NEWS - Archive June 2017

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Headlines 2 June, 2017

Headlines 30 June, 2017

French police want to stop guarding Marine Le Pen's home

French police have said they want to stop guarding the National Front leader's house due to "unacceptable working conditions".

28/6/2017- French police trade union Alliance has denounced the "unacceptable working conditions" for the police tasked with guarding National Front leader Marine Le Pen's house in the Yvelines department to the west of Paris. Security has been in place outside the far-right leader's home for some 18 months and a police team remains in palce even when the far right leader is away. "The work is carried out in unacceptable conditions. The police guard the house sometimes for eight hours straight without a break, without being able to go to the toilet, in a vehicle without air conditioning," the union said. "Last week, when temperatures in the car reached 45C, it was necessary to step in to get them an air-conditioned vehicle," the representative from the union, Julien Le Cam told Le Parisien.

The trade union went on to say that surveillance at the house is preventing the possibility of reforming working hours at the police station and means the public road cannot be used. Authorities in Yvelines have written to the Interior Minister who will take a decision on the matter. Le Pen has been the target of several attacks during her life, both as a child and during her political career. When she was a child there was a bomb attack at her family home, targeting her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. During her 2017 presidential election campaign earlier this year, an arson attempt from an anti-racism group caused a small fire to break out at the National Front headquarters.
© The Local - France

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Sweden: Kenyan author ditches book fair over far-right newspaper

Kenyan literary icon Ngugi wa Thiong'o, often tipped for the Nobel prize, has pulled out of an annual Swedish book fair in protest at the presence of far-right newspaper Nya Tider.

28/6/2017- The 75-year-old author of 'A Grain of Wheat' (1967) and 'Petals of Blood' (1975), wrote an e-mail to his Swedish publisher Modernista informing them he would cancel his attendance at the Gothenburg Book Fair "in solidarity with the writers withdrawing and of course with the concerns behind their withdrawal", referring to the newspaper Nya Tider, which will be represented at the fair. "We can confirm that Ngugi wa Thiong'o has cancelled his attendance at the book fair in Gothenburg in the autumn," Kristofer Andersson, development director at Modernista, told AFP. Birgitta Jacobsson Ekblom, head of communications for the fair, added they had received this information and were in contact with Ngugi, a fierce critic of post-colonial Kenyan society. The event, to be held September 28th to October 1st, is Scandinavia's largest book fair and draws around 100,000 visitors each year.

On April 21st, more than 200 Swedish authors signed an article in daily Dagens Nyheter saying they would boycott the book fair if Nya Tider is represented. Additionally, 12 European national institutes of culture – from Germany, France, Romania, Spain and Portugal among others – sent an e-mail to organizers on Tuesday expressing their concern about Nya Tider's attendance and urging it to bar the publication, which has received state press subsidies since 2012. "The purpose of the e-mail, for me, was to ask where to draw the line between freedom of speech and providing hatred with a free platform," Laurent Clavel, head of the French Institute in Sweden, told public broadcaster SVT on Tuesday.

Fair organizers have, however, refused to budge on the issue. "We believe that an open dialogue is the best way to beat forces involving intolerance, racism and xenophobia," Ekblom told AFP, adding the newspaper had requested to attend the fair. Nya Tider was founded in 2012 and describes itself as "politically incorrect and honest". Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo describes it as "deeply rooted in racial ideology" with "connections to the Nordic Resistance Movement".
© The Local - Sweden

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Poland: Muslim girls complain of Polish racism on Holocaust study trip

German Muslim schoolgirls who went on a visit to Holocaust memorials in eastern Poland say they were racially abused by locals during their trip.

28/6/2017- The girls, from a Berlin school, spoke on Deutschlandfunk radio about their experience. Four were wearing Muslim headscarves - and say they were abused. One girl said a man had spat on her in the street in Lublin, as police stood by grinning and did nothing. Another girl said she was expelled from a shop for speaking Persian. She had been speaking to her brother on the phone. "They came up to me and said 'can you leave, you're disturbing the people here'. And I thought: Why? Just because I'm speaking Persian and I'm a foreigner? Yes," she told the radio station. A Lublin police statement on Tuesday said "the trip participants did not report any complaints to Lublin police officers". Group members had addressed two policemen in English, who "heard from the people translating that there was no problem", the statement said, adding: "the people exchanged polite smiles". It also said police had examined CCTV footage, but it did "not show any incident involving foreigners".

Spitting and knives
In Lublin, the girls said, a market stallholder had refused to sell them water because they were foreigners. On another occasion, one girl was reportedly threatened with a knife. And one girl said that in Lodz "a woman just came up to me and shouted 'get out!' and threw her drink over me and my camera - she said 'get lost!'" They were among a group of 20 children - mostly Muslims - from the Theodor Heuss Community School in Berlin-Moabit. The idea of the visit came from a teacher who has encouraged students to find out about Germany's Jewish past. In 2015, Sabeth Schmidthals took another group of mainly Muslim pupils to Israel.

The Poland trip was arranged by a German Holocaust memorial body, the House of the Wannsee Conference. Its director, Hans-Christian Jasch, said: "I'm especially shocked that this happened to youngsters in our care on this trip - indeed, on a trip dedicated to studying this very topic [racism]. Of course that's particularly sad." He plans to complain to the Polish embassy in Berlin. The Berlin group visited Majdanek, a camp on the outskirts of Lublin where the Nazi German SS murdered Jews during World War Two. They also visited Treblinka, site of another Nazi death camp, and the cities of Warsaw and Lodz, whose Jewish communities were slaughtered by the Nazis. The purpose of the trip was also to find out about the suffering of Polish civilians in general under Nazi occupation.

The Polish National Prosecutor's Office says that in 2016 anti-Muslim hate attacks almost doubled in Poland, compared with 2015. "Foreigners residing in Poland, especially individuals from Arab countries, more and more often experience various types of attacks," said Sylwia Spurek, Polish Deputy Ombudsperson for Human Rights. She told the BBC that the authorities - especially the police - must act against the "growing aversion or even hostility" towards foreigners.

Block on refugees
Poland's nationalist government refuses to take in Muslim refugees, arguing that they would struggle to integrate in Poland's Catholic-majority society. The EU is in dispute with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary on the issue. The four countries reject an EU decision to relocate 160,000 refugees - many of them Muslim Syrians - currently stuck at reception centres in Italy and Greece. The leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said in October 2015 that the refugees posed a health hazard. He was speaking shortly before PiS triumphed in a general election. "Also there are some differences related to geography, various parasites, protozoa that are common and are not dangerous in the bodies of these people, (but) may be dangerous here," he said. Defending Poland's policy, Science and Higher Education Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said "every nation and people has a right to protect itself from extinction".
© BBC News.

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Polish police chief fired after far-right attack

27/6/2017- Poland's government has fired a local police chief following a weekend clash in which far-right nationalists attacked an anti-government protest. Police have also detained three men suspected in the attack in Radom on Saturday. State-run news media reported Tuesday that the Interior Ministry had fired Piotr Kostkiewicz, the police chief in Radom. Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said Monday that there might not have been enough police officers on the ground as the two sides held rallies. An investigation is also underway. On Monday ruling party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek drew criticism for saying she could "understand" the emotions of those who attacked the anti-government activists. She later said she strongly condemned the violence.
© The Associated Press

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Germany set for vote on gay marriage after Merkel shift

27/6/2017- Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are pushing for a vote this week to legalize gay marriage, capitalizing on a surprise shift from conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel three months before an election. The issue became a hot election topic after Merkel's three potential coalition partners, including her current SPD partners, made it a condition for sharing power, effectively forcing the conservative chancellor's hand. At an event hosted by women's magazine "Brigitte" on Monday evening, Merkel said she had taken note of other German parties favoring same-sex marriage and would allow a free vote. "I would like to lead the discussion more into a situation where it is a question of conscience rather than something I push through with a majority vote," she said. The move could antagonize some in her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc, some of whom oppose any change. Merkel has previously argued against same-sex marriage.

SPD leader Martin Schulz said on Tuesday his party would push for a vote in parliament this week, before the start of the summer recess. "I hope our colleagues in the conservatives will cooperate," he said, raising the pressure on his conservative partners - who want a vote after the election. Schulz needs to make up ground for his center-left party in the election race and has sharpened his attacks on Merkel, but he made clear he would not end the coalition. Merkel's conservatives accused him of acting irresponsibly. "That is a breach of trust," said Volker Kauder, head of Merkel's conservative bloc in parliament, adding the SPD's behavior on such a sensitive topic showed it was "not suited to government". With broad support among Germans for gay marriage, the law would likely get easy approval in the lower house of parliament if conservatives could vote according to their conscience and not face a party whip.

Polls put Merkel's conservatives 10-15 points ahead of the SPD, but short of a parliamentary majority. The SPD, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens have made gay marriage, a step up from same-sex civil partnerships which have been allowed since 2001, a condition for a tie-up. The LSVD association representing gays welcomed Merkel's shift while describing it as a face-saving measure. "After 15 years of an ideological blockade .. social pressure and the commitments of other parties have made an impact," said LSVD spokesman Axel Hochrein. "Equal rights for all people is part of our constitution," he said.
© Reuters

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Netherlands: Deep-lying, even violent, divisions are a recurring theme in Dutch history

Historian James Kennedy’s new history of the Netherlands shows that the Dutch tradition of tolerance was not driven by idealism, but a hard-headed need to hold together the patchwork of minority groups that made up the nation

26/6/2017- To many outside observers the recent Dutch election campaign, and particularly the dominance of Geert Wilders and the issues of migration and identity, came as a violent shock. A country that had long been viewed – and sometimes derided – around the world as a bastion of tolerance, progressivism and unencumbered dope-smoking seemed to have succumbed to the populist bug. On the BBC’s Newsnight programme, John Sweeney confronted a voter in The Hague with the question: ‘When I was young Holland was the most tolerant and open society. What’s changed?’ The sense of aggrieved innocence was palpable, as if a much-loved celebrity from the 1960s had been exposed as an alcoholic wife-beating racist. James Kennedy’s new history of the Netherlands should be required reading for anyone trying to understand this trend. Kennedy, an American historian of Dutch heritage, was appointed dean of University College Utrecht in 2015, having moved to the Netherlands in 2003. ‘Since at least the seventeenth century there has been a sense, at least among some Dutch, that they were superior to others because of their tolerance,’ he says. ‘It’s something that also characterised the predominantly Protestant nature of this country over its Catholic minority.

Hierarchical
‘That has a double legacy, because on the one hand it was a Protestant culture that did truly commit itself to a kind of freedom of conscience, but at the same time it was a hierarchical relationship. As I say in the book, there were people who tolerated and people who were tolerated. Tolerance was never intended to create equality of opportunity, and for a long time it certainly did not mean equal access before the law or equal social or intellectual status.’ The limits of Dutch tolerance were reflected during the election campaign when Mark Rutte published an open letter ‘to all Dutch people’, but whose harshest criticism was reserved for a minority who refused to ‘act normal’. ‘We feel increasingly restless when people abuse our freedoms to stir things up, when that very freedom was the reason they came to our country’, wrote Rutte. The prime minister later denied that his words were directed at migrant groups, but Kennedy says the message was clear. ‘It’s the idea that this is a normal country full of normal people, and those people are like you and me, or like the prime minister, and if you’re not normal then you don’t belong in this country. But it’s is a particularly rude and confrontational choice of words; even by historic standards, it’s a very direct way of saying who belongs and who doesn’t belong.’

Golden Age
In his history Kennedy shows how the current polarisation and hardening of the political debate reflects the deep-lying, even violent divisions that are a recurring theme in Dutch history. He describes the popular uprisings of the Golden Age, when magistrates would come home to find their homes had been plundered and their worldly goods chucked in the canal by an angry mob. A more recent parallel is with the 1970s, when the political landscape was fragmented and divided, the rigid divisions between Protestants, Catholics and social democrats were breaking down, and there was widespread social anxiety driven by terrorism and fears about migrants – in that time the Surinamese – failing to fit in and radicalising. Kennedy cautions against drawing too many parallels between the past and the present, but he notes: ‘There were 600 people wounded in the altercations between the police and the rioters in Amsterdam during the installation of Queen Beatrix in 1980. That’s a level of violence that we couldn’t countenance in this society any more. We’d all be astonished by it. So I think 37 years ago there was a greater acceptance that violence and terror went with the territory. But it does show that polarisation and ugly confrontations in the public sphere are not something unique to our own time.’

One of the core lessons of Kennedy’s book is that tolerance is not something that comes naturally to the Dutch or an accident of history, but the outcome of a rigorous, sometimes gruelling process of confrontation and compromise. ‘Although I think I’m very clear about my appreciation of Dutch achievement, I also show that that achievement was often a perilous exercise, and that attempts to idealise the past are not the best way to consider the present. Social harmony and peace involve reconciling tough and sometimes intractable differences.’ He cites as an example the way the Dutch presented their euthanasia policy to the world in the 1990s. ‘They never said, “we’re more humane than you are” or “we’re better than helping people out of their misery”. What they said was: “We talk about it. We try to sort things out.” That’s something I’ve always found interesting about the Dutch: they have this commitment to keeping the lines of communication open for some greater good before things lapse into violence or miscommunication.’

The rising sea
As a country the Netherlands is shaped to an unusual degree by its inhabitants rather than its landscape. Kennedy notes that even the fact that much of the country lies below sea level is the legacy of centuries of extracting clay to make bricks, in the absence of natural building materials. Measuring and mapping the world – another Golden Age speciality – is the first step towards controlling it. Kennedy explains: ‘If you want to understand Dutch progressivism, it’s built on two things. One is that there is this willingness to let groups or individuals give free form to their own lives. Up until the 1960s that meant letting people be themselves in a collective way, but more recently it’s changed to letting individuals be themselves. But the other thing is that there is this very, very strong regulatory tendency. Part of Dutch progressivism is seeing social trends and coming up with working arrangements so that nothing gets out of hand. In that sense there’s a control-freak side to Dutch society.’

Between the 1970s and the start of the 21st century the Dutch strategy of settling difficulties by consensus produced a string of pioneering policies in areas such as soft drugs, prostitution, psychological treatment for prisoners, euthanasia and gay rights. Though all these innovations, with the possible exception of equal marriage rights, had negative as well as positive consequences, they contributed to the Dutch self-image of being a beacon of progressivism – a gidsland – that had the confidence and expertise to help build a better, more progressive world. Many foreign observers looked on in admiration, unaware of the conditions that had produced this pragmatic attitude, and concluded that the Netherlands was simply a more advanced society – in John Sweeney’s words, the ‘most liberal country in Europe’.

Changes?
So what, to pose Sweeney’s question again, has changed? Fifteen years have gone by since the last groundbreaking social reform, Els Borst’s law permitting euthanasia, and Kennedy believes the pioneering era has passed. ‘I think two things have changed,’ he says. ‘The first is that what made the Dutch distinctive 15 years ago is no longer distinctively Dutch. There are other countries where euthanasia is allowed, there are other countries where gay marriage is settled law. The other thing is that the Dutch have come to talk about these things as past achievements to be cherished and defended. In that sense they’ve become more socially conservative. There’s a stronger focus on preserving what’s valuable about Dutch society. That’s a very different mentality from the 1990s.’

It was also around the same time that Pim Fortuyn arrived on the scene and articulated the grievances of those who did not celebrate the postwar consensus, particularly when it came to multiculturalism. ‘What Fortuyn did was he catalysed doubt: silent doubt about the pieties of the last century and of the latter part of the century,’ says Kennedy. ‘When I came here in 2003 I remember thinking that multiculturalism as an ideal in the Netherlands was dead. It was the year after Fortuyn had been murdered and they were still letting the dust settle. But I think these more conservative tendencies and trends have become much more marked now than I anticipated even at that time.’

Shifting debate
The public debate has shifted, says Kennedy, from the ideological differences of the 1970s to divisions based on personal and cultural identity. ‘It’s really about what kind of country and what kind of society the Netherlands should be, and how we understand the dangers. I don’t think that was true in the 1970s. You could still talk about the ideological triangle between Christian democracy, social democracy and liberalism, and that’s largely fallen away now. ‘Globalisation has destroyed the traditional left-right distinctions. You get people on the right and on the left who feel left behind, and you get people on the right and the left who feel globalisation and open borders is a great thing. ‘But globalisation has also created the need for different kinds of identification.

One of the things that strikes me is that 2017 is the breakthrough year of a party like Denk, which had been predicted for years. It shows in a way how slow migrant communities were to pick up on alternate forms of politics. For a long time Dutch parties were surprisingly successful in integrating them, particularly the PvdA (Labour party), but this is no longer the case.’
The Dutch instinct for consensus is two-edged: Kennedy declares at the outset of his book his admiration for their ability to shape ‘order out of chaos’, both in the landscape and the political arena. But in our interview he admits that he predicted as far back as 2000, before the rise and murder of Fortuyn, that the Dutch were ‘likely to become undone by their own progressivism’. The doubt that Fortuyn, and Geert Wilders after him, galvanised has forced the Netherlands to confront its progressive reputation and test the limits of its own tolerance like never before.

Challenges
Looking ahead, Kennedy says he expects the challenges of the next few years, such as the retreat of the US from the global stage under Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ banner and the effect of Brexit in Europe, as well as the prevailing anxieties about terrorism and migration, to amplify the sense that the Dutch way of life needs to be protected from existential threats. ‘You’ll have parties on all sides that continue to emphasise national identity. I don’t think it’s going to be quite in a Donald Trump style, but I do think that there will be a strong tendency to do that.’ Kennedy contends that the feeling of lost innocence that the likes of John Sweeney experienced during the election is a force in Dutch society too. ‘I think for a long time the Dutch felt they were at the end of history, that they had escaped every human peril and become a completely free people in a completely free society. Since the turn of the century there have been profound doubts about that vision. So now the question is what is that history, and to what extent does that history matter? That’s one reason for writing this book now.’
A Concise History of the Netherlands by James Kennedy is published by Cambridge University Press on June 30.
© The Dutch News

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UK: Group targeted with 'Islamophobic language' after visiting mosque for worship

28/6/2017- A group of people were racially abused outside an Earlswood pub after visiting a mosque for worship. The suspects are said to have used Islamophobic language before pushing and rocking the vehicle that the victims were travelling in the early hours of Saturday (June 24). The incident took place near the Old Chestnut pub in Earlswood Road around 12.15am. The victims had been at a mosque for worship prior to being targeted, police said. Officers are examining CCTV images to help to identify the suspects. Patrols have been stepped up in the area. East Surrey Superintendent Clive Davies said: "We will not tolerate any form of hate crime and a full and thorough investigation is underway to identify the suspects and ensure they are brought to justice. "We have also stepped up patrols in the area to provide a visible and reassuring presence. "Surrey Police remains fully committed to investigating all reports of hate crime, and we are continuing to urge anyone who believes they have been the victim of hate crime to report it to us straightaway."


If you witnessed this incident, or you have any other information which could assist the investigation, contact Surrey Police on 101, quoting crime reference number 45170067079 or you can use the online reporting system found at https://report.police.uk and enter the reference number in the 'Additional information' section.
Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111
.
© The Surrey Mirror

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UK: Birmingham rally by Britain First passes without major disorde

Approximately 250 supporters of the party were escorted by police on a short route through the city centre.

24/6/2017- A rally by the far-right Britain First group has passed without any major disorder after a high-profile policing operation. An estimated 250 supporters of the party were escorted by police on a short route through Birmingham city centre, with a similar number of people attending nearby counter-protests. Officers said one arrest had been made for a minor public order offence after several roads were closed briefly to allow protesters to move from the Hill Street area to Centenary Square. During the protests, a smoke bomb was let off and a plastic bottle was thrown at officers, who repeatedly had to form cordons to prevent rival protesters from confronting each other. In a statement issued prior to the march, West Midlands Police said: “We recognise the impact such protests can have on the city but we have no power to ban a static peaceful protest. “In fact, we and the council have a duty to facilitate the fundamental democratic right of peaceful protest.”

Saffiyah Khan, whose image went viral online in April after she was pictured smiling during scuffles at an English Defence League march, attended Saturday’s protests as part of a film crew documenting both sides of the event. Speaking near where she was pictured standing face-to-face with EDL leader Ian Crossland, Ms Khan said of Britain First: “I think, like with the EDL and every right-wing group that comes to Birmingham, they cause a bit of a scene, affect traffic, affect locals and they come in from all over the UK. “While they have the right to be doing that, as part of freedom of speech… if they march they will be doing it on the police’s rules and more importantly the community’s rules – and they will be challenged by locals.”
© The Belfast Telegraph

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UK: Dutch and Polish far-right activists detained at UK airports

Swoop by border police comes amid concerns over links between UK and Polish far-right groups.

24/6/2017- A string of iconic figures from Europe's far-right movement have been detained by UK border police hours before they were due to speak at an anti-Islam rally in Birmingham, organisers have said. The group was due to march with Britain First activists through the city on Saturday (24 June), in a sign of the growing links between British "extremists" and nationalists abroad. But Polish Catholic priest Jacek Miedlar – branded a "fanatical hate preacher" by anti-racism campaigners in Poland – and fellow anti-Islam activist Piotr Rybak – once convicted for burning an effigy of a Jew – were both detained by border police after landing at Luton Airport on Saturday morning. At around the same time, Dutch national Edwin Wagensveld, who is head of his country's branch of anti-Islam movement Pegida, was also held at Birmingham airport, Britain First told IBTimes UK. All three figures were due to speak at the Birmingham rally.

It comes after anti-extremism campaigners in both Poland and the UK had warned of their visits to Britain, accusing them of spreading Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Miedlar, who is currently suspended by his local Catholic church for his firebrand nationalist sermons, has addressed tens of thousands people at right-wing revival rallies in Poland. His critics accuse him of using radical sermon-like speeches to spread anti-Semitism, homophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. In February, he was denied entry to the UK hours before he was due to speak at another Britain First rally in Telford on suspicion of hate speech offences. After being forced to return to Poland he blamed the "Jewish secret service". "Miedlar is a radical nationalist on every front: anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic," Rafal Pankowski, a professor at Warsaw's Collegium Civitas and director of Poland's Never Again anti-racism group, told IBTimes UK.

Accusing Rybak of being a "symbol of violent extremism", Prof Pankowski said the pair's aim is to radicalise young Poles living in Britain against Muslim communities. "Both Miedlar and Rybak are very well known for their intensity in their message of hate ... The idea is to create as much tension between communities in the UK as they can," he said.  Britain First's anti-Islam protest in Birmingham, where police said fewer than 200 people are expected to attend, comes in the wake of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. The far-right party describes itself as "committed to maintaining and strengthening Christianity as the foundation of our society and culture" and repeatedly warns its followers of a coming "civil war" with Islam. Its activists are notorious for what critics call "provocative" street-level action in areas of the UK that are home to large Muslim communities, including so-called "mosque invasions" and "Christian patrols".

Deputy leader of the party, Jayda Fransen, condemned the detention of Miedlar, Rybak and Wagensveld by border authorities, calling it "illegal". "They have not committed any crime – it's completely ridiculous," she told IBTimes UK. In the wake of Monday's attack outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate accused Britain First and other prominent anti-Islam activists of having fueled "a climate of hate" against Muslims.
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: Amnesty calls for review of hate crime legal framework and police training

24/6/2017- Amnesty International UK (AI) [advocacy website] on Friday called for [press release] improved police training and a review of the legal framework as they relate to hate crimes in the UK. In a news briefing tilted "Against Hate: Tackling hate crime in the UK" [PDF], AI highlights a 42 per cent rise in hate crime in the two weeks prior to and following the EU referendum vote in 2016, primarily against members of minorities including, but not limited, to new migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. AI noted its particular concern that "significant numbers of victims do not report their experiences to the police or other relevant organisations," adding: " police have not always regarded such offences with the seriousness they should - if, indeed, they have recognised them as offences at all." AI reasoned that the under-reporting of hate crimes is a reflection of the poor understanding of hate crime—"how it is defined, what forms it takes and how it applies in law - among actual and potential hate crime victims."

Among the recommendations AI makes in its briefing to improve the situation include: 1) extended review of the hate crime legal framework in the UK 2) adopting policies to speak out against discriminatory language 3) sensitivity training for public officials, police officers, and others in the law enforcement and justice sectors, 4) fostering community engagement by public officials and law enforcement, 5) monitoring online hate crime, and 6) extending the category of protected groups to include gender, age, socio-economic status and any and all characteristics that should have equal legal protection. The AI briefing documents the accounts of various individuals who have been subjected to hate crimes in the UK. Referring to the events following the recent London and Manchester attacks, AI UK Director Kate Allen stated:
we have seen reports of a rise in demonising language and dangerous comments that can cause real harm to real people. Now, more than ever, we must stand together against this hatred .... We are now calling for police to receive increased training in how to respond to hate crime and support victims, for more resources to assist investigation and prosecution, and for more awareness in how victims can report hate crimes.

Almost a year ago the UK Home Office [official website] encouraged prosecutors to use tougher sentences [JURIST report] against hate crimes in response to the nation's increasingly hostile environment since the EU referendum. That move came as a response to the more than 6,000 hate crimes and incidents reported to the authorities since June 2016. Hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years both within and outside the US. In November, the FBI [official website] released [JURIST report] the 2015 Hate Crime Statistics showing the number of hate crimes reported to police to have increased by about 6.7 percent the previous year, led largely by a 67 percent rise in crimes against Muslims. Two months prior, a report compiled by California State University, San Bernardino [official website] similarly revealed [JURIST report] an increase in hate crimes in 2015, particularly among Muslims and Arab-Americans. The study compiled data from 20 states, representing over 53 percent of the national population. Overall hate crimes across the 20 states increased by about 5 percent. However, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 78 percent. Despite the increase of hate crimes, five states still do not have any hate-crime statutes [NYT report]: Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming and Indiana.
© The Jurist - Paper Chase

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Czech Rep: Foreign activists seek removal of controversial pig farm

24/6/2017- The EU must stop subsidising the AGPI firm that owns a pig farm on the site of a World War Two Roma concentration camp in Lety, Benjamin Abtan, anti-racist European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) president, told CTK at an activists' meeting today. A member of the management of AGPI company, which owns the pig far, told CTK that it receives no subsidies from the EU for the farm's operation. Negotiations on the buy-out of the farm will continue in July, AGPI said. The meeting in Lety, to which some 300 people from 15 countries arrived, was also attended by Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan. Abtan said Lety is an international symbol of disrespect for Holocaust victims and a shame of the Czech Republic. He said the situation has an easy solution: the EU must stop the subsidies it pays to the pig farm and the farm owners must make an accommodating gesture because the decency of the Holocaust victims is more than its profit.

Responsibility rests with the Czech Republic because Roma people with Czech citizenship were imprisoned and tortured in Lety and the guards and murderers were Czech police, Abtan said. The removal of the pig farm would cost several million euros, which is nothing for the Czech state budget, Abtan said. He said unless agreement with the farm owners is possible, the Czech state will have to expropriate the farm. EGAM associates 53 human rights organisations. Jan Cech, deputy head of the AGPI board, told CTK that the firm receives no European subsidies for the farm's operation. "This year, last year, the year before, none whatsoever. These are the activists' platitudes," Cech said. The Czech government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) says it wants to complete the talks with the farm owners. The culture ministry has had an expert opinion on the value of the land, real estate and technological equipment of the farm worked out. The farm also has its own proposal.

Activists fear that the matter will not be completed by the October general election. Pelikan told CTK that the government has assigned the culture and human rights ministries to prepare the buy-out of the pig farm, but this has not yet been fulfilled. Cech said AGPI has been in permanent contact with the culture ministry. "Various expert opinions, proposals have been made, questions raised, but no one has ever proposed a price. Everything is being prepared, a team has been formed at the culture ministry," Cech said, adding that no specific proposal has been made, however. "I believe that a commemorative place and nothing else, the less so a pig farm, should be on such site. This is terrible. When I was inside to see it, a cattle waggon with a new supply of pigs for liquidation arrived. The parallel was awful," Pelikan said.

The Lety camp was opened as a labour and disciplinary one by the Nazi-controlled authorities in August 1940. From 1942 until May 1943, 1308 Roma men, women and children passed through the camp. Out of them, 327 died there and more than 500 died in Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Fewer than 600 Roma prisoners returned from concentration camps after the war. The Nazis murdered an estimated 90 percent of Czech Roma people. A place of remembrance was opened in Lety in 2010.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Ireland: Survey shows continued bullying, harassment of young LGBTI people

Issues including non-inclusive sex education and lack of gender-neutral bathrooms

24/6/2017- Members of the LGBTI+ community continue to be subjected to bullying, harassment and discrimination in Irish society despite the progress of recent years according to new research. Preliminary results from a State-sponsored online survey of 4,000 young people found that more than a fifth of LGBTI+ respondents, which includes those who identify as gay, transgender and intersex, say they continually face bullying and harassment in public spaces, school and work. Other issues that continue to cause anguish to LGBTI+ young people include non-inclusive sex education at primary and secondary level, and a lack of provision for gender-neutral bathrooms according to the survey results. On the upside, respondents noted increasing levels of tolerance, openness and acceptance following the historic passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015.

The online consultations carried out by youth affairs platform SpunOut.ie earlier this year form part of the research phase for a world-first LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy which has been commissioned by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Popular recommendations among those who took the survey include further law reform around areas such as hate crime legislation, gender recognition for under-18s and the removal of obstacles for adoption and surrogacy.

Sex education classes
In addition, the remit of sex education classes should be widened to include topics such as gender, relationships and sexuality on top of the core elements of safe sex and consent, and young people also want to see more LGBTI+ awareness training provided to healthcare staff. “This is a wake-up call for young people, campaigners and politicians gathering for Pride that our work is not over,” said Ms Zappone. “Even with these preliminary results it is clear the National Youth Strategy will require actions across Government. It will be challenging. However it is work we must commit to if we are to secure equality, fairness and justice for all,” she added. Irish Times columnist Una Mullally is chair of the strategy, and she said a number of clear themes are emerging even at this early stage of its development. “There is recognition of the social advances of recent years; however bullying, discrimination and isolation remain a reality for many young people,” she said. The initial survey results were compiled in advance of today’s Dublin Pride parade, the pinnacle of a week-long festival of events in the capital.
© The Irish Times.

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Headlines 23 June, 2017

Russia: No racism in Sochi, mayor insists after racism row at parade

20/6/2017- The mayor of the Russian city of Sochi's has promised football fans there is no racism in the 2018 World Cup host city after FIFA denounced a parade featuring people in blackface. The procession in the Black Sea resort featured costumes of the Confederations Cup participants ahead of the eight-team World Cup warm-up event. One person was pictured wearing an afro-style wig and bananas on a string, while the other was wearing a Cameroon jersey and a headdress while holding a drum. Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov accepts "we need to inform the residents of the city about what is unpleasant for different ethnicities." But speaking through a translator, Pakhomov maintained that "there is no racism in Sochi because this is a city where many ethnicities live."
© The Associated Press

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UK: Anti-Muslim hate crime surges after Manchester and London Bridge attacks

Police record fivefold rise in Islamophobic attacks after arena bombing, with spike in London before Finsbury Park attack

20/6/2017- Police in Manchester and London registered surges in anti-Muslim hate crime in the immediate aftermaths of the Manchester Arena bombing and the London Bridge attack. The number of Islamophobic attacks in Manchester went up fivefold in the week after the concert bombing, with 139 incidents reported to Tell Mama, the group recording Islamophobic crimes, compared to 25 incidents the previous week. Police chiefs said there had also been a short-term spike in London before this week’s Finsbury Park mosque attack – although precise data is not yet available. Police forces around the country have stepped up protection for Muslim communities in the wake of the Finsbury Park attack, with the home secretary, Amber Rudd, pledging that the extra resource will remain in place “for as long as it is needed”.

In one case, Naveed Yasin, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon who helped save the lives of people injured in the Manchester attack, was racially abused and labelled a “terrorist” on his way to work at Salford Royal hospital. Other incidents around the country included one involving a woman from Southampton whose veil was ripped from her head, and another involving a man struck with a glass bottle. Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said both Manchester and the Met police had registered short-term spikes in hate crime. In Manchester, the volume had since returned to the levels seen before the bombing, but the picture in London is still unclear. “We know that terrorist attacks and other national and global events have the potential to trigger short-term spikes of hate crime,” said Hamilton in a statement before the Finsbury Park attack. “For this reason we have increased the central reporting of hate crimes for police forces so that we can identify trends and assess threats.”

The NPCC are now collecting and monitoring weekly figures of hate crime levels from forces across England and Wales, as they did last summer in the aftermath of the EU referendum. Rudd has said indicative figures suggest that more than half of those who experience hate because of their religion are Muslim. The limited data available appears to suggest an ever rising level of Islamophobic attacks. The Met police say the volume of hate crime they record as Islamophobic attacks has increased sharply in the last four years. The force recorded 343 incidents in the 12 months to March 2013, 1,109 in the 12 months to March 2016 and 1,260 in the 12 months to this March. The Met pointed out that the Finsbury Park attack was not the first act of terrorism against Muslim communities.

In 2013 a Ukrainian neo-Nazi, Pavlo Lapshyn, murdered 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem and tried to bomb several West Midlands mosques in the hope of instigating a “race war”. A year later, a neo-Nazi named Ian Forman was jailed for 10 years after plotting to bomb mosques in Merseyside. The far-right leader Tommy Robinson has been accused of trying to exploit the Finsbury Park attack by referring to it as “a revenge attack”. There is growing evidence of a rising trend in far-right activity in Britain. Last December, National Action became the first far-right extremist group to be banned by the home secretary under counter-terrorist proscription legislation. The latest Home Office figures for terror-related arrests showed that 113 white people were arrested in the 12 months to March 2017, compared with 68 the previous year – an increase of 66%. The Home Office statistics make no distinction between those involved in far-right groups or white Muslim converts. The figures show 16% of terror-related arrests were for “domestic terrorism” as opposed to “international terrorism”, as Isis-related attacks are described.
© The Guardian.

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Ukraine: Kiev hosts largely incident-free gay pride march

18/6/2017- Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats joined thousands marching for gay pride in Kiev on Sunday, carrying banners and waving rainbow and Ukrainian flags in a parade flanked by a thick cordon of helmeted police. Some supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights see progress in Ukraine as symptomatic of the country's closer integration with the European Union and rejection of its ties with neighboring Russia. Sunday's march was largely incident-free, although around 200 people protested, variously calling it an affront to traditional values and to soldiers fighting pro-Russian separatist rebels in the eastern Donbass region. Ukrainian authorities have increased their support for gay rights since a pro-Western government took power following the Maidan protests in 2014. In 2015, a law was passed banning workplace discrimination against the LGBT community. But critics say homophobic attitudes remain widespread.

Six people were detained for trying to breach the security cordon, the police said in a statement. "Sunny & well organised #KyivPride2017. Another step forward for equality in #Ukraine," Judith Gough, the British ambassador to Ukraine who joined the march, wrote in a tweet. A day before the parade, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister on European and Euroatlantic Integration, said the parade would help Ukraine shake off its "imperial legacy". "There is a consensus in society on the movement of our state in the direction of Europe," she wrote on Facebook. "This is not a choice about material wealth. This is a value choice," she said, adding that a pivot to Europe meant Ukraine learning to respect "individuality and diversity". Sunday's march was a far cry from the violent clashes witnessed at the same event in 2015 but protesters also made their voices heard. "We cannot allow this march when the country is at war and our brothers are dying on the front," said Igor, 33. "The Bible and our history are against them."

