy task, says Hizarci, the Jewish Museum tour guide, “What we do is like a painkiller,” says Hizarci, “too short-lived to make a lasting change. We’re fighting to have our educational program become a real subject that students can choose as an elective at schools.”

Kiga was founded over a decade ago by Aycan Demirel, a German-Turk of Muslim origin. Formerly a professional social worker with youth associations in his neighbor-hood, he was very disturbed by the anti-Semitism he encountered there. After the 2003 terror attacks on synagogues in Istanbul, he decided that something had to be done. Demirel says the migrant youths are no more or less anti-Semitic than other Germans. But he does think that their Turkish or Arabic cultural backgrounds call for a unique approach. They understand the minority experience in a way other Germans might not. So Kiga tackles anti-Semitism by starting with its students’ own stories. “Many of them want to know why they are made to feel like outsiders in this society, even though they are fourth-generation Germans. It’s vital that we address their questions about identity and feelings of marginalization,” says Demirel.

Twenty-five year-old Hasan-Ali Yildirim knows about those questions. As a teenager, he wasn’t interested in Judaism at all. “I never had anything against Jews, but at that time in my life I had Palestinian friends who did,” he recounts. The reason he himself knocked on Kiga’s door was because a friend had told him that here he might find someone to talk to about what it’s like to feel torn between being German and being Turkish. He did, and gradually also became more involved with the nonprofit. He became one of the organization’s “peer educators” – young men and women with migrant backgrounds in their late teens and twenties who are trained to lead workshops for their younger peers. Naturally, they have much higher credibility when talking to students about religion, identity and stereotypes than regular school teachers do.

Today, Yildirim teaches high school students about Judaism, Islam, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Kiga’s approach to the latter is refreshingly evenhanded. The extensive educational material it has developed teaches facts such as that the decision that there would be a State of Israel was made by many countries in the world, via the UN Partition Plan of 1947. In a multiple choice quiz, possible answers to the question of who had to flee in the first Arab-Israeli War of 1948 are: Palestinians, and Jews in Arab states. The quiz also asks students to list the countries where Palestinians live today. Kiga has not always garnered the approval of other Muslim organizations, some of whom fear that what it does incites Islamophobia, or, at the very least, suggests that anti-Semitism is a problem specific to the Muslim population.

Demirel shares that concern and confirms that they are walking a tightrope. But he is convinced that what they are doing is absolutely necessary. Teachers regularly approach Kiga when at a loss about what to do when confronted with the conflict at school. The number of calls was especially high at times like the Gaza conflict in 2014, when pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Germany turned blatantly anti-Semitic. “Many teachers know next to nothing about the Middle East. They are put into schools with migrant kids, but they have no idea how to connect with their students,” says Demirel. In their professional education, teachers aren’t properly taught how to approach children from different cultural backgrounds.

Demirel says that though Kiga’s programs have a fixed syllabus, they do react to acute situations when the conflict flares up. He mentions the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010 as an example – it happened just as they were about to go on an Israel trip with Muslim youths. The most important thing, he says, is to stay factual, and to take the emotion out of the situation. “We explain the different perspectives on what’s happening, so the kids can form their own opinion,” says Demirel. Soon, teachers will even be able to call a special hotline that the nonprofit is setting up. Demirel says they help teachers assess what’s happening in their classrooms and how to handle it. At the very least, the core advice is to have a clear position — that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.

And Kiga is not just for teens. At the conclusion of the Jewish Museum tour, a high school student asks Hizarci, the guide: “What about the powerful Rothschild family and the Jews who own the banks?” Hizarci responds with his own question: “Do you think that what you’re asking about is fact, or could it just be a stereotype?” The class teacher chimes in, “You have to be careful with these kinds of statements,” she opines, “but it is true that a large number of Jews work in finance.” Without hesitation, the guide shoots back that what the teacher just said reveals a classic anti-Semitic stereotype. It’s another problem they are confronted with frequently, Kiga’s founder Demirel adds – teachers confirming the prejudice of the students.

There is obviously more work to be done. Before the kids leave the museum, Hizarci distributes kosher Gummi Bears to the pupils. They ask him to come and visit them at school, so that they can talk some more.
© The Times of Israel

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Montenegro Gay Pride Postponed Amid Political Turmoil

The third LGBT Pride march in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, due to take place on October 18, has been postponed after anti-government protests erupted in the city centre.

13/10/2015- The organisers of the Pride march confirmed on Monday that it will be postponed due to the current protest rallies against alleged government corruption, which have been going on for over two weeks. One of the organisers, Danijel Kalezic from the NGO Queer Montenegro, told BIRN that the LGBT community does not want to "influence or interfere in the current political and party dynamics". Montenegrin opposition and several civic and student organisations have been protesting in the centre of Podgorica, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's cabinet and accusing the government of widespread corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud. Most of the opposition parties are also boycotting parliament.

The anti-government rallies are being held at the same location in the city in which the previous two gay parades were staged. Kalezic said that the LGBT community was currently "unable to adequately present its problems" because of the public focus on political issues. "We want to take the streets for those who are forced to hide their sexual orientation and gender identity," he said. He added that the organisers would choose a new date for the march by the end of the week. Last year's Pride parade in Podgorica passed off peacefully as some 200 gays and lesbians and their supporters were protected by hundreds of riot police.

Highlighting good cooperation with the police and state authorities, Kalezic said he did not expect problems this year either. "Things have moved on for sure, people probably realised that we do not pose a threat to society," he said. During the first Pride march in Podgorica, in October 2013, more than 500 protesters, mostly football hooligans, hurled rocks and bottles at the marchers who only numbered several dozen. Twenty police were injured in the affray, one of them seriously. Among the 60 people detained, a third were under 18. Homosexuality remains a hot issue in the socially conservative country, as it does elsewhere in the Balkan region.

Some surveys suggested that 71 per cent of citizens in Montenegro consider homosexuality an illness, and every second citizen agrees that homosexuality is a danger to society and that the state should work to suppress it. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, the most powerful religious community in the country, remains firmly opposed to gay rights. According the same surveys, 67 per cent of people believe the church's stand against homosexuality is correct.
© Balkan Insight

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Greece says no plan for sea patrols with Turkey over migrant crisis

Greece said on Tuesday it had no plan to carry out joint sea patrols with neighboring Turkey to stem an influx of migrants and refugees into Europe.

13/10/2015- A record 400,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece this year from nearby Turkey, most fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and hoping to reach wealthier northern Europe. Many others have died at sea while making the short but perilous crossing on flimsy rubber boats. The member states of Europe, meanwhile, have struggled to agree on a strategy to control the flow of people. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday suggested that Greek and Turkish coast guard and navy team up to crack down on traffickers that migrants are turning to in their effort to reach Europe. "Greece ... never considered assigning to its navy or armed forces in general the task of confronting refugees of war, and nor can it even discuss the novel ideas expressed lately, such as that of joint Greek-Turkish patrolling of maritime borders," foreign ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras said in a statement.

He said that Greece wants to cooperate with Turkey to improve the management of migrant inflows and crack down on trafficking but that this could be done mainly by exchanging information or sending back migrants who arrive without documentation. Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas called on the EU to treat Turkey generously and offer it "incentives and rewards" including financial support to accommodate refugees there. U.N. refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres was in Athens on Monday and questioned the European Union's strategy of building more camps in Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.
© Reuters

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Greek minister says EU refugee relocation program undermined by racism

The European Union must stop countries picking and choosing which refugees they accept in its relocation program, otherwise it will turn into a shameful "human market", Greece's new migration minister said.

11/10/2015- The EU has approved a plan to share out 160,000 refugees, mostly Syrians and Eritreans, across its 28 states in order to tackle the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War Two. The first 19 Eritrean asylum seekers were transferred from Italy to Sweden on Friday. Some countries, such as Slovakia and Cyprus, have expressed a preference for Christian refugees and Hungary has said the influx of large numbers of Muslim migrants threatens Europe's "Christian values". Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said in an interview that Greece was having trouble finding refugees to send to certain countries because the receiving nations had set what he called "racist criteria". He declined to name the states concerned. "Views such as 'we want 10 Christians', or '75 Muslims', or 'we want them tall, blonde, with blue eyes and three children,' are insulting to the personality and freedom of refugees," Mouzalas told Reuters. "Europe must be categorically against that."

An EU official said a group of Syrian refugees was due to be relocated from Greece to Luxembourg under the EU scheme around Oct. 18, the first to be officially reassigned from Greece. A gynecologist and founding member of the Greek branch of aid agency Doctors of the World, Mouzalas urged the EU to enforce strict quotas "otherwise it will turn into a human market and Europe hasn't got the right to do that". The refugees are generally not allowed to select the country to which they are assigned. Greece has seen a record of about 400,000 refugees and migrants - mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - arrive on its shores this year from nearby Turkey, hoping to reach wealthier northern Europe. Those who can afford it move on quickly to other countries, sometimes on tour buses taking them straight from the main port of Piraeus, near Athens, to the Macedonian border.

But several thousand, mostly Afghans, have ended up trapped in Greece for lack of money. European authorities are reluctant to treat Afghans systematically as refugees, and a result, they are shut out of the relocation process. "It's absurd to think that Afghans are coming to find better work. There is a long-lasting war, you aren't safe anywhere, that's the reality," Mouzalas said.

More money, more people
Its economy and public services depleted by six years of deep crisis, Greece has struggled to cope with the numbers both in terms of registering the refugees and looking after them while they are in the country. International concern at the influx through Greece has been highlighted by a spate of high profile visits this month including Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, the EU's migration commissioner, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, EU president Luxembourg's interior minister and a group of U.S. senators. Aegean Sea islands closest to Turkey reached breaking point this summer, overwhelmed by the number of arrivals. Registration was lengthy, and many ended up sleeping rough in the street as they lacked the facilities to house them.

Mouzalas said five so-called hotspots to register and identify arrivals on the preferred entry points - Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Leros and Samos - would start operating within a month, ahead of schedule. Greece hopes to relocate about 10,000 people every two months, or 70,000 in a year, he said. It has also committed to creating two centers for 8-10,000 people in total, rather than ones with a capacity of 15,000 people as the EU anticipated to avoid "turning the country into a refugee camp," he said. It will request additional EU funds beyond the 33 million euros ($37.48 million) it has received so far and has asked European partners to send more officials to help register and process refugees. Some are expected later this month, notably from Austria.

Still, Greece's biggest problem remains its vast and porous sea border. Refugees cross from Turkey in small, inflatable boats often packed to three times their capacity. Thousands have died but many more continue to attempt the perilous journey. Mouzalas said Athens had resisted pressure to step up naval patrols to stem the flow and could not legally detain the refugees, who were free to move on. "We cannot control the flow through the sea; you would have to sink boats," Mouzalas said. "You need legal ways otherwise the smugglers manage the flow."  He called on the EU to treat Turkey generously and offer it "incentives and rewards" including financial support to accommodate refugees there, and said the two countries would consider closer cooperation between their coastguards. Greece hoped to use a winter lull to prepare itself for next summer. "But if Damascus falls tomorrow, there is no heavy sea that will hold them back. The flow will increase and the number of deaths will rise," he said.
© Reuters

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Greek right-wing extremists to refugee boats attacked

10/10/2015- Five hooded men are said to have attacked four overcrowded with refugees inflatables off the island of Lesbos. They would have destroyed the outboard motors of inflatable boats and were then disappeared with their speedboat. The attackers were said to be Greek right-wing extremists. As the news portal “lesvosnews.net” and other media on the island on Saturday further reported that refugee boats drove several hours leaderless in the sea between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos. The incident had happened on Friday. All migrants are doing well, most were fishermen taken and other helpers in tow and was brought to safety. On Lesbos and other islands of the Eastern Aegean more than 400,000 migrants from Turkey have arrived in recent months. In their majority they come from Syria and Afghanistan.

Hotspots are scheduled to start operation
Meanwhile, expected to be operational, the first so-called hotspot for registration of refugees in Greece in the coming days on the island of Lesbos. This was announced by EU Interior Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos after political talks on Saturday in Athens. In addition to Greece and Turkey work out an action plan to deal with the refugee crisis in the Aegean Sea in the coming weeks, Avramopoulos said. Last saved the Greek coast guard there within 24 hours more than 1,100 boat people. The EU wants to distribute a total of 160 000 refugees from the most heavily affected countries Greece and Italy to other States. The first migrants were taken on Friday from Italy to Sweden.

The importance of hotspots also highlighted the Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn forth, accompanied Avramopoulos. “We need to know who is knocking at our door,” Asselborn said. If the EU’s external borders are not secured, then will “the Schengen Agreement collapse within weeks”, he added. When the first refugees from Greece are placed in other EU countries, at first remained unclear. Over the weekend, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres Significantly increased numbers of refugees wanted to do on Lesbos a picture of the situation. In recent days, the number of refugees was due the good weather that prevailed in the region, increased significantly. However, the weather bureau warned on Saturday in front of a sudden deterioration in the coming hours with strong winds throughout the Aegean.
© Archy World

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UK: Racism protesters set to clash with far-right group in Bristol this weekend

13/10/2015- Racism protesters are set to clash in Bristol this Saturday with police on standby in case of any trouble. Members of far-right group Bristol United Patriots (BUP) are set to march in south Bristol from 1.30pm this weekend. Organised on Facebook, about 70 people are set to take part. The group has so far refused to comment on their actions, but wrote: "This demo is to highlight the homeless situation amongst the ex-service personnel living rough in Bristol and Somali rape gangs operating in this area.All nationalist and patriotic groups are welcome to fly their own flags." Among those attending are members of the English Defence League and other groups in the city and surrounding areas.

In response, an anti-racism group has called for a similar march in Bedminster to "confront" those from the BUP. Meeting at East Street outside Asda, there are more than 2,200 people in the group. Hundreds are expected from the group, which calls themselves Bristol Anti-BNP. A statement from the group read: "We plan to directly confront their racism, hatred and attempt to divide our class with a simple message – there are enough homes in this rich country of ours for everyone. "It is the rich that own the one million empty properties, and it's them we need to put pressure on to get out of this housing crisis. Not the few people who have even less say in what goes on this country than we do." Avon and Somerset police said they would deal with any disorderly behaviour "robustly". A spokesman added: "Avon and Somerset police have a long and proud history of facilitating peaceful protests. "We are aware of the plans for two events in Bristol on October 17 and the appropriate policing plan is in place for this. "Anyone who is planning on attending this event to engage in disorder will be dealt with robustly."
© The Bristol Post

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UK: Black people 'three times more likely' to be Tasered

Black people are three times more likely than white people to be involved in Taser incidents, Home Office figures disclosed to the BBC suggest.