The city was embroiled in gay rights row this year as it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest with a slogan to 'Celebrate Diversity'. A plan to paint a Soviet-era monument in rainbow colors was resisted by hard-right groups.
© Reuters

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Sweden Democrats leader Ĺkesson: 'I support immigration'

Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the populist Sweden Democrats (SD) party, was interrupted twice as he spoke to a hostile crowd at the Järvaveckan cross-party political forum on Saturday.

18/6/2017- Åkesson, who claimed in his speech to support immigration, also said that immigrants must understand how Swedish society works, reports news agency TT. The SD party leader was initially interrupted shortly after beginning his speech by people in the crowd shouting “Jimmie, racist” and other slogans, according to the report. “I think one theme is democracy and an important part of democracy is dialogue. To be able to talk to each other without using ugly words and yelling and instead showing respect for each other’s opinions,” Åkesson said after resuming his speech. He was interrupted a second time a few minutes later. The Sweden Democrats leader was also met with applause when he said that another important part of democracy was that “you do not have to listen”. A recent opinion poll from Sweden's largest statistics agency suggests that the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats have taken the lead over the opposition Moderate Party as Sweden's second-largest political party.

The party, which has roots in the neo-Nazi movements of the 1990s, has an official zero-tolerance approach to racism. But several elected Sweden Democrat politicians have been forced to vacate their seats over anti-Semitic or racist statements over the years. In his Järvaveckan speech, Åkesson addressed people living in the Järva area, asking who in the audience was born abroad. Most of those in the crowd did not appear to have ethnic minority backgrounds. “You must make an effort, you must learn the language, you must understand how Swedish society works, you must understand social codes, you must be able to support yourselves. That way we can build a cohesive Sweden again,” Åkesson said. The Sweden Democrats should not be perceived by immigrants as a party that wants to "eat your children”, he added, and tried to explain to crowds why they should vote for his party. “It is very wise [to vote for SD]. It is no wonder that if you are living in areas where there is organised crime then your everyday life is restricted. Is it wrong, then, to turn to the party that wants to fight these negative trends in society? I don’t think so,” he said.

Nationalist party leader Åkesson went on to claim that he supports immigration. “I support immigration. Sweden has always had immigration. And when it is up to me, we will still have immigration in this country. That’s the way it is. But that doesn’t mean we should have uncontrolled immigration. On the contrary. We must take responsibility. We must have responsible politics,” he said. “As a nationalist, I see it as my primary task to bridge the gaps that exist,” he added.
© The Local - Sweden

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Spain: Thousands protest for more refugees in Madrid

For the second time in a matter of months, thousands of Spaniards have demanded their government do its part for refugees. Spain has resettled fewer than ten percent of the refugees it promised to take in by September.

17/6/2017- Thousands of demonstrators braved scorching temperatures in Madrid on Saturday to call on their government to honor its pledge to take in more Syrian refugees. Despite agreeing to accept more than 17,000 asylum seekers, so far Spain has only resettled about 1,300. "We want to welcome them now! Enough excuses, no more barriers," read one large banner at the start of the march. The demonstration was organized by Amnesty International alongside several other NGOs just a few days ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday.

EU resettlement plan
According to a controversial resettlement deal signed by European Union member states at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, the bloc agreed to redistribute the asylum seekers based on a quota system. The object was to show solidarity and to ease the burden on overwhelmed authorities in frontline nations Greece and Italy. The original plan called for 160,000 refugees to be relocated by this September. Estimates of exactly how many have been moved thus far vary across sources, but it is clear that the number is nowhere near 160,000.

Spain not alone
This was not the first time that Spaniards have taken Madrid to task for failing to live up to its words. In February, more than 150,000 people marched in Barcelona to demand resettlement be implemented faster. Spain is far from the only country not to stick to the bargain, however. Indeed, some countries have made public their disdain for the deal. Last week, the EU said it was pursuing legal action against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept more refugees.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: a new ‘feminist’ Islam is hoping to make a mark

17/6/2017- Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith. “Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor. Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.

And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith. Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith. “The intention is to give liberal Islam a sacred space,” Ates said. “I feel very discriminated by regular mosques where women have to pray in ugly backrooms.” The subject of withering criticism as well as hopeful support, the house of worship is part of a small but growing number of liberal mosques founded all or in part by women.
Seen by their backers as an antidote to gender bias that often leaves Muslim women praying in smaller spaces, the new kind of “feminist mosques” amount to a rallying cry for change, observers say.

In London, for instance, the female-founded Inclusive Mosque Initiative opened its doors in 2012. Female imams routinely lead prayers in spaces that welcome male and female Muslims of any sect — gays and lesbians included. More recently, mixed-gender or all-female prayers have spread to boutique mosques from California to Switzerland to Denmark. Women and men traditionally pray separately in mosques for reasons of modesty. Some argue that the Koran does not explicitly call for separation, but others say that female voices should not be heard during prayer. Nevertheless, women are said to have served as imams in ancient Islam, and female Muslim activists have been challenging the norms surrounding the religion for decades. Notable among these activists is Amina Wadud, an American who famously delivered a Friday sermon at a South African mosque in 1994.

Enter Ates, who opened the Berlin mosque largely through donations. A 54-year-old Turkish Kurd, she is both well known and polarizing in Germany’s Muslim community of more than 4 million. As a student, she narrowly survived a gun attack at a counseling center for Turkish women. And after years of fighting for women’s rights, repeated death threats forced her to close her legal practice in 2006. The debut of her mosque brought a round of fire on social media from critics. “#Mosque without #Islam. Those who know Ates know that she is in favor of an Islam that is not based on its sources,” tweeted the advocacy group Generation Islam. Burhan Kesici, chairman of the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, dismissed her house of worship as a fad. “We’re observing this and are wondering . . . how what is happening there is supposed to be rooted in Islam at all,” he said. He added, “Of course women are equal. That there’s a separation in religious practice doesn’t mean that they’re not equal. I’m curious how long this congregation will last. . . . It seems a random conglomerate of different Islam critics.”

At the inaugural service Friday, the mosque housed inside an old theater space of a Protestant church lured more journalists than worshipers, as well as a significant security presence. Among the young Muslims attending was Haithm al-Kubati, 26, a Yemeni who moved to Germany six years ago. It was, he said, his first time praying in a mosque with women. “It still takes a bit of getting used to. But it’s often the case when something is new that it is a bit strange, perhaps even a bit scary. But I am sure that this is the way of the future,” he said. Elham Manea, the female imam who shared in leading the Friday prayers, said mixed worship is an issue of equality. “How and when a woman is asked to pray mirrors her social status within her community,” Manea said. “She is asked to pray separately from men, to cover her hair during prayer . . . and to stop praying during the days of her menstruation. . . . All these restrictions are imposed on her because they mirror the social conviction that a woman is not fully complete and perfect like a man and [that] she without doubt isn’t equal.” “I understand that change is hard, because one is used to doing the same thing for centuries, and it will of course be difficult to change it. But still the time for change is now. . . . And we’re calling for it respectfully.”
© The Washington Post.

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Norway: Police ban neo-Nazi march after all

17/6/2017- The police will now deny the neo-Nazi group, ‘The Nordic Resistance Movement’ (Den nordiske motstandsbevegelsen) permission to march in Fredrikstad on July the 29th, under the slogan ‘Crush the Homo-lobby’ (‘Knus homolobbyen’). The police justify the ban by saying that the demonstration will cause nuisance, and the danger of public disturbance is too great. In May, the police said that they wouldn’t ban the neo-Nazi march, and gave spoken permission for the demonstration. They then said that permission was granted on the grounds of freedom of expression. On Friday, the police announced that they’d changed their minds. ‘We’ve been notified of several counter demonstrations, with the potential to draw a lot of people to Fredrikstad. Police intelligence shows a high risk of violent confrontation and organized nuisance from individual groups of opponents.

First demonstration in Norway
Given the large number of people expected to be in central Fredrikstad, the event would cause an unacceptable risk of damage to public buildings, vehicles and objects,’ said police chief, Steven Hasseldal, of the Eastern Police District. The march in Fredrikstad would have been the first organised by the neo-Nazi organization in Norway.
© Norway Today

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Headlines 16 June, 2017

Russia: FIFA targets racism, gay slurs in Confederations Cup

16/6/2017- In a bid to rid the World Cup of racism and gay slurs, FIFA will get tough with fans in Russia. FIFA has ordered tighter monitoring of offensive incidents at Confederations Cup matches which kick off Saturday, and wants referees to stop play if fans persist. FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Friday that curbing problems now is ''exactly the whole purpose'' of anti-discrimination work at the World Cup rehearsal tournament. ''Fans (must) understand that they will be jeopardizing the game by refusing systematically to respect fair play,'' Samoura said at a briefing. Confederations Cup teams Chile and Mexico have been sanctioned by FIFA a combined 17 times for fans' homophobic chants in the current World Cup qualifying program.

Chants aimed at opposing goalkeepers are rife in South and Central America football. Chile's football federation has been fined a total of $210,000 and prevented from playing four games at its national stadium in Santiago. The Copa America champion plays Cameroon on Sunday in Moscow. Mexico's federation has been fined $120,000. The Gold Cup winner plays Portugal on Sunday in Kazan. Samoura said pre-match announcements in the four Confederations Cup stadiums can start a process that ultimately allows referees to abandon games. ''If sanctions and education do not work then we have to take it further,'' said the FIFA official, who said it has prepared an anti-racism message from Diego Maradona to be revealed on Saturday.

The process now adopted by FIFA has been used for several years by European football body UEFA. It was highlighted ahead of the 2012 European Championship played in Poland and Ukraine when Italy forward Mario Balotelli, who is black, said he was prepared to walk off the pitch if targeted by fans for abuse. Russian league matches have also had a problem with racism and far-right fans with 89 incidents reported last season. ''We are grateful to FIFA,'' Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko said through a translator on Friday, sitting next to Samoura at a briefing. ''With great satisfaction we have welcomed this decision that the system will be strict.'' However, Mutko suggested racism in football was no longer a ''systematic'' problem in Russia. ''We do not see any big problems here,'' said Mukto, who heads the World Cup organizing committee. ''This is a problem that is not purely Russian. It exists everywhere in the world.''
© The Associated Press

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Italian mayor won int'l award for helping migrants. Then she lost her job.

15/6/2017- Two months ago Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of a small Italian island with a population of 6,000, received the prestigious UNESCO Peace Prize. Lampedusa, the island 70 miles from the Tunisian coast that she has been governing since 2012, has experienced an influx of refugees over the past few years, and Nicolini got the award because of the “boundless humanity and unwavering commitment” with which she managed the refugee crisis. In the past few years, Nicolini had become a national symbol of Lampedusa's willingness to help those fleeing war and poverty: When President Obama hosted a state dinner in honor of then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in 2016, Renzi brought her along as one of the people who represented the best of Italy.

Yet Nicolini failed to get reelected when local elections were held last Sunday. Not only that, she did not even come second, losing disastrously to an opponent who, during the campaign, famously said that he “cannot stand seeing migrants swarming everywhere.” So, does Nicolini's defeat mean that being nice to migrants could cost a politician their seat? People on the right were quick to celebrate the election results as proof that Italians are tired of helping out immigrants and asylum-seekers. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League, mocked Nicolini for what he described as “feel-good propaganda” that cost her the election. Conservative activists joyfully posted altered images representing the former mayor as an illegal immigrant expelled from the country and memes claiming she is an agent of George Soros, the liberal tycoon whom conspiracy theorists accuse of being behind the wave of African immigration to Europe.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Nicolini said she has been insulted for the national and international attention she got because of the migrant crisis: “They called me 'ladra di medaglie,' medals thief, and accused me of talking too much to the media. But I was just trying to promote the image of the island.” Lampedusa's economy revolves around fishing and tourism and Nicolini said that, during her tenure, she tried to balance the moral duty to welcome migrants and the need to keep the island appealing for tourists — and with good results: the tourism business grew 36 percent. It's true that the new mayor, Salvatore “Totò” Martello, had used harsher language about migrants. Martello, who, like Nicolini, belongs to the center-left Democratic Party, won the election focusing his campaign on the promise of obtaining financial compensation for fishermen whose business is allegedly hurt by the shipwrecks of migrants’ boats.

He contends that the presence of sunken ships in that area of the Mediterranean is damaging the fishermen's nets. However, after the elections, he immediately toned down his approach, expressing his respect for migrants who risk their lives at sea. Alessandro Puglia, a freelance journalist who did extensive work on Lampedusa and authored a documentary about the island, is skeptical that the election results had anything to do with the migrant crisis. He noted in an interview that Lampedusa's residents have demonstrated their solidarity throughout the decades: “Migrants have been coming to the island since the 1990s and locals have always offered them food and blankets. Moreover, it was often the fishermen of Lampedusa who rescued migrants at sea.” If anything, said Puglia, some of the locals resented the fact that the mayor was getting all the attention, while their work remained largely unknown to the wider world.

Nicolini acknowledges the migrant crisis was just one of the factors, claiming that her policy of “sustainable growth” made her enemies among investors and developers less concerned with the environment. But whether the migrant crisis was a determining factor in the local elections of this small island remains debatable, it is pretty clear that it is becoming a hot-button issue nationally. With elections scheduled next year, two of the country's major parties, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, are heavily campaigning against immigration — the latter openly using Nicolini as a target. According to a recent poll, 62 percent of Italians would favor a stricter immigration policy.
© The Washington Post.

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Portugal President calls on all Portuguese speakers to unite, reject xenophobia

Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, rounded off prolonged celebrations of the country’s national day with a call in Rio de Janeiro for Portuguese-speaking peoples to reject racism, xenophobia and populism, arguing also that, when they unite, they are “better and greater”.

15/6/2017- De Sousa had been in Brazil along with Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, for events to mark 10 June, the Day of Portugal, of national poet Luís Vaz de Camões and of Portuguese communities abroad. “When Brazil and Portugal are added together, we are doubly invincible,” de Sousa said. “When we join together, we are really the best in the world. “And when we join together with our brothers who speak the same language we are still better and we are greater,” he continued, at a reception on Sunday evening for the Portuguese community in the consulate-general in Rio de Janeiro - the last stop on the programme to mark Portugal Day. The celebrations had begun on 10 June in Portugal - in Porto - before moving on to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on 11 June.

Despite de Sousa’s call for unity, he and Costa were not received by Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, during their visit. On Saturday, the Portuguese president said that a meeting had been planned, at Temer’s request, but that it was subsequently cancelled due to an agenda clash. Temer remains under fire after the emergence of a recording of his allegedly sanctioning the bribing of political officials. He has denied any wrongdoing and rejected calls for him to step down. Earlier, Portugal’s prime minister and president inaugurated the new chancery building next to the Palácio de São Clemente, the Portuguese embassy, just as the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, on Corcovado mountain, was lit up with the colours of the Portuguese flag in the background.
© The Portugal News.

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Germany presents racism action plan, invests millions into preventing extremism

Germany's Family and Interior Ministries have announced a new national action plan against racism. In tackling extremism, some 100 million euros are to be specifically invested in preventing Islamist radicalization.

14/6/2017- Newly-appointed Family and Youth Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) on Wednesday called to further strengthen efforts to prevent all forms of extremism, calling for a federal law on the prevention of extremism to stabilize projects and initiatives against, for example, right-wing extremism. Although there is now more money available for prevention, "we aren't yet on target," Barley said on Wednesday. Announcing the findings of a report into extremism prevention, Barley said at a press conference in Berlin that in fighting Islamist extremism, "we must not wait until young people have become radicalized." "Security and prevention must go hand in hand," she added. According to Barley, prevention work must begin where the threat is particularly high, for example in the school yard, on the internet, and also in the prisons.

100-million-euro investment
As part of Germany's 2018 "national prevention program" against extremism, some 100 million euros will be invested into specifically combating Islamist extremism. Some funds will be allocated to supporting mosque communities, while money will also be invested in expanding the prevention of radicalization online. "Every euro we invest [in prevention] is a very well-spent euro, as it serves to create security," Barley said. In the crackdown on Islamist radicalization, Barley rejected demands made earlier this month, however, to allow the surveillance of minors who may be involved in Islamist groups. "Minors have already committed serious acts of violence," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Funke media group, adding that Germany "must consequently deal" with such cases. Barley on Wednesday described Herrmann's demand as a "misguided approach," arguing that children should be protected from slipping into radicalized violence. Germany's governing "grand coalition" has already reduced the minimum age for monitoring by Germany's intelligence agencies from 16 to 14 years.

National anti-racism action plan
Together with Parliamentary State Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Günter Krings (CDU), Barley also presented on Wednesday the updated National Action Plan against Racism. In principle, the aim is to "show clear boundaries, regardless of where discrimination occurs, whether in leisure time, online or in the workplace," Barley said. At the center of the new action plan are issues including human rights policy, protection against discrimination in daily life, for example in the workplace, as well as the punishment of criminal offenses. Other elements include education and political education, as well as racism and hate speech online. On the basis of the coalition agreement, the action plan has also been expanded to cover the issues of homosexuality and transphobia.

Greens politician Volker Beck criticized the plan, however, saying it was lacking in concrete proposals for action. "Instead of binding measures, only the current situation of gays, lesbians, bi-, trans- and intersexuals was described," Beck said. Petra Pau, a member of the executive committee of the leftist Linke faction, and member of the inquiry committee into the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU), welcomed the action plan and increase in subsidies for social initiatives against right-wing extremism and racism. "So far so good," she said in a statement, adding, however, that the subsidies are limited in time: "This is ineffective and short-sighted, as the fight against right-wing extremism and racism requires continuity and endurance."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Austrian Social Democrats drop ban on coalitions with far right

14/6/2017- Austria's ruling Social Democrats have dropped a 30-year ban on allying with the far right, saying on Wednesday they would be prepared to enter a coalition with anyone on certain terms. After a party leadership meeting, Chancellor Christian Kern presented a "values compass" of principles that his Social Democrats (SPO) would require of any future coalition partner.That effectively swept aside a self-imposed rule against tie-ups with the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) before a parliamentary election in October, although differences between the two parties remain stark in several areas.Opening the door to an alliance with the far right is a rare step for a European centre-left party but it could be the cost of staying in government. The SPO and its coalition partner, the conservative People's Party (OVP), are at loggerheads and their government is deeply unpopular.

The Oct. 15 election is shaping up to be a three-horse race between those parties. The OVP, less torn over the idea of forming coalitions with the far right, is leading in opinion polls. "What we want to do today is not to answer the question of whom we want to enter coalition talks with but to say what we want to talk about," Kern told reporters. "We are not rolling out the red carpet for the Freedom Party."Alongside the values compass, which included broad principles such as support for human rights, gender equality and the European Union, Kern outlined separate but more specific points he wanted to be part of any coalition deal, such as raising the minimum wage to 1,500 euros ($1,692) a month."Anyone who is prepared to implement this catalogue is a welcome partner," Kern said, while also outlining differences between his party and the FPO on issues including gender equality, taxation and integration.

"For the FPO to become a possible partner they must move significantly," he added.Kern said other parties should decide after the election whether to hold talks. Any deal would then be submitted to SPO members for a vote.He also hinted at a tactical motivation, saying the SPO had previously only had the OVP as a potential partner and coalition talks were less "successful" than they could have been. Both the SPO and OVP have been in government with the FPO before. But the SPO's last national coalition with the far right ended 30 years ago, after the late Joerg Haider, a eurosceptic and anti-immigrant nationalist, took over as FPO leader.The OVP went into coalition with the FPO in 2000, triggering European sanctions against Austria, and the far-right party is still a prominent feature of Austrian politics. For years, polls have shown a quarter of voters or more support it.The OVP and SPO are also currently in coalition with the FPO in provincial governments.
© Reuters

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Sweden: Man with alleged Nazi links admits driving car into refugee demo

A 22-year-old man with suspected neo-Nazi links has confessed to driving his Volvo into an Iraqi demonstration outside the Migration Agency in Malmö. Police are investigating it as hate crime.

14//2017- The man has admitted driving his car into a demonstration of around 20-30 Iraqi nationals protesting Sweden's new and stricter asylum rules outside the Migration Agency in Malmö on two occasions. No one was injured but in the latest incident at around 10.30pm on Sunday he drove over a number of protest signs and crashed into a tree. The man then barricaded himself in the car to protect himself against the agitated protesters, who kept him there until police arrived and seized him. The 22-year-old has also admitted driving at the demonstration on Saturday. Police said they are investigating hate crime. The man, who Aftonbladet reports has a history of neo-Nazi activity, including participating in demonstrations and study groups organized by neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement, has been released from custody during the ongoing police investigation.

“He said he's doing it to make a point. That he does not think they should be in the country,” Sandra Persson, from the police's special hate crime investigation unit, told the Swedish newspaper. “We are prioritizing this. It is a clear hate crime with many people affected. And it happened at this site, outside the Migration Agency,” she said. The 22-year-old is suspected of agitation against an ethnic group, illegally carrying a weapon, illegally carrying a knife and assault. One of the allegations includes using pepper spray on a number of protesters. It is against the law to carry pepper spray without a licence in Sweden. Two knives were also found in his car, as well as a Nazi symbol with a swastika, reported broadcaster SVT.

The incident has been falsely reported by some international extremist groups on social media as an Islamist attack, with Facebook group 'Never Again Canada' – an anti-Islam group which claims to fight “anti-Semitism, propaganda, terror and Jew hatred in Canada” and has almost 200,000 followers on Facebook – incorrectly describing the suspect as a “Muslim terrorist” on Monday.
© The Local - Sweden

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Polish leader appears to defend anti migrant stance at Auschwitz

14/6/2017- Critics denounced Poland's prime minister for making comments during a memorial observance at Auschwitz on Wednesday that appeared to defend her tough anti-migrant policies, saying her words were inappropriate given the location. Beata Szydlo said that "in today's restless times, Auschwitz is a great lesson showing that everything must be done to protect the safety and life of one's citizens." The remark was widely understood as a defense of her conservative government's refusal to accept refugees as part of a European Union resettlement plan, a position that prompted the European Commission to launch legal action this week against her government. The Commission also took action against the Czech Republic and Hungary. "Such words at such a place should never be spoken by a Polish prime minister," Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and the former Polish prime minister, said on Twitter.

Szydlo's ruling party, Law and Justice, initially tweeted her remark but removed the tweet as people expressed shock, accusing her of abusing political memory for political gain. "Szydlo showed today that she has no problems using both living Arabs and dead Jews in her primitive propaganda," said Tomasz Lis, the editor of the Polish version of Newsweek. "Auschwitz must remind us of the need to defend universal human rights, not closing borders to refugees!" said Rafal Pankowski, the head of Never Again, an organization that fights neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism. Szydlo, who grew up in the town of Oswiecim, where the former death camp is located, made her remarks during a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the first transports of Polish prisoners to the camp. Polish government spokesman Rafal Bochenek says the entirety of Szydlo's speech — which focused on Polish suffering at Auschwitz and heroism in during World War II — makes clear no ill will was intended.

The Germans murdered an estimated 1.1. million people at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in what was then occupied Poland. Some of the first victims of the camp were Poles who resisted the murderous German occupation of their country, though by war's end most of the people killed there were Jews transported from across Europe.
© The Associated Press

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Poland: Warsaw Muslims call off event following far-right threats

The Muslim community in Warsaw canceled a public event Tuesday aimed at countering stereotypes about Islam after receiving threats from far-right nationalists.

13/6/2017- A Muslim community leader, Ahmad Alattal, said hateful comments were made online about an open house planned at the Muslim Cultural Center, including a call to not visit the place but "burn it." Though the community has grown used to such comments, it canceled the event for the safety of the many schoolchildren that had planned to attend, he said. The development comes amid rising animosity toward Muslims in largely Catholic Poland, an issue adding to tensions between Warsaw and the European Union. On Tuesday the European Commission threatened legal action against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for failing to accept refugees as part of a legally binding EU plan. Poland's government says it would rather face a court and fines than accept Muslim refugees, whom it frequently describes as potential terrorist threats.

Poland's previous, pro-EU government had agreed to take several thousand refugees as part of the plan, but the nationalistic and euroskeptic Law and Justice party canceled those pledges after taking power in 2015, citing the repeated extremist attacks in Western Europe. Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said taking even a few thousand would endanger Poland in the future. "After a few years in this community there would be tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then a few million. These communities form closed enclaves that give support to terrorists," Blaszczak said in an interview on Radio Zet on Tuesday. He also derided attempts by Western European leaders to develop ways to integrate Muslim youths to prevent radicalization. "Such a conception arose 2,000 years ago and it's called Christianity," Blaszczak said.

At the Muslim community center, a few people showed up in the afternoon, unaware the event had been canceled. "We are not a danger — I promise," one teenage girl joked when told of the threats that prompted the cancellation. Alattal said Poland's tiny Muslim community, which he put at about 35,000, has felt much more vulnerable under the current government due to its anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric, saying that has emboldened the extremists who post hateful comments online. "We have to accept that the ruling party doesn't want refugees — with pain because we are all people of this earth and they deserve help — but they won elections on that promise," he said. "But they should not use the issue as a political tool, waging a witch hunt against Muslims when there aren't even any refugees in the country."
© The Associated Press

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Slovakia: Fighting far right online and on the streets

Slovak anti-fascists search for new ways to confront the far right before crucial regional elections.

13/6/2017- When 68-year-old Jan Bencik's son created a Facebook account for him after he retired four years ago, he saw little reason to log in, save for boredom. Just over a year ago, however, he discovered a way to make social media useful: tracking and doxing Slovakia's far right. On a frigid afternoon in March, the retiree steps into a local pizza parlour and shakes the snow off his winter coat. He takes a seat on a sofa in the corner of the room, removes his laptop from its leather case and flips it open. The former phone technician and publishing house employee opens a folder on his desktop, pulling up screenshots of social media posts, most of them since deleted, by far-right social media users. He points a finger at an image on the screen. It shows a hefty Slovak man wearing a backwards baseball cap and a wide grin as he lays on a charred oven in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. His arms are tattooed with coded numbers and neo-Nazi imagery.

Bencik publishes photos like this on the front page of his blog, where he dumps the personal information - name, phone number and address - a practice known as "doxing", of those who post white supremacist, neo-Nazi and racist content on social media. Slovakia's largest media outlets have profiled Bencik, nicknaming him the "fascist hunter" on magazine covers and in television reports. Among those he has outed are sitting parliamentarians from Kotleba - People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) - a far-right party with neo-Nazi roots and a swelling following. After it was founded from the ashes of the now-defunct Slovak Togetherness National Party in 2010, the LSNS was largely considered a ragtag band of inconsequential hardliners. But that all changed in March 2016, when the party captured more than eight percent of the popular vote in national elections and secured 14 seats in the National Council, Slovakia's parliament.

Before those elections, polls had estimated that the party would clinch between 1.5 percent and three percent of the vote. In fact, nearly one in every 12 voters cast their ballot for the LSNS. Many of their legislators now frequent the halls of government buildings, with a handful sitting on parliamentary committees such as the one tasked with advancing domestic human rights. "Look at this one," Bencik says. He motions to the screen again. On it, this time, is a Facebook post written by a LSNS legislator. In both English and Slovak, the legislator quotes the infamous hate slogan known as "14 words", written by American white supremacist David Lane: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." He clicks to the next post: "Nothing will save us but killing all the Jews." And another: "Slovakia is not Africa!"

With parties like the LSNS focusing much of their recruitment activity online, Bencik's work has landed him in the far-right's crosshairs. He has received angry messages and death threats. The death threats - promising public hanging, stabbing and shooting, among other forms of violent retribution - have failed to deter Bencik, but he has lived under police protection on and off for the past year. "I cannot give them the pleasure of [not blogging] about them," he explains. Since the LSNS made its electoral gains, his work has assumed a heightened significance, he says, bobbing his head to the music coming from the restaurant's overhead speakers. "Come on, baby, do the locomotion with me," he sings along softly, before exploding into laughter. Switching back to the conversation, he jokes: "They are as brave as Arnold Schwarzenegger and post their muscley photos from the gym; but when you write about them, they get scared and delete the posts."

Stepping onto the stage
The LSNS was founded seven years ago by Marian Kotleba, who is the party's namesake and was formerly an open neo-Nazi. Its members used to march through cities, towns and villages across Slovakia in black uniforms modelled on those worn by the Hlinka Guard, the military of the First Slovak Republic (1939-1945), a Nazi satellite state during World War II. They have now exchanged their black garb for green polos emblazoned with the party's signature double cross emblem. And their anti-Semitic rhetoric has been largely replaced with anti-Roma incitement, ostensibly considered a more socially acceptable form of racism. But the party's platform, laid out on its official website, preserves much of its original commitment to ultra-nationalism and Christian identity. Roma are "social parasites" and "terrorists", while the United States, the European Union, NATO and Israel are enemies plotting against the Slovak nation, they argue.

Keeping to its custom of rarely speaking to foreign media, the LSNS failed to reply to Al Jazeera's numerous requests for an interview. Although it isn't the only actor in the crowded political terrain of Slovakia's far right, Kotleba and his followers have managed the most successful shift from the fringes to the corridors of power. Alena Kluknavska, a post-doctoral researcher at Masaryk University in the neighbouring Czech Republic, says the LSNS used a three-prong strategy to build its base while simultaneously eschewing traditional electoral campaigning. There were no LSNS television commercials, no rallies and no images of Kotleba's face pasted on billboards. Instead, the LSNS focused on visiting poor communities, exploiting tensions between white Slovaks and Roma and cultivating a following through "nationalist, xenophobic and populist" sentiment in the online sphere, says Kluknavska.

Railing against Roma, Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities, the LSNS made a point of providing financial support to impoverished Slovak families living in communities feeling the pains of institutional deprivation. By "positioning itself as the advocate and defender of 'ordinary' people", she argues, the LSNS has been able to sculpt a presence beyond the digital sphere, with a growing number of foot soldiers on the streets.

'Like living in heaven'
The signs of Kotleba's increasing strength were present long before the 2016 elections. In the Banska Bystrica region, Kotleba has been governor since 2013, when he won the last-round runoff by a 55-percent-margin. On a drab morning at Banska Bystrica's Slovak National Uprising Museum, director Stanislav Micev passes through the fluorescent-lit hallway and into a conference room. The walls are a mosaic of war, with paintings of guerilla fighters and rifles, ammunition belts and army helmets fastened to the walls. Micev, who plans to challenge Kotleba for the regional gubernatorial seat in the autumn, is a large man who gesticulates as he speaks. With his heavy hands momentarily clasped on the oak table in front of him, he describes the LSNS as anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-European and anti-democratic. "They bought green shirts and put away those black outfits, but those uniforms are still sitting in storage somewhere," he says.

For the LSNS, the First Slovak Republic and its head of state, President Jozef Tiso, who was also a Catholic priest, represent the country's first successful attempt at sovereignty. Those five years, during which an estimated 75,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps, have been described by Kotleba as "like living in heaven". In 1944, some 60,000 democrats, communist partisans and anti-fascists launched the Slovak National Uprising, taking up arms against the government and its German allies. Losing ground and men daily, Tiso fled the country when the Soviet army occupied it in April 1945. He was later arrested in Bavaria and extradited to what had become communist Czechoslovakia. After being tried and found guilty of various crimes, Tiso was marched to the gallows and hanged in his clerical wardrobe in Bratislava on April 17, 1947.

'A paradox'
If history is tragic and its repetition farcical, then Slovakia is no exception. Although it views itself as the protector of Tiso's legacy, the LSNS has been able to gain ground in curious places, including the adjacent villages of Ostry Grun and Klak, both razed by the First Slovak Republic's armed forces and its Nazi allies in January 1945. Miroslav Seget, the deputy mayor of Ostry Grun, recounts the tragedy that loomed over the village during his childhood. When soldiers arrived in the village to punish its inhabitants for aiding partisan guerrilla fighters with food, water and safe passage, his grandparents were evicted from their homes and displaced to a nearby hillside. They were lucky, he says, describing how Klak and Ostry Grun lost 146 villagers to Nazi gunmen. "My mother was born as the child of refugees," he says, shaking his head.

Nearly one in five voters in his village voted for the LSNS last year. "It's a paradox," he says, "because our village was burned down by the fascists, and Kotleba received the second largest share of the vote." Blaming his generation and his parents' for failing to explain the historical consequences of fascism to the village's youth, Seget says that this year they started holding annual vigils in which survivors speak to young people about the bloodbath that stains Ostry Grun's history. "The memory of what happened in World War II is still present in the minds of the older generation," he says, "but that knowledge hadn't [previously] been passed on because most survivors were traumatised after losing family members."

Anti-fascists fight back
At noon on March 13, more than a thousand anti-fascists - known as Antifa - assemble in central Bratislava for a public display of defiance against Kotleba and other far-right groups. A large white tarp spans the length of the lawn in front of a monument dedicated to the anti-fascist fighters who died during World War II. On the tarp is a broad black swastika, encircled in red with a dash bisecting it. The Slovak Antifa are joined by their Czech and Hungarian counterparts. A group of teenagers sit on a cement ledge across from the stage, puffing on cigarettes and taking turns to drink from a bottle of beer. When the speeches conclude, the demonstrators march off in columns through the city as they chant against Kotleba and the LSNS. "Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here," they shout in English. A sea of flags and banners moves through the historic old city's alleyways.

The marchers eventually reach a square, where an impromptu drum session accompanies the anti-fascist chants as the afternoon sunlight dims. Matus Budovic, a reed-thin 29-year-old, claps along with the drum beat. He has travelled 180km from his village, Ratztocno, to "set an example" for the country's youth. "We've seen this situation before," he says. "When the neo-Nazis are on the rise, they attack [minorities] and Antifa activists. History can repeat itself because the old generation grew up, but there is a new one now." Ten years ago, he says, far-right provocateurs recognised him as an Antifa organiser and attacked him in the street. More recently, in June 2015, thousands of LSNS members and other far-rightists held an anti-Muslim rally in Bratislava. By the end of the day, participants had attacked a Saudi family, including a child in a stroller, pelting them with stones.

On March 22, 2016, unknown assailants attacked a Muslim woman of African descent at a bus stop in the capital. One tried to wrestle away her bag as another ripped off her veil. Local media reported that they had yelled "black", "dirty" and "Muslim" during the assault. Throughout 2016, the LSNS has carried out vigilante train patrols that targeted Roma passengers. Despite being banned in October, activists and reporters say those patrols have continued unabated.

Poetry of fascism
The day after the Antifa rally, March 14, is the anniversary of the establishment of the First Slovak Republic. In the northern village of Oscadnica, around 30 green-clad LSNS supporters huddle in the yard of the modest lavender house that was once home to Tiso. Snow dusts the yard's dead grass. A bitter wind keeps the LSNS flags fluttering. Newcomers exchange greetings with those already gathered. "At guard," they say, evoking a phrase used under Tiso's rule, as they salute each other. Party official Frantisek Drozd places a multicoloured wreath of flowers by the house. He clears his throat and welcomes the crowd. Churchgoers pour out of a small church across the street as a Sunday morning mass concludes. A handful join the LSNS procession. A short man with a shaved head, Drozd launches into a tirade against those his party has designated as Slovakia's enemies: refugees and migrants, Muslims and Roma, NATO and the US, Israel and the EU.