13/10/2015- The numbers show the electric stun gun was drawn, aimed or fired 38,000 times in England and Wales over five years. In more than 12% of cases Tasers were used against black people, who make up about 4% of the population. Officers were accountable to the law each time their weapon was drawn, the National Police Chiefs Council said. The figures, covering the years 2010 to 2015, were compiled by the Home Office from all 43 police forces in England and Wales following a Freedom of Information Act request to the Home Office. The figures also show a rise in Taser incidents against children. Tasers were used by police 38,135 times, though in most incidents - 80% last year - the weapons were not discharged. The ethnicity of the person against whom the Taser was used was recorded on 36,038 occasions.

In 4,582 of those cases they involved a black person of African-Caribbean origin or of mixed white and African-Caribbean origin - representing 12.7%. In contrast, proportionately fewer people of Asian descent were involved in Taser incidents. Although it has been well documented that black people are more likely to be stopped and searched, arrested and sent to prison than those who are white, this is the first time figures have been produced showing that across England and Wales black people are more likely to have Tasers used against them.

Analysis
By BBC Freedom of Information specialist Martin Rosenbaum

The difference in how often ethnic groups encounter Taser use is dramatic. For Asians the chance of involvement in a Taser incident in 2010-14 in England and Wales was only three in 10,000, whereas for white people it was six and for black people it was 18 in 10,000. Some 12.7% of incidents in 2010-14 involved Black people, who constitute only 4.4% of the population. But only 4% involved Asians, who form 8.1% of the population. This pattern is repeated in all age groups. Tasers are mainly used on men in their twenties and thirties, but the discrepancy is not caused by different ethnic age distributions. It is also reflected across England and Wales, including those local forces with enough incidents to assess separately (West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the Metropolitan Police). The ethnic discrepancy also occurs across the various levels of Taser deployment, from being drawn to fired.

Matilda MacAttram, from the campaign group Black Mental Health UK, said the statistics were "deeply disturbing" and pointed to emerging evidence that police were using Tasers against people with mental health problems, particularly those from African-Caribbean communities. "There's an increasing amount of data, both anecdotal and also concrete, which show this supposedly "non-lethal" weapon is being used against people who are in a very vulnerable state. "That's actually a violation of their human rights and it should not be happening," she said. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), which co-ordinates national operational policing, said specialist Taser officers acted fairly regardless of race.

Under 18
A NPCC spokesman said: "Every use of Taser is reported and scrutinised by a supervisor and officers are personally accountable to the law each time their Taser is drawn. "Officers receive specialist training that helps them to determine the best course of action in resolving a violent or potentially violent situation. Taser is one of many tactical options a police officer can use. "In 80 per cent of Taser uses in the UK, the mere presence of the device is enough to resolve the violent or potentially violent situation without any force being used." Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation, an independent think-tank, described the figures as "extremely worrying". He said: "We do not know whether this is due to discrimination by officers or whether this reflects wider social inequalities which means some groups are dispropor-tionately likely to come into contact with the police in situations where a Taser might be deployed."

Last year, there were also 522 cases involving people under the age of 18, but there were only 349 such cases in 2010. Of last year's cases, 158 involved children under 16. In Hampshire a police officer took his Taser out of his holster, but did not use it, in an incident with a nine-year-old boy in an attempt to calm a situation down after there was an allegation of a knife being used, the force said. The data released by the Home Office showed that a Taser had been drawn during an incident involving a 91-year-old man in Suffolk, but Suffolk Police said it could find no record of it.
© BBC News

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UK: Reported hate crimes rise by almost a fifth

Home Office figures show more than 52,000 offences were reported to police in England and Wales in 2014-15, an 18% increase on the previous year

13/10/2015- The number of hate crimes reported to police has jumped by nearly a fifth, figures show. There were 52,528 such offences recorded by forces in England and Wales in 2014-15 – an increase of 18% compared with the previous year, according to Home Office data. More than 80% were classed as race hate crimes, with others involving religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender victims. The actual scale of hate crimes is likely to be higher than the number drawn from police records. Officials calculated that, based on combined data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales between 2012-13 and 2014-15, there were an estimated 222,000 hate crimes each year. The latest figures follow a trend in 2013-14, when offences involving religious hatred soared by 45% and race hate crime by 4% after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

A report published alongside the data pointed to improved recording of crime over the past year, particularly for offences involving violence. It added: “Together with a greater awareness of hate crime, and improved willingness of victims to come forward, this is likely to be a factor in the increase in hate crimes recorded by the police in 2014-15 compared with the previous year.” David Cameron has also announced that anti-Muslim hate crimes are to be recorded as a separate category for the first time. Statisticians found that, contrary to reports, there was no “clear spike” in offences around the times of the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham in August last year, or the Charlie Hebdo terrorist shooting in Paris in January.

A hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic”. There were increases in reported offences for all five of the monitored hate crime strands between 2013-14 and 2014-15. Police recorded 42,930 race hate crimes – an increase of 15% on the previous year. Offences linked to victims’ religion increased by 43% on 2013-14 to 3,254, while the number has more than doubled in the past three years. Hate crimes involving sexual orientation (5,597), disability (2,508) and transgender identity (605) saw annual rises of 22%, 25% and 9% respectively.

An analysis of hate crimes logged by 22 police forces found that 59% were public order offences while three in 10 involved violence, of which 30% led to injury. Despite the rise in hate crimes recorded by police, the crime survey shows a “statistically significant” fall of 28% between 2007-09 and 2012-15. Based on data from the 2012-13 to 2014-15 survey, it was estimated that there were an average of 106,000 incidents of racially motivated crime a year, while 38,000 involved religion. The poll also indicated that Muslims were more likely to be targeted in religiously motivated crimes.

Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said: “Crimes motivated by hatred or hostility towards someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender-identity or because they are disabled are absolutely abhorrent and this Government will do everything to eradicate them. “The increase in recorded hate crime shows that more victims have the confidence to come forward and that the police are improving the way they identify and record hate crimes. We welcome this.” Asst Ch Con Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, said it “damages society and undermines the diversity and tolerance we should instead be celebrating”. He added: “The police are working hard to reduce its impact by listening to victims and supporting the most vulnerable, however, it is also vital that communities and partner agencies come together to challenge hatred wherever they see it.”
© The Guardian

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UK: Anti-Muslim hate crimes to be recorded separately: David Cameron

13/10/2015- Anti-Muslim hate crimes are to be recorded as a separate category for the first recorded as a separate category for the first time by police in England and Wales, British Prime Minister David Cameron said today.  "We all have a role to play in confronting extremism. That's why I have invited important Muslim and non-Muslim figures to join the new Community Engagement Forum, so I can hear directly about their work in our communities, the challenges they face and so that they can be part of our One Nation strategy to defeat it," Cameron said. "I want to build a national coalition to challenge and speak out against extremists and the poison they peddle. I want British Muslims to know we will back them to stand against those who spread hate and to counter the narrative which says Muslims do not feel British. "And I want police to take more action against those who persecute others simply because of their religion," he added. The Metropolitan Police already records Islamophobic crime.

The move brings Islamophobia in line with anti-Semitic attacks targeting Jews, which have been recorded separately for years in the country. The announcement came as hate crimes, or offences based on prejudice over personal characteristics, registered an 18 per cent rise in England and Wales in 2014-15. According to the latest UK Home Office figures, police recorded 52,528 hate crimes in 2014-15, up from 44,471 in 2013-14. More than 80 per cent were categorised as race hate crimes, with others involving religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender victims. "Hate crime has no place in Britain and I am determined to make further progress to ensure we can eradicate this deplorable act." UK Home Secretary Theresa May said. "Working with police to provide a breakdown in religious- based hate crime data will help forces to build community trust, target their resources and enable the public to hold them to account," Theresea said.

The announcement coincided with a new report released in the Parliament to find out the extent of Islamophobia in the country. Among the most shocking was an account of a Muslim woman who was showered in alcohol in a violent attack on a train as other passengers silently watched on, the Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) report said. Imran Awan, a criminologist from Birmingham City University and co-author of the report, said: "This research reveals worrying levels of fear and intimidation experienced by many Muslims, compounded by a lack of support from the wider public when facing physical threats in the real world and an absence of tough action from social media platforms at the abuse people are receiving online." "Participants argued that anti-Muslim hate must be challenged from within Muslim communities - too often reluctant to report abuse or attacks - and that the public should intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate where possible," he said.
© The Economic Times

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UK: More people are seeking help after homophobic hate crimes

An LGBT anti-violence charity has reported that far more people are now seeking help for hate crimes.

13/10/2015- The news comes from the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership of 52 organisations across the UK, as it marks National Hate Crime Awareness Week. Hate crime charity Galop has reported a surge in cases – with the number of those seeking help doubling over the course of this year. 106 people sought help from Galop for anti-LGBT hate crimes from June-August, up from 52 in March-May. The partnership notes that “other LGBT groups across the country have also reported a large increase in those reporting experiences of hate crimes”. Nik Noone, Chief Executive of Galop, said: “We’ve seen the number of people getting in touch with our hate crime advocacy service more than double in recent months. “Though one person facing hate crime is one too many, we see this rise in people getting in touch as a cause for optimism and are proud of our part in helping empower people to speak up about their experiences and access assistance.”

Paul Roberts, Chief Executive of the LGBT Consortium, said: “From what our members are telling us, it seems that this picture is being mirrored across other parts of the UK. “The message is getting out that LGBT people don’t have to put up with being targeted. We know, however, that service provision is patchy across the UK and so not everyone can access the help they need, particularly in rural communities. “It’s important that these crimes are reported so that the police have a clear picture and can tackle the issue. There are a number of ways in which people can do that anonymously, if they don’t feel able to approach the police directly, for whatever reason.”

Evelyn Asante–Mensah, Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, said: “We know that there are thousands of unreported hate crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity every year. “Whilst it is encouraging to hear more people are coming forward for help, all LGBT people experiencing hate crime should feel empowered to report it.”
© Pink News

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UK response to migrant crisis is inadequate, say senior ex-judges

12/10/2015- Some of Britain's most senior former judicial figures criticized Prime Minister David Cameron's government on Monday for its response to the EU migrant crisis, saying it was inadequate and was pushing people into the arms of smugglers. A statement, signed by more than 300 retired judges, working lawyers and legal experts, said Britain's vow to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years was not enough, and called for safe routes to be set up to deal with a flood of refugees from war-torn Syria to the European Union. Britain's judiciary rarely openly criticizes politicians, but this public statement had the support of dozens of top legal figures such as Lord Nicholas Phillips, former President of Britain's Supreme Court, and Nicholas Bratza, ex-President of the European Court of Human Rights. "Like many others, we consider that the UK Government’s offer to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East, spread over 5 years, is too low, too slow and too narrow," their statement said.

It said under international law states had a duty to provide protection to refugees but many countries in the EU including Britain had made it impossible to people to access these rights by limiting their means of travel. "This situation, coupled with draconian penalties on airlines and ships which carry undocumented passengers ... has created the conditions which drive individuals and families into the hands of people-smugglers, with unseaworthy and overloaded boats or suffocating lorries," it said. In response, the government said Britain had been "at the forefront of the international response" to the refugee crisis. "We are working closely with UNHCR to identify and resettle those in the regions who are the most vulnerable," said Richard Harrington, Minister for Syrian Refugees. "This also deters people from attempting these perilous journeys which have already led to so many tragic deaths."

The crisis comes at a time when immigration is a major political issue in Britain, with polls suggesting it is now Britons' top concern, and could be a significant factor in influencing how the country votes in a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU due by the end of 2017. Last week, Cameron's interior minister said mass immigration was damaging British society, leading to criticism from some business figures but praise from party activists and right-leaning media.
© Reuters

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Britons are 'failing to support Muslim victims of hate crime'

Survey finds many British Muslims targeted because of their faith are left feeling trapped after suffering abuse.

12/10/2015- Muslim victims of hate crimes often receive no support from their fellow citizens and are left feeling reluctant to report attacks as a result, according to a new study. An in-depth survey of the experiences of British Muslims targeted because of their faith found that many are left feeling trapped after suffering verbal or physical abuse. They also discover that few people are willing to intervene or lend support in their defence. Researchers cited one incident where a woman wearing a headscarf was assaulted by a group of men while travelling on a busy train, having alcohol poured over her clothing to chants of “We are racist, we are racist and we love it”, and no one in the carriage intervened. Another interviewee claimed he asked for police to be called after receiving death threats on a bus but the driver refused to intervene. A Muslim midwife resigned from her job after suffering abuse from patients which left her feeling “a lot people hate me”.

The study by academics at Birmingham City University and Nottingham Trent University, commissioned by the charity Tell Mama, said many interviewees now consi-dered receiving abuse in the street or online to be “normal” and live in fear of “trolling” on social media turning into attacks in real life. Campaigners said there was a need for improvements to the way online abuse is reported with too little importance being given by social media companies to attacks that do not contain threats of violence. Based on interviews with 20 Muslims from varied backgrounds, including “white” converts, the researchers found that attacks tended to be focused on those easily identified as Muslims, in particular women wearing headscarves. As a result, some Muslims are changing their appearance, removing the hijab or shaving off beards, to become less “visible” and lower the risk of attacks.

Imran Awan, deputy director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, said: “Worrying levels of fear and intimidation are being experien-ced by many Muslims, compounded by a lack of support from the wider public when facing physical threats in the real world and an absence of tough action from social media platforms.” Attacks on British Muslims tend to spike in the wake of terrorist incidents around the world with 548 incidents recorded last year. There was a particularly strong backlash in 2013 following the murder of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby when assaults, both online and physical, leapt to 738 incidents.
© The Independent

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Councils were warned against providing radios and TV sets in advance of Theresa May immigration speech.

11/10/2015- The Home Office warned councils against providing Syrian refugees with “luxury” items days before the home secretary, Theresa May, delivered an uncompromising speech limiting the right to claim asylum in Britain. Local authorities were sent new draft guidance on refugee resettlement in the week before May’s anti-immigration speech on Tuesday, rhetoric that critics said articulates the government’s increasingly hostile attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers. The Home Office guidance states that councils should not offer white or brown goods that might be deemed nonessential to resettled Syrians as part of the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. Items that appear not to be allowed include fridges, cookers, radios, computers, TVs and DVDs.

Charities expressed concern, saying that the government should be concentrating on setting minimum standards for all Syrians seeking sanctuary in the UK instead of stating what they should not be allowed. “Child refugees aren’t coming here for our services, they are coming for our protection. We should give it gladly,” said Kirsty McNeill, campaigns director for charity Save the Children. The head of refugee support at the British Red Cross, Alex Fraser, said that all accommodation provided should afford “dignity and safety”. “People fleeing violence and persecution have been forced to endure the most appalling ordeals, and when they arrive in the UK they should be given the best possible start,” he said. Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “Resettling refugees in Britain shouldn’t just be about basic survival: everyone needs to be given the tools to build a life.”

The government has been accused of an inadequate response to the Syrian refugee crisis in recent months. In early September, under considerable pressure, David Cameron pledged that the UK would accept 20,000 refugees from camps bordering Syria over the next five years, and that the resettlement programme would prioritise vulnerable children and orphans. One local authority, Islington council in north London, confirmed it had received new draft guidance that permitted provision of “food storage, cooking and washing facilities” but it said that accommodation “should not include the provisions of other white goods and brown goods which could be considered luxury items”. It is not clear whether a council with an unoccupied property that exceeded this specification would have to remove offending items before using it to house refugees.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said the guidance was sent to local authorities participating in the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme , setting out their responsibilities, adding that the guidance had been in place since 2014. They added: “The guidance sets out that local authorities can provide food storage, cooking and washing facilities, including a fridge, cooker and toaster. Not included under the criteria ‘other white goods or brown goods’, are TVs, DVD players or any other electrical entertainment appliances.”
© The Guardian

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UK: New group set up to tackle hate crimes

10/10/2015- Hate crime is being tackled under a new initiative, police have revealed. Simon Hayes, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, is launching the Hate Crime Action Group on Wednesday. Working with a range of agencies he hopes it will increase awareness of the type of crime. He said: ‘As part of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Hate Crime Action Group, I intend to work in partnership to send out a strong message that committing a crime against someone because of their disability, gender-identity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation is a disgraceful act and a crime that is unacceptable here in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. ‘We know hate crime is under-reported and I want to encourage victims to come forward and report their experience to the police. We know hate crime is prevalent in society and I want victims to have the confidence to come forward and tell us what has happened to them and to feel confident that something will be done about it.’ He is due to launch the group at the All Inclusive Empowerment Fayre in Portsmouth.
© The Portsmouth News

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Czech Rep: Ombudsman criticises conditions in refugee facility

13/10/2015- The Living conditions of refugees in the detention facility in Bela-Jezova, central Bohemia, are very bad and their children live there worse than Czech prisoners, Ombudsman Anna Sabatova told reporters yesterday. Sabatova with her colleagues have found fundamental shortcomings during their inspection of this centre, and she has asked the management of the Refugee Facilities Administration and the foreigner police to redress the situation immediately. The Interior Ministry, which operates the facilities, said standard conditions in all of them are being observed, and were even observed some time ago when the facilities were overcrow-ded. At present, about 600 foreigners are accommodated in Czech refugee facilities. The ministry considers the ombudsman's criticism as rightful to a certain extent only. It admits, nevertheless, that some things need to be improved, and some changes are even prepared in this respect, its spokeswoman Lucie Novakova told CTK.
Some 400 adults and 100 children are now placed in Bela-Jezova.

The parents are being humiliated in front of their children, they are transported handcuffed and kept behind a four-metre high fence, while they are not able to explain these conditions to their children, Sabatova said. The refugees' children lack warm clothes and they often have only plastic sandals instead of solid shoes.
They are scared by security guards and policemen who are always present around them. They play police and prisoners, and another favourite play is "digging a tunnel" out of the facility, Sabatova added. There is no playroom for children in the complex and the outdoor playground is small and inconvenient, she said. She pointed out that the mattrasses in the facility were not washable and their state did not meet hygiene standards. "Policemen, sometime in helmets or hoods, take the foreigners out of bed to count them every evening. If the children are sleeping, their parents must wake them and make them get up," the ombudsman's report on the conditions in Bela-Jezova says.

Sabatova also proposes a series of measures to improve the living conditions of the detained refugees. "In prison, you have the right to a bed, a chair, a cabinet, warm meals and contacts with other people. If you are a woman, you have the right not to be accommodated with unknown men. Even the toughest prisoners in our country have free access to toilets and running water. The refugees staying in a gym did not have these conditions secured during our visit," deputy ombudsman Pavel Porizek told reporters. Sabatova also said the mere public release of the information about the situation in Bela-Jezova was a sanction for its administrator and that she expected them to redress it without any unnecessary delay. Sabatova wants to terminate the practice of accommodating refugees in a gym and portacabins in a forest and of unknown men, women and children sleeping together in one room.

Families with children should not be accommodated in Bela-Jezova at all under the current conditions, she said. Uniformed police and security guards should protect the complex from outside, while only civilian staff should be inside, Sabatova said. She also demands that "the demonstration of force by policemen in hoods, helmets and with dogs be terminated." The social conditions of refugees must improve as soon as possible and warm clothes must be provided especially for children, she said.
Novakova said the Interior Ministry plans changes in and modernisation of the Bela-Jezova facility, which have been enabled by the recent opening of new refugee centres in Vysni Lhoty, north Moravia, and Drahonice, north Bohemia. In Bela-Jezova, the staff is to be reinforced from 62 to 90 employees. "We are intensively negotiating about the situation of families with children with the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry...Up to now, the situation of families with underage kids could not be solved due to capacity reasons," Novakova said.

Sabatova pointed out that under law she was obliged to check the living conditions of refugees in the facilities in the Czech Republic. The employees of the Ombuds-man's Office have visited the facility in Bela-Jezova three times since the autumn of 2014 and they plan another inspection soon.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Senate to select refugees to be accepted

10/10/2015- The Czech Senate should again reject EU mandatory refugee redistribution quotas, its European committee has said, adding that the upper house of parliament should also ask the government to maximally influence the selection of asylum applicants to be placed in the Czech Republic. The Senate should make a decision on the proposal within two weeks. According to the committee, the government should also thoroughly check whether the migrants to be selected in Italy and Greece for relocation to the Czech Republic may pose a threat to national security and the public peace. It should also check whether these persons are entitled to international protection and whether they may have emigrated to escape punishment for possible participation in serious crimes.

The senators said the government should verify the identity of the asylum applicants in view of the growing numbers of forged documents proving Syrian citizenship and prefer vulnerable persons who require health care. The Senate has dealt with the refugee quotas twice already and it always said it would reject them if they were mandatory. The Czech Republic agreed with the voluntary accepting of a part of refugees, but it was opposed to temporary mandatory quotas. Together with Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, it was however outvoted. Now, the EU wants to introduce an obligatory relocation mechanism.

The lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, also rejected the introduction of a permanent mechanism of refugees redistribution across the EU. The resolution was drafted by the government coalition in cooperation with the opposition TOP 09. On the contrary, the Chamber of Deputies supported measures that will lead to a better protection of the EU's outer border, readmission of people with title to asylum and interventions against people smugglers. The other opposition parties objected to the government refusing to join the Slovak complaint about the quotas with the European Court of Justice.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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France: Jewish academic assaulted near Paris following anti-Semitic threats

A French-Jewish university director who has been subjected to an anti-Semitic campaign of intimidation was assaulted outside his suburban Paris home.

12/10/2015- Samuel Mayol, the director of the Technical University Institution, or IUT, was attacked on the evening of Oct. 9 while walking his dog in Saint-Denis, the Tribune Juive weekly reported. His assailant fled the scene and has not been identified. The assailant bashed Mayol’s head against a wall three times, causing a concussion and multiple lacerations. He said his attacker told him: “We are going to bump you,” which in French slang means to kill. Mayol, who was speaking to a friend on his cellphone when the attack occurred, filed a criminal complaint for assault. Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime. According to the French daily Le Figaro, the anti-Semitic intimidation against Mayol began at his workplace in February when he received anonymous threats on his life. In May, a Star of David was painted on the doors of the office of a member of the IUT faculty, and five of Mayol’s colleagues received text massages reading “You too will fall. You work for Jews.”

Separately, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo last week became the first European mayor to sign the American Jewish Committee’s “Statement on Anti-Semitism by Mayor and Municipal Leaders,” in which she pledged to pursue a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism and make the physical security of Jewish communities a priority. Hidalgo is the only European mayor to have signed the statement, which has dozens of cosignatories in the United States including New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and his Los Angeles counterpart, Eric Garcetti, who is Jewish.
© JTA News

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France wants all travelling EU nationals fingerprinted

9/10/2015- French authorities are calling for EU-wide rules requiring travelling EU nationals to give their fingerprints and possibly also have their faces scanned. The proposal, which is part of a much larger digital dragnet known as the ‘smart borders’ package, was discussed at an EU interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday (8 October). Smart borders is a two-tiered system of biometric scans of visiting non-EU nationals – the registered travellers programme (RTP) and the entry-exit system (EES). First proposed by the European Commission in 2013, it was temporarily shelved following concerns over its billion-euro price tag and law enforcement access. The Commission says the systems are needed to speed up travel times and detect people overstaying their visas. It is now set to come up with an updated proposal before the end of year following an ongoing study and pilot project launched in February.

But an internal document dated 25 September from the French delegation in Brussels now wants to extend the same biometric system to cover member state citizens. “The French delegation suggests broadening the scope of the ‘smart borders’ package for all travellers, also including European nationals”, it states. It argues an expanded ‘smart borders’ is needed because of terrorist threats, migratory pressure, and greater passenger numbers. Several stabbings and a beheading in France, along with the more recent bungled Thalys attack in Brussels has unsettled authorities. In January, two French nationals also shot dead 11 people at the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The internal document makes broad reference to the attacks. It says they are a “chilling reminder of the threats posed by certain European nationals or people with the right of free movement upon their return from terrorist areas.”

Smart borders, along with the future roll out of the EU’s passenger name records (PNR), were key discussion points among interior ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday. The PNR bill also aims to collect the details of anyone flying into or out of the EU. Lawmakers behind it say it has built-in safeguards to protect data. But last year, the European Court of Justice struck down the EU’s data retention law. Judges said the directive was disproportionate because it allowed for the indiscriminate and mass collection of data from people not suspected of any crime. The French delegation paper, for its part, runs in tandem with the launch of a controversial international electronic communications surveillance law in France. Part of the law was adopted in July, but issues over international surveillance remained. French lawmakers are now set to adopt a second law later this month on international surveillance.

Critics say the French surveillance law mimics covert spying operations conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in the lead-up to Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013.  It also gives French prime minister Manuel Valls new powers. He can now instruct French agents to conduct surveillance in broadly defined areas such as “major foreign policy interests” and to protect its “economic, industrial and scientific interests”. An oversight committee has been set up to make sure he does not abuse it. But it can only give non-binding recommendations. “Under this new law, almost all internet communications will be considered fair game by the French authorities, without any form of meaningful checks and balance", said Amnesty International. The Paris-based Internet campaign group La Quadrature Du Net says the law’s vague criteria are likely to “trigger mass data collection of logins and communications, without any regard to borders, or the target's nationality”.
© The EUobserver

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Court slams EU human rights agency over racism claims

It’s the latest in a series of controversies involving the Vienna-based office.

10/10/2015- A European court has ordered the EU’s embattled human rights and anti-racism agency to re-hire a staff member who was fired in 2013 after claiming he had been a victim of ethnic discrimination. The EU Civil Service Tribunal ruled Thursday that the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights was wrong to fire its employee, identified only as “DD,” and has ordered the agency to cover both legal fees and back pay totaling an estimated €200,000. “DD” was first employed as a legal affairs officer at the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia in 2000, the Agency for Fundamental Rights’ precursor, and had been employed permanently in 2009. That same year the employee officially raised concerns that he had been the “victim of ethnic discrimination.”

According to court documents, a senior manager responded to DD’s complaint by launching an “administrative inquiry” into the employee himself. In February 2013, the manager imposed an official reprimand on DD, who was subsequently dismissed from his permanent position. The Court’s decision has overturned both the reprimand imposed on DD and his subsequent firing, while also ordering the agency to pay costs and back pay. However, the judgment does not address the validity of DD’s claims of discrimination. The European Commission, which appoints two members to the agency’s management board, has not responded to requests for comment.

The Agency for Fundamental Rights also declined to answer questions on the case, other than to say it would “take all necessary measures for the execution of the judgment of the court.” The court ruling is the most recent case in a spate of staff-related controversies surrounding the agency’s internal procedures, which have involved claims of whistleblower harassment and what court documents describe as an “intense atmosphere of fear” in its administration department. In 2011, official Timo Allgeier, who was responsible for the agency’s public procurement, took legal action against it, claiming it had failed to respond to his complaints that senior officials (identified in court documents only as “Mr. A” and “Mr. M”) had approached him and asked him to backdate a contract. When Allgeier reported the request as a “fraudulent practice” he claimed to have been subjected to “psychological harassment.”

In 2012, the court found in Allgeier’s favor, saying the agency’s investigation into the matter was “vitiated by irregularities [and] illegalities,” and ordered it to cover Allgeier’s legal costs, pay him €5,000 in compensation and reverse all disciplinary action against him. Allgeier declined to comment. In 2013, an internal auditor reported the agency to the European Ombudsman, which investigated harassment claims against the official, again over irregularities in tender processes. The ombudsman found the agency had failed to investigate claims by the auditor that he had been subjected to an atmosphere of intimidation, involving the installation of a security camera to monitor those entering his office and interviewing colleagues who spoke to him. The ombudsman concluded that “[t]he Fundamental Rights Agency committed maladministration by refusing to carry out a proper and thorough investigation into the complainant’s allegations of psychological harassment.” The agency has, to date, not acted on the ombudsman’s finding.

Another whistleblower who has since left the agency claims that further reports of public procurement irregularities were dismissed by internal processes and that management quickly turned on the complainant. In one case, a former official told POLITICO he was approached repeatedly at home at night by a lawyer who demanded a signature on documents withdrawing claims of irregularities. Morten Kjaerum was the Agency for Fundamental Rights’ director throughout the period covered by the court action. Kjaerum left the agency in March to take up the role of director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights in Sweden and last month was appointed as chairman of the board of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. Kjaerum has not responded to a request for comment.