In an adjacent car park, police officers stand beside their patrol cars. They rub their gloved hands together to stay warm. Drozd blasts through a catalogue of Slovakia's supposed ailments. A faltering economy. The loss of sovereignty. Threats to its overwhelmingly white demographic makeup. He nods as his listeners applaud. "The European Union, with its insane laws, only does harm to Slovakia," he bellows. "Migrants, who have been invited by the EU, are coming to Europe in the thousands." That fewer than a thousand refugees and migrants have sought asylum in Slovakia is irrelevant to Drozd and his comrades; theirs is the politics of redemption, of reviving the short-lived motherland that died 72 years ago. He pulls a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolds it, reading a poem dedicated to Kotelba:

Marian Kotleba planted a small seed,
And it grew into a big, beautiful tree.
It has a treetop and branches and it's blossoming and blossoming,
There will be a rich harvest for those who desire its fruit
.

Applause follows, and then Andrej Medvecky, another LSNS member, takes Drozd's place in front of the audience. "Many of you here experienced communism, and the regime today is even worse," he begins. "People are going to prison for their opinions," he laments, referring to Sheila Szmerekova, a 24-year-old woman facing legal retribution for broadcasting online a video of her threatening to "hunt" Muslims and urinating on a Quran before setting it ablaze. "If we think about the importance of March 14, some agree with us and others don't," Medvecky says. "Those who don't agree are not true Slovaks." His speech concludes and the commemoration ends, a dull crescendo of applause and chatter hanging in the air. Selfies and group photos are taken. The cameras capture the day's final moments. In every frame, the green flags dance under the dark winter sky.

New weapons
In a one-room office in Bratislava, Alena Krempaska, the programme director of the Human Rights Institute, argues that Antifa tactics like direct confrontation are becoming less effective as the LSNS moves from the streets into the parliament. "The old-school idea of Antifa - justice in the streets - is less effective in these circumstances," says Krempaska, who was beaten up by far-right activists while leaving her office one night last September. "We must use different kinds of weapons and build new alliances." Sitting in a noisy cafe across town, Rado Sloboda, a 26-year-old activist from Banska Bystrica, says he and fellow organisers from the 'Not in Our Town' campaign hope to educate young people about human rights and far-right "extremism".  Sloboda says they recently launched a pilot educational programme bringing Jews, Muslims, Roma and refugees to speak to students in primary and secondary schools.

As the LSNS targets young people with youth leagues and other political organisations, Sloboda and his colleagues aim to provide an alternative. "We used to believe that they spread among young boys from poor families," he explains, adding that Kotleba and his followers have accused Not in Our Town of being "foreign agents". If Kotleba wins re-election in the autumn, Sloboda fears the LSNS will be empowered. "There will be more mobilisation on both sides," he predicts. "It can really get much more radical and violent than it already is." Back in Ruzomberok, Jan Bencik says stopping the growth of the LSNS is his top priority. "I lived for 41 years under the communist regime. So, I don't want to risk living the rest of my life under a neo-Nazi dictatorship," he concludes, "and I don't want my children and grandchildren to live under them either."
© Al Jazeera.

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Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star suffer local election beating

12/6/2017- Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement suffered a resounding defeat in local elections, results released on Monday showed, losing ground to traditional parties less than a year before a national vote is due. Five-Star candidates failed to qualify for run-off ballots in the 25 largest cities up for grabs on Sunday, including the northern port city of Genoa, home to the movement's founder, comedian Beppe Grillo. By contrast, center-right parties including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia performed strongly, suggesting they could be a contender at the general election if they can unite around a single leader. National elections must be held by the first half of next year and could come as early as this autumn, meaning Sunday's vote in 1,000 towns and cities was an important test of political strength.

Newspaper headlines and pundits pounced on the results, saying the 5-Star might have peaked, but Grillo shot back on Monday, confidently predicting his group would bounce back. "Everyone is gloating, putting forward rarefied analysis on the death of the 5-Star and the return of a bipolar (political) system," Grillo wrote on his blog. "Convince yourself this is true so you can sleep more soundly. We will continue forward on our path." 5-Star bases much of its appeal on fighting corruption, its flagship policy is a "citizens wage" to help Italy's army of unemployed, and it promises a referendum on membership of the euro currency blamed by many for years of economic underperformance.

The party had hoped to build on last year's election successes, when it took control of 19 large towns and cities, including Rome. But its rule in the capital has been mired in controversy, and its grassroots operations elsewhere have been snarled by internal feuding. Despite its local difficulties, the most recent opinion polls taken ahead of Sunday's vote say the 5-Star would win more than 30 percent in a national race, just ahead of the ruling Democratic Party (PD) led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi. Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far-right Northern League - long-time allies but with increasingly diverging political agendas - trail with less than 15 percent each.

The center-right fared strongly on Sunday where Forza Italia and the League put aside their divisions and ran together, taking the lead in 13 of the 24 main municipal races. A run-off ballot between the two leading candidates is due on June 25. "We hope that Renzi faces the consequences of this latest no-confidence vote in the government," said Matteo Salvini, leader of the League. Berlusconi said the vote proved that "the center-right can win when it is united," while pointing out that his own party got more votes than the League. He also warned against writing off 5-Star, saying it remained "a formidable force which it would be short-sighted to under-estimate." The only outright winner in a major city on Sunday was Leoluca Orlando, who led the center-left to victory in the Sicilian capital Palermo, securing his fifth mandate. An anti-mafia firebrand, Orlando has governed the city for 16 of the past 32 years.

Most of the 5-Star candidates would have been new to government. Last year the 5-Star cast its victory in Rome, the nation's capital, as proof it was ready to govern. But Mayor Virginia Raggi has been dogged by legal scandals since taking office, and she has appeared slow to revive a city hobbled by years of corruption and economic decline. Until last week, Italy's main parties had been trying to pass a new proportional electoral law together, but the deal unraveled. Last week, markets appeared wary of more political instability in Italy, which has the euro zone's highest public debt after Greece and has been underperforming, fearing an autumn election could interfere with the presentation of a belt-tightening 2018 budget.
© Reuters

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Spain: Flag-waving Neo-Nazis forced out of Mallorca club

The concert was stopped as white supremacist group Hammerskins jeered and waved the Reichskriegsflagge.

12/6/2017- Partygoers in Mallorca have forced out a group of neo-Nazis halfway through a live performance. The popular German singer Mia Julia was singing at the Bierkönig in the Les Meravelles district of the island when loud boos interrupted the performance. A group of around 15 men disturbed the show for about 20 minutes as they waved the Reichskriegsflagge, the flag that the German army and later Nazi German armed forces used as their ensign. The singer stopped her show as they shouted, "foreigners out", with the crowd responding with chants of "Nazi's out". According to Bild, the group are from a right-wing white supremacist group called the Hammerskins. Some of the group were from Frankfurt and are known for their violent tendencies. They were also seen wearing hats with the Nazi Reich colours - black, red and white. As the booing intensified, staff at the club then removed the men from the building, but police who were also at the scene opted not to intervene. The incident was filmed by someone attending the club, it was then posted to Facebook and has been viewed almost 400,000 times since it was shared on Friday 9 June. Once the group had left the club, the gig quickly resumed with the DJ playing the anti-Nazi song Cry For Love by German band The Doctors. It's not the first time a right-wing group has caused trouble on the island. In 2013, a similar group of people attacked foreign market traders.
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: Bag of vomit thrown at Muslim woman's car

 White van is said to have swerved towards the two women to throw the bag of foul smelling liquid

14/6/2017- A “bag of vomit” was reportedly been thrown at a car carrying two Muslim women in Blackburn. The pair told anti-Islamophobia charity Tell Mama that they were driving in the Lancashire town when a white van swerved towards them on a quiet road. The bag was then thrown at the driver’s window with such force it “thudded” against the window on the driver’s side. One of the women she believed they had been targeted because of the way they looked. Both were wearing hijabs. She said the foul smelling liquid in the bag had a "vomit-like" in odour and appearance, which left her and her friend feeling nauseous. Fortunately the drivers' window was closed, otherwise the bag would have landed inside the car. The women were able to follow the van and photograph its number plate. The pair then parked the car and photographed the window which was hit. Tell Mama told The Independent that Lancashire Police had been informed of the incident by the victim and were investigating. The force could not confirm this. Both suspects were described as white, in the 20s or 30s, with medium builds.
© Independent Digital

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London fire: Muslims awake for Ramadan praised for saving lives

14/6/2017- While the death toll in the Grenfell Tower apartment building fire could rise significantly, it is likely Muslims who were awake in the early morning for Ramadan saved lives of fellow residents. The fire in the 24-storey building broke out around 1am on Wednesday (local time) while many of the residents were sleeping. That was save for Muslims observing Ramadan who were reported to have knocked on people's doors trying to wake them to get them out of the building. There are reports the fire alarms and sprinklers weren't working, so their efforts would have been the first sign for many residents they were in danger. "Muslim boys saved people's lives," one local woman told HuffPost UK. "They ran around knocking on people's doors. Thank God for Ramadan."

In a widely shared video on social media, another woman praises the work of those who helped save residents. "If it wasn't for all these young Muslim boys around here helping us, coming from mosques, a lot more people would have been dead," she tells a group crowding around her. Twenty-year-old Khalid Suleman Ahmed told HuffPost UK he'd recently moved into the tower with his aunt on the eighth floor. He says he'd normally be asleep, but he'd woken for Suhur, the meal before Muslims begin fasting for Ramadan during daylight hours. "I woke my aunty up, then got clothes on and started knocking on neighbours' doors. Every house opened except two - I saw the other guy later on so only 1 family unaccounted for. My next door neighbour was fast asleep," he said.

Twelve people have been confirmed dead, with around 70 taken to hospital and many more missing. And while praise was being heaped on those who raised the alarm, far-right group Britain First protested near a London mosque. Leader Paul Golding claimed they were close to being "physically attacked" by a group of Muslims for "the heinous crime of standing on a British Pavement and filming". "We've just gone into the Whitechapel area of London with some leaflets and we've walked past the East London Mosque and we were very quickly surrounded by an ever-increasing mob of Muslims and white liberals screaming abuse," he says in a Facebook video. He claimed people threw things at them and spit on them.

But that's a vastly different version of events to what the mosque claims. "The far-right Britain First group turned up again outside the East London Mosque today, as the congregation prepared for midday prayers and collected donations for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire," a statement from the mosque reads. "Far-right extremist Paul Golding and his cronies have targeted the local Muslim community in the past. We condemn their attempts to create tension in our communities." They also pointed out that the group broke traffic law while filming by parking on a zig-zag next to a pedestrian crossing and blocking the cycle lane.
© The Newshub

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UK: Far-right Activists in Manchester Abuse Sikh Volunteers

14/6/2017- Sikh volunteers providing meals for homeless people in Manchester were allegedly abused by far-right activists after getting caught in a demonstration against Sharia law. Members of the Sikh Sewa Organization said they had to flee Piccadilly Gardens for "their own safety" after "EDL (English Defense League) members" became "abusive." Every Sunday, the SSO provides meals for the homeless in the same spot in Piccadilly Gardens, but volunteers were forced to move to Stevenson Square June 11 after thousands reportedly descended on the area in a protest against Sharia law, The Independent reported. "As per every Sunday our team went to feed the homeless in Manchester. Sadly, our usual spot in Piccadilly Gardens was overrun by the EDL mindless thugs and we had to scarper for our own safety, as they were becoming abusive to the volunteers. It became really scary for us," the SSO wrote on its Facebook page. "Our usual homeless crowd came to us saying they were starving so the volunteers decided to move to Stevenson Square. They continued there tirelessly serving food despite their own safety," it said.

Eight people were arrested when demonstrators with U.K. Against Hate, headed by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, clashed with counter-protesters. Greater Manchester police advised residents to avoid the area after the protest turned "nasty." Manchester's Mayor Andy Burnham said the "EDL-types" needed to take a "long hard look at themselves." Robinson refuted claims that EDL was in attendance, calling them "lies." "Looks like the police have joined the newspapers in their #fakenews propaganda," Robinson wrote on Facebook. "This was not an EDL demo it was U.K. Against Hate demonstration against terrorism and hate being inflicted on our communities! The actions of the police yesterday and the disgraceful fake news reporting by the media since is a depressing example of the mess our once great country is in," he said.
© India West

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UK: May appoints Justice Secretary opposed to LGBT rights

Appointment comes amid concern as Prime Minister negotiates with socially conservative DUP to prop up her minority Government

13/6/2017- New Justice Secretary David Lidington has consistently opposed LGBT rights including gay marriage and has voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act. Prime Minister Theresa May replaced Liz Truss with the MP for Aylesbury during her cabinet reshuffle, following the Conservatives’ disastrous performance in the general election. He will also hold the office of Lord Chancellor. But the 60-year-old's record shows he has voted against gay rights since the 1990s. Mr Lidington takes a traditional view of marriage and was one of just 47 MPs to vote against the civil partnerships bill in 2004, which other MPs who opposed gay marriage for religious reasons were happy to vote for. According to the website, They Work For You, Mr Lidington twice voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry in 2013. He also voted against an amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

An Anglican, he told his local newspaper, The Bucks Herald, that the purpose of marriage was “not only to provide mutual love and commitment but also for the procreation and care of children.” Between 1998 and 1999, he also voted three times against reducing the age of consent for gay sex from 18 to 16 to bring it in line with the law for heterosexual sex. Mr Lidington also voted to maintain a “ban on the promotion of homosexuality in schools” – not teaching children that some people are gay. On other matters of equality, Mr Lidington voted against making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. He also voted to remove the duty on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to work to support the development of a society where people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination.

As Justice Secretary Mr Lidington, who is not a lawyer and has no legal background, will be responsible for overseeing the judiciary, the court system and prisons and probation in England and Wales. The Justice Secretary also oversees the UK Supreme Court and judicial appointments by the Crown. Defenders of the Human Rights Act will be concerned that Mr Lidington voted in favour of repealing it just last year. He also voted in favour of restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. He has been the Tory MP for Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire since 1992 but retained a relatively low profile, serving as a shadow minister of the environment and of Northern Ireland during the Blair and Brown years. Under David Cameron, he was the country’s longest-serving Minister for Europe and campaigned to remain in the EU. He was appointed Leader of the House of Commons by Ms May when she became Prime Minister.

His predecessor, Liz Truss, the first woman to hold the job, lasted just 11 months having come under fire for her weak response following media attacks on High Court judges during the Article 50 High Court Hearing which saw them branded “enemies of the people”. Following the announcement of his appointment, Mr Lidington said he was “pleased and honoured.” In a statement, he said: “Democracy and freedom are built on the rule of law, and are protected by a strong and independent judiciary. I look forward to taking my Oath as Lord Chancellor, and to working with the Lord Chief Justice and his fellow judges in the months ahead, to ensure that justice is fairly administered and robustly defended.” Mr Lidington’s socially conservative views could line up well with those of the Democratic Unionist Party, which is currently in talks with senior Tories about an agreement which would keep Theresa May's minority government in power.

The Northern Irish party's 10 parliamentary seats would give the prime minister a working majority of three on a "confidence and supply" basis. But it has gained a reputation for its strong and controversial views on a number of social issues. It opposes same-sex marriage and is anti-abortion - with abortion remaining illegal in Northern Ireland, except in specific medical cases. The new intake following the general election sees a record 45 out LGBT MPs in the House of Commons – seven per cent of the total. Tories including the party’s leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, have warned against allowing the DUP to influence social policy in any deal brokered to prop up the Government, although issues such as abortion and gay marriage are devolved. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Pink News newspaper: "LGBT rights are human rights. They must not be sold out by Theresa May and the Conservatives as they try to cling to power with the DUP.”
© The Independent

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UK: Two Muslim teenagers 'racially attacked in Swansea by two men'

South Wales Police are investigating an alleged hate crime

12/6/2017- South Wales Police are investigating an alleged hate crime in which teenagers were racially attacked on a street by two men who targeted them because they are Muslims. The men are said to have asked the young boys: "Why don’t you care about the Manchester attacks?" The men then allegedly proclaimed that all Muslims were to blame. The incident happened on St Helen’s Road, Swansea, in the early hours of June 7. Nizar Dhan, founder of the Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project, who witnessed the alleged attack, said: “It is the month of Ramadan. "It is a time when Muslims go to the mosque which is situated on St Helen’s Road for night prayer. The kids go to the shops to buy drinks before going back to the mosque. “The men must have been in their early 20s. Both were intoxicated when they approached the boys and started to criticise them. They were really scared. “I had to intervene. I quickly stepped in and tried to calm the men down.”

The boys were aged 13 and 16. Once Mr Dhan had told the boys to leave, the men are said to have then started to attack the 29 year old. He said: “They started to get really aggressive and violent towards me. "One man said, ‘How do I know that you are not going to take our heads off and blow us all up?’ “I put it down to ignorance, some people have never met a Muslim or spoken to them before, they just go by what they see and hear in the news. I try to rise above it. “I am just glad that I was there. The kids could have said something cheeky or reacted to them, then what might of happened? The men might have done something that they wouldn’t normally do sober. “Many people were around, but no one said anything or intervened, people just looked and walked off.”

Mr Dhan has since warned the young boys to avoid being out late at night. “I have told them that they have to be really careful, it’s not safe to be walking around after midnight, even though that is the time of prayer, “There will not be someone there everyday who will help when something goes wrong. It’s sad because they shouldn’t be stopped from going to the shops.” He said he wanted to see the general public speak to a Muslim before making judgements. “Come to the mosque,” he said. “It’s open for everyone to come and speak to us, if anyone has any questions that they would like to ask, then I would be happy to answer them and explain to them what Islam actually teaches.” South Wales Police said that enquiries into the alleged incident were ongoing. A spokesman added: “South Wales Police is committed to tackling hate crime, and anyone who is victim of, or witness to, a hate crime is also urged to come forward and report it.”
© Wales Online

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UK: Neo-Nazi terrorists behind Scotland’s newest far right group

A neo-Nazi organisation involved in terrorism and banned by the UK Government is behind a new far right group in Scotland, we can reveal.

12/6/2017- During an undercover investigation we secretly filmed the extreme far right group Scottish Dawn revealing its links to National Action. A Scottish Dawn activist we filmed also revealed he’s a former member of UKIP and claimed that he got drunk with David Coburn, the party’s leader in Scotland. Scotland’s newest far right group also has links to violent Polish neo-Nazis who are active in the UK. Our seven month investigation – in conjunction with the Daily Record – has prompted calls for the government to take action against Scottish Dawn. Today’s report comes ahead of the first anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox MP who was stabbed and shot in broad daylight by far right killer Thomas Mair on 16th June 2016.

We met Scottish Dawn after email conversations and meeting its members at far right protests attended by white supremacists and the Scottish Defence League. During a meeting at an Edinburgh pub we secretly filmed two members of Scottish Dawn talking about the latest far right group to emerge in Scotland. The men used the false names ‘Fraser’ and ‘John’ to protect their real identities. But we have identified ‘Fraser’ as Ruaidhri McKim via the mobile phone number he provided. That number took us to the website of WB Stonemasonry – a firm based in East Lothian – where he was listed as managing director alongside his mobile number. These details were removed from the company’s website after we contacted McKim to ask for a comment and the company did not reply to a request for a comment.

During the meeting, McKim also told our reporter that he was a member of UKIP. Speaking about National Action he told our reporter: “It was getting too successful for the mainstream basically and they were really getting worried. National Action were a good organisation and the stuff we (Scottish Dawn) do is very similar”. “Basically there are some members in the group that were in National Action. It’s kind of hard to talk about it because it’s a prescribed (sic) terrorist organisation.” On UKIP, McKim said: “I was in UKIP for a while. Then after Brexit I just left because I didn’t see a point in it anymore. There’s lots of radical people within it, but no one with any position is a radical. UKIP Scotland was fucked man. I’ve been drunk with David Coburn – he’s really good fun. He’s a fun guy.” ‘John’ has not yet been identified.

Scottish Dawn emerged shortly after National Action was banned last December under the Terrorism Act 2000. National Action was the first extreme right-wing group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK. It celebrated the murder of Jo Cox on social media and praised the actions of Mair who stabbed the Labour MP to death 15 times in a frenzied attack. National Action later adopted the slogan – “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain!” – which was Mair’s declaration when asked to give his name in court. The then Home Secretary Amber Rudd described National Action as “a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology”.

Being a member of National Action, or inviting support for it, is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. National Action was active in Scotland where it ran a whites-only’ foodbank in Glasgow. It posted a video on Youtube of a secret training camp in Scotland where members took part in boxing matches. After it was banned, Scottish Dawn appeared in early 2017. It claims to be “a patriotic society for the defence of our race and nation active across Scotland” and McKim said that: “Everything that Scottish Dawn does is legal.” He made several Nazi references during the conversation. Explaining to our reporter why he had two phones, McKim said: “I have Nazi phone too”. He added: “There’s quite a few vegans and vegetarians [in Scottish Dawn] because they’re kind of that sort of Nazis. Nazis were the first government to even basically think of animal welfare.”

McKim later emailed our reporter and advised reading about the Nietzschean ideal of the ubermensch to “improve oneself”. Ubermensch means ‘superhuman’ in German and was used by Hitler to promote the warped idea of the Nazis as an Aryan master race. Scottish Dawn also claimed to have helped homeless people in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen – on the advice of Polish neo-Nazi thugs. McKim said: “Yeah we were introduced to the idea by Polish nationalists. It’s quite weird, there’s Polish nationalist organisations that are active in the UK.” Our reporter said: “What are they called again? ‘John’ said: “National Rebirth of Poland.” McKim then said: “In Polish, it abbreviates to NOP. Their logo is like and arm like that (bending his arm) with a sword. They’re ok. They’re a bit mouthy and skinheady, but they are nice guys and stuff. They had this big idea to take back homeless outreach from left-wing groups or Christian groups or whatever, and put it in the hands of nationalism. They’ve got groups in Europe too, I think.”

NOP (Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski) is an extremely violent neo-Nazi group and there is growing concern in the UK over its violent activities. In March, 31 Polish nationals were arrested in Liverpool when neo-Nazis attacked police and local people. Scottish Dawn has attended at least two demos organised by the Scottish Defence League (SDL). Its first public appearance was at the SDL’s anti-refugee demo in Alloa in March, alongside the National Front and other racist organisations. Members were also at the SDL’s Wishaw demo in April. Scottish Dawn uses a bright yellow flag displaying a black runic symbol known as the “life rune”. The symbol was used by the Nazis and has since been adopted by other neo-Nazi groups. At demos, Scottish Dawn disguise their faces and wear yellow-tinged sunglasses. Scottish Dawn’s website has the header – “Blood and Soil” and “Defending our Country | Defending our People”. It has adopted Alba Gu Bràth (“Scotland Forever” in Scottish Gaelic) as a slogan and members chant this at demonstrations.

‘John’ said that Scottish Dawn was influenced by Generation Identity which is a new pan-European nationalist movement for young people that disregards the “old fashioned skinhead”. The group’s strategy is to target young nationalists and SNP supporters. McKim said: “…a lot of the people that vote for the SNP, they are, more or less, ethno-nationalists… especially the kind of working-class kind of SNP supporter. I think instinctively it’s kind of ‘fuck England’ basically. Instinctively, that’s probably a good instinct. It’s been twisted into this like New World Order kind of ideology where everyone is Scottish. Scottish Dawn as an organisation, we’d like to, kind of get those SNP supporters and…” ‘John’ then said: “Take back nationalism.” McKim added:”…turn them into what we want rather than what they want”.

Scottish Dawn grooms new members via initial face to face interviews, advising people to use false names. Anyone deemed suitable is invited to volunteer at animal sanctuaries or to go camping, hiking or practice boxing. The group also runs martial arts training camps and our reporter was invited to do litter picking in Edinburgh and volunteer at an animal sanctuary in the west of Scotland. Scottish Dawn uses Telegram for communicating as they believe it to be secure and anonymous. They also use Protonmail and Tutanota for encrypted emailing and McKim used 4Chan and 8Chan which are image-board sites that allow anonymous posting. Scottish Dawn also revealed its long term plans. ‘John’ said: “There will literally be fascists and communists fighting on the street…that’s how it was after the war in Germany (…) 1918 (…) factions (…) and we’re kind of working towards that. So that’s where the future is going in my eyes.”

In response to our investigation, anti-fascist groups called for action to be taken against Scottish Dawn. Matthew Collins, of Hope Not Hate, said: “It’s been quite obvious since their proscription that National Action have simply been playing or giving lip-service to the ban. “They continue to recruit, to stir up hatred and make plans for a violent race war. Scottish Dawn is one of a series of “regional” groups that NA believe can circumvent what they seem to feel was merely a ban on their name. “The Home Secretary needs to enforce the law and look to do more than just ban a name of a group. Scottish Dawn have been off for training camps – it is still simply a banned group operating with a new name.”

Unite Against Fascism said: “It is clear from even the short conversation that the people behind Scottish Dawn are hate filled Nazis. They combine classic hatred of Jews and the LGBTI community with more modern Islamophobia. “With their casual references to associates who made pipe bombs in their bedrooms it is no wonder that their previous group National Action was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. “The group might be small just now but they are working with the Scottish Defence League trying to build a movement and that makes them dangerous. “Sadly but predictably the Scottish Dawn and the Scottish Defence League (SDL) are planning to try and profit from the atrocities in Manchester and London with a demonstration in Edinburgh on Sunday 25 June. I urge readers to join the Unite Against Fascism counter protest against them: Sunday June 25 1pm at Waverley Station, Edinburgh.”

Scottish Dawn did not respond to our requests for a comment. When we contacted McKim by telephone, he cut our reporter off without commenting. After emailing our questions, he later replied and said: “I have sought legal advice and will say that if you intend to print this unsupported trash then it is my intention to take legal action against whoever publishes it.” David Coburn, leader of UKIP in Scotland, said: “I have lots of people stop me in the street on busses everywhere asking for selfies and I always oblige. I even have one with Jeremy Corbyn. Nice chap but sadly bewildered. Want a copy? As far as this bloke is concerned I have zero recollection of him. I meet many Young Independence members. “They pay their membership like members of any political party and we know little about them till they do something fabulous or very silly. I never ever get drunk with anyone other than Nigel Farage and then not for many years. I am constantly in the public eye and I am not stupid.!!! “I think this chap is grandstanding and blethering and I am surprised you are taking him remotely seriously. I am homosexual, speak Arabic and various other languages and I have spent my entire life fighting ignorance, racial and sexual intolerance. Print this crap and I will sue this individual, you and your organ? Have a nice day.”

The above investigation was by Jamie Mann and Billy Briggs and published in conjunction with the Daily Record.
© The Ferret

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UK: Muslim woman assaulted by white man, hijab ripped off

Hate crime incidents have spiked in the UK following a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester that claimed 22 lives and an attack in London by three terrorists.

11/6/2017- A woman in the UK was allegedly pushed to the ground and her hijab ripped off amid a spike in hate crime incidents following the two terror attacks by Islamists that claimed 30 lives. The assault took place in Fengate, Peterborough, after the woman got out of her car and crossed the road with her three-year-old daughter when she was pushed from behind and knocked to the ground. She had her hijab pulled off and thrown towards her. No words were exchanged in the assault, but police have confirmed they are treating it as a racially or religiously aggravated hate crime, Peterborough Telegraph reported. The male offender was described as white, tall, of medium build and wearing a black hooded top with the head pulled up. A police spokesman was quoted as saying that the victim was shaken by the attack but otherwise uninjured.

The assault comes amid a spike in hate crime incidents in the UK following a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester that claimed 22 lives and an attack in London by three terrorists, who drove a van into pedestrians and then went on a stabbing spree, killing eight persons before being shot dead. Anti-Muslim crimes in the British capital increased fivefold since the London attack, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said last week, warning that police would take a “zero-tolerance approach”. Following last month’s concert bombing as well, the number of hate crime incidents reported to police in Manchester had doubled. The kind of incidents reported included a bomb threat received by a Muslim school, racist graffiti and a niqab-clad woman being told she should not be wearing the Islamic outfit. Also, a Muslim woman was spat on while a teenaged Muslim girl taunted by a passer-by who said, “when are you going to stop bombing people.
© The Hindustan Times

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UK: Police patrols near places of worship

There will be a higher police presence around places of worship over the next few days following the London Bridge terror attack, the Met Police said.

10/6/2017- Officers will be patrolling near churches, mosques and synagogues as people celebrate holy days. It comes as the number of hate crimes reported has increased in recent days. There have been reports of Muslim women being verbally abused and spat on, said Ash Siddique, secretary of the Al-Madina Mosque in Barking, east London. According to the Met Police, on average it receives 38 reports of racist incidents a day, whereas in the days immediately after the attack, that increased to 42 and 59. The force added it was receiving an average of 3.5 Islamophopic reports per day this year, whereas in the two days after the attack it increased to 12 and 18.

Ch Supt Dave Stringer, head of community engagement for the Met, said officers had arrested more than 25 people since Saturday for hate crime offences. "Over the next few days, communities of different faiths will congregate across London to celebrate their holy days," said Mr Stringer. "We know many will reflect on the terrible events of last Saturday evening in their readings and prayers but also that some will feel worried and vulnerable about their safety as they gather in their places of worship. "To help support these communities, we have increased the number of officers on the streets to reassure local people that they are able to go about their daily lives in peace and without fear of harassment or intimidation." Extra officers have not been drafted in, but those that are already working will go on patrol instead of carrying out other tasks. 

Sufia Alam, manager of the Maryam Centre at the East London Mosque, said the organisation has had reports of Muslim women being verbally abused on buses following the attack. "We urge all our Muslim women attending the workplace and religious places to report any kind of hate crime they may face," she said. Ash Siddique, secretary of the Al-Madina Mosque in Barking, east London, said there had been a number of incidents in which women coming to the mosque had been attacked, including one who was grabbed around the throat at a bus stop. "We've had a number of ladies who have been verbally abused and a number of ladies who have been spat on," he said. "We've had a couple of telephone calls, physical threats - 'we are going to attack you' and that sort of thing." He described the abuse as "part of the course of being a Muslim in the UK today". It is one week since the attack which saw eight people killed, and dozens more injured when three men drove into pedestrians on the bridge and then stabbed people in Borough Market.



London hate crime reports to police following terrorist attack
54 Racist incidents, 20 Islamophobic reports on 6 June
59 Racist incidents, 18 Islamophobic reports on 5 June
42 Racist incidents, 12 Islamophobic reports on 4 June
38 Racist incidents and 3.5 Islamophobic reports on average per day in 2017
Met Police



© BBC News.
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Britain needs to reset relations with its Muslims, insists Warsi

Former Tory chair says the debate over integration must change its focus

11/6/2017- Britain’s relationship with its Muslim community has become so brittle that it needs to be reset from scratch, according to one of the UK’s most prominent Muslims. Speaking from her home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in the aftermath of the London Bridge attack, Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi said: “When things go wrong with an iPhone or a coffee machine, pressing the restart button is usually a good, safe place to start. Right now, Britain’s relationship with her Muslims is within that frozen, overloaded, splurging episode – we need to press the button.” A third UK act of terrorism in 10 weeks means that a recalibrated discourse among politicians, Muslims and the British public needs to start urgently, she said.

She is clear that the Muslim community is playing its part by condemning the actions of the terrorists more forcibly than ever in an effort to demonstrate that there is no place for Islamism. As proof of this, she points to the reaction of the Muslim community following the tragedies. “The fact that scholars and imams have said they will not perform Muslim burials is pretty unprecedented. Imams and young people have taken to the streets, we’ve seen vigils up and down the country, Muslims have raised money for the victims.” Warsi, who resigned from the cabinet in 2014 over the government’s policy on Gaza, said she has seen the UK’s Muslim community fearful, but never has she witnessed it as furious. “I’ve never seen as much anger. The language used to describe the terrorists has never been sharper, angrier, and, I would say, the level of anger towards the terrorists from British Muslims is even greater than it is within the mainstream.”

She, too, is similarly exasperated. Her grandparents arrived in West Yorkshire from Pakistan in 1958, with her father originally securing employment as a mill worker. Born in 1971 into a working-class home in Dewsbury, Warsi made history in 2010 as Britain’s first Muslim cabinet member, becoming co-chairman of the Conservative party. Despite such achievements, however, she is aware that her Britishness remains an issue of debate. “My family has 60 years’ history in Britain, but how long before I have to stop taking a loyalty test?” The enduring debate on multiculturalism alongside the populist instincts that convulse her political party makes Warsi wonder whether her grandchildren will actually call Britain their home. A group of 2.8 million people are, she said, consistently defined through the lens of a tiny fraction of murderers. “There are far more Muslim doctors in Britain than terrorists, yet the community is not defined by the reputation of its daily life-savers, it’s defined by the reputation of ad hoc life-takers.”

Warsi would like the country’s leading politicians to do much more to counter this. She urges the government to show restraint in its response to terrorism, pointing out that the Muslim community in all three recent attacks had come forward to warn the authorities that the perpetrators had exhibited extremist behaviour. “There’s no point saying we need to go deeper into the Muslim community, because in all cases they reported them [the terrorists]; it was obvious to them who was radicalised.” Warsi also asks the government to shy away from an ideological response to tackling terrorism, name-checking one former cabinet minister as a Conservative colleague whose instincts helped engender an antagonistic and counter-productive relationship with the Muslim community. One central source of irritation is the broad retreat from dialogue with large sections of the Muslim community.

“The government has got to stop its policy of disengagement. There are a lot of calls saying they should be speaking to more young people, more women, a broader range of people, but since 2007 successive governments have had a policy of disengagement. We have to question whether not speaking to people has actually yielded results,” said Warsi, whose book The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain presents a forensic indictment of counter-terrorism policy. “If we work with the Muslim community we will make this problem smaller. If we introduce legislation that pits us against them, we are going to make it bigger.” Another thorny issue that needs urgent attention, according to Warsi, is the approach to far-right extremism and Islamism. “There is still no definition of far-right extremism. The only definition of extremism that exists within government policy is Islamism. We also have no definition of what is Islamophobia.”

Even now Warsi – whose multiculturalist credentials saw her placed on an Islamic State “kill list” last year – remains the only British politician to have delivered a mainstream speech on Islamophobia. Yet she is quick to warn that Muslims must take responsibility, in particular by challenging enduring conservative views. “You’re not a terrorist, but are you fit for purpose? That includes everything from their attitude to women, minorities, LGBT communities, education, the child exploitation issue.” Warsi – who wore a traditional shalwar kameez dress at her first meeting in Downing Street – also believes the British Muslim community needs to work towards phasing out the burqa from British streets, describing it as “not the greatest manifestation of British Islam”. 