Last month the fundamental rights agency appointed a new director, Michael O’Flaherty, after a heated confirmation hearing which saw the European Parliament reject the candidate being promoted by the agency. The agency had wanted the job to go to Ilze Brands Kehris, a Latvian who had been the chairwoman of its Management Board from December 2009 to July 2012. But members of Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee chose former Dutch politician Lousewies van der Laan, forcing the agency to back away from Brands Kehris. O’Flaherty was considered a compromise choice. O’Flaherty’s appointment has angered committee members, who are now vowing to shed light on how the appointment was made.
© Politico EU

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Headlines 9 October, 2015

Bosnia: Returnee Homes Ravaged as Tensions Rise

Recent savage attack on Bosniak returnees' homes in a village in southern Bosnia forms part of a disturbing trend in the divided country.

9/10/2015- The recent ransacking of four houses belonging to Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] returnees in Drljajice, a remote hamlet in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, reaffirms concerns that ethnic tensions are worsening in the troubled country. When the Bosniak families, who only occasionally live in this village in a Croat-dominated region, came to their homes last weekend, they found them devastated. The extent of the damage was severe a week later. All the windows were broken, the roofs lifted off and most of the furniture upturned and scattered all over the place. "This reminded me of the war," said one of the residents, a woman who refused to give her name for fears of reprisal from the local "hooligans".

Graffiti sprayed on one of the houses - a capital letter"U" with the cross above it, the sign of the Croatian pro-Nazi Ustasha movement in World War II, clearly pointed to an ethnic motivation. Police said they were still investigating the incident, but locals said they had little hope that the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice. "The only thing I can tell you is that this wasn't done by ISIS but by vandals,” Camil Maslesa, a resident in his sixties, said. "This is the fourth time this has happened [over the last year]. We have reported it to the police twice before, but no perpetrators were discovered. This is the third time police were coming, and really, enough is enough!"

Maslesa said none of their belongings were stolen, which made it clear that the purpose of this attack was to scare them away. "Their motivation wasn't burglary, to take some stuff away, they just came to destroy our property," he told BIRN. "They came to scare us. I would even prefer to see some of the stuff was stolen because then it wouldn't be bad as it is now," Enis, another local resident in his twenties, said. "This sends me a message that I am not welcome here." Residents of the exclusively Bosniak village already fled their homes once, at the beginning of the 1992-5 war. When the war ended, some of them returned to their homes and rebuilt them. They come here occasionally, to work their fields or during the holidays. In a gesture of public support to the victims, local government officials visited the village on Wednesday and condemned the attack.

"The municipality of Citluk does not need this. Nobody needs this," Ivo Jerkic, head of Citluk municipality, said while surveying the damage. "Police were on the crime scene. The Interior Ministry is working on this case. We will do everything necessary to find the perpetrators," said Sladjan Bevanda, interior minister for the Herzego-vina Neretva Canton. But he warned that this was not the first time that returnees' property had been targeted, noting that some months ago several houses belonging to Croat returnees were wrecked in the village of Grabovica, which is located in a mainly Bosniak region. Bosnia has seen even worse incidents in recent months, including several physical attacks on returnees. Most took place in the northwest of the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, in and around the town of Prijedor, where many Bosniaks and a few Croats have returned since the war.

Another attack took place in the nearby Croat-dominated municipality of Tomislavgrad two months ago, when Bosnian Croat hooligans attacked a Bosniak neighbourhood. Local and international officials told BIRN that the number of ethnic incidents registered over this summer exceeded the total number of such incidents noted in several years. They said the rise in incidents testified to a dangerous increase in ethnic tensions, caused by radical political rhetoric, as well as Bosnia's prolonged political, economic and social crisis. "We believed that things like that were behind us, that this was the distant past. But it wasn't," Kemal Isakovic, head of the Herzegovina Neretva Canton Department for Refugees, said. "Now we all have to help this people to repair the damage – the municipality, the department and the Federation [entity] ministry for refugees and displaced persons."
© Balkan Insight

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France: Muslim Job Discrimination

9/10/2015- Muslim men have faced an alarming rate of job discrimination in France, according to a new study of employment in the European nation. Males who are self-identified Muslims are more than four times less likely to get a job interview in France than their Catholic counterparts are, according to research by the Montaigne Institute, a Paris-based think tank that promotes economic and social justice policy. Practicing Muslims had a 4.7 percent chance of being asked to interview for a job, compared to a 17.9 percent chance for practicing Catholics, according to the study published Thursday. Job application discrimination against French Jews was not as pronounced, with job seekers having a 15.8 percent chance of getting callbacks.

The study comes 10 months after an attack by Islamic militants on the satirical periodical Charlie Hebdo in Paris, along with other terroristic violence, forced a conversation about Islamophobia in France and other Western nations. Although France has enacted measures to discourage racial and religious discrimination, an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment has many communities outraged. "[The study] probably underestimates the level of discrimination… [which is] present at each step of recruitment," said Marie-Anne Valfort, a senior lecturer at Sorbonne University in Paris, who carried out the study. Valfort sent 6,231 responses to employer job advertisements between 2013 and 2014, according to a Times of India report.

Studies have shown that many French citizens associate Islam with religious extremism and oppression of women, Valfort said. "These two stereotypes feed a very strong discrimination, particularly regarding male Muslims,” she added. “The recruiter perceives an increased risk of transgressive religious practice in the workplace and associates it with a risk of insubordination." Even when two male job applicants are equally qualified for the position, the gifted Catholic man was five times more likely to get an interview than the talented Muslim man, according to the study. The Catholic man was 1.5 times more likely to get an interview than a gifted Jew.

The French government earlier this year debated requiring anonymous resumes submission for job seekers, but instead emphasized anti-discrimination training and punishments for offenders, according to the Times of India report. Employers found guilty of discrimination face up to three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros, or $50,000.
© The International Business Times

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France's far-right party targets Muslim vote in Paris region

8/10/2015- France's far-right National Front will launch a campaign to woo Muslim voters in Paris' depressed suburbs in December regional elections, according to its lead candidate in the Ile-de-France region which includes the capital. The National Front (FN), which polls say could win around 20 percent of the region's votes, up from 9 percent in 2010, will send specially designed election leaflets by post to inhabitants of those housing projects, with a special message designed to win Muslim voters over to the party, Wallerand de Saint-Just told Reuters. That may seem counter-intuitive for an anti-immigration party whose leader, Marine Le Pen, will go on trial later this month for comparing Muslim street prayers to wartime Nazi occupation. But it represents just the latest step in the party's self-declared strategy to "de-demonize" its image.

"We decided we should send a message to our Muslim compatriots," Wallerand said in an interview. "We're perfectly capable of having a message for all populations of Ile-de-France." Under veteran leader and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN was content to be a protest party. Since taking over in 2011, his daughter Marine has sought to widen its appeal. The party came first in European parliament elections last year. It has reached out to teachers, intellectuals and students in its efforts to look more mainstream. Now Muslim voters are the target. What will the message be? "We'll tell them that they are as French as the others," the former lawyer said, "and that they must respect French-style secularism." While getting stronger in small towns and the countryside, the FN is still struggling to make a breakthrough in large cities like Paris. It is hoping people in under-privileged suburbs will be attracted by its campaigning on law and order and on protectionist economic policies, boosting its overall result in the region - one of 13 in mainland France.

An Odoxa opinion poll at the weekend forecast the FN would attract 20 percent of the vote in the first round on Dec. 6 in Ile-de-France, well behind Nicolas Sarkozy's Republicans, but not far behind the Socialists, who now rule the Paris region but would get only 24 percent. The FN would fall behind in the second round on Dec. 13, for which all three will strike alliances with smaller parties, but it would get representatives in the 208-strong regional assembly provided it meets the 10 percent first-round threshold it fell short of in 2010. "I think it's a clever marketing positioning for the FN," Odoxa chief Gael Sliman said. "It's a way of saying they are not xenophobic or racist." The party is still struggling in the suburbs, he said. "But they start from such a low point that even without a big score they can make progress." Wallerand is under formal investigation by judges looking into the party's 2012 presidential campaign financing. He denies any wrongdoing.
© Reuters

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Austria: With Far-right at Gates, Left Seeks to Defend Fortress Vienna

Source: Reuters
8/10/2015- Austria's Social Democrats are fighting to retain political control of Vienna against a resurgent far-right Freedom Party that could capitalize on fears about immigration and the economy. Government of the capital city, a stronghold for decades for the Social Democrats and home to more than a fifth of Austria's 8.5 million people, is up for grabs in a regional election on Sunday. Since early last month it has been the central hub through which tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have streamed, almost all of them crossing the country on their way to Germany. The sudden arrival of crowds fleeing poverty and war in the Middle East and elsewhere prompted an outpouring of sympathy in the city. Many donated food and clothes at Vienna stations, large marches have been held in support of refugees, and the city handed out welcome leaflets to migrants saying "You are safe".

But Europe's migration crisis has also stirred unease about employment and housing, bolstering the Freedom Party and its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, who is running for mayor. He has said a fence should be built around Austria to keep migrants out, much as Hungary has done on its southern border. "We do not want to become a minority in our own country," Strache said at a party event on Tuesday, arguing the overwhelming majority of the migrants are not in fact refugees. Michael Haeupl, the Social Democrat who has been mayor of Vienna for more than 20 years, has sought to shore up his defenses. His posters carry the phrase: "Now every vote counts!"

Polls suggest that is true - recent surveys have found that support for the Social Democrats, who have governed the city since World War II, is only slightly higher than the Freedom Party's, sometimes within the margin of error. One of the most recent, by OGM for newspaper Kurier, found 37-38 percent of respondents supported the Social Democrats, while 33-34 percent backed the Freedom Party. The survey of 793 people had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, and was carried out from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1. It showed the Greens on 12-13 percent and the centre-right People's Party at 9-10 percent, indicating a three-way coalition might be necessary. A liberal party, Neos, was on 5-6 percent.

Haeupl, the 66-year-old incumbent, currently in a coalition with the Greens, has another advantage in that all but one of the main parties, the People's Party, have ruled out an alliance with the Freedom Party, suggesting it would be unable to govern.But even a strong second-place showing would be a coup for Strache, 20 years Haeupl's junior. He appears poised to lead his party to its best result in Vienna - its record, 28 percent, was achieved in 1996.

Core issue
Support for the far-right party has been rallying for years, helped by dissatisfaction with the Social Democrats and the People's Party, which have been in a national coalition under Chancellor Werner Faymann since late 2008. Austria also had one of the highest rates of asylum seekers in the European Union even before the latest wave of migrants arrived last month. The issue has dominated recent campaigns. "Would a man leave his wife and his children in the lurch if the family truly was in danger?" Strache said on Tuesday, adding most migrants were young men. The migration crisis plays into the hands of the Freedom Party, or FPO, political analyst Peter Filzmaier said. "It is, however, not simply the case that more people vote FPO because of that," he said, referring to the Freedom Party. "It is in conjunction with economic and social worries about the future," he added.

Forced onto the defensive on migration, Haeupl has sought to put the numbers in perspective. "I understand these concerns," Haeupl said in a televised debate with the main parties' leading candidates, adding that only 5 percent of recent arrivals had applied for asylum instead of continuing into Germany. "We can manage," he said.
© VoA News

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Finland: YLE poll: Finns Party sees its support nosedive to 10%

A new poll carried out for Yle shows a huge drop in support for the Finns Party. The 4.3 percentage point fall in just one month is exceptional in Finnish polling history, and hits the populist party after a rebellion within the party over immigration policy.

8/10/2015- The Finns Party has been hit by a big drop in reported support levels in the latest monthly poll carried out for Yle by Taloustutkimus. The party’s support dropped 4.3 percentage points to 10.7 percentage points. That's a fall of 7 percentage points compared to their performance in April's election. The Social Democrats, by contrast, saw their support leap by 3.9 percentage points to 18.3 percent. The Centre Party is in first place with 21.7 percent, although that has dropped by 1.7 percent since last month. The National Coalition is in third place on 18 percent, down 0.9 percent since last month. The poll comes as Finns Party leader and Foreign Minister Timo Soini has to deal with an insurgency in his party against the government’s immigration policy.

The party’s third vice-chair Sebastian Tynkkynen on Monday published an appeal for a special meeting of the party’s organs to vote on continued participation in the government after what Tynkkynen claims is a departure from the government programme on the issue of immigration. Finland is set to welcome some 50,000 asylum seekers this year, an unprecedented figure with some 20,000 already having made claims since January. The influx has been particularly difficult for the Finns Party’s anti-immigration wing to stomach, with a number of demonstrations held in recent weeks demanding that Finland close its borders.
© YLE News.

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France: Race: Lines blur between right and far-right

The row over a French MP's comments about France being "a country of white race" has highlighted the "tightrope" Nicolas Sarkozy's party is walking as it desperately tries to win votes from Marine Le Pen's far-right.

8/10/2015- As France's right-wing Republicans punish a leading figure over her comments about race, the party is facing a tricky balancing act in trying to pinch far-right votes without losing moderate supporters. Nadine Morano, once a close ally of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, was struck off a list of candidates for upcoming regional elections by party bosses on Wednesday over her comments that France was a "Judeo-Christian country... of white race". The uproar over her statements has highlighted the difficult balance Sarkozy must strike as head of The Republicans, trying to sound tough on immigration, Islam and security without losing the all-important middle ground. He took a few days to react to Morano's comments, but eventually called on her to apologise, saying "I will not accept any slip-ups" ahead of December's regional polls, the last test before the presidential election in 2017.

But the incident was the just the latest in a string of controversial moments for The Republicans, whose members often sound as though they are trying to mimic the surging far-right National Front (FN), led by Marine Le Pen. With the ruling Socialists deeply unpopular as a result of the sluggish economy, Sarkozy knows the FN is the bigger threat. The leader himself got in trouble for comparing immigration to a "leaky pipe" this summer, which many saw as worryingly similar to Le Pen's fear of "submergence" by foreigners. Sarkozy has also backed mayors from his party who have taken to cancelling halal options on school dinners -- which is claimed to be in support of French secularism, but criticised by many as a not-so-subtle attack on Muslims.

'A simple problem'
The Republicans' rightward tack is not convincing everyone. In a recent poll, 60 percent of voters said the party was just chasing the coat-tails of the FN. "The right has a simple problem: the anti-immigrant position is the best way to appeal to voters who like Le Pen, but in doing so you alienate the moderate and centrist voters," said political analyst Thomas Guenole. The Republicans are still expecting a comfortable victory in December's polls, matching their success in local elections at the start of the year. But the FN could snatch a couple of regions -- especially Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie in the northeast where Le Pen is standing, and a traditional stronghold of the party in the southeast, Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur. "The Republicans are walking a tightrope and it's not easy," said Jerome Fourquet, of pollsters Ifop.

The party's candidate against Le Pen in the northeast is Xavier Bertrand, who has gone strong on security in a bid to outdo the FN chief. He has called for France to be "protected" against the jihadists by waging "total war" against the Islamic State group. In the southeast, the party's mayor in Nice, Christian Estrosi, criticises the "hate speech" of the FN, but still spoke of a "fifth column" of Islamists in the wake of January's jihadist attacks in Paris. "There is no miracle solution in deciding whether to denounce or compete with the FN," said Fourquet. But he added that The Republicans' lurch to the right could end up legitimising the FN's position and people tend to see through attempts to imitate more extreme parties. "People prefer the original to the copy."
© The Local - France

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Netherlands: The Hague police to tackle discrimination, recruit more minority officers

9/10/2015- Police in The Hague are introducing quotas and setting up special work experience schemes in an effort to encourage more people with an ethnic minority background to sign up. In addition, the police will do more to explain to people why they are carrying out stop and search procedures and will take the registration of discrimination complaints more seriously, mayor Jozias van Aartsen said on Thursday. While the introduction of quotas is controversial, ‘there is an urgent need for more cultural variety’ in police stations such as the one in the largely immigrant area of Schilderswijk.

The Hague’s local force came under fire this summer for the heavy-handed way an Antillean holidaymaker was arrested. He died later in hospital. The death led to riots in Schilderswijk and other parts of the city, as well as complaints about the ‘daily reality’ of ‘racist police violence’. The police have now drawn up a 35-point plan to stimulate diversity and counteract discrimination. The Volkskrant article did not give more details about what form the quota would take, other than to say that more ethnic minority officers would be given promotion.

Doubts
Leiden criminology professor Joanne van der Leun told the paper that the experience with quotas for ethnic minority officers are not always encouraging. ‘You can
bring them in but it is more difficult to keep them,’ she said. ‘Non-western police officers experience more pressures from outside the force and from existing police culture. Good leadership and team work is as least as important.’ She also raised doubts about plans to increase the use of bodycams. ‘What lies behind that?’ she asked. ‘Is it simply to collect evidence about their actions in the face of complaints, or will they be used to professionalise and generate feedback to change the culture?’
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Eight fined for discriminatory comments on the Support the PVV Facebookpage

8/10/2015- Eight people who left discriminatory and inflammatory statements on a Facebook page set up to support the anti-Islam PVV have been fined between €350 and €450. The public prosecution department said if they do not pay, they will have to appear in court. The department began a criminal investigation into statements left on the site in January. The comments were made after the page published an article from the Telegraaf newspaper about the firebombing of mosques in Sweden. A number of Moroccan organisations made formal complaints against the page for threatening behaviour and incitement to discrimination and hatred.

A ninth person was not fined. He lost his job after his employer discovered his involvement in the site and has been punished enough, the public prosecution department said. The page Steun de PVV (support the PVV) has some 26,000 ‘friends’. In a reaction to the fines, the page organiser stated: ‘The eight comments were of course unacceptable but we will not let ourselves be silenced any more.’
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: The 'us' and 'them' divide (opinion)

Former Labour politician and chairman of the Council for Public Administration Jacques Wallage feels that refugees shouldn’t be the victims of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality fostered by politics.

8/10/2015- The range of popular reaction to the influx of refugees shows that the Netherlands is a divided society. After a Red Cross appeal, some 20,000 volunteers have come forward and their number is growing. Some local councils have little problem providing emergency accommodation while in others emotions are running high. On closer scrutiny it is clear that the anger in places like Oudenbosch and Purmerend is about more than the arrival of the refugees. The angry citizen is filled with a mixture of resentment and long-felt frustration. The committed citizen is feeling relief at finally being able to act. For the angry citizen the sign ‘Welcome refugees’ is yet another indication of very unwelcome societal upheaval. In short, where one citizen is reaching for his wallet, the other is reaching for the emergency break. 

Grim divide
Behind the façade of the traditional political factions there’s the grim divide between commitment and anger, self-reliance and exclusion. When PVV leader Geert 
Wilders talks about a ‘fake parliament’ he garners support across the board. The last Maurice de Hond poll showed that 44% of the VVD electorate agree with Wilders, and so does 30% of Labour voters. Looking at the educational level, the divide is even clearer. 55% of low-skilled people agree with Wilders against 35% of people with a higher level of education. The declining turnout at local and regional elections is yet another example of a divided country: people with a good level of education vote, an increasing number of lower skilled people don’t. According to public administration expert Mark Bovens, the Netherlands is turning into a ‘diploma democracy’: influence increases according to the level of education.

New reality
Slowly this new reality is challenging the tenets of politics and administration. Until recently it was a given that increased consumer confidence meant increased
confidence in politics. But recent figures from the government’s socio-cultural policy unit SCP tell another story: the economy is recuperating – slowly but surely – but confidence in politics (and big companies!) is declining. The feeling of being an outsider, that one’s opinion doesn’t count is generating anger. It doesn’t take much for irritation about high public and private sector salaries to blend with worries about healthcare and immigration. Scandals such as the recent Volkswagen debacle further strengthen the feeling that power is manipulative and that citizens are at its mercy. People who feel that they are outsiders in their own society won’t be open to an appeal to solidarity with the fate of refugees. The committed citizen feels part of society and is firmly in the ‘us’ camp. Angry citizens only see ‘them’, the people who determine their lives. That cultural divide holds true across the classic political board.

Consensus
It’s a divide which can only be bridged when a consensus is reached about the big problems of today, such as sustainability and migration, inequality and employment.
But here politics, which should be a force for unity, turns out to be the weakest link in the chain. It is focused more on amassing power than on sharing it, more interested in holding forth than listening. Refugees shouldn’t be the victims of this internal polarisation. Fortunately many people do care and try to help. But perhaps the anger of others should also be seen a sign of commitment: a cry that expresses the need to bridge the gap between institutions and people, between the vertical and the horizontal world. Politicians shouldn’t leave that task to the populists.
© The Dutch News

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Australia: Anti-Islam activist Geert Wilders' visa granted

Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders has had his Australian visa granted, meaning he will be able to travel to Perth in just over a week to launch an Australian anti-Islam party.

8/10/2015- The founders of the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) had feared the far-right politician may be unable to attend the launch due to visa delays. The party, which is inspired by that of Mr Wilders, wants to ban full-face coverings in public spaces and calls for a 10-year moratorium on resident visa applications by people from Islamic countries.  In a tweet, Mr Wilders said he was looking forward to visiting Perth.  The Immigration Department confirmed in a statement that Mr Wilders' visa had been granted.  When you have someone coming like this and preaching these issues of stereotype and hate, it's going to further isolate these kids who are going to feel totally disenfranchised.

ALA president Debbie Robinson said she was relieved the visa had been issued. "It's great news, it's a big relief because a lot of planning goes into this sort of event and we're looking forward to meeting up with Mr Wilders," she said. "People are looking forward to hear him speak, to hear what he has to say. "It all comes back to freedom of speech and there are a lot of people who are interested to hear his views on the topic and what's happening in the Netherlands." Ms Robinson said she was not expecting the controversial MP to be met with the kinds of protests previously seen on his visits to Australia. "We don't make public where we are holding our meetings so hopefully there'll be a minimum of fuss," she said.

In 2012 the right-wing MP was invited to give a series of speeches by the anti-multiculturalism group the Q Society, but his visa application stalled, and he was forced to cancel the tour. The delay was due to the Dutch politician being on the Movement Alert List, a database of people of concern to Australia. He ultimately secured a visa but his 2013 visit to Australia sparked protests. In Perth he was accompanied by WA Police's dignitary protection unit and a venue where he was due to speak cancelled his booking. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett said at the time he did not want Mr Wilders in WA, and did not want him using government buildings to promote his message.

Fears Wilders will inflame community tensions
The head of the group West Australians for Racial Equality, Suresh Rajan, said he was not against Mr Wilders being granted a visa. "I have been always opposed to him having his visa cancelled, simply because I think it's appropriate for us to be able to fight with him out there," he said. But Mr Rajan said he was concerned Mr Wilders' presence in Australia could exacerbate the issues of radicalisation and home-grown terror. "When you have someone coming like this and preaching these issues of stereotype and hate, it's going to further isolate these kids who are going to feel totally disenfranchised, totally without any sense of belonging to the society and that's going to actually breed that radicalisation," he said. "What we find common amongst all of the people who've gone down the path of radicalisation has been the fact that they have felt isolated within their community. "The work that Geert Wilders does just further isolates them to a position where they become prey to the radicalised views of other people."
© ABC Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italy leaves gay couples waiting at the altar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greece: Key witness takes stand at Golden Dawn trial

8/10/2015- The Golden Dawn trial continued on Thursday with a friend of Pavlos Fyssas, the anti-racist hip hop artist who was stabbed to death by a neo-Nazi member in September 2013, taking the stand. Pavlos Seirlis appeared in court after the testimony of Fyssas’s sister, Irini, was interrupted earlier in the day. Seirlis is a key witness in the case, as he and Fyssas were part of a group of friends allegedly attacked by Golden Dawn members and supporters outside a cafeteria in Keratsini, near Piraeus, on September 18, 2013. On Thursday, Seirlis insisted that the group had no issues with the neo-Nazi party prior to the attack. The witness recognized a number of defendants as members of the group which attacked them and said he believed the attack was premeditated.
© The Kathimerini.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vatican sacks gay priest after highly public coming out

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

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

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

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Far-Right political party Britain First has been attacked as racist, Islamophobic and fascist after a BBC documentary on the group aired last night.

7/10/2015- We Want Our Country Back followed the “patriotic” organisation as it fought to have Islam banned in the UK. In one scene, deputy leader Jayda Fransen says, “Where there are Muslims there is radicalisation”, and in another, members shout, “Go back to the desert” from a car. Horrified viewers in Britain denounced the Christian group as “xenophobic”, “bigots” and “uneducated”, distancing themselves from the anti-Muslim message. “If it walks like a fascist and talks like a fascist, it’s a fascist,” wrote Twitter user Mozes.  “The people who divide our communities aren’t migrants or people of Islamic faith, they are Britain First,” tweeted Liam Beattie. But the organisation hit back hard against the BBC, with leader Paul Golding calling the broadcaster “heavily left-wing and biased” and dismissing the documentary as a “hatchet-job”.

“Even by BBC standards it was a shocking display of tax payers money financing a piece of extreme anti-British-Anti-Christian propaganda,” read the Britain First Facebook page, which has almost one million likes. The party’s supporters agreed, with Twitter user @jamesefc_1878 calling the program “Typical #BBC BS” and user @dannymckiernan1 adding: “Country is f***ed another 50 years won’t be a Christian in site [sic].” Other posts on the Britain First Facebook page include a video titled “Ungrateful migrants refuse free food!”, adverts for rallies against proposed mosques and anti-EU messages. The group’s website reads: “Support our struggle for survival. Our people are already a minority in London and several other cities.” The party has gained an even more controversial reputation than that of right-wing UKIP (UK Independence Party) for activities targeting Muslims and immigrants.

Leader Golding has repeatedly threatened to bury a pig on the construction site for a mosque near Birmingham. In August, he and several other members visited Calais and questioned migrants about their mobile phones, watches and haircuts while filming the exchanges. “You don’t look like you have nothing,” one member is seen telling a migrant, while another reveals that English people “don’t want asylum seekers like you”. Last month, the group announced that Golding would stand in the next election for Mayor of London, with 29-year-old deputy leader Fransen writing: “Our pro-EU, Islamist-loving opponents haven’t seen anything yet! They think they can get away with ruining our country, turning us into a Third World country, giving away our homes, jobs and heritage, but they will face the wrath of the Britain First movement, make no mistake about it! “We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country. And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”
© News.com

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UK: Man has tooth knocked out in homophobic attack

6/10/2015- A 36-year-old male has been assaulted in what is believed to be a homophobic hate crime in Redcar. The victim was walking along the footpath on the opposite road to the cemetery near to the junction of Victoria Avenue at around 3:20am on Friday October 2. He heard a male shouting threatening and homophobic comments towards him. The victim believed that they were being shouted by a male from a vehicle, however, this is unclear as the victim did not look up and carried on walking. A few seconds later, the victim was punched in the head from behind, causing him to fall to the ground where he was then punched and kicked in the head and upper body. As a result of the attack the victim sustained swelling and grazing around his face and nose and he lost a tooth. He received treatment at the Redcar Primary Care Hospital.

Incidents such as these are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Attacking someone else is absolutely unacceptable, but to attack someone simply due to their sexuality is abhorrent. I'd encourage anyone who may have witnessed the incident or anyone who may know the identity of the person responsible to please contact police."
– PC Nicholas Chew, Cleveland Police
Police are appealing for anyone with information or anyone who may have witnessed the incident to call the non-emergency 101 number, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
© ITV

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UK: How brave Muslims are being silenced

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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German TV channel under fire over image of Merkel in headscarf

German TV channel ARD has denied broadcasting "anti-Islamic propaganda" after it aired a mocked-up image of Angela Merkel wearing Islamic dress.

6/10/2015- The image was shown in the background of a segment on refugee quotas in the channel's Report from Berlin programme. The programme has received heavy criticism from viewers, some of whom said the image resembled those used by anti-Islam movement Pegida. ARD said that the graphic was "designed to capture people's attention". "We welcome the many criticisms of the graphic in yesterday's Report from Berlin and we are sorry some disagreed with our portrayal of the chancellor or even misunderstood," the programme said in a statement published on Facebook.  The statement said the graphic was intended as satire and reflected "the achievements of our Western society - freedom of expression, press freedom and equality". But viewers took to Facebook to accuse the channel of anti-Islamic propaganda, calling the report "manipulative" and "appalling". "This is not constructive journalism," wrote another.