Another change, she believes, is scrutinising the policymakers’ obsession with integration, pointing out that many of the recent attackers lived, superficially at least, westernised lifestyles at some stage. Instead, says Warsi, the debate on assimilation should focus more on the economics of mobility. “Integration is a middle-class pastime. If we’re really going to address the root causes of separatist communities, then let’s look at the economics, poverty, life chances. If you have no choice and your life chances are limited, then integration is not a priority. “Just because you don’t speak English does not mean you’re going to be a terrorist – the majority of terrorists speak good English. Secondly, there’s always a fraction of religious groups that choose to live separate lives and that is not an issue of integration. We have to keep the issue of terrorism and integration seprarate.”

But Warsi is philosophical that Britain’s Muslims will ultimately be embraced, citing the cycle of history to show that the demonisation of minorities in the UK will eventually, inevitably, subside. “The Muslim community might be seen as the enemy within now, but it’s only the latest in a long list of others that have been seen as such, starting with Catholics, Jews, blacks, the Irish, the miners, socialists. We’re just the latest in a long line.”
© The Guardian*

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Finland avoids government collapse, Finns Party fractures

13/6/2017- Finland averted a government collapse this week after the election of hard-line anti-immigrant leaders to the nationalist Finns Party, the country’s second-largest, lead to it fracturing in two with moderate Finns Party MPs siding with Prime Minister Juha Sipila. As many as 20 of the Finns Party’s 37 members of parliament, including former party leader Timo Soini, along with current ministers, split from the party to form a separate political movement New Alternative. The split avoids a government shutdown after PM Sipila warned he would break apart his three-party ruling coalition and tender his resignation to President Sauli Niinisto. With the support from New Alternative, Sipila’s Centre Party and pro-EU National Coalition Party retain a 106-seat majority in the 200-seat Finnish parliament. The Finns Party, whose election of Jussi Halla-aho as leader signalled a shift to the far-right, will be excluded from government with 17 MPs.

Taking to social media, both PM Sipila and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo confirmed the exclusion of the Finns Party from the ruling coalition. In a blog entry about the political crisis Orpo said the ruling coalition rejects the Finns Party’s euroscepticism and will promote an “open, tolerant society.” The turning point within the Finns Party started when party members chose Halla-aho as leader and replaced three deputy leaders with anti-immigrant hardliners over the weekend. Halla-aho supports Finland leaving the European Union. He was also fined in 2012 for linking Islam to paedophilia and Somalis to theft in a blog post. In a post on Facebook, Halla-aho said the Finns Party agreed with Finland’s current policy on accepting asylum seekers but required the policy be strictly monitored during a meeting with PM Sipila and Orpo.

“I had a good and rational discussion with Prime Minister Sipila and Minister Orpo about government cooperation. I made it clear the current government programme and the asylum seeker policy and related measures were good enough for the Finns Party, but we required that what was jointly agreed should be closely followed,” Halla-aho wrote. The announcement the Finns Party would be excluded from government, Halla-aho wrote, came shortly after his meeting with the Prime Minister. “A moment ago, the Prime Minister informed [me] that closer compliance with stated immigration policy is not possible and that there were no grounds for continuing government cooperation,” Halla-aho said.
© Euronews.

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Finnish government collapses after far-right elects hardline leader

12/6/2017- Finland’s three-party governing coalition has collapsed after the country’s prime minister and senior coalition partner ruled out continued co-operation with the right-wing True Finns party. Juha Sipilä, prime minister, on Monday said negotiations with the party were “over” after it appointed an ultra-nationalist as its new leader at the weekend. Finland has been ruled by a three-way coalition made up of Mr Sipilä’s centre-right party, the far-right Finns, and the liberal National Coalition Party since 2015. But the appointment of Jussi Halla-aho – who has compared Islam to paedophilia and wants to leave the EU – as head of the True Finns had pushed the coalition to breaking point. The Finns were previously led by Timo Soini – a Millwall supporter who had taken hardline against eurozone largesse to Greece. Prime minister Sipilä told MPs there were no conditions under which it would continue to work with Mr Halla-aho’s party. Finance minister Petteri Orpo, who is head of the NCP, echoed the prime minister in identical tweets sent on Monday afternoon.

The fresh political crisis comes after Finland has finally managed to turn a corner on its worst recession in over two decades. The Nordic economy bounced back with growth of 1 per cent at the start of the year, pushing analysts at Nordea bank to significantly upgrade their outlook for the economy to GDP expansion of 3 per cent this year. Mr Sipilä’s government has managed to push through painful labour market reforms to make Finland more competitive against its eurozone peers. “Just as it was starting to look better after years of disappointment, a government crisis emerges to threaten the Finnish outlook”, said Jan von Gerich at Nordea. “The economy still desperately needs more reforms, but the current momentum is acting as a small buffer against political uncertainty”, added Mr von Gerich.

The nationalist True Finns emerged as a significant eurosceptic force in the country in the wake of the continent’s debt crisis, opposing bailouts for Greece and supporting a eurozone exit for Finland. Mr Soini, co-founder of the party, became the True Finns first government minister when the eurosceptics were bought into a coalition two years ago. He served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister before stepping down this month.
© The Financial Times*

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Finland: Jussi Halla-aho elected Finns Party leader

Anti-immigration hardliner and eurosceptic MEP Jussi Halla-aho received a landslide victory with 949 votes. His main opponent Sampo Terho received 629 votes.

10/6/2017- Members of the Finns Party have chosen MEP Jussi Halla-aho as their new chairman. Seen as leader of the far-right wing of the Finns Party, Halla-aho received a landslide victory with 949 votes while his main opponent, Culture Minister Sampo Terho received 629 votes. During his campaign, Halla-aho positioned himself as an outsider compared to "the party elite" and focused on immigration. MEP Halla-aho has also taken a strong stand against Finland's EU membership.

Immigration to become key theme in party policy
After his win, the new chairman stated his first task is to clarify party policies. Immigration will be a key theme. "It is important to make sure themes important to us are actively brought forward," Halla-aho said. Halla-aho will replace incumbent Timo Soini as chairman, but is not interested in inheriting Soini's position as Foreign Minister. Pundits have speculated whether Halla-aho's victory could cause PM Juha Sipilä's government to fall apart, as Halla-aho's immigration policies are seen as too radical by other parties. Halla-aho says he has no intention of doing so. "The threshold for that is very high."

Convicted ethnic agitator
Halla-aho, who holds a doctoral degree in linguistics, was found guilty of ethnic agitation and disturbing religious peace in 2012 based on anti-Islamic and anti-Somali comments he had posted on his blog. He paid a small fine. Halla-aho has served just over three years as a member of the Finnish Parliament, including a stint as chair of the Administration Committee. Immigration is one of many issues overseen by the committee.
© YLE News.

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Norwegian far-right mass murderer Breivik changes his name to Fjotolf Hansen

10/6/2017- Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people in 2011, has officially changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, his lawyer said on Friday. Oeystein Storrvik declined to give Breivik's reasons for adopting Hansen, one of Norway's most common surnames, or the extremely rare Fjotolf. "He told me some reasons but I don't want to talk about what he told me," Storrvik told Reuters, confirming Norwegian media reports of the name change. In Norway, citizens can freely change their names in the official register but are not allowed to pick words that are likely to cause offense to others or harm the individual. It was unclear when he made the change. On Thursday, the Norwegian Supreme Court said it would not consider an appeal lodged by Breivik protesting against his prison conditions. The anti-Muslim far-right extremist killed 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011. He killed eight with a bomb in Oslo and then gunned down 69, many of them teenagers, at a youth meeting of the then-ruling Labour Party. Norway's Statistics Bureau says that there are more than 52,000 people with the surname Hansen in a population of five million. On Fjotolf, it merely says that it is used by fewer than four people.
© Reuters

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France: PayPal acts over far-right group's plan to thwart migrant rescue boats

A French far-right group’s plan to raise money to spend on chartering a boat to block migrant rescue expeditions in the Mediterranean has been halted after PayPal came under increasing pressure from outraged members of the public.

14/6/2017- The extreme-right group Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity), the youth branch of the nativist Bloc Identitaire movement, which describes its mission as “defending the identity of France and Europe” had launched an appeal to raise funds in early May. Their aim was to “charter a boat and sail in to the Mediterranean to thwart NGO ships” that regularly save stranded migrants trying to make it across the sea to Europe. The group claimed it would help any migrants they came across who were in distress before returning them to the African coastline. The operation named “Defend Europe” that was backed by other far-right identitarian groups around Europe had raised around €65,000 in contributions, €15,000 more than its initial target.

But the campaign did not go unnoticed and web users began to kick up a fuss online, notably urging the internet payment site PayPal, through which the funds were being collected, to block the group’s account. An online petition was also launched calling for a ban on such fundraising. The Twitter hashtag #StopDefendEuropePayPal was launched and calls were made to boycott the system. The pressure eventually took its toll and PayPal reacted by blocking contributions to the Generation Identitaire account. PayPal’s statement to the Rue89 news website read: “Our policy is to prevent our services being used by companies whose activities promote hatred, violence or racial intolerance.” Generation Identitaire told the site that their account had been blocked but they would be able to recuperate a part of the contributions.

The group, which has clashed with police during anti-migrant protests at the French-Italian border, has planned to carry on and intends to open another fund on another website. Generation Identitaire caused anger in the northern town of Lille last year when authorities allowed them to open a bar called The Citadel in the city centre. It led to protests by anti-fascist groups.
© The Local - France

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France: Le Pen laments 'catastrophic' abstention amid dip in support

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen lamented low turnout in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections as her party seemingly failed to convert her strong showing in the presidential election into a large number of legislative seats.

12/6/2017- Le Pen’s National Front came in third on Sunday with 13.2 percent of the vote, according to final results, leaving it on course to have five or fewer seats in parliament after next Sunday’s second round. That would be more than the two it had in the last session of parliament, but not enough to make the National Front the major opposition force Le Pen was hoping for. The runner-up in France's presidential election, Le Pen urged "patriotic" voters to turn out en masse on June 18 and boost her party's small presence in the National Assembly. She warned them against giving all powers to President Emmanuel Macron, whose centrist party is on course to win a huge majority in France’s National Assembly.

Le Pen also blamed the “catastrophic” low turnout on France’s electoral system, which she said is skewed in favour of larger parties. At over 51 percent, the rate of abstention was the highest on record for a legislative election. "This catastrophic abstention rate should raise the question of the voting rules, which keep millions of our compatriots away from the polling stations," said Le Pen, who qualified easily for the second round in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont against 12 rivals, where she will face a candidate from Macron's La République en Marche (LREM). Under election rules, if no candidate wins over 50 percent of the first-round vote, the two top-placed contenders go into the second round. A third-placed candidate can contest the run-off only by garnering at least 12.5 percent of all the voters registered in the district – a target that is difficult to reach in the event of high abstention.
© France 24.

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France: National Front seeks to exploit poverty in Provence

There is high poverty and low opportunity in Vaucluse, in southeastern France. That's a situation that the far-right National Front knows how to exploit, even if it means turning voters against their immigrant neighbors.

10/6/2017- Francois Gautier cuts potatoes into rings and tosses them into a frying pan at the stand he runs in a local market. As he waits for the potatoes to cook, he scans the people strolling through the square in the center of Carpentras. "See that man over there?" he asks. A pensioner stops and smiles at Gautier. "You probably think he looks like a nice old man," Gautier says. "But he is a National Front voter." How does he know? "I have a feel for it. People vote for extremists here." Carpentras is located the administrative district of Vaucluse, in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region of France, traditionally a stronghold of the middle-class and center-right. Yet, for the past several years, far-right parties have been gaining in popularity here. It is not uncommon for the National Front (FN) to win 30-50 percent of the vote in Vaucluse.

In 2012, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen put up his then-22-year-old granddaughter, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, as the party's parliamentary candidate in the district. The niece of Marine Le Pen, the party's chair at the time, she was one of two FN candidates to win seats in France's National Assembly. When the FN lost May's presidential election, Marechal-Le Pen announced her temporary retirement from politics. It was an enormous setback for the party, which had hoped to gain a number of seats in this Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Supporters are very disappointed that Marechal-Le Pen stepped down, the FN's Herve de Lepinau says. But the FN is firmly anchored in Carpentras. De Lepinau, who will take Marechal-Le Pen's place as the city's candidate Sunday, says that he is nevertheless confident. The 47-year-old has so far served as deputy parliamentarian and has worked as an attorney in Carpentras for more than 20 years. Dressed in a suit - without a tie and with his collar unbuttoned - he wanders along with members of his campaign team below the sycamore trees that line the market square. Among the fruit, vegetable and lavender stands, groups of onlookers gather around him whenever he stops to joke, greet friends and speak with voters.

'All the injustices'
Philippe Patacq says he is uncertain about whether he will vote for de Lepinau - but he had had no such doubts when it came to Marechal-Le Pen. She is "smart, pretty and quick-witted," he gushes. Adding, "It is a joy to listen to her. You can understand what she says." Marechal-Le Pen represented the right-wing opposition to her aunt within the party and was well-known for her opposition to abortion and her exceedingly harsh criticism of immigrants and Muslims. "I don't have anything against immigrants," says Patacq. He says the problem is the terrorists who enter the country among them. The Paris and Nice attacks served to further convince him of the need to vote for the National Front. He says, "I experienced those kinds of attacks in Algeria, I know what it means." Patacq himself is one of the many "Pieds-Noirs," the French-Algerians who emigrated to France after its former colony Algeria gained independence, now living in southern France.

Isabelle Sautret says she does not even want to vote, "because of all the injustices." The 47-year-old is having problems with authorities. Building inspectors prohibited her from building a shed because "it didn't meet code," she says. She runs a tree farm and had wanted to expand it and hire more workers. De Lepinau tells her that authorities acted illegally in denying her the right to build. She says that she will talk to him about it more later, and that she will likely vote for him on Sunday. She says she isn't a racist, but it is difficult to work with Muslims because they want employers to change working hours during Ramadan. "We have to submit to them," complains Sautret. "Everything we have earned is being taken away."

The political scientist Christele Marchand-Lagier says many FN voters in Vaucluse choose the party because they feel that they have been treated unfairly. In her research at the University of Avignon, Marchand-Lagier has conducted numerous interviews with regional voters over the last 20 years. One reason they are frustrated is the massive inequality they face: real estate prices are especially high in the Provence due to its popularity among tourists and foreigners. Still, the agricultural region is one of the poorest in France. "People feel left behind," says Marchand-Lagier. More and more, middle-class French are also getting the impression that they are underpaid for their labor, while others are living too comfortably from welfare payments. The popularity of right-wing extremists is not primarily a case of racism, the researcher says. Adding that many voters don't even know what the FN actually stands for in terms of policy. "People simply say, if the conservative right failed, why not try something else."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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France: The Calais ‘Jungle’ is gone, but migrant crisis is far from over

10/6/2017- He was walking alone, to a place that no longer exists. These days, Baz — a 25-year-old Afghan who has been in Calais for 20 months, he said — could use a place to sleep. Not so long ago, he had one: a tent in the “Jungle” encampment, where nearly 10,000 migrants and refugees from the Middle East and East Africa languished for months, even years, in hopes of eventually reaching Britain, a short 20 miles across the English Channel. But in late October, the French government — after a devastating sequence of terrorist attacks and the spike in anti-immigrant rhetoric that followed — demolished the camp. The migrants there were either transported to “welcome centers” throughout France or simply evicted from the makeshift city that teemed with smugglers and violence. In any case, the Jungle is gone, and Baz — like so many other migrants still here — now sleeps on the streets.

The end of the camp was not the end of the migrant crisis in France, and hundreds more have continued to trickle into this working-class city on the shores of northern France, which remains the closest point in continental Europe to Britain. If no longer in the headlines, the problem is no less urgent, aid workers say, insisting that conditions for newcomers have never been worse. “This!” Baz, who declined to give his surname, said recently, gesturing at the asphalt on a road near the old entrance to the Jungle, far outside of town. “This! This is where you sleep.” “We are literally trying to get drinking water to people. We don’t have water, we don’t have food — and no sanitation,” said Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, an aid organization active throughout France. “There’s skin disease, gum disease. It really, really is the absolute basics of life here.” “When we were in the Jungle, we were trying to get clothes to people and even some kinds of social care. It really was a step up from where we are now.”

Since the Jungle, major elections have come and gone in France and Britain, whose border with the European Union’s Schengen zone begins at the French coast. In France, despite the victory of the centrist, pro-migrant Emmanuel Macron over the fiercely anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen last month, little has happened to suggest any immediate change in policy toward migrants seeking either temporary residence or asylum. “The duty of Europe is to offer asylum to those who are persecuted and ask for its protection,” Macron’s campaign platform read. “In this context, France must take its fair share in the reception of refugees. It must issue permits to all those whom it deems entitled to asylum in its territory.”

But last week, Gérard Collomb, Macron’s interior minister, authorized the transfer of three extra police squadrons to the Calais region. In an interview with the Le Parisien newspaper, Collomb said that the transfer would amount to roughly 150 additional officers and gendarmes. “Our priority,” Collomb said, “is that Calais and Dunkirk do not remain places of fixation and that ‘Jungles’ do not reconstitute.” In Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived her own snap election recently, Brexit will still mean Brexit, and strict immigration regulations for migrants and refugees are unlikely to be reconsidered anytime soon. Unlike many of the migrants now here, Baz is a legal adult. Approximately 150 of the 400 new migrants who have recently arrived in the Calais area are unaccompanied minors, Moseley said. After the destruction of the Jungle, there is no longer a central gathering place for these younger migrants, who have begun to seek refuge in odd locations throughout the city.

Two of them, for instance, were huddled on a recent evening under a covered drive-in outside a Pizza Hut in central Calais. Customers came in and out, paying the two boys little notice. Pizza deliveries proceeded; cars passing through the nearby roundabout drove by. “Calais people don’t like refugees,” said Kiya Rabbira, 16, from Ethiopia, one of these refugees. He was sitting with his friend, Fiiri Nanaki, 15, also from Ethiopia. “They’re always calling the police, and they never give us food. They see us sleeping here, and say, ‘don’t sleep here — go.’ ” This was never supposed to happen. In the fall, leading up to the Jungle’s demolition, the U.K. government pledged to take in a host of unaccompanied minors. Already nominally committed to the Dublin III agreement, a European Union regulation allowing the resettlement of refugee children in member states where they have family, the government vowed to do more.

Last year, the British Parliament approved an amendment to an immigration bill that also permitted the resettlement of unaccompanied minors with no family in Britain. Sponsored by Alf Dubs, a member of the House of Lords, the “Dubs amendment” harked back to one of the proudest moments in modern British history, when the United Kingdom — in convoys known as “Kindertransports” — sheltered Jewish children from Nazi persecution in central Europe in the late 1930s. Dubs, now 84, was one of those children. In the months since, however, the United Kingdom has reneged on its commitment, largely because the final text of the new amendment mandated no specific number of unaccompanied minors to admit, Dubs said in an interview. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to tack a number on it, so the government could go back on the amendment,” he said. “We simply said they had to do it, never thinking they would cut it short like that.”

Calais is a historic stronghold of the National Front, the far-right, anti-immigrant and populist party that lost the French presidential election but is vying to represent the area in France’s upcoming legislative elections. Le Pen, who lost the Elysée Palace to Macron last month, is ultimately running for a seat in Parliament here. She has a decent chance of winning, as she carried the area in both rounds of the presidential election. In recent years — mostly thanks to the Jungle — Calais and its environs have developed a particular reputation for a certain xenophobia, with migrants frequently complaining of vigilante reprisals from ordinary citizens. Recently immortalized in the pages of “The End of Eddy,” the best-selling novel of the 24-year-old Édouard Louis, much of northeastern France is a predominantly white and working-class terrain, as resentful of change as it is of the Parisian elite.

In the season of France’s upcoming legislative elections, appealing to this demographic appears to be a motivation for Macron’s cabinet. “I had the opportunity to speak with local elected officials,” Collomb told Le Parisien. “I heard their concerns, and I want to tell the people of all these territories that they are not forgotten.” But the migrants here often find these promises sinister, mostly in terms of an increased police presence. “Kicking, dogs, spray,” Rabbira said, when asked to describe his encounters with the local police. “There’s a problem with the police here — they spray you,” Baz said, acting out a forceful kick. Calais City Hall did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
© The Washington Post.

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French far-right voter on trial for helping a migrant

She may once have voted for France's anti-immigrant National Front, but now she faces possible jail time for helping the Iranian refugee she fell in love with.

10/6/2017- Beatrice Huret insists she has no regrets and believes she has done nothing wrong. On June 27th however, she goes on trial for offering aid to a foreigner and in theory at least, faces a jail term of up to 10 years. It has been a long journey for someone who used to leaflet for the National Front, the far-right party that campaigns on a fiercely anti-immigrant platform. Huret, a dark-haired woman of 44, lives in the Calais area of northern France, where in recent years thousands of migrants have gathered awaiting their chance to cross the Channel to England - legally or illegally. For 20 years she was married to a police officer, a member of the border police and a National Front sympathiser like her. "I lived a basic life and I voted FN (National Front), like my husband, without really thinking twice about it," she said.

She worked nights as a carer at a retirement home, tended to the house and raised their child during the day. When her husband died of cancer she continued as best she could, moving into the field of adult education. Her life really began to change one night in February 2015 when she gave a lift to a young Sudanese refugee, dropping him off at the camp near Calais known as "The Jungle". "It was a shock to see all these people wading around in the mud," she said. "The Jungle" was a squalid, makeshift camp, a kind of shanty town for the migrants and refugees who had travelled to the north coast of France. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people stayed there in desperate conditions until the authorities eventually moved in and dismantled it in November 2016. Back in 2015, seeing their plight, Huret decided to volunteer there. It was a year later that she first met Mokhtar.

Love at first sight
Mokhtar was one of a number of Iranians who in March 2016 sewed their mouths shut in protest over French efforts to demolish the southern half of the camp. When they first met, he spoke English but no French and her English was at best, rudimentary. "It was just 'hello, thank you, goodbye', so I didn't speak to him immediately," she said. "He got up to get me some tea. You got a sense of someone who was very gentle, very calm and then his look... it was love at first sight." And the language barrier proved no real obstacle. "Our love story started there, with the help of 'Google Translate'," she explained. Then a couple of months after their relationship began, another volunteer asked her to put up Mokhtar for a couple of days while they put together a plan to get him to England in a lorry. But that plan came to nothing and he ended up staying with her, her 76-year-old mother and her 19-year-old son for a month.

Having endured eight months in the 'Jungle', Mokhtar had not given up on his dream of getting to England, and he enlisted her help in another, desperate plan. She agreed to buy a small boat for €1,000 ($1,120) so that he and two friends could attempt the crossing by sea. "If I hadn't done it, they would have found someone else to do it!" she said. "That was their objective and I couldn't have done anything to talk them out of it." So it was that on June 11, 2016, at 4:00 am she took Mokhtar in her arms and hugged him goodbye before he and his friends set off across the Channel for England.

'I did nothing illegal'
It was two months later that the French authorities took her into custody - in the same station her late husband once worked - for her role in helping him. "I told the whole truth because, for me, I had done nothing illegal," she said. Her companion Mokhtar had made safely to England, though not without a scare when their boat began taking in water. The 37-year-old former teacher has now settled in the northern city of Sheffield and has even obtained a work permit. She visits him every other weekend, taking the cross-Channel ferry denied the migrants still searching for a route over from France. And her English has improved. "I understand everything, but I still have a bit of trouble speaking it," she says with a smile. She has written a book about their story, "Calais, Mon Amour". In it, she celebrates Mokhtar's courage and dignity. "Mokhtar gave me back the taste of forgotten love," she writes. "But he gave me something even more precious, the taste of truth." It remains to be seen, however, how her truth will stand up to the truth set out in the prosecutor's papers.
© AFP.

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Headlines 9 June, 2017

Norway Supreme Court turns down mass murderer Breivik's appeal

8/6/2017- The Norwegian Supreme Court will not take up an appeal lodged by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik protesting against his prison conditions, the court said on Thursday. Breivik was seeking to overturn a March decision by a Norwegian appeals court that ruled that his near-isolation in a three-room cell respected human rights. The anti-Muslim far-right extremist killed 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011. He killed eight with a bomb in Oslo and then gunned down 69, many of them teenagers, at a youth meeting of the then-ruling Labour Party. His appeal had raised dismay, and some laughter, among Norwegians taken aback by Breivik's complaints of cold coffee and microwaved meals he said were "worse than waterboarding".

"The Supreme Court's appeal commission has unanimously decided on June 8, 2017 to not further consider Anders Behring Breivik's appeal in the case Breivik has brought against the state," the court said in a statement. "No part of Breivik's appeal has the possibility of winning in front of the Supreme Court," it added. "Neither does the case raise questions about the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights that have not already been clarified extensively by the European Court of Human Rights." Breivik has been told of the Supreme Court's decision, Mona Danielsen, one of his lawyers, told Reuters. She declined to say how he reacted.

Survivors and relatives of the victims welcomed the decision. "I am very happy. This is very good news and shows that our justice system is working," said Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland, whose daughter Synne, 18, was shot dead in Breivik's rampage. She leads the main support group for survivors and victims' relatives. "This ensures that we are not going to see the terrorist for many, many years," she told Reuters. "Good," said Eskil Pedersen, a survivor of the shooting, on Twitter, linking to the Supreme Court's decision. Oeystein Storrvik, another Breivik lawyer, said he would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. "We will take this case to Strasbourg as soon as possible," he told Reuters. "When we took up the case, we knew that it would be possible we would not be successful in the Norwegian justice system."
© Reuters

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Netherlands: 550 reports of pregnancy discrimination in fortnight

9/6/2017- A special hotline for reporting pregnancy-related discrimination has received 550 complaints in its first two weeks, reports the Dutch human rights organisation. It says that it is ‘a big problem’ in the jobs market that pregnant women and new mothers are treated unlike others, saying that so many reports in a short space of time underlines the problem. It manifests, reports NOS, in a contract not being renewed or holiday required to be taken in place of maternity leave, for example. The organisation – the College voor de Rechten van de Mens – believes 65,000 women are discriminated against each year in the Netherlands due to pregnancy. It started a telephone hotline for women to report their claims on 22 May, which has had calls mostly from women with flexible and temporary contracts.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Rotterdam follows Amsterdam banning hissing at girls on the street

8/6/2017- Rotterdam is following Amsterdam with amending its bylaws to make it an offence to hiss at or intimidate women on the street. The decision means people who follow women asking for sex, shout at them or call them names face a fine up to €4,100, broadcaster NOS reported. Intimidation is a major problem and ‘everyone should feel safe and be able to walk along the street unhindered,’ alderman Joost Eerdmans told the broadcaster. Research by the city last year found that 84% of women between the age of 18 and 45 had been intimidated while out walking. Many said they had changed their behaviour and avoided certain areas at night. ‘It is unacceptable if women feel so limited in their freedom that they change their clothes or avoid parts of the city,’ Eerdmans said. Street wardens will now keep a better watch in problem areas and people caught harassing women will be given a formal warning, the broadcaster said. Fines will be issued from next year. Amsterdam has not yet fully implemented its new bylaws but aims to do so this summer, NOS said. The Hague is also considering such a move.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Wilders will not be prosecuted for 2015 Vienna speech

7/6/2017- Far-right politician Geert Wilders will not be prosecuted in the Netherlands for comments he made about Islam in Vienna in 2015, reports Nu.nl on Wednesday. Last week it was reported that Austrian prosecutors had asked the Dutch government to pursue a complaint about his speech on 27th March 2015, in which he said ‘Islam calls people to be terrorists’, and is ‘an ideology of war and hatred’. The case had been transferred, reportedly, for practical reasons and originated from a complaint by chairman of the Austrian Muslim Initiative Tarafa Baghajati. But Dutch prosecutors said they will not be taking on the case since, contrary to Austrian law, it is not an offence to insult a religion or religious community.

‘Only comments that focus on a group that is characterised by a belief could be against the law,’ said the OM prosecution service. ‘On this occasion, Wilders spoke about Islam, not about the group of Muslims who are characterised by their Islamic beliefs. This comes under Dutch laws about criticism of beliefs, and not group insult.’ Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred against Muslims in 2011 in the Netherlands on this rationale – that he was attacking the religion and not specific groups, and acting within his right to free speech. He was, however, found guilty of insulting Dutch Moroccans and inciting racial discrimination against them last year. He is appealing this conviction, which had no punishment apart from a criminal record.
© The Dutch News

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France: Why Marine Le Pen might end up embarrassed after Sunday's elections

7/6/2017- A split on the French far right has added to the risk of embarrassment for Marine Le Pen ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday. During the presidential campaign, hard-right populist Le Pen and her National Front party entered an alliance with fellow Euroskeptic right-winger Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and his Arise France party. But Dupont-Aignan confirmed on Wednesday that any lawmakers elected from his party to France’s National Assembly in Sunday’s poll would not sit in a formal group with National Front MPs, Le Figaro reported. He said that a proposed parliamentary alliance would only have applied if the pair had won the presidential election. The development underlines Le Pen’s plight as she prepares for a likely drubbing just weeks after a presidential election that some thought she had a shot at winning.

Le Pen lost the presidential vote on May 7 to the liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron; she took 33.9 percent to his 66.1 percent, securing her party’s highest-ever presidential result in the process. But now polls suggest that, while Macron could secure between 300 and 400 out of the assembly’s 577 seats, Le Pen could take just 10 to 15, according to Le Figaro . A minimum of 15 seats are needed to constitute a formal parliamentary bloc. The latest poll, from Ipsos France, puts Republic On The Move on 400 seats and the National Front on 10. Such a result would constitute an embarrassment for Le Pen who—after her presidential defeat—vowed to take on a new role as the primary opposition to Macron and his party. The second largest party on current polling is set to be the center-right Republicans, with over 115 seats, according to Ipsos.

The vote is also likely to lead to the collapse of the Socialist party, who formed the last government but could take just 30 seats, according to Ipsos. Macron needs to secure a majority of seats in order to push through his reform agenda, including planned reductions in government spending and changes to employment law. A French president needs parliamentary support in order to use many of his or her powers.
© Newsweek.

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Croatia Police ‘Stop Beating Refugees’ After Reports

Croatian NGOs told BIRN that police only stop using violence against refugees at the country’s border after alleged misconduct by officers is made public.

7/6/2017- Two NGOs told BIRN that Croatian police only react to reports of violence against refugees at the border after accusations of beatings and photographs of injuries are publicised in the media and on social networks. According to reports from various NGOs, some refugees have been beaten, some of their private property confiscated and some have been forced out of Croatia, mostly to neighbouring Serbia, from where they entered Croatia. Milena Zajovic, the president of the Zagreb-based NGO ‘Are You Syrious?’, which took photos and talked to some of the beaten refugees, told BIRN that the police took action after these reports were published. “Indicatively, after we went public with this story, the violence on the border has almost disappeared for a few days, and this has happened in earlier cases when we publicly […] reported violence at the Croatian border,” she said. “Someone in the [Interior] Ministry or the police main directorate seems to have the power to instantly effectively stop the violence at the Croatian border, so a logical conclusion is that he has the power to order it,” she added.

Zajovic said that the ministry is currently investigating the issue but has rejected the idea that the violence is systematic and claims not to have any knowledge of attacks on refugees by its officers. Other international organisations – the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Doctors without Borders and Doctors of the World – also recorded an increase in violence against refugees in late May, while various refugee groups have said that refugees have given identical corroborating reports of violent incidents. The Interior Ministry told BIRN on Tuesday that it already expressed a clear position that it will not support "any form of violence and intolerance from the police officers", especially towards migrants who, because of their special vulnerability, "seek international protection" in the country. “The General Police Directorate strongly rejects any allegation of NGOs that police officers unlawfully treat migrants upon commanders’ orders, as well as [claims that] these activities are organised. In this regard, we state that it is in the interest of this Ministry to check all allegations of cases referred to by […] NGOs and investigate any form of violation of the law-based rights,” it said.

The ministry also said that the State Attorney office is processing the criminal complaints filed by NGOs reiterating that the police never recorded “any unprofessional or unlawful treatment of migrants” so far. Lea Horvat from another Zagreb-based NGO, the Centre for Peace Studies, also told BIRN that the police reactions always followed after their reports were made public – in January and March – and especially when criminal report against unknown perpetrators were filed. “We noticed while working on the ground that violence would usually disappear after reports were made public. This is what happened with these latest reports. In the last few days, there has been no mention of new violence,” she told BIRN. Various reports of alleged police violence and unlawful treatment of refugees were made earlier this year. In January, the Jesuit Refugee Service reported the Croatian Interior Ministry to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and to the Croatian ombudsman's office for illegally deporting refugees to Serbia.

The same month, Human Rights Watch warned that Croatian police have not been respecting the rights of asylum-seekers arriving in the country and have been pushing them back across the border to neighbouring Serbia. The refugee crisis on the so-called ‘Balkan route’, which hit Croatia in September 2015, calmed down after Balkan countries closed their borders to refugees and migrants in March 2016. Smaller groups still try to enter Croatia and continue to central and northern Europe, mostly to Germany.
© Balkan Insight

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Greece: Athens Mayor nixes neo-Nazi event

8/6/2017- Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis has emphatically refused to grant permission to extreme-right party Golden Dawn to stage an event at the Chorofylaki park in the suburb of Goudi. “There is no way that Golden Dawn will be granted the park,” Kaminis told a meeting of the city council Thursday. His move to shut out the far-right party was backed by prominent city council members such as Costas Axelos and Petros Constantinou, who said it is the obligation of state institutions to be clear about the fact that “Golden Dawn is a criminal gang and not a political party.” Constantinou also said that municipal authorities in Patra, western Greece, have taken the decision not to allow Golden Dawn to stage events in public spaces. Kaminis has appeared as a witness for the prosecution at the ongoing trial of Golden Dawn’s leadership on charges of running a criminal organization.
© The Kathimerini.

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Finland: Ombudsman: Helsinki city acted lawfully in Roma shelter refusal

Finland's Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman says that the city of Helsinki fulfils its responsibilities to care for people in extreme circumstances and need. In particular, the authority was responding to complaints the office had received about an incident on a bitterly cold night in January 2016, when 14 Roma migrants were turned away from a city homeless shelter in Helsinki.

7/6/2017- Finland's Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman received a total of three complaints which asked the authority to determine whether the city of Helsinki had discriminated when a city-run homeless shelter turned away Roma on a bone-chilling night in early January 2016. The temperature outside that night was minus 25 degrees Celsius when 14 Roma – mostly from Bulgaria and Romania – arrived to a service centre in the Töölö district of Helsinki, asking for a place to stay. After receiving the complaints, the Deputy Ombudsman asked Helsinki officials to investigate whether the city had fulfilled its obligation to offer emergency shelter to anyone in need, whether there was adequate space at the shelter and if it had lawfully followed through on directives regarding providing emergency shelter. In April 2016, Helsinki officials issued a report which said it found the city had provided shelter equally to everyone in need.

Ombudsman: City still had shortcomings in 2016
Before that, during the winter of 2016 the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman said it found shortcomings in the city's emergency shelter system, particularly regarding its organisation and capacity. But the deputy ombudsman now says the city has made adjustments which helped to fulfil its obligation to take care of undocumented individuals. The authority deemed the city was not passive or inactive in their responses to provide care to the needy. In its report the deputy ombudsman also recommended that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health should clarify national laws concerning emergency accommodation - because the issue could become relevant anywhere in Finland.

City's obligations
Helsinki regulations say the city is obliged to provide emergency shelter to a foreigner if the individual is unable to reach his or her own country's embassy during the same day. Generally the accommodation is provided for a single night because the individual is often offered the possibility to leave the country. The Parliamentary Ombudsman's Referendary Pasi Pölönen told Yle Uutiset that the east European Roma were not denied shelter because the city's Social Services and Health Care department had sorted out accommodation for them that night. The Deputy Ombudsman said that foreign residents - and even undocumented individuals - are obliged to receive temporary emergency shelter in Finland. The ombudsman's office said the obligations are based on international agreements which Finland has signed, on the Finnish constitution as well as social care laws.

During the past winter, east European migrants were referred to the Helsinki Deaconess Institute's emergency shelter on the city island of Munkkisaari, which opened in November 2016 and closed in April of this year. Others, like undocumented migrants and Finnish citizens in need, were referred to the institutes' emergency shelter in the city's Hermanni district.
© YLE News.

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Ireland: Mosque in western Ireland attacked by unknown assailants

6/6/2017- Irish police are investigating an attack on a mosque in the western city of Galway after rocks smashed the windows during late prayers on Monday, reports said on Tuesday. Imam Ibrahim Noonan told the Irish Times he believed the attack was a "direct result" of the London terrorist attack on Saturday night. The attack on the Galway mosque "terrified" up to 100 members of the local Muslim community who were inside at the time, Noonan told the newspaper. It follows Irish media reports that one of the three London attackers named by British police, Rachid Redouane, had lived in Dublin, the Irish capital, where he married a British woman in 2012 before returning to Britain.

Redouane returned to Ireland for a time in 2016 but had not come to the attention of the police, Irish national broadcaster RTE reported. Noonan said that cameras at the mosque had filmed those responsible for Monday's attack. "I believe that this was a direct backlash on our community as a result of the weekend and I am fearful that more attacks will come which could be worse," he said. "I am appealing to the Irish public that what is happening in London and Manchester is sad and tragic and unforgivable, but we cannot just assume that every Muslim and every mosque is involved or supporting these so-called radicals.
© DPA

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Bosnia: Fascist Chants Mar Croat Nationalist Concert

Fascist slogans were chanted at a concert by Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perkovic ‘Thompson’ in the Bosnian town of Mostar in support of Bosnian Croat ex-officials on trial for war crimes.

9/6/207- Around 8,000 people chanted the Croatian World War II fascist chant “Za dom spremni” (“Ready for the Home(land)”) at Thompson’s concert on Thursday night at the Zrinjski football stadium in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar. In a town largely divided between Croats and Bosniaks, the concert was organised in support of six former Bosnian Croat generals and politicians – leaders of the unrecognised Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosna wartime statelet – who are awaiting their final verdict before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for war crimes against Bosniaks between 1992 and 1994. In 2013, the ICTY’s trial chamber sentenced them to a total of 111 years in prison but an appeal against their convictions is now being considered by the judges at the UN court.

The concert attracted mostly younger people between 15 and 25 years old from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as neighbouring Croatia. The announcer at the concert said that it was being held in support of innocently imprisoned Croats “and all innocently convicted members of the HVO” - the Croatian Defence Council, Herzeg-Bosna’s armed forces. Six empty white chairs with names of all six Herzeg-Bosna officials – Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic – were placed in front of the stage. The concert was opened by a girl singing the Croatian national anthem, while various bands and singers played folk and patriotic songs, some of which hymned Herzeg-Bosna. The biggest star of the concert was Croatian nationalist singer Thompson, who closed the event. Despite not singing one of his most controversial songs, the 1991 wartime song ‘Cavoglave’, which uses the Ustasa chant “Za dom spremni”, the crowd started chanting it on their own on several occasions.

“With this concert, we are giving voice to beauty and love. We want this concert to encourage our prisoners, to encourage our defenders [1990s war veterans], and your dear friends, our people who live in Herzegovina, in Croatia, in Bosnia… This is the message of this gathering - love,” Thompson shouted, to applause from the crowd. “And let our Croatian defenders who have been unfairly prosecuted feel this strength of [this] evening’s love,” he added. Thompson and the other performers closed the concert with the Croatian singer’s popular patriotic song ‘Lijepa li si’ (‘You are Beautiful’), which praises Herzeg-Bosna. The organisers of the concert - the Croat National Assembly, which includes Bosnian Croat parties and the Association of the Croatian Heart of Hope, an NGO promoting Croats in Bosnia – forbade media from communicating with the crowd in the front rows. Media were also forbidden to leave the space reserved for them in front of the stage.

While a few flares were set off at the concert, county police reported that there were no incidents – not mentioning the “Za dom spremni” chants. Some concert-goers wore the T-shirts of the 1990s paramilitary Croatian Defence Forces, HOS, with “Za dom spremni” in its coat of arms – a logo officially recognised by the Croatian state. Some NGOs and Bosnian political parties had demanded that Thompson’s concert be banned – as his gigs have been across Europe – due to his associations with the Ustasa regime and praise for Herzeg-Bosnia, but this was rejected by the Mostar authorities. In 2009, Thompson’s performance of the Ustasa-praising song ‘Jasenovac and Gradiska Stara’ – the names of Ustasa-run concentration camps – caused outrage in Croatia and across the region. In 2015, some 80,000 people watched Thompson celebrate the 20th anniversary of Croatoa’s victorious 1995 military operation ‘Storm’, many chanting “Kill a Serb” and “Za dom spremni”.
© Balkan Insight

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Bosnian Serbs to Ban Lessons on Srebrenica Genocide

Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, said that the use of schoolbooks teaching about the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo will never be allowed.

6/6/2017- Children in Republika Srpska’s schools will never be taught about the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo, President Milorad Dodik told a press conference in Banja Luka on Tuesday amid controversy over a proposed ban on textbooks that include the subjects. “Here it is impossible to use schoolbooks from the Federation [Bosnia’s other, Bosniak and Croat-dominated entity] in which it is written that the Serbs committed genocide and held Sarajevo under siege. It’s not true and it will not be studied here,” Dodik said. Dodik was supporting an announcement by the RS entity’s minister of education and culture Dane Malesevic, who said that textbooks from the Federation will be banned in RS if passages about the wartime siege of Sarajevo or the 1995 mass killings of Bosniaks from Srebrenica by Serb forces are included. Malesevic justified his decision by citing a 2002 agreement signed by all ministries of education in Bosnia, which said that there will be no war topics in schoolbooks.

However, in the Federation, the history textbook for 9th grade pupils, approved for use in all primary schools in the entity, includes material about the Sarajevo siege and the Srebrenica genocide. “Bosniak children, who study a national [ethnic] group of subjects in RS, will not use such textbooks,” Malesevic said on Monday at a press conference. “The RS Ministry of Education and Culture is only respecting the agreement and the recommendations of the OSCE about embarking on the study of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that children will not be burdened with the topic. This is in their best interests and in the interest of healthy coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.

The OSCE said that it did not know anything about textbooks dealing with the war, nor who approved them. “I cannot confirm what is the status of the 2002 agreement. It is clear that there are too much politics in education and we want to see more positive things, more computers, schools in good shape and far less policy,” Jonathan Moore, the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, told N1 television. Muhizin Omerovic, a representative of parents of Bosniak children from Konjevic Polje, a village in RS, who are taught under the Bosniak ‘national curriculum’, told news website Klix that the decision came as no surprise. “That is just a continuation of the ban on studying the Bosnian language and national classes,” Omerovic said. He was referring to a long-running row over the official definition of the language spoken by Bosniaks in Republika Srpska, which is defined differently by the constitution of RS and the Bosnian state constitution.

While the latter defines the three official languages of the country as Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, the RS constitution employs a slightly different formula, stating that the official languages of the entity are those of “the Serbian, Croatian and Bosniak peoples”. The difference is symbolically important for Bosniaks, many of whom want their language defined as ‘Bosnian’, because this would reaffirm the existence of a common cultural and historical heritage in the country. “Considering the situation, I think that they will manage to ban the books because we have been fighting for the issue and the recognition of the language for four years and we have not resolved anything yet,” Omerovic said.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, pupils have the right to be educated according to their own ‘national’ (ethnic) curriculum, which means they study in their own language (Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian), and several subjects are taught differently according to their ethnicity, such as religion and history. Some schools in the country also operate the controversial practice of ‘two schools under one roof’ - separating pupils into different classes in the same building on the basis of their ethnicity, which critics say perpetuates ethnic divisions.
© Balkan Insight

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Czech Rep: Extreme rightist party to sue Interior Ministry

9/6/2017- The Prague Municipal Court will start next week dealing with the legal complaint filed by the far-right extra-parliamentary National Democracy (ND) party against the Interior Ministry over being repeatedly called extremist by it, court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told CTK today. The ND protests against this state of affairs and demands a public apology for harm to its reputation, Puci said. The party complains about the reports on extremism in the Czech Republic the Interior Ministry regularly publishes on its website. It demands that all mentions about it should be deleted from them. It also wants the Interior Ministry to post an apology on the front page of the website for 15 days. It should say "We apologise to the political party National Democracy for its being persistently mentioned in the reports on extremism. The political party National Democracy does not fulfil the definition of an extremist party and it was placed in the reports on extremism unrightfully."

In the complaint, the ND stresses that it is a legal party registered with the Interior Ministry, advocating democratic values. It feels strongly harmed by the claim that it is its aim to damage the Czech Republic's constitutional order and democratic principles. The party defines itself as "conservative and patriotic." ND leader Adam B. Bartos is facing the charges of genocide denial and approval, incitement for hatred and defamation of a nation. Last October, Bartos was given a one-year suspended sentence for placing an anti-Semitic text at the grave of Anezka Hruzova, a 19-year-year Czech girl who was murdered in Polna, south Moravia, in 1899. In the blood libel case, Jew Leopold Hilsner was falsely found guilty of her murder and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. He was only pardoned in 1918.

Bartos and an ND member displayed a sign with a photograph of the murdered woman and a text reading, among others: "The Jewish question has not been resolved in a satisfactory manner yet." In its latest quarterly report on extremism, the Interior Ministry said the ND was trying to gain the main position within the extreme right, trying to establish contacts with neo-Nazi individuals and groupings.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Half of Romanies live in ghettos, annual report shows

6/6/2017- Half of the approximately 245,800 Romanies in the Czech Republic live in social exclusion and the situation did not improve in 2016, according to the annual report on the Romany minority that has been submitted to the Czech government. "Half of the Romanies are integrated into society. The other half are Romanies who are socially excluded or threatened with social exclusion. They are marginalised and forced to the periphery of society," the report writes. Coordinators for Romany affairs estimate that Romanies represented 2.3 percent of the population, thus being the strongest minority in the country. In Slovakia, about 9 percent of the inhabitants are Romanies. Some 11 million Romanies have been living in Europe. Half of Czech Romanies belong to the intelligentsia and the middle class. Many of them face racial discrimination, although they are well educated and successful at work, receive reasonable salaries and owe no money, the report writes.

Opinion polls show that Romanies have been the most unpopular minority in the country for years. The Czech government has not managed to improve the image of Romanies among the majority society until now, the report says, adding that this is a long-term task. The highest concentration of Romanies is in the Usti Region (about 68,500) and the Moravia-Silesia Region (32,600), in which about 60 and 70 percent of them, respectively, live in social ghettos. In Prague, about 20 percent of the approximately 17,000 Romanies live in social exclusion. Romanies often end up on the peripheries of towns or regions in hostels for poor people. Their access to standard accommodation is very limited as they have low earnings, they often live on welfare and get indebted. Due to controlled moving of Romanies to certain neighbourhoods, more social ghettos have developed in recent years, the report writes.

From 2006 to 2014, the number of social ghettos doubled from 300 to 600 and the number of their poor inhabitants, mostly Romanies, increased from 80,000 to 115,000. Romany children still attend schools for students with moderate intellectual disability more often than other children. The health condition of Romanies from ghettos is worse than that of the rest of the population, the report writes. Czech authorities have no official statistical data on Romanies. There is opposition to the collecting of such data and Romanies move house very often. Some families changed their residence even four times a year, however, they mostly moved within one region. In 2016, the Czech state spent 69 million crowns on the integration of Romanies into society. Financial support for Romany integration has been increasing since 2013, but it is lower than it was before the global financial crisis that led to budget cuts.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: EU threatens sanctions in asylum row

The European Commission threatened to take governments to court on Tuesday (6 June) following an announcement by the Czech Republic to halt asylum seeker relocation from Greece and Italy.

6/6/2017- Czech interior minister Milan Chovanec had earlier this week said that the country would withdraw from the legally binding EU scheme, over broader concerns linked to security and the "dysfunctionality of the whole system". The timing of the statement is likely to sour EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's visit to Prague this Thursday and Friday. Juncker told the Czech tabloid, Blesk, in an interview published early Tuesday that all EU states need to shoulder "solidarity and responsibility" when it comes to migration. "The Czech Republic has so far only relocated 12 people last year and none since. There is a big scope for the Czech Republic to do more," he said. The Czech Republic had committed to take in 2,691.

A similar message was issued by EU commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud, who told reporters in Brussels that EU states need to start relocating people and pledging places, or face sanctions. The two-year scheme has largely failed to deliver on its initial promise to redistribute migrants that had arrived in Italy and Greece. Originally the scheme aimed to relocate some 160,000 people in need of international protection by the upcoming September deadline, but only around 18,500 had been relocated as of last month. The projected target figures have since been lowered, but the issue still remains a big political fault line among EU states, some of which, such as the Czech Republic, will also soon face national elections. "In my opinion it's just a political message for voters, assuring them that we will not bring new comers who could be dangerous, which is nonsense," Martin Rozumek, executive director of the Prague-based Organisation for Aid to Refugees, told EUobserver.

Rozumek also noted that the majority of the 12 relocated asylum seekers taken in by the Czech Republic had integrated well into society. "They lead normal lives," he said, noting that one had recently given birth. The commission will issue another report next week, in which it may announce infringements against the Czech Republic and a handful of other EU states. "We would use the occasion in the report in June to further specify our position on the opening of infringement cases," said Bertaud. The most recent report, published mid-May, had already flagged up the Czech Republic – along with Austria, Hungary, and Poland – as having major problems. Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Slovakia and Spain were also told to step up monthly pledges on accepting incoming relocated asylum seekers. EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos had earlier said that it was a question of "political and institutional credibility for the European Union" to take action if nothing is done.

Solidarity and court battles
But the issue also has wider implications on solidarity and on the reform of migration policies, which are currently being subjected to heated talks. EU states had only earlier this year in Rome signed a declaration that pledged "even greater unity and solidarity." That "unity and solidarity" appears increasingly stretched as the migration debates continue to simmer. The Maltese EU presidency is steering the reforms in the Council of the EU, which represents member states, and has since largely conceded defeat in its attempt to get EU states to reach a consensus by the end of June on the reform of a key EU asylum law known as Dublin. The Dublin regulation determines which EU state is responsible for processing asylum claims on the behalf of everyone else.

The law has come under numerous revisions, with the latest proposal including plans to make sure everyone shoulders some of the cases in times of crisis. But efforts to balance responsibility and solidarity under the reformed law was largely undermined by half a dozen EU states. One senior EU diplomat said attempts to reach an agreement, despite "endless amounts of bilateral discussions", means the Dublin reform will have to be dealt with by heads of state and government in the European Council. The issue is also likely to be discussed on Friday, during a meeting among interior ministers in Luxembourg. However, for the moment, the focus of those talks are scheduled around sending unwanted people and rejected asylum seekers back to their home countries.
© The EUobserver

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Sweden: Two men charged over refugee home blast 'received military training in Russia'

Two of three suspected neo-Nazis facing trial over Gothenburg bomb attacks on left-wing activists and a refugee home received military training in Russia shortly before the attacks, according to the prosecutor.

9/6/2017- The three men were charged on Friday in connection with a series of bomb incidents in the western city of Gothenburg last winter. A blast at a refugee centre on January 5th left an immigration office staff member seriously injured with wounds to his legs. Two months earlier, on November 11th, a bomb went off outside the Syndikalistiskt Forum Kafe, a well-known far-left haunt. No one was injured in that blast. Then an explosive device was found on January 25th at a campground which was temporarily housing migrants. It failed to detonate. One man is accused of having constructed all three bombs, another of providing the explosives and a third of placing the bomb on the campsite, Sweden's prosecutorial authority said on Friday. "It is a matter of very serious crimes. We allege that the actions are politically motivated and that the targets are in line with such targets the Swedish white power movement has an interest in attacking," prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in a statement.

All three men have been linked to the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement; however, the attacks are not believed to be directly connected to the organization. "Rather, there are indications that they were dissatisfied with the leadership within the Nordic Resistance Movement for not wanting to use violence to the same extent as they wanted to," said Ljungqvist. "We can also see that two of the suspects shortly before the attacks received military training in Russia." The charges - attempted murder, devastation endangering the public and attempted devastation endangering the public - have sparked debate in Sweden about whether it should be considered an act of terrorism. Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp argued it should.

"Generally it is a terror offence. They have done this systematically and with the purpose of instilling fear into the population. But I understand they have chosen a road which legally makes it easier to reach a conviction. I think it is unfortunate," he told the TT newswire. "We can't see that the actions have seriously destabilized political, constitutional, economic or social structures. Nor can attacks against refugee homes and refugees in general be considered to seriously instill fear in a population," said Ljungqvist, however.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Host of politics week asks police to stop neo-Nazis from attending

The host of Sweden's annual Almedalen politics week has asked police to stop a neo-Nazi organization from attending the event, after previously deciding to allow the group to rent space there.

5/6/2017- In May, Gotland municipality granted neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) space at the forthcoming edition of the annual Almedalen week, a decades-old Swedish political tradition where pundits, politicians and lobbyists gather in Visby. But now, the municipality's technical committee has submitted a letter to the police saying that it is "wrong for organizers or organizations who clearly stand for anti-democratic and violence-promoting messages to be allowed to rent land from Gotland municipality". The committee added that it has caused significant concerns for security and safety in the city and for visitors in general. The technical committee's chairperson Tommy Gardell said that allowing the NRM to rent space was a mistake which they regret. The application was approved without a check on what kind of organization the request came from. "Had the issue been taken to the technical committee and to me as chairperson we would have said no and they could then have appealed," he explained.

The committee cannot undo the decision according to Gardell, which is why they have now sent a request to the police asking for the NRM's police permit for the week to be reassessed. In May all of Sweden's parliamentary parties signed a joint letter urging the hosts of Almedalen not to allow the NRM to rent space at the festival, but the request was granted anyway. The parties had previously decided that the organization would not be allowed to take part in the official programme of events, but the allocation of physical space is the municipality's responsibility.

The Feminist Initiative (FI) party, which does not currently hold seats in the Riksdag, has announced that it will boycott this year's Almedalen if the decision to let the NRM rent space is not changed. "Boycotting Almedalen shows FI is against the legitimising of racism and Nazism, while at the same time we want to show our solidarity with all of the people and organizations who, because of the perceived threat, are forced into silence or to not attend Almedalen at all," party leader Victoria Kawesa said in a statement.

Sweden's Left Party meanwhile has appealed the police decision to give the NMR a permit to hold public meetings during the week. According to anti-racism foundation Expo, the NRM was the key force behind a surge in neo-Nazi activity in Sweden last year, with propaganda-spreading being their most common form of activity. "They're the most extreme end of this white supremacist area. There's a lot of crime associated with them, they have a relationship with violence," Expo researcher Jonathan Leman told The Local.
© The Local - Sweden

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Far right raises Ł50,000 to target boats on refugee rescue missions in Med

Aid charities have saved more than 6,000 from drowning this year. Now anti-Islam ‘Identitarians’ are crowdfunding to pay for vessels to chase them down

4/6/2017- Far-right activists are planning a sea campaign this summer to disrupt vessels saving refugees in the Mediterranean, after successfully intercepting a rescue mission last month. Members of the anti-Islam and anti-immigrant “Identitarian” movement – largely twentysomethings often described as Europe’s answer to the American alt-right – have raised £56,489 in less than three weeks to enable them to target boats run by aid charities helping to rescue refugees. The money was raised through an anonymous crowdfunding campaign with an initial goal of €50,000 (about £44,000) to pay for ships, travel costs and film equipment. On Saturday the group confirmed they had reached their target but were still accepting donations. A French far-right group hired a boat for a trial run last month, disrupting a search-and-rescue vessel as it left the Sicilian port of Catania. They claimed they had slowed the NGO ship until the Italian coastguard intervened.

Figures from the UN’s migration agency, the IOM, reveal that 1,650 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year with a further 6,453 migrants rescued off Libya and 228 bodies pulled from the waters. Humanitarian charities operating in the Mediterranean have helped save the lives of thousands of refugees, with women and children making up almost half of those making the crossing. The threat from the far right infuriates charities operating in the Mediterranean. One senior official, who requested anonymity, said politicians had helped create a climate where supporters of the far right felt emboldened to act in such a way. “When the British government and its European counterparts talk about ‘swarms’ of migrants, or perpetuate the myth that rescue operations are a ‘pull factor’ or a ‘taxi service’, that gives fuel to extreme groups such as this. The simple reality is that without rescue operations many more would drown, but people would still attempt the crossing,” the official said.

Simon Murdoch, a researcher at the London-based anti-racist organisation Hope not Hate, which is monitoring the Identitarian movement, said: “While these actions are appalling, unfortunately they don’t shock us. The fact that these far-right activists are seeking to prevent a humanitarian mission, helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world today – including women and children at risk of drowning – speaks volumes about them and where their compassion lies.” The crowdfunding campaign began in the middle of last month when a French faction, Génération Identitaire, set up a “defend Europe” website to target refugee rescue boats, mimicking the direct action tactics of groups such as Greenpeace.

Its mission statement says: “Ships packed with illegal immigrants are flooding the European borders. An invasion is taking place. This massive immigration is changing the face of our continent. We are losing our safety, our way of life, and there is a danger we Europeans will become a minority in our own European homelands.” An accompanying video, filmed on the Sicilian coastline, features a far-right activist saying: “We want to get a crew, equip a boat and set sail to the Mediterranean ocean to chase down the enemies of Europe.” Alongside raising funds for ships, it also requests funds for “research” above the logo of the favourite alt-right message board, 4chan. One recent 4chan thread encourages users to track NGO ships in the Mediterranean, then report them to the navy and police to investigate, particularly “ships idling near the coast of north Africa”. Although not specified, the operation will almost certainly be based in Sicily, most likely operating from the island’s ports of Pozzallo or Catania.

Powerful rigid inflatable boats able to travel faster than 20 knots can sell for less than £10,000 and would be sufficient to slow down and obstruct ships leaving port. An Italian far-right group claims it has been offered ships and support from people with boat driving licenses. Last month three young members of a French Identitarian group targeted a search-and-rescue vessel belonging to the charity SOS Méditerranée as it left Catania. Italian coastguards intercepted the far-right supporters and briefly detained them. The SOS Méditerranée website says that the charity was created because of the “dramatic increase of boats in distress and the insufficiency of existing measures” to the Mediterranean crisis. The efforts of humanitarian organisations have been credited with saving huge numbers of refugees. Médecins Sans Frontières began operations in the Med in May 2015 and rescued more than 22,500 people, many off the Libyan coast, over the next seven months.

During the first five months of 2015, no European or NGO search-and-rescue operations took place with 1,800 people drowning trying to make the crossing. In April alone 1,000 lives were lost. All search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean are coordinated by the official Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome in accordance with international maritime law. Yet the European far-right groups have accused NGOs of working with traffickers to bring migrants to Europe and claim that search-and-rescue boats are not carrying out a humanitarian intervention. The central aim of the new wave of far-right groups is preserving national differences in the belief that white Europeans will be replaced by immigrants, a stance that is articulated with anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-media sentiments but repackaged for a younger audience.

The number of far-right groups is difficult to establish, but Génération Identitaire has held demonstrations in France that drew around 500 people, while its Facebook page has 122,662 likes. Its Austrian counterpart, Identitäre Bewegung Österreich, has 37,628 likes on Facebook, although critics warn of increasing links with the US alt-right which helped to propel Donald Trump to the White House. Also on the boat that attempted to obstruct SOS Méditerranée’s vessel last month was the Canadian alt-right journalist Lauren Southern, who has 278,000 Twitter followers and whose presence confirms a transatlantic convergence. Breitbart, the favourite website of the US alt-right, frequently praises Europe’s pro-Trump Identitarian movement. “The whole project is emblematic of an increasingly confident international far right which is willing to hinder lifesaving efforts to advance their xenophobic politics,” said Murdoch.

One of Europe’s most prominent Identitarians, Martin Sellner, hosted a pro-Trump party in Vienna on election night. But there are tensions within Europe’s young far-right activists. London-based Paul Joseph Watson, described as “editor, staff writer” for the conspiracy website InfoWars – and who has 946,942 subscribers on YouTube - recently attacked the Identitarians for their “futile stunts”. Last week Sellner released a message criticising Watson as being wrong to condemn “activism”.

Human tide
• So far this year, 71,029 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea.
• Of these, 80% arrived in Italy, with the remainder in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.
• Forty migrants died of thirst in northern Niger when their vehicle broke down during an attempt to reach Europe via Libya last week.
• About 1,650 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year.
• Worldwide, 2,300 migrants have died this year, with the Mediterranean region accounting for the largest proportion, about two-thirds of the global total.
Sources: IOM, UN Migration Agency
© The Guardian.

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Hungarian court orders Holocaust denier Horst Mahler's extradition

A Hungarian court has ordered the extradition of the elderly neo-Nazi Horst Mahler who had sought asylum. He's wanted in Germany after skipping jail on sentences including Holocaust denial.

6/6/2017- Hungary's MTI news agency said Budapest's city court had responded to a European arrest warrant by ordering that Mahler be handed over to German authorities within nine days. The 81-year-old, who was arrested three weeks ago inside Hungary, has already failed in his bid for political asylum that included a message sent to Hungary's hard-line conservative prime minister, Viktor Orban. Once a left-wing fanatic, Mahler became a member of Germany's radical extreme-right party, the NPD, between 2000 and 2003, before quitting it, asserting that it was "outdated." Two years ago, a German court ruled that because of serious illness he could leave prison, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic incitement. Late last year, he was ordered to return to prison in the eastern city of Brandenburg, but he refused and fled Germany, turning up in Hungary. The European warrant for his arrest was sought by prosecutors in Munich.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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German issues in a nutshell: PEGIDA?

The group that calls itself PEGIDA attracted international attention when it began its Monday marches in Dresden in late 2014. But where is the far-right group now, and what do they stand for?

6/6/2017- PEGIDA, short for "Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," ("Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") began life in Dresden on October, 20 2014, when a group of locals marched to protest what they saw as an encroaching dilution of German identity through immigrants. Appropriating a Monday-might tradition and slogan ("Wir sind das Volk" - "We are the people") from the huge popular demonstrations that erupted against the East German regime in the late 1980s, PEGIDA protesters have been gathering in the city for their weekly marches for over two years - while associated protests have sprung up in several cities around Germany - "Bärgida" in Berlin, "Wügida" in Würzburg, "Bogida" in Bonn, and "Dügida" in Düsseldorf.

At its height in February 2015, some 20,000 flooded the streets of Dresden, accompanied by TV crews from international news broadcasters, and counter-protests that were often at least the same size. Though the group itself rejects the label "far-right," neo-Nazis were routinely spotted among the marchers. The group maintained this momentum during the so-called "refugee crisis" in fall 2015 - when PEGIDA protesters took to demanding that "Merkel must go!" - but the numbers have continuously dwindled since around February 2016, and have numbered just 1,000 - 2,000 in 2017. Though leaders have occasionally considered becoming a political party, the group is registered as a voluntary organization with only a handful of actual members - these make up the leadership, who often speak at the events.

Chief among these is a former petty criminal turned advertising agent called Lutz Bachmann. He moved to Tenerife for professional reasons in May 2016, but has continued to appear at the public marches. In April last year, Bachmann was convicted and fined for using hate speech against refugees at a PEGIDA demo. PEGIDA released a set of demands in 2014, which included a points-based immigration system, tougher deportation measures, "zero tolerance" for immigrants that commit crimes, and the "protection of the Judeo-Christian western culture." PEGIDA's position paper also demanded the rejection of "parallel societies," such as "sharia courts," and "hate preachers, for whatever religion."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Hundreds of wanted 'neo-Nazis' at large

Over 400 right-wing extremists with warrants out for their arrest are still free, according to German government data. The Left party has said the rising trend indicates the presence of an "established Nazi underground."

5/6/2017- Some 462 people wanted for committing right-wing crimes in Germany have yet to be arrested, reported Funke Media Group newspapers on Sunday. The German interior ministry released the figures in response to a parliamentary inquiry. According to the data, around 600 arrest warrants for the 462 right-wing extremists have not been administered. Out of the suspects still at large, 104 are wanted for violent crimes while 106 are wanted for politically-motivated crimes. Some 98 of the suspects have been on the run from authorities since 2015 or earlier.

The trend of wanted right-wing criminals who have evaded authorities appears to be on the rise. In 2015, the number of fugitives at large and believed to have gone underground was 372. The NSU, a secret neo-Nazi group that operated between 2000 and 2007, was responsible for the murders of 10 foreigners, two bombings and 15 bank robberies. German officials have warned that some banned neo-Nazi groups have reactivated activities. For example, in 2000, Berlin banned "Combat 18" and its mother organization "Blood and Honour." In January, authorities said that over the past four years, "Combat 18" has managed to reactivate its network.

'Extremely worrying'
The Left party's spokeswoman on domestic policy, Ulla Jelpke, told the Funke Media Group that she was alarmed by the figures. "I find the high number of fugitive neo-Nazis who have evaded arrest for a long period of time extremely worrying," Jelpke said. The figures are "an indication of an established Nazi underground," she added. The Left party MP noted that the right-wing scene has exhibited a readiness to commit crimes and acts of violence. Jelpke noted that the figures do not appear to indicate that authorities have increased efforts to track down right-wing criminals.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Massive police deployment in Karlsruhe to prevent far-right violence

Hundreds of far-right protesters have turned out for a rally in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe. Anti right-wing groups have held counterdemonstrations in the same area. Police made some arrests.

3/6/2017- Authorities in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe expected at least 900 people to participate in Saturday's demonstration organized by a tiny far-right group, Die Rechte (The Right). Police feared that some of the protesters could turn violent during Die Rechte's "Day of the German Future" event. About 300 had joined the rally by late afternoon, according to police. A counterdemonstration was expected to draw at least 6,000 people. There were several arrests after some people tried to break through police barriers. Police used pepper spray and batons to control the crowd and there were reports of slight injuries to police and demonstrators. Police had planned to deploy some 3,000 security personnel, including horse-mounted and canine units, to Karlsruhe's Durlach district to prevent possible acts of violence. It was the largest police deployment in a German city in years, highlighting the gravity of the situation.

Authorities barred several Die Rechte speakers from appearing on stage based on their previous attempts at inciting violence, and stopped organizers from using unconstitutional emblems or flags at the demo. On Saturday, the city of Karlsruhe also hosts its annual gay pride festival, under the slogan "Colorful love instead of brown (Nazi) hate." Far-right groups have held a number of demonstrations in Karlsruhe in the past. In February 2015, for example, a large right-wing group march took place under the label Kargida. Anti-refugee and anti-Islam groups such as PEGIDA have gained strength in Germany over the past few years following a massive influx of migrants from war-torn Middle Eastern and North African countries to Europe.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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UK: Gang beats and kicks gay couple in Whitchurch park

A gay man and his partner were assaulted by a gang of youths in an “unprovoked attack”.

6/6/2017- Matthew Seward and his partner were walking home between 11.30pm and midnight on Saturday after enjoying a couple of drinks in Whitchurch, when the group of about nine youths men set upon them pair. During the attack the pair were beaten and kicked, which resulted in 32-year-old Mr Seward needing to go to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital where he was treated and had his cuts stitched up. The assault happened near to the toilets in Jubilee Park. Mr Seward, who lives in Northamptonshire but was in Whitchurch helping his mother on the bar as part of the Party in the Park event, said it was a totally unprovoked attack. He said: “We’re struggling to get our heads around why it happened, we did absolutely nothing to provoke the lads.

“I’d say I was a friendly person, I’m the type of person who says hello, how do, which I did, they probably heard my voice, realised I wasn’t from round here and maybe that was enough to antagonise them. I got the feeling they were riled up from something that had happened beforehand, and that was enough to start them off again. “But then it’s also crossed our minds that it could’ve been racially motivated, as my partner is mixed race, or it could even have been a homophobic attack, we just don’t know.” Mr Seward said the young men were aged between about 15 and 21 years old, and there was also a young girl, aged about 15, with them who at one point tried to stop the attack. One of the gang also made off with Mr Seward’s mobile phone while he was on the floor. Police are treating it as a hate crime.

Following the incident, Mr Seward said it is now being investigated by police officers and is calling on anyone who might have been in the area at the time to get in touch, in a bid to aid the investigation. He added: “The town was busy following a brilliant community event, so we’d like to think surely someone saw something that could help the police. “Things like this shouldn’t be happening, two innocent people going about their business shouldn’t be getting attacked for no reason, it isn’t right.” Victoria Smith, organisational communications assistant for West Mercia Police, said: “Officers are investigating a report of a physical assault on two men in Jubilee Park, Whitchurch. “It happened when the victims were walking through the park, towards Smallbrook Road.

“It is reported that the men encountered a group of approximately nine youths where there was an exchange of words. One of the victims was struck and fell to the ground. The other victim was physically assaulted when he tried to intervene. “Enquiries are currently ongoing but officers are keen for anyone who saw the assault, who witnessed anyone acting suspiciously or who was in the area at the time of the incident, to come forward. “Officers are treating this as a hate crime.”

Anyone who can help should call was in the area at the time of the attack on Saturday is asked to contact West Mercia Ppolice on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 , quoting incident number 28S of June 4.
© The Shropshire Star

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UK: Manchester attack: Fear 'stops Muslims reporting hate crime'

Fear of the unknown is preventing Muslims from reporting hate crimes, a senior police officer has said.

6/6/2017- Ch Supt Wasim Chaudhry said incidents in Greater Manchester may be under-reported as the numbers have fallen since a spike after the 22 May bombing. Those affected fear their identity may be revealed or are unaware crimes do not have to be reported directly to police, he said. Victim Shiraz Khan, 30, said he was scared of "repercussions or reprisals".

'Terrorist bomber'
Mr Khan was attacked with a glass bottle in Manchester on 27 May after being persuaded to pull his car over by two white British men who told him he had a flat tyre. "While I was looking at it one of the guys said 'We're only joking. You're a terrorist bomber' and tried to smash a bottle over my face." The customer support officer managed to cover his face with his hand, which was damaged in the attack, but he did not go to the police. He explained: "I don't want anything to happen again. I don't want my picture going around anywhere and for me to become a target. "My friend reported a similar incident a few years ago. There was CCTV and nothing came of it." He added: "I've been pulled over a few times by the police, I've been stopped in the street by them asking me what I'm doing. I think there is a lack of trust in the system. "I'm just happy I've defended my face, and it's only my hand been injured."