Some defended the report, saying the programme was entitled to freedom of expression and had asked "very reasonable questions". Many viewers compared the image to placards used by the Germany anti-immigrant protest group Pegida - which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West. The group attracted tens of thousands to protest marches in cities around Germany earlier this year, with some waving placards displaying Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, wearing a headscarf. Pegida's protests have seen a resurgence in numbers recently after infighting led to cancellations and a dip in attendance. On Sunday, several thousand people attended protests in two towns - Plauen and Sebnitz - after a call to action by the group.

Writing on Facebook, German journalist and author Jakob Augstein compared the ARD report to the tactics of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). "Don't the colleagues know the anti-Islamic propaganda of the NPD? I don't like the word but I consider it to be a scandal," he said. The ARD controversy comes at a time of heightened tension over immigration in Germany, which has said it is expecting 800,000 refugees and migrants to enter the country this year. But a report leaked to German media suggests officials have put the figure far higher - at about 1.5 million. Ms Merkel has come under growing pressure within the country to clarify official estimates and defend her open-door policy towards refugees.
© BBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EU states urged to probe hate crimes, racism

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

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

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Refugees & Asylum Seekers Crisis - Week 41

Sweden: Tents to provide shelter for refugees

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has given Sweden's migration agency permission to set up tent camps to provide temporary shelter for refugees as the country's asylum centres reach saturation point.

9/10/2015- “Sweden is preparing for a crisis situation,” the premier told a press conference in Stockholm on Friday. “Our focus is now on [providing] an organised reception. First of all, to ensure there is accommodation. The standards are being lowered. It’s a matter of providing roof over heads. The government has today commissioned The Swedish Migration Agency to set up tents if it is necessary,” he said. “We’re facing the worst international migrant crisis since the Second World War. In the past seven days, 8,899 people have registered here. If it continues at the same pace, more than 150,000 people will have made their way here,” Löfven said.

Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said that local authorities across Sweden were being asked to make an inventory of all available venues that could potentially be used to house refugees, including camp sites, industrial buildings, apartments and sport halls. Tents will also be used to temporarily provide shelter if necessary, but Johansson was quick to stress that they would be heated, as nighttime temperatures are now dropping to zero degrees Celsius in most parts of the country. He said Sweden was at a "critical juncture". "More than 1,000 asylum seekers are arriving in Sweden every day," he added.

The ministers spoke as Sweden was set to welcome a group of 19 Eritreans travelling from Italy as part of the first phase of the EU's controversial redistribution programme. Last month, the union formally agreed on sharing the burden of the migrant influx which has been caused by a surge in war and unrest in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. But despite the deal on mandatory quotas, which entails the redistribution of at least 32,000 people by the end of this year and another 120,000 refugees over the next two years, member states continue to bicker about the amount they are ready to accept.

Most of the opposition has come from some eastern European states, including Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Due to the opposition they have faced, many migrants have instead headed to countries that are perceived as more welcoming to accept them, including Sweden and Germany. But while Sweden has a global reputation for helping refugees, it has faced some internal criticism following complaints from asylum seekers. But while Sweden has a global reputation for helping refugees, it has faced some internal criticism following complaints from asylum seekers about long waiting times and a lack of access to housing in the bigger citites. The country's migration agency had previously warned that gyms and disaster shelters would be needed to solve the accommodation issue before the cold Swedish winter would set in.
© The Local - Sweden

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Eritrean refugees flown from Italy to Sweden in first EU quota relocation

Italian interior minister says it is ‘a day of victory for Europe’ as 20 people depart, the first of 160,000 to be shared around continent

9/11/2015- Twenty Eritreans have been flown from Rome to Sweden in the first move under a new and bitterly contested system of EU quotas for sharing 160,000 refugees. The European migration commissioner, Dmitris Avramopoulos, and the Italian interior minister, Angelino Alfano, escorted the group to the airport. “Today is a day of victory for Europe,” Alfano told reporters as the jet took off. About 100 other asylum seekers will be sent to countries including Germany and Holland in the coming weeks, he said. Avramopoulos said the relocation was “a tangible example of what we can do if we work together”. However, diplomats working on the quota policy say it is almost impossible to identify potential beneficiaries among the 600,000 people who have entered the EU this year because most refuse to be registered at the point of entry in Greece or Italy and do not want to be relocated to arbitrary countries on a quotas list.

Avramopoulos will visit an immigration centre that will be run jointly by EU and Italian officials – called a “hotspot” – on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Friday before moving on to Greece to review its own hotspot plan. People who qualify for relocation are Syrians fleeing civil war, Eritreans escaping forced military service and Iraqis overrun by Islamic State militants. The EU budget will give €6,000 (£4,450) per head to the country that accepts the refugees, while the country that is transferring them will get €500 each to pay for their transfer. On Thursday, European governments decided on tentative steps towards common immigration policies in response to the refugee emergency, opening talks on surrendering national control of borders to new EU authorities and calling for more and quicker deportations of refused asylum seekers.
© The Guardian

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Macedonia Faces Massive Surge in Refugees

Macedonia says it faces the greatest spike in arrivals since the start of the refugee crisis, with about 10,000 people trying to enter and cross the country each day on their way to the West.

9/10/2015- As more than 10,000 refugees and migrants from Middle Eastern countries started to arrive in Macedonia for the second day, and with more on the way, authorities say capacities are being pushed to the limit. "All our efforts are now focused on streamlining the administrative process so that the new arrivals can continue their transit through the country as soon as possible," the Crisis Management Centre, the body coordinating activities on the ground, told BIRN. Humanitarian workers say the police are no longer wasting time on issuing three-day transit visas to refugees who arrive in large groups at the southern border with Greece. Instead, after a quick rest, they load them onto trains and in buses, to continue their journey further north towards Serbia and then to EU countries, presumably Germany.

"We are expecting about 20,000 people to arrive at the border in the next couple of days... This has pushed us to the limit but we are coping," police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said. Until a few days ago, the number of refugees was fluctuating from 2-3,000 a day up to 5-7,000. Although people do not stay long in the transit camp in Gevgelija, near the border with Greece, for the humanitarian aid workers there is plenty to do. Among other things, they ready people with injuries from the long trip, hand out food packages and give psychological and legal counselling for separated families. "During the summer, food and water and maintaining hygiene was of the utmost urgency. Now, as autumn has come, we are also focused on getting warm clothes and dry places for rest," the NGO Legis said. Legis is among the most active organizations in Macedonia helping refugees on the ground.

While the numbers at the border are growing, Macedonia can count on some €24 million in institutional help through the EU's pre-accession support for migration-related activities. The European Commission on Tuesday said the money would go on renovation of Macedonian border police stations, the fight against human trafficking and strengthening police capacities for border management.
© Balkan Insight

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Finland: Asylum seeker quarters vandalised with swastikas, "white power" graffiti

Asylum seekers preparing to take up accommodation at a reception centre in Kouvola were confronted with swastikas and text declaring "white power" on the doors of the converted apartment block. Property owners say they are considering filing a criminal complaint.

5/10/2015- Last week refugees looking to move into emergency accommodation in an apartment block in Kuusankoski, Kouvola found that the building had been vandalised. The new occupants discovered that someone had spray-painted swastikas and words such as "white power" throughout the property. "The walls of buildings near the apartment building had been spray-painted with swastikas and different phrases, like 'white power'," said reception centre director Satu Kurri. Apart from nearby properties the graffiti had been sprayed on the doors and windows of apartments in the building converted into emergency housing for refugees. Kurri said that the graffiti on the neighbouring buildings had appeared some time ago, before the establishment of asylum seeker accommodation.

Men unfazed, women and children scared
The facility director said that officials had spoken with the refugees following the discovery, much in the same way that occupants at another Kouvola reception centre had received counseling following a recent fire bomb attack. "We have told them that some Finns want to express their opinions in this way and stressed that not all Finns are like this," she explained. The asylum seekers have had mixed reactions to the graffiti, Kurri noted. "It doesn’t feel good to them. The men haven’t been fazed, since they’ve been in conflict situations and experienced so much already. Naturally the women and children have been scared," she added.

Building owner considering criminal report
Officials have not yet covered the graffiti, and the owners of the property, Kouvola Apartments, are considering filing a criminal report. "Some of the phrases have been such that a criminal report should be lodged," Kurri remarked. The area around the building is currently being patrolled by guards. Kurri said that people who oppose asylum seekers entering Finland should find other ways to express themselves. "it’s quite insane that they are blaming these people for how their tax money is being spent. In my opinion it’s an abuse of taxpayers' money to be forced to hire guards when this kind of thing happens," she concluded.
© YLE News.

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EU Begins Boat Patrols to Tackle People Smugglers

The EU has launched a naval operation in an effort to crack down on human traffickers in the Mediterranean Sea.

7/10/2015- Under Operation Sophia, EU ships will be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for people smuggling or trafficking on the high seas, in line with international law. Named after a baby born on the ship of one EU operation which rescued her mother in August off the coast of Libya, the task force will be specifically aimed at disrupting the business model of people smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean. It also hopes to prevent the further loss of life at sea, rather than simply carrying out surveillance and rescue operations, which has been the thrust of EU missions in the area up until now. The operation will involve five warships, together with support helicopters and drones, according to the BBC. Yet the ships will have to stay in international waters—12 nautical miles off the Libyan coast.

So far this year, more than 300,000 migrants and refugees have crossed to Europe over the Mediterranean, according to the UN refugee agency, including around 110,000 from North Africa to Italy. Many of them are fleeing war and persecution in countries like Syria and Eritrea. Some 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year, trying to reach Europe. Last month, Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in relation to the decision: "We are also united in our diplomatic efforts to find both a political solution to the crises in Syria and Libya, and, in partnership with the countries of origin and transit of the migration flows, to support the economic and social development of these countries."

However, the EU operation has not been without its critics. British government advisers and a former ambassador to Libya earlier this year struck out at European Union plans to deploy military force against Mediterranean people traffickers. Jason Pack, a defence and security adviser to the U.K. Foreign Office, and a specialist consultant on Libya called the plan "moronic and delusional." "Libya is just the worst possible environment to carry out a foreign policing operation," Oliver Miles, who previously served as Britain's ambassador to Libya, told Newsweek in May, citing fears that the plan would have "limited impact" on trafficking operations and increase the risk of kidnappings in Libya of European citizens.
© Newsweek Europe

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EU talks tough on deportations amid flood of Syrian refugees

7/10/2015- European Union governments are set to agree on Thursday to step up deportations of illegal immigrants among the hundreds of thousands who have failed to win asylum as they try to cope with a surge in refugees from war-torn Syria. Diplomats say interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg should agree, among other things, to back the detention of those who may abscond before expulsion and exert more pressure on African and other poor states, including via aid budgets, to make them accept the return of citizens refused entry to Europe. In the evening, they will be joined by EU foreign ministers and delegations from Balkan states, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for talks on stemming migrant flows that have plunged the bloc into crisis, dividing members over how to secure the EU external borders and how to share responsibility for housing refugees.

The meetings are part of efforts to implement a package of measures put forward by EU officials over the past six months and which have this week involved the start of negotiations with Turkey, temporary home to more than half of the four million Syrian refugees, to try and discourage people from traveling. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who angered some of her eastern neighbors over the summer by offering a welcome to more Syrian refugees, made clear in a speech on Wednesday that Europe would also do more to deter and expel the hundreds of thousands who reach Europe every year illegally in search of prosperity. She told the European Parliament that while offering a safe haven to those fleeing war and persecution was a duty, the EU must also tighten its arrangements with poorer nations "so that those who have no prospect of staying (as refugees) are actually taken back to their home countries."

A draft of conclusions of Thursday's interior ministers' meeting, seen by Reuters, reads: "The EU and its member states must do more in terms of return. Increased return rates should act as a deterrent to irregular migration." Refugee agencies say more deportations can free up space for those who are fleeing in genuine fear for their lives. In recent years, fewer than 40 percent of people whose asylum claims are rejected have actually then left the EU.

Implementation Test
Other elements of EU migration policy include increasing aid for refugees who stay in the Middle East and tightening procedures for identification on arrival in Italy and Greece. Appearing with Merkel, French President Francois Hollande called for a permanent EU Coast Guard and Border Guard service. On Wednesday, EU-run naval patrols off the Libyan coast formally adopted new rules of engagement intended to let them attack people-smuggling operations. One of the most divisive issues for EU states has been new programs to relocate asylum seekers from the frontline states of Italy and Greece around the bloc. Ex-communist eastern states have been very vocal in rejecting large-scale immigration. However, the first such relocation, of Eritreans heading to Sweden from Italy, is due to take place on Friday. That move-ment has been a key demand of Rome and Athens. They are in turn under pressure from northern countries like Germany and France to accept EU personnel to help control their borders.

As EU governments continue to add detail to their package of response plans, the coming months will provide a major test of how realistic they are. Italy has already warned that it is not willing to host what it calls "concentration camps". And the lack of border controls between EU states presents a major challenge to the plan to direct asylum-seekers to particular parts of the bloc.
© Reuters

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EU seeks Turkey help to block migrant flows, offers cash

6/10/2015- The European Union wants more Turkish cooperation with Greece and other EU neighbors to stem migration flows and in return is ready to offer more funding for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Turkey, according to an EU plan published on Tuesday. The draft action plan was presented to President Tayyip Erdogan by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, during a visit to Brussels by the Turkish leader. Officials on both sides said the document would form the basis of further negotiations to address the migrant crisis. "Erdogan agreed to the principles, which is why today we could make it public," said one senior EU official involved in the talks. "President Juncker has now sent officials to Ankara to start negotiating the details," the official said.

EU diplomats said that, while agreement on the plan was only a first step, it was nonetheless a breakthrough, as in the past Erdogan had refused to even discuss the issue of absorbing more migrants from Syria and Iraq. Erdogan, whose country faces a snap parliamentary election on Nov. 1, was scathing about Europe's restrained approach to the refugee crisis during rallies in Strasbourg and Brussels before he met European officials on Monday. But in three back-to-back meetings and at a dinner in Brussels, the mood was said to be far better than the strained meetings of the past, when tensions over Turkey's stalled EU membership bid dominated proceedings.

Facing its worst migrant crisis since the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the EU has dropped its criticism of what it sees as Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism and is looking to Turkey for help. The EU plan lists actions to be taken by the EU and Turkey on two broad themes -- supporting refugees and their Turkish hosts and secondly preventing irregular migration. The draft said the EU would provide up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for this year and next to help Turkey cope with some 2.2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees as well as further funding. Some refugees would have a chance to resettle from Turkey to Europe.