Ch Supt Chaudhry, Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) lead officer for hate crime, said: "It is a fear of the unknown, about what support victims are going to get coming forward and they [do not know] if they will be exposed in terms of their details." In the days after the Manchester Arena attack, GMP saw a rise in reports of hate crimes. However, the numbers have since returned to pre-attack levels. "I get the fact that not everyone is comfortable and confident coming to a police officer or to the police," Ch Supt Chaudry said. He believes people do not know they can report hate crimes online to anti-hate crime organisations True Vision or Tell Mama, which works with the victims of anti-Muslim attacks, but said it is "incumbent" on people to report them. "If the perpetrators are left unchecked, and if their behaviour is not tackled, then they risk going on and undertaking further victimisation that can increase in terms of its gravity," he said.

Mr Khan's son was born two days after he was attacked and he has not been able to pick him up because of his injury. He said the incident has changed him: "I got set up. I was so shocked, I thought they wanted to help me. "It's appalling, It has stopped me going out. You don't know what's around the corner. My trust has gone."
© BBC News.

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UK: Community has amazing response to disgusting anti-Islam graffiti on mosque

6/6/2017- A North East community has rallied to remove “disgusting” anti-Islam graffiti spray-painted on the side of a mosque. Appalled residents have reached out to support the Thornaby mosque in Stockton-on-Tees after ‘Muslim cowards’ was sprayed in large letters on the side if their building following the London Bridge terror attack. Mother-of-three Angela Gill told the Teeside Gazette she saw a photo of the graffiti on Facebook and immediately headed to the mosque to try and scrub it off. She explained the graffiti “wouldn’t budge” so she decided to paint over the letters, only for a downpour to wash away all of her hard work. Ms Gill said two girls then offered to again help paint over the graffiti, adding: “The public reaction outshines the actions of one individual. “Whatever the religion, I would hope that someone would act the same as I did.”

Photos of the graffiti have been shared on social media, one commented: “Disgusted to see this attack at the local mosque. We need to unite as communities. This does the total opposite.” Many other Thornaby residents offered to help remove the graffiti, Lauren Fisher wrote: “I'm happy to help scrub this off if the help is needed.” Meanwhile, Thornaby Mosque has responded by organising a community open day aimed at tackling misconceptions abut Islam. Cleveland Police are investigating, adding: “This type of activity is completely unacceptable and that we are treating it as a hate crime.” Anyone with information on the person responsible for this incident is asked to contact Cleveland Police via the 101 number.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Arson attacks on Kosher restaurants are 'linked anti-semitic hate'

An arson attack on Ta’am Deli and Grill, on Bury New Road, is thought to be linked to another attack at JS Restaurant, on King’s Road

6/6/2017- Two arson attacks on Kosher restaurants in Prestwich - one of which was hit for the second time in just over a year - are being treated as linked anti-Semitic hate crimes by police. Ta’am Deli and Grill, on Bury New Road, was attacked on Friday night, by two men who threw milk cartons filled with petrol, at the restaurant. After the homemade petrol bombs failed to ignite, a rock was thrown at the front window, smashing it. The restaurant was previously targeted by arsonists last May when firebugs threw petrol around the eatery before setting it alight. Dramatic CCTV showed flames ripping through the restaurant. Incredibly, the attack only caused ‘minimal’ damage to the interior. Owners Martine and Amos Vaizman said the fact the whole building didn’t burn down was a ‘miracle’. The pair have been left assessing the damage following the latest attack, which they did not want to comment on.

Detectives say the incident at Ta’am is thought to be linked to another attack at JS Restaurant, on King’s Road. Two men smashed through a ground floor window and set fire to the property. Firefighters from Broughton, Whitefield and Agecroft, were called to the incident shortly before 4am. Both restaurants were closed at the time of the attacks and no-one was injured. People living nearby told the M.E.N. how shocked they were by the news of last night’s attack. An employee from a neighbouring business said: “I can’t believe it, they are such a nice family. “It’s just awful what has happened, it’s a quiet area. There’s never been a problem before that I know of.”

Detective Chief Inspector Charlotte Cadden, of GMP’s Bury Borough, said: “Thankfully no-one was injured in either attack, but we are treating these as anti-Semitic hate crimes. “This is clearly very worrying for businesses and people living in the area and I want to offer you my assurances that we have increased patrols in the area and have a team investigating these linked crimes” “We are working alongside the Community Security Trust and if anyone in the area has concerns, I would urge you to come and talk to us. “If you have any information about the attacks, no matter how small, I would urge you to get in touch, as you may have information that could help us.”

Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which works to protect Jewish communities, is working with the Police and local businesses. Amanda Bomsztyk, CST northern regional director, said: “CST thanks the police and fire service for their response to these incidents. “We ask our community to be calm, vigilant and to report suspicious, criminal or anti-Semitic behaviour to GMP and CST.”
© The Manchester Evening News.

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UK: Knifeman wearing hand grenade threatens to ‘kill and injure Muslims’

A force is investigating a chilling video in which a man brandishing a machete threatens to blow mosques “off the planet” as hate crimes against British Muslims spiked fivefold in the week after the Manchester terrorist attack.

5/6/2017- The unidentified man, who had what appears to be a grenade strapped to his T-shirt, says he will kill and injure Muslims as he waved a huge knife at a CCTV camera. Merseyside Police confirmed detectives were trying to “establish the origins of the video”, widely shared on social media in the aftermath of the London Bridge and Manchester Arena terror attacks. Referencing the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at Ariana Grande’s concert last month, he talks of a “quick message to Muslims”. He said he would get people to run into Islam’s holy places, adding: “If you want to see terrorism, come and see me you cowards.” Withdrawing a huge blade from its sheath, he adds: “Let me tell you, I will get people to run in your mosques with pineapples [grenades] and blow your mosques off this f****** planet."

A force spokesperson said: “Merseyside Police can confirm that a video posted on social media has been brought to our attention [on] Sunday, June 4. “Officers have launched an investigation and at this time enquiries are ongoing to establish the origins of the video. “The force takes all reports of hate crime seriously and incidents are investigated by specially trained detectives.” The shocking footage comes in the wake of 139 cases of “anti-Muslim hate” being reported to Tell Mama, an organisation that records such crimes, in seven days — compared with 25 in the previous week. A British-born, seven-year-old girl was among the 61 victims of verbal abuse, which included Muslims being labelled “child killers” and told to “go back to your country”.

Other incidents reported to Tell Mama during the same week included a woman from Southampton whose veil was ripped from her head and a man struck with a glass bottle. Most of the attacks were in Greater Manchester and London. The rise in hate crimes is part of a pattern after terrorist attacks. The murder of soldier Lee Rigby in south east London in 2013 led to an almost four-fold increase in Islamophobic crimes in the following week. That figure was surpassed in the week after the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015 in which 130 people were killed. Tell Mama recorded a 400 per cent increase in hate crimes then. However, last month’s attack in Manchester by Salman Abedi, a British-born Muslim who killed 22 people and injured scores more, had led to an unprecedented 456 per cent jump, said Tell Mama’s director, Iman Atta.

“Obviously, people are angry and they should rightly be,” she said. “That anger, though, should be targeted at countering and challenging extremism where people see it, instead of against innocent citizens who happen to be Muslim.” Reports of hate crime to Greater Manchester Police have doubled since the May 22 suicide bombing, according to Chief Constable Ian Hopkins. Five days after the attack the force saw a spike to 56 reports daily – compared to the average of 28.
© Police Professional

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UK: Man 'knocked unconscious, called a terrorist' in suspected hate crime

5/6/2017- Bedfordshire Police have confirmed they've seen a surge in hate crimes following Saturday's attack in London, including one incident in which a man was assaulted and called a terrorist. The man had to be taken to hospital following the incident in Beadlow Road, Luton, after he was set upon by a group of men on Saturday night. Officers are keen to talk to anyone who may have seen what happened and are yet to make any arrests. A shopkeeper and takeaway staff were also racially abused in separate incidents across the county, which has led to police calling on people to unite together instead of taking their anger out on others.

"Sadly we are aware that following incidents such as the tragic attack in London there can be an increase in hate crime within our communities. On Saturday night a man was knocked unconscious and called a terrorist, in what we believe is a hate crime attack motivated by the incident London. This was a completely unprovoked and senseless attack and we are working hard to find those responsible. No-one should have to suffer from either physical or verbal abuse as a result of who they are and we will not tolerate hate crime in any shape or form. We are urging our communities to stand together at this difficult time for the country and we would urge anyone who is a victim of, or witness to, hate crime to report it immediately".
Sergeant James Hart, Bedfordshire Police
© ITV

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UK: Far-right, anti-fascists clash in Liverpool protest

3/6/2017- Police in Liverpool, England, said they arrested 12 people after left-wing protesters and demonstrators involved in a planned far-right march clashed on Saturday. The English Defense League, a far-right organization, planned the march in the city center to protest against a number of issues, including Islamist terrorism. About 600 activists described as anti-fascist by local media met up with the estimated 140 EDL protesters in defiance of their views. Merseyside County police made the decision to disperse the crowd after the interaction turned violent and threatened the residents and businesses in the area. Members from both groups threw items, including bottles, and set off what was believed to be fireworks.

"At some points, members of the left wing were seen to throw darts and flares were also activated," Deputy Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said. Foulkes said the EDL marchers were moved to a different area of the city and all involved were ordered to leave the city center. "Together with our colleagues from British Transport Police and police officers from Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire and North Wales, the majority of participants have now been escorted onto trains at Liverpool Lime Street and out of the city," Foulkes said. Video of the event showed counter-protesters singing Liverpool-native John Lennon's "Imagine" and cheering to celebrate disrupting the EDL march.
© UPI

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Polish Anthropologist against Discrimination

9/6/2017- The Polish Constitution extends western-style democratic rights to citizens, immigrants, refugees, and minorities. Even in the case of martial law, “Limitation of the freedoms and rights of persons and citizens only by reason of race, gender, language, faith or lack of it, social origin, ancestry or property shall be prohibited” (article 233, §1). These principles are in line with the European Union legal system, and provide a solid warrant for protection of basic rights. Polish democratization in the 1990s was accompanied by an educational boom. The proportion of students (19–24 years old) rose from ca. 10 percent in 1989 to more than 50 percent in 2006, and continues at this level. This impressive increase in the educated population seemed to provide a strong basis for a civic education and respect for democratic and humanistic values. However, xenophobic undercurrents have always been present here, as elsewhere, and erupt from time to time.

In Poland, the last outburst of racial prejudice occurred in 1968 during an anti-Semitic campaign incited by the communist regime. After this time, and especially after the democratic reforms in 1989, chauvinistic groups were seen as the insane margin of society. In addition to these marginal groups, there is a more ideologically blurred conservative drift in society, including fundamentalist Catholics, moral purists, radical nationalists, and self-proclaimed flag-wavers, with soccer hooligans in the forefront. All of these defend the nation, which is supposedly endangered by a variety of external and internal enemies. Anti-Semites, anti-cosmopolitans, anti-modernists, anti-immigrants, anti-multiculturalists, anti-abortionists, anti-feminists, and anti-Europeanists have clustered under nationalistic banners. Highly politicalized cultural wars accompanied by defaming labels are going on in Poland, as in many other parts of the world, including the EU and the US. 

Not surprisingly, the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 strengthened the conservative camp and anti-Semitism has easily transformed into anti-Islamism. There are various reasons for this. My longer discussion of this transformation [story] can be reduced to factors such as economic precariousness, which cannot be diverted by the growing level of education. It translates into cultural racism and cultural anxiety in which all “Significant Others” appear as scapegoats. Historically grounded negative orientalism based on religious enmity combines with modern fears of “Others” from “distant and alien cultures” purportedly endangering Christian Europe and its values.

Nevertheless, it has come as a shock that freedom of speech, enabled by social media’s potential for free expression and anonymity, has contributed to the enormous proliferation of openly chauvinist and racist discourses in a nation where collective memory of a Nazi terror and racism is still vivid. Poland is an ethnically and religiously homogenous country with less than 1 percent Muslims, 3–4 percent ethnic minorities, and a low number of immigrants. However, since the Law and Justice party took power in 2015, hate speech is tolerated not only on the streets and soccer stadiums, but also in political statements and in the churches. In such a political milieu of phantom Islamophobia, violence against “non-whites” is disregarded by top state officials, police and persecutors. Anthropologists in Poland have acted as whistle blowers whenever constitutionally protected individual or collective rights were abused. They have worked for many organizations, including the Association Against Racism “Never again.”

Many of us have been engaged in educational efforts including, for example, giving extra-curricular classes to children and teachers, delivering public lectures, offering practical courses in multicultural education, writing for the media and often taking care of immigrant needs. Let me provide some examples of activities undertaken by a group of anthropologists known to me. The Center of Migration Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (CeBaM), founded by anthropologists in 2009 and now including academics from other disciplines, established Migrant Info Point, which extends help to thousands of immigrants in the city and region. The Center also founded an anti-discriminatory Open Coalition Common Poznań and the Foundation CeBaM to engage in NGO activities. In the summer of 2015, CeBaM issued what is probably the first official protest against the attitude of the authorities towards refugees.

In September 2015 it organized a public demonstration in the city under the slogan “Refugees are welcome.” After all, Poland ratified the Geneva Convention in 1991, and its statues says that “foreigners shall have a right of asylum in Poland” and those “who seek protection from persecution, may be granted the status of a refugee” (article 56). Although growing hostility towards immigrants can be observed elsewhere, Polish anthropologists are eminently resolute in activities against racism and xenophobia. It is the only country-wide academic community to unite against the rightest turn to demagoguery. In early autumn 2015, the Polish Ethnological Society issued a statement against intolerance. On November 23, 2016, the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University in Poznań initiated a nationwide Special Convention of “Anthropologists Against Discrimination” at which a Manifest was accepted by acclamation.

This meeting received worldwide support from anthropological organizations and departments, including the AAA. This meeting agreed further coordination of anti-xenophobic initiatives, following the model of the Center for Migration Studies. Many of us are determined to take measures to counteract all forms of discrimination in the society and blatantly resist politicians who in their speeches and acts support it. Article 13 of the Constitution says that political parties which follow “the modes of activity of nazism, fascism and communism, as well as those whose programmes or activities sanction racial or national hatred” shall be prohibited. This tenet, which is obvious to anthropologists, should be respected everywhere, and those violating it condemned whether they are soccer fans, party leaders, or state presidents. For this, I hope, united we stay!

Michal Buchowski is professor of anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and European University Viadrina in Frankfurt. He is president of Polish Ethnological Society, and former president of EASA and chair of the WCAA. He works on Central Europe, migration, and multiculturalism. Most recent publications include co-edited volumes Rethinking Ethnographies in Central Europe and New Ethnographies of Football in Europe.
© Anthropology News

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Polish ruling party suggests Muslims not welcome at festival

8/6/2017- In some of its strongest anti-Muslim language to date, Poland's ruling Law and Justice party suggested Thursday that it does not want Muslim migrants to attend a major annual rock festival in the country this summer. The nationalist party used Twitter to speak out against the Woodstock festival, which will take place in August in western Poland, not far from the German border. It referred to a statement made earlier by organizer Jerzy Owsiak, who said the event was open to migrants living in Germany. "Do you really want to have an event in Poland with the participation of Muslim immigrants?" Law and Justice wrote, asking those who agreed to share the message.

Rafal Pankowski, the head of Never Again, an anti-racism group that has been involved with the festival for two decades, said he was shocked at the language. "It is a very crude form of Islamophobic propaganda," Pankowski said. "The number of Muslims in Poland is very small anyway, so scaring people by using a supposed Muslim threat is artificial in the first place, but it's also cynical and unpleasant." Also Thursday, President Andrzej Duda said he supports holding a referendum asking Poles if they want to accept refugees — but not until 2019, when people could weigh in as they vote in general elections, and only if migration is still a "problem" then.

Ewa Ostaszewska-Zuk with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw said she sees no reason for a referendum because the number of people seeking asylum in Poland is already low and the vote would serve mainly to promote anti-migrant sentiment. "Right now the government talks about migrants in only one way: They are a threat to the security, they are dangerous, they are terrorists; we will not take anyone because we are looking after the safely of Poles," Ostaszewska-Zuk said.
© The Associated Press

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Poland: Gay rights parade held in Poland ruled by conservative gov't

3/6/2017- Thousands of people marched and danced down the streets of central Warsaw on Saturday to show their support for gay rights, calling for stronger defiance of discrimination and greater acceptance for same-sex unions and marriages. The 17th annual "Equality Parade" took place with a deeply conservative government that opposes marriage rights or civil unions for same-sex couples ruling Poland. Some 40 foreign embassies, including those of France and the United States, expressed their support for the parade. Police estimated that about 13,000 people took part in the event, which is meant as a demonstration of tolerance not only for gays and lesbians, but also people with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

Organizers said 50,000 took part. Participants carried balloons and the rainbow flags that are the symbol of LGBT rights. One banner read: "Homophobia causes heart illness." At one point, several far-right nationalists tried to block the parade but were removed by police. Gays and lesbians continue to face significant discrimination in the mostly Catholic country, a legacy of the church's stance and decades of repressive communism. While cities such as Warsaw have grown more tolerant as contacts have increased with the West, most gay and lesbian couples are still too afraid to walk down the streets holding hands.
© The Associated Press

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Bulgaria: Nationalist Threats Shadow Sofia Pride's 10th Anniversary

The tenth Sofia Pride march in support of LGBTI rights is set for Saturday despite a lack of political support and calls for its “cleansing” by ultranationalists, who will also rally in the capital.

9/6/2017- Various international organisations have called on the Bulgarian authorities to ensure the security of the LGBTI activists who will march in the Tenth Anniversary Sofia Pride on Saturday in the centre of the Bulgarian capital after threats from extreme nationalists. Rights groups, as well as the pan-European ALDE liberal party, have expressed concern that the Sofia municipality has allowed a rival event organised by the ultranationalist non-formal group National Resistance under the slogan “Let’s clean Sofia of trash” to take place almost at the same time and at the same location. The nationalist rally has been presented as an initiative for cleaning up the park where the Monument of the Soviet army is located, and where the Pride march will begin on Saturday. But National Resistance’s leader Blagovest Asenov – a radical linked to the international neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor – has called on for supporters to join him to “cleanse the plague”, picturing Pride as a “triumph of pathology over normality”.

ALDE’s leader Guy Verhofstadt urged the authorities to prevent any violence. “I call on the Bulgarian authorities and the Mayor of Sofia to act to safeguard all those planning to participate in the Sofia Pride March scheduled for this weekend. Far-right violence against the LGBTI community has no place in the European Union of 2017,” Verhofstadt said in a statement on Tuesday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also expressed fears that the counter-demonstration could result in attacks on Sofia Pride. Over 27,000 people have signed a petition on the All Out platform, calling on Sofia’s mayor Yordanka Fandakova to put measures in place to keep Pride marchers safe, condemn any targeted attacks against the local LGBT community, and join the Pride march herself. A spokesperson for the Sofia municipality told BIRN that the local authorities “are working on ensuring both the security of both the participants [in Sofia Pride] and all citizens”.

The spokesperson confirmed that the nationalist event will take place in the same park as the one from where the Pride march starts, as its authorisation was requested months ago, but guaranteed that the two events will be separated and will start at different times. The “Let’s clean Sofia of trash” demonstration starts at 5pm, and Pride at 6pm. Such tensions are not unprecedented – in 2016, National Resistance held an “anti-gay parade” in parallel with the LGBTI march. “Ten years on [from the first Sofia Pride), instead of talking about the future of Pride and equal rights, again we are dealing with a group of nationalists who hold thousands of people hostage to hate and violence,” Simeon Vassilev, Director of the LGBTI rights foundation GLAS, told BIRN. He argued that homophobia is being politically legitimised in Bulgaria since the far-right United Patriots coalition entered the government as a coalition partner of Boyko Borissov’s centre-right party GERB.

Members of VMRO and ATAKA, two of the parties forming the United Patriots coalition, have publicly condemned Sofia Pride as an “assault on traditional Bulgarian values”. Vassilev explained that the organising committee for the march has sent invitations to 50 Bulgarian institutions to join the rally, but has received no responses. He added that the good news is that over 20 Bulgarian companies have officially supported the largest LGBTI rights event in Bulgaria, which is also usually backed by a number of foreign embassies.
© Balkan Insight

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Bulgaria: U.S. Embassy pledges support for Sofia Pride

The Embassy of the United States of America in Bulgaria has pledged support to the Sofia Pride Parade, which is scheduled to take place this coming Saturday, June 10, 2017.

7/6/2017- In a statement, the embassy said democracy was “most secure when all persons live freely without fear of violence and discrimination, yet LGBTI persons continue to be regularly targeted and harassed.” LGBTI refers to lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, trans-sexuals and intersex people. In all of South-Eastern Europe, the LGBTI community is confronted with discrimination and hate, while in Bulgaria this kind of hatred is even being expressed by members of parliament and political parties, which are part of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government coalition. “The U.S. Embassy therefore is proud to support the annual Sofia Pride”, the statement continues saying, “which is the biggest annual event dedicated to the equality and human rights of all citizens and the biggest event increasing the visibility of LGBTI people in the country.”

In the meantime, the global nonprofit organisation All Out Action Fund has called for protection for the Sofia Pride Parade on June 10, 2017. The demand was voiced after a Bulgarian Nazi organisation called “National Resistance” announced it would disrupt the event. In cooperation with the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA), All Out urged Sofia’s Mayor Yordanka Fandakova to condemn any targeted attacks against the LGBT community and to join the Pride march. Also, the NGO demanded measures which will keep the Pride marchers safe. An official petition connected to those demands can be signed by supporters. “The National Resistance, a neo-Nazi group known for committing hate crimes, successfully registered an official event at the same time and location as Sofia Pride”, All Out said,

“calling on participants to ‘cleanse Sofia and Bulgaria from the garbage'”. The wording the Nazi organisation used in this context is similar to the content of statements released by the Bulgarian parties Ataka and VMRO, which are part of the government in Sofia. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament also called for protection of the Sofia Pride Parade marchers. “I call on the Bulgarian authorities and the Mayor of Sofia to act to safeguard all those planning to participate in the Sofia Pride March scheduled for this weekend”, ALDE chairman Guy Verhofstadt said. “Far-right violence against the LGBTI community has no place in the European Union of 2017.”
© The Sofia Globe

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Bulgarian former interior ministry chief national co-ordinator of Ataka party

3/6/2017- Svetlozar Lazarov, who was chief secretary of Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry from June 2013 to March 2015, is now the national co-ordinator of Volen Siderov’s far-right Ataka party, it emerged from reports in Ataka mouthpiece media on June 2 2017. Lazarov was appointed to head the interior ministry by the “Oresharski” administration, which had dismissed his GERB-appointed predecessor, and remained in office until he was replaced in 2015 by the second Boiko Borissov government, which by then had been in office for four months. His new role in Ataka, which is part of the United Patriots coalition of nationalist and far-right parties, the minority partner in the third Borissov government, emerged when Ataka posted a photograph of Lazarov and Siderov at a conference in Moscow.

According to Ataka’s eponymous daily newspaper, the event, held in the Russian capital city, brought together representatives of business, economy, political and civic organisations. The event was described in the publication as being entitled “what brings us together”. Bulgarian-language media reports said that the forum was under the auspices of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. The reports quoted Russia’s Kommersant as saying that participants in the foum came up with a resolution “supporting president Putin’s policy of consolidation in society”. The forum, organised by the Center for Interregional Programs and Projects, discussed four topics, including current civil society issues, Russia’s socio-economic development principles, and the role of the nation’s national security community. Ataka daily said that on June 4, there would be coverage of Siderov’s and Lazarov’s participation in the forum, on Alfa Ataka TV.
© The Sofia Globe

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Headlines 2 June, 2017

Netherlands: Wilders under investigation after Austrian complaint

2/6/2017- The Dutch prosecution service is investigating statements on Islam by far-right politician Geert Wilders following an official request from Austria, reports the AD on Friday. Austria has requested that the Dutch government pursue a complaint on comments made by Wilders during a 2015 speech in Vienna, calling Islam an ‘ideology of war and hatred.’ He also said, reports the AD, that: ‘Islam calls people to be terrorists: the Koran leaves no doubt about it.’ A Muslim organisation in Vienna had reported the speech to Austrian police in 2015, sparking an investigation there. Now, spokesperson Nina Bussek reportedly told the AD, they have decided not to pursue the complaint but to ‘transfer it to colleagues in the Netherlands. The OM prosecution service in The Hague has confirmed that it has taken on the case to several newspapers on Friday. Wilders was accused of ‘verhetzung’, a crime similar to rioting and for which several Viennese politicians have received suspended sentences, under stricter Austrian law.

‘Nazi rhetoric’
He had been invited to speak by sister Austrian party, the Freedom Party (FPO), and a day later it was reported that chairman of the Austrian Muslim Initiative Tarafa Baghajati had made an official complaint. ‘Wilders gave the impression that all Muslims are here to make war against Europeans,’ he reportedly said. ‘It made me think above all of the Nazi rhetoric of the 1930s.’ He had complained about the Freedom Party but the Viennese court decided to start a preliminary investigation into Wilders. Early on Friday morning, Wilders responded to the AD story, tweeting that it was ‘incomprehensible’ and that ‘they should be catching thieves and terrorists instead of persecuting a politician for speaking the truth about Islam’. He tagged his response #legaljihad.

Previous trials
Last year, Wilders was found guilty of inciting racial discrimination and insulting Moroccan people in the Netherlands after leading a rally calling for ‘fewer, fewer Moroccans’ in the country. He was given no punishment, and is appealing the conviction. In 2011 he was acquitted of inciting hatred against Muslims after comparing the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as the judge ruled he was attacking Islam and not all Muslim believers, and his comments were ‘acceptable within the context of public debate.’ Wilders’ PVV party won the second-highest number of seats at the general election in March, but the other main parties have refused to work with it in a coalition.
© The Dutch News

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Ireland makes history with gay Prime Minister

An openly gay Irish politician has been named as the country’s next Prime Minister after winning a leadership contest.

2/6/2017- The country, which was once known for its strong Catholic values, has made a lot of progress on LGBT rights in the past few years. A 2015 referendum brought equal marriage to the country, while it has also adopted progressive gender recognition laws. More progress was made today, as politician Leo Varadkar was confirmed as the country’s next Taoiseach (Prime Minister) – only the fourth openly gay world leader in modern history. Mr Varadkar was elected as Fine Gael leader today, replacing Enda Kenny, who announced his departure earlier this year after 15 years. The politician, who had been the Minister for Social Protection, won out over his rival Simon Coveney with 60% of the electoral college votes. Mr Coveney took a lead among party members, but Mr Varadkar dominated among Local Public Reps and TDs, who held a decisive portion of the votes.

Mr Varadkar will become only the fourth openly gay head of government in recent global history. There is only one other openly gay leader currently in office, Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel. In his victory speech, he noted the country’s extraordinary journey, adding: “If my election has shown anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic.” He added that his father – an Indian immigrant – would be proud that his son could be “judged by his actions, not his origins or identity”. The leader-in-waiting added: “Friends, today I’m honoured to have been elected as leader of the party. I accept it with humility, and am also aware of the challenges ahead. I want to thank everyone who engaged in this democratic process. “To you who supported me, I give you my heartfelt thanks, and won’t let you down. To those who did not, I hope I can gain your trust and confidence in the years ahead.”

His win was hailed by LGBT campaigners. Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLonG To Youth Services, said: “It is a historic day for the LGBT+ community, and indeed for all of Ireland as we welcome the country’s first openly gay presumptive Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. “This is a huge step forward for Ireland and we applaud the fact that this political race focused on policy and the issues, and not sexual orientation. “As Ireland’s national LGBT+ youth service, we are delighted that the new leader of Fine Gael is a gay man, and now a role model for the youth who use our services across the country. “There is no doubt there has been a huge change in Ireland since the Marriage Equality Referendum. But we have to be realistic and remember that there are many thousands of LGBT+ young people who continue to face harassment and bullying because of their sexual orientation, gender identification and gender expression.

“There has been a 100% increase in the number of young people accessing our services since the referendum. Each week, we have 150 young people coming through the doors in our Dublin services and hundreds more accessing support through our national network of LGBT+ youth groups. “We are committed to continuing to represent LGBT+ young people and their families and we look forward to working with the presumptive Taoiseach on improving their lives and well-being.” Ahead of the race, the politician went public with his partner of two years, doctor Matt Barrett. However, Mr Varadkar was insistent that his partner would not take on a prominent role. He said: “That wouldn’t be my plan. First of all, we’re not married. “We’ve only been going out for two years… and, secondly, while that has been the tradition in politics, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

“Take Angela Merkel. She is on her third term at the moment. She has been chancellor for nearly 15 years. She has a husband [Joachim Sauer] but he has a job. “He has only ever attended one occasion with her because he has his own career. I think that would be part of the generational shift in politics, because traditionally you had a male leader, a wife who had given up her job. “We are now moving into an era across the world where men and couples have their own careers.” It has been a steep climb for the 38-year-old, who only came out as gay in 2015, ahead of the country’s equal marriage referendum. He said: “It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose.”

Mr Varadkar had a key role as Ireland went to the polls to vote on same-sex marriage, delivering a stirring speech in favour of same-sex marriage credited with helping win over undecided colleagues. He told Parliament in an emotional speech: “This is not a Bill about ‘gay marriage’, it is about ‘equal marriage’. It is not about weakening one of the strongest institutions in society, it is about strengthening it by making it inclusive and for everyone. “It is about removing the sense of shame, isolation and humiliation from many who feel excluded. It lets them know that Ireland is a country which believes in equality before the law for all its citizens. “This Bill allows allow gay men and women, for the first time, to be equal citizens in their own country. “No exceptions; no caveats; no conditions; just equal. This is not an act of generosity to a minority, rather it is an act of leadership by the majority.”

While serving as health minister, last year Mr Varadkar finally relaxed the country’s ban on men who have sex with men donating blood. He has also hit out at US Vice President Mike Pence’s anti-LGBT views, saying Ireland should “try to engage positively with the new administration but not to the extent that it compromises our values”.
© The Pink News

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France: The politics of being Roma

The marginalisation of Roma in France has led to communities being held back from political life, and manifested itself in some very strange ways.
By Radost Zaharieva, human rights monitor for France at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).


2/6/2017- On 7 May 2017, French people elected their new president after a challenging race between the independent pro-capitalist candidate Emmanuel Macron and the far-right candidate and member of the European Parliament Marine Le Pen. As French citizens, Roma nationals may participate in the elections and elect the future president of the Republic according to their preferences and political orientation. If French citizens enjoy such rights fully, for Roma nationals political rights might be an issue for many reasons. Being part of a specific administrative category called “Travellers” (Gens de voyage), targeted by specific legislation and living in segregated areas, Roma nationals have been isolated for years from the rest of the society; this has had a direct impact on their rights and participation in the political life in France.

What are these communities and what is their place in the French society?
The term “Roma” poses a question to the French legislation, as France does not recognise any ethnic or religious minorities. Art.8 of the Data, Files and Freedom act prohibits the collection and treatment of personal data that shows in any direct or indirect way the ethnic or “racial origin, political, religious or philosophic opinion [...]”. The lack of disaggregated data means we can’t know the exact number of Roma in France, let alone provide any studies about this population, especially when it comes to access to political rights and participation. However, an estimation of the Romani population living in France might be found by analysing the historical background of this ethnic group, as well as the national legislation targeting these communities.

Royal acts and decrees dating from the sixteenth century provide information about a population called “Bohemians” coming to France at the end of fifteenth century. Since their arrival in France these Roma groups were subject to discriminatory treatment, having consequences on their social, political and economic development. The marginalisation of these communities significantly increased under the ruling of Louis IV, when male individuals were forced to work in galleries and their children were placed in institutions. It was then that many of the “Bohemians” started to move within the country to escape mistreatment and adopted a nomadic lifestyle.

In 1895 the government produced a census designating 25,000 people as “nomads” travelling in groups in caravans which indirectly refers to Roma communities. This census led to the adoption of a law in 1912 aiming to identify itinerants and track their movements through an anthropometric record card, which facilitated the ethnic profiling of Roma and Gypsies under the category of “nomads” used later by the authorities to intern them in camps as well as to deport some of them to Nazi concentration camps. Moreover, the circular n° 75 adopted on 27 April 1940 clearly labeled these “nomads” as a “major threat” to National Defence and subjected them to “close police surveillance” by forcing them to live in places indicated by the authorities. Article III of the circular advised authorities to avert gathering the “nomads” in one place in order to prevent the “grouping of bands”. This circular clearly shows that Roma nationals were perceived as a danger to national security and designated as potential enemies of the state in time of war.

After WWII Roma continued to experience institutional racism, which has had a negative impact on their political participation and rights in France. Roma, so-called “nomads”, were kept in internment camps until 1946 where living conditions were not very different to those in concentration camps. This part of the Roma history in France is still largely unknown by society due to the lack of measures for building collective memory, and an indifference towards the suffering of the Roma community. Bad treatment and institutions’ negligence led to mistrust on the side of these communities towards the French authorities. Only seventy years after the closure of the largest internment camp France was able to recognise the responsibility of the Republic in the interment of the “nomads”, without mentioning Roma holocaust.

Three decades after WWII, the term “nomads” was replaced with “Travellers” (Gens de voyage), an administrative category created by the law of 6 July 1969 concerning itinerant professional activities and people living in mobile homes or caravans, targeting the same population as the law of 1912. It should be noted that although this administrative category does not mention any Roma communities, it is commonly known that Gitans, Manouches, Sinti and Kale are part of this specific category because of their trade activities which require movement within the country, as well as living in caravans which is now commonly accepted as a lifestyle. According to estimations the number of Travellers may vary from 400,000 to 500,000.

People belonging to this administrative category have been subjected to unequal treatment for decades, affecting their social and political rights. The law establishes an obligation for Travellers to be assigned in a municipality as residents in order to access their rights as French citizens. Nevertheless the art.8 of the law of 1969 stipulates that the number of Travellers (Gens de voyage) assigned to a municipality must not exceed 3% of its population according to the most recent census. Local authorities may refuse to grant township to Travellers when the quota is completed. In this case, Travellers need to refer to another municipality which may in some cases be far from their living place, which creates unique obstacles to their participation during elections.

According to Jérôme Weinhard, part of the legal unit of FNASAT, “this regulation is beneficial for the local authorities in time of voting”. Controlling the number of Travellers in a municipality/department allows to limit the impact that Travellers may have on local elections and local policies. In practice, the rule of 3% quota limits the voting rights of Travellers as in some cases they need to travel hundreds of kilometres to vote in the municipality to which they are attached. Dispersing these communities in different departments and regions prevent them from strengthening their civil and political rights on local level, as well as from participating actively in the political life in France.