Among actions the EU draft recommended for Turkey were stepping up its coast guard activity and cooperation with the Greek navy as well as tightening its land borders with Greece and Bulgaria and taking back irregular migrants who crossed into the EU but were then found not to qualify for asylum. It contains no mention of Erdogan's call in Brussels for Europeans to back Ankara's plan to set up "safe areas" and no-fly zones in northern Syria, on which EU officials and member state governments are deeply skeptical. But it does in its preamble state that the plan is part of a broader relationship with Turkey, that includes its longstanding application to join the EU and negotiations on giving Turks easier visa terms for travel to the European Union.
© Reuters

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Denmark: Refugees take charge of newspaper for a day

Liberal daily Dagbladet Information hands over reins to 12 refugees who are professional journalists, most of them recent arrivals in Denmark.

9/10/2015- Refugees facing hostile politicians and press in Denmark were given the run of a daily newspaper on Friday to present a radically different picture of the thousands of asylum seekers knocking on Europe’s door. “For politicians, refugees are just a problem to be solved as quickly as possible, and most prefer to do it without looking them in the eye,” said an editorial in Dagbladet Information, an independent liberal daily, in a special issue written entirely by refugees who are also professional journalists. “Today it is the refugees who speak to us.” The paper assembled a dozen refugees, most of whom are recent arrivals in the country, giving them full editorial control and help with research and translation. “This is a chance to show the Danish people a different picture – we are giving them a new kind of story made by refugees,” said Dalam Alasaad, a Syrian journalist from Palmyra who came to Denmark via Turkey last year.

Denmark’s minority Liberal administration is propped up by the populist Danish People’s party, which has succeeded in shifting immigration policy well to the right. This week, the government proposed a package of tight new restrictions on refugees. Since the crisis exploded in Europe this year, several European newspapers have devoted special issues to refugees, but the Danish initiative stands out for allowing refugees themselves to write every word. The paper’s front page on Friday, written by a journalist from Iraqi Kurdistan, leads on the consequences for war-torn countries of the fact that two-thirds of refugees coming to Europe are men, and the harsh consequences for women left behind. The 48-page special issue also looks at the “lottery” facing fresh arrivals in Danish refugee camps, unpicks three myths that define the crisis, and reports on the plunder of Syria’s history by Isis.

“Refugees are almost all we talk about in Denmark these days,” said Lotte Folke Kaarsholm, a features editor. “We thought we would shut up and let refugees set the agenda. What we got is radically different from what politicians are discussing.” Some of the journalists assembled by the paper had paid a high price for their journalism, including prison and torture, Kaarsholm said. A son of Zeinab Uzbak, an Afghan journalist, was killed in retaliation for her work. Dagbladet Information, a small publication with a circulation of around 20,000, began life as the paper of the illegal resistance in Denmark during the second world war, and sees itself as a newspaper for social movements. “So this feels very right for us,” Kaarsholm said. Even Lars Hedegaard, the paper’s former editor and now a notorious rightwing critic of Denmark’s “Islamic colonisation”, welcomed the publication.

“I expected a great deal of whining and complaining and sobbing, but … reluctantly I must admit that there seems to be somewhat higher standards than when I was editor,” Hedegaard told Danish radio. Danish journalists are ethnically quite homogenous, and the voices of refugees have been largely absent from the mainstream media, according to Orla Vigsø, a Danish professor at Gothenburg University’s department of journalism. “Dagbladet Information is helping to fill an important gap, but it is impossible to think of other papers doing the same,” he said. Alasaad said: “Our main message to our readers is don’t be afraid, refugees can be good for Danish society.”
© The Guardian

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

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

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

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Netherlands: Councils agree to find homes for asylum seekers

9/10/2015- Over the next six months, 10,000 refugees with leave to stay in the Netherlands will be moved into permanent housing to free up places in asylum seeker centres. This is the most important decision reached by an emergency meeting held on Friday between ministers, local councils and the provinces to discuss how to house the refugees arriving in the Netherlands. Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff told a press conference it was ‘a very good meeting’ during which all parties showed a willingness to jointly solve the problem of housing asylum seekers.

Small scale
The parties also agreed they would look for emergency housing for newly arrived refugees both on a small scale such as in sports centres and like the camp of tents for
3,000 refugees near Nijmegen. Dijkhoff also said ministers will look at the possibility of withdrawing the rule giving approved refugees priority in social housing, which is seen as unfair on locals who have been waiting for a suitable affordable home for years. Whether the option of building thousands of quickly erected prefab and container homes is part of the solution is still unclear.

Support
Jan van Zanen of the local government association VNG said public support is vital, and councils must not be forced to take groups of refugees. This will avoid a 
 repetition of the scenes on Wednesday in the Drenthe village of Oranje when angry locals blocked roads to prevent more asylum seekers arriving after a commitment to limit refugee numbers was broken. ‘We must stand shoulder to shoulder to solve this,’ Van Zanen said, adding that councils would need more money to pay for the solution. However, there were no concrete agreements about money during the morning meeting.

CABINET TO DISCUSS PREFAB HOMES FOR REFUGEES
9/10/2015- The Dutch government will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the use of prefab homes to house asylum seekers. Prime minister Mark Rutte, just returned from a trade mission to the US, junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher and home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk will discuss the housing crisis with local government association VNG and representatives from the provinces. The aim is to avoid a repetition of the scenes on Wednesday in the Drenthe village of Oranje when angry locals blocked roads to prevent more asylum seekers arriving after a commitment to limit refugee numbers was broken (I CARE edit: Deal was 700 than government wanted to put 1400 people there. Population of Oranje: 140).

Approval
Currently, 13,000 refugees have approval to stay in the Netherlands but are still living in asylum seeker centres because of the lack of social housing. And because they
cannot be moved on, emergency accommodation for refugees is also filling up fast. The government is now working on a plan to build prefab and container homes. If all the local councils agree to provide land, 23,000 ’emergency’ homes can be built within two weeks, according to the VNG.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Housing minister 'may' withdraw refugee priority rule

8/10/2015- Housing minister Stef Blok is looking into withdrawing the rule giving approved refugees priority in social housing, he told MPs on Thursday. Speaking during a debate on his ministry’s spending plans for 2016, Blok said he would first discuss the issue with housing corporations, local councils and other interest groups. ‘I will not rule out any option,’ Blok said. VVD parliamentarians have called on the government to scrap the priority treatment for refugees, saying the rule is unfair on locals who have been waiting for a suitable cheap home for years. The average waiting time for a rent-controlled property is seven years, nine in Amsterdam, the NRC reported.

Blok told MPs that scrapping the priority ruling will have disadvantages. For example, the cost of providing alternative accommodation for refugees will rise and it will be bad for integration, he said. Socialist and Labour MPs called on Blok to encourage housing corporations to build more rent-controlled housing to meet the demand. They fear low-income families will have to wait even longer for a home because of the rise in refugee numbers. However, the minister said the Netherlands has sufficient cheap housing. The main problem is that many rent-controlled properties are lived in by people whose salaries are technically too high to qualify, he said. Rent-controlled housing accounts for the bulk of the Dutch rental sector but Blok is keen to see more homes built with rents of just over the €710 social housing limit.
© The Dutch News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Syrian refugees increasingly return to war zones in homeland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6/10/2015- How will they fit in? What influence will religion have? Refugees entering Hungary by the thousands might want to move on, to Germany or Sweden, but the EU’s quota distribution system will restrict their choice. Hungary will end up granting asylum to some, with all sides needing to adapt. The great majority of the refugees are Muslims. The Christian-based societies of Central and Eastern Europe have limited experience of Muslim communities of any size, and of course the same goes for the Jewish populations in these countries. We asked the Organisation of Muslims in Hungary about its view of a common future with new arrivals.

The Organisation’s Chairman, Zoltán Sulok, said: “One way to integrate Muslim refugees is to treat them fairly. That is very important. If I look at this topic from the point of view of our religion, it is of the greatest importance that they can correctly practice and understand their religion, Islam.” In historically Christian Hungary, Muslims number only 30-50 thousand. Not all census respondents declare their religion. Both Muslims and Jews in Hungary account for far less than one percent of the population. There are fewer than 50,000 Jews here today; more than half a million were deported to extermination camps in WWII. The national statistics office noted more than 60,000 asylum applications in Hungary in the first six months of this year, mostly by people from Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

András Heisler, the Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, says: “If we look at history, we find many examples when Jews and Muslims lived together in peace and harmony, a valuable community. I don’t think we should be afraid of living together again.” Sulok underscores that sufferers of conflicts arriving in Hungarian society face a stark contrast: “Many people in Europe, especially here, in Central-Eastern Europe, forget that if somebody comes from Afghanistan, for example, he or she comes from war. People in Afghanistan have been living in war since 1979. The generation coming here has never lived in a normal society, like ours.” Heisler said: “I do not think that we should be afraid of others’ religion. We should be afraid of terrorism. And that is the government’s and the European Union’s responsibility — to pick out terrorists from the crowd of migrants and refugees. It is their job to minimise the risk and danger.”
Hungary’s Catholic authorities declined our proposal for an interview.
© Euro News

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Scotland: Pro-refugee march dwarfs rival far-right demonstration

7/10/2015- The far-right Scottish Defence League (SDL) organised a “march against immigration” on Saturday in reaction to the escalating European refugee crisis, prompting a counter-demonstration from SDL’s long-standing ideological opponent, Unite Against Fascism (UAF). Edinburgh’s UAF branch organised a rally to denounce bigotry, racism and fascism on 3 October, the same date as the SDL’s anti-immigration march. While UAF’s first aim is not refugee support, they insist that the issues of immigration and racism are closely linked. “AYE to Refugees – NAE to Nazis”, the counter-rally’s Facebook event declared: “Edinburgh is a city that welcomes the world.” Speaking to The Student, Luke, a member of UAF, explained the motivations behind UAF’s counter-demonstration: “We believe that racist and fascist groups should not be unopposed on our streets. We want to demonstrate that their views are the minority and at the fringes of society.”

UAF’s initiative was backed by a wide range of civic organisations and politicians from Edinburgh and beyond, such as ‘UNITE Scotland’, ‘Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees’, Labour MP Ian Murray, and Green MSP Patrick Harvie. Edinburgh Council had previously banned the SDL’s 3 October 3 anti-immigration march because two other marches had already been planned for the same day. Fears of significant disruptions also contributed to the decision to move against the SDL. The SDL, however, decided to hold a static demonstration instead. The anti-SDL rally, meanwhile, gathered at the Mound early in the afternoon. A few short speeches were given while people continued to gather. Following the speeches, the counter-demonstration’s planned marching route took the crowd from the Mound down Princes Street Gardens, past the Scott Monument, and stopped in front of the Balmoral Hotel. A number of policemen were deployed to oversee the event and the traffic was disrupted on Princes Street during the first half of the afternoon.

Despite some provocation from a few SDL demonstrators, no significant clashes were observed over the course of the afternoon. The crowd chanted various slogans in support of refugees: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” was called, and the crowd also moved on to mock the SDL: “How do you spell pathetic? S.D.L.”. Several speeches of solidarity for the refugees were given. One demonstrator reminded those present of Britain’s role during the Second World War in taking in refugees: “Britain has a proud tradition of welcoming those who seek sanctuary on our shores.” Charlotte, a member of the UAF committee Scotland, was interviewed by The Student. She said: “When something goes badly in our country, it has always been easy to blame the immigrants. Think of the recession, or the housing crisis. The refugee crisis has just added fuel to the argument. So it’s up to people like us to put the arguments against them and to organise.”

Towards the end of the rally, before the crowd dispersed, another anonymous demonstrator gave a speech, heard by The Student: “We want to make sure that they know that they are loved and welcomed, that we do all we can to address the trauma and suffering they’ve gone through. Scotland can do that, we will do it. We will stand together, united and we will let every refugee know that our streets are their streets.”
© The Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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German Neo-Nazis praise Australia's refugee policy

Germany's far right says turning back the boats is the right idea and should be applied to the influx of refugees currently crossing into Europe.

9/10/2015- "Instead of accepting them into Australia they send them back home," Jens Baur from the far right NPD party tells a crowd outside a refugee camp in Dresden. "And only this is the one real solution and not how our government is going about it." German Chancellor Angela Merkel says refugees are welcome, but in a story for Tuesday's Dateline, Amos Roberts finds the reality is different in the former East Germany. "What's happening here is a ridicule of the German people," Baur says. "No one is being sent back, no one is being sent home." Germany could ultimately accept hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from countries like Syria, many of whom have made dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean by boat into Italy and Greece.

"The German marines are sent out to sea to go to the shores of Africa to then collect everyone on a blow-up mattress to bring them back to Europe," Baur tells the crowd. "Refugees coming from Indonesia or the Philippines, who are on their way to Australia, are instantly caught and stopped by the Australian marine boats. Instead of accepting them into Australia they send them back home." "This is the madness that's going on here in Europe." He says Australia's policy, which he refers to as the 'No Way' campaign, and Hungary's decision to build a fence on its border are how Germany should be handling the migrant crisis. "It is important for me to tell people that there are alternatives," he explains to Amos. "And it also offers a counter perspective towards what the German government is doing."

At another, larger, protest in Dresden, demonstrators shout 'lying press' at the media, but Amos says the mood towards him changed to being welcoming when they realised he was from Australia. The encounters are part of this week's Dateline story, following two Syrian refugees as they travel across Europe. Amos first met Muhammad and Alaa el-Din in Milan after they'd crossed into Italy by boat. But their efforts to reach the UK ended in the makeshift refugee camps at Calais in France, and they travelled instead to Germany. Amos then follows Alaa el-Din to Hamburg in the country's west and Muhammad to Hoyerswerda in the east, where he finds a very different reception to the relatively warm welcome of Hamburg. "My friends, are you fed up to the back teeth with the millions that are invading our beautiful country?" is the rallying cry he hears there.
© SBS

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Germany: Bavaria's 'self-defense measures' against refugees cause outrage

Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer continues to defy Chancellor Angela Merkel by threatening that Bavarian might go it alone in restricting migrant movements. The measures would have an impact on neighboring Austria.