With this 3% quota for hosting Travellers the law seems to follow the same logic as art. III of the circular of 1940: prevent Travellers from assembling in the territory of the one municipality. This rule allows to limit the number and freedom of assembly of a population which has long been perceived as a public enemy. Even if the terms had changed with the time we can see that the same population is intentionally kept out of social and political life on local, regional and national level. On the other hand, the 3% quota can be explained with the limited capacity of local authorities to provide suitable lands for halting sites for Travellers. However, the so-called Besson law, adopted in 2000, establishes a legal obligation for some municipalities and departments to increase the number of halting sites and improve the living conditions in the current Travellers living places, as well as a two-year deadline for creating halting areas in municipalities where there is not such living space.

A recent report published in 2017 by Abbé Pierre Foundation on substandard housing shows that this “deadline has been regularly modified by the legislator” and Travellers continue to experience lack of places in halting sites, forcing them to move within the country. In general, the lack of places in halting sites for Travellers might be counterbalanced by buying the so-called “family lands” (terrains familiaux) by Travellers’ families where they can live in their caravans. This may facilitate their participation in political and social life on local level. However, many of the Travellers interviewed in Gien for this article reported experiencing stigmatization and prejudice because of their ethnic origin and lifestyle when they attempt to buy land owned by a private person.

They reported that on many occasions the property deal could not be finalised because the neighbours did not like having Roma in the neighbourhood and often put pressure on the seller, who finally refused to sell his land. Two Gitan women (37 and 51 years) reported feeling disadvantaged because their mailing addresses indicate that they are Travellers. Thus, Roma nationals may be subjected to direct discrimination based on their living area and indirect discrimination because it is commonly known that Gitans, Manoushes and other Roma communities in France live in caravans and are part of the administrative category “Travellers”. “Baba”, a sixty-year-old community leader and pastor, said they rarely refer to the court to defend their rights and try to find a solution by negotiating with the local authorities through Travellers grassroots NGOs. Once again, this serves as an indication of the profound mistrust harboured by Roma towards officials and legal institutions, putting Roma nationals in a different category.

Forced to move because of lack of places in halting areas, Roma nationals are separated from the municipality to which they are attached, which it is is highly important in time of voting. The French newspaper Le Figaro highlighted the difficulty for Travellers to exercise their right to vote because are sometimes granted township in a municipality “where they have never lived”. Moreover “getting a voter registration card might be a real challenge for those who do not have a mailing address” according to “Baba”, which is “quite frequent for Travellers when accredited bodies refuse to provide them with a mailing address” required for access to political, civil and economic rights. In addition, art. 10 of the Law of 7 July 1969 established an obligation for Travellers to prove three years' residency in a municipality to be allowed to vote, compared to six months for any other citizens, a measure which was repealed by the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) in 2012 because of contradiction with the French constitution.

Political orientation of Travellers
Subjected to specific measures and rules for decades, Travellers have been separated from French political life on the national and local levels. Today there is no information about any Roma nationals being part of political parties or being involved in any political movement. They rarely participate in public meetings organised by municipalities, except meetings between informal community leaders and local authorities’ representatives about a specific issue affecting Travellers or a concrete halting site located in that municipality. Travellers do not participate in public sessions of the Municipal council because of “lack of interest,” according to an informal community leader in Colombes (92th department).

According to Mr Charpentier, a Roma community leader in Drancy acting with the grassroots NGO SOS-Gens de voyage, Roma nationals do not have any political orientation but vote according to the candidate’s program. They escape the common political divide between right and left and vote for the candidate who may improve their situation or at least will not worsen it. This community leader is convinced that Roma nationals are disappointed by the policies implemented by both left and right-wing parties as they have not been able to propose efficient measures to “resolve the high unemployment rate” affecting different categories of the French population, including Travellers.

However Mr. Charpentier claimed they became aware of the challenges presented by the last presidential election and the consequences of electing a far-right candidate. “This is why the Roma communities in Drancy have not abstained from voting. We experience racism every day, so we can imagine the consequences of having a far-right president. Travellers have not voted for the National Front (Front national)” says the community leader, but raises the issue of a lack of knowledge about political life and emphasizes the need for intensive work with Roma nationals to raise awareness about their political rights, voting challenges, but also the role of civil society in that process.

One 65-year-old-man, member of the Traveller community interviewed in Gien, stated that he usually votes for the candidate whose program might affect Travellers in a positive way. He found Macron’s campaign challenging for the community because of his financial plan aiming to reorganise the social security system in France. At the same time he became aware of the potential danger of the far-right candidate. In this sense old people keeping memories from internment camps seem to understand well the danger of the populism promoted by the Front National in the last presidential election. Interviewed by Al Jazeera, Raymond Gureme, a Romani survivor of the Second World War and French internment camps, alerts society about the danger of giving power to far-right parties. For Gureme, having a far-right president “will lead to a civil war”. “A lot of people don't understand that,” he adds.

Young people, victims of the high unemployment rate in the country, seem to have followed a different logic during the recent election. Unemployed or ambulant traders with low incomes Traveller youth seem to be directly concerned by Macron’s program and its changes in the system of financial assistance and allowances. In this case Le Pen appears to be a “good choice” for young people giving them false hope with a populist message. A 19-year-old Traveller man from Colombes, voting for the first time, said he intended to vote for Le Pen, as the independent candidate Macron, “wants to repeal the RSA (revenue de solidarité active)”. The young unemployed man, beneficiary of this type of aid, was ready to vote for the far-right candidate because he had not followed the candidates’ campaign and did not have enough information about the strategies proposed by each candidate.

The lack of disaggregated data collection does not allow us to know how many Travellers voted in the presidential elections on 7 May and if they follow the same logic as this young man. Another issue that has risen is the lack of knowledge about the French administrative system and Travellers’ rights, in particular. Johana, a Roma woman living on a halting site in Montreuil said she was able to get her voter registration card and could vote because she knew about the impact of the Constitutional council’s decision about the Travellers’ vote and she was informed about the documents required for making a formal request for her card. Johana said she had got this information by employees in the city hall of Montreuil and she was able to provide the requested documents.

She decided to keep secret her preferred candidate in the second round, but said she had voted according to the candidate’s program which seems to be more beneficial for the Travellers. This 37-year-old woman stated that only a few inhabitants of her halting area were able to get their voter registration cards because some of them did not know that they needed to make a formal request for them. This confusion was observed also in Colombes, where another Traveller woman said she couldn’t vote because “she did not have a voter registration card” and she did not know how to get it.

Conclusion
Being isolated for years from other citizens, Roma nationals still cannot find their place in mainstream society in France and become an integral part of French political life. Lack of knowledge about the political parties and candidates in the presidential elections is still observed in 2017. Living in halting areas isolated from other citizens, often far from French neighbourhoods, Travellers have limited social contacts with other populations. In the beginning of 2017 a new legislation was adopted abrogating the law of 6 July 1969. As a consequence the law n° 2017-86 relative on equality and citizenship makes significant changes in the administrative situation of Travellers. This law repeals the “Travellers booklet” and gives them more freedom by removing the discriminatory obligation to present themselves at a Police office at least once per year. According Stéfano Réga, legal officer working for Travellers’ grassroots organisation ASAV this law is a step forward for Travellers to access their rights as any other French citizens.

However, this new legislation does not bring any significant changes to facilitate the inclusion of Travellers in the French society, nor does it challenge the stereotypical perception of Roma communities, still kept on the bottom of the social ladder.
© Open Democracy

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Spain bears brunt of new migrant route

1/6/2017- The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Spain has more than tripled this year, according to the United Nations, making it the fastestgrowing sea route into Europe. More than 3,300 migrants landed on Spanish shores in the first four months of 2017, up from 1,063 in the same period last year, the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said. The report followed a surge in boat arrivals over the past week. Yesterday, the Spanish coastguard rescued more than 100 migrants from three boats near Alborán, a rocky island outpost halfway between Spain and Morocco. In the past week, more than 200 people, including a number of pregnant women, were picked up along the Andalusian coastline in half a dozen boats, more than half of them on Saturday alone.

On Sunday, a rubber dinghy carrying 34 people, including nine women, caught fire when its outboard motor exploded 16 miles off Alborán. The flaming vessel was spotted by the Portuguese air force, patrolling as part of the EU's Frontex operation, as its passengers leapt into the waves. With the aid of a local fishing vessel and the Spanish coastguard, all of them were pulled out alive. Spain has now surpassed Greece in the numbers of migrants dying in its waters. Fifty one migrants have been killed crossing the Mediterranean to Spain this year, while 37 have died in the Aegean Sea, where the EU's migrant deal with Turkey has deterred many from attempting the journey. The crossing to Italy - accounting for 80 per cent of European arrivals by sea - remains by far the most deadly, with almost 1,500 people killed in 2017. Almost 59,000 migrants have traversed the Mediterranean to Italy this year, a nearly 50 per cent rise on the same period in 2016, when just over 40,000 made the journey.

But the latest figures indicate that the Western Mediterranean route, from Morocco to Spain, is re-establishing itself after years of waning activity. While the proximity of the two countries has historically made this an entry point to Europe, co-operation between Moroccan and Spanish authorities kept migration relatively low. One of the reasons for the route's growth is thought to be the effective closure of the passage through Greece and the Balkans. The EU's deal with Turkey, under which Syrian refugees arriving in Greece are to be processed and sent back to Turkey, has led to a huge drop in crossings. So far this year 7,043 migrants have taken the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece, according to the IOM figures, down from 156,267 over the same period in 2016.

The majority of the migrants crossing from Morocco to Spain hail from sub-Saharan Africa, though Syrian refugees are also known to use the route. A decade ago it was mostly favoured by economic migrants from north Africa, but now increasing conflict in countries such as Mali, Sudan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic is now also fuelling the push northwards. Maria J Vega, spokesman for UNHCR in Spain, said: "It is a worrying situation - this increase means that there are more people desperately trying to reach safe countries and they are risking their lives at the hands of smugglers and traffickers due to lack of legal pathways."
© The Telegraph

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Spain proves sterile ground for far-right parties

Unlike in much of Europe, the far right in Spain has failed to gain electoral power. Europhilia, a culture of integration and lessons from the past seem to be key. Santiago Saez reports from Madrid.

31/5/2017- On March 22, 2016, hours after Brussels was shocked by two terrorist attacks that killed 35 people, the ultranationalists of Hogar Social Madrid (Madrid Social Home) detonated smoke grenades outside the largest mosque in the Spanish capital, brandishing banners that read "Today Brussels, tomorrow Madrid?" But their attack didn't spread to other mosques or to refugee centers or anywhere else in Spain. The group even denied in court that it had been an attack, calling their actions a peaceful demonstration against a "center used for terrorist recruitment." It was par for the course. Just months earlier in December, far-right party Vox flopped in the face of a tremendous opportunity: general elections at a time of great political fragmentation. Poll after poll, Spaniards had expressed their dissatisfaction with traditional parties, corruption and unemployment.

In Europe, the far right appeared to be on the upswing. Marine Le Pen's National Front had won the 2015 regional elections in six out of 13 French departments, garnering over 28 percent of the vote. In the UK, the euroskeptic party UKIP won third place percentagewise in the general election the same year. Vox, however, failed to win a single seat, bringing home only 0.23 percent of the vote. Then as now, Spain has remained an exception to the spread of far-right parties through most of Europe, including traditionally progressive countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. A combination of markedly lower levels of immigration, Europhilia and history has shielded the southern country from the developments elsewhere on the continent.

'Got it right'
It's not for lack of racism. Spain is as racist as any other EU country, says Moha Gerehou, a journalist, migrant rights activist and president of SOS Racismo Madrid, an NGO that works to eradicate xenophobia in the capital and its surroundings. "The signs are the same, from racial profiling to difficulties renting a house or getting a job," he told DW. Yet, opinion polls have reflected a decrease in xenophobic sentiment in Spain since high unemployment and economic crisis drove away large numbers of foreign workers. It is also a model of successful integration of Roma, one of the peoples of Europe that face the most discrimination, said Sara Gimenez of the Fundacion Secretariado Gitano.

The country has been reaping the fruits of years of sound policies. "Inequality persists, but our situation is much better than in other European countries, and that's because something has been done right over the years. We have had excellent social inclusion policies for decades, and we are seeing how those work now." Spain is also less Islamophobic than its neighbors, said Carmen Gonzalez-Enriquez, a researcher at Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank. Moroccans have been one of the largest migrant communities in the country for decades, and, while suffering discrimination, they are not usually associated with terrorism. "As a result of our experience with ETA's terrorism, most of us don't identify terrorists with the nation they belong to," said Gonzalez-Enriquez, referring to the Basque separatist group.

Burned by isolation
But Spaniard's do seem to identify with the European Union, or at least see value in it. While euroskepticism is on the rise, Spaniards are still some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Brussels system. For Gonzalez-Enriquez, the reason lies in the past: "During Franco's dictatorship, Spain was internationally isolated, and most Spanish people longed to be part of Europe. We consider globalization a good thing, while a large percentage of the French see it as something harmful." Franco's dictatorship had another effect that continues to hinder the development of far-right parties, she said: The regime overused national symbols and identity "causing a countermovement which still persists." This is visible through society's rejection of the use of symbols such as the flag, which is associated by many, often on the left of the political spectrum, as representative of right-wing or conservative positions.

No space to the right
Spain's big tent conservative party, the People's Party (PP), also plays an important role in preventing Vox or others from becoming a political force. Xavier Garcia Albiol is an example. The PP Catalonia leader and former mayor of Badalona, a city in the Barcelona metropolitan area, became notorious for xenophobic remarks, which included referring to Romanian Romas living in the city as a "plague." Such an approach doesn't leave space for parties to the right of the PP, whose leader is Spain's prime minister, said Gerehou. "The racist discourse has been often assumed by the People's Party … While [PP leaders] are not as straightforward as Marine Le Pen, many of their policies would easily be signed by the Front National." Gonzalez-Enriquez agrees, but thinks that far-right voters don't have critical mass: "Vox's experience proves that there is currently no chance for far-right groups. People with those ideas can either abstain or vote the conservatives, but even then they are not strong enough to influence PP's political behavior." 

But that could change. For those working on the ground, the far right is a real threat, represented by neo-Nazi groups such as Hogar Social Madrid, but also encountered at a real estate offices, where whites are offered better deals than blacks, and in the discourse of leaders such as Xavier Garcia Albiol. "We have the image of a neo-Nazi as the far-right supporter," said Gerehou. "But today that's not true anymore. There are people with those ideas today who could be my neighbors or go to my gym, people I would have never imagined would think that way."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Spain: Neo Nazi food bank banned from Murcia

A xenophobic Neo Nazi group who regularly distribute free food to ‘Spanish only’ families from a stall in Murcia City will not be able to continue operating in future.

30/5/2017- An emergency motion put forward by members of the PSOE in the city was approved and passed to prevent the ‘Lo Nuestro’ group setting up their usual stall in Plaza Santa Domingo on Saturday. ‘Lo Nuestro’ only hand out food to people who can prove they were born in Spain, thus excluding any under privileged family from outside the country, of which there are many in the city. The group announced their intentions to set up their regular table last Saturday between 12-2pm, providing food to "every Spaniard who proves his situation of need will be able to benefit from this help. We demand the DNI, the coexistence certificate and the unemployment card." The socialist emergency motion, approved by all groups (PP, PSOE, Cambiamos Murcia, Now Murcia and Citizens) resulted in the Local Police of Murcia preventing Lo Nuestro from installing its table of bags chickpeas, rice and other foods only for Spaniards in the aforementioned square.

The statement from the political groups read: “"We do not authorize the use of the public space of our municipality to groups that promote hatred and xenophobia. If permits already exist, they will be revoked immediately. When such acts take place in our municipality despite the lack of authorization, the necessary measures will be taken to withdraw the occupation of the public highway immediately. " The statement expresses the view that although the Lo Nuestro group appear to be doing charitable work, they are linked to extreme right wing groups and the fact they only distribute food to Spanish families confirms their intentions of xenophobia and exclusion. “They will no longer be able to promote their hate filled table, but we know that we should not lower our guard and we will continue working in the same line encouraging more people and organisations to join in this common goal. Zero tolerance of crimes of hatred. They will not distribute more hatred!!”
© Euro Weekly News

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Greece clears out makeshift migrant camp in old Athens airport

2/6/2017- Greek police on Friday began clearing out a makeshift migrant camp which sprung up in the former Athens airport over a year ago. Authorities say about 100 refugees and migrants were still living in tents in Elliniko, the former airport complex that also houses abandoned venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games, down from about 3,000 last year, most of which have been moved to other sites. Human rights groups criticized conditions there as deplorable and unfit for humans. Hundreds slept crammed in tents in the old arrivals terminal last summer, in scorching temperatures with little food and bouts of crime and violence. They were first taken to Hellenikon in November 2015 when police began transferring hundreds from the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The government had long promised to empty the site, which it has agreed to lease to private investors under its bailout program, but struggled to convince the migrants to move to other camps in the mainland. Many migrants, mostly Afghans not eligible for an European relocation program to other member states, feared moving farther from Athens would make it harder to leave Greece. More than 62,000 migrants and refugees heading to northern Europe have been stranded in Greece since countries in the Balkans shut their borders to those seeking passage in March last year.
© Reuters

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Greece: Uprooting antisemitism, starting in the classroom(comment)

By Harry van Versendaal

31/5/2017- Experts are urging authorities to take active measures to combat anti-Semitism in Greece after a recent study confirmed the high levels of hatred toward Jews in the country – believed to be the highest in Europe. Αnti-Semitism, which is shown to thrive at both ends of the ideological spectrum, is believed to be particularly strong in Greece as a result of a deep-rooted sense of collective victimhood nurtured by an overly ethnocentric education system. “Unfortunately, the findings confirm older surveys showing that Greece has rates of anti-Semitism matching those recorded in countries that neighbor Israel rather than ones in the European Union,” Elias Dinas, political scientist at the University of Oxford, told Kathimerini English Edition.

Conducted by a team of researchers based in Greece and the UK, the 50-page report brings together the findings of two opinion polls conducted in 2014 and 2015. It was published earlier this month by the Thessaloniki branch of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a political think tank affiliated with the German Green Party. Of the 1,000 Greeks polled, 65 percent said “Jews exploit the Holocaust to receive better treatment at global decision-making centers.” A similar percentage agreed with the statement that “Israel treats Palestinians exactly the same way that the Nazis treated the Jews” – a view seen as relativizing the Holocaust by placing it in the context of other acts of wholesale violence.

Just over 90 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Jews have a major influence in the business world.” About 21 percent said Jews should be prohibited from buying land. More than 37 percent said they have zero level of trust in Jews. Overall, those polled said they trust Jews less than they trust the Orthodox Church, homosexuals, migrants or the European Union. Jewish people were said to be more reliable only when compared to the Greek Parliament, Turks and Americans. The results echo the findings of an infamous 2014 survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which indicated that 68 percent of Greeks “harbor anti-Semitic attitudes” – on a par with Saudi Arabia and more so than Iran.

Valid criticism
Experts found anti-Jewish sentiment to be as strong on the far left of the political scale as on the right. But whereas anti-Semitism among the hard-right is mostly associated with denial or minimization of the Holocaust, hostility from the left is less straightforward and often animated by solidarity with the Palestinians. “It is true that harder facets of anti-Semitism are more evident on the right, but the left is no stranger to conspiracy theory-driven anti-Semitic attitudes,” said Dinas.

Critics, mostly on the left, complain that the term “anti-Semitism” is often misused to stigmatize legitimate criticism of Israeli settlement policies. However, the report suggests that condemnations of Israel often cross the boundary from valid criticism into territory of denigration that can be considered anti-Semitic. Instances of anti-Semitism can include denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination; using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (for example claims that the Jews killed Christ or the classic anti-Semitic charge, known as the blood libel, that Jews use Christian blood for religious rituals) to characterize Israel or Israelis; drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis; or holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

“It is sometimes helpful to keep in mind that Israel is the only democracy in the region and even if it’s fair to criticize it over for example its settlements policy, any comparisons to Nazi Germany or other autocratic regimes are clearly misplaced,” Dinas said. Jewish monuments and graves are frequently desecrated across Greece. In the latest such incident, a memorial commemorating nearly 1,500 Jews from Kavala, northern Greece, who perished in Nazi death camps was vandalized late March. It was the second attack since it was erected last year.

Anti-Semitic comments are frequently aired by the country’s political class. MPs of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn – which is the third political force in Greece despite its leadership being on trial on charges of running a criminal organization – have openly denied the Holocaust, even in Parliament. Jew-bashing is also common in the mainstream. Panos Kammenos, defense minister and head of the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, has claimed that “Jews don’t pay taxes.” Conservative MPs Adonis Georgiadis and Thanos Plevris – both of whom defected to New Democracy from the ultranationalist LAOS – have in the past made anti-Semitic remarks, even though they have recently tried to distance themselves from their past sins. Anti-Semitic remarks, mostly in connection to Greece’s economic crisis, have also come from figures on the left-wing populist fringe such as Panayiotis Lafazanis and Rachel Makri.

Politicians aside, the Orthodox Church and the media have also played a role in spreading the seeds of hatred toward Jews. Senior clergymen of the Orthodox Church, which has not officially absolved the Jews for the death of Christ, often make anti-Semitic remarks. Newspapers regularly feature anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, as well as cartoons with anti-Semitic themes or caricatures.

Underdog culture
Typically, most of the problems seem to begin in the classroom. “It is school that hits people in their impressionable years, particularly as the secularization process is gradually eclipsing the role of the Church,” Dinas said. More than other institutions, experts say, Greek schools foster a feeling of victimhood, and serve for the socialization and reproduction of an underdog culture which is identified as the fundamental source of Greek anti-Semitism. “There is this shared conviction that Greeks have been treated more unfairly and suffered more pain than any other people,” Dinas said. “This creates a feeling of inferiority, envy and competition,” he said. According to the poll, about 70 percent believe that Greek people have suffered a genocide that is worse or similar to that suffered by the Jews.

It is estimated that 6 million Jews died in Nazi death camps in the Second World War. Greece’s Jewish population, which stood at 73,000 before the war, is currently estimated at 5,000. “As long as Greek society develops a competitive stance to the Jewish experience and seeks the role of the absolute victim of history and of the great powers that be, the harder it will be to deal with the phenomenon of anti-Semitism,” the report said.

Back to school
The Holocaust and human rights education are all but absent from the Greek school curriculum. In self-fulfilling fashion, 34 percent said they do not want the Holocaust to be taught in schools, the survey showed. Experts found a positive correlation between hatred of Jews and education. “The results show that while general knowledge does not in the least influence anti-Semitic trends, specific [knowledge] about the Jews appears to drastically reduce levels of anti-Semitism,” the report said. Simply put, the more one knows about the subject, the less likely one is to harbor anti-Semitic prejudices.

So while experts propose a number of measures to fight anti-Semitism, including stricter policing of Jewish monuments, a more stringent code of ethics for politicians and the media, and tougher law enforcement, the findings suggest that the safest bet is to kill anti-Semitism at birth: Update textbooks, retrain teachers, organize school trips to former Nazi concentration camps. “It is important for the government to recognize the existence of the problem and face it head on,” Leon Saltiel, a historian at the University of Macedonia and one of the authors of the report, told the newspaper. “Measures to promote education, tolerance, respect and mutual understanding are the only way to build the strong foundations of a democratic and prosperous nation,” he said.

The report “Anti-Semitism in Greece Today: Manifestations, Causes and Tackling of the Phenomenon” was written by researchers Giorgos Antoniou, Spyros Kosmidis, Elias Dinas and Leon Saltiel. A PDF version of the report (in Greek) is available here.
© Kathimerini

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Germany approves tougher migrant measures

2/6/2017- Germany's top security official says newly passed measures strengthen authorities' ability to identify and deport migrants who may be dangerous or not deserving of asylum. Parliament's upper house on Friday gave final approval to measures allowing Germany's migration agency to evaluate cellphone data of migrants who arrive without proper documents, and share data with other authorities in situations considered dangerous. The measures also speed up deportations and allow authorities to monitor dangerous individuals facing deportation with electronic ankle bracelets. They come in reaction to December's deadly Christmas market attack in Berlin by a rejected asylum-seeker awaiting deportation. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says they make "very clear: those who don't need protection and above all those who deceive, trick, or commit crimes must face the consequences and return home."
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Man who raped man says he's not gay and is spared prison

Rapist told court he had developed a 'spontaneous affection' for his sleeping victim after drinking at least ten pints of beer

2/6/2017- A lawyer who raped an unconscious man at the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich was spared jail after claiming he is not gay. The sex attacker said he had developed a “spontaneous affection” for his victim after drinking ten pints of beer. The 38-year old Ukrainian-born rapist, known only as Sergeii C, due to Germany’s strict privacy laws, was handed a two-year suspended sentence after the attack on his 32-year old American victim. Sergeii C said he could not explain his actions or remember the incident, the Daily Mail reported. A court heard that he forced his victim, who was also in a drunken state, to give him oral sex on the Kotzhugel, a hill beside the beer tents at the world-famous event.

The incident was filmed by two Spanish revellers who initially thought Sergeii C was robbing his sleeping victim. One of the pair reportedly told the court: “He grabbed the victim in the leather pants at the front.” “We thought at first it was a robbery. But then he made clear movements that surprised us.” The Ukrainian-born attacker confessed his crime, before telling the court: “I had drunk at least six litres of beer. I cannot explain it to myself. I am not homosexual.” He added that he, “would have never done it” unless he believed the man had consented. In 2014, a 24-year-old British man was attacked and raped by two men at the famous Bavarian beer festival. At last year’s Oktoberfest, 31 sex crimes were reported, up from 21 in 2015, despite the event attracting the lowest number of visitors in fifteen years.
© The Independent

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Germany: Over 200 attacks on Muslims in first quarter of the year

Germany: Over 200 attacks on Muslims in first quarter of the year

1/6/2017- Police and constitutional protection agencies reported 208 offenses of an anti-Islamic character in the first quarter of 2017, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported. Muslims were verbally abused or attacked because of their religion or were victims of damage to property, mainly by right-wing extremists, the newspaper reported. The authorities said they were analyzing the data on "anti-Islamic crimes" for the first time as there are no comparative figures.

Attacks on Mosques down
Attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions however fell back to the level before the 2015 refugee crisis. According to the government, 15 such attacks, including desecrations, were recorded in the first quarter. This is less than in the fourth quarter of 2016 when there were 27 attacks such attacks, and is at the level of early 2015. There was also a fall in anti-Islamic demonstrations, of which there were 32 in the first three months of this year. In the first quarter of 2016, 80 such rallies were held. These figures do not include the Pegida march in Saxony, police said. "I assume that the detected offenses are only the tip of the iceberg," Ulla Jelpke, an expert from the Left party, said.

Pigs ears
This week nine wooden spikes topped with parts of a dead pig were planted on a land where Muslims are planning to build a mosque in the eastern German city of Erfurt, German police said. The stakes were topped with half of a pig's head, pig feet, and pig bowels among other things, the German news agency DPA reported. There have been protests against the construction of the Ahmadiyya mosque in Erfurt, including one by protesters who erected large Christian crosses on a neighboring property.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Five-year neo-Nazi trial collapses as judge retires

One of Germany's biggest ever neo-Nazi trials has been suspended in Koblenz - because the judge is too old. Critics have called the decision a scandal for the judiciary and accused the defense of deliberate delays.

31/5/2017- Seventeen people suspected of belonging to far-right extremist organization Aktionsbüro Mittelrhein ("Mid-Rhine action office"), which was allegedly out to topple the German state, are likely to walk free after the Koblenz court announced it was suspending proceedings this month. The unfinished trial lasted five years, or 337 court days, and originally involved 26 defendants, 52 defense attorneys, more than 120 witnesses, and a charge sheet that ran to 926 pages. Charges included founding a criminal organization, property damage, arson and assault. The trial has now been suspended because of judge Hans-Georg Göttgen's impending retirement. Since German law does not allow a new judge to be installed without a re-trial, the court deemed that the likely punishments for the crimes did not justify the massive legal effort, releasing a statement on Tuesday saying that the case was being closed because of "overlong duration." The court added that two of the defendants were entitled to compensation for their time in detention, since the evidence presented so far suggested that they would have been acquitted. Compensation for the other 15 defendants was turned down, since "serious suspicion" remained against them.

Confusion and delay
The decision is not yet legally binding and the state has a week to appeal. In a statement to DW, the Koblenz prosecutors said that they would "carefully examine" the court's ruling and then decide whether to take other further legal action. But the court's irritation about the developments and the behavior of the defendants and their attorneys was evident not far below the surface. In its ruling, released to DW and other media outlets with names redacted, the court blamed the defendants and their attorneys for "sabotaging" the trial and said that an additional judge had not been appointed when the trial began in August 2012 because "no one could have predicted" that the proceedings would not be concluded before the judge's retirement.

Some of the bizarre incidents in the trial suggest that the court was occasionally struggling to maintain control. The court reported that trial days were lost for two stink-bomb attacks, noisy protests from right-wing supporters of the defendants, an unusual number of illnesses among the defendants - especially when it became clear that the judge's retirement was drawing close - and five-minute toilet breaks extending to 20 minutes. There were also reports of defendants spitting on the table where a prosecution witness was sitting during a break and drawing swastikas in the toilets of the courtroom. But in no case could an individual be singled out.

The trial was also disrupted by hundreds of motions introduced by both the prosecution and defense - these included over 400 procedural motions, 240 applications for evidence (in some cases when a text message was presented), and more than 500 challenges on the grounds of bias (jurors had to be replaced for giving chocolate Santas to prosecutors and looking at their cell phones for over half an hour). On top of that, defendants were caught reading novels, and lawyers were ticked off for playing card games on their laptops. "Sometimes I felt like I was in a madhouse," one defense lawyer was quoted in the German news magazine Der Spiegel as saying.

Defense defends itself
The defense attorneys, some of whom were associated with the far-right scene, denied all accusations of sabotage: "The lawyers did their duty by exhausting all procedural possibilities," attorney Günther Herzogenrath-Amelung told the SWR broadcaster. There is also an online campaign on behalf of the defendants, entitled "We will sue," which described the whole trial as a "judicial scandal," and said that the accusations on the charge sheet were baseless. But many of these were serious. According to state prosecutors, the Aktionsbüro Mittelrhein was thought to favor a state "on the model of the National Socialist regime," and named its headquarters in Ahrweiler, western Germany, the "Brown House" - the same name adopted for the headquarters of the original Nazi party in Munich. Among other things, the 17 members of the group were accused of beating leftists, drawing swastikas on walls and putting a GPS tracking device on the car of an official from the social affairs ministry. In 2011, the group allegedly mounted a sustained assault on a left-wing housing commune in Dresden, smashing several windows and throwing fireworks at the building.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Planned Erfurt mosque targeted with dead pigs on wooden stakes

Police are investigating after someone placed body parts of dead pigs on wooden stakes at the construction site of a planned mosque in Erfurt.

30/5/2017- Half of a pig’s head as well as pig feet and entrails were among the body parts found on the nine 1.5-metre wooden stakes at the site of the planned mosque, according to police on Monday. The pig may have been used because many Muslims do not eat pork. A criminal police unit is now investigating who was responsible for the act. “It should simply not be the case that minorities are attacked in this way in a civilized society,” said Mohammad Suleman Malik, a spokesman from the Ahmadiyya Islamic community that is building the mosque, to news site Thüringen24. Malik added that the community would not react with anger, but rather with patience, citing the Muslim prophet Muhammad as an example. He also said they were open to having a dialogue with their critics. There have already been protests against building the mosque, including by the far-right AfD party, whose state leader Björn Höcke has called the plans “part of a long-term landgrab project”.

In March, opponents of the mosque placed giant wooden crosses at a site neighbouring the construction area as a form of protest. Last year, another Ahmadiyya community in Leipzig was also targeted for its plans to build a mosque, with someone leaving a dead piglet and the words “Mommy Merkel” in red paint at the site of the planned building. Malik said that it was not so much the use of the dead pigs that bothered him. “It is an attack on the behaviour of a civil society and on peaceful coexistence.” Hate crimes in Germany are classified as politically motivated crimes, which overall reached a record high last year, according to the interior ministry. The explosion in hate crimes has coincided with hostile reactions to Germany taking in record numbers of refugees over the past two years, many of whom are Muslim. More than 1,500 hate crimes based on religion were committed in 2016 - a 36 percent leap from 2015. The vast majority (73 percent) had right-wing motivations.
© The Local - Germany

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Why Germany Has Taken an Aggressive Stance Against False News

Just after 1 a.m. on New Year's Day, in a crowded bar in Frankfurt, a group of roughly 50 “Arab” men, as the bar’s owner, Jan Mai, later said, stumbled in and soon began to dance, push and grope female customers, some of them putting their hands up the women’s skirts.

30/5/2017- It was a “sex mob,” involving “masses” of migrants, or at least that’s how Bild, a popular German tabloid, described it after an interview with Mai. The story went viral on social media after right-wing outlets like Breitbart News picked it up. The only witness in the Bild story besides Mai was “Irina A.,” a woman in her 20s, who did not give Bild her last name but offered vivid details of how she was allegedly assaulted. "I can be happy that I wore sheer tights,” she told the paper. “They grabbed me under the skirt, between my legs, my breasts, everywhere.” The article took authorities by surprise, says Andrew McCormack, a spokesman for the Frankfurt Police, because there had been no reports of a sexual assault in the area that night.

The department opened an investigation. Local business owners told the police they hadn’t seen any “mob” that night. Soon, the police found posts on Irina’s Facebook page that indicated she wasn’t even in the city on New Year’s Eve. McCormack says the police could not find any other witness to the alleged crime. When the police asked Mai for security footage from the bar, he told them the cameras didn't work. In a press conference on February 14, the police announced that the allegations were baseless. Now, McCormack tells Newsweek, Mai and Irina are under investigation for starting false rumors and wasting police time. (Mai claims he is telling the truth, and Irina did not respond to requests for comment via Facebook message.) Meanwhile, Julian Reichelt, Bild’s online editor-in-chief, apologized for its “non-truthful reporting” in the story.

False stories in the press are nothing new. But the nature of the internet, social media and today’s partisan political climate have created a rich breeding ground for fictitious reports that, with each like, heart and retweet, get closer to reaching a mass audience around the globe. So-called “fake news” takes many forms—from outlets deliberately impersonating real news organizations for profit, to legitimate news sources, desperate for traffic, that rush to publish pieces without checking their veracity. These fake stories proliferated during the recent elections in Europe and the U.S., fueled by populism and Russian propaganda. Among the most outrageous examples: A report that Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, were involved in a child sex ring in a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor.

The next battleground for fake news is in Germany, where federal elections begin in September, and Chancellor Angela Merkel and other lawmakers are concerned that bogus stories—generated by partisans, profit seekers and Russian intelligence—could have an impact on the vote. “Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said last November. “Today, we have fake sites, bots, trolls—things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms, and we have to learn to deal with them.” To address the problem, Germany has taken the most aggressive stance against fake news of any country yet. This spring, the country unveiled a hate speech bill that would fine social media companies like Twitter and Facebook up to 50 million euros ($56 million) for failing to remove intentionally fake news stories or stories that incite hate. The bill has been approved by Merkel’s Cabinet and seems to have a high chance of passing in the German parliament this summer.

Facebook opposed the legislation, saying in a statement that it would "force private companies, rather than the courts, to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany.” But the tech titan promised to expand its team reviewing content in Germany to 700 employees by the end of 2017 and pay third-party fact-checkers in Europe to curb fake news. So what does fake news in Germany look like? Much of it has a political slant, taking advantage of readers’ hunger for stories that confirm their beliefs and ideology. It also tends to be about refugees—2 million of them have entered the country since 2015. And while many Germans support this open-door policy, leaders in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, one of which has said police should shoot refugees trying to cross the border, have exploited xenophobia to great effect. Though the AfD’s popularity has recently dipped, it is polling well enough to pick up seats in the national parliament this September, the first right-wing party to do so since World War II.

HoaxMap, a German website that debunks fake stories about refugees, says that in the last year it has found at least 250 fake stories. The most common themes involve robbery, theft and rape. Others involve refugees eating swans, desecrating graves and sexually harassing women. Since accurate reports of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve in 2015, Miriam Aced and Christina Lee of Migration Voter, a German initiative that studies the impact of migration on elections, have noticed a “disturbing pattern” in which false stories, like the sex mob story in Bild , have focused on sexual abuse of women. “Interestingly, the reporting around the Frankfurt incident often mentioned that it happened a year after the Cologne incident,” Lee says. “It’s as if the reporters constantly want to remind people of what happened in Cologne."

Last January, not long after the Cologne story broke, a 13-year-old Russian girl in Berlin claimed she was kidnapped and raped by a group of Arab immigrants. The popular Russian TV network Channel One aired a segment about her story, which falsely claimed the city’s police were ignoring her allegations, prompting a protest in the streets of Berlin. The only problem: The story was false. And it has raised concerns about potential Russian interference in the election through the use of leaks, cyberattacks and fake news aimed at the 3 million Russian émigrés living in Germany. Lee and Aced say it's unclear if fake stories will influence upcoming elections. Studies offer mixed results as to how much Germans trust the press. But the two researchers believe the anti-immigrant sentiment, fueled by false news stories, has forced Merkel to harden her immigration rhetoric. Merkel recently expressed support for a ban on full-face veils—a position that was initially championed by the AfD.

Mai is sticking to his story about the migrant mob—though the publicity has been bad for business. “Why would I tell people a story like this?” he says, sitting in the corner of his mostly empty bar on a rainy Saturday evening in March. “It’s not good for my reputation.… People come into this bar to call me a racist. They ask if this is the ‘Nazi bar’ they read about in the papers.” Yet McCormack dismisses Mai’s story as a lie. And it’s not the only one he’s seen printed recently. In January, police in Dortmund quashed a story run by Breitbart News that claimed a mob chanted “ Allahu akbar ” while setting a church on fire. Police said the night was, in fact, “rather average to quiet.” “Fake stories can be dangerous,” McCormack says, “because many people could believe it to be real.” If Mai’s story is any indication, many Germans already do.
© Newsweek.

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Bulgarian Politician Demands 'Outing' of Gay MPs

Bulgarian populist leader Vesselin Mareshki's call for gay MPs to reveal their sexual orientation - as a form of conflict of interest - has prompted both outrage and laughter.

2/6/2017- Bulgarian MP Vesselin Mareshki has caused outrage for demanding that MPs reveal their sexual orientation - as a potential form of conflict of interest - together with whether they have alcohol or drug issues. In an interview for NOVA TV on Friday the populist leader said gay people in power were hiding their sexual orientation, which potentially makes them “dependent on people who have secret recordings of their activities. “I do not understand why homosexuals in power hide. Maybe they consider this something shameful,” the MP said, noting that “as free people they march on the squares” and “want to be seen”. The MP mused that, by being open to blackmail, it could even “lead us to war with Russia”.

Mareshki, who owns chains of low-cost pharmacies and petrol stations, entered parliament for the first time at the snap election in March. He and his populist party, Volya, which has 12 MPs in parliament but is not part of the governing coalition, have gained a certain amount of international fame after Mareshki described himself as the Bulgarian Donald Trump. Angered by Socialist MP Kristian Vigenin, who criticised his joining a presidential delegation to the Vatican on May 24, Mareshki attacked his colleague on Wednesday as a homosexual. Together with declaring their economic interests, he then also said MPs should be forced to reveal also their “homosexual conflicts of interest” and “conflicts of interest based on alcoholic and drug dependencies”.

Following condemnation from LGBTI rights groups – and silence from all parties in parliament - Mareshki on Friday said he had been misinterpreted by “fake news”. Radoslav Stoyanov, one of the organisers of the forthcoming Sofia Pride on June 10, said the unwillingness of Bulgarian politicians to reveal their sexual orientation was indeed a problem - but Mareshki’s position was not aimed at resolving the issue. “His statement carries the message that gay people have to be deprived of political representation and should not be in power,” he said. But, the activist said the presence of far-right anti-gay parties in parliament was less of problem than the lack of reaction to homophobic statements from the mainstream parties. “We will not see any [political] reaction because maybe they [political parties] consider this as something normal,” Stoyanov added, noting that no LGBTI initiative had ever received support on a national level.

On Thursday, LGBTI organisations called on the speaker of parliament Dimitar Glavchev to sanction Mareshki for his “homophobic statement”, noting that Bulgaria's level of acceptance of LGBTI people was almost the lowest in the EU. Mareshki’s ideas have meanwhile provoked much mirth online. One petition has called on him to revel his “heterosexual dependencies”. Building trust between citizens and MPs will be “unthinkable if voters cannot take a look into the bedroom of every member of the parliament,” it says.
© Balkan Insight

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Bulgaria: Right-wing populist appointed integration minister

Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov's new junior coalition partners have repeatedly caused public outrage with racist statements. Now the alliance's front man has been tapped to lead the country's council on integration.

1/6/2017- On May 29, 373 Bulgarian human rights activists and intellectuals published an open letter calling for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov. A member of Sofia's junior ruling coalition group, United Patriots, Simeonov was recently put in charge of Bulgaria's demographic policy and also tapped to head the country's federal council on integration. The authors of the letter proclaimed that it was scandalous to appoint a "pronounced supporter of fascist and neo-Nazi ideology" to such posts. United Patriots is a three-way alliance of small right-wing populist parties: Valeri Simeonov's National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), Krasimir Karakachanov's Bulgarian National Movement (IMRO); and Volen Siderov's Attack party.

Roma women vilified as 'stray dogs'
Simeonov, a 62-year-old politician, businessman and media entrepreneur who is now responsible for demographic development and minority integration, already has quite a reputation in the political arena. In 2015, speaking of Bulgaria's Roma minority and their large families, he told parliament: "They are brazen, feral, human-like creatures that demand pay without work, and collect sickness benefits without being sick. They receive child benefits for children that play with pigs on the street, and for women that have the instincts of stray dogs." Simeonov's NFSB party is calling for the demolition of "Gypsy ghettos" and the isolation of Roma in closed "reservations" (modeled on those for Native Americans and Aborigines), claiming that these could then be used as "tourist attractions." Early in his career, as the open letter points out, Simeonov publicly mused about creating "modern concentration camps."

Nazi salutes and unsavory photos
Simeonov is not alone in his leanings. Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov recently accepted the resignation of United Patriots politician and Deputy Minister for Regional Development Pavel Tenev. The resignation came after an old photo of Tenev giving a Nazi salute to a wax figure in an SS uniform was discovered on his Facebook page. The photo was captioned: "Reporting to the boss." In an attempt to shield his party friend and play down the story, Simeonov told a newspaper interviewer about a visit he made to the Buchenwald concentration camp in the 1970s, saying: "Who knows what kind of silly photos we might have taken." Another United Patriots politician was recently forced to vacate his post in Sofia's defense ministry after he was photographed giving a Nazi salute in front of a German WWII tank.

Incidentally, Sofia's new defense minister is none other than United Patriots member Karakachanov. He is also known for his aggressive rhetoric, mostly aimed at Bulgaria's minority Turks and the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The third member of the "patriotic" alliance is the notoriously violent politician and Holocaust denier Volen Siderov, chairman of the far-right party Attack. Siderov, along with his black-clad henchmen, have been involved in a number of fights over the last 10 years, repeatedly launching violent attacks against Muslims and their places of worship. Last year they even stormed the National Academy for Film and Theater Arts, attacking students and teachers because a student supposedly insulted Siderov. Party friend Ilian Todorov was seen at Siderov's side during the brawl; now he has been appointed Sofia's regional governor.

Awaiting an EU response
This is by no means the end of United Patriots' long list of unacceptable activities and statements. Observers and human rights activists in Bulgaria are now asking how long Borissov and his center-right GERB party will tolerate their majority-enabling junior coalition partner. Those observers point out that GERB is a pro-European member of the European People's Party and must be prepared to face tough questions in Brussels. The 373 signatories of the open letter addressed to EU leaders say that it is "totally unacceptable" that people with "extreme nationalist and destructive views" be allowed to serve in Bulgaria's government - let alone occupy the post of minority integration minister in an EU member state.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Bulgaria's Far Right is no Laughing Matter

The Bulgarian far right’s kitschy stunts often draw mocking laughter – but their ascent into government is not a joke.
By Tom Junes


30/5/2017- Last week Russian president Vladimir Putin provoked a rare display of unity among Bulgaria's political class and beyond. All it took was for Putin to mention that the Cyrillic alphabet had come to Russia “from the Macedonian lands” in the presence of Macedonia’s President, Gjorge Ivanov. From Bulgaria's opposition socialists, often accused of fawning on Russia, who expressed surprise at Putin's remarks to the ruling nationalists and far-right leaders, resorting to offering the Russian leader some one-line history lessons. The consternation clearly demanded an official reaction, prompting Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to respond that it was “un-European” to argue about history.

For years, I had been moving back and forth from Central Europe to the Balkans. Ultimately, I took up residence in Bulgaria. As a professional historian, I had become well acquainted with the strands of nationalist-inspired populism and memory politics that have appeared in countries like Poland. In this sense, the over-emotional reaction to Putin's “alphabet gaffe” resonated with some familiarity. Arguably, Putin had made a nuanced statement. He did not refer to the current Macedonian state but used the term “Macedonian lands” in order not to offend Bulgarians, Macedonians or Greeks. His assertion could be seen as in line with the historical narrative of Bulgarian Tsar Boris I commissioning St. Clement of Ohrid to popularise the Slavonic language. This, of course, was lost on Bulgaria's politicians who were keen to score some cheap points by creating a little media spectacle.

Yet, while such kitschy displays of patriotism based on a shallow understanding of history by Bulgaria’s political elite could provoke laughter, other issues relating to history do not. Nationalist myths, like ones about which modern “nation” can claim copyright to the Cyrillic alphabet, not only distort history but often serve to bolster worrisome political developments such as the ascendancy of the far right. Since Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, fears of right-wing populists and of the far right breaking through in Europe rose to alarm levels. However, only in one country did the far right actually manage to enter government. Yes, in Bulgaria. The United Patriots, a coalition of Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, NFSB, Krasimir Karakachanov's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, VMRO, and Volen Siderov's ATAKA now hold significant ministerial posts - responsible for defence, the economy, and the environment.

The alphabet soup of far-right parties that make up the United Patriots likes to indulge in nationalist kitsch. A few years ago, TV Alfa, which is linked to ATAKA, ran weather reports for “Bulgaria on three seas” based on a map of the First Bulgarian Empire. When the NFSB and VMRO threw their lots in together, it was announced at a press conference with the party leaders flanked by a number of men wearing tacky costumes of “heroes of Bulgaria's past”. Before the elections in March, the now United Patriots initiated a border blockade to prevent voters coming in from Turkey. In order to stop such “foreign interference”, they employed bagpipers in traditional dress and “kukeri” to chase away evil spirits.

Such antics can be ridiculed as a fringe freak show, but Bulgaria's far right is no laughing matter. Their leaders are notorious for their abusive racist comments and hate speech. Simeonov, who holds the vice-premiership in government, stated in parliament that Roma were “ferocious humanoids” whose children “play with pigs in the street” and whose women “have the instincts of street dogs”. Another “Patriot” leader, Siderov, known for committing violent acts of hooliganism and even assaulting a French cultural attaché, has in the past denied the Holocaust, called for raids on Roma “ghettos”, and has spun anti-Muslim rhetoric to incite religious violence in front of Sofia's only mosque. This has contributed to a climate in which hate crimes, targetting members of national minorities like Roma and foreigners alike, has become rampant.

Anti-refugee sentiments are whipped up regularly; vigilante groups patrolling the border even made for rare Bulgaria-featured international news. The sad plight of refugees in Bulgaria has been documented by Human Rights groups, but Bulgarian journalists who write positively about the refugee cause have been harassed. Anti-Turkish or anti-Muslim frenzies arise when convenient for political expediency, as all parties now dabble in populist hyperbole. The authorities have neglected to act decisively against the xenophobic climate, thereby enabling and normalising the far right. Last autumn, the chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Krasimir Kanev, was beaten up in daylight in front of the parliament, an attack he attributed to rising nationalist political rhetoric.

The far right, in its various incarnations, has faired quite well electorally. As a result, for years every Bulgarian government had to rely on the support of the far right in parliament to govern. But now the far right has become the junior governing partner. Already, some of the “Patriots” in government have caused controversy when photos emerged of them giving Nazi salutes. While Borissov tried his teflon hand at crisis management, demanding their resignation, he saw the problem as rather that the photos had been made public than what they represented. Simeonov allegedly dismissed the affair by joking how he made funny pictures in the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald. Shortly after, as if to add to bad taste, Simeonov was appointed to head the country's National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues.

None of this is a joke or a matter of bad taste.

Bulgaria clings to a myth that it saved its Jews during the Second World War. This myth conveniently ignores its complicity in the near-total extermination of Jews in Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia and Thrace, a result of the country’s alliance with Nazi Germany. Walking around in my neighbourhood in Sofia, while navigating potholes and broken-up sidewalks, one can see scores of Celtic crosses and swastikas sprayed on the walls of building after building. The prominence of Nazi and far right symbols adorning the city is ignored. Perhaps one can blame ignorance and a lack of historical knowledge. But then, again in my neighbourhood, on Lincoln Boulevard, one “patriotic” graffiti boasts: “We remember Neuilly!”, referring to the punishing post-war peace treaty Bulgaria had to sign in 1919. Seriously? Neuilly? Perhaps there are other things in history that should be remembered. Or will it take Putin one day to remind the Bulgarian political class of them?
© Balkan Insight - Blogs

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Czech Rep: Gender segregation surviving in civil service

30/5/2017- Gender segregation survives in the civil service in the Czech Republic, according to the annual report on equality of men and women for 2016, that will be debated by the government on Wednesday. Women stay in lower position and the branches with lower salaries. A similar situation can be found in state-owned companies, the report said. The individual offices could proceed to positive discrimination and increase women's proportion, but they do not use the opportunity, the report said. "The civil service still has a large degree of vertical gender segregation. There is still the rule that the representation of women grows top-down in the hierarchy of decision-making positions," said the report, drafted by the Government Office.

There are three women in the government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), the minister of labour and social affairs, the regional development minister and the education minister. Out of the 106 posts of deputy ministers, women occupied 29 or 27 percent at the end of last year. Women occupied 156 posts of directors at ministries, while there were 332 men. Women's proportion was 32 percent and did not change as against 2015. Ministerial departments were headed by 683 women and 894 men. In all, women accounted for 43 percent of heads of departments. Women accounted for 40 percent of the diplomatic corps, while the figure stood at 34 percent in 2015.

The measures or positive discrimination are possible under the Labour Code. It says a step preventing or removing disadvantage over sex, race or other reason is no discrimination. The report said as the ministries did not use the option in a targeted way, the representation of women at the posts of deputy ministers and directors remained low. "It is still true that the higher the decision-making position, the lower the representation of women in the civil service," the report said. "Positive measures are not applied in the boards of state-run companies and joint-stock companies with the majority stake of the state either. In them, the representation of women is still very low," it added. There are more women in poorly-paid positions and economic branches such as the health care and social services, education and accommodation.

There are more men in the construction, transport and IT, the report said. "The distribution of men and women in individual industries largely copies the gender stereotypes in society," it added. Women make over one half of Czech society. They have a higher education than men as they constitute most university graduates. Last year, women earned on average 21.9 percent less than men. The gap rose by 0.3 percent as against 2015. Due to their lower incomes, women are more threatened by poverty, especially in old age. Elderly women have on average one-fifth lower pensions than elderly men. Last year, women's employment rose more than men's, by 2.8 percent to 65.6 percent. By men, it increased by 1.4 percent to 80 percent. Unemployment mostly hits women aged 35 to 39, at the time when they look after their small children.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Hungry: Alt-Right Promoters Find Sanctuary in Budapest

Expat ideologists reportedly feel at home in a country whose leader has pledged to create an illiberal state.

29/5/2017- Over the past few years Hungary has become a haven for expat, alt-right leaders, The Atlantic reports. According to journalist Carol Schaeffer, “aggrieved nationalists” from abroad have been attracted by the anti-liberal rhetoric of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party and the far-right, anti-Semitic Jobbik party.

This transformation has allowed a system of far-right culture leaders to flourish in Budapest. Coming from all over Europe and the United States, they have created a structured propaganda circuit, in the hopes of spreading their ideas far and wide,” Schaeffer writes. As a prime example, she points to Arktos Media, a leading, international rightwing publishing house, which is led by Daniel Friberg, a Swedish businessman with a history of backing far-right causes back home, as well as prison sentences for weapons offenses. American John B. Morgan moved to Budapest to serve as editor in chief of Arktos before leaving for Counter-Currents, which Schaeffer describes as a “white-nationalist publishing house and website” with one of its offices in the Hungarian capital. Friberg appears to have friendly relations with Jobbik and some of its leaders.

Reports by Hungarian investigative journalists and researchers have indicated that some of the country’s far-right groups also have connections to the Kremlin and ties to Russian officials, including elements within Jobbik and some pro-Russian fringe parties. As two analysts at the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest-based research and consultancy firm, wrote in TOL earlier this year, there is “a consistent pattern of Kremlin-backed, far-right or far-left radicalization in Hungary and the wider region … The center of the subculture is the radical right Jobbik party, whose former foreign policy cabinet head Bela Kovacs has been an ‘observer’ several times during Kremlin-backed ‘elections’ and referenda, such as on the secession of Crimea from Ukraine.”

# Kovacs, a member of the European Parliament, faces allegations of espionage on behalf of Russia and against the EU.
# Orban announced in July 2014 that he wanted to jettison liberal democracy and replace it with an “illiberal state,” saying the decision “distances him from values shared by most EU nations.” He also said: “I don’t think that our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations.”
# Last week Hungarian authorities expelled former British National Party leader Nick Griffin from Hungary, citing threats to national security connected to Griffin and his radical Christian organization, “The Knights Templar International,” which has offices in the UK and Hungary, The Atlantic reports.
# Protesters flooded the streets of Budapest earlier this month to voice their opposition to Orban’s increasingly tight grip on civil society. High on the agenda of the demonstrators was a hastily passed education law that many believe specifically targeted the Budapest-based Central European University (CEU), as well as a legislative proposal that would force NGOs to disclose how much foreign funding they receive.
© Transitions Online.

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UK: To counter racism, you must know what it is – start with the definition in UK law

If we have a thousand definitions and it becomes a subjective occurrence we shall never eliminate it, writes Linda Bellos

31/5/2017- A critique of racism should surely start with a definition of what we think racism is. I for one begin with the legal definition, starting with the 1965 Race Relations Act, which refers to less favourable treatment on grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins. The Equality Act 2010 has a similar definition. It is not reverse discrimination if racism is done by a black person towards a white person, it is racism; the law in Britain has been thankfully consistent, but it has also been largely unknown and ignored. Renni Eddo-Lodge is right to describe what is and has been happening to black people as a consequence of racism (Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, 30 May) but if neither she nor the Guardian know or understand what the law says we shall make no progress in eliminating it.

Racism in the UK has changed significantly since I was a child in the 1950s but it is as ill-understood and consequently unaddressed as it was then. It was not until the Race Relations Amendment Act of 2000, after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, that police were required, as local authorities had been, to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. There was, for a few years, activity that trained police officers to understand what “less favourable treatment” looked like and who and why it should be avoided. But as soon as the coalition government came to power almost all equality training was stopped.

If journalists and police officers do not know what the definition of racism is, how can they be expected to counter it? It is not merely whatever we think it is. And people need to know what they are required to do to comply with the law. If we have a thousand definitions and it becomes a subjective occurrence we shall never eliminate it.
Linda Bellos, Norwich
© The Guardian.

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For Britain’s populist right, Brexit success comes with a poisoned pill

31/5/2017- It was a night beyond all compare. Less than a year ago, Britain voted to get out of the European Union. And as the country’s new destiny dawned in the early hours of June 24, veteran activists of the U.K. Independence Party — an anti-E.U. movement long derided as extremist — felt the sweet satisfaction of having forced the referendum and steered the national debate with their anti-immigration rhetoric. “Twenty-one years of being called a closet racist or a swivel-eyed loon,” said Tony Finnegan-Butler, a party activist since UKIP was born in the mid-1990s who is now the party’s chair in Clacton-on-Sea, a pro-Brexit stronghold. “And one night you learn that more than half the population thought you were right in the first place.” But if the vote brought vindication, it has not ushered UKIP any closer to political power. In fact, exactly the opposite. What happens to far-right populist movements when their fondest dreams come true? If the experience of UKIP is any guide, the answer is that they fall apart.

A year after achieving its most sacred ambition, the party long led by President Trump’s favorite European politician, Nigel Farage, is in disarray, scarred by prominent defections and by vicious feuding — some of it physical — among its remaining members. An election on June 8 in which the party’s share of the vote is expected to crater may be UKIP’s death blow. The arc of UKIP’s story — years of obscurity followed by one astonishing success and now a rapid and possibly terminal decline — illustrates one way of blunting the appeal of populist movements: Give them exactly what they want. “We’re suffering for our success,” said Finnegan-Butler, 73, who acknowledged that even he is wavering on whether to continue backing the party. But UKIP’s sudden decline also demonstrates the degree to which right-wing populists have shifted the European policy debate toward their turf. If UKIP is losing support, it is not because the party’s ideas have lost favor. It is because mainstream parties have co-opted their causes and adopted their rhetoric.

“We’re happy that the UKIP vote is going down. But we’re not celebrating,” said Nick Lowles, chief executive of the London-based anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate. “If anything, it’s the worst of all outcomes, because we’ve seen the mainstreaming of these views that were once considered beyond the pale.” It’s not just in Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May, a Conservative, sounds every inch the die-hard Brexiteer with her pledges to carry out a hard break with Europe. Across the continent, mainstream politicians are attempting to beat back the far-right wave by mimicking the language and policies of the populists on hot-button issues such as immigration, cultural identity and Islam.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte fended off a challenge from anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders this spring using the slogan “Act normal or go away” — a phrase widely seen as a firm line on Dutch tolerance toward newcomers. In Austria, both major mainstream parties have sharpened their tone on immigration ahead of elections this fall that the far-right Freedom Party could win. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel — a favored boogeyman of the far right because of her welcoming policies toward refugees — has endorsed a ban on burqas “wherever legally possible” as she confronts a challenge from her right flank. But nowhere in Western Europe is the mainstream’s acceptance of the populist right’s agenda more complete than in Britain. And nowhere has the collapse of support for a populist right party been more complete.

For much of its nearly quarter-century existence, the U.K. Independence Party was the equivalent of a rounding error in British political life. With its single-minded devotion to a seemingly quixotic goal — an E.U. exit — UKIP struggled to capture more than a couple of percentage points in national elections. Future prime minister David Cameron famously dismissed the party as a band of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.” But amid a surge in immigration following the E.U.’s expansion into Eastern Europe, UKIP suddenly became a major player in 2014, topping British elections for the European Parliament that spring. Later that year, UKIP gained its first seat in Britain’s Parliament after Clacton’s Conservative representative, Douglas Carswell, defected to the insurgent party and won a special election. The bombastic, beer-swilling Farage crowed that “the UKIP fox is in the Westminster henhouse” and promised that other anti-E.U. Tories in Parliament would soon turn predator rather than risk becoming prey.

In the end, there was only one more defection. But Cameron had been nervous enough about UKIP’s rise to double down on promises that the country would hold a referendum on E.U. membership if his Conservative Party won the national election in 2015. It did (UKIP placed third, with 13 percent of the vote), and the referendum campaign was on. When, against all odds, the nation opted for Brexit, it would have seemed that UKIP’s moment had finally arrived. But perhaps sensing it had already passed, Farage abruptly quit as party leader just days after the vote. Since then, UKIP has cycled through leaders and would-be leaders — including one who collapsed and had to be hospitalized after a fight with a party rival at the European Parliament. 

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party quickly coalesced behind a successor to Cameron — May — who, despite having campaigned against Brexit, took to the cause with the zeal of a convert. She has repeatedly promised a hard break with the E.U. — one that will leave the country outside the single market, the customs union and the European Court of Justice. May has also vowed to be “a bloody difficult woman” in negotiations with European leaders — a suggestion that sent a shiver of excitement through the hearts of even the most devoted Ukippers, as the party’s stalwarts are known. “Unlike every other prime minister we’ve had, she’s willing to say no to Europe,” said Finnegan-Butler, a courtly retiree who sailed the world with the British merchant marine. “The more I listen to Mrs. May, the more I trust her.” His car is emblazoned with a placard stating in bold purple letters: “I’m voting for UKIP.” But if he weren’t the party’s local chairman, he said, he probably wouldn’t.

In this pretty but faded seaside region of pebble beaches and long London commutes — the only area that UKIP won in the 2015 parliamentary elections — it seems that few others are backing the party, either. Carswell, the party’s former representative here, quit UKIP in March after a spectacular falling-out with Farage. In his place, the party drafted a candidate with no ties to the area and, as UKIP support nationally drops below 5 percent, virtually no prospects for success. Instead, the seat is almost certain to be claimed back by the Conservatives, whose candidate reflects the party’s drift toward pro-Brexit evangelism under May. Before last year’s referendum, Giles Watling was an ardent advocate for keeping Britain in the E.U.. But like the prime minister, he has reversed course since discovering that the country disagreed.

The candidate, a charismatic, 64-year-old actor turned politician who is known to voters for his roles on stage and screen, campaigns on the need to give May the strongest possible hand as she heads into contentious exit talks with her soon-to-be-former counterparts in the E.U. “It’s a fight that we needn’t have had,” Watling said. “But it’s there, and we can win it.” Among those lured back to the Tory fold by that message is Valerie Grove, a retired civil servant who strayed into the UKIP column in 2014 after a lifetime of voting Conservative. It’s not that her views have changed. She is still adamantly against the immigration that she says is “changing our entire way of life.” “I don’t want to live in a country where there’s a mosque on every corner,” Grove said. “It’s not the British way.” But she feels at home again with the Conservatives, led by a prime minister who, Grove said, understands the need to control immigration. And unlike UKIP, she said, the Tories can actually deliver. “I was a little skeptical of Theresa May,” Grove said. “But my goodness. She’s proven that she’s got what it takes.”

Not everyone is convinced. On a recent warm spring day, UKIP candidate Paul Oakley — a pinstripe-suited London lawyer who was brought into Clacton to run at the last minute amid intraparty feuding over who should replace Carswell — acknowledged that he is likely to lose. But as he campaigned in Jaywick, a neighborhood of tattered seaside bungalows that is among the poorest in Britain, he made his best case for why UKIP still matters. “The referendum was D-Day. It wasn’t the fall of Berlin. People can’t sit back and assume that we’ve won,” he said. “It’s all very well to sound like UKIP. But Theresa May and Giles Watling voted to remain. We can’t trust people like that to deliver a proper Brexit.” Indeed, even as he takes a break from running for office — he has lost seven campaigns for Parliament — Farage has been singing the same tune on his radio talk show, warning of the “Brexit betrayal” to come.

Whether Farage returns to UKIP or builds a new party, political observers say it is likely he will have ample material to launch a comeback. Farage and UKIP may have helped sell a majority of British voters on the promise that getting out of the E.U. will solve the nation’s ills. But now that May and the Conservatives are delivering on those sky-high expectations, disappointment is almost certain to follow. “Theresa May can’t satisfy everyone,” said David Cutts, a political science professor at the University of Birmingham. “There’s still a role there in British politics for the populist right.”
© The Washington Post.

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UK: Appeal for information after man verbally abuses Muslim woman

The man approached the woman and verbally assaulted her in a Tesco car park

28/5/2017- Police are appealing for information after a mother was verbally abused in a supermarket car park. The 40-year-old woman was waiting for a parking space in the mother and baby bays at a Tesco in Trowbridge on Wednesday when the incident happened. A man approached her vehicle and verbally assaulted the woman in an aggressive way. Posting anonymously on Spotted Trowbridge, the woman wrote: “I was waiting for his parking space and was minding my own business. “I heard shouting and slamming of doors and thought nothing of it. “It wasn't until I had my full attention on him I was shocked he had been talking to me as I caught the tail end when he said "you're all disgusting". “He obviously saw a Muslim lady with a headscarf sat there and thought he could intimidate me.” She added: “The irony is that just before this incident I was watching and partaking in a two minute silence at 11 as I watched crying as it aired live on the BBC.”

Police confirmed they were treating the incident as a hate crime, while Trowbridge Mosque invited the community to visit the mosque to learn more about Islam. Community Coordinator Alex Trombetta said: “The man was verbally abusive to the woman and his manner left her feeling frightened and distressed. We are treating this as an incident of hate crime. “This incident happened in the middle of the afternoon – there would have been a lot of people around the area at the time and we’d like to hear from anyone who may have witnessed this incident take place.” “There is never an excuse for hate crime in any shape or form and this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. “We would encourage anyone who feels they are a victim of hate crime to feel confident in the belief that we will always take reports of this nature seriously and ensure you receive the support you need. “If you are a witness or a victim of hate crime or feel vulnerable, please contact someone to report it. More people are reporting hate crime than ever before, but it is still significantly under-reported.

“Don’t suffer in silence; there are people who can help you.” Call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their website at www.crimestoppers-uk.org . Alternatively, visit the True Vision website at www.report-it.org.uk for information, advice and to report online. In an emergency call 999.
© The Bath Chronicle

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UK: Racism is a big problem in the gay community, survey finds

More than 850 gay men of different races participated in this survey

28/5/2017- Over 850 black, white, Asian, South Asian, Arab, and mixed race gay men participated in a survey by the Fact Site where they shared their thoughts on race in the gay community. The survey found that 80% of black men, 79% of Asian men, 75% of South Asian men, 64% of mixed race men, and 100% of Arab men have experienced some form of racism in the LGBTI community. Whether it be getting called racial slurs on dating apps or just feeling ignored by others in the community, the vast majority of gay men of color have seen these issues first hand. 63% of black and Asian men said racism is a bigger issue to them than homophobia. ‘I’m more conscious of my skin color than my sexuality,’ says Gerry, a 35-year old mixed race man from Glasgow, UK. ‘People comment more on my skin in a derogatory manner.’

‘Going to a gay pride event and hearing racist comments from gay men directed towards you makes you feel unwelcome in a community you want to be a part of,’ says Shabbis, a 31-year old South Asian man from Coventry, UK. ‘I’d rather be somewhere that’s homophobic than somewhere that is racist, because I can pretend I’m straight. I can’t pretend to be a different skin color or race. So racism is a bigger issue for me.’ ‘Let’s not forget that racism isn’t just white versus others,’ states Ishan, a 35-year old from London. ‘I frequently hear Asians disliking Black guys or even each other. Often we stereotype ourselves.’

On Dating Apps
Many gay men of color have noticed the disturbing trend of casual racism on dating apps like Grindr. Numerous profiles on the app state racial preferences, such as ‘whites only,’ ‘no blacks,’ and even things like ‘no chocolate, rice, or spice.’ ‘When I’ve had a profile photo that wasn’t too obvious whether I was white or Asian, I got people chatting with me until the moment they realised I was Asian, then suddenly they either went completely silent or I got told that I’m not their type,’ recalls 32-year old Matt from Bristol, UK. ‘I’ve been blocked on apps because I am South East Asian,’ says Ari, a 39-year old from London. ‘Or thought of as Muslim, even though I am not a Muslim. I have had abuse sent through messages, saying “go back home Paki” or a question asking if Allah is happy I am on here.’

For black men in particular, they are often stereotyped and fetishized based on penis size. 82% of black men who responded to the survey said they’ve personally felt objectified by white gay men. ‘White men will often come up to me and tell me that they like black cock, I’m their fantasy fuck, and they have a strong desire to have my big black cock inside them,’ says Andrew, a 48-year old from Manchester, UK. ‘This can be intimidating as they have no idea of the size of my cock. I feel like an object.’ ‘It slightly annoys me as I always feel like my skin color is being fetishised,’ adds 23-year old David from London. ‘I get messages like “I’ve never had sex with a Black guy before” like I’m a rare collector’s item.’

At Clubs
‘Certain door staff can be particularly hostile towards people of color,’ says 29-year old Jimmy, who is South Asian. ‘This is not an opinion, it is a verifiable fact – I’ve seen it several times. I also went to Vauxhall once, and was told my “brown boyfriend” didn’t “fit the look’ of the club.”’ ‘Poorly-trained door staff are part of the problem,” says author and activist Vernal Scott. ‘Door security needs training on race issues, just like the management and bar staff do.’ ‘The gay community is big on encouraging non-gay establishments to get trained up on LGBTQ issues, but they should take a page out of their own book and submit themselves to race awareness training. If we fail to undertake such training, then future generations are going to be having this same conversation thirty and forty years from now.’

‘Racism isn’t just a word, it’s an experience,’ Vernal explains. ‘A white gay man cannot comprehend, or more importantly, feel the experience of being black and gay – and the “double minority” status and discrimination that come with it.’ ‘I still live with the trauma of having dated Milo Yiannopoulos, who now spends his time being as demeaning towards black men as possible and calling it entertainment,’ Vernal states. ‘I can confirm that he is very different from the time we spent together. I fear that he’s just saying what a lot of white gay men think: black men are just walking cocks, not people. In my case, I’ve lived and learned. Because of guys like him, I’m increasingly drawn to just dating guys of my own race.’
© Gay Star News

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UK: Boy, 16, attacked with knife in Manchester 'hate crime'

A 16-year-old boy has been attacked with a knife at a leisure centre in what police are calling a hate crime.

27/5/2017- A man approached him from behind and pushed him to the floor at the Arcadia Sports Centre in Levenshulme, Manchester at about 20:45 BST on Thursday, police said. The boy was cut on his arms but managed to run away. The man returned to the reception and left with another man. An 18-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault.

'Shocking attack'
Ch Insp Dave Gilbride said: "This was a shocking unprovoked attack on a teenager who was in a quiet area of the leisure centre with his friends, revising for his GCSE exams. "Despite this man's attempts, the boy received only minor injuries, however he is understandably very shaken up by his ordeal. "We are treating the incident very seriously and we believe it was a hate crime." Police declined to reveal the nature of the suspected hate crime. Anyone who has become a victim of a hate incident or crime is urged to report it. Greater Manchester Police earlier said there had been a significant rise in hate crimes reported following Monday's arena attack, in which 22 people died. The force said the number of such reports had doubled to 56 on Wednesday, from the 28 reported on Monday.
© BBC News.

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