9/10/2015- In a direct challenge to his fellow Christian Democrat, Chancellor Merkel, who has said there would be no cap on the number of refugees taken in by Germany, Seehofer has announced what he has called "self-defense measures" against refugees arriving in Bavaria. In an interview with German daily "Bild," Seehofer said the state government would agree on a wide-ranging package of measures at a state government meeting on Friday that included "integration, education and training." "On top of that there will be specific self-defense measures to limit migration, such as sending back people to the border with Austria and the immediate transfer of newly-arrived asylum seekers within Germany," Seehofer said on his Facebook page. It is highly doubtful that Bavaria has any legal basis to implement this type of measures on state level. Austria has nevertheless reacted immediately, with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner announcing that Austria would have to act to "slow down the flow of migrants and implement more and more intensive border controls."

Seehofer insists that Merkel sent out the "wrong signals" by welcoming refugees in Germany and insisting that Germany "can cope." He believes her stance has prompted more migrants to come to Germany and has demanded a clear signal from the chancellor that "we will be humane, but our possibilities are limited." Seehofer's comments have caused outrage in the government and the opposition. Merkel has rebuffed his comments, saying that refugees were still welcome in Germany if they are genuinely in need of protection. Anton Hofreiter, leader of the Greens in parliament, said his proposals were "brazen populism."

'Not King Louis II'
In an interview on German breakfast TV show Moma, the Social Democrats' deputy party leader Ralf Stegner said "Seehofer is not King Louis II and is not in Neuschwans-tein, where you can just pull up the drawbridge. It's errant nonsense." He was referring to the 19th century Bavarian king, who built the now famous Neuschwanstein castle. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that attacks on asylum seekers in Germany had shot up. "In total, we have seen 490 crimes against refugee shelters," he told the Funke media group. In a thinly veiled reference to Seehofer's proposed measures, he defended Merkel's asylum policy, saying that he does not believe "fences at Germany's borders" were the answer to the influx of refugees in Europe.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German authorities accused of playing down refugee shelter sex crime reports

6/10/2015- Germany's police union and women's rights groups accused the authorities on Tuesday of playing down reports of harassment, sexual assault and even rape at refugee shelters because they feared a backlash against asylum seekers. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called on Germans to avoid succumbing to a blanket suspicion of the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in the country, saying an unbelievable number of rumors were being spread on the Internet. But police union chief Rainer Wendt said he believed that authorities in Germany's federal states, which are responsible for housing asylum seekers, were playing down the problem of assaults on women in the shelters. "It is understandable that there is the desire to calm things down politically," Wendt told Reuters. But he, along with women's groups, believed that ignoring the problem would be counterproductive. "There is a lot of glossing over going on. But this doesn't represent reality," he said.

With public opinion hardening on the refugee influx, German authorities appear anxious to avoid giving extreme-right groups any opportunity to stir up hostility towards migrants, many of whom are Muslims including those fleeing the Syrian civil war. "There are an unbelievable number of rumors regarding this issue, which are being spread massively over social networks," De Maiziere told a news conference. "The federal authorities are investigating these resolutely and often the rumors are not true," he said. "There are things worthy of criticism. But there is no reason for a general suspicion of refugees."  No comprehensive official figures are available on the extent of the problem at the shelters, which local authorities are setting to provide temporary accommodation around the country in places such as sports halls and empty office blocks.

But Wendt said the police were reporting cases to the state governments, which have their own interior ministers. These people should take note, he said: "The interior ministers would be well advised to have a look at their own reports to know what actually happens on our streets at night and in the shelters." Wendt said that a high number of cases went unreported as women rarely dared to file complaints with police or public prosecutors. This is a general problem with sex crime, regardless of the community where it is committed, due to the victims' feelings of fear and shame. However, Barbara Helfrich of the charity Paritaetischer Bund in the central state of Hesse, said some women had come forward. "We have several trustworthy reports on sexual violence and assaults from victims, as well as advisory groups and NGOs," she told Reuters.

In a recent open letter, several charities alleged crimes had been committed a city shelter in the state. "There are several cases of rape and sexual assault and increasingly even reports on forced prostitution," the joint letter said, adding that these were not isolated incidents. With men accounting for about 70 percent of asylum seekers, other groups across the country have demanded gender-segregated accommodation and safe zones for women. At least 800,000 asylum seekers are expected in Germany this year, and Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity has fallen with polls showing many voters believe she is taking too soft a line on allowing them into the country. The northern city of Hamburg recently confirmed eight cases of sexual assault in refugee shelters this year. Tuelin Akkoc, spokeswomen for refugee affairs with the opposition Green Party in Hamburg, accepted that far-right groups might use such reports to turn sentiment against migrants. But she told Reuters: "That's no reason to sweep this issue under the carpet. Right now is the time for the authorities to raise their voices in order to prevent extremist groups from dominating the debate."
© Reuters

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PM: Czech Rep. not to file complaint about refugee quotas

8/10/2015- The Czech Republic will not join the Slovak complaint about temporary refugee quotas within the UE not to fall into isolation in negotiations about permanent migrant quotas that it wants to reject, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said Thursday. "Our goal is not to bring the Czech Republic into isolation within the European Union, but on the contrary, to prepare the ground for pushing through our arguments. It would be meaningless to act in a way that would frustrate our communication with other member countries where our arguments would no longer be listened to and would not be taken seriously," Sobotka said. He was answering Petr Bendl (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) during the Question Time in the Chamber of Deputies Thursday.

Sobotka said the 3000 refugees who will be assigned to the Czech Republic within the one-off relocation are not of key importance. "What is of key importance is the permanent redistribution mechanism that should not be approved. We must use all our forces to prevent this. Unlike the permanent mechanism, the one-off one is something that will end," Sobotka said. Sobotka said if Slovakia succeeded with its complaint, the abolition of the one-off redistribution of refugees would apply to all EU countries. Bendl reacted saying that Sobotka is hiding behind Slovakia even though the Czech Republic, too, has been affected by the decision on one-off quotas that it was rejecting. "You do not behave like the prime minister of the Czech Republic," but as a deputy prime minister of Slovakia," Bendl told Sobotka. Sobotka dismissed this saying the Czech Republic was not harmed by the one-off quotas. However, together with Slovakia, it was outvoted at the EU interior ministers' meeting in Brussels.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech NGOs call for better approach to migrants

A consortium of 18 Czech non-governmental organizations working with migrants last week issued a document in which it outlines the basic principles the country should adhere to in dealing with immigrants. The principles relate to the country’s asylum policy, social rights, education, work and other spheres. I spoke to the head of the Organisation for Aid to Refugees Martin Rozumek about their concerns and what triggered the joint initiative.
By Daniela Lazarová

8/10/2015- “We are shocked by the atmosphere here in the Czech Republic and we do not want to always just criticize the government but also propose some suggestions how to improve the Czech asylum and migration policy and that’s the reason why we (18 NGOs) decoded to come together and prepare such a document. It pertains to migration and integration of immigrants who have lived here for a longer period of time but there is also a chapter on asylum seekers and refugees which is of course also important.”

I read the document and I have to say that it is fairly general –can you be more specific now and tell me what it is that you are criticising and what needs changing.
“The main problem from my point of view –and that of the Organization for Aid to Refugees – is the situation of refugees in the Czech Republic, the detention of migrants and the low quality of asylum decisions. For us the main problem is how the Czech Republic treats asylum seekers who are on their way to other countries very often to join their family members in other EU member states and this policy of detention and deterrence is something that must be criticized not only by us but by the whole consortium.”

So you are saying that the Czech Republic is unfriendly towards migrants?
“Yes, for sure. We think that the Czech government somehow pursues a policy of discrimination and exploitation of migrants in many ways and we believe that the government must fundamentally change the basic principles of integration and migration policy in the Czech Republic.”

Last week Justice Minister Robert Pelikan said conditions in detention centres for migrants must improve –he called them “semi-prisons”. What needs to be changed? You visit them often…
“There are many changes needed. The Ombudswoman said already at the beginning of last year that the conditions in the Bělá-Jezová detention centre are so bad that they violate Article 3 of the Convention on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms –if you look at the living conditions and hygiene conditions. And since then the conditions have deteriorated even further. At the beginning of 2014 there were some 60 detainees in the detention centre, this year there were 700 detainees in the same place and the conditions have greatly worsened. So it is obvious that Article 3 of the European Convention is in question here and we believe that the Czech government does not comply with its international obligations. Moreover, there are many reasons why we – the Organization for Aid to Refugees and other NGOs – believe that the detention of refugees is illegal. The basic reasoning is that it doesn’t serve the purpose –ie. the Dublin transfer to the responsible country – Hungary – does not take place. And if there is a lack of purpose it means that the detention is illegal according to Article 5 F of the Convention on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms. ”

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec maintains that the country is acting in line with Czech laws and adhering to the rules governing Schengen –what do you say to those arguments?
“My opinion is that Mr. Chovanec does not know the basic principles of the Czech Constitution and that is that the country’s international obligations and European legislation must be applied before the national legislation. So it is true that according to Czech law one could argue that the policy of the Interior Ministry is within the frame of the Czech national legislation, but it is clear that the policy does not respect the Czech Republic’s international obligations and human rights treaties.”

You say in the document that migrants are only viewed as a security threat – would you elaborate on that?
“Yes, the problem is that the interior ministry, the police and secret service are basically the legislators of migration, integration and asylum in the Czech Republic. They jointly propose the main changes to the country’s migration and asylum laws. And we think that other views must be considered –labour market experts, demographic experts, universities and schools…big firms have announced that they need new workers, that they are able to offer jobs to 5,000 Syrians, that they could employ 15,000 immigrants at the present time…so we believe that the future asylum and migration policy must be drafted or constructed by many more actors including NGOs and migrant assisting organizations. Only then will we have a law that is modern and will respect human rights.”

What do you think is behind the trend of keeping a very tight asylum law?
“I think it is a way of thinking based on the assumption that every foreigner is a threat and it seems that the interior ministry and police believe that they are there to defend the country from immigrants and foreigners. Unfortunately this affects students, it affects academicians, workers, businessmen, and we think it is some kind of paranoia on the part of the Interior Ministry and what is sad is that other ministries are not very active to change this attitude. So, as I said, the Czech asylum and migration policy is constructed by the interior ministry, the police and the secret services and then of course the final result of such a policy is always restrictive and always full of obstacles for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in the Czech Republic.”

A growing number of ordinary people are now offering to help migrants, but the vast majority of Czechs are still opposed to quotas and the idea of more migrants coming. Why is that do you think? 
“In our opinion the issue of migration and asylum is still quite new in our country. After 40 years of communism we became a homogenous country of Czechs and a few Roma and mainly the older generation is not used to traveling abroad and finds it harder to accept foreigners. And then, of course, there is the role of the media which was very negative. In the last two to three years there was very bad reporting on asylum and migration issues and on the issue of the so-called Islamic State, very few positive examples, very few objective articles or objective information which would be supported by relevant statistics. There has been an improvement on the part of the media now, in the last three to four months, there are more journalists who a well-informed about the situation, who are able to follow the press in Western countries, so there is an improvement in the work of the media, but if you look at the results of public opinion polls the vast majority of Czechs are still against migrants – I think the main reasons are the ones I just mentioned. ”

The reason I asked is that I wanted to know whether you think the public is influenced by politicians and the media or whether the government is taking a populist line here because of public opinion…
“Sure, politicians are afraid of being more open on the issues of migration and asylum. They have in mind the results of polls – according to Eurobarometer 80 percent of Czechs are against refugees and according to another poll it is 70 percent – and politicians are very well aware of these numbers and they are afraid to say something different. So when you talk to them in private many of them accept that it is not so easy to say that immigrants and refugees are a threat to our country, but they are afraid that if they say this openly, publicly they would pay a price for it. But we see that even among government politicians, in the lower house and the Senate there are more and more politicians who have the courage to voice a different opinion. Mr. Pelikan, the justice minister is one, and Mr. Dienstbier, the minister for human rights, is another. And we think there will be more politicians who will openly say what they really think and will not be afraid that their party will lose points on that issue. ”

You are obviously not happy with the government’s asylum policy –are communication channels between you -or NGOs working with migrants- and the government open, or is there a communication problem?
“There is certainly a communication problem because the Interior Ministry’s department of asylum and migration policy is not open to communication at all. We discuss these issues with other experts and some advisors to ministers but basically the discussion between the ministry’s asylum department and NGOs is non-existent. This is a big problem and don’t know why, but we think there is a certain paranoia on the part of the Interior Ministry and they do not want to share their news and views with us.”

What kind of impact are you hoping this manifesto will have?
“We hope it will be a good basis for a debate in Parliament with open-minded MPs and senators and our goal is to achieve that the migration issue is not considered only from the security angle. So we are trying to “sell” this manifesto to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, we also sent it to foreign embassies and the Open Society Fund in the hope that they too will discuss the issue with the government and also with the media, because we think that as soon as public opinion is more welcoming politicians will probably speak in a different language about asylum seekers and migrants. ”
© Radio Prague

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Czech Rep: Prague Roma Pride march welcomes refugees

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

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

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

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

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Czech Rep: Minister: Detention centres for refugees must improve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nordic states fret over migrant threat to borders

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

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

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

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

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Swedish taxi drivers 'ripping off refugees'

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

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

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

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

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Headlines 2 October, 2015

Sweden's liberal reputation tarnished as race attacks rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Slovak far-right politician Kotleba blocks anti-extremist project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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European Commission wants EU states to fight hate speech

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

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

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

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

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Georgia: Two Nigerians beaten in Tbilisi, two suspects detained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Netherlands: Utrecht primary schools dump Zwarte Piet

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

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

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

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Italian police clear migrant tent camp on French border

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

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

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

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

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Croatia: Belgrade-Zagreb Row Unsettles Croatian Serb Minority

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

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

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

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

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Austrian vice chancellor threatens to quit coalition government

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

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

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

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Austria: Rise of Right Lengthens Shadow of Nazi Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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People in NI less welcoming to minorities than before - report

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brandon Tensley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Germany: Missing papers overshadow neo-Nazi trial

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

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

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

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

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

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Latvia: Islamic Culture Center worried about growing Islamophobia

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

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Malta: Migrant woman dies as police raid her home

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Daphne Caruana Galizia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Fr Joe Borg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK: Fear of Muslims tearing British society apart - Welby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK: Calls to boycott far right rally in Preston

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

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

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UK: Council bans far-right Scottish Defence League march

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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France: Nazi banner shocks locals in Nice

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

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

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French school makes Muslims and Jews wear red discs

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